Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Courts and Social Control - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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The Courts and Social Control - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Courts and Social Control
“Labor and the Courts: The Common-Law Doctrine of Criminal Conspiracy and Its Application in the Buck's Stove Case.” Labor History 18 (Winter 1977): 91–114.
American courts exploited the common law doctrine of criminal conspiracy to cripple labor unions. Despite the decision of Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842) which ruled that trade unions were not criminal conspiracies, the common-law doctrine of conspiracy continued to haunt unions in cases after the Civil War. In the 1880s, the courts combined the conspiracy doctrine with the injunction and varying interpretations of the legality of boycotts to forge effective weapons against unions.
The Buck's Stove Case (1908) pitted The Buck's Stove and Range Company president James W. Van Cleave (also president of the National Association of Manufacturers) against Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor. This and other conspiracy cases turned on the doctrine that “conspiracy depends upon the lawfulness of object or means used to attain it.” This case involved public policy interpretations of union boycotts and the demise of the AFL's “We Don't Patronize” boycott list.
The Buck's Stove Case showed that the courts were biased against labor activity in the matter of boycotts, and that the judiciary shared a common socioeconomic philosophy with business about the rights of labor unions. Gompers and two other labor leaders narrowly escaped imprisonment in this affair.
In order to protect their boycott, the AFL pleaded their case on the basis of constitutional first amendment rights to free press and speech. The courts, however, brushed aside the Constitution and accepted the common law doctrine of conspiracy. They held that the union was involved in a criminal conspiracy to destroy a firm through the use of boycotting, which was interpreted as a threat to the civil rights of the firm.
It appears that the boycott has been unfairly condemned, since it involves only peaceful social ostracism. The boycott displayed no coercive violence nor libel. The state showed itself partial to aiding one side in the litigation.