Austin v. Tennessee/Opinion of the Court
|Austin v. Tennessee by
Opinion of the Court
United States Supreme Court
AUSTIN v. TENNESSEE
Argued: November 9, 10, 1899. --- Decided: November 19, 1900
It is charged that the act in question, in its application to the facts of this case, is an infringement upon the exclusive power of Congress to regulate commerce between the states. This is the sole question presented for our determination.
We are not disposed to question the general principle that the states cannot, under the guise of inspection or revenue laws, forbid or impede the introduction of products, and more particularly of food products, universally recognized as harmless (Minnesota v. Barber, 136 U.S. 313, 34 L. ed. 455, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 185, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 862; Brimmer v. Rebman, 138 U.S. 78, 34 L. ed. 862, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 485, 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 213), or otherwise burden foreign or interstate commerce by regulations adopted under the assumed police power of the state, but obviously for the purpose of taxing such commerce or creating discriminations in favor of home producers or manufacturers. Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 12 L. ed. 702; Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275, 23 L. ed. 347; Ilendcrson v. New York, 92 U.S. 259, sub nom. Henderson v. Wickham, 23 L. ed. 543; Hannibal & St. J. R. Co. v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 24 L. ed. 527; Guy v. Baltimore, 100 U.S. 434, 25 L. ed. 743; Ward v. Maryland, 12 Wall. 418, 20 L. ed. 449; New York v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 107 U.S. 59, 27 L. ed. 383, 2 Sup. Ct. Rep. 87. In this connection we indorse fully what was said by this court in Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, 661, 31 L. ed. 205, 210, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 273: 'If, therefore, a statute purporting to have been enacted to protect the public health, the public morals, or the public safety has no real or substantial relation to those objects, or is a palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law, it is the duty of the courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to the Constitution.'
The supreme court of Tennessee placed its decision of this case upon two grounds: First, that cigarettes were not legitimate articles of commerce; second, that the sale shown to have been made was not the sale of an original package in the true commercial sense.
1. We are not prepared to fully indorse the opinion of that court upon the first point. Whatever product has from time immemorial been recognized by custom or law as a fit subject for barter or sale, particularly if its manufacture has been made the subject of Federal regulation and taxation, must, we think, be recognized as a legitimate article of commerce although it may to a certain extent be within the police power of the states. Of this class of cases is tobacco. From the first settlement of the colony of Virginia to the present day tobacco has been one of the most profitable and important products of agriculture and commerce, and while its effects may be injurious to some, its extensive use over practically the entire globe is a remarkable tribute to its popularity and value. We are clearly of opinion that it cannot be classed with diseased cattle or meats, decayed fruit, or other articles, the use of which is a menace to the health of the entire community. Congress, too, has recognized tobacco in its various forms as a legitimate article of commerce by requiring licenses to be taken for its manufacture and sale, imposing a revenue tax upon each package of cigarettes put upon the market, and by making express regulations for their manufacture and sale, their exportation and importation. Cigarettes are but one of the numerous manufactures of tobacco, and we cannot take judicial notice of the fact that it is more noxious in this form than in any other. Whatever might be our individual views as to its deleterious tendencies, we cannot hold that any article which Congress recognizes in so many ways is not a legitimate article of commerce. The language of Chief Justice Taney in the License Cases, 5 How. 504, 12 L. ed. 256, with reference to intoxicating liquors is so pertinent to this case that it deserves to be here repeated:
'But spirits and distilled liquors are universally admitted to be subjects of ownership and property, and are therefore subjects of exchange, barter, and traffic, like any other commodity in which a right of property exists. And Congress, under its general power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, may prescribe what article of merchandise shall be admitted and what excluded; and may, therefore, admit or not, as it shall deem best, the importation of ardent spirits. And inasmuch as the laws of Congress authorize their importation, no state has a right to prohibit their introduction.'
'But I do not understand the law of Massachusetts or Rhode Island as interfering with the trade in ardent spirits while the article remains a part of foreign commerce, and is in the hands of the importer for sale, in the cask or vessel in which the laws of Congress authorize it to be imported. These state laws act altogether upon the retail or domestic traffic within their respective borders. They act upon the article after it has passed the line of foreign commerce, and become a part of the general mass of property in the state. These laws may, indeed, discourage imports, and diminish the price which ardent spirits would otherwise bring. But although a state is bound to receive and to permit the sale by the importer of any article of merchandise which Congress authorizes to be imported, it is not bound to furnish a market for it, nor to abstain from the passage of any law which it may deem necessary or advisable to guard the health or morals of its citizens, although such law may discourage importation, or diminish the profits of the importer, or lessen the revenue of the general government. And if any state deems the retail and internal traffic in ardent spirits injurious to its citizens, and calculated to produce idleness, vice, or debauchery, I see nothing in the Constitution of the United States to prevent it from regulating and restraining the traffic, or from prohibiting it altogether, if it thinks proper.'
The same ruling with regard to the power of the states to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors was made in Bartemyer v. Iowa, 18 Wall. 129, 21 L. ed. 929, in which it was held the right to sell such liquors was not a privilege or immunity which, by the 14th Amendment, the states were forbidden to abridge. And in the later case of Boston Beer Co. v. Massachusetts, 97 U.S. 25, 24 L. ed. 989, it was held that a company chartered 'for the purpose of manufacturing malt liquors in all their varieties' held its franchise subject to the police power of the state, and that, if the public safety or public morals required the discontinuance of such manufactures, the legislature might so provide, notwithstanding individuals and corporations might thereby suffer inconvenience. In Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U.S. 623, 31 L. ed. 205, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 273, and Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1, 32 L. ed. 346, 2 Inters. Com. Rep. 232, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 6, the principle of this case was extended so far as to hold that such laws might be enforced against persons who, at the time, happened to own property whose chief value consisted in its fitness for manufacturing intoxicating liquors, without compensating them for the diminution in value resulting from such prohibitory enactments; and in Foster v. Kansas ex rel. Johnston, 112 U.S. 201, 28 L. ed. 629, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 8, 97, it was regarded as the settled doctrine of this court that such laws, prohibiting the sale and manufacture of intoxicating liquors, were not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.
How far such laws could be made applicable to articles admitted to be innocuous has never been decided by this court. Nor is it necessary to the decision of this case. It was held, however, in Powell v. Pennsylvania, 127 U.S. 678, 32 L. ed. 253, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 992, 1257, that a statute of Pennsylvania prohibiting the manufacture or sale of oleomargarine was a lawful exercise by the state of its power to protect by police regulations the public health, and that it neither denied to persons within the jurisdiction of the state the equal protection of the laws, nor deprived them of their property without compensation, and was not otherwise repugnant to the 14th Amendment. Said Mr. Justice Harlan: 'It [this court] cannot adjudge that the defendant's rights of liberty and property, as thus defined, have been infringed by the statute of Pennsylvania, without holding that, although it may have been enacted in good faith for the objects expressed in its title, namely, to protect the public health and to prevent the adulteration of dairy products and fraud in the sale thereof, it has, in fact, no real or substantial relation to those objects. The court is unable to affirm that this legislation has no real or substantial relation to such objects.' So, too, in Plumley v. Massachusetts, 155 U.S. 461, 39 L. ed. 223, 5 Inters. Com. Rep. 590, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 154, a statute of Massachusetts prohibiting the sale of oleomargarine artificially colored so as to cause it to look like yellow butter, and so brought into the state, was decided not to be in conflict with the commerce clause of the Constitution.
These cases recognize the fact that intoxicating liquors belong to a class of commodities which, in the opinion of a great many estimable people, are deleterious in their effects, demoralizing in their tendencies, and often fatal in their excessive indulgence; and that, while their employment as a medicine may sometimes be beneficial, their habitual and constant use as a beverage, whatever it may be to individuals, is injurious to the community. It may be that their evil effects have been exaggerated, and that, though their use is usually attended with more or less danger, it is by no means open to universal condemnation. It is, however, within the power of each state to investigate the subject and to determine its policy in that particular. If the legislative body come deliberately to the conclusion that a due regard for the public safety and morals requires a suppression of the liquor traffic, there is nothing in the commercial clause of the Constitution, or in the 14th Amendment to that instrument, to forbid its doing so. While, perhaps, it may not wholly prohibit the use or sale of them for medicinal purposes, it may hedge about their use as a general beverage such restrictions as it pleases. Nor can we deny to the legislature the power to impose restrictions upon the sale of noxious or poisonous drugs, such as opium and other similar articles, extremely valuable as medicines, but equally baneful to the habitual user.
Cigarettes do not seem until recently to have attracted the attention of the public as more injurious than other forms of tobacco; nor are we now prepared to take judicial notice of any special injury resulting from their use or to indorse the opinion of the supreme court of Tennessee that 'they are inherently bad and bad only.' At the same time we should be shutting our eyes to what is constantly passing before them were we to affect an ignorance of the fact that a belief in their deleterious effects, particularly upon young people, has become very general, and that communications are constantly finding their way into the public press denouncing their use as fraught with great danger to the youth of both sexes. Without undertaking to affirm or deny their evil effects, we think it within the province of the legislature to say how far they may be sold, or to prohibit their sale entirely, after they have been taken from the original packages or have left the hands of the importer, provided no discrimination be used as against such as are imported from other states, and there be no reason to doubt that the act in question is designed for the protection of the public health.
We have had repeated occasion to hold, where state legislation has been attacked as violative either of the power of Congress over interstate commerce, or of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, that, if the action of the state legislature were as a bona fide exercise of its police power, and dictated by a genuine regard for the preservation of the public health or safety, such legislation would be respected, though it might interfere indirectly with interstate commerce. While, as was said in Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366, 392, 42 L. ed. 780, 791, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 383, 'the police power cannot be put forward as an excuse for oppressive and unjust legislation, it may be lawfully resorted to for the purpose of preserving the public health, safety, or morals, or the abatement of public nuisances, and a large discretion is necessarily vested in the legislature to determine, not only what the interests of the public require, but what measures are necessary for the protection of such interests.' Thus, while in Hannibal & St. J. R. Co. v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 24 L. ed. 527, it was held that a statute of Missouri, prohibiting the driving or bringing of any Texas, Mexican, or Indian cattle into the state, was in conflict with the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, it was subsequently held that the introduction of diseased cattle might be prohibited altogether, or subjected to such regulations as the legislature chose to impose. Missouri, K. & T. R. Co. v. Haber, 169 U.S. 613, 42 L. ed. 878, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 488. So, too, although it was held in Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 28 L. ed. 923, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 357, and in Soon Hing v. Crowley, 113 U.S. 703, 28 L. ed. 1145, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 730, that a municipal ordinance prohibiting laundry work within certain territorial limits and within certain hours was purely a police regulation, such an ordinance was void, if it conferred upon the municipal authorities arbitrary power at their own will and without regard to discretion in the legal sense of the term, to give or withhold consent as to persons or places, without regard to the competency of the persons applying, or the propriety of the place selected for carrying on business. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 30 L. ed. 220, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1064. In delivering the opinion Mr. Justice Matthews observed: 'Though the law itself be fair on its face and impartial in appearance, yet if it is applied and administered by public authority with an evil eye and an unequal hand, so as practically to make unjust and illegal discriminations between persons in similar circumstances, material to their rights, the denial of equal justice is still within the prohibition of the Constitution.'
We are therefore of opinion that although the state of Tennessee may not wholly interdict commerce in cigarettes it is not, in the language of Chief Justice Taney in The License Cases, 'bound to furnish a market for it [them], nor to abstain from the passage of any law which it may deem necessary or advisable to guard the health or morals of its citizens, although such law may discourage importation, or diminish the profits of the importer, or lessen the revenue of the general government.'
2. There is no reason to doubt the good faith of the legislature of Tennessee in prohibiting the sale of cigarettes as a sanitary measure, and if it be inoperative as applied to sales by the owner in the original packages, of cigarettes manufactured in and brought from another state, we are remitted to the inquiry whether a paper package of 3 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches in width, containing ten cigarettes, is an original package protected by the Constitution of the United States against any interference by the state while in the hands of the importer? This we regard as the vital question in the case.
The whole law upon the subject of original packages is based upon a decision of this court, in Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 6 L. ed. 678, in which a statute of Maryland, requiring all importers of foreign articles, 'by bale or package,' or of intoxicating liquors, and other persons selling the same, 'by wholesale, bale or package, hogshead, barrel or tierce,' to take out a license, was held to be repugnant to that provision of the Constitution forbidding states from laying a duty upon imports, as well as to that declaring that Congress should have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. There was thought to be no difference between a power to prohibit the sale of an article while it was an import and the power to prohibit its introduction into the country. The one would be the necessary consequence of the other. No goods would be imported if none could be sold. But, in delivering the opinion of the court, Mr. Chief Justice Marshall observed: 'It is sufficient for the present to say, generally, that when the importer has so acted upon the thing imported that it has become incorporated and mixed up with the mass of property in the country, it has, perhaps, lost its distinctive character as an import, and has become subject to the taxing power of the state; but while remaining the property of the in porter, in his warehouse, in the original form or package in which it was imported, a tax upon it is too plainly a duty on imports to escape the prohibition in the Constitution.' This sentence contains in a nutshell the whole doctrine upon the subject of original packages, upon which so formidable a structure has been attempted to be erected in subsequent cases. Whether the decision would have been the same if the original packages in that case, instead of being bales of dry goods or hogsheads, barrels or tierces of liquors, had been so minute in size as to permit of their sale directly to consumers, may admit of considerable doubt. Obviously the doctrine of the case is directly applicable only to those large packages in which from time immemorial it has been customary to import goods from foreign countries. It is safe to assume that it did not occur to the Chief Justice that, by a skilful alteration of the size of the packages, the decision might be used to force upon a reluctant people the use of articles denounced as noxious by the legislatures of the several states.
A casual remark, however, made by Chief Justice Marshall in that case, that 'we suppose the principles laid down in this case to apply equally to importations from a sister state' was subsequently considered in Woodruff v. Parham, 8 Wall. 123, 19 L. ed. 382, and was held to have no application to commerce between the states, the court deciding that the term 'import,' as used in that clause, which declares that 'no state shall levy any imposts or duties on imports or exports,' did not refer to articles imported from one state into another, but only to articles imported from foreign countries into the United States. In that case an ordinance of the city of Mobile, authorizing a tax upon sales at auctions, was held to be applicable to products of states other than Alabama, although the articles were sold in the original and unbroken packages.
The principle of this case was subsequently applied in Brown v. Houston, 114 U.S. 622, 29 L. ed. 257, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1091, in which it was held that 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, became intermingled, on arrival there, with the general property of the state of Louisiana, and was subject to taxation under the laws of that state, although it might be, after arrival, sold from the vessel upon 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. In delivering the opinion of the court Mr. Justice Bradley observed:
'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 he omit from his list of taxables all goods which have come into the city from the factories of New England land and New Jersey, or from the pastures and grain fields 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 until used or sold, and constituting part of the great mass of 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 interstate 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 of 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 taxing can be deemed a regulation of commerce which would have the objectionable effect referred to.'
The principle of this case was applied subsequently in that of Pittsburgh & S.C.oal Co. v. Bates, 156 U.S. 577, 39 L. ed. 538, 5 Inters. Com. Rep. 30, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 415.
In Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 34 L. ed. 128, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 36, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 681, 122 quarter barrels of beer, 171 one-eighth barrels of beer, and 11 cases of beer were seized by the city marshal of Keokuk under a state statute prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors. It was held that, being articles of lawful commerce, the state could not, in the absence of legislation on the part of Congress, prohibit their importation from abroad or from a sister state; or, when imported, prohibit their sale by the importer, and that they did not become a part of the common mass of property within the state so long as they remained in the casks in which they were imported and continued to be the property of the importer. No question was made with regard to the casks being original packages, or as to the fact that, according to the custom of brewers, beer was usually and ordinarily imported from one state to another in casks of this size.
In the still later case of Schollenberger v. Pennsylvania, 171 U.S. 1, 43 L. ed. 49, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 757, oleomargarine was recognized as a lawful article of commerce, and one which could not be wholly excluded from importation into a state from another state where it was manufactured, and so long as it remained in its original packages could be sold, notwithstanding a statute of the state prohibiting such sale. The oleomargarine in that case was imported and sold in packages of 10 pounds weight; but it appeared in the special verdict that the package was an original package, as required by the act of Congress, and was of such 'form, size, and weight as is used by producers or shippers for the purpose of securing both convenience in handling and security in transportation of merchandise between dealers in the ordinary course of actual commerce and the said form, size, and weight were adopted in good faith, and not for the purpose of evading the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said package being one of a number of similar packages forming one consignment shipped by the said company to the said defendant.'
Most pertinent to this case, and, as we think, covering its principle completely, is the opinion of this court in May v. New Orleans, 178 U.S. 496, 44 L. ed. 1165, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 976, decided at the last term. This involved the validity of certain tax assessments made by the city of New Orleans upon the merchandise and stock in trade of the plaintiff, which consisted of dry goods imported from foreign countries, upon which duties had been levied by and paid to the general government. The goods were put up and sold in packages, a large number of such packages being inclosed in wooden cases or boxes for the purposes of importation. Upon arrival at New Orleans the boxes were opened, the packages taken out and sold unbroken. The question was whether the box or case containing these packages, or the packages themselves were the original packages within the case of Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 6 L. ed. 678. It was conceded that, so long as the packages remained in their original cases, they were not subject to taxation, but the court held that this immunity ceased as soon as the boxes were opened. As stated by Mr. Justice Harlan in delivering the opinion of the court (p. 508, L. ed. p. 1169):
'In our judgment, the 'original package' in the present case was the box or case in which the goods imported were shipped, and when the box or case was opened for the sale or delivery of the separate parcels contained in it, each parcel of the goods lost its distinctive character as an import, and became property subject to taxation by the state as other like property situated within its limits. The tax here in question was not in any sense a tax on imports nor a tax for the privilege of bringing the things imported into the state. It was not a tax on the plaintiff's goods because they were imported from another country, but because at the time of the assessment they were in the market for sale in separate parcels and therefore subject to be taxed as like property, in the same condition, that had its origin in this country. We cannot impute to the framers of the Constitution a purpose to make such a discrimination in favor of property imported from other countries as would result if we approved the views pressed upon us by the plaintiffs. When their goods had been so acted upon as to become a part of the general mass of property in the state the plaintiffs stood, with respect to liability to state taxation, upon the same basis of equality as the owners of like property, the product of this country; the only difference being that the importers paid a duty to the United States for the privilege of importing their goods into this country, and of selling them in the original packages-a duty imposed for the purpose of raising money to carry on the operations of the government, and, in many instances, with the intent to protect the industries of this country against foreign competition.' petition.'
The case under consideration is really the first one presenting to this court distinctly the question whether, in holding that the state cannot prohibit the sale in its original package of an article brought from another state, the size of the package is material, although some of the expressions in The License Cases seem to foreshadow the consequences likely to result from the argument of the defendant. Thus, it is stated by Mr. Justice Catron (5 How. 608, 12 L. ed. 303,) that 'to hold that the state license law [of New Hampshire] was void, as respects spirits coming in from other states as articles of commerce, would open the door to an almost entire evasion, as the spirits might be introduced in the smallest divisible quantities that the retail trade would require; the consequences of which would be that the dealers in New Hampshire would sell only spirits produced in other states, and that the products of New Hampshire would find an unrestrained market in the neighboring states having similar license laws to those of New Hampshire.' And also in the opinion of Mr. Justice Woodbury, rendered in the same case (p. 625, 12 L. ed. 311): 'If the proposition was maintainable, that, without any legislation by Congress as to the trade between the states (except that in coasting, as before explained, to prevent smuggling), anything imported from another state, foreign or domestic, could be sold of right in the package in which it was imported, not subject to any license or any internal regulation of a state, then it is obvious that the whole license system may be evaded and nullified, either from abroad or from a neighboring state. And the more especially can it be done from the latter, as imports may be made in bottles of any size, down to half a pint, of spirits or wines; and if its sale cannot be interfered with and regulated, the retail business can be carried on in any small quantity, and by the most irresponsible and unsuitable persons, with perfect impunity.' These words are certainly prophetic in their applicability to this case.
Similar questions have arisen in the Federal courts of original jurisdiction, whose decisions have generally been in favor of the position taken by the plaintiff in error in this case. The same question has been considered in the courts of several states, and their decisions have been with almost equal unanimity the other way.
In Com. v. Zelt, 138 Pa. 615, 11 L. R. A. 602, 21 Atl. 7, a distiller manufacturing over the state line established a store or agency within the state, put up his liquors in bottles ranging in capacity from 1 quart down to 1/2 pint, and, packing them in unsealed barrels, sent them to the Pennsylvania store, where they were taken from the barrels, put upon the shelves and sold to customers. The question was submitted to the jury, which, as stated by the court, evidently regarded defendant's method as a trick and an evasion of the state statute. The judgment was affirmed. In Com. v. Schollenberger, 156 Pa. 201, 22 L. R. A. 155, 27 Atl. 30 (not the case reported in 171 U.S. 1, 43 L. ed. 49, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 757), an original package is defined to be 'such form and size of package as is used by producers or shippers for the purpose of securing both convenience in handling, and security in transportation of merchandise between dealers in the ordinary course of actual commerce.' Where a mode of putting up a package is not adapted to meet the requirements of interstate commerce, but the requirements of an unlawful domestic retail trade, the dealer will not be protected on the ground that he is selling an original package. The opinion contains a very vigorous denunciation of the methods resorted to by this class of dealers. The follwing paragraphs are sufficiently illustrative of the general purport of the decision: 'Intrenched behind the interstate commerce clause so construed, citizens of other states could prey upon our people, trample upon our laws, and make gain out of a traffic forbidden to our citizens only to be delivered up absolutely and unconditionally to them. It would require only that such citizen of another state should establish a local store in some of our towns or cities, or in all of them, conduct a local business, to meet a local demand, and, when called upon by the officers of the law, make the reply that he made the goods in some other state, and, as a manufacturer, supplied himself, as a local dealer, with wares of a foreign origin. Neither the foreign origin of the goods sold, nor of the seller, nor of both together, will convert a business that is local and intrastate into one that is general and interstate within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States. . . . One who plants his foot squarely upon the police laws of this state, and defies its officers to suppress or to punish his unlawful trade, must show a clear legal right to take and maintain his position as a public enemy, or suffer the penalty of the broken law. To hold otherwise would make it impossible for the people of any state to protect themselves from evils that by common consent throughout the civilized world need to be restrained and removed by suitable legislation. It would also strike a blow of absolutely crushing weight at the existence of the police power in the several states, and render all attempts at its exercise ineffectual and useless.'
In the case of Com. v. Bishman, 138 Pa. 639, 21 Atl. 12, defendant sold liquor in pint and quart bottles, each of which was inclosed in a pasteboard box, sealed with a strip of paper pasted across the lid, and stamped with the name of the firm. These packages were shipped in boxes and barrels to defendant's agent, who unpacked them when they arrived, and placed the pasteboard packages on his shelves. The court held that there was abundance of evidence to submit to the jury whether the whole matter was not a scheme to evade the license laws. Said the court: 'The defendant was engaged in selling liquor at retail, and his claim that he was selling only by 'original packages' was little better than a burlesque.'
In Com. v. Paul, 170 Pa. 284, 30 L. R. A. 396, 33 Atl. 82, a small tub of oleomargarine, containing 10 pounds, prepared in another state and brought into Pennsylvania to be sold unbroken to a customer for his use as an article of food upon his table, and actually so sold, was held not to be an original package within the meaning of the law relating to interstate commerce. Said the court: 'If a pint bottle of whisky is an original package under the protection of Congress, and can be sold as such, regardless of the police legislation of the state, we cannot punish the sale to a minor, to a person of known intemperate habits, to a lunatic, on election days, or on the Sabbath. All power over the traffic for police purposes is gone. And why? Because the power to regulate interstate commerce, intended to guard against stoppage along state lines for examination or the collection of customs duties, has been extended by construction until it is made to reach and protect a retail traffic carried on within any state, if the things sold have come into the retailer's store from a nonresident manufacturer or shipper. . . . Our question is whether this valid restriction can be enforced, or whether the transparent trick of putting up oleomargarine in small packages in another state, so that it can be sold at retail to consumers as an article of food, will clothe an unlawful retail traffic with the coat of mail belonging to honest, legitimate interstate commerce, and set the police laws of the state at defiance.'
In Haley v. Nebraska, 42 Neb. 556, 60 N. W. 962, the same result was reached upon precisely the same state of facts; as well as in State v. Chapman, 1 S. D. 414, 10 L. R. A. 432, 47 N. W. 411; and Smith v. State, 54 Ark. 248, 15 S. W. 882.
In McGregor v. Cone, 104 Iowa, 465, 39 L. R. A. 484, 73 N. W. 1041, the question arose as to packages of cigarettes of the same size as those involved in the present case. These packages were placed in a common pine box for convenience of shipment without any other packing or inclosure about the packages, and were shipped by the company from its factory in New York to its warehouse in Chicago, and thence to the defendant's place of business in Iowa. Upon the arrval of the box the defendant opened the box by taking the lid off, and sold one of the packages containing cigarettes. It was held that the pine box was the original package, and that the defendant was liable, notwithstanding that the internal revenue department had, for the purposes of taxation, declared the small packages sold by defendant to be original packages. This case seems to have overruled the cases of State v. Coonan, 82 Iowa, 400, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 670, 48 N. W. 921; Collins v. Hills, 77 Iowa, 181, 3 L. R. A. 110, 41 N. W. 571; Hopkins v. Lewis, 84 Iowa, 690, 15 L. R. A. 397, 51 N. W. 255; State v. Miller, 86 Iowa, 638, 53 N. W. 330, where a contrary view was expressed.
The real question in this case is whether the size of the package in which the importation is actually made is to govern; or, the size of the package in which bona fide transactions are carried on between the manufacturer and the wholesale dealer residing in different states. We hold to the latter view. The whole theory of the exemption of the original package from the operation of state laws is based upon the idea that the property is imported in the ordinary form in which, from time immemorial, foreign goods have been brought into the country. These have gone at once into the hands of the wholesale dealers, who have been in the habit of breaking the packages and distributing their contents among the several retail dealers throughout the state. It was with reference to this method of doing business that the doctrine of the exemption of the original package grew up. But taking the words 'original package' in their literal sense, a number of so-called original package manufactories have been started through the country, whose business it is to manufacture goods for the express purpose of sending their products into other states in minute packages, that may at once go into the hands of the retail dealers and consumers, and thus bid defiance to the laws of the state against their importation and sale. In all the cases which have heretofore arisen in this court the packages were of such size as to exclude the idea that they were to go directly into the hands of the consumer, or be used to evade the police regulations of the state with regard to the particular article. No doubt the fact that cigarettes are actually imported in a certain package is strong evidence that they are original packages within the meaning of the law; but this presumption attaches only when the importation is made in the usual manner prevalent among honest dealers, and in a bona fide package of a particular size. Without undertaking to determine what is the proper size of an original package in each case, evidently the doctrine has no application where the manufacturer puts up the package with the express intent of evading the laws of another state, and is enabled to carry out his purpose by the facile agency of an express company and the connivance of his consignee. This court has repeatedly held that, so far from lending its authority to frauds upon the sanitary laws of the several states, we are bound to respect such laws and to aid in their enforcement, so far as can be done without infringing upon the constitutional rights of the parties. The consequences of our adoption of defendant's contention would be far reaching and disastrous. For the purpose of aiding a manufacturer in evading the laws of a sister state, we should be compelled to recognize anything as an original package of beer from a hogshead to a vial; anything as a package of cigarettes from an importer's case to a single paper box of ten, or even a single cigarette, if imported separately and loosely; anything from a bale of merchandise to a single ribbon, provided only the dealer sees fit to purchase his stock outside the state and import it in minute quantities.
There could hardly be stronger evidence of fraud than is shown by the facts of this case, which we quote from the opinion of the court:
'The defendant purchased from the American Tobacco Company, at its factory, in Durham, North Carolina, a lot of cigarettes manufactured by that company at that factory, and there by it put into pasteboard boxes, in quantities of ten cigarettes to each box; that each of these boxes, known as packages, was separately stamped and labeled, as prescribed by the United States revenue statute; that after defendant's purchase the American Tobacco Company piled upon the floor of its warehouse, in Durham, North Carolina, the number of boxes or packages sold, and, having done so, notified the Southern Express Company to come and get then, and said company, by its agent, took them from the floor and placed them in an open basket already and previously in the possession of the Southern Express Company, and in that basket had them transported by express to the defendant's town in Tennessee, and there an agent of the same express company took the basket to defendant's place of business and lifted from it on to the counter of the defendant the lot of detached boxes or packages of cigarettes, and thereupon took a receipt and departed with the empty basket. Thereafter the defendant sold one of these boxes or packages without breaking it, and for that sale he stands convicted.'
And yet we are told that each one of these packages is an original package, and entitled to the protection of the Constitution of the United States as a separate and distinct importation. We can only look upon it as a discreditable subterfuge, to which this court ought not to lend its countenance. If there be any original package at all in this case we think it is the basket, and not the paper box.
Suppose the state of Tennessee in the exercise of its police powers should prohibit the manufacture within its limits of cigarettes, whether they were manufactured to be sold in that state, or to be sent to other states for sale, could the validity of such legislation be questioned, as in violation of the Constitution of the United States, upon the ground that it infringed the liberty which is secured to the citizens by the 14th Amendment? 'The liberty mentioned in that amendment,' this court has said, 'means, not only the right of the citizen to be free from the mere physical restraint of his person, as by incarceration, but the term is deemed to embrace the right of the citizen to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties; to be free to use them in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation, and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary, and essential to his carrying out to a successful conclusion the purposes above mentioned.' Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578, 589, 41 L. ed. 832, 836, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 427.
There is doubtless fair ground for dispute as to whether the use of cigarettes is not hurtful to the community, and therefore it would be competent for a state, with reference to its own people, to declare, under penalties, that cigarettes should not be manufactured within its limits. No one could say that such legislation trenched upon the liberty of the citizen by preventing him from pursuing a lawful business. Now the result of defendant's argument in this case is that citizens of Tennessee may, under the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States, bring into that state from other states cigarettes in unlimited quantities, and sell them despite the will of Tennessee as expressed in its legislation. In other words, it is decided that the commerce clause of the Constitution, by its own force, without any legislation by Congress, overrides the action of the state in a matter confessedly involving, in the judgment of its legislature, the health of its people. We cannot accept this view. The doctrine that the silence of Congress as to what property may be of right carried from one state to another means that every article of commerce may be carried into one state from another and there sold, ought not to be extended so as to embrace articles which may not unreasonably be deemed injurious in their use to the health of the people. If this be not so, it follows that the reserved power of the state to protect the health of its people, by reasonable regulations, has application only in respect of articles manufactured within its own limits, and that an open door exists for the introduction into the state, against its will, of all finds of property which may be fairly regarded as injurious in their use to health. If Congress have power to declare what property may and what may not be brought into one state from another state, then the action of a state by which certain articles, not unreasonably deemed injurious to health, were excluded from its markets, should stand until Congress legislated upon the subject. If Congress possesses no such power, it is because the framers of the Constitution never intended that the mere grant of power to regulate commerce should override the power reserved by the states to pass laws that had substantial relations to the health of their people. Of course, it is one thing to force into a state, against its will, articles or commodities that can have no possible connection with or relation to the health of the people. It is quite a different thing to force into the markets of a state, against its will, articles or commodities which, like cigarettes, may not unreasonably be held to be injurious to health.
Practically the only argument relied upon in support of the theory that these packages of ten cigarettes are original packages is derivable from the Revised Statutes, § 3392, which requires that manufacturers shall put up all cigarettes made by or for them, and sold or removed for consumption or use, in packages containing ten, twenty, fifty, or one hundred cigarettes each. This, however, is solely for the purpose of taxation-a precaution taken for the better enforcement of the internal revenue law, and to be read in connection with § 3243, which provides that 'the payment of any tax imposed by the internal revenue laws for carrying on any trade or business shall not be held to exempt any person from any penalty or punishment provided by the laws of any state for carrying on the same within such state, or in any manner to authorize the commencement or continuance of such trade or business contrary to the laws of such state.' As was said in Plumley v. Massachusetts, 155 U.S. 461, 466, 39 L. ed. 223, 225, 5 Inters. Com. Rep. 590, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 154, it is manifest this section was adopted to make it clear that Congress had no purpose to restrict the power of the state over the manufacture and sale of particular articles. 'The taxes prescribed by that act were imposed for national purposes, and their imposition did not give authority to those who paid them to engage in the manufacture or sale of oleomargarine in any state which lawfully forbade such manufacture or sale.' The question is not in what packages the law requires the cigarettes to be packed for the purpose of taxation, but, what are the packages in which they are usually transported from one state to another where the transaction is bona fide and for the legitimate purposes of trade and commerce?
We are satisfied the conclusion of the Supreme Court of Tennessee was correct, and it is therefore affirmed.
I do not understand that anything in the opinion of the court impairs the doctrine protecting original packages from interference by the police or any other power of a state, as announced by so many opinions of this court, especially as expounded in Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 34 L. ed. 128, 3 Inters. Com. Rep. 36, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 681, and Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412, 42 L. ed. 1088, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 664, and the authorities which are cited in the opinions of the court in both of those cases. If I thought either the opinion of the court just announced or the conclusion which it reaches had the effect of weakening the doctrine upheld by the authorities to which I have just referred, I should be unable to concur. Indeed, as I understand the case as now decided, all the questions adverted to are merged in the solution of the one decisive issue, which is, Was each particular parcel of cigarettes an original package within the constitutional import of those words as defined by the previous adjudications of the court? I am constrained to conclude that this question is correctly answered in the negative, not only from the size of each particular parcel, but from all the other surrounding facts and circumstances, among which may be mentioned the trifling value of each parcel, the absence of an address on each, and the fact that many parcels, for the purpose of commercial shipment, were aggregated, thrown into and carried in an open basket. Thus associated in their shipment, they could not, under all the facts and circumstances of the case, after arrival be segregated so as to cause each to become an original package.
^1 11 Pet. 103, 9 L. ed. 648.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).|