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privileges and immunities

n. the fundamental rights that people enjoy in free governments, protected by the U.S. Constitution in Article IV: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities in the several States," and specifically to be protected against state action by the Constitution's 14th Amendment (1868): "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." The definition of "privileges and immunities" was first spelled out by Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington in 1823: "protection by the government, with the right to acquire and possess property of every kind, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety, subject, nevertheless, to such restraints as the government may prescribe for the general good of the whole." However, the exact nature of privileges and immunities which the state governments could limit has long been in dispute, with the U.S. Supreme Court gradually tipping toward protecting the individual rights of citizens against state statutes that might impinge on constitutional rights.


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