Transportation Company v. Wheeling - 99 U.S. 273 (1878)
U.S. Supreme Court
Transportation Company v. Wheeling, 99 U.S. 273 (1878)
Transportation Company v. Wheeling
99 U.S. 273
Steamboats which ply between different ports on a navigable river may, under a state statute, be taxed as personal property by the city where the company owning them has its principal office, and which is their home port, although they are duly enrolled and licensed as coasting vessels under the laws of the United States, and all fees and charges thereon, demandable under those laws, have been duly paid.
This was an action of assumpsit brought for the recovery of the tax paid under protest to the City of Wheeling, by the Wheeling, Parkersburg, and Cincinnati Transportation Company, the owner of certain steamboats used by it in navigating the Ohio between that city and Parkersburg and the intermediate places on both sides of the river, in the States of West Virginia and Ohio. The vessels were of greater burden than twenty tons, and were duly enrolled and licensed under the act of Congress. The company was incorporated under the laws of West Virginia, and its stock was partly owned in that state and partly in Ohio. Its principal office was in Wheeling. The vessels started from that city on their voyages, and when not running, were laid up there. They were assessed according to their value as personal property of the company, and the tax was collected under the laws of West Virginia, authorizing the city to "assess, levy, and collect an annual tax for the use of the city on personal property in the city." The right of the state to impose a tax on such vessels was denied by the company, as in violation of art. 1, sect. 10, par. 3, of the Constitution, which declares that "no state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage," and of art. 1, sect. 8, par. 3, which provides that Congress shall have power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." The Court of Appeals of West Virginia held the tax in question not to be within these provisions of the Constitution, and affirmed the judgment in favor of the city rendered by the court of original jurisdiction. The company sued out this writ.