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U.S. Supreme Court

Crandall v. State of Nevada, 73 U.S. 6 Wall. 35 35 (1867)

Crandall v. State of Nevada

73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 35


1. A special tax on railroad and stage companies for every passenger carried out of the state by them is a tax on the passenger for the privilege of passing through the state by the ordinary modes of travel, and is not a simple tax on the business of the companies.

2. Such a tax imposed by a state is not in conflict with that provision of the federal Constitution which forbids a state to lay a duty on exports.

3. The power granted to Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states includes subjects of legislation which are necessarily of a national character, and therefore exclusively within the control of Congress.

4. But it also includes matters of a character merely local in their operation, as the regulation of port pilots, the authorization of bridges over navigable streams, and perhaps others, and upon this class of subjects the state may legislate in the absence of any such legislation by Congress.

5. If the tax on passengers when carried out of the state be called a regulation of commerce, it belongs to the latter class, and there being no legislation of Congress on the same subject, the statute will not be void as a regulation of commerce.

6. The United States has a right to require the service of its citizens at the seat of federal government, in all executive, legislative, and judicial departments and at all the points in the several states where the functions of government are to be performed.

Page 73 U. S. 36

7. By virtue of its power to make war and to suppress insurrection, the government has a right to transport troops through all parts of the Union by the usual and most expeditious modes of transportation.

8. The citizens o� the United States have the correlative right to approach the great departments of the government, the ports of entry through which commerce is conducted, and the various federal offices in the states.

9. The taxing power, being in its nature unlimited over the subjects within its control, would enable the state governments to destroy the above-mentioned rights of the federal government and of its citizens if the right of transit through the states by railroad and other ordinary modes of travel were one of the legitimate objects of state taxation.

10. The existence of such a power in the states is therefore, inconsistent with objects for which the federal government was established and with rights conferred by the Constitution on that government and on the people. An exercise of such a power is accordingly void.

In 1865, the Legislature of Nevada enacted that

"There shall be levied and collected a capitation tax of one dollar upon every person leaving the state by any railroad, stage coach, or other vehicle engaged or employed in the business of transporting passengers for hire,"

and that the proprietors, owners, and corporations so engaged should pay the said tax of one dollar for each and every person so conveyed or transported from the state. For the purpose of collecting the tax, another section required from persons engaged in such business or their agents a report every month, under oath, of the number of passengers so transported, and the payment of the tax to the sheriff or other proper officer.

With the statute in existence, Crandall, who was the agent of a stage company engaged in carrying passengers through the State of Nevada, was arrested for refusing to report the number of passengers that had been carried by the coaches of his company and for refusing to pay the tax of one dollar imposed on each passenger by the law of that state. He pleaded that the law of the state under which he was prosecuted was void because it was in conflict with the Constitution of the United States, and his plea being overruled, the case came into the supreme court of the state. The court -- considering that the tax laid was not an impost on "exports"

Page 73 U. S. 37

nor an interference with the power of Congress "to regulate commerce among the several states" -- decided against the right thus set up under the federal Constitution.

Its judgment was now here for review.

Page 73 U. S. 39

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