196 U.S. 133 (1905), 67, American Express Co. v. Iowa

Docket Nº:No. 67
Citation:196 U.S. 133, 25 S.Ct. 182, 49 L.Ed. 417
Party Name:American Express Co. v. Iowa
Case Date:January 03, 1905
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 133

196 U.S. 133 (1905)

25 S.Ct. 182, 49 L.Ed. 417

American Express Co.



No. 67

United States Supreme Court

January 3, 1905

        Argued December 2, 1904




        The writ of error in O'Neil v. Vermont, 144 U.S. 344, was dismissed because it did not appear that the commerce clause of the Constitution was relied on in, was called to the attention of, or passed on by, the state court, and the case is inapposite where it appears that the protection of commerce clause was properly set up, relied upon in, and denied by, the state court.

        Bowman v. Chicago, 125 U.S. 465, Leisy y. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412, Vance v. Vandercook Co. No. 1, 170 U.S. 438, rest on the broad principle of the freedom of commerce between the states, of the right of citizens of one state to freely contract to receive and send merchandise from and to another state, and on the want of power of one state to destroy contracts concerning interstate commerce valid in the states where made.

        The right of the parties thereto to make a contract, valid in the state where made, for the sale and purchase of merchandise and in so doing to fix the

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time when, and condition on which, completed title shall pass is beyond question.

        Without passing on the questions whether the property in a C.O.D. shipment is at the risk of buyer or seller and when the sale is completed, a package of intoxicating liquor received by an express company in one state to be carried to another state, and there delivered to the consignee C.O.D. for price of the package and the expressage, is interstate commerce and is under the protection of the commerce clause of the federal Constitution and cannot, prior to its actual delivery to the consignee, be confiscated under prohibitory liquor laws of the state.

       The American Express Company received at Rock Island, Illinois, on or about March 29, 1900, four boxes of merchandise to be carried to Tama, Iowa, to be there delivered to four different persons, one of the packages being consigned to each. The shipment was C.O.D., three dollars to be collected on each package, exclusive of thirty-five cents for carriage on each. On March 31, the merchandise reached Tama, and on that day was seized in the hands of the express agent. This was based on an information before a justice of the peace, charging that the packages contained intoxicating liquor held by the express company for sale. The express company and its agent answered, setting up the receipt of the packages in Illinois, not for sale in Iowa, but for carriage and delivery to the consignees. An agreed statement of facts was stipulated admitting the receipt, [25 S.Ct. 183] the carriage, and the holding of the packages as above stated. The seizure was sustained. Appeal was taken to a district court. The express company and its agent amended their answer, specially setting up the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States. There was judgment in favor of the express company, and the State of Iowa appealed to the supreme court and obtained a reversal. 118 Iowa, 447. This writ of error was prosecuted.

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        WHITE, J., lead opinion

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

        Although the majority of the Supreme Court of Iowa doubted the correctness of a ruling previously made by that court, nevertheless it was adhered to under the rule of stare decisis, and was made the basis of the decision in this cause. In the previous case, it was held by the Supreme Court of Iowa that, where merchandise was received by a carrier with a duty to collect the price on delivery to the consignee, the merchandise remained the property of the consignor, and was held by the carrier as his agent with authority to complete the sale. Upon this premise, it was decided that intoxicating liquors shipped C.O.D. from another state were subject to be seized on their arrival in Iowa, in the hands of the express company. Sustaining, upon this principle, the seizure in this case, the Supreme Court of Iowa did not expressly consider the defense based on the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States, because the court deemed that its ruling on the subject of the effect of the C.O.D. shipment was a wholly nonfederal

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ground, broad enough to sustain the conclusion reached. And this the court considered was sanctioned by O'Neil v. Vermont, 144 U.S. 324.

        In accord with the...

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