« PreviousContinue »
Without questioning at all the original validity of the order imposing duties upon goods imported into Porto Rico from foreign countries, we think the proper construction of that order is, that it ceased to apply to goods imported from the United States from the moment the United States ceased to be a foreign country with respect to Porto Rico, and that until Congress otherwise constitutionally directed, such merchandise was entitled to free entry.
An unlimited power on the part of the Commander-in-Chief to exact duties upon imports from the States might have placed Porto Rico in a most embarrassing situation. The ratification of the treaty and the cession of the island to us severed her connection with Spain, of which the island was no longer a colony, and with respect to which she had become a foreign country. The wall of the Spanish tariff was raised against her exports, the wall of the military tariff against her imports, from the mother country. She received no compensation from her new relations with the United States. If her exports, upon arriving there, were still subject to the same duties as merchandise arriving from other foreign countries, while her imports from the United States were subjected to duties prescribed by the Commander-in-Chief, she would be placed in a position of practical isolation, which could not fail to be disastrous to the business and finances of an island. It had no manufactures or markets of its own, and was dependent upon the markets of other countries for the sale of her productions of coffee, sugar and tobacco. In our opinion the authority of the President as Commander-in-Chief to exact duties upon imports from the United States ceased with the ratification of the treaty of peace, and her right to the free entry of goods from the ports of the United States continued until Congress should constitutionally legislate upon the subject.
The judgment of the Circuit Court is therefore reversed and the case remanded to that court for further proceedings in consonance with this opinion.
Clerk Supreme Court, U. S.
Supreme Court of the United States.
No. 501.-OCTOBER TERM, 1900.
Henry W. Dooley et al., Plaintiffs in
In error to the Circuit Court of Error,
the United States for the SouthTS.
ern District of New York. The United States.
[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. 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 leads me to refer to some additional considerations.
As a prelude to doing so, however, let me briefly resume 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.)
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.) 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 lau's. Now, this court has just decided in Downes v. Bidwell 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 laws it 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