Caldwell v. North Carolina
Annotate this Case
187 U.S. 622 (1903)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Caldwell v. North Carolina, 187 U.S. 622 (1903)
Caldwell v. North Carolina
Argued October 22, 1902
Decided January 12, 1903
187 U.S. 622
An ordinance passed by the board of aldermen of the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, in pursuance of powers conferred by the legislature of the state, that every person engaged in the business of selling or delivering picture frames, pictures, photographs or likenesses of the human face in the City of Greensboro, whether an order for the same shall have been previously taken or not, shall pay a license tax of ten dollars for each year, is an attempt to interfere with, and to regulate commerce, and as such is invalid as to an agent of a corporation residing out of the state. Where a portrait company carrying on business in one state obtains orders through an agent in another state for pictures and frames, the fact that, in filling the orders, it ships the pictures and frames in separate packages, for convenience in packing and handling, to its own agent, who places the pictures in their proper places or frames and delivers them to the persons ordering them, does not deprive the transaction of its character of interstate commerce, or take it out of the salutary protection of the commerce clause of the federal Constitution.
AT June term, 1900, of the Superior Court of Guilford County, North Carolina, E. M. Caldwell was tried before a court and jury for an alleged offense in having engaged in the business of delivering pictures without having first obtained a license so to do. The jury found a special verdict as follows:
"The business mentioned in the ordinance. following is not"
named in the charter of the city, other than in the above section.
"That the following is an ordinance duly passed by the Board of Aldermen of the City of Greensboro under and by virtue of the foregoing section of said charter, and prior to any of the orders being taken:"
" Be it ordained by the Board of Aldermen of the City of Greensboro, North Carolina:"
" That every person engaged in the business of selling or delivering picture frames, pictures, photographs or likenesses of the human face in the City of Greensboro, whether an order
for the same shall have been previously taken or not, unless the said business is carried on by the same person in connection with some other business for which a license has already been paid to the city, shall pay a license tax of ten dollars for each year."
" Any person engaging in said business without having paid the license tax required herein shall be fined twenty dollars, and each and every sale or delivery shall constitute a separate and distinct offense."
"That neither the defendant, the Chicago Portrait Company, nor any of the employees of the Chicago Portrait Company, have paid the city any license tax."
"If, upon the foregoing facts, the court shall be of opinion that the defendant is guilty, the jury say that he is guilty; otherwise they say that he is not guilty."
"That on the ___ day of _____, 1900, the defendant, being employed by the Chicago Portrait Company, a foreign corporation, of Chicago, Illinois, came to Greensboro for the purpose of delivering certain pictures and frames for which contracts of sale had previously been made by other employees of the Chicago Portrait Company, who had preceded the defendant in Greensboro;"
"That the defendant went to the Southern Railway freight station and took therefrom large packages of pictures and frames which had been shipped to Greensboro, North Carolina, addressed to the Chicago Portrait Company, carried these packages to the rooms of the defendant in the Woods House, a hotel in the City of Greensboro, and there broke the bulk, placing said pictures in their proper frames, and from this point delivered the pictures one at a time to the purchasers in the City of Greensboro;"
"The defendant had been engaged in this work two days when arrested;"
"That section 57 of the Charter of the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, is as follows:"
" That, in addition to the subjects listed for taxation, the aldermen may levy a tax on the following subjects, the amount of which taxed, when fixed, shall be collected by the collector of taxes, and if it be not paid on demand, the same may be recovered
by suit, or the articles upon which the tax is imposed, or any other property of the owner made by forthwith distrained and sold to satisfy the same, namely:"
" 21. Upon all subjects taxed under Schedule B, chapter one hundred and thirty six, Laws of North Carolina, session of one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three, not heretofore provided for, shall pay a license or privilege tax of ten dollars. And the board of aldermen shall have power to impose a license tax on any business carried on in the City of Greensboro not before enumerated herein, not to exceed ten dollars a year."
Upon this special verdict, the court adjudged that defendant was guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine of twenty dollars and costs of the action. From this judgment the defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina. That court, Faircloth, C.J., and Clark, J., dissenting, on November 7, 1900, affirmed the judgment of the superior court, and thereupon the cause was brought to this Court by a writ of error allowed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.