Coe v. Errol
Annotate this Case
116 U.S. 517 (1886)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Coe v. Errol, 116 U.S. 517 (1886)
Coe v. Errol
Submitted October 13, 1885
Decided January 25, 1886
116 U.S. 517
Goods and chattels within a state are equally taxable whether owned by a citizen of the state or a citizen of another state, even though the latter be taxed in his own state for the value of the same goods as part of his general personal estate.
Goods, the product of a state, intended for exportation to another state are liable to taxation as part of the general mass of property of the their origin until actually started in course of transportation to the their destination or delivered to a common carrier for that purpose; the carrying of them to and depositing them at a depot for the purpose of transportation is no part of that transportation.
When goods, the product of a state, have begun to be transported from that state to another state, and not till then, they have become the subjects of interstate commerce, and, as such, are subject to national regulation, and cease to be taxable by the state of their origin.
Goods on their way through a state from a place outside thereof to another place outside thereof are in course of interstate or foreign transportation, and are subjects of interstate or foreign commerce, and not taxable by the state through which they are passing, even though detained within that state by low water or other temporary cause.
Logs out at a place in New Hampshire were hauled down to the Town of Errol, on the Androscoggin River in that state, to be transported from thence upon the river to Lewiston, Maine, and waited at Errol for a convenient opportunity for such transportation. Held that they were still part of the general mass of property of the state, liable to taxation if taxed in the usual way in which such property is taxed in the state.
In September, 1881, Edward S. Coe filed a petition in the Supreme Court of New Hampshire for the County of Coos against the Town of Errol for an abatement of taxes, and
therein, among other things, alleged that on the 1st of April, 1880, he and others, residents of Maine and Massachusetts, owned a large number of spruce logs that had been drawn down the winter before from Wentworth's location (in New Hampshire), and placed in Clear Stream and on the banks thereof in the Town of Errol, County of Coos, New Hampshire, to be from thence floated down the Androscoggin River to the State of Maine, to be manufactured and sold, and that the selectmen of said Errol for that year appraised said logs for taxation at the price of $6,000, and assessed thereon state, county, town, and school taxes, in the whole to the amount of $120, and highway taxes to the amount of $60. A further allegation made the same complaint with regard to a lot of spruce logs belonging to Coe and another person, which had been cut in the State of Maine and were on their way of being floated to Lewiston, Maine, to be manufactured, but were detained in the Town of Errol by low water. Similar allegations were made with regard to logs cut the following year, 1880, and drawn from Wentworth's location, and part of them deposited on lands of John Akers, and part on lands of George C. Demerit, in said Town of Errol, to be from thence taken to the State of Maine, and also with regard to other logs cut in Maine, and floated down to Errol on their passage to Lewiston, in the State of Maine, and both which classes of logs were taxed by the selectmen of Errol in the year 1881. The petition also contained the following allegations, to-wit:
"Said Coe further says that said logs of both years, so in the Androscoggin River, have each year been taxed as stock in trade in said Lewiston to said Coe and Pongee, and said Coe claims and represents that none of said logs was subject to taxation in said Errol for the reason that they were in transit to market from one state to another, and also because they had all been in other ways taxed. That said Androscoggin River, from its source to the outlet of the Lumbago Lake in the State of New Hampshire, through said state and through the State of Maine to said Lewiston, is now and for a long time has been, to-wit, for more than twenty years last past, a public highway for the
float age of timber from said lakes and rivers in Maine, and from the upper waters of said Androscoggin River, and its tributaries in New Hampshire, down said river to said Lewiston, and has been thus used by the petitioner and his associates in the lumber business for more than twenty years last past."
Without further pleading, the parties made an agreed case, the important part of which is as follows, to-wit:
"It is agreed that the facts set forth in the petition are all true except what is stated as to the taxation of the logs as stock in trade in Lewiston, Maine, and if that is regarded by the court as material, the case is to be discharged and stand for trial on that point. It is agreed that upon this petition the legality of the taxation is intended to be brought before the court for adjudication, and all formal objections to the proceedings in the town meeting, etc., and all other matters of form, are waived, and we submit the matter to the court for a legal adjudication as to whether or not any or all of the taxes shall be abated."
"And it is agreed that for many years the petitioner and his associates in the lumber business have cut large quantities of timber on their lands in Maine and floated them down the said lakes and rivers in Maine, and down the Androscoggin River to the mills at said Lewiston, and timber thus cut has always lain over one season, being about a year, in the Androscoggin River, in this state, either in Errol, Dimmer, or Milan, and the timber referred to in this petition as having been cut in Maine had lain over in Errol since the spring or summer before the taxation, according to the above custom."
Upon this case the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, in September term, 1882, adjudged as follows, to-wit:
"Now at this term, the said questions of law having been fully determined in said law term, and an order made that that portion of said tax assessed upon the logs cut as aforesaid in said State of Maine be abated, and that the tax assessed upon all of said logs cut in the State of New Hampshire be sustained, and said order having been fully made known to the parties of this case, and become a part of the record thereof, it is therefore ordered and decreed by the court that there be judgment in
accordance with said order made at said law term, without costs to either party."
The petitioner took a bill of exceptions, setting forth the agreed case, and stating, among other things, the points raised on the hearing before the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, and the decision of that court thereon, as follows:
"On said hearing, the petitioner claimed that said taxes named in the petition, and the statutes of this state under the provisions of which said taxes were assessed were illegal and void because said taxes were assessed in violation of, and said statutes of this state are in violation of and repugnant to, the general provisions of the Constitution of the United States, because said taxes were assessed in violation of, and said statutes of this state are in violation of and repugnant to, that part of Section 2, Article IV, of the Constitution of the United States which provides that 'the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states;' because said taxes were assessed in violation of, and said statutes of this state are in violation of and repugnant to, those parts of Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution of the United States which provide that 'the Congress shall have power . . . to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states,' and Section 10 of said Article I, which provides that"
"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. "