Welton v. State of Missouri,
91 U.S. 275 (1875)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Welton v. State of Missouri, 91 U.S. 275 (1875)

Welton v. State of Missouri

91 U.S. 275


1. A license tax required for the sale of goods is in effect a tax upon the goods themselves.

2. A statute of Missouri which requires the payment of a license tax from persons who deal in the sale of goods, wares, and merchandise which are not the growth, produce, or manufacture of the state by going from place to place to sell the same in the state, and requires no such license tax from persons selling in a similar way goods which are the growth, produce, or manufacture of the state, is in conflict with the power vested in Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.

3. That power was vested in Congress to insure uniformity of commercial regulation against discriminating state legislation. It covers property which is transported as an article of commerce from foreign countries or among the states from hostile or interfering state legislation until it has mingled with and become a part of the general property of the country, and protects it even after it has entered a state from any burdens imposed by reason of its foreign origin.

4. The nonexercise by Congress of its power to regulate commerce among the several states is equivalent to a declaration by that body that such commerce shall be free from any restrictions.

Welton was indicted, tried, and convicted in the Circuit Court for the County of Henry in the State of Missouri for selling goods without a license.

The first section of the statute under which the indictment was found is as follows:

"Whoever shall deal in the selling of patent or other medicines, goods, wares, or merchandise, except books, charts, maps, and stationery, which are not the growth, produce, or manufacture of this state, by going from place to place to sell the same is declared to be a peddler."

The other sections prohibit a person dealing as a peddler without license and impose a penalty therefor, and prescribe the rate of charge for such license. No license is required for selling "by going from place to place," the growth, produce, or manufacture of the state.

The supreme court, on appeal, affirmed the decision of the circuit court, on the ground that the statute applied solely to the internal commerce of the state, and made no discrimination against citizens of other states, but merely imposed a tax upon

Page 91 U. S. 276

a calling or a profession, and neither directly nor indirectly upon property.

For errors in this judgment the case is brought here.

Page 91 U. S. 277

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