When a smallpox outbreak swept through the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1903, Rev. Henning Jacobson refused to comply with Massachusetts’ compulsory vaccination law. The victim of a botched vaccination in his childhood, Jacobson was fined $5 under the law and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming that this law was a violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Was Massachusetts’ compulsory vaccination law a violation of individual liberty? Prof. Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law Houston explores the limitations of state police powers and public health in Jacobson v. Massachusetts.



As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues. All expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.


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Related Links & Differing Views:

The First Amendment Encyclopedia: “Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)”

American Journal of Public Health: “Jacobson v. Massachusetts at 100: Police Power and Civil Liberties in Tension”

Harvard Law Review: “Towards a Twenty-First-Century Jacobson v. Massachusetts

“The Long Shadow of Jacobson v. Massachusetts: Epidemics, Fundamental Rights, and the Courts”

Reason: “Jacobson v. Massachusetts did not uphold the state’s power to mandate vaccinations.”