Woodruff v. Parham
Annotate this Case
75 U.S. 123 (1868)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 123 123 (1868)
Woodruff v. Parham
75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123
The term "import," as used in that clause of the Constitution which says, that "no state shall levy any imposts or duties on imports or exports," does not refer to articles imported from one state into another, but only to articles imported from foreign countries into the United States. Hence, a uniform tax imposed by a state on all sales made in it, whether they be made by a citizen of it or a citizen of some other state, and whether the goods sold are the produce of that state enacting the law or of some other state, is valid.
The Constitution thus ordains:
"Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states."
"No state shall levy any imposts or duties on imports or exports."
"The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the immunities and privileges of citizens of the several states."
With these declarations of the Constitution in force, the City of Mobile, Alabama, in accordance with a provision in its charter, authorized the collection of a tax for municipal purposes on real and personal estate, sales at auction, and sales of merchandise, capital employed in business and income within the city. This ordinance being on the city statute book Woodruff and others, auctioneers, received, in the course of their business for themselves, or as consignees and
agents for others, large amounts of goods and merchandise, the product of states other than Alabama, and sold the same in Mobile to purchasers in the original and unbroken packages. Thereupon, the tax collector for the city, demanded the tax levied by the ordinance. Woodruff refused to pay the tax, asserting that it was repugnant to the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution. The question coming finally, on a case stated, into the supreme court of the state, where the first two of the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution were relied on by the auctioneers as a bar to the suit, the said court decided in favor of the tax. And the question was now here for review.