BINNS V. UNITED STATES, 194 U. S. 486 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Binns v. United States, 194 U.S. 486 (1904)

Binns v. United States

Nos. 196, 266

Submitted April 6, 1904

Decided May 31, 1904

194 U.S. 486


While it may not be within the power of Congress by a special system of license taxes to obtain, from a territory of the United States, revenue for the benefit of the nation, as distinguished from that necessary for the support of the territorial government, Congress has plenary power, save as controlled by the provisions of the Constitution, to establish a government of the territories which need not necessarily be the same in all territories, and it may establish a revenue system applicable solely to the territory for which it is established.

The fact that the taxes are paid directly into the Treasury of the United States, and are not specifically appropriated for the expenses of the territory, when the sum total of all the revenue from the territory including all the taxes does not equal the cost and expense of maintaining the government of the territory does not make the taxes unconstitutional if it satisfactorily appear that the purpose of the taxes is to raise revenue in that territory for the territory itself.

The license taxes provided for in § 460, Title II, of the Alaska Penal Code are not in conflict with the uniformity provisions of § 8 of Article I of the Constitution of the United States.

The general rule that debates of Congress are not appropriate sources of information from which to discover the meaning of the language of statutes passed by that body does not apply to the examination of the reports of committees of either branch of Congress with a view of determining the scope of statutes passed on the strength of such reports. Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U. S. 457, 143 U. S. 464.

Page 194 U. S. 487

Section 460 of Title II. of the Alaska Penal Code, Act of March 3, 1899, 30 Stat. 1253, 1336, as amended by the Act of June 6, 1900, entitled "An Act Making Further Provision for a Civil government for Alaska, and for Other Purposes," 31 Stat. 321, 330, reads

"that any person or persons, corporation or company prosecuting or attempting to prosecute any of the following lines of business within the district of Alaska shall first apply for and obtain license so to do from a district court or a subdivision thereof in said district, and pay for said license for the respective lines of business and trade, as follows, to-wit: . . . Transfer companies, fifty dollars per annum."

Section 461 provides:

"That any person, corporation, or company doing or attempting to do business in violation of the provisions of the foregoing section, or without having first paid the license therein required, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor,"


Section 463:

"That the licenses provided for in this act shall be issued by the clerk of the district court or any subdivision thereof . . . duly made and entered: . . . Provided, That . . . all moneys received for licenses by him . . . under this act shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be covered into the Treasury of the United States, under such rules and regulations as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe."

Under this statute, plaintiff in error was prosecuted and convicted in the District Court for the District of Alaska, Second Division. This conviction has been brought to this Court on writ of error, and the question presented is whether the statute is in conflict with Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution of the United States, which reads:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. "

Page 194 U. S. 490

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