Hylton v. United States,
3 U.S. 171 (1796)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hylton v. United States, 3 U.S. 3 Dall. 171 171 (1796)

Hylton v. United States

3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 171


The act of Congress of 6 June 1794, laying "a tax on carriages for the conveyance of persons, kept for the use of the owner," is a constitutional law, and is within the authority granted to Congress by the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution.

This was a writ of error directed to the Circuit Court for the District of Virginia, and upon the return of the record the following proceedings appeared. An action of debt had been instituted to May Term, 1795, by the attorney of the district in the name of the United States against Daniel Hylton to recover the penalty imposed by the Act of Congress of 5 June, 1794, for not entering and paying the duty on a number of carriages for the conveyance of persons which he kept for his own use. The defendant pleaded nil debet, whereupon issue was joined. But the parties, waiving the right of trial by jury, mutually submitted the controversy to the court on a case which stated

"That the defendant, on 5 June, 1794, and therefrom to the last day of September following, owned, possessed, and kept, 125 chariots for the conveyance of persons, and no more; that the chariots were kept exclusively for the defendant's own private use, and not to let out to hire or for the conveyance of persons for

Page 3 U. S. 172

hire, and that the defendant had notice according to the act of Congress entitled 'An act laying duties upon carriages for the conveyance of persons,' but that he omitted and refused to make an entry of the said chariots and to pay the duties thereupon as in and by the said recited law is required, alleging that the said law was unconstitutional and void. If the court adjudged the defendant to be liable to pay the tax and fine for not doing so and for not entering the carriages, then judgment shall be entered for the plaintiff for $2,000 dollars, to be discharged by the payment of $16, the amount of the duty and penalty; otherwise that judgment be entered for the defendant."

After argument, the court (consisting of Wilson & Justices) delivered their opinions, but being equally divided, the defendant, by agreement of the parties, confessed judgment, as a foundation for the present writ of error, which (as well as the original proceeding) was brought merely to try the constitutionality of the tax.

Page 3 U. S. 175

Primary Holding

Direct taxes, which are those divided among states according to their populations, do not include taxes on the possession of goods.

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