Nielsen v. Johnson,
279 U.S. 47 (1929)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nielsen v. Johnson, 279 U.S. 47 (1929)

Nielsen v. Johnson

No. 115

Argued January 9, 10, 1929

Decided February 18, 1929

279 U.S. 47


1. When a treaty provision fairly admits of two constructions, one restricting, the other enlarging, the rights which may be claimed under it, the more liberal interpretation is to be preferred. P. 279 U. S. 52.

2. As the treatymaking power is independent of and superior to the legislative power of the states, the meaning of treaty provisions, liberally construed, is not restricted by any necessity of avoiding possible conflict with state legislation, and, when so ascertained, must prevail over inconsistent state enactments. P. 279 U. S. 52.

3. When the meaning of treaty provisions is uncertain, recourse may be had to the negotiations and diplomatic correspondence of the contracting parties relating to the subject matter, and to their own practical construction of it. P. 279 U. S. 52.

4. Article 7 of the Treaty of April 26, 1826, with Denmark, providing

"that hereafter no higher or other duties, charges, or taxes of any kind shall be levied in the territories or dominions of either party upon any personal property, money or effects, of their respective citizens or subjects, on the removal of the same from their territories or dominions reciprocally, either upon the inheritance of such property, money, or effects, or otherwise,

Page 279 U. S. 48

than are or shall be payable in each state, upon the same, when removed by a citizen or subject of such state, respectively,"

was intended to prohibit not merely taxes on removal, but also discriminatory taxes like the droit de detraction (applied only to alien heirs of a resident decedent and substantially equivalent, as to them, to the modern inheritance tax), and is violated by a state inheritance tax discriminating against nonresident alien heirs of a resident decedent and constituting a lien upon the property. Pp. 279 U. S. 52, 279 U. S. 57.

205 Ia. 324 reversed.

Certiorari, 277 U.S. 583, to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Iowa affirming a judgment imposing an inheritance tax.

Page 279 U. S. 49

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