BROWN V. HOUSTON, 114 U. S. 622 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Houston, 114 U.S. 622 (1885)

Brown v. Houston

Argued April 3, 1884

Decided May 4, 1885

114 U.S. 622


The terms "imports" and "exports" in Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 2, of the Constitution, prohibiting states, without the consent of Congress, from levying duties on imports or exports, has reference to goods brought from, or carried to foreign countries alone, and not to goods transported from one state to another.

Woodruff v. Parham, 8 Wall. 123, affirmed and applied.

A general state tax laid alike upon all property does not infringe that clause of the Constitution if it happens to fall upon goods which, though not then intended for exportation, are subsequently exported.

Article I, Section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution, which confers upon Congress the power to regulate commerce among the several states, leaves to the states in the absence of congressional legislation, the power to regulate matters of local interest which affect interstate commerce only incidentally; but the power of Congress over interstate commerce is exclusive wherever

Page 114 U. S. 623

the matter is national in character or admits of a uniform system or plan of regulation.

So long as Congress passes no law to regulate interstate commerce of the nature and character which makes its jurisdiction exclusive, its refraining from action indicates its will that that commerce shall be free and untrammeled.

Coal mined in Pennsylvania and sent by water to New Orleans to be sold in open market there on account of the owners in Pennsylvania becomes intermingled, on arrival there, with the general property in the Louisiana, and is subject to taxation under general laws of that state although it may be, after arrival, sold from the vessel on which the transportation was made, and without being landed, and for the purpose of being taken out of the country on a vessel bound to a foreign port.

Such taxation does no violation either to Art I, Sec. 8, Clause 3; Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 2; or Art. IV, Sec. 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution.

The proper limits of these rulings pointed out.

This was a suit in the nature of a bill in equity to restrain the defendants, who were defendants in error here, from collecting a tax imposed upon personal property by the authorities of the State of Louisiana. The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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