Walling v. Michigan , 116 U.S. 446 ( 1886 )

  • 116 U.S. 446 (1886)


    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued December 3, 1884.
    Decided January 18, 1886.

    *451 Mr. O.W. Powers for plaintiff in error.

    Mr. J.J. Van Riper, Attorney-General of the State of Michigan, for defendant in error.

    *454 MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court. After stating the facts in the language reported above, he continued:

    The single question, now before us for consideration is, whether the statute of 1875 is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. Taken by itself, and without having reference to the act of 1881, it is very difficult to find a plausible reason for holding that it is not repugnant to the Constitution. It certainly does impose a tax or duty on persons who, not having their principal place of business within the State, engage in the business of selling, or of soliciting the sale of, certain described liquors, to be shipped into the State. If this is not a discriminating tax levelled against persons for selling goods brought into the State from other States or countries, it is difficult to conceive of a tax that would be discriminating. It is clearly within the decision of Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275, where we held a law of the State of Missouri to be void which laid a peddler's license tax upon persons going from place to place to sell patent and other medicines, goods, wares, or merchandise, not the growth, product, or manufacture of that State, and which did not lay a like tax upon the sale of similar articles, the growth, product, or manufacture of Missouri. The same principle is announced in Hinson v. Lott, 8 Wall. 148; Ward v. Maryland, 12 Wall. 418; Guy v. Baltimore, 100 U.S. 434, 438; County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U.S. 691, 697; Webber v. Virginia, 103 U.S. 344.

    *455 A discriminating tax imposed by a State operating to the disadvantage of the products of other States when introduced into the first mentioned State, is, in effect, a regulation in restraint of commerce among the States, and as such is a usurpation of the power conferred by the Constitution upon the Congress of the United States.

    We have so often held that the power given to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several States and with the Indian tribes, is exclusive in all matters which require, or only admit of, general and uniform rules, and especially as regards any impediment or restriction upon such commerce, that we deem it necessary merely to refer to our previous decisions on the subject, the most important of which are collected in Brown v. Houston, 114 U.S. 622, 631, and need not be cited here. We have also repeatedly held that so long as Congress does not pass any law to regulate commerce among the several States, it thereby indicates its will that such commerce shall be free and untrammelled; and that any regulation of the subject by the States, except in matters of local concern only, is repugnant to such freedom. Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275, 282; County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U.S. 691, 697; Brown v. Houston, 114 U.S. 622, 631. In Mr. Justice Johnson's concurring opinion in the case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheaton, 1, 222, his whole argument (which is a very able one) is based on the idea that the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States was by the Constitution surrendered by the States to the United States, and therefore, must necessarily be exclusive, and that where Congress has failed to restrict such commerce, it must necessarily be free. He says: "Of all the endless variety of branches of foreign commerce, now carried on to every quarter of the world, I know of no one that is permitted by act of Congress, any otherwise than by not being forbidden." "The grant to Livingston and Fulton interferes with the freedom of intercourse among the states." The same sentiment was expressed by Mr. Justice Grier in his opinion in the Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 462, where he says: "And to what weight is that argument entitled, which assumes, that because *456 it is the policy of Congress to leave this intercourse free, therefore it has not been regulated, and each state may put as many restrictions upon it as she pleases?" And one of the four propositions with which the opinion concludes is as follows, to wit: "4th. That Congress has regulated commerce and intercourse with foreign nations and between the several states, by willing that it shall be free, and it is, therefore, not left to the discretion of each state in the Union either to refuse a right of passage to persons or property through her territory, or to exact a duty for permission to exercise it."

    The argument of these eminent judges, that where Congress has exclusive power to regulate commerce, its non-action is equivalent to a declaration that commerce shall be free, (and we quote their opinions for no other purpose,) seems to be irrefragable. Of course the broad conclusions to which they arrive, that the power is exclusive in all cases, are subject to the modifications established by subsequent decisions, such as Cooley v. The Board of Wardens, 12 How. 299, and others.

    The law is well summarized in the opinion of this court delivered by Mr. Justice Field in County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U.S. 691, 697, where it is said: "The subjects indeed upon which Congress can act under this power are of infinite variety, requiring for their successful management different plans or modes of treatment. Some of them are national in their character, and admit and require uniformity of regulation, affecting alike all the states; others are local, or are mere aids to commerce, and can only be properly regulated by provisions adapted to their special circumstances and localities. Of the former class may be mentioned all that portion of commerce with foreign countries or between the states which consists in the transportation, purchase, sale, and exchange of commodities. Here there can of necessity be only one system or plan of regulation, and that Congress alone can prescribe. Its non-action in such cases with respect to any particular commodity or mode of transportation is a declaration of its purpose that the commerce in that commodity or by that means of transportation shall be free. There would otherwise be no security against conflicting regulations of different states, each discriminating *457 in favor of its own products and citizens, and against the products and citizens of other states. And it is a matter of public history that the object of vesting in Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states was to insure uniformity of regulation against conflicting and discriminating state legislation."

    Many State decisions might also be cited in which the same doctrine is announced. Thus in the case of Higgins v. Three Hundred Casks of Lime, 130 Mass. 1, 3, it is said: "The result of all the decisions is, that the several states have no authority to prescribe different regulations in relation to the commerce in certain articles, dependent upon the state from which they are brought. This rule in no manner controls or limits the power of a state to enact appropriate health or inspection laws; for such laws are necessarily uniform, and are not dependent upon place." In State v. Furbush, 72 Maine, 493, 495, construing a statute of Maine, the Supreme Court of that State says: "The act is unconstitutional. It allows goods manufactured in this state to be peddled free, and exacts a license fee from those who peddle similar goods which are manufactured out of the state. Such a discrimination in favor of goods manufactured in this state, and against goods manufactured in other states, violates the federal constitution." In State v. North & Scott, 27 Missouri, 464, 471, 476, where an act of Missouri imposed a tax upon merchants for all goods purchased by them, except such as might be the growth, produce, or manufacture of that State, and manufactured articles the growth or produce of other States, it was held by the Supreme Court of that State that the law was unconstitutional and void. The court say: "From the foregoing statement of the law and facts of this case it will be seen that it presents the question of the power of the states, in the exercise of the right of taxation, to discriminate between products of this state and those manufactured in our sister states." And after an examination of the causes which led to the adoption of the Federal Constitution, one of the principal of which was the necessity for the regulation of commerce and the laying of imposts and duties by a single government, the *458 court say: "But, whatever may be the motive for the tax, whether revenue, restriction, retaliation, or protection of domestic manufactures, it is equally a regulation of commerce, and in effect an exercise of the power of laying duties on imports, and its exercise by the states is entirely at war with the spirit of the constitution, and would render vain and nugatory the power granted to Congress in relation to those subjects. Can any power more destructive to the union and harmony of the States be exercised than that of imposing discriminating taxes or duties on imports from other states? Whatever may be the motive for such taxes, they cannot fail to beget irritation and to lead to retaliation; and it is not difficult to foresee that an indulgence in such a course of legislation must inflame and produce a state of feeling that would seek its gratification in any measures regardless of the consequences." See also Norris v. Boston, 4 Met. (Mass.) 282, 293; S.C. in error among the Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283; Oliver v. Washington Mills, 11 Allen, 268; Pierce v. The State, 13 N.H. 536, 582; McGuire v. Parker, 32 La. Ann. 832; Wiley v. Parmer, 14 Ala. 627; Scott v. Watkins, 22 Ark. 556, 564; State v. McGinnis, 37 Ark. 362; State v. Browning, 62 Missouri, 591; Daniel v. Richmond, 78 Ky. 542.

    In view of these authorities, especially the decisions of this court on the subject, we have no hesitation in saying that the act of 1875, under which the prosecution against Walling was instituted, if it stood alone, without any concurrent law of Michigan imposing a like tax to that which it imposes upon those engaged in selling or soliciting the sale of liquors the produce of that State, would be repugnant to that clause of the Constitution of the United States which confers upon Congress the power to regulate commerce among the several States.

    The question then arises whether the act of 1879, as amended by that of 1881, has removed the objection to the validity of the act of 1875. We have carefully examined that act, and have come to the conclusion that it has not done so. We will briefly state our reasons for this conclusion.

    The council for the State suppose that the act of 1881 imposes a heavier tax on Michigan dealers in liquors of domestic *459 origin than that imposed by the act of 1875 on those who deal in liquors coming from outside of the State, and, hence, that if there is any discrimination it is against the domestic and in favor of the foreign dealer or manufactured article. We do not think that this position is correct. Let us compare the two acts.

    Of course the act of 1875 does not assume to tax non-resident persons or firms for doing business in another State. They are subject to taxation in the States where they are located. It is the business of selling for such non-resident parties, or soliciting orders for them for sale in Michigan of liquors imported into the State, that is the object of taxation under the law; and any person engaged in those employments, or either of them, is subject to the tax of three hundred dollars per annum. Now, is such a tax, or any tax imposed upon those who are engaged in the like employment for persons or firms located in Michigan, selling or soliciting orders for the sale of liquors manufactured in that State? Clearly not. The tax imposed by the act of 1881 is a tax on the manufacturer or dealer. He is taxed in the city, township, or village in which his distillery or principal place of business is situated. He is subject to a single tax of five hundred dollars per annum. No tax is imposed on his clerks, his agents, or his drummers, who sell or solicit orders for him. They are merely his servants, and are not included in the law. It is he, and not they, whose business is the manufacture or sale of liquors, and who is subject to taxation under the law. Whereas the drummers and agents of the foreign manufacturer or dealer, located in Illinois or elsewhere, are all and each of them subject to the tax of three hundred dollars per annum. In the one case it is a single tax on the principal; in the other it is a tax, not on the principal, for he cannot be taxed in Michigan, but on each and all of his servants and agents selling or soliciting orders for him. The tax imposed by the act of 1875 is not imposed on the same class of persons as is the tax imposed by the act of 1881. That this must give an immense advantage to the product manufactured in Michigan, and to the manufacturers and dealers of that State, is perfectly manifest.

    It is suggested by the learned judge who delivered the *460 opinion of the Supreme Court of Michigan in this case, that the tax imposed by the act of 1875 is an exercise by the legislature of Michigan of the police power of the State for the discouragement of the use of intoxicating liquors, and the preservation of the health and morals of the people. This would be a perfect justification of the act if it did not discriminate against the citizens and products of other States in a matter of commerce between the States, and thus usurp one of the prerogatives of the national legislature. The police power cannot be set up to control the inhibitions of the Federal Constitution, or the powers of the United States Government created thereby. New Orleans Gas Co. v. Louisiana Light Co., 115 U.S. 650.

    Another suggestion in the opinion referred to is, that, although the tax imposed by the act of 1875 may be a regulation of the introduction of spirituous liquors from another State into the State of Michigan, yet that regulation is not prohibition, and that there is nothing in the act that amounts to prohibition. The language of the court is: "The statute does not prohibit the introduction and sale of liquors made outside of the state. It simply taxes the person who carries on the business here by making sales in this state. It in no way interferes with the introduction of the liquors here. It tolerates and regulates, but seeks not to prohibit. I think in this case no question can be successfully made under the clause of the constitution until the point has been reached where regulation ceases and prohibition begins." We are unable to adopt the views of that learned tribunal as here expressed. It is the power to "regulate" commerce among the several States which the Constitution in terms confers upon Congress; and this power, as we have seen, is exclusive in cases like the present, where the subject of regulation is one that admits and requires uniformity, and where any regulation affects the freedom of traffic among the States.

    Another argument used by the Supreme Court of Michigan in favor of the validity of the tax is, that it is merely a tax on an occupation which, it is averred, the State has an undoubted right to impose, and reference is made to Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 444; Nathan v. Louisiana, 8 How. 73, 80; *461 Pierce v. New Hampshire, 5 How. 593; Hinson v. Lott, 8 Wall. 148; Machine Co. v. Gage, 100 U.S. 676. None of these cases, however, sustain the doctrine that an occupation can be taxed if the tax is so specialized as to operate as a discriminative burden against the introduction and sale of the products of another State, or against the citizens of another State.

    We think that the act in question operates as a regulation of commerce among the States in a matter within the exclusive power of Congress, and that it is, for this reason repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, and void.

    The judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan is reversed, and the cause remanded, with instructions to take such further proceedings as may not be inconsistent with this opinion.

    The CHIEF JUSTICE did not sit in this case, nor take any part in the decision.

Document Info

DocketNumber: 741

Citation Numbers: 116 U.S. 446, 6 S. Ct. 454, 29 L. Ed. 691, 1886 U.S. LEXIS 1784

Judges: Bradley

Filed Date: 1/18/1886

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/15/2017

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