Indecent Traffic: Shifting Understandings of the U.S. Commerce Clause
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This paper focuses on the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and explores how its scope has expanded throughout history. This paper, organized chronologically, evaluates the alterations to the scope of the Commerce Clause through the American Industrial Revolution, anti-vice and purity movements. With westward expansion and the construction boom of the railroads, the Supreme Court enacted legislation that expanded the scope of the Commerce Clause over interstate railroads. The Interstate Commerce Act created new national regulations. Anti-vice and purity movements sprouted and desired to regulate illegitimate commerce by the usage of the Commerce Clause. These efforts aspired to abolish the lottery and campaigned against prostitution. These movements paved the way for the introduction of the White Slave Traffic Act (the Mann Act of 1910). The support for constitutionality of the Mann Act of 1910 originated with the Congressional debates and are further discussed in Supreme Court cases mentioned in this paper. The court cases dealing with the Mann Act and the Commerce Clause include: Athanasaw v. United States (1913), United States v. Holte (1915), Caminetti v. United States (1917), Gebardi v. United States (1932), Cleveland v. United States (1946), and Bell v. United States (1955) in which each of these cases taken together show their significance in expanding the scope of the Commerce Clause through the Expansion of the Mann Act.