Steamship Company v. Portwardens,Annotate this Case
73 U.S. 31
U.S. Supreme Court
Steamship Company v. Portwardens, , 73 U.S. 31 (1867)
Steamship Company v. Portwardens
73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 31
A statute of a state enacting that the masters and wardens of a port within it should be entitled to demand and receive, in addition to other fees, the sum of five dollars, whether called on to perform any service or not, for every vessel arriving in that port is a regulation of commerce within the meaning of the Constitution, and also a duty on tonnage, and is unconstitutional and void.
The Constitution of the United States ordains that Congress shall have the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states," that
"No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws,"
and that "no state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty on tonnage."
With these prohibitions of the Constitution upon state legislation in force as the supreme law of the land, a statute of the State of Louisiana, passed on the 15th of March, 1855, enacted that the master and wardens of the port of New Orleans should be entitled to demand and receive, in addition to other fees, the sum of five dollars, whether called on to perform any service or not, for every vessel arriving in that port.
Under this act, the sum of five dollars was demanded of the steamship Charles Morgan, belonging to the Southern Steamship Company of New Orleans, and payment being refused, suit was brought against the owner and judgment recovered in a justice's court, which judgment was subsequently affirmed by the supreme court of the state. The object of this suit in error was to reverse that judgment.
The question presented by the record, therefore, was this: is the act of the Legislature of Louisiana repugnant to the Constitution of the United States?