|Mr. Ch. J. Murray delivered the opinion of the Court. Mr. J.
The appellant, a free white citizen of this State, was
convicted of murder upon the testimony of Chinese
The point involved in this case is the admissibility of
The 394th section of the Act Concerning Civil Cases
provides that no Indian or Negro shall be allowed to testify
as a witness in any action or proceeding in which a white
person is a party.
The 14th section of the Act of April 16th, 1850,
regulating Criminal Proceedings, provides that "No
black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give
evidence in favor of, or against a white man."
The true point at which we are anxious to arrive is, the
legal signification of the words, "black, mulatto,
Indian, and white person, " and whether the Legislature
adopted them as generic terms, or intended to limit their
application to specific types of the human species. . .
The Act of Congress, in defining that description of
aliens may become naturalized citizens, provides that every
"free white citizen," etc. . .
If the term "white," as used in the
Constitution, was not understood in its generic sense as
including the Caucasian race, and necessarily excluding all
others, where was the necessary of providing for the
admission of Indians to the privilege of voting, by special
We are of the opinion that the words "white,"
"Negro," "mulatto," "Indian,"
and "black person," wherever they occur in our
Constitution and laws, must be taken in their generic sense,
and that, even admitting the Indian of this continent is not
of the Mongolian type, that the words "black
person," in the 14th section, must be taken as
contradistinguished from white, and necessary excludes all
races other than the Caucasian.
We have carefully considered all the consequences
resulting from a different rule of construction, and are
satisfied that even in a doubtful case, we would be impelled
to this decision on ground of public policy.
The same rule which would admit them to testify, would
admit them to all the equal rights of citizenship, and we
might soon see them at the polls, in the jury box, upon the
bench, and in our legislative halls.
This is not a speculation which exists in the excited and
overheated imagination of the patriot and statesman, but it
is an actual and present danger.
The anomalous spectacle of a distinct people, living in
our community, recognizing no laws of this State, except
through necessity, bringing with them their prejudices and
national feuds, in which they indulge in open violation of
law; whose medacity is proverbial; a race of people whom
nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of
progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point,
as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions,
color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves
nature has placed an impassable difference, is now
presented, and for them is claims, not only the right to
swear away the life of a citizen, but the further privilege
of participating with us in administering the affairs of our
These facts were before the Legislature that framed this
Act, and have been known as matters of public history to
every subsequent Legislature.
There can be no doubt as to the intention of Legislature,
and that if it had ever been anticipated that this class of
people were not embraced in the prohibition, then such
specific words would have been employed as would have put
the matter beyond any possible controversy.
For these reasons, we are of opinion that the testimony
The judgment is reversed and the cause remanded.