Dooley v. United States (182 U.S. 222)/Dissent White

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United States Supreme Court

182 U.S. 222

Dooley  v.  United States

 Argued: January 8, 9, 10, 11, 1901. --- Decided: May 27, 1901

Mr. Justice White, with whom concur Mr. Justice Gray, Mr. Justice Shiras and Mr. Justice McKenna, dissenting:

The question involved in this case is the validity of certain impost duties laid on goods coming from the United States into Porto Rico under the tariff imposed by the military commander and under tariffs proclaimed by the President as Commander in Chief. The duties collected prior to the ratification of the treaty of peace are now decided to have been valid; those collected after the ratification of the treaty are decided to have been unlawfully imposed, upon the doctrine announced in the case of De Lima v. Bidwell, just previously decided, 181 U.S. --, ante, 743, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 743. I concur in so far as it is held that the duties collected prior to the ratification were validly collected, but dissent in so far as it is decided that the duties collected after the ratification were illegal. I might content myself with referring to the dissent in the De Lima Case as expressing the grounds which prevent me from concurring in this case; but the importance of the subject and the grave consequences which I think are to be entailed by the decision now announced lead me to refer to some additional considerations.

As a prelude to doing so, however, let me briefly r esum e the propositions which seem to me to have been hitherto established.

1. There is a non sequitur involved in stating that the question is whether Porto Rico was a foreign country within the meaning of the tariff laws, and then discussing, not the question thus stated, but a different subject; that is, whether the territory ceded by the treaty with Spain came under the sovereignty of the United States by the effect of the cession.

2. And the confusion which arises from stating one question and then analyzing and expressing opinions on another and different one is additionally demonstrated when it is considered that most of the authorities now relied upon in relation to the extension of the sovereignty of the United States over territory were cited to the court in Fleming v. Page, to establish that the dominancy of the sovereignty of the United States over a territory was the proper test by which to determine whether, under all circumstances, the revenue laws of the United States were applicable, and the court decided adversely to such contention. Fleming v. Page, 9 How. 603, 13 L. ed. 276.

3. As the treaty with Spain provided 'that the civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants should be determined by Congress,' in reason this provision should not be controlled by conclusions deduced from treaties made by the United States in the past with other countries, which did not contain such a provision, but expressly stipulated to the contrary.

4. In view of the terms of the treaty with Spain, to hold that the status of the ceded territory as previously existing was ipso facto changed, within the meaning of the tariff laws of the United States, without action by Congress, is to deprive that body of the rights which the stipulations of the treaty sedulously sought to preserve.

5. Even ignoring the terms of the treaty, the conclusion that the status of the ceded territory, within the meaning of the tariff laws, was changed by the treaty before Congress could act on the subject, can only be upheld by disregarding the opinion of the court expressed by Mr. Chief Justice Taney in Fleming v. Page, and treating the important declarations on this subject by him in that case as mere dicta.

6. The result, also, cannot be supported without a misconception of the case of Cross v. Harrison, since that decision enforced the payment of a tariff duty levied, after the ratification of the treaty with Mexico, at a different rate from that imposed by the existing tariff laws of the United States, and since, moreover, that case can only be harmoniously interpreted by recalling the fact that several months after the notification of the ratification of the treaty with Mexico was received in California the President ordered the tariff laws of the United States to be enforced in California, and this authority may well have been treated as not only a direction for the future, but as a ratification of the act of the military officials in enforcing the tariff laws of the United States after they had learned of the ratification of the treaty.

7. In no single case from the foundation of the government except, if it can be called an exception, in the brief period prior to the President's order enforcing the tariff laws in California, as above stated, have the revenue laws of the United States been enforced in acquired territory without the action of the President or the consent of Congress, express or implied.

8. The rule of the immediate bringing, by the self-operating force of a treaty, ceded territory inside of the line of the tariff laws of the United States, denies the existence of powers which the Constitution expressly bestows, overthrows the authority conferred on Congress by the Constitution, and is impossible of execution.

Having thus imperfectly summarized the propositions which are more lucidly stated in the dissent in the De Lima Case, I come to express the additional thoughts which have been previously adverted to.

Before the outbreak of the war with Spain it cannot be disputed that Porto Rico was embraced within the words 'foreign country,' as used in the tariff laws. Why was that island so embraced without specific reference to it in such laws? is the question which naturally arises. To answer this question it is essential to determine what is the import of the words 'foreign country,' not internationally, but within the meaning of the tariff laws. It is settled that the power of Congress to lay an impost duty does not give the right to levy such a duty on merchandise coming from one part of the United States to the other. Woodruff v. Parham, 8 Wall. 123, 19 L. ed. 382. It follows, therefore, that when, in the exercise of its power to lay impost duties, Congress specifies such duties are to be collected on merchandise from foreign countries, those words but generically embody the declaration of Congress that it is exerting its taxing power conformably to the Constitution; that is, it is causing the taxes which are levied to be applicable to the entire area to which they may be extended under the Constitution. The command, then, in tariff laws, that impost duties when laid shall be collected on all merchandise coming from 'foreign countries,' is but a provision that they are to be levied on merchandise arriving from countries which are not a part of the United States, within the meaning of the tariff laws, and which are hence subject to such duties. It must follow that, as long as a locality is in a position where it is subject to the power of Congress to levy an impost tariff duty on merchandise coming from that country into the United States, such country must be a foreign country within the meaning of the tariff laws. Now, this court has just decided in Downes v. Bidwell, 181 U.S. 244, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 770, that, despite the treaty of cession, Porto Rico remained in a position where Congress could impose a tariff duty on goods coming from that island into the United States. If, however, it remained in that position, how then can it be now declared that it ceased to be in that relation because it was no longer foreign country within the meaning of the tariff laws? But, it is said, although when the treaty was ratified the country at once ceased to be foreign within the meaning of the tariff lawsit yet subsequently became foreign for the purpose of the tariff laws when the act of Congress imposing a duty on goods from Porto Rico took effect. To what, in reason, does this proposition come? In my opinion only to this: Congress, under the Constitution, may not impose a tariff duty on goods brought from a country which has ceased to be foreign, but, although a country has so ceased to be foreign within the meaning of the tariff laws, nevertheless Congress may thereafter cause it to become foreign within such intendment by levying an impost upon its products coming into the United States. This is but to say an act of Congress can have the effect of changing the status of a territory from not foreign within the meaning of the tariff laws to foreign within such meaning, although a law attempting to so do would be plainly in violation of the Constitution, if the principle announced in this case be true, that the treaty from the moment of its ratification by its own force caused the ceded territory to be no longer foreign within the meaning of the tariff laws.

The only escape my mind can point out from this deduction is to say that territory which has become domestic, and therefore ceases to be foreign within the meaning of the tariff law, can yet be constitutionally treated by Congress as if it had not ceased to be foreign and had not become domestic. But this would expressly overrule Woodruff v. Parham, 8 Wall. 123, 19 L. ed. 382, and cannot, therefore, be the rule of decision now announced, since that case is referred to and cited approvingly in the opinion of my brethren who dissent in the Downes Case, and who do not dissent from the opinion of the court now announced.

Passing these considerations, it is impossible for me to conceive that Porto Rico ceased to be subject to the tariff laws, for the reasons fully stated by me in my concurring opinion in Downes v. Bidwell, which need not be reiterated. But, for the purposes of this case and arguendo only, let me now admit that the treaty incorporated Porto Rico into the United States despite the provisions which were contained in that instrument. Does it follow that such territory at once ceased to be subject to the tariff laws before Congress had the time to act? I am constrained to think not.

The power to originate revenue laws is lodged by the Constitution in the House of Representatives. When a tariff bill is drawn the revenue to arise from it must depend upon the sum of the articles which are to be imported and which are to pay the duty provided in the law. Let me illustrate it: Suppose a tariff law is so adjusted that the greater portion of the revenue which it seeks to provide is drawn from a few articles of general consumption. The duties to be paid on these articles, when imported, will therefore largely furnish the revenues essential to carry on the government. Suppose a treaty of cession which embraces territory producing in large quantities the articles upon which the existing tariff laws mainly rely for revenue to sustain the government. If, instantly, on the ratification of the treaty, before Congress can remodel or change the laws so as to provide for the support of the government, the articles stated coming into the United States from the country in question would be within the tariff line, and thereby entitled to free entry into the United States, what would become of the power of the House of Representatives and of the Congress on the subject of revenue as provided in the Constitution? It may be said in answer to this suggestion that Congress could make the change, and whilst of course a brief interval of disaster would ensue, during which there would be no revenue, the country must suffer the consequences during such interval. But does this follow? Suppose the political state of the country should be such that there was a difference of opinion as to the policy to be embodied in a tariff law, analogous to that which existed when California was acquired from Mexico, where, in consequence of division on the subject of the slavery question between the different branches of Congress, it was impossible to enact legislation conferring a territorial government upon California, what would be the situation then? Look at it practically from another point of view. Certainly, before revenue laws can be made operative in a district or country it is essential that the situation be taken into account, for the purpose of establishing ports of entry, collection districts, and the necessary machinery to enforce them. Of course, it is patent that such investigations cannot be made prior to acquisition. But, as the laws immediately extend, without action of Congress, as the result of acquisition, it must follows that they extend, although none of the means and instrumentalities for their successful enforcement can possibly be devised until the acquisition is completed. This must be, unless it be held that there is power in the government of the United States to enter a foreign country, examine its situation, and enact legislation for it before it has passed under the sovereignty of the United States. From the point of view of the United States, then, it seems to me that the doctrine of the immediate placing of the tariff laws outside the line of newly acquired territory, however extreme may be the opinion entertained of the doctrine of immediate incorporation, is inadmissible and in conflict with the Constitution.

Let me look at and illustrate it from the point of view of the ceded territory. In doing so let me take for granted the accuracy of suggestions which have been advanced in argument. It is said that the public revenues of the island of Porto Rico, except only such as were raised by a burdensome and comp @siness vocations, had always been chiefly obtained by duties on imports and exports; that our internal revenue laws, if applied in the island, would prove oppressive and ruinous to many people and interests; that one of the staple productions of the island-coffee had always been protected by a tariff duty, whereas under our tariff laws coffee was admitted into the United States free of duty; that there was no system of direct taxation of property in operation when the island was ceded, there was no time to establish one, and such a system, moreover, would have entailed upon the people burdens incapable of being borne. I cannot conceive that under the provisions of the Constitution conferring upon Congress the power to raise revenue, that consequences such as would flow from immediately putting in force in Porto Rico the revenue laws of the United States could constitutionally be brought about without affording to the Congress the opportunity to adjust the revenue laws of the United States to meet the new situation.

All these suggestions, however, it is argued, but refer to expediency, and are entitled to no weight as against the theory that, under the Constitution, the tariff laws of the United States took effect of their own force immediately upon the cession. But this is fallacious. For, if it be demonstrated that a particular result cannot be accomplished without destroying the revenue power conferred upon Congress by the Constitution, and without annihilating the conceded authority of the government in other respects, such demonstration shows the unsoundness of the argument which magnifies the results flowing from the exercise by the treaty-making power of its authority to acquire, to the detriment and destruction of that balanced and limited government which the Constitution called into being.


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).