Section 1343, Revised Laws of Hawaii, imposing a license fee of
six hundred dollars for auctioneers in the District of Honolulu and
fifteen dollars for each other taxation district, is not
Page 226 U. S. 185
as depriving an auctioneer in Honolulu of his property without
due process of law or as denying him the equal protection of the
On writ of error to a territorial court, only such questions are
before this Court as can be raised upon writ of error to a state
What amounts to selling at auction, within the meaning of a
license statute, is for the state or territorial court to
determine, and presents no federal question reviewable by this
It is the province of the legislature to determine upon the
amount of license fees, and unless the classification is arbitrary
and unreasonable it may establish different amounts for different
This Court will assume that the legislature of a state or
territory takes into consideration the varying conditions in
respective localities in which the same business is to be
conducted, and unless palpably arbitrary the classification will
not be disturbed.
In view of the fact that the great bulk of the business of
Hawaii is done at Honolulu, this Court will not declare that a
license fee of six hundred dollars for auctioneers in that district
is an arbitrary and unreasonable classification as against fifteen
dollars for auctioneer's license in other districts of Hawaii.
19 Haw. 651 affirmed.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
Page 226 U. S. 190
MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
The plaintiff in error was convicted in the district court of
Honolulu, Hawaii, of the offense of selling goods at auction, in
Honolulu, without an auctioneer's license, and was sentenced to pay
a fine of $600 and costs. The supreme court affirmed the
conviction, and the case comes here on error.
In order to obtain a license for auction sales, it was necessary
to pay the fee prescribed by § 1343 of the Revised Laws of the
territory of Hawaii, which provides:
"The annual fee for a license to sell goods, wares, and
merchandise or other property at auction shall be $600 for the
District of Honolulu, and $15 for each other taxation
An agreed statement of facts showed that the plaintiff in error
was the agent of the corporation known as the "Hawaiian Fisheries,
Limited," which handled fish daily for a large number of fishermen.
The catch was brought to the market in Honolulu, where the
plaintiff in error offered it in basket lots, each basket
containing from 70 to 100 pounds, to the retail dealers of fish
only, the one bidding the highest price becoming the purchaser.
The plaintiff in error contended in the territorial court that
he did not sell at auction within the meaning of the statute, and
further, that the statute, if it was applicable, denied to him the
equal protection of the laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment
of the Constitution of the United States, because of the
discrimination between the
Page 226 U. S. 191
District of Honolulu and other districts in the amount of the
license fees imposed.
The Supreme Court of Hawaii assumed, as the plaintiff in error
argues, that the word "auction" in § 1343 means public auction.
This conclusion was reached in the light of the requirement of §
1345, that the bond to be given by the person receiving the license
should contain a provision that he will not sell "except at public
auction," and the court ruled that the sales conducted by the
plaintiff in error were sales at public auction within the
contemplation of the statute, although bids were accepted only from
the retail dealers or the persons conducting fish tables at the
market. This ruling presents no federal question, and hence is not
reviewable, here, as only such questions are before us upon this
writ of error as could be raised upon a writ of error to a state
court. Act of April 30, 1900, c. 339, § 86, 31 Stat. 141, 158;
Equitable Life Assurance Society v. Brown, 187 U.
, 187 U. S. 309
Notley v. Brown, 208 U. S. 429
208 U. S. 440
In view of the amount involved, the case cannot in any view come
within the amendment made by the Act of March 3, 1905, c. 1465, §
3, 33 Stat. 1035; Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co. v.
Wilder, 211 U. S. 144
The remaining contention, urged in various forms by the
assignments of error, comes to the single point that the statute
created an arbitrary classification. It cannot be said, however,
that there was no reasonable basis for a distinction between
Honolulu and other districts. And it was the province of the
legislature to decide upon the amount of the fees which should be
charged. It must be assumed that, in so deciding, it took into
account varying conditions in the respective localities, as, for
example, in the amount of business transacted and in the
corresponding value of such licenses. Necessarily, as was said in
Magoun v. Illinois Trust & Savings Bank, 170 U.
, 170 U. S. 294
the power of classification "must have a wide range of discretion."
It is not reviewable "unless palpably
Page 226 U. S. 192
arbitrary." Orient Insurance Co. v. Daggs, 172 U.
, 172 U. S. 562
Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton, 218 U. S.
, 218 U. S. 52
Engel v. O'Malley, 219 U. S. 128
Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U. S.
, 220 U. S. 78
Mutual Loan Co. v. Martell, 222 U.
, 222 U. S. 235
With its intimate knowledge of local conditions, the supreme court
of the territory said upon this point:
"The great bulk of the business of the territory is done in
Honolulu. It is not for us to say whether we would make the
difference in the amount of license fees in this case as large as
the legislature has made it. It is sufficient that we cannot say
that the difference is unreasonable, or that the statute is unequal
or arbitrary in its operation."
We find no ground for a different conclusion.