U.S. Supreme Court
Fairbank v. United States, 181 U.S. 283 (1901)
Fairbank v. United States
Argued December 13, 1900
Decided April 15, 1901
181 U.S. 283
A stamp tax on a foreign bill of lading is, in substance and effect, equivalent to a tax on the articles included in that bill of lading, and therefore is a tax or duty on exports, and therefore in conflict with Article I, § 9, of the Constitution of the United States, that "No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state."
An act of Congress is to be accepted as constitutional unless, on examination, it clearly appears to be in conflict with provisions of the federal Constitution.
If the Constitution in its grant of powers is to be able to carry into full effect the powers granted, it is equally imperative that, where prohibition or limitation is placed upon the power of Congress, that prohibition or limitation should be enforced in its spirit and to its entirety.
On March 7, 1900, plaintiff in error was convicted in the District Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota on the charge of issuing, as agent of the Northern Pacific Railway chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
Company, an export bill of lading upon certain wheat exported from Minnesota to Liverpool, England, without affixing thereto an internal revenue stamp as required by the Act of June 13, 1898, 30 Stat. 448. Upon that conviction, he was sentenced to pay a fine of $25. His contention on the trial was that that act, so far as it imposes a stamp tax on foreign bills of lading, is in conflict with Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution of the United States, which reads: "No tax or duty shall be laid on any articles exported from any state." This contention was not sustained by the trial court, and this writ of error was sued out to review the judgment solely upon the foregoing constitutional question.
Section 6 of the act reads:
"SEC. 6. That on and after the first day of July, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, there shall be levied, collected, and paid, for and in respect of the several bonds, debentures, or certificates of stock and of indebtedness, and other documents, instruments, matters, and things mentioned and described in schedule A of this act, or for or in respect of the vellum, parchment, or paper upon which such instruments, matters, or things, or any of them, shall be written or printed, by any person or persons or party who shall make, sign, or issue the same, or for whose use or benefit the same shall be made, signed, or issued, the several taxes or sums of money set down in figures against the same respectively, or otherwise specified or set forth in the said schedule."
In Schedule "A" is this clause:
"Bills of lading or receipt (other than charter party) for any goods, merchandise, or effects, to be exported from a port or place in the United States to any foreign port or place, ten cents."
Also the following:
"It shall be the duty of every railroad or steamboat company, carrier, express company, or corporation, or person whose occupation is to act as such, to issue to the shipper or consignor, or his agent, or person from whom any goods are accepted for transportation, a bill of lading, manifest, or other evidence of receipt and forwarding for each shipment received for carriage and transportation, whether in bulk or in boxes, bales, packages, bundles, or not so enclosed or included, and there shall be duly attached
and cancelled, as is in this act provided, to each of said bills of lading, manifests, or other memorandum, and to each duplicate thereof, a stamp of the value of one cent."
And this proviso at the end of the schedule:
"Provided, That the stamp duties imposed by the foregoing schedule on manifests, bills of lading, and passage tickets shall not apply to steamboats or other vessels plying between ports of the United States and ports in British North America."