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U.S. Supreme Court

Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District, 120 U.S. 489 (1887)

Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing District

Submitted January 8, 1886

Argued November 5, 1888

Decided March 7, 1887

120 U.S. 489


Chapter 96, § 16, Stats.Tennessee, 1881, enacting that

"All drummers and all persons not having a regular licensed house of business in the Taxing District Shelby County offering for sale or selling goods, wares, or merchandise therein by sample shall be required to pay to the county trustee, the sum of $10 per week or $25 per month for such privilege"

applies to persons soliciting the sale of goods on behalf of individuals or firms doing business in another state, and so far as it applies to them it is a regulation of commerce among the states, and violates the provision of the Constitution of the United states which grants to Congress the power to make such regulations.

Interstate commerce cannot be taxed at all by a state even though the same amount of tax should be laid on domestic commerce or that which is carried on solely within the state.

The power granted to Congress to regulate commerce among the states being exclusive when the subjects are national in their character or admit only of one uniform system of regulation, the failure of Congress to exercise that power in any case is an expression of its will that the subject shall be left free from restrictions or impositions upon it by the several states.

A state may enact laws which in practice operate to affect commerce among the status, as by providing in the legitimate exercise of its police power and general jurisdiction for the security and comfort of persons and the protection of property by establishing and regulating channels for commercial facilities, by the passage of inspection laws and laws to restrict the sale of articles injurious to health and morals, by the imposition of taxes upon avocations within its borders not interfering with foreign or interstate commerce or employment or with business exercised chanrobles.com-red

Page 120 U. S. 490

under authority of the Constitution of the United States, and in other ways indicated in the opinion of the Court subject in all cases to the limitations therein defined, but the statute of the Tennessee considered in this opinion is not such a law.

This was an information in a state court of Tennessee against the plaintiff in error for doing business in the Taxing District of Shelby County in that state as a drummer on behalf of a firm doing business in Cincinnati, Ohio, without a license as required by the provision of the statute of Tennessee, which is set out in the opinion of the Court. The defendant was found guilty, and this judgment was affirmed by the supreme court of the state on appeal. 13 Lea 303. The defendant sued out this writ of error. The cause was submitted at the last term of court. The court, on the 8th of March, 1886, ordered it argued, and argument was heard accordingly at this term. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.


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