Inman Steamship Company v. Tinker
94 U.S. 238

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U.S. Supreme Court

Inman Steamship Company v. Tinker, 94 U.S. 238 (1876)

Inman Steamship Company v. Tinker

94 U.S. 238

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

So much of the Act of the Legislature of New York passed May 22, 1862, amended April 17, 1865, as requires, with certain exceptions, all ships or vessels which enter the port of New York, or load or unload, or make fast to any wharf therein, to pay a certain percentage per ton, to be computed on the tonnage expressed in the registers of enrollments of such ships or vessels respectively, is in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and therefore void.

This was a bill in equity filed by the appellant for an injunction to restrain the appellee, the captain of the port of New York and his successors in office, from collecting a fee of one and one-half percent per ton, to be computed from the registered tonnage of certain vessels entering that port, pursuant to sec. 6, c. 487, of the Acts of the legislature of the State of New York, entitled

"An Act defining and regulating the powers, duties, and compensation of the captain of the port and harbor-masters of the port of New York, passed May 22, 1862, three-fifths being present. Amended April 27, 1865."

That section is as follows:

"The following fees shall be collected under this act, and no others: all ships or vessels of the United States of one hundred tons burden or more, except lighters, tugs, barges, and canal boats,

Page 94 U. S. 239

sound and river steamboats employed on regular lines, and all ships or vessels that are permitted by the laws of the United States to enter on the same terms as vessels of the United States, which shall enter the said port of New York, or load or unload, or make fast to any wharf therein, shall pay one and one half of one percent per ton, to be computed from the tonnage expressed in the registers of enrollments of such ships or vessels respectively; all other foreign ships or vessels which shall arrive at and enter the same port, and load or unload, or make fast to any wharf therein, shall pay three cents per ton, to be computed on the tonnage expressed in the registers or documents on board. Where difficulties arise between vessels of less than one hundred tons burden, and the captain of the port or a harbor master shall be called upon to settle the same, the vessel, canal boat, barge, or lighter in fault shall pay two dollars. Such fees shall be paid by the masters, owners, or consignees of such ships or vessels, at the office of the captain of the port, or to persons authorized by him to collect the same, within forty eight hours after the arrival of such ship or vessel. In default of such payment, the same having been duly demanded, such masters, owners, or consignees, on whom such demand shall have been previously made, shall pay double the amount of such fees, to be sued for and recovered, in the name of the captain of said port, in any court having cognizance thereof. All fees under this act shall be paid to the captain of the port, or upon his written order, and he shall have power to employ the necessary assistance in making collections of the same, at an expense of not exceeding five percent upon the amount collected, which expense shall not be considered as the ordinary expense of the office. The captain of the port shall have power to designate some harbor master as his deputy, who may, during his absence, or in case of a vacancy in his office, perform all the duties belonging to the office of captain of the port; and the acts of said harbor master, so performed, shall be valid and binding."

The bill alleges that the complainant, the Inman Steamship Company, a corporation created under the laws of Great Britain, is the owner of a line of steamships belonging to Liverpool, and running thence back and forth to the port of New York, three of which vessels in every five weeks arrive at and enter said port, and load and unload and make fast to a wharf therein; that on account thereof the defendant has heretofore exacted upwards of $125 every five weeks, or over $1,300 per annum, whether or not any services were rendered

Page 94 U. S. 240

by or required of him and the harbor masters. The bill further alleges that the complainant, on failure so to pay such fee, is liable to be charged in double the amount, to have its vessels attached and seized, and to a multiplicity of suits on account thereof.

The defendant demurred to the bill generally, for want of equity. The court below sustained the demurrer and dismissed the bill, whereupon the complainant appealed to this Court.

Page 94 U. S. 241

MR. JUSTICE SWAYNE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is a bill in equity brought to enjoin the appellee from collecting a port charge imposed upon the vessels of the appellant in the harbor of New York, by an act of the legislature of the state, a copy of which is annexed to the bill, and made a part of it. The bill sets forth the following facts:

The appellant is a foreign corporation, and the owner of three steamships, each of which enters the port of New York once within every five weeks. The vessels are respectively of the burden of 2,950 tons, 2,823 tons, and of 2,712 tons. All these vessels belong to the port of Liverpool, in England, and run between that port and the port of New York. The character and object of the act of the legislature complained of are indicated in its title, which is,

"An Act defining and regulating the powers, duties, and compensation of the captain of the port and harbormasters of the port of New York, passed May 22, 1862, three fifths being present; amended April 17, 1865."

The sixth section declares:

"The following fees shall be collected under this act, and no others: all ships or vessels of the United States of one hundred tons burden or more, except lighters, tugs, barges and canal boats, sound and river steamboats employed on regular lines, and all ships or vessels that are permitted by the laws of the United States to enter on the same terms as vessels of the United States, which shall enter the port of New York, or load or unload, or make fast to any wharf therein, shall pay one and one half of one cent per ton, to be computed from the tonnage expressed in the registers of enrollments of such ships or vessels respectively, and all other foreign ships which shall arrive at and enter the same port, and load or unload, or make fast to any wharf therein, shall pay three cents per ton, to be computed on the tonnage expressed in the registers or documents on board,"

&c.

In default of payment as prescribed, it is declared that the master, owner, or consignee, upon whom demand of payment

Page 94 U. S. 242

may have been made, shall pay double the amount of such fees, to be recovered in the name of the captain of the port. The amount which the appellant was required to pay, and did pay, was one cent and a half per ton upon the tonnage of their three vessels respectively upon every arrival of each one in the American port. The bill seeks to relieve them from this burden in future. The respondent demurred to the bill in the court below. The demurrer was sustained, and the bill dismissed. The case was thereupon removed to this Court by appeal.

The following clauses of the Constitution of the United States are invoked in behalf of the appellant as sustaining the bill:

"ART. 1, SEC. 10. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws, and the net produce of all duties and imposts laid by any State on imports or exports shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States, and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress."

"No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay."

It is not claimed that Congress ever consented to the passage of the act of 1862, or of the amendatory act of 1865.

It is insisted by the counsel for the appellant that the charge here in question is a regulation of commerce, which it was not competent for the state to prescribe, and also a tonnage duty, which the state was forbidden to impose.

Our remarks will be confined to the latter proposition.

The classification of the powers of the national government, the several categories into which they may be resolved, and the rights and powers of the states in our complex system of polity, have been so often considered by this Court, that it is unnecessary upon this occasion to re examine the subject. Gilman v. Philadelphia, 3 Wall. 713; Ex Parte McNeil, 13 Wall. 236.

Page 94 U. S. 243

Tonnage, in our law, is a vessel's "internal cubical capacity in tons of one hundred cubic feet each, to be ascertained" in the manner prescribed by Congress. Act of May 6, 1864, 13 Stat. pp. 70, 72; Rev.Stat.U.S. 804,

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