Facts of Commonwealth v. Hunt:
Seven leaders of the society were arrested and tried for "unlawfully ... designing and intending to continue, keep, form and unite themselves into a club..., and make unlawful by-laws, rules and orders among themselves and other workmen." Even though they weren't accuse of violence or malicious intent against the business in question, their by-laws were used against them and it was argued that their organization was a conspiracy. They were found guilty in a municipal Court in 1840. As the judge stated, the "common law as inherited from England prohibited all combinations in restraint of trade." They then appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
Massachusetts Supreme Court Decision:
Significance of Commonwealth v. Hunt:
According to Leonard Levy in The Law of the Commonwealth and Chief Justice Shaw, his decision also had implications for the future relationship of the judicial branch in cases like this. Instead of picking sides, they would try and remain neutral in the struggle between labor and business.
- Massachusett's Supreme Court Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw was extremely influential in not only setting state law but also establishing key federal precedents during his thirty years on the court. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. stated, "Few have lived who were [Shaw's] equal in their understanding of the grounds of public policy to which all laws must be ultimately referred.
- Shaw's decision in Brown v. Kendall established the necessity of proving negligence for the purpose of imposing liability for accidental injury.
- Shaw's daughter Elizabeth married Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick. Melville dedicated his novel Typee to Shaw.
- Robert Rantoul, Jr., the lawyer who represented the Boston Society of Journeymen Bootmakers, was a prominent Democrat who would later be elected to fill Daniel Webster's Senatorial seat until Rantoul's death in 1852.
- Rantoul was a director of the Illinois Central Railroad. The town of Rantoul, Illinois was laid out in 1854 for the Illinois Central Railroad and named after him due to his untimely death.
Foner, Philip Sheldon. History of the Labor Movement in the United States: Volume One: From the Colonial Times to the Founding of the American Federation of Labor. International Publishers Co. 1947.
Hall, Kermit and David S. Clark. The Oxford Companion to American Law. Oxford University Press: 2 May 2002.
Levy, Leonard W. The Law of the Commonwealth and Chief Justice Shaw. Oxford University Press: 1987.