One question that is often asked about Justice Washington’s opinion in Corfield is why he decided to think out loud about what the privileges and immunities of citizens were when the case before him did not involve such a privilege. The entire discussion is dicta and includes many of the hallmarks of dicta, such as a lack of precision. Was this just sloppy or ill-considered?
Justice Washington’s notes on Corfield suggest an answer. He initially thought that the case before him DID involve a privilege or immunity of citizenship. For reasons unknown, he changed his mind. Writing out what some of the privileges and immunities were may have helped clarify his thinking or been seen my him as necessary to explain why the case ultimately fell on the “not a privilege” side of the line.