192 U.S. 470 (1904), 294, Buttfield v. Stranahan

Docket Nº:No. 294
Citation:192 U.S. 470, 24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525
Party Name:Buttfield v. Stranahan
Case Date:February 23, 1904
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 470

192 U.S. 470 (1904)

24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525

Buttfield

v.

Stranahan

No. 294

United States Supreme Court

February 23, 1904

Argued January 4, 1904

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

Every intendment is in favor of the validity of a statute, and it must be presumed to be constitutional unless its repugnancy to the Constitution clearly appears.

The power of Congress to regulate foreign commerce, being an enumerated power, is complete in itself, acknowledging no limitations other than those prescribed in the Constitution, and Congress can, without violating the due process clause, establish standards and provide from considerations of public policy that no right shall exist to import an article of food not equal thereto. No individual has a vested right to trade with foreign nations superior to the power of Congress to determine what, and upon what terms, articles may be imported into the United States.

Where a statute acts on a subject as far as practicable and only leaves to executive officials the duty of bringing about the result pointed out, and

Page 471

provided for it is not unconstitutional as vesting executive officers with legislative powers. Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649.

The Act of March 2, 1897, 29 Stat. 604, to prevent the importation of impure and unwholesome tea is not unconstitutional either because the power conferred to establish standards is legislative and cannot be delegated by Congress to administrative officers, because persons affected thereby have a vested interest to import teas which are in fact pure though below the standard fixed, because the establishment of and enforcement of the standard qualities constitutes a deprivation of property without due process of law, because it does not provide for notice and opportunity to be heard before the rejection of the tea, or because the power to destroy goods upon the expiration of the time limit without a judicial proceeding is a condemnation and taking of property without due process of law.

This case presents for determination the question of the constitutionality of a statute known as the Tea Inspection Act, approved March 2, 1897, 29 Stat. 604. The act is copied in full in the margin.{1}

Page 472

On January 20, 1902, eight packages of tea were imported into the port of New York, per the steamer Adana, by a firm of which the plaintiff in error was the general partner. The tea was entered for import at the New York custom-house,

Page 473

and was stored in a bonded warehouse. At that time, certain standards, enumerated in the margin,{2} which were selected by the board of tea inspectors, had been put in force by the Treasury regulations under said Act of March 2, 1897.

Page 474

The eight packages of tea in question were embraced in the class known as "Country green teas," numbered 7 on list of standards. The tea was examined on February 7, 1902, and was rejected as "inferior to standard in quality." By the

Page 475

term quality as thus used was meant the cup quality of the tea -- that is to say, its taste and flavor. An appeal was taken by the importer to the Board of General Appraisers, and that board, on March 10, 1902, certified to the collector that "the said tea is inferior in quality to the standard prescribed by law," and accordingly overruled the appeal. The firm was notified of the decision on March 12, 1902.

In November following, the plaintiff in error -- who had acquired the interest of his partner in the tea -- applied to the collector for permission to withdraw the tea for consumption on payment of the duties. The request was refused. Application was then made for the release of the tea from bond in order to export it. This was also refused on the ground that the tea had been finally rejected under the Act of March 2, 1897, more than six months previous to the application. The plaintiff in error was also notified that the tea would be ordered to the public stores for destruction.

This action was commenced in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, against the collector of the port of New York, to recover damages for the alleged wrongful seizure, removal, and destruction of the tea in question. Averments were made of the importation, storing, [24 S.Ct. 351] tender of duties, and refusal to accept the same, and of demand for the tea and refusal to deliver. A general denial was filed. The action being on account of acts done by the defendant under the revenue laws of the United States, as collector of customs, it was removed, on his application, to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

Page 476

At the trial of the case before Circuit Judge Coxe and a jury, the exhibit reproduced in the margin was introduced in evidence.{3}

Page 477

[24 S.Ct. 352] As indicated on this exhibit, the Country green teas thereon designated were arranged in their order of quality, from the highest to the lowest, No. 1 being the highest grade and No. 17 the lowest. The designation in each perpendicular column represented the teas grown in a particular district, and all the teas enumerated on the same horizontal line were considered as being equal in grade.

The chairman of the Board of Tea Experts of the Treasury Department testified that the standard for Country green teas in force at the time the tea in question was imported was Hyson of a Fine Teenkai, or No. 6 on the list of standards, and that, before fixing this standard,

the board made diligent search for any Country green teas of lower grades -- Hysons of lower grades -- of pure teas on the New York market obtainable by the trade, and were unable to find any.

The term Hyson, it may be observed, indicated that the tea was made out of the coarsest leaves. For the plaintiff it was testified that the quality of the tea in controversy corresponded in quality with the grade No. 7 on Exhibit 8, while the evidence for the government was to the effect that it would grade as Fair Fychow, No. 11 on Exhibit 8. The testimony also tended to show that the tea in question differed only in respect to the cup quality from the government standard, the evidence for the government being that it was "a tea of a decidedly low grade, . . . a pure tea, but of low quality."

At the close of the evidence, the court overruled a motion to direct a verdict for the plaintiff, and an exception was reserved. Thereupon the court, granting a motion on behalf of the defendant, instructed that the only question was as to the constitutionality of the statute under which the defendant, as collector of the port, acted, and directed a verdict in his favor. Upon the judgment entered on the verdict, which was returned in accordance with this instruction, [24 S.Ct. 353] the case was brought directly to this Court.

Page 491

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The assignments of error assail the act of the trial court in denying the motion for the direction of a verdict in favor of plaintiff and in giving a peremptory instruction in favor of the defendant. Summarized, the contentions are as follows: 1, that the Act of March 2, 1897, confers authority to establish standards, and that such power is legislative, and cannot constitutionally be delegated by Congress to administrative officers; 2, that the plaintiff in error had a vested

Page 492

right to engage as a trader in foreign commerce, and as such to import teas into the United States which, as a matter of fact, were pure, wholesome, and free from adulteration, fraud, and deception, and which were fit for consumption; 3, that the establishment and enforcement of standards of quality of teas, which operated to deprive the alleged vested right, constituted a deprivation of property without due process of law; 4, that the act is unconstitutional because it does not provide that notice and an opportunity to be heard be afforded an importer before the rejection of his tea by the tea examiner, or the Tea Board of General Appraisers; and 5, that, in any event, the authority conferred by the statute to destroy goods upon the expiration of the time limit for their removal for export, and the destruction of such property without a judicial proceeding, was condemnation of property without hearing and the taking thereof without due process of law.

[24 S.Ct. 354] Whether the contentions just stated are tenable are the questions for consideration.

In examining the statute in order to determine its constitutionality, we must be guided by the well settled rule that every intendment is in favor of its validity. It must be presumed to be constitutional unless its repugnancy to the Constitution clearly appears. Nicol v. Ames, 173 U.S. 509, 514-515; Gettysburg Park Case, 160 U.S. 668, 680.

The power to regulate commerce with foreign nations is expressly conferred upon Congress, and, being an enumerated power, is complete in itself, acknowledging no limitations other than those prescribed in the Constitution. Lottery Case, 188 U.S. 321, 353-356; Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, 108. Whatever difference of opinion, if any, may have existed or does exist concerning the limitations of the power, resulting from other provisions of the Constitution, so far as interstate commerce is concerned, it is not to be doubted that, from the beginning, Congress has exercised a plenary power in respect to the exclusion of merchandise brought from foreign countries, not alone directly by the enactment of embargo statutes, but

Page 493

indirectly, as a necessary result of provisions contained in tariff legislation. It has also, in other than tariff legislation, exerted a police power over foreign commerce by provisions which in and of themselves amounted to the assertion of the right to exclude merchandise at discretion. This...

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330 practice notes
  • 87 So. 375 (Ala. 1921), 3 Div. 501, Johnson v. Craft
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama
    • February 3, 1921
    ...v. Justice, 200 Ala. 483, 485, 76 So. 425; United States v. Grimaud, 220 U.S. 506, 31 Sup.Ct. 480, 55 L.Ed. 563; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 24 Sup.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 694, 12 Sup.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294; Intermountain Rate Cases, 243 U.S. 476, 37 Su......
  • 30 A.D.2d 16, Gormeley v. New York Daily News
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Third Department
    • April 29, 1968
    ...American Power & Light Co. v. Securities Exchange Commission, 329 U.S. 90, 105, 67 S.Ct. 133, 91 L.Ed. 103; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 496, 24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; Texas Co. v. Montgomery, U.S.Dist.Ct.E.D.La., 73 F.Supp. 527, 533--534, affirmed 332 U.S. 827, 68 S.Ct. 209,......
  • 275 F.2d 472 (Fed. Cir. 1959), 4988, Star-Kist Foods, Inc. v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals
    • December 15, 1959
    ...506, 518, 31 S.Ct. 480, 55 L.Ed. 563; Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U.S. 364, 27 S.Ct. 367, 51 L.Ed. 523; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; In re Kollock, 165 U.S. 526, 17 S.Ct. 444, 41 L.Ed. 813; Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Stranahan, 214 U.S. 3......
  • In re Carmona, 032911 MIEBC, 08-20783-dob
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
    • March 29, 2011
    ...by the debtor, " Oregon Ford, Inc. v. Clayburn (In re Clayburn), 67 B.R. 522, 525 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 1986) (citing Tinker v. Colwell, 192 U.S. 473 (1904)), which is intended to cause injury, Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57, 61 (1998) ("nondischargeability takes a deliberate or int......
  • Free signup to view additional results
317 cases
  • 87 So. 375 (Ala. 1921), 3 Div. 501, Johnson v. Craft
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama
    • February 3, 1921
    ...v. Justice, 200 Ala. 483, 485, 76 So. 425; United States v. Grimaud, 220 U.S. 506, 31 Sup.Ct. 480, 55 L.Ed. 563; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 24 Sup.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 694, 12 Sup.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294; Intermountain Rate Cases, 243 U.S. 476, 37 Su......
  • 30 A.D.2d 16, Gormeley v. New York Daily News
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Third Department
    • April 29, 1968
    ...American Power & Light Co. v. Securities Exchange Commission, 329 U.S. 90, 105, 67 S.Ct. 133, 91 L.Ed. 103; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 496, 24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; Texas Co. v. Montgomery, U.S.Dist.Ct.E.D.La., 73 F.Supp. 527, 533--534, affirmed 332 U.S. 827, 68 S.Ct. 209,......
  • 275 F.2d 472 (Fed. Cir. 1959), 4988, Star-Kist Foods, Inc. v. United States
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals
    • December 15, 1959
    ...506, 518, 31 S.Ct. 480, 55 L.Ed. 563; Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U.S. 364, 27 S.Ct. 367, 51 L.Ed. 523; Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 24 S.Ct. 349, 48 L.Ed. 525; In re Kollock, 165 U.S. 526, 17 S.Ct. 444, 41 L.Ed. 813; Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Stranahan, 214 U.S. 3......
  • In re Carmona, 032911 MIEBC, 08-20783-dob
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
    • March 29, 2011
    ...by the debtor, " Oregon Ford, Inc. v. Clayburn (In re Clayburn), 67 B.R. 522, 525 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 1986) (citing Tinker v. Colwell, 192 U.S. 473 (1904)), which is intended to cause injury, Kawaauhau v. Geiger, 523 U.S. 57, 61 (1998) ("nondischargeability takes a deliberate or int......
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10 books & journal articles
  • A precept of managerial responsibility: securing collective justice in institutional reform litigation.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 29 Nbr. 1, October 2001
    • October 1, 2001
    ...1936). (169.) ERNEST GELLHORN & RONALD M. LEVIN, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW AND PROCESS 13 (4th ed. 1997); see also Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470 (1904). (170.) STEPHEN BREYER, RICHARD STEWART, CASS SUNSTEIN & MATTHEW SPITZER, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW AND REGULATORY POLICY: PROBLEMS, TEXT,......
  • The constitutional foundations of Chenery.
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    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 116 Nbr. 5, March 2007
    • March 1, 2007
    ...Co. v. United States, 216 U.S. 177, 185-86 (1910) ; Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U.S. 364, 366 (1907); Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470, 494-96 (1904). (136.) 276 U.S. 394, 409 (1928). (137.) See id. at 401-02 (quoting Tariff Act of 1922, ch. 356, [section] 315(a), (c), 42. St......
  • Schechter Poultry at the millennium: a delegation doctrine for the administrative state.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 109 Nbr. 6, April 2000
    • April 1, 2000
    ...a legislative grant of authority to the federal courts to adopt their own rules of process. Similarly, in Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470 (1904), the Court upheld a delegation to an administrator to "establish uniform standards" for importing tea. In United States v. Grimaud,......
  • Progressive political theory and separation of powers on the Burger and Rehnquist Courts.
    • United States
    • Constitutional Commentary Vol. 21 Nbr. 2, June - June 2004
    • June 22, 2004
    ...rules for railroads when "reasonable" and "in the interest of the public and of commerce"); Buttfield v. Stranahan, 192 U.S. 470 (1904) (rejecting a nondelegation challenge to a law making it illegal "to import or bring into the United States any merchandise as tea ......
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