Tomlinson v. Branch,
82 U.S. 460 (1872)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tomlinson v. Branch, 82 U.S. 15 Wall. 460 460 (1872)

Tomlinson v. Branch

82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 460


1. The doctrine that a state legislature, unrestricted by constitutional prohibition, has power to exempt certain property from taxation.

2. Where a railroad company, by its charter, was granted such an exemption for a limited period, and was afterwards merged in another railroad company, which became invested with all its property, rights, and privileges, the exemption and its limitation accompanied the property, and a perpetual exemption from taxation in the charter of the latter company would not be extended to the property to acquired without express words or necessary intendment to that effect.

3. Where two railroad companies are consolidated, the presumption is that each of the two united lines of road will be respectively held with the privileges and burdens originally attaching thereto, unless the contrary is expressed.

Branch and others, stockholders of the South Carolina Railroad Company, filed a bill in equity in the court below against the said company, as also against one Tomlinson, the state Auditor, and others, certain county collectors, to enjoin the company from paying and the others from collecting certain taxes imposed on the said company in pursuance of an Act of the Legislature of South Carolina passed in April, 1868, and another act passed in February, 1870; it being alleged in the bill that the said company was, by its charter, exempt from taxation, and that no adequate legal remedy existed under the laws of the state to obtain redress, and that the company declined to adopt any measures for obtaining it.

The question in the case was whether the company was entitled to an exemption from taxation which the legislature could not abrogate or disregard, it being conceded that the company was made taxable if the legislature had the power to tax it.

The property of the company was derived from two sources, one portion being a railroad from Charleston to Hamburg, opposite the town of Augusta, Georgia, which

Page 82 U. S. 461

was constructed by and formerly belonged to the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company, and the other being roads extending from Branchville on the line of the first road, to Columbia and Camden, which were constructed by the South Carolina Railroad Company under its own charter. This Court distinguished between the two parts.


The diagram will exhibit the roads, as well as another one from Columbia towards Augusta, incidentally mentioned in the case.

Page 82 U. S. 462

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