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Supreme Court of the United States.
No. 456.-OCTOBER TERM, 1900.
Elias S. A. De Lima et al., Plaintiffs ) In error to the Circuit Court in Error,
of the United States for the I'S.
Southern District of New George S. Bidwell.
Mr. Justice MCKENNA, (with whom concurred Mr. Justice SHIRAS and
Mr. Justice WHITE,) dissenting:
Mr. Justice Shiras, Mr. Justice White and myself are unable to concur in the conclusion of the court, and the importance of the case justifies an expression of the grounds of our dissent.
Settle whether Porto Rico is “foreign country” or “domestic terri tory,” to use the antithesis of the opinion of the court, and, it is said, you settle the controversy in this litigation. But in what sense, foreign or domestic? Abstractly and unqualifiedly—to the full extent that those words imply—or limitedly, in the sense that the word foreign is used in the customs laws of the United States? If abstractly, the case turns upon a definition, and the issue becomes single and simple, presenting no difficulty, and yet the arguments at bar have ranged over all the powers of government, and this court divides in opinion. If at the time the duties, which are complained of, were levied, Porto Rico was as much a foreign country as it was before the war with Spain; if it was as much domestic territory as New York now is, there would be no serious controversy in the case. If the former, the terms and the intention of the Dingley aci would apply. If the latter, whatever its words or intention, it could not be applied. Between these extremes there are other relations, and that Porto Rico occupied one of them and its products hence were subject to duties under the Dingley Tariff act can be demonstrated. Indeerl, we have the authority of a member of the majority of the court, and the organ of the court's opinion in this case, that even if Porto Rico were domestic territory, its products could be legally subjected to tariff duties. This principle is expressed by him in Dounes v. Biduell. The other members of the court, though agreeing with him in the case at bar, do not agree with him in Dounes v. Biduell. They assert that Porto
Rico, being a territory of the United States, tariff duties on its products are inhibited by the Constitution of the United States. Their judgment and his only unite in the case at bar, and, we may assume, that the reasoning of the opinion just announced is the road which has brought them together, and, assuming further, that such reasoning is the best judicial support of the conclusion it is presented to establish, we address ourselves to the consideration of that reasoning.
(1) The statement of the opinion is that whether the cargoes of sugar were subject to duty depends solely upon the question whether Porto Rico was a foreign country at the time they were shipped, and a foreign country is defined to be, following Chief Justice Marshall, “one exclusively within the sovereignty of a foreign nation' and without the sovereignty of the United States.” This makes sovereignty the test and gives a rule as sure and exact in its application as it is clear and simple in its expression. There is no difficulty in applying it. Difficulty comes with attempts to limit it. The difference between our country and one not ours would seem to be of substance, not needing words to explain the difference, but defying words to confound it, and having the consequence of carrying, not only one law, but all laws. The court does not go so far, and why? Is there weakness in the logic or does its consequences repel? The argument of the court certainly proceeds as if the test is universal-illustrations are used to make it unmistakable.
Under the effect of the treaty of cession and our government of Porto Rico, it is said, if the question was broadly presented whether it was “a foreign country or domestic territory," there would be as little hesitation in answering the question “as there would be in determining the ownership of a house deeded in fee simple to a purchaser, after he had gone into possession, paid taxes and made improvements, without let or hindrance, from his vendor.” And we would have as little hesitation in applying all of the consequences and concomitants of ownership. But we do not care to join issue on an illustration, although it may suggest wrong principles. We submit that the administration of a government has more complexity-must consider more things—than the management of a piece of real estate. But even the conveyance of real estate may be conditional, all of the incidents of ownership not immediately applying. However, we need not dwell on insufficient analogies. There are better ones. The history of our country has examples of the acquisition of foreign territoryexamples of what relation such territory bears to the United Statesauthorities, executive, legislative and judicial, as to what was wise in statesmanship, as well as what was legal and constitutional, in withholding or extending, our laws to such territory; and finding these examples and authorities in the way the opinion of the court attempts to answer or distinguish or overrule them.
United States v. Rice (4 Wheat. 246) is reviewed. In that case,
Castine, a port of the United States, was in temporary occupation by the British during the war of 1812, and it was declared to be a foreign country within the meaning of our customs laws; as much, the court said by Mr. Justice Story, as if “Castine had been a foreign territory ceded by treaty to the United States, and the goods had been previously imported there." In other words, not a cession to another country, but the accidental occupation by the armed forces of another country made a port in the State of Maine foreign territory. The conclusion had the sanction of great names and the authority of this court. Temporary sovereignty, not permanent dominion, was seemingly made the test.
Fleming v. Page, (9 How. 603,) is also reviewed. The case involved the legality of duties levied in Philadelphia upon goods imported from Tampico. Tampico was a port of Mexico, temporarily occupied by the United States forces—the exact condition which, in the Rice case, made a port in one of the States of our Union English territory. Tampico was nevertheless held to be a foreign country within the meaning of our revenue laws. In other words, the military occupation and the sovereignty which attended it, which determined in the Rice case, was rejected in the Fleming case. There is apparent antagonism between the cases, and the court in the case at bar observe it. And strangely enough, that which is “somewhat of the converse” (to quote the court in the case at bar) of the Rice case is held sufficient for the judgment in the Fleming case, and other grounds of decision are declared to be dicta.
An attempt is made, however, to reconcile the cases, and we think they can be reconciled, but not upon the grounds stated by the court in the opinion in the case at bar. Harmony cannot be established between them by that which in the Fleming case is the converse of the Rice case, and by rejecting as dicta all other grounds as unnecessary to the judgment in the Fleming case. However, we will proceed to the consideration of the latter case.
Delivering the opinion of the court, Chief Justice Taney substantially said that the boundaries of our country could not be enlarged or diminished by the advance or retreat of armies, and based his opinion besides and the judgment of the case on the absence of an act of Congress establishing a custom house at Tampico, and authorizing the appointment of a collector, “and, consequently, there was no officer of the United States authorized by law to grant the clearance and authenticate the coasting manifest of the cargo, in the manner directed by law, where the voyage is from one port of the United States to another," and the necessity of a legal permit and coasting manifest was expressly asserted. He further said:
“This construction of the revenue laws has been uniformly given · by the administrative department of the government in every case that has come before it. And it has, indeed, been given in cases
where there appears to have been stronger ground for regarding the place of shipment as a domestic port. For after Florida had been ceded to the United States, and the forces of the United States had taken possession of Pensacola, it was decided by the Treasury Department that goods imported from Pensacola before an act of Congress was passed erecting it into a collection district, and authorizing the appointment of a collector, were liable to duty. That is that although Florida had, by cession, actually become a part of the United States, and was in our possession, yet, under our revenue laws, its ports must be regarded as foreign until they were established as domestic, by act of Congress; and it appears that this decision was sanctioned at the time by the Attorney General of the United States, the law officer of the government. And although not so directly applicable to the case before us, yet the decisions of the Treasury Department in relation to Amelia Island, and certain ports in Louisiana, after that province had been ceded to the United States, were both made upon the same grounds. And in the latter case, after a custom house had been established by law at New Orleans, the collector at that place was instructed to regard as foreign ports Baton Rouge and other settlements still in the possession of Spain, whether on the Mississippi, Iberville, or the seacoasi. The department is in no instance that we are aware of, since the establishment of the government, has ever recognized a place in a newly acquired country as a domestic port, from which the coasting trade might be carried on, unless it had been previously made so by act of Congress.”
The opinion in the case at bar disregards this reasoning and the conclusion from it, and says: “While we see no reason to doubt the conclusion of the court (in Fleming v. Page) that the port of Tainpico was still a foreign port, it is not perceived why the fact that there was no act of Congress establishing a custom house there and authorizing the appointment of a collector should have prevented the collector appointed by the military commander from granting the usual documents required to be issued to the vessel engaged in the coasting trade.” Such power, it was said, “a military commander may be presumed to have,” but, “of course, he would have no power to make a domestic port of what was in reality a foreign port.” But why did it remain a foreign port? Castine did not remain a domestic port. We, however, need not dwell any longer on this point for, under the latest utterances of this court, the test of dominion breaks down. Cuba is under the dominion of the United States. We held in the Neely case (180 U. S. 109) that it is a foreign country.
We think that Fleming v. Page is disposed of too summarily by the majority in the case at bar, and we have shown, that it is not antagonistic to the Castine case. Both cases recognized inevitable conditions. At Castine the instrumentalities of the custom laws had been divested; at Tampico they had not been invested, and hence the language of the court: “The department, in no instance that we are aware of, since the establishment of the government, has ever recognized a place in a newly acquired country as a domestic port, from