The contention that the act in question is invalid because repugnant to the constitution of the State of Ohio has been disposed of by the decision of the highest tribunal of that State sustaining its validity. State v. Jones, 51 Ohio St. 492. These cases fall within no recognized exception to the general rule that the construction by the state courts of last resort of state constitutions and statutes will ordinarily be accepted by this court as controlling.
It is suggested that the decision of the Supreme Court of Ohio should not be followed because the case in which it was announced did not involve a genuine controversy but was prepared for the purpose of obtaining an adjudication, and, under the circumstances, ought not to have been considered by that court. But it was for that tribunal to pass on this question, and, as it entertained jurisdiction and delivered a considered opinion which appears in the official reports of the court as its judgment of the validity of the Nichols law under the constitution of the State of Ohio, it is not within our province to review its determination in that regard.
This brings us to the only inquiry which it concerns us to examine.
The legislation in question is claimed to be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States because in violation of the commerce clause of that instrument, and because operating to deprive appellants of their property without due process of law, and of the equal protection of the laws.
We assume that the assessments complained of were made in pursuance of the definite rule or principle of appraisement recognized and established by the Nichols law, as construed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the question is whether the law prescribing that rule is valid under the Federal Constitution.
The principal contention is that the rule contravenes the commerce clause because the assessments, while purporting to
Although the transportation of the subjects of interstate commerce, or the receipts received therefrom, or the occupation or business of carrying it on, cannot be directly subjected to state taxation, yet property belonging to corporations or companies engaged in such commerce may be; and whatever the particular form of the exaction, if it is essentially only property taxation, it will not be considered as falling within the inhibition of the Constitution. Corporations and companies engaged in interstate commerce should bear their proper proportion of the burdens of the governments under whose protection they conduct their operations, and taxation on property, collectible by the ordinary means, does not affect interstate commerce otherwise than incidentally, as all business is affected by the necessity of contributing to the support of government. Postal Telegraph Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U.S. 688.
As to railroad, telegraph and sleeping car companies, engaged in interstate commerce, it has often been held by this court that their property, in the several States through which their lines or business extended, might be valued as a unit for the purposes of taxation, taking into consideration the uses to which it was put and all the elements making up aggregate value, and that a proportion of the whole fairly and properly ascertained might be taxed by the particular State, without violating any Federal restriction. Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Massachusetts, 125 U.S. 530; Massachusetts v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 141 U.S. 40; Maine v. Grand Trunk Railway, 142 U.S. 217; Pittsburgh, Cincinnati &c. Railway v. Backus, 154 U.S. 421; Cleveland, Cincinnati &c. Railway v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Taggart, 163 U.S. 1; Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U.S. 18. The valuation was, thus, not confined to the wires, poles and instruments of the telegraph company; or the roadbed, ties, rails and spikes of the railroad company; or the cars of the sleeping car company; but
Doubtless there is a distinction between the property of railroad and telegraph companies and that of express companies. The physical unity existing in the former is lacking in the latter; but there is the same unity in the use of the entire property for the specific purpose, and there are the same elements of value arising from such use.
The cars of the Pullman Company did not constitute a physical unity, and their value as separate cars did not bear a direct relation to the valuation which was sustained in that case. The cars were moved by railway carriers under contract, and the taxation of the corporation in Pennsylvania was sustained on the theory that the whole property of the company might be regarded as a unit plant, with a unit value, a proportionate part of which value might be reached by the state authorities on the basis indicated.
No more reason is perceived for limiting the valuation of the property of express companies to horses, wagons and furniture, than that of railroad, telegraph and sleeping car
We repeat that while the unity which exists may not be a physical unity, it is something more than a mere unity of ownership. It is a unity of use, not simply for the convenience or pecuniary profit of the owner, but existing in the very necessities of the case — resulting from the very nature of the business.
The same party may own a manufacturing establishment in one State and a store in another, and may make profit by operating the two, but the work of each is separate. The value of the factory in itself is not conditioned on that of the store or vice versa, nor is the value of the goods manufactured and sold affected thereby. The connection between the two is merely accidental and growing out of the unity of ownership. But the property of an express company distributed through different States is as an essential condition of the business united in a single specific use. It constitutes but a single plant, made so by the very character and necessities of the business.
It is this which enabled the companies represented here to charge and receive within the State of Ohio for the year ending May 1, 1895, $282,181, $358,519 and $275,446, respectively, on the basis, according to their respective returns, of $42,065, $28,438 and $23,430, of personal property owned in that State, returns which confessedly do not, however, take into account contracts for transportation and accompanying facilities.
Considered as distinct subjects of taxation, a horse is, indeed, a horse; a wagon, a wagon; a safe, a safe; a pouch, a pouch; but how is it that $23,430 worth of horses, wagons, safes
Reliance seems to be placed by counsel on the observation of Mr. Justice Lamar, in Pacific Express Company v. Seibert, 142 U.S. 339, 354, that "express companies, such as are defined by this act, have no tangible property, of any consequence, subject to taxation under the general laws. There is, therefore, no way by which they can be taxed at all unless by a tax upon their receipts for business transacted." But the reference was to the legislation of the State of Missouri, and the scheme of taxation under consideration here was not involved in any manner.
The method of assessment provided by the Nichols law was as follows: "The said board shall proceed to ascertain and assess the value of the property of said express, telegraph and telephone companies in Ohio, and in determining the value of the property of said companies in this State, to be taxed within the State and assessed as herein provided, said board shall be guided by the value of said property as determined by the value of the entire capital stock of said companies, and such other evidence and rules as will enable said board to arrive at the true value in money of the entire property of said companies within the State of Ohio, in the proportion which the same bears to the entire property of said companies, as determined by the value of the capital stock thereof, and the other evidence and rules as aforesaid."
And this provision was thus construed by the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Jones:
"The board, in determining the value of the company's property in this State for taxation, is not required to fix the value of such property upon the principle that the value of the entire property of the company shall be deemed the same as the value of its entire capital stock, thus making the respective values equivalents of each other. But, taking the market value of the entire capital stock as a datum, the board is to be only guided thereby in ascertaining the true value in money of the company's property in this State. The statute does not bind the board to find the value
The court further said:
"But the property of a corporation may be regarded in the aggregate, as a unit, an entirety, as a plant designed for a specific object; and its value may be estimated not in parts, but taken as a whole. If the market value — perhaps the closest approximation to the true value in money — of the corporate property as a whole, were inquired into, the market value of the capital stock would become a controlling factor in fixing the value of the property. Should all the stockholders unite to sell the corporate plant as an entirety, they would not be inclined to sell it for less than the market value of the aggregate shares of the capital stock. Besides, while the amount of the capital stock may be limited by the charter and the laws governing it, the real and personal property of the corporation may be constantly augmented, and may keep pace with any increase in the value of the capital stock. The market value of the capital stock, it is urged, has no necessary relation to the value of the tangible property of the corporation. But such is the well understood relation between the two that not only is the value of the capital stock an essential factor in fixing the market value of the corporate plant, but the corporate capital or property has a reflex action on the value of the capital stock... .
"If by reason of the good will of the concern, or the skill, experience and energy with which its business is conducted, the market value of the capital stock is largely increased, whereby the value of the tangible property of the corporation, considered as an entire plant, acquires a greater market value than it otherwise would have had, it cannot properly be said not to be its true value in money within the meaning of the Constitution, because good will and other elements indirectly entered into its value. The market value of property is what it will bring when sold as such property is ordinarily sold in the community where it is situated; and the fact that it is its market value cannot be questioned because attributed somewhat
"It will, we think, be conceded that the earning capacity of real estate owned by the individuals may be considered in fixing its value for taxation. Take an office building on a prominent street in one of our large cities. It will not be doubted, that by care in the selection of tenants, and in the preservation of the reputation of the building, by superior elevator service, by vigilance in guarding and protecting the property, by the exercise of skill and knowledge in the general management of the premises, a good will of the establishment will be promoted, which will tend to an extra increase in the earning capacity and value of the building. For the purpose of taxation, it would be none the less the true value in money of the building, because contributed to by the operative causes that gave rise to the good will. We discover no satisfactory reason why the same rule should not apply to the valuation of corporate property — why the selling value of the capital stock, as affected by the good will of the business, should be excluded from the consideration of the board of appraisers and assessors under the Nichols law, charged with the valuation of corporate property in this State, especially as the capital stock, when paid up, practically represents at least an equal value of the corporate property."
Similar views were expressed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, Sanford v. Poe, 37 U.S. App. 378, 395, Judge Lurton, delivering the opinion, saying:
"The tax imposed is not a license tax, nor a tax on the business or occupation, nor on the transportation of property through the State, nor from points within the State to points in other States, nor from points in other States to points within the State. It purports to provide for a tax upon property within the State of Ohio. Though this property is employed very largely in the business of interstate commerce, yet that does not exempt it from the same liability to taxation as all other property within the jurisdiction of Ohio. This proposition is too well settled to need argument... .
"Neither does the fact that the property of the express companies
"That an express company owns no line of railway and operates no railroad does not prevent the value of its property from being affected by the relation of each part to every other part, and the use to which a part is put as a factor in a unit business."
The line of reasoning thus pursued is in accordance with the decisions of this court already cited. Assuming the proportion of capital employed in each of several States through which such a company conducts its operations has been fairly ascertained, while taxation thereon, or determined with reference thereto, may be said in some sense to fall on the business of the company, it is only indirectly. The taxation is essentially a property tax, and, as such, not an interference with interstate commerce.
Nor, in this view, is the assessment on property not within the jurisdiction of the taxing authorities of the State and for that reason amounting to a taking of property without due process of law. The property taxed has its actual situs in the State and is, therefore, subject to the jurisdiction, and the distribution among the several counties is a matter of regulation by the state legislature. Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U.S. 18, 22; State Railroad Tax cases, 92 U.S. 575; Delaware Railroad Tax, 18 Wall. 206; Erie Railroad v. Pennsylvania, 21 Wall. 492; Columbus Southern Railway v. Wright, 151 U.S. 470.
There is here no attempt to tax property having a situs outside of the State, but only to place a just value on that within. Presumptively all the property of the corporation or company is held and used for the purposes of its business, and the value of its capital stock and bonds is the value of only that property so held and used.
Special circumstances might exist, as indicated in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati &c. Railway v. Backus, 154 U.S. 421, 443, which would require the value of a portion of the property of an express company to be deducted from the value of its plant as expressed by the sum total of its stock and bonds before any valuation by mileage could be properly arrived at, but the difficulty in the cases at bar is that there is no showing of any such separate and distinct property which should be deducted, and its existence is not to be assumed. It is for the companies to present any special circumstances which may exist, and, failing their doing so, the presumption is that all their property is directly devoted to their business, which being so, a fair distribution of its aggregate value would be upon the mileage basis.
The States through which the companies operate ought not to be compelled to content themselves with a valuation of separate pieces of property disconnected from the plant as an entirety, to the proportionate part of which they extend protection, and to the dividends of whose owners their citizens contribute.
It is not contended that notice of the time and place of the meetings of the board was not afforded or that the companies were denied the opportunity to appear and submit such proofs, explanations, suggestions and arguments with reference to the assessment as they desired.
In Pacific Express Co. v. Seibert, 142 U.S. 339, 351, in which a tax on gross receipts of express companies in the State of Missouri was sustained, Mr. Justice Lamar, speaking for the court, well says:
"This court has repeatedly laid down the doctrine that diversity of taxation, both with respect to the amount imposed and the various species of property selected either for bearing its burdens or for being exempt from them, is not inconsistent with a perfect uniformity and equality of taxation in the proper sense of those terms; and that a system which imposes the same tax upon every species of property, irrespective of its nature or condition or class, will be destructive of the principle of uniformity and equality in taxation and of a just adaptation of property to its burdens."
And see Kentucky Railroad Tax cases, 115 U.S. 321; Home Insurance Co. v. New York, 134 U.S. 594.
The policy pursued in Ohio is to classify property for taxation, when the nature of the property, or its use, or the nature of the business engaged in, requires classification, in the judgment of the legislature, in order to secure equality of burden; and property of different sorts is classified under various statutory provisions for the purposes of assessment and taxation. The state constitution requires all property to be taxed by a uniform rule and according to its true value in money, and it was held by the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Jones that the Nichols law did not violate that requirement.
In Wagoner v. Loomis, 37 Ohio St. 571, it was ruled that: "Statutory provisions, whereby different classes of property are listed and valued for taxation in and by different modes
The constitutional test was held to be complied with, whatever the mode, if the result of the assessment was that the property was assessed at its true value in money.
Considering, as we do, that the unit rule may be applied to express companies without disregarding any other Federal restriction, we think it necessarily follows that this law is not open to the objection of denying the equal protection of the laws.
We have said nothing in relation to the contention that these valuations were excessive. The method of appraisement prescribed by the law was pursued and there were no specific charges of fraud. The general rule is well settled that "whenever a question of fact is thus submitted to the determination of a special tribunal, its decision creates something more than a mere presumption of fact, and if such determination comes into inquiry before the courts it cannot be overthrown by evidence going only to show that the fact was otherwise than as so found and determined." Pittsburgh, Cincinnati &c. Railway v. Backus, 154 U.S. 434; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Taggart, 163 U.S. 1.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom concurred MR. JUSTICE FIELD, MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE BROWN, dissenting.
Not being able to concur in the opinion and judgment of the court in the foregoing cases, I am impelled, by what I conceive to be the serious nature of the questions involved, to state the reasons for my dissent.
This limitation upon the taxing power was early declared by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, where it was said (p. 429):
"All subjects over which the sovereign power of a State extends are objects of taxation; but those over which it does not extend are, upon the soundest principles, exempt from taxation. This proposition may almost be pronounced self-evident."
In Hays v. Pacific Mail Steamship Co., 17 How. 596, a tax imposed upon twelve steamships belonging to the company, which, while engaged in lawful trade and commerce between the port of San Francisco and ports and territories without the State, were temporarily within the jurisdiction of California, was held illegal. This court, by Mr. Justice Nelson, declared that the vessels were not properly abiding within the limits of California, so as to become incorporated with the other personal property of that State; that their situs was at the home port where the vessels belonged and where the owners were liable to be taxed for the capital invested and where the tax had been paid.
In St. Louis v. Ferry Co., 11 Wall. 423, the validity of a tax assessed by the city of St. Louis upon the boats of a ferry company, an Illinois corporation, as property within the city of St. Louis, was considered. This court held that Illinois was the home port of the boats, that they were beyond the jurisdiction of the authorities by which the taxes were assessed,
"Where there is jurisdiction neither as to person nor property, the imposition of a tax would be ultra vires and void. If the legislature of a State should enact that the citizens or property of another State or country should be taxed in the same manner as the persons and property within its own limits and subject to its authority, or in any manner whatsoever, such a law would be as much a nullity as if in conflict with the most explicit constitutional inhibition. Jurisdiction is as necessary to valid legislative as to valid judicial action."
In State Tax on Foreign-held Bonds, 15 Wall. 300, a tax laid by the State of Pennsylvania on the interest paid by the railroad company on its bonds, was held to be a tax upon the bonds, the property not of the debtor company but of its creditors, and that so far as such bonds were held by non-residents of the State, they were property beyond its jurisdiction. It was declared that no adjudication should be necessary to establish so obvious a proposition as that property lying beyond the jurisdiction of a State is not a subject upon which the taxing power can be legitimately exercised, and that "the power of taxation, however vast in its character and searching in its extent, is necessarily limited to subjects within the jurisdiction of the State." Of the act there under consideration, the court said (p. 321):
"It is only one of many cases where, under the name of taxation, an oppressive exaction is made without constitutional warrant, amounting to little less than an arbitrary seizure of private property. It is, in fact, a forced contribution levied upon property held in other States, where it is subjected or may be subjected to taxation upon an estimate of its full value."
In Morgan v. Parham, 16 Wall. 471, it was adjudged, upon the authority of the Hays case, supra, that the State of Alabama could not lawfully tax a vessel registered in New York, but employed in commerce between Mobile in that State and New Orleans in Louisiana. The situs of the vessel
The circumstance that the steamer might not actually have been taxed in New York during the years for which the taxes in controversy were levied was held to be unimportant. The court said (p. 478):
"Whether the steamer Frances was actually taxed in New York during the years 1866 and 1867 is not shown by the case. It is not important. She was liable to taxation there. That State alone had dominion over her for that purpose."
In The Delaware Railroad Tax case, 18 Wall. 206, this court, in considering an objection interposed to a taxing act, that it imposed taxes upon property beyond the jurisdiction of the State, observed (p. 229): "If such be the fact, the tax to that extent is invalid, for the power of taxation of every State is necessarily confined to subjects within its jurisdiction."
In Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U.S. 196, at pages 206-209, Mr. Justice Field reviews the cases just cited. The Gloucester Ferry Company was a New Jersey corporation, and operated a ferry between Gloucester, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. The State of Pennsylvania laid a tax on the appraised value of the capital stock of the ferry company, which owned no property in Pennsylvania except the lease of a slip or dock, where its ferryboats put up in plying across the river, between the two States.
In this court it was sought in argument to support the tax in question by advancing the theory of "a homogeneous unit." The counsel said (p. 201):
"The tax is upon the capital stock of the corporation, `not in separate parcels, as representing distinct properties, but as a homogeneous unit, partaking of the nature of personalty,' and taxable where its corporate functions are exercised or its business done. The franchise itself may constitute the material part of all its property, since not only its wharves and slips, but also its boats, might be leased, and, in that case, the tax would be measured by the value of the franchise represented by the extent of its exercise within the State, and not by its tangible property situated there. The extent of its property
But this court, speaking through Mr. Justice Field, completely answered the argument, as follows (p. 205):
"If by reason of landing or receiving passengers and freight at wharves, or other places in a State, they can be taxed by the State on their capital stock on the ground that they are thereby doing business within her limits, the taxes which may be imposed may embarrass, impede and even destroy such commerce with the citizens of the State. If such a tax can be levied at all, its amount will rest in the discretion of the State. It is idle to say that the interests of the State would prevent oppressive taxation. Those engaged in foreign and interstate commerce are not bound to trust to its moderation in that respect; they require security."
Of the Gloucester Ferry case, it was observed by this court in Philadelphia Steamship Co. v. Pennsylvania, 122 U.S. 326, 344, that "It is hardly necessary to add that the tax on the capital stock of the New Jersey company, in that case, was decided to be unconstitutional, because, as the corporation was a foreign one, the tax could only be construed as a tax for the privilege or franchise of carrying on its business, and that business was interstate commerce."
In Erie Railroad v. Pennsylvania, 153 U.S. 628, 646, this court denied the power of the State of Pennsylvania to require a foreign railroad company doing business within its borders to deduct therefrom when paying interest upon its obligations in New York the amount of a tax assessed by the State upon the bonds and moneyed capital owned by the residents of Pennsylvania. The money in the hands of the company in New York was held to be property beyond the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. The court said that: "No principle is better settled than that the power of a State, even its power of taxation,
This inherent want of power in every government to transcend its jurisdiction is subject, as already stated, to an additional limitation as to the several States of the Union, resulting from those provisions of the Constitution of the United State which, in so far as they restrict the power of the States, necessarily create limitations to which they are all subject and from which they cannot depart without a violation of the Constitution. It will not be necessary to allude to every special restriction on the power of the States resulting from the Constitution, but it will suffice for my present purpose to refer to one only, the necessary existence of which has often been recognized to have been one of the most cogent motives leading to the adoption of the Constitution, and upon the enforcement of which it has often been declared the perpetuity of our institutions depends, to wit, the inhibition resulting from the provision of the Constitution of the United States conferring on Congress power to regulate interstate commerce.
Under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, as held by this court, speaking through Mr. Justice Bradley, in Leloup v. Mobile, 127 U.S. 640, 648, "No State has the right to lay a tax on interstate commerce in any form, whether by way of duties laid on the transportation of the subjects of that commerce, or on the receipts derived from that transportation, or on the occupation or business of carrying it on, and the reason is that such taxation is a burden on that commerce, and amounts to a regulation of it, which belongs solely to Congress." The following cases were referred to as supporting the proposition thus enunciated: Case of State Freight Tax, 15 Wall. 232; Pensacola Telegraph Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 96 U.S. 1; Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U.S. 691; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Texas, 105 U.S. 460; Moran v. New Orleans, 112 U.S. 69; Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U.S. 196; Brown v. Houston, 114 U.S. 622; Walling v. Michigan, 116 U.S. 446; Picard v. Pullman Southern Car Co., 117 U.S. 34; Wabash &c. Railway Co. v. Illinois,
The following cases, since decided, enforced the same principle: Asher v. Texas, 128 U.S. 129; Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U.S. 141; Lyng v. Michigan, 135 U.S. 161; McCall v. California, 136 U.S. 104; and Crutcher v. Kentucky, 141 U.S. 47.
These authorities were reviewed by this court in Brennan v. Titusville, 153 U.S. 289, where, speaking through Mr. Justice Brewer, it was held that a municipal corporation could not lawfully tax a non-resident manufacturer of goods for the privilege of endeavoring to sell his goods by means of an agent sent into the State to solicit orders therefor. This court there said (p. 303): "This tax is a direct charge and burden upon the business; and if a State may lawfully exact it, it may increase the amount of this exaction until all interstate commerce in this mode ceases to be possible. And notwithstanding the fact that the regulation of interstate commerce is committed by the Constitution to the United States, the State is enabled to say that it shall not be carried on in this way, and to that extent to regulate it."
The question then arises, does the tax imposed by the State of Ohio upon express companies violate either of the two elementary propositions to which I have just referred?
Under the law of Ohio express companies are taxed in three forms: First, their real estate is assessed for state, county and municipal purposes in the same manner as is real estate within the State belonging to other companies and persons; second, such companies are also taxed upon their gross receipts derived from business done within the State, 91 Ohio Laws, 237; and, third, they are additionally assessed by a state board. 90 Ohio Laws, 330, as amended by 91 Ohio Laws, 220. It is the assessment resulting from the last of these provisions which is involved in the cases now under consideration.
It is proper here to notice that while the gross receipts in Ohio of express companies was required to be stated, there was no direction that mention should be made of the sum of the payments properly chargeable against such gross receipts, to wit, disbursements to railroad companies or individuals for transportation facilities, wages of its army of employés, care and maintenance of its horses, and other operating expenses.
Although the assessment on the real estate and on the gross receipts may be relevant to some aspects of the controversy now examined, I eliminate them from consideration, as the direct issue here presented concerns the taxation asserted to be only upon the personal property.
The value of the personal property within the State of Ohio returned by the express companies was averred in each bill, and was conceded by the demurrer to have been correct. The valuation thus returned and the amount of the assessment levied on such personal property by the state board is shown in the following table:
Assessment for 1893. Value as returned, and Value assessed as alleged in the bills. by state board. Adams Express Co. .............. $53,080 74 $460,033 08 American Express Co. ........... 27,300 00 400,576 45 United States Express Co. ...... 26,318 00 397,300 00 Assessment for 1894. Adams Express Co. ............ $41,102 60 $543,569 00 American Express Co. ......... 21,795 00 446,142 00 United States Express Co. .... 26,333 00 481,348 00 Assessment for 1895. Adams Express Co. ............ $42,065 00 $533,095 80 American Express Co. ......... 23,430 00 499,373 60 United States Express Co. .... 28,438 00 488,264 70
It thus appears that for the year 1893, property possessing an actual value of but $106,698.74 was assessed as being worth $1,257,909.53; in 1894 property valued at $89,230.60 was assessed at $1,471,059.00; and for 1895 property worth but $93,933.00 was assessed at $1,520,734.10; a total valuation during three years of property worth only $289,862.34 at $4,249,702.63.
In addition to this enormous taxation, the real estate and the gross receipts of the companies have also been taxed for all state, county and municipal purposes. It cannot, I submit, be asserted with reason that the nearly four millions of excess on the assessment of the tangible property laid by the state board resulted from assessing only the actual intrinsic value of such property, since to so contend would be not only beyond all reason, but would also be destructive of the admission by the demurrer that the companies possessed no other personal property within the State of Ohio but that returned by them, and that its actual and intrinsic value was correctly set forth. The assessment, therefore, must necessarily have taken into consideration some other property, or some element of value other than the real intrinsic worth of the property assessed.
The fact that it was by this method that the sum of the personal property liable for taxation was fixed by the board, results clearly and unmistakably from the opinion of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio in State v. Jones, 51 Ohio St. 492, in which case the court sustained the validity of the taxes here questioned. The Supreme Court of Ohio therein declared that the state board, whose duty it was to assess express companies, was "not required
Now, this language is susceptible only of one meaning, that is, that in assessing the actual intrinsic value of tangible property of express companies in the State of Ohio it was the duty of the assessing board to add to such value a proportionate estimate of the capital stock, so as thereby to assess not only the tangible property within the State, but also along with such property a part of the entire capital stock of the corporation, without reference to its domicil, and equally without reference to the situation of the property and assets owned by the company from which alone its capital stock derives value. In other words, although actual property situated in States other than Ohio may not be assessed in that State, yet that it may take all the value of the property in other States and add such portion thereof, as it sees fit, to the assessment in Ohio, and that this process of taxation of property in other States, in violation of the Constitution, becomes legal provided only it is called taxation of property within the State.
I submit that great principles of government rest upon solid foundations of truth and justice, and are not to be set at naught and evaded by the mere confusion of words. In considering a question of taxation in Postal Telegraph Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U.S. 688, to which case I shall hereafter refer, this court said (p. 698): "The substance and not the shadow determine the validity of the exercise of the power." It seems to me that to maintain the tax levied by the State of Ohio this ruling must be reversed, and the doctrine be announced that the shadow is of more consequence than the substance. Such result would appear to inevitably flow from the holding referred to, now affirmed by the court. Nothing, I submit, can be plainer than the fact that the value of the capital stock of a corporation represents all its property, franchises, good will — indeed, everything owned by it wherever situated. I reiterate, therefore, that the rule which recognizes that for the purpose of assessing tangible property in one State you may take its full worth and then add to the value
First, the rule which forbids one State to extend its power of taxation beyond its jurisdiction to property in another State. If the express companies are domiciled in New York, and have millions of property there situated and subject to taxation, all of which give value to their capital stock and hence enter into the sum of its worth, how can it be that to tax a proportion of the value of all that property is not taxing the property itself? This proportion of the capital stock added to the inherent value of the property in the State of Ohio is, therefore, an actual taxation by the State of Ohio of property situated in the State of New York.
It seems to me that not only the illegality but the injustice of this taxation by the State of Ohio on these express companies which is now upheld, is clear. Let me suppose that the bonds, stocks, other investments and elements, which representing the capital of the companies, and therefore producing the resultant value of such capital stock, are situated in the States of New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. These items thus making up the value of the capital stock being so situated in such States are, of course, entirely and wholly at their full value assessable in those States. The attribution of an aliquot share of the value of the capital stock to the State of Ohio, and the consequent right of that State to tax such value, in no way deprives the States of New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts of their right to assess
Second, as to the interstate commerce clause. It is clear that the recognition of a right to take an aliquot proportion of the value of property in one State and add it to the intrinsic value of property in another State and there assess it, is in substance an absolute denial and overthrow of all the great principles announced from the beginning, and enforced by the many decisions of this court, on the subject of interstate commerce. This results from the fact that the necessary consequence of the ruling in this case is this, that a corporation — and there is no distinction, in principle in the particular here considered, between a corporation and an individual — cannot go from one State into another State of the Union for the purpose of there engaging in interstate commerce business without subjecting itself to the certainty of having a proportion of all its property situated in the other States added to the sum of property,
The contradiction involved in the proposition is well illustrated by the legislation and decisions of the State of Ohio. Thus, as I have said, in addition to the tax imposed on express companies, which is here considered, the law of the State of Ohio, besides assessing their real estate, also imposes a tax on the gross receipts of such companies for business done within the State. In order to save the tax here in question, the law by which this last tax is imposed is careful to provide that nothing in the imposition of the tax therein provided, that is, the tax on gross receipts, shall be construed as impairing the right to the tax on tangible property already provided for (the tax here in question). Now, in passing upon the validity of this tax on gross receipts, the Supreme Court of Ohio treats it as not a double tax, because the previous tax is considered as one on tangible property. Adams Exp. Co. v. Ohio, 44 Northeastern Rep. 506. We have, therefore, both the legislature and the court of last resort of the State of Ohio upholding the enormous valuation put upon the personal property for the purposes of the tax now before us, on the theory that such valuation includes an aliquot part of the capital stock and necessarily, therefore, also an equal portion of all the property and earnings of the company, both in and out of the State, and yet we have the same legislature and the same tribunal upholding the tax on gross receipts on the ground that the tax first provided is purely a tax upon tangible property. Thus the departure from the pathway of principle is marked in this instance, as it is always marked, by confusion and injustice.
The wound which the ruling announced, if I correctly apprehend it, inflicts on the Constitution, is equally as severe upon the unquestioned rights of the States as it is upon the lawful authority of the United States, because whilst submitting
But the contention is that however sound, as an original question, may be the reasoning upon which the tax is assailed, its validity is not now open to question, because the theory by which the State of Ohio added the value of property outside of the State to the intrinsic amount of property actually within the State for the purposes of taxation is asserted to be concluded by many adjudications of this court. The cases relied on to establish this proposition are cited in the opinion of the court. I submit that the statement made by this court in Pacific Express Company v. Seibert, 142 U.S. 339, is a sufficient answer to this contention as regards all the cases relied on decided prior to that case. The Seibert case involved the question of the validity of a law of the State of Missouri imposing a tax upon the gross receipts of an express company in addition to the ordinary tax upon its tangible property. The court, finding the tax to be only on the business of the company within the State, held it not to be a tax on interstate commerce, and therefore valid. The court, through Mr. Justice Lamar, in speaking of the right of a State to classify express companies for the purpose of taxation, resulting from the fact that such companies were normally only owners of a small amount of tangible property in one State, said (p. 354):
"On the other hand, express companies, such as are defined by this act, have no tangible property, of any consequence, subject to taxation under the general laws. There is, therefore, no way by which they can be taxed at all unless by a tax upon their receipts for business transacted. This distinction clearly places express companies defined by this act in a separate class from companies owning their own means of transportation."
The argument here advanced in favor of the tax, therefore, simply is that what this court said could not be done in a decision rendered in January, 1892, had theretofore been settled to the contrary by a line of adjudications. But the answer to
And again (p. 696):
"Doubtless, no State could add to the taxation of property according to the rule of ordinary property taxation, the burden of a license or other tax on the privilege of using, constructing or operating an instrumentality of interstate or international commerce, or for the carrying on of such commerce; but the value of property results from the use to which it is put, and varies with the profitableness of that use, and by whatever name the exaction may be called, if it amounts to no more than the ordinary tax upon property or a just equivalent therefor, ascertained by reference thereto, it is not open to attack as inconsistent with the Constitution. Cleveland, Cincinnati &c. Railway v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439, 445."
Referring to the opinion of the Supreme Court of Mississippi, which directly involved all the issues presented by this case, the court said (p. 697):
And summing the whole up, the court concluded (p. 700):
"We are of opinion that it was within the power of the State to levy a charge upon this company in the form of a franchise tax, but arrived at with reference to the value of its property within the State and in lieu of all other taxes, and that the exercise of that power by this statute, as expounded by the highest judicial tribunal of the State in the language we have quoted, did not amount to a regulation of interstate commerce or put an unconstitutional restraint thereon."
This construction of the previous cases decided by this court elucidates and makes plain the fact that they proceeded upon and were intended to enforce the rule that the validity of a state tax would be determined by the substantial results of the burden imposed, and not by the mere form which it assumed, and although the form of the imposition might seem to bring the tax within the reach of the inhibition against levying a charge upon property beyond the jurisdiction of the State, or within the prohibitions of the Constitution of the United States
Testing the tax in controversy by the rule laid down in the Postal Telegraph case, it becomes in reason impossible to conclude otherwise than that it is both in form and substance taxation by the State of Ohio of property beyond its jurisdiction, and that it also is an imposition by that State of a burden on interstate commerce. It cannot with fairness be argued that the amount of the tax is only such sum as would have resulted from a levy upon the property actually in the State, when the record admits that the aggregate value of such property for the taxing years of 1893, 1894 and 1895 amounted only to two hundred and odd thousand dollars, while the assessment exceeds this amount by nearly four millions of dollars It cannot be said that this vast excess does not embrace property situated outside of Ohio, when both the text of the statute of that State and such text as expounded by the Supreme Court of the State clearly show that the sum of the excess is arrived at by adding to the property in the State the value of property situated outside thereof. Nor can it be contended that the tax here involved is not a tax on interstate commerce, in view of the fact that, from the nature of the criteria of value adopted,
But, dismissing absolutely from consideration the authoritative construction of all the prior decisions of this court, announced in Postal Telegraph Company v. Adams, and conceding for the sake of argument that the previous adjudications now relied on are unexplained by that case, and that they substantially hold that there is a so-called unit rule properly applicable to the assessment for taxation of the continuous lines of telegraph and railroad companies, such concession does not in reason admit the validity of the method adopted by the State of Ohio for assessing the tangible personal property of express companies. Before proceeding to discuss this proposition, however, I call attention to the fact that I intentionally refrain from placing a sleeping car company in the same category with telegraph and railroad companies, because the decision in the case of the Pullman's Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U.S. 18, was not founded upon the theory, nor did it purport to assert that the property or plant of a sleeping car company was a unit, and that of necessity a part of such property may be measured by a rule applicable to continuous lines of road. In that decision the court merely emphasized the holding that the tax was one laid upon one hundred cars of the company, possessing an actual situs in Pennsylvania. In the statement of the case (p. 20) the decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania was quoted verbatim, in which it was declared that the tax on the capital stock of the Pullman company was in reality but a tax on its property; that the coaches of the company were such property, and that the fact that the coaches might also be operated in other States would simply reduce the value of the property in Pennsylvania justly subject to taxation there. This court practically adopted the views so expressed by the state court. When, however, it was said (p. 26) that the method of assessment, to wit, taking a proportion of the capital stock ascertained on the mileage basis, as the value of one hundred sleeping cars
It is, I submit, undeniable that if there be such a unit rule applicable to the continuous lines of telegraph and railroad companies, its existence pushes the power of state taxation, as to these particular kinds of property, at least to the confines of the Constitution, and therefore if under the rule of stare decisis the cases which announce it should be followed, they should not be extended. The mere ownership, however, by an express company of personal property within a State presents no case for the application of a unit rule. What unity can there be between the horses and wagons of an express company in Ohio with those belonging to the same company situated in the State of New York? The conception of the unity of railroad and telegraph lines is necessarily predicated upon the physical connection of such property. To apply a rule based upon this condition to the isolated ownership by an express company of movable property in many States, in reality declares that a mere metaphysical or intellectual relation between property situated in one State and property found in another creates as between such property a close relation for the purpose of taxation. But this theory by an enormous stride at once advances the unit rule beyond every
But a few illustrations will serve at once to make clear what I submit is the impossibility in reason of declaring that as a legal fact or fiction property is unified, when between such property there is no unity or physical relation whatever.
Take, for example, the case of Brennan v. Titusville, supra. Of what value is the ruling in that case, that a manufacturer cannot be compelled to pay a license for the doing, through his agent, of the business of interstate commerce by selling his goods in a State into which such agent enters for that purpose, if the mere fact that the agent takes into the State a thousand dollars worth of goods, creates a supposed intellectual union between those goods and the vast stock and capital of the manufacturer located in another State, so as to enable the attribution of an aliquot part of the wealth of the manufacturer to the goods in the custody of the agent for the purpose of taxation? Would it not be as true in such case to say that the capital and wealth of the manufacturer facilitates and increases the capacity of the agent to transact business and adds value to the property the agent has for sale, as to say that the horses and wagons of an express company in New York and its capital there facilitate and aid the agents of such company and add value to the tangible property employed by such agents in transacting business in Ohio? It certainly cannot, I submit, with reason be said that there is not the same unity between the operations of a manufacturer who makes his goods in one State and sells them in another as there is between the operations of an express company. The sale of the manufactured goods is as essentially necessary to the profits of the manufacturer as is the manufacture of the goods themselves. No profit can result from the one without the other, and to attribute a supposed unity to the business of an express company, and to deny such unity to that of a manufacturer, is, as I understand it, to declare that there is a difference when there is no possible difference.
If the rule contended for by the State of Ohio be true, why would it not apply to a corporation, partnership or individual
Within the power lodged in Congress to regulate commerce between the States ample authority exists to enact the necessary legislation to prevent the just relations between the States, and the regulation of such commerce from becoming the pretext for avoiding the proper burdens of either State or national taxation. As the necessity arises such apt powers will doubtless be brought into operation. The recognition of the right of taxation exerted by the State of Ohio in these cases must, if followed in other States, not only reproduce the illegality and injustice here shown, but greatly increase it, as every new imposition will be a new levy on property already taxed, and result in an additional burden on interstate commerce. If the principles by which such results are brought about be recognized as lawful under the Constitution, not only will Congress be deprived of all power to protect the citizens of the respective States and the States themselves from these conditions, but it will also be rendered impotent to devise under the power to regulate commerce any just and fair regulation to prevent the interstate commerce clause from being made a shield for avoiding taxation and to cause property engaged in such commerce to be subjected to just and
I am authorized to say that MR. JUSTICE FIELD, MR. JUSTICE HARLAN and MR. JUSTICE BROWN concur in this dissent.