Williams v. Talladega,
226 U.S. 404 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. Talladega, 226 U.S. 404 (1912)

Williams v. Talladega

No. 44

Argued November 7, 8, 1912

Decided December 23, 1912

226 U.S. 404


The privilege given telegraph companies under the Act of July 24, 1866, to use military and post roads of the United States for poles and wire was permissive, and did not create corporate rights and privileges to carry on the business of telegraphy.

The corporate rights and privileges were derived from the laws of the state of incorporation.

The permission given by the Act of 1866 does not prevent a state from

Page 226 U. S. 405

taxing the real or personal property of a telegraph company within its borders or from imposing a license tax upon the right to do a local business within the state. West. Un. Tel. Co. v. Kansas, 216 U. S. 1, distinguished.

Unless there is a claim that a federal right is violated, the reasonableness of a municipal license ordinance is for the state to determine.

In determining its validity, this Court must consider a municipal ordinance as it has been construed by the highest court of the state.

An agency of the federal government in the execution of its sovereign power is not subject to the taxing power of the state.

An ordinance which taxes without exemption the privilege of carrying on business, part of which is a governmental agency such as telegraphy, and makes no exemption of that class of the business, includes its transaction and is void as an unconstitutional attempt to tax a federal agency.

Where, as in this case, the part of the license exacted necessarily affects the whole, it makes the entire tax unconstitutional and void.

164 Ala. 633 reversed.

The facts, which involve the validity of an ordinance of a municipality in Alabama to impose a license fee on telegraph corporations transacting an intrastate business without exempting messages sent by the government, are stated in the opinion.

Page 226 U. S. 411

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