In the last 12 months, more than 1,500 people submitted cases to FIRE when their rights were in jeopardy.

Hear their stories — and how we're fighting back — by subscribing today.

Majority Opinions Authored by Justice John Harlan (1877-1911)

Nicholas Halter was charged with violating Nebraska's Act to Prevent and Punish the Desecration of the Flag of the United States after using a picture of an American flag to advertise his beer. He pleaded not guilty, claiming the statute was null and void under the Fourteenth Amendment for depriving them of the right to exercise an implied constitutional right. The Supreme Court held that no such privilege to use the American flag in an advertisement existed, and upheld Halter's conviction.


We pass without extended discussion the suggestion that the particular section of the statute of Massachusetts now in question (§ 137, c. 75) is in derogation of rights secured by the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. Although that Preamble indicates the general purposes for which the people ordained and established the Constitution, it has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments. Such powers embrace only those expressly granted in the body of the Constitution and such as may be implied from those so granted. Although, therefore, one of the declared objects of the Constitution was to secure the blessings of liberty to all under the sovereign jurisdiction and authority of the United States, no power can be exerted to that end by the United States unless, apart from the Preamble, it be found in some express delegation of power or in some power to be properly implied therefrom. 1 Story's Const. § 462.