Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: March 20, 1933.



Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo

Author: Hughes

[ 289 U.S. Page 56]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

The University of Illinois imported scientific apparatus for use in one of its educational departments. Customs duties were exacted at the rates prescribed by the Tariff Act of 1922, c. 356, 42 Stat. 858. The University paid under protest, insisting that as an instrumentality of the State of Illinois, and discharging a governmental function, it was entitled to import the articles duty free. At the hearing on the protest, the Customs Court decided in favor of the Government (59 Treas. Dec. 747) and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals affirmed the decision. 61 Treas. Dec. 1334. This Court granted certiorari. 28 U. S. C. § 308; 287 U.S. 596.

The Tariff Act of 1922 is entitled -- "An Act to provide revenue, to regulate commerce with foreign countries, to encourage the industries of the United States, and for other purposes." The Congress thus asserted that it was exercising its constitutional authority "to regulate commerce with foreign nations." Art. I, § 8, par. 3. The words of the Constitution "comprehend every species of commercial intercourse between the United States and foreign nations. No sort of trade can be carried on between this country and any other, to which this power does not extend." Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 193. It is an essential attribute of the power that it is exclusive and plenary. As an exclusive power, its exercise may not

[ 289 U.S. Page 57]

     be limited, qualified or impeded to any extent by state action. Id. pp. 196-200; Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 446; Almy v. California, 24 How. 169, 173; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 492, 493. The power is buttressed by the express provision of the Constitution denying to the States authority to lay imposts or duties on imports or exports without the consent of the Congress. Art. I, § 10, par. 2.

The Congress may determine what articles may be imported into this country and the terms upon which importation is permitted. No one can be said to have a vested right to carry on foreign commerce with the United States. Buttfield v. Stranahan, supra; The Abby Dodge, 223 U.S. 166, 176, 177; Brolan v. United States, 236 U.S. 216, 218, 219; Weber v. Freed, 239 U.S. 325, 329, 330. If the Congress saw fit to lay an embargo or to prohibit altogether the importation of specified articles, as the Congress may (The Brigantine William, 2 Hall's Amer.L.J., 255; Fed. Cas. No. 16700; Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, pp. 192, 193; Brolan v. United States, supra; Weber v. Freed, supra; Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers v. United States, 286 U.S. 427, 434), no State by virtue of any interest of its own would be entitled to override the restriction. The principle of duality in our system of government does not touch the authority of the Congress in the regulation of foreign commerce.

Appellant argues that the Tariff Act is a revenue measure; that it is not the less so because it is framed with a view, as its title states, of encouraging the industries of the United States (Hampton & Co. v. United States, 276 U.S. 394, 411, 412); that the duty is a tax, that the Act is not one for the regulation of commerce but is an exertion of the taxing power, and that, as such, it is subject to the constitutional limitation that the Congress may not lay a tax so as to impose a direct burden upon an instrumentality

[ 289 U.S. Page 58]

     of a State used in the performance of a governmental function.

It is true that the taxing power is a distinct power; that it is distinct from the power to regulate commerce. Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, p. 201. It is also true that the taxing power embraces the power to lay duties. Art. I, § 8, par. 1. But because the taxing power is a distinct power and embraces the power to lay duties, it does not follow that duties may not be imposed in the exercise of the power to regulate commerce. The contrary is well established. Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, p. 202. "Under the power to regulate foreign commerce Congress impose duties on importations, give drawbacks, pass embargo and non-intercourse laws, and make all other regulations necessary to navigation, to the safety of passengers, and the protection of property." Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Pet. 449, 505. The laying of duties is "a common means of executing the power." 2 Story on the Constitution, § 1088. It has not been questioned that this power may be exerted by laying duties "to countervail the regulations and restrictions of foreign nations." Id., § 1087. And the Congress may, and undoubtedly does, in its tariff legislation consider the conditions of foreign trade in all its aspects and effects. Its requirements are not the less regulatory because they are not prohibitory or retaliatory. They embody the congressional conception of the extent to which regulation should go. But if the Congress may thus exercise the power, and asserts, as it has asserted here, that it is exercising it, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.