February 25th, 1911.
My dear Miss Addams:
I am not sure that you wished my advice on the form of the bill regulating street trades, which you gave me a few days ago, but I am greatly interested in the subject covered by the proposed measure, and assume that you would welcome any suggestions that might occur to me, I have read the bill through carefully and take the liberty of calling your attention to two or three points which would seem to be of considerable importance.
Section One provides that "no boy under the age of 10 years and no girl under the age of 14 years shall sell," etc. -- a positive prohibition.
The first paragraph of Section Two authorizes school boards to make regulations relative to the street trades carried on "by children under the age of 14 years".
Paragraph Three of Section Two makes "all the foregoing provisions" applicable to "all children between the ages of 14 and 16 years, who are not necessarily and lawfully employed during the hours when the public schools are in session".
The last clause of Section Two provides a penalty for permitting a child under the age of 14 to be engaged in any such trade, and Paragraph Two of Section Two provides for a child under 14 being brought before the Juvenile Court for any violation of the law.
You will note the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the age limits of Section One and the age limit of the first paragraph of Section Two; and these two provisions are again in conflict with the provisions [page 2] of the third paragraph of Section Two. You will also observe that the penalties only reach the case of a child under 14 years of age, whereas the third paragraph of Section Two makes the provisions of the law apply to children between the ages of 14 and 16 years not necessarily and lawfully employed, etc.
In short, the bill first provides that no boy under the age of 10 years and no girl under 14 shall engage in such a trade; then it provides that the school officials may license children under 14 to engage in such trades; and, further, that all the provisions of the bill shall apply to children between the ages of 14 and 16 who are not necessarily and lawfully employed, but that the penalties will only reach those cases under 14.
There may be some sufficient reason for these figures which would explain in a measure the inconsistencies which arise from the bill in its present form, but in its present shape it seems to be very ambiguous.
I presume, for instance, that the provision in the third paragraph of Section Two, making the law applicable to all "children between the ages of 14 and 16 years, who are not necessarily and lawfully employed during the houses when the public schools are in session" is designed to complement the present child labor law, but if that is the intention, I think it would more clearly appear by a redraft of this paragraph with paragraph one of Section Two.
A question also arises in my mind about the constitutionality of delegating to the school boards named in the first paragraph of Section One, the extensive powers there given to them of regulating these trades, and of prohibiting or licensing the child according to their unlimited discretion. It is a pretty extensive grant of the legislative powers of the General Assembly. [page 3]
Some years ago, our Supreme Court held, with reference to the Board of Pharmacy, that the law of 1895, which provided that the Board might, in its discretion, issue permits to persons or corporations engaged in business, empowering them to sell the usual remedies and proprietary medicines, under such restrictions as the Board of Pharmacy should deem proper, was unconstitutional in that it vested an arbitrary power in the Board to say who should and who should not sell such medicines and that the Statute in no way regulated this discretion of the Board as it should have done.
The court said: "A law which invests a Board or body of officials with a discretion which is purely arbitrary, and which may be exercised in the interests of a favored few is invalid. It makes an unjust discrimination between persons coming within the same class." Noel vs. People, 187 Ill. 587.
Of course this is a Statute regulating minors, and the Legislature may do very many things for the wellfare of children which it could not do for adults enjoying full civil and constitutional rights, — but even so, I still feel that all minors engaged in street trades, should have the benefit of specific legislation, applying to all minors alike, rather than be subjected to the possible caprice of Boards of Education, vested with an arbitrary discretion in the matter, with power to favor one child and discriminate against another.
Samuel A. Harper [signed]