MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.
This suit was brought by the plaintiffs in error in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, 30th December, 1880, to enjoin the defendant, Houston, from seizing and selling a certain lot of coal belonging to the plaintiffs, situated in New Orleans. They alleged in their petition that they were residents and did business in Pittsburgh, State of Pennsylvania; that Houston, State tax collector of the upper district of the Parish of Orleans, had officially notified Brown & Jones, the agents of the plaintiffs in New Orleans, that they (Brown & Jones) were indebted to the State of Louisiana in the sum of $352.80, State tax for the year 1880 upon a certain lot of Pittsburg coal, assessed as their property, and valued at $58,800; that they (Brown & Jones) were delinquents for said tax, and that he, said tax collector, was about to seize, advertise and sell said coal to pay said tax, as would appear by a copy
The notice of assessment referred to in the petition and annexed thereto, was as follows:
TO BROWN & JONES, Gravier and Charles Street.
SIR: You are hereby officially notified, in conformity with the provisions of Act No. 77 of 1880, that the State taxes assessed to you on movable property in this parish, which amount to the sum of $352.80 (the aggregate assessed value of such property being $58,800.00), fell due and should have been paid
The defendant answered with a general denial, but admitting the assessment of the tax and the intention to sell the property for payment thereof.
The plaintiffs, to sustain the allegations of their petition, produced two witnesses. George F. Rootes testified that he was the general agent and manager of the business of Brown & Jones in New Orleans; that when the assessment complained of was made, the firm had paid the State taxes due upon their capital stock, and had paid State and city licenses to do business for that year; that, at the time of the assessment of the tax in question, the coal upon which it was levied was in the hands of Brown & Jones, as agents for the plaintiffs, for sale, having just arrived from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, by flatboats, and was on said boats in which it arrived and afloat in the Mississippi River; that it was held by Brown & Jones to be sold for account of the plaintiffs by the boat load, and that since then more than half of it had been exported from this country on foreign steamships and the balance sold into the
The Louisiana statute of April 9, 1880, Act No. 77, under which the assessment was made, provided as follows:
"Section 1st. That for the calendar year 1880, and for each and every succeeding calendar year, there are hereby levied annual taxes, amounting in the aggregate to six mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation hereafter to be made of all property situated within the State of Louisiana, except such as is expressly exempted from taxation by the (State) Constitution."
The exemptions from taxation under the Constitution of Louisiana do not affect the question.
Upon the case as thus made the District Court of the parish dissolved the injunction and dismissed the suit. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, this judgment was affirmed, and the case is now here by writ of error to the judgment of the Supreme Court.
The following errors have been assigned:
"The lower court erred in holding:
"1st. That the tax in question did not violate Article 4, section 2, clause 1, of the Federal Constitution.
"2d. That it did not violate Article 1, section 8, clause 3, of the same instrument.
"3d. That it did not violate Article 1, section 10, clause 2, of the same instrument."
The clauses here referred to are these:
1. "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."
3. "No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws."
The constitutional questions here presented were argued in the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and in what manner the subject was viewed by that court may be seen by the following extracts from its opinion, Brown v. Houston, 33 La. Ann. 843, filed as part of the judgment. The court said:
"First. This act [Act No. 77 of 1880] does not in its terms discriminate against the products of other States or the property of the citizens of other States, but subjects all property liable to taxation found within the State, whether of its own citizens or citizens of other States, whether imported from other States or produced here, to the same rate of taxation... .
"Second. The coal in question was taxed in common with all other property found within the State. We held in the case of City of New Orleans v. Eclipse Towboat Co., recently decided by us, but not reported,
"Third. This tax cannot be regarded as a duty or impost levied by the State on imports. To give such a construction
In approaching the consideration of the case we will first take up the last objection raised by the plaintiff in error, namely, that the tax was a duty on imports and exports.
It was decided by this court in the case of Woodruff v. Parham, 8 Wall. 123, that the term "imports" as used in that clause of the Constitution which declares that "no State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports," does not refer to articles carried from one State into another, but only to articles imported from foreign countries into the United States. In that case the City of Mobile had by ordinance, passed in pursuance of its charter, authorized the collection of a tax on real and personal estate, sales at auction, and sales of merchandise, capital employed in business and income within the city. Woodruff and others were auctioneers, and were taxed under this ordinance for sales at auction made by them, including sales of goods, the product of other States than Alabama, received by them as consignees and agents, and sold in the original and unbroken packages; but as the ordinance made no discrimination between sales at auction of goods produced in Alabama and goods produced in other States, the court held that the tax was not unconstitutional. A contrary result must have been reached under the ruling in Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, if the constitutional prohibition referred to had been held to include imports from other States as well as imports from foreign countries; for, at the time the tax was laid, the condition of the goods, in reference to their introduction into the State, was precisely the same in one case as in the other. This
It is unnecessary, therefore, to consider further the question raised by the plaintiffs in error under their third assignment of errors so far forth, as it is based on the assumption that the tax complained of was an impost or duty on imports. The other assumption made under that assignment, that some of the coal was afterwards exported, and that the tax complained of was therefore pro tanto a duty on exports, is equally untenable. When the petition was filed the coal was lying in New Orleans, in the hands of Brown & Jones, for sale. The petition states this in so many words, and Rootes testifies the same thing, and adds that it was to be sold by the flat-boat load. He also adds that at the time of his examination more than half of it had been exported to foreign countries; but he probably means that it had been sold to steamers sailing to foreign ports for use on the same, and had only been exported in that way. The complainants were not exporters; they did not hold the coal at New Orleans for exportation, but for sale there. Being in New Orleans, and held there on sale, without reference to the destination or use which the purchasers might wish to make of it, it was taxed in the hands of the owners (or their agents) like all other property in the city, six mills on the dollar. If after this, and after being sold, the purchaser thought proper to put it on board of a steamer bound to foreign parts, that did not alter the character of the taxation so as to convert it from a general tax to a duty on exports. When taxed it was not held with the intent or for the purpose of exportation, but with the intent and for the purpose of sale there, in New Orleans. A duty on exports must either be a duty levied on goods as a condition, or by reason of their exportation, or, at least, a direct tax or duty on goods which are intended for exportation. Whether the last would be a duty on exports, it is not necessary to determine. But certainly, where a general tax is laid on all property alike,
But in holding, with the decision in Woodruff v. Parham, that goods carried from one State to another are not imports or exports within the meaning of the clause which prohibits a State from laying any impost or duty on imports or exports, we do not mean to be understood as holding that a State may levy import or export duties on goods imported from or exported to another State. We only mean to say that the clause in question does not prohibit it. Whether the laying of such duties by a State would not violate some other provision of the Constitution, that, for example, which gives to Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes, is a different question. This brings us to the consideration of the second assignment of error, which is founded on the clause referred to.
The power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. If not in all respects an exclusive power; if, in the absence of Congressional action, the States may continue to regulate matters of local interest only incidentally affecting foreign and inter-State commerce, such as pilots, wharves, harbors, roads, bridges, tolls, freights, etc., still, according to the rule laid down in Cooley v. Board of Wardens of Philadelphia, 12 How. 299, 319, the power of Congress is exclusive wherever the matter is national in its character or admits of one uniform system or plan of regulation; and is certainly so far exclusive that no State has power to make any law or regulation which will affect the free and unrestrained intercourse and trade between the States, as Congress has left it, or which will impose any discriminating burden or tax upon the citizens or products of other States, coming or brought within its jurisdiction. All laws and regulations are restrictive
This being the recognized law, the question then arises whether the assessment of the tax in question amounted to any interference with, or restriction upon the free introduction of the plaintiffs' coal from the State of Pennsylvania into the State of Louisiana, and the free disposal of the same in commerce in the latter State; in other words, whether the tax amounted to a regulation of, or restriction upon, commerce among the States; or only to an exercise of local administration under the general taxing power, which, though it may incidentally affect the subjects of commerce, is entirely within the power of the State until Congress shall see fit to interfere and make express regulations on the subject.
As to the character and mode of the assessment, little need be added to what has already been said. It was not a tax imposed upon the coal as a foreign product, or as the product of another State than Louisiana, nor a tax imposed by reason of the coal being imported or brought into Louisiana, nor a tax imposed whilst it was in a state of transit through that State to some other place of destination. It was imposed after the coal had arrived at its destination and was put up for sale. The coal had come to its place of rest, for final disposal or use, and was a commodity in the market of New Orleans. It might
It cannot be seriously contended, at least in the absence of any congressional legislation to the contrary, that all goods which are the product of other States are to be free from taxation in the State to which they may be carried for use or sale. Take the City of New York, for example. When the assessor of taxes goes his round, must be omit from his list of taxables all goods which have come into the city from the factories of New England and New Jersey, or from the pastures and grainfields of the West? If he must, what will be left for taxation? And how is he to distinguish between those goods which are taxable and those which are not? With the exception of goods imported from foreign countries, still in the original packages, and goods in transit to some other place, why may he not assess all property alike that may be found in the city, being there for the purpose of remaining there till used or sold, and constituting part of the great mass of its commercial capital — provided always, that the assessment be a general one, and made without discrimination between goods the product of New York, and goods the product of other States? Of course the assessment should be a general one, and not discriminative between goods of different States. The taxing of goods coming from other States, as such, or by reason of their so coming, would be a discriminating tax against them as imports, and would be a regulation of inter-State commerce, inconsistent with that perfect freedom of trade which Congress has seen fit should remain undisturbed. But if, after their arrival within the State, — that being their place of destination for use or trade, — if, after this, they are subjected to a general tax laid alike on all property within the city, we fail to see how such a
We do not mean to say that if a tax-collector should be stationed at every ferry and railroad depot in the City of New York, charged with the duty of collecting a tax on every wagon load, or car load of produce and merchandise brought into the city, that it would not be a regulation of, and restraint upon inter-State commerce, so far as the tax should be imposed on articles brought from other States. We think it would be, and that it would be an encroachment upon the exclusive powers of Congress. It would be very different from the tax laid on auction sales of all property indiscriminately, as in the case of Woodruff v. Parham, which had no relation to the movement of goods from one State to another. It would be very different from a tax laid, as in the present case, on property which had reached its destination, and had become part of the general mass of property of the city, and which was only taxed as a part of that general mass in common with all other property in the city, and in precisely the same manner.
When Congress shall see fit to make a regulation on the subject of property transported from one State to another, which may have the effect to give it a temporary exemption from taxation in the State to which it is transported, it will be time enough to consider any conflict that may arise between such regulation and the general taxing laws of the State. In the present case we see no such conflict, either in the law itself or in the proceedings which have been had under it and sustained by the State tribunals, nor any conflict with the general rule that a State cannot pass a law which shall interfere with the unrestricted freedom of commerce between the States.
In our opinion, therefore, the second assignment of error is untenable.
The only remaining assignment of error to be considered is, that the tax in question violated that clause of the Fourth Article of the Constitution which declares that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." As the applicability of this objection did not occur to us upon reading the record of the
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Louisiana is