John McAuliffe (plaintiff) was a policeman in the City of New Bedford (defendant). Pursuant to Chapter 319 of the Acts of 1890, policemen held office during good behavior and could be removed by the mayor for cause after a hearing. A written complaint was filed against McAuliffe, who was accused of violating police regulations forbidding the solicitation of money or aid for a political purpose and forbidding membership in a political committee. The mayor of the City of New Bedford (the mayor) (defendant) found, after a due hearing, that McAuliffe was guilty of the charges and removed McAuliffe from office. McAuliffe filed a petition for mandamus to restore himself to the position of policeman, arguing that his constitutional right to free speech had been violated.