Tappan v. Marchants' National Bank
86 U.S. 490 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tappan v. Marchants' National Bank, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 490 490 (1873)

Tappan v. Marchants' National Bank

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 490

Syllabus

1. Shares of stock in the national banks are personal property, and though they are a species of personal property which, in one sense, is intangible and incorporeal, the law which created them could separate them from the person of their owner for the purpose of taxation, and give them a sites of their own.

2. The forty-first section of the National Banking Act of June 3, 1864 -- which in effect provided that all shares in such banks held by any person or body corporate may be included in the valuation of the personal property of such person or corporation in the assessment of taxes imposed

Page 86 U. S. 491

under state authority at the place where the bank is located, and not elsewhere -- did this.

3. This provision of the National Banking Act became a law of the property, and every state within which a national bank was afterwards located acquired jurisdiction, for the purposes of taxation, of all the shareholders of the bank, both resident and nonresident, and of all its shares, and power to legislate accordingly.

4. Nothing in Article IX in the Constitution of Illinois of 1848, and which was still existing in 1867, prevented the legislature of the state from providing for the taxation of the owners of shares of the capital stock of a national bank in that state at the place within the state where the bank was located, without regard to their places of residence.

5. The act of the said legislature passed June 13, 1867, so providing, was valid under the said constitution.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Northern District of Illinois in which court the Merchants' National Bank of Chicago -- a bank incorporated under the "Act to provide a National currency," &c., approved June 3, 1864, [Footnote 1] and having its banking house and carrying on its operations of discount and deposit in the Town of South Chicago, Cook County, Illinois -- filed a bill against one Tappan, collector of county and municipal taxes in the said Town of South Chicago, Cook County, to enjoin his collection of such taxes upon any of the shares of stock in the said bank assessed under a statute of Illinois passed June 13, 1867.

Some shares of the bank were held by persons resident in the said Town of South Chicago, Cook County, where, as already said, the bank itself was situated and where Tappan, the collector of taxes for that town, resided, but many were held by persons who, though residing in Illinois, did not reside in the Town of South Chicago or in the County of Cook at all, but resided out of both, and many were held by persons who did not reside in the State of Illinois at all, but resided in other states altogether.

The grounds upon which the bill was filed were apparently that under the Constitution of Illinois, the taxes were not validly laid on the residents of the state who resided out of the Town of South Chicago and out of the County of Cook;

Page 86 U. S. 492

that therefore, under that constitution, which required uniformity of taxation in respect to persons and property within the jurisdiction of the body imposing the same, there were no taxes laid on the shares of any persons resident in the Town of South Chicago or in the county of Cook, and of course therefore no taxes on any shareholders resident anywhere in Illinois, and as the Act of Congress authorizing a taxation by the state of shares in the national banks owned by persons who were not residents of such state declared that there should be no tax imposed on them which was not imposed on residents of the state, there was no tax laid on any shareholders anywhere.

The whole matter, it is thus obvious, turned upon the validity of the tax laid under the state act of June 13, 1867, upon the shares of residents of Illinois who resided out of Cook County and out of the Town of South Chicago.

The case, as respected the Constitution of Illinois, the state act of June 13, 1867, laying the tax, and the provisions of the National Banking Act, or, to call it by its title, the "Act to provide a National Currency," &c., was thus:

The Constitution of Illinois (adopted A.D. 1848) ordains:

"ARTICLE IX"

"SECTION 2. The general assembly shall provide for levying a tax by valuation, so that every person and corporation shall pay a tax in proportion to the value of his or her property, such value to be ascertained by some person or persons to be elected or appointed in such manner as the general assembly shall direct and not otherwise."

"SECTION 5. The corporate authorities of counties, townships, school districts, cities, towns, and villages, may be vested with power to assess and collect taxes for corporate purposes, such taxes to be uniform in respect to persons and property, within the jurisdiction of the body imposing the same. And the general assembly shall require that all the property within the limits of municipal corporations, belonging to individuals, shall be taxed for the payment of debts contracted under authority of law."

This provision of fundamental law being in force in Illinois,

Page 86 U. S. 493

Congress passed, June 3, 1864, the "Act to provide a National currency," [Footnote 2] already mentioned. This act, after providing for the formation of associations for the purpose of banking, declares:

"SECTION 12. The capital stock of any association formed under this act shall be divided into shares of $100 each, and be deemed personal property and transferable on the books of the association."

"SECTION 40. The president and cashier of every association shall cause to be kept at all times a full and correct list of the names and residences of all the shareholders in the association and the number of shares held by each, . . . and such list shall be subject to the inspection of all the officers authorized to assess taxes under state authority."

"SECTION 41. Nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent all the shares in any of the said associations held by any person or body corporate from being included in the valuation of the personal property of such person or corporation in the assessment of taxes imposed by or under state authority, at the place where such bank is located and not elsewhere, but not at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of such state."

Subsequently to the passage by Congress of this National Banking Act, the State of Illinois passed the Act of June 13, 1867, under which the tax now resisted was laid.

It enacted:

"No tax shall be assessed upon the capital of any bank or any banking association organized under the authority of this state or organized under the authority of the United States and located within this state."

"But the stockholders in such banks or banking associations shall be assessed and taxed on the value of their shares of stock therein in the county, town, or district where such bank or banking association is located, and not elsewhere, whether such stockholder reside in such town, county, or district or not, but not at any greater rate than is or may be assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individuals in this state. "

Page 86 U. S. 494

Before the passage of the act just above quoted, question had arisen as to the meaning in the forty-first section of the National Banking Act of the words "at the place where the bank is located." Some courts, like those of Maine, supposed that Congress meant that the shares should be assessed in and for the benefit of the taxing district. [Footnote 3] Other courts, like those of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, [Footnote 4] were of a different opinion, holding that the expression meant the state and not the taxing district. Accordingly Congress, by an Act of February 10, 1868, enacted: [Footnote 5]

"That the words 'place where the bank is located and not elsewhere' in section 41 of the 'Act to provide a National currency,' approved June 3, 1864, shall be construed to mean 'the state within which the bank is located.' And the legislature of each state may determine and direct the manner and place of taxing all the shares of national banks located within said state, subject to the restriction that the taxation shall not be at a greater rate than is assessed upon other moneyed capital in the hands of individual citizens of such state. And provided always that the shares of any national bank owned by nonresidents of any state shall be taxed in the city or town where said bank is located, and not elsewhere."

The bill filed by the bank, after setting out the facts of nonresidence &c., already stated, and the violation of the Constitution in levying the tax complained of, and a threat of the collector to sell the stock of the bank if the taxes claimed were not paid, alleged, by way of giving a jurisdiction in equity, that the shareholders refused to pay the taxes and forbade the payment of them by the bank, and threatened a multiplicity of suits against the bank in case it paid them or in case it deducted the amount thereof from any dividends upon the stock; that if the collector sold the stock, irreparable damage would be done to the stockholders; that the bank was the trustee of its stockholders, and as such

Page 86 U. S. 495

entitled to protect their interests; and that a sale of their stock would prejudice the bank in the public mind and work damage to it incapable of remedy at law.

The court below on demurrer to the bill for want of equity -- disregarding the technical objection (for which Dows v. City of Chicago [Footnote 6] was cited as authority), that the bank had no power to interfere in the way in which it had done, in behalf of its stockholders -- and considering that the law of Illinois laying the tax was in violation of its constitution, decreed an injunction. From that decree this appeal was taken.

Page 86 U. S. 499

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