Louisiana v. Texas
176 U.S. 1 (1900)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Louisiana v. Texas, 176 U.S. 1 (1900)

Louisiana v. Texas

No. 6

Submitted October 24, 1899

Decided January 15, 1900

176 U.S. 1

Syllabus

The bill of complaint on the part of Louisiana against Texas, alleged that the State of Texas had granted to its Governor and its Health Officer extensive powers over the establishment and maintenance of quarantines over infectious or contagious diseases; that this power had been exercised in a way and with a purpose to build up and benefit the commerce of cities in Texas which were rivals of New Orleans, and it prayed for a decree that

"neither the State of Texas, nor her Governor, nor her Health Officer, has the right, under the cover of an exercise of police or quarantine powers, to declare and enforce against interstate commerce, between the State of Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, an absolute embargo prohibiting the movement and conduct of said commerce, or to make, declare and enforce against places infected with yellow fever or other infectious diseases in the State of Louisiana discriminative quarantine rules or regulations, affecting interstate commerce between the Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, different from and more burdensome than the quarantine rules and regulations affecting interstate or foreign commerce between the State of Texas and other states and countries infected with yellow fever and other infectious diseases,"

and the bill asked for an injunction, restraining the Texas officials from enforcing the Texas laws in the manner in which they were enforced. Held:

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(1) That in order to maintain jurisdiction of the bill, it must appear that the controversy to be determined was a controversy arising directly between the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas, and not a controversy in vindication of the grievances of particular individuals.

(2) That the gravamen of this bill was not a special and peculiar injury such as would sustain an action by a private person, but that the State of Louisiana presented herself in the attitude of parens patriae, trustee, guardian or representative of all her citizens.

(3) That the bill does not set up facts which show that the State of Texas has so authorized or confirmed the alleged action of her health officer as to make it her own, or from which it necessarily follows that the two states are in controversy within the meaning of the Constitution.

(4) That the Court was unable to hold that the bill could be maintained as presenting a case of controversy between a state and citizens of another state.

(5) That the bill could not be maintained as against the health officer alone, on the theory that his conduct was in violation of or in excess of a valid law of the state.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concurred in the result. MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurred in the result, but dissented from some of the propositions contained in the opinion of the Court, as did also MR. JUSTICE BROWN.

The State of Louisiana, by her Governor, applied to this Court for leave to file a bill of complaint against the State of Texas, her Governor, and her health officer. Argument was had on objections to granting leave, but, it appearing to the Court the better course in this instance, leave was granted and the bill filed, whereupon defendants demurred, and the cause was submitted on the oral argument already had and printed briefs.

The bill alleged:

"That the City of New Orleans, one of the great commercial cities of this Republic and the second export city of this continent, containing about 275,000 inhabitants, many of whom are largely engaged in interstate commerce with the inhabitants of the State of Texas, is situated within the territory of your orator; that said city contains nearly one-fourth of all the inhabitants of your orator, and the assessed values of her property are more than one-half the assessed values of the whole state, and she contributes by taxes and licenses more than five-eighths of your orator's revenue. "

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"That two lines of railroad, the Southern Pacific and the Texas & Pacific, run directly from the City of New Orleans through the States of Louisiana and Texas, and into the states and territories of the United States and of Mexico, beyond the State of Texas, with the inhabitants of which states and territories the citizens of New Orleans are also engaged in interstate and foreign commerce, such commerce largely following the lines of said railroads and their many connections."

"That the State of Texas, by her Revised Civil Statutes, adopted at the regular session of the twenty-fourth legislature, held in the year 1895, being Title XCII thereof, has granted to her Governor and her health officer extensive powers over the establishment and maintenance of quarantines against infectious or contagious diseases, with authority to make rules and regulations for the detention of vessels, persons, and property coming into the state from places infected, or deemed to be infected, with such diseases."

"That Joseph D. Sayers, a citizen of the State of Texas, is now, and has been for some time past, Governor of said state."

"That William F. Blunt, a citizen of the State of Texas, is now, and has been for some time past, the state health officer of the State of Texas."

"That the ports of said state, situated on the Gulf coast, are engaged in commerce with the ports of Mexico, Central and South America, and Cuba, known to be permanently infected with yellow fever; said commerce being largely competitive with similar commerce coming to the port of New Orleans,"

"That on the 1st day of March, 1899, Joseph D. Sayers, Governor of the State of Texas, under the provisions of the said laws, issued his proclamation establishing quarantine on the Gulf coast and Rio Grande border against all places, persons, or things coming from places infected by yellow fever, etc., a copy of which proclamation is hereto annexed and made part of this bill and marked Exhibit 'A.'"

"That the rules and regulations established in said quarantine proclamation permit trade and commerce between such infected ports and the State of Texas, and provide for the

Page 176 U. S. 4

fumigation and reasonable detention of ships and cargoes from infected ports."

"That on or about the 31st day of August, 1899, a case of yellow fever was officially declared to exist in the City of New Orleans, in a part of the city several miles away from the commercial part thereof, and from that time to this, several other sporadic cases have been reported in similar parts of the city."

"That as soon as said first case was reported, the said William F. Blunt, Health Officer of the State of Texas, claiming to act under the provisions of Article 4324 of the Revised Civil Statutes, under the pretense of establishing a quarantine, placed an embargo on all interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans and the State of Texas, absolutely prohibiting all common carriers entering the State of Texas from bringing into the state any freight or passengers, or even the mails of the United States, coming from the City of New Orleans, and to enforce these orders he immediately placed, and now maintains, armed guards, acting under the authority of the State of Texas, on all the lines of travel from the State of Louisiana into the State of Texas, with instructions to enforce the embargo declared by him vi et armis, which instructions these armed guards are carrying out to the letter; that about six days later, he modified his order so as to permit the government of the United States to carry and deliver the mails, and also modified his order so as to permit persons and their baggage to enter the State of Texas, after ten days' detention at the quarantine detention camps established by him, and after fumigation of their baggage; but that he now maintains, and announces his intention to maintain indefinitely his absolute prohibition of all interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans and the State of Texas; that he has refused to permit the introduction of sulphuric acid in iron drums, unpacked hardware, machinery, and other articles coming from localities in the City of New Orleans far removed from the places where the sporadic cases of fever have occurred, and which by their nature are concededly incapable of conveying infection; that he had established

Page 176 U. S. 5

no system of classification or inspection of the articles of interstate commerce coming from the City of New Orleans, to determine whether they are or may be infected, or whether they are capable or not of conveying infection, no period of detention for such articles, no place or method of disinfection thereof, his only method being absolute and unconditional prohibition of such interstate commerce; that it is a notorious fact, and well known to said Blunt, that all of the interstate commerce between New Orleans and Texas is carried on by railroads, and none by water communication between the port of New Orleans and the Texas ports, and that the effect of his orders is to destroy all such commerce, to take away the trade of the merchants and businessmen of the City of New Orleans, and to transfer that trade to rival business cities in the State of Texas."

"That while Joseph D. Sayers, Governor of the State of Texas, has issued no formal proclamation of quarantine, as provided by law, to-wit, Article 4324 of the Revised Civil Statutes, defining the rules and regulations of such quarantine so declared by said Blunt, your orator charges that the rules and regulations established by said Blunt have the full force of law until modified or changed by the proclamation of the Governor, and that the Governor knows all these facts, and approves and adopts the same, and permits these rules and regulations to stand and to be executed in full force and effect as established by said Blunt."

"Now, your orator recognizes the right and power of the State of Texas and the public officials thereof to take prudent and reasonable measures to protect the people of said state from infection, to establish quarantine and reasonable inspection laws, but your orator denies that said state, or its officials acting under its laws, under the cover of exercising its police powers, can prohibit or so burden interstate commerce as to make such commerce impossible."

"Your orator avers that it is a recognized and acknowledged fact by all the sanitarians and health officials of the various states exposed to infection by yellow fever, and by the health officials of the United States, and by all scientific

Page 176 U. S. 6

students of infection and sanitation, that commerce can be conducted between infected and noninfected points, with small inconvenience and without any danger of infection by classifying the articles of commerce and by pursuing certain well recognized rules and precautions with reference to the articles and vehicles of commerce."

"That after the yellow fever outbreak of 1897, a quarantine convention was held in Mobile, Ala., and, on the advice of that convention, a conference of the health officials of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and the United States Marine Hospital Service met at Atlanta, Ga., and formulated such regulations, which were adopted by the boards of health of all said states, and, as subsequently revised, are now in full force and effect between the said states; that additional experience having been gained by the reappearance of yellow fever in the fall of 1898, a revising conference was held in the City of New Orleans on February 9, 1899, at which conference the Atlanta regulations were in some respects modified. A copy of the said regulations, original and as modified, are hereto annexed, and made part of this bill and marked Exhibit 'B.'"

"Your orator avers that said William F. Blunt, or his predecessor in office, was Health Officer of the State of Texas at the time these conferences were held, that he and his predecessor in office refused or neglected to attend them in person or by representative, and he has continually refused to adopt the Atlanta regulations, or any of them, or any regulations similar to them, and insists, as his predecessor in office insisted, upon being a law to himself, and upon using no means of dealing with yellow fever infection in the City of New Orleans, or elsewhere in the State of Louisiana, real or imaginary, except an absolute embargo upon interstate commerce, to be established at his pleasure and to last as long as he chooses to maintain it."

"That in pursuance of this policy, in the year 1897, his predecessor in office established a similar embargo on interstate commerce between New Orleans and other points in Louisiana, supposed by him to be infected, and the State of

Page 176 U. S. 7

Texas, on the 10th day of September, and refused to remove or to modify said embargo until the ___ day of December, 1897, during which period he even refused to permit railroad cars that had been in the City of New Orleans to enter or even pass through the State of Texas on their way to the countries, states, and territories beyond."

"That in pursuance of the same policy, in the year 1898, the said William F. Blunt, Health Officer, and the Governor of the State of Texas, established a similar embargo on all interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas on the 18th day of September, and refused to remove or modify the same until the 1st day of November."

"That in pursuance of the same policy, the said William F. Blunt, because a single case of yellow fever was declared in the City of New Orleans, did on May 30, 1899, establish a similar embargo on interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans and the State of Texas, which he refused to modify or to remove until June 9, 1899, and then only under great pressure, although he was advised on June 2, 1899, by the representatives of the health authorities of the States of Alabama and Mississippi, of the United States Marine Hospital Service, and of the Louisiana State board of health, who had been for some days in the City of New Orleans making a personal inspection of her sanitary and health conditions, that they deemed it 'unnecessary and unwise for any state or city to quarantine against New Orleans under present condition.'"

"Your orator avers that the State of Texas, her Governor, and her Health Officer, as shown by the rules and regulations established by them in the proclamation aforesaid for the quarantine on the Gulf coast, admit the truthfulness of the claim of your orator that commerce can be carried on with infected places and ports, under reasonable rules and regulations as to inspection, fumigation, and detention, and admit that there are articles of commerce incapable of conveying infection, and actually permit such commerce in all articles to be so carried on to the advantage and benefit of the commerce of the ports of Texas and her merchants engaged in commerce in said ports. "

Page 176 U. S. 8

"Your orator avers that the effect of the embargoes imposed by the State of Texas upon the commerce of the City of New Orleans with Texas is to build up and benefit the commerce of the City of Galveston, in Texas, and the commerce of other cities in Texas, all of which are commercial rivals of the City of New Orleans for the large commerce of the State of Texas and the adjoining states and territories."

"That prior to the embargoes aforesaid of the years 1897 and 1898, the City of New Orleans was the greatest cotton exporting port of the United States, and a very large portion of the cotton grown in Texas was exported through the port of New Orleans; for instance, for the season of 1894-5, more than 31 percent thereof; for the season 1895-6, more than 30 percent thereof; for the season 1896-7, 25 percent thereof."

"That as consequence of the two trade embargoes aforesaid, the percentage of the Texas cotton crop exported through the port of New Orleans for the season of 1897-8 was only 19 percent, and for the season of 1898-9 was only 15 percent, and for the season of 1898-9, ending September 1, 1899, the City of Galveston handled more export cotton than the City of New Orleans."

"That the effect of said embargoes is all the more disastrous to the commerce of your orator and of her cities and towns because declared and made operative during the months of September, October, November, and the early part of December, the period of the greatest activity and the largest movement of commerce among the states of the south, and between the State of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, and the State of Texas."

"Now your orator avers that, in view of the unreasonable, harsh, prohibitive, and discriminating character of the pretended quarantines declared and maintained by the State of Texas and her health officer against the City of New Orleans and other localities in the State of Louisiana, is nothing less than a commercial war declared against your orator, her ports, cities, and citizens; not for the bona fide purpose of protecting the health of the State of Texas, but for the purpose of increasing

Page 176 U. S. 9

the trade and commerce of the State of Texas and of her ports, cities, and citizens, to the great damage and injury of your orator and her citizens; that such embargoes on interstate commerce injure and impoverish your orator's citizens, reduce the value of her taxable property, diminish her revenues, retard immigration, reduce the value of her public lands, and deprive her citizens of their rights and privileges as citizens of the United States."

"Your orator avers that the embargo upon interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, and the State of Texas, established by said Blunt on or about the 1st day of September, 1899, and now maintained by him and the other officials of the State of Texas, will be continued by them for an indefinite period, to the great damage and injury of your orator's ports, commerce, and revenues, and to the commerce of her citizens and to the rights of her citizens under the Constitution of the United States, unless they be enjoined and restrained by order of this Court."

"Your orator avers that, from the past conduct of the State of Texas and of her governors and health officers, your orator is justified in averring and charging, and does aver and charge, that it is the fixed purpose and intention of the said state, and of her governors and health officers, whenever in the future any case of yellow fever, or other infectious disease, occurs in any parish, city, or town within your orator's borders, to immediately declare, set up, and maintain an absolute prohibition of interstate commerce between said supposed infected parish, city, or town, and the State of Texas, and to keep the same in force during the pleasure of such officials, or to make and establish discriminative rules and regulations covering quarantines on such interstate commerce different from and more burdensome than the rules and regulations concerning quarantines on interstate commerce with other states and foreign commerce with countries also infected with yellow fever, or other infectious diseases, and thereby to injure and oppress your orator and her citizens."

"Now your orator avers that the absolute prohibition

Page 176 U. S. 10

against the movement and operation of interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans and the inhabitants thereof and the State of Texas and the inhabitants thereof, established by said William F. Blunt, Health Officer of the State of Texas, and now maintained and enforced by him, the Governor, and the other officials of the State of Texas, is in direct contravention of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, and particularly of that clause thereof which grants to the Congress power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes, and is null, void, and of no effect, and the continuance thereof ought to be restrained by the order of this honorable court."

"Your orator further avers that the various cities, counties, and towns in the State of Texas have authority under the statutes aforesaid to establish quarantines, but all such quarantines are by statute subordinate to, subject to, and regulated by the rules and regulations prescribed by the Governor and the State Health Officer, and that therefore all such quarantines are dirigible and controllable by the Governor and the Health Officer of Texas."

"Your orator is informed and believes, and so charges, that it is the intention of certain counties, cities, and towns along the lines of the railroads aforesaid, in case your honors should restrain the operation of the embargo established as aforesaid by William F. Blunt, State Health Officer, to severally establish the same embargo on their own account, and to prevent the passage of trains on said railroads carrying interstate commerce from the City of New Orleans through them to other parts of the State of Texas and to other states, and to so hinder, obstruct, and delay the transportation of said commerce along the lines of railroad running through their limits as to render its conduct impossible; that in case it should be considered that the public authorities of such counties, towns, and cities are not personally bound by any order your honors may issue in this cause, and in case they should attempt to carry out any such illegal plan, your orator reserves the right hereafter to make such officials parties to this bill, so as to subject them to the control of the court. "

Page 176 U. S. 11

The bill then prayed for answers under oath; that the Court decree

"that neither the State of Texas nor her Governor nor her Health Officer has the right, under the cover of an exercise of police or quarantine powers, to declare and enforce against interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, an absolute embargo, prohibiting the movement and conduct of said commerce, or to make, declare, and enforce against places infected with yellow fever or other infectious diseases in the State of Louisiana discriminative quarantine rules and regulations affecting interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, different from and more burdensome than the quarantine rules and regulations affecting interstate or foreign commerce between the State of Texas and other states and countries infected with yellow fever or other infectious diseases, and that the embargo and prohibition upon interstate commerce between the City of New Orleans and the State of Texas, declared by William F. Blunt, Health Officer of the State of Texas, on or about the 1st day of September, 1899, and now maintained and enforced by the State of Texas under the guise of a quarantine against yellow fever, is contrary to the Constitution of the United States, null, void, and of no effect and validity;"

that a preliminary injunction be issued

"prohibiting, enjoining, and restraining the State of Texas and all of her officers and public officials, and prohibiting, enjoining, and restraining Joseph D. Sayers, Governor of the State of Texas, and William F. Blunt, Health Officer of the State of Texas, their successors in office, and all of their subordinates, assistants, agents, and employees, from establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, or attempting to establish, maintain, and enforce, under the guise of a quarantine against yellow fever, any embargo or absolute prohibition upon interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, or from establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, or attempting to establish, maintain, and enforce against interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana, or any part thereof, and the State of Texas, discriminative and burdensome quarantine

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regulations other and different from the regulations established by such authorities against foreign and interstate commerce between the State of Texas and other countries and states infected with yellow fever, or other infectious diseases, and particularly enjoining, prohibiting, and restraining them, and each of them, from maintaining or enforcing, directly or indirectly, the prohibitory embargo on interstate commerce established against the City of New Orleans on or about the 1st day of September, 1899, under the guise and pretense of a quarantine regulation,"

and that such injunction be made perpetual on final hearing, for costs, and for general relief.

The demurrer assigned the following causes:

"First. That this Court has no jurisdiction of either the parties to or of the subject matter of this suit, because it appears from the face of said bill that the matters complained of do not constitute, within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, any controversy between the states of Louisiana and Texas."

"Second. Because the allegations of said bill show that the only issues presented by said bill arise between the State of Texas, or her officers, and certain persons in the City of New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, who are engaged in interstate commerce, and which do not in any manner concern the State of Louisiana as a corporate body or state."

"Third. Because said bill shows upon its face that this suit is in reality for and on behalf of certain individuals engaged in interstate commerce, and while the suit is attempted to be prosecuted for and in the name of the State of Louisiana, said state is in effect loaning its name to said individuals, and is only a nominal party, the real parties at interest being said individuals in the said City of New Orleans, who are engaged in interstate commerce."

"Fourth. Because it appears from the face of said bill that the State of Louisiana, in her right of sovereignty, is seeking to maintain this suit for the redress of the supposed wrongs of her citizens in regard to interstate commerce, while under the Constitution and laws, the said state possesses no such sovereignty as empowers her to bring an original suit in this Court for such purpose. "

Page 176 U. S. 13

"Fifth. Because it appears from the face of said bill that no property right of the State of Louisiana is in any manner affected by the quarantine complained of, nor is any such property right involved in this suit as would give this Court original jurisdiction of this cause."

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