Corporations equally with natural persons are entitled to the protection of the clause. "The inhibition of the amendment . . . was designed to prevent any person or class of persons from being singled out as a special subject for discriminating and hostile legislation. Under the designation of person there is no doubt that a private corporation is included. Such corporations are merely associations of individuals united for a special purpose, and permitted to do business under a particular name, and have a succession of members without dissolution." 12
But is is to be observed that as to foreign corporations, a State having the constitutional right to say whether a corporation not chartered by itself shall do business within its limits (interstate commerce excepted) the State may impose upon such corporations as conditions precedent to the enjoyment of the privilege, such special conditions as it may see fit.13
Perhaps the best general statement of the scope and intent of the provision for the equal protection of the laws is that given by Justice Field in his opinion in Barbier v. Connolly,14 in which, speaking for the court, he says:
"The Fourteenth Amendment in declaring that no State ' shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,' undoubtedly intended, not only, that there should be no arbitrary deprivation of life or liberty or arbitrary spoliation of property but that equal protection and security should be given to all under like circumstances in the enjoyment of their personal and civil rights; that all persons should be equally entitled to pursue their happiness and acquire and enjoy property; that they should have like access to the courts of the country for the protection of their persons and property, the prevention and redress of wrongs, and the enforcement of contracts; that no impediment should be interposed to the pursuits of anyone except as applied to the same pursuits by others under like circumstances; that no greater burdens should be laid upon one than are laid upon others in the same calling and condition, and that in the administration of criminal justice no different or higher punishment should be imposed upon one than such as is prescribed to all for like offenses. But neither the Amendment, broad and comprehensive as it is, nor any other amendment was designed to interfere with the power of the State, sometimes termed its 'police power,' to prescribe regulations to promote the health, peace, morals, education and good order of the people, and to legislate so as to increase the industries of the State, develop its resources and add to its wealth and prosperity. From the very necessities of society, legislation of a special character, having these objects in view, must often be had in certain districts, such as for draining marshes and irrigating arid plains. Special burdens are often necessary for general benefits, for supplying water, preventing fires, lighting districts, cleaning streets, opening parks, and many other objects. Regulations for these purposes may press with more or less weight upon one than upon another, but they are designed, not to impose unequal or unnecessary restrictions upon anyone, but to promote, with as little individual inconvenience as possible, the general good. Though, in many respects, necessarily special in their character, they do not furnish just ground of complaint if they operate alike upon all persons and property under the same circumstances and conditions. Class legislation, discriminating against some and favoring others, is prohibited; but legislation which, in carrying out a public purpose, is limited in its application, if within the sphere of its operation it affects alike all persons similarly situated, is not within the Amendment. In the execution of admitted powers unnecessary proceedings are often required, which are cumbersome, dilatory and expensive, yet, if no discrimination against anyone be made and no substantial right be impaired by them, they are not obnoxious to any constitutional objection. The inconvenienees arising in the administration of the laws from this cause are matters entirely for the consideration of the State: they can be remedied only by the State. In the case before us, the provisions requiring certificates from the health officer and the board of fire wardens may, in some instances, be unnecessary, and the changes to be made to meet the conditions prescribed may be burdensome, but as we have said, this is a matter for the determination of the municipality in the execution of its police powers, and not a violation of any substantial right of the individual."
12 Pembina Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania, 125 U. S. 181; 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 737; 31 L. ed. 650.
13 But see the discussion as to the right of the State to prevent foreign corporations from exercising the federal right of removing suits brought against them into the federal courts (Section 571). See also, generally, the chapters dealing with the control of the States over Interstate Commerce.
14 113 U. S. 27; 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 357; 28 L. ed. 923.