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Supreme Court of the United States.
No. 507.–OCTOBER TERM, 1900.
Samuel B. Downes
In error to the Circuit Court of the United States
for the Southern District of New York.
[May 27, 1901.]
Mr. Justice GRAY, concurring.
Concurring in the judgment of affirmance in this case, and in substance agreeing with the opinion of Mr. Justice WHITE, I will sum up the reasons for my concurrence in a few propositions, which may also indicate my position in other cases now standing for judgment.
The cases now before the court do not touch the authority of the United States over the Territories, in the strict and technical sense, being those which lie within the United States, as bounded by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Dominion of Canada and the Republic of Mexico, and the Territories of Alaska and Hawaii; but they relate to territory, in the broader sense, acquired by the United States by war with a foreign State.
As Chief Justice Marshall said: “The Constitution confers absolutely on the government of the Union the powers of making war, and of making treaties; consequently, that government possesses the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or by treaty. The usage of the world is, if a nation be not entirely subdued, to consider the holding of conquered territory as a mere military occupation, until its fate shall be determined at the treaty of peace. If it be ceded by the treaty, the acquisition is confirmed, and the ceded territory becomes a part of the nation to which it is annexed; either on the terms stipulated in the treaty of cession, or on such as its new master shall impose." American Insurance Co. v. Canter, (1828) 1 Pet. 511, 542.
The civil government of the United States cannot extend immediately, and of its own force, over territory acquired by war. Such territory must necessarily, in the first instance, be governed by the
military power under the control of the President as commander in chief. Civil government cannot take effect at once, as soon as possession is acquired under military authority, or even as soon as that possession is confirmed by treaty. It can only be put in operation by the action of the appropriate political department of the government, at such time and in such degree as that department may determine. There must, of necessity, be a transition period.
In a conquered territory, civil government must take effect, either by the action of the treaty-making power, or by that of the Congress of the United States. The office of a treaty of cession ordinarily is to put an end to all authority of the foreign government over the territory; and to subject the territory to the disposition of the Government of the United States.
The government and disposition of territory so acquired belong to the Government of the United States, consisting of the President, the Senate, elected by the States, and the House of Representatives, chosen by and immediately representing the people of the United States. Treaties by which territory is acquired from a foreign State usually recognize this.
It is clearly recognized in the recent treaty with Spain, especially in the ninth article, by which “The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United States shall be determined by the Congress.
By the fourth and thirteenth articles of the treaty, the United States agree that, for ten years, Spanish ships and merchandise shall be admitted to the ports of the Philippine Islands on the same terms as ships and merchandise of the United States, and Spanish scientific, literary and artistic works, not subversive of public order, shall continue to be admitted free of duty into all the ceded territories. Neither of these provisions could be carried out if the Constitution required the customs regulations of the United States to apply in those territories.
In the absence of Congressional legislation, the regulation of the revenue of the conquered territory, even after the treaty of cession, remains with the executive and military authority.
So long as Congress has not incorporated the territory into the United States, neither military occupation nor cession by treaty makes the conquered territory domestic territory, in the sense of the revenue laws. But those laws concerning “foreign countries” remain applicable to the conquered territory until changed by Congress. Such was the unanimous opinion of this court, as declared by Chief Justice Taney, in Fleming v. Page, 9 How. 603, 617.
If Congress is not ready to construct a complete government for the conquered territory, it may establish a temporary government, which is not subject to all the restrictions of the Constitution.
Such was the effect of the act of Congress of April 12, 1900, c. 191, entitled "An act temporarily to provide revenues and a civil government for Porto Rico, and for other purposes.” By the third section of that act, it was expressly declared that the duties thereby established on merchandise and articles going into Porto Rico from the United States, or. coming into the United States from Porto Rico, should cease in any event on March 1, 1902, and sooner if the legislative assembly of Porto Rico should enact and put into operation a system of local taxation to meet the necessities of the government established by that act.
The system of duties, temporarily established by that act during the transition period, was within the authority of Congress under the Constitution of the United States.
Samuel B. Downes, doing business
under the firm name of S. B. | In error to the Circuit Court of Downes & Company, Plaintiffs in the United States for the Error,
Southern District of New
[May 27, 1901.]
Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, with whom concurred Mr. Justice HARLAN,
Mr. Justice BREWER and Mr. Justice PECKHAM, dissenting:
This is an action brought to recover moneys exacted by the collector of customs at the port of New York as import duties on two shipments of fruit from ports in the island of Porto Rico to the port of New York in November, 1900.
The treaty ceding Porto Rico to the United States was ratified by the Senate, February 6, 1899; Congress passed an act to carry out its obligations March 3, 1889; and the ratifications were exchanged, and the treaty proclaimed April 11, 1899. Then followed the act approved April 12, 1900. 31 Stat. 77, c. 191.
Mr. Justice Harlan, Mr. Justice Brewer, Mr. Justice Peckham and myself are unable to concur in the opinions and judgment of the court in this case. The majority widely differ in the reasoning by which the conclusion is reached, although there seems to be concurrence in the view that Porto Rico belongs to the United States, but nevertheless, and notwithstanding the act of Congress, is not a part of the United States subject to the provisions of the Constitution in respect of the levy of taxes, duties, imposts and excises.
The inquiry is whether the act of April 12, 1900, so far as it requires the payment of import duties on merchandise brought from a port of Porto Rico as a condition of entry into other ports of the United States, is consistent with the Federal Constitution.
The act creates a civil government for Porto Rico, with a Governor, Secretary, Attorney General, and other officers, appointed by the