BREARD V. ALEXANDRIA, 341 U. S. 622 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Breard v. Alexandria, 341 U.S. 622 (1951)

Breard v. Alexandria

No. 399

Argued March 7-8, 1951

Decided June 4, 1951

341 U.S. 622


A so-called "Green River ordinance" of a municipality forbids the practice of going in and upon private residences for the purpose of soliciting orders for the sale of goods without prior consent of the owners or occupants. Appellant, representing a foreign corporation, was engaged in door-to-door soliciting of subscriptions for nationally known magazines and periodicals. Subscriptions were acknowledged by a card sent from the home office of the corporation, and the publications were delivered by the publishers in interstate commerce through the mails. Appellant was convicted of a violation of the ordinance solely because he had not obtained the prior consent of the owners or occupants of the residences he solicited.


1. The ordinance is not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 341 U. S. 629-633.

(a) The ordinance can be characterized as prohibitory of appellant's legitimate business of obtaining subscriptions to periodicals only in the limited sense of subscriptions by house-to-house canvass without invitation. It leaves open the usual methods of solicitation -- by radio, periodicals, mail and local agencies. Pp. 341 U. S. 631-632.

(b) The Constitution's protection of property rights does not render a state or city impotent to guard its citizens against the annoyances of life because the regulation may restrict the manner of doing a legitimate business. Pp. 341 U. S. 632-633.

2. The ordinance does not so burden or impede interstate commerce as to violate the Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 341 U. S. 633-641.

(a) The ordinance does not discriminate against interstate business and is a valid local regulation of solicitation. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond, 336 U. S. 525, and Dean Milk Co. v. Madison, 340 U. S. 349, distinguished. Pp. 341 U. S. 633-641.

(b) Appellant, as a publishers' representative or in his own right as a door-to-door canvasser, is no more free to violate local regulations to protect privacy than are other solicitors. Pp. 341 U. S. 637-641.

Page 341 U. S. 623

(c) When there is a reasonable basis for legislation to protect the social, as distinguished from the economic, welfare of a community, it is not for this Court, because of the Commerce Clause, to deny the exercise locally of the sovereign power of the state. Pp. 341 U. S. 640-641.

3. The ordinance does not abridge the freedom of speech and press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 341 U. S. 641-645.

(a) The fact that periodicals are sold does not put them beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Pp. 341 U. S. 641-642.

(b) The constitutional guaranties of free speech and free press are not absolutes. P. 341 U. S. 642.

(c) Martin v. Struthers, 319 U. S. 141; Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U. S. 501; and Tucker v. Texas, 326 U. S. 517, distinguished. Pp. 341 U. S. 642-644.

(d) It would be a misuse of the great guaranties of free speech and free press to use them to force a community to admit the solicitors of publications to the home premises of its residents. P. 341 U. S. 645.

217 La. 820, 47 So.2d 553, affirmed.

Page 341 U. S. 624

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