Fort Leavenworth Co v. Lowe

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFIELD
Citation5 S.Ct. 995,29 L.Ed. 264,114 U.S. 525
Decision Date04 May 1885
PartiesFORT LEAVENWORTH R. CO. v. LOWE, Sheriff, etc

114 U.S. 525
5 S.Ct. 995
29 L.Ed. 264
FORT LEAVENWORTH R. CO.
v.
LOWE, Sheriff, etc.
May 4, 1885.

Page 526

Thos. F. Withrow, M. A. Low, and E. E. Cook, for plaintiff in error.

W. Hallett Phillips, for defendant in error.

FIELD, J.

The plaintiff, a corporation organized under the laws of Kansas, was in 1880, and has ever since been, the owner of a railroad in the reservation of the United States in that state, known as the 'Fort Leavenworth Military Reservation.' In that year its track, right of way, franchises, road-bed, telegraph line, and instruments connected therewith, on the reservation, were assessed by the board of assessors of the state, and a tax of $394.40 levied thereon, which was paid by the railroad company under protest, in order to prevent a sale of the property. The present action is brought to recover back the money thus paid, on the ground that the property, being entirely within the reservation, was exempt from assessment and taxation by the state.

The land constituting the reservation was part of the territory acquired in 1803 by cession from France, and, until the formation of the state of Kansas, and her admission into the Union, the United States possessed the rights of a proprietor, and had political dominion and sovereignty over it. For many years before that admission it had been reserved from sale by the properauthorities of the United States for military purposes, and occupied by them as a military post. The jurisdiction of the United States over it during this time was necessarily paramount. But in 1861 Kansas was admitted into the Union upon an equal footing with the original states; that is, with the same rights of political dominion and sovereignty, subject like them only to the constitution of the United States. Congress might undoubtedly, upon such admission, have stipulated for retention of the political authority, dominion, and legislative power of the United States over the reservation, so long as it should be used for military purposes by the government; that is, it could have excepted the place from the jurisdiction of Kansas, as one needed for the uses of the general

Page 527

government. But from some cause, inadvertence perhaps, or overconfidence that a recession of such jurisdiction could be had whenever desired, no such stipulation or exception was made. The United States, therefore, retained, after the admission of the state, only the rights of an ordinary proprietor; except as an instrument for the execution of the powers of the general government, that part of the tract, which was actually used for a fort or military post, was beyond such control of the state, by taxation or otherwise, as would defeat its use for those purposes. So far as the land constituting the reservation was not used for military purposes, the possession of the United States was only that of an individual proprietor. The state could have exercised, with reference to it, the same authority and jurisdiction which she could have exercised over similar property held by private parties. This defect in the jurisdiction of the United States was called to the attention of the government in 1872. In April of that year the secretary of war addressed a communication to the attorney general, inclosing papers touching the reservation, and submitting for his official opinion the questions, whether, under the constitution, the reservation of the land for a site as a military post and for public buildings took it out of the operation of the law of March 3, 1859, (11 St. 430,) and, if so, what action would be required on the part of the executive or congress to restore the land to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. The attorney general replied that the act admitting Kansas as a state into the Union had the effect to withdraw from federal jurisdiction all the territory within the boundaries of the new state, excepting only that of the Indians having treaties with the United States, which provided that without their consent such territory should not be subject to state jurisdiction, and the reservation was not within this exception; and that to restore the federal jurisdiction over the land included in the reservation, it would be necessary to obtain from the state of Kansas a cession of jurisdiction, which he had no doubt would, upon application, be readily granted by the state legislature. 14 Op. Attys. Gen. 33. It does not appear from the record before us that such application was ever made; but, on

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the twenty-second of February, 1875, the legislature of the state passed an act entitled 'An act to cede jurisdiction to the United States over the territory of the Fort Leavenworth military reservation,' the first section of which is as follows:

'That exclusive jurisdiction be, and the same is hereby, ceded to the United States over and within all the territory owned by the United States, and included within the limits of the United States military reservation known as the 'Fort Leavenworth Reservation' in said state, as declared from time to time by the president of the United States, saving, however, to the said state the right to serve civil or criminal process within said reservation, in suits or prosecutions for or on account of rights acquired, obligations incurred, or crimes committed in said state, but outside of said cession and reservation; and saving further to said state the right to tax railroad, bridge, and other corporations, their franchises and property, on said reservation.' Laws Kan. 1875, p. 95.

The question as to the right of the plaintiff to recover back the taxes paid depends upon the validity and effect of the last saving clause in this act. As we have said, there is no evidence before us that any application was made by the United States for this legislation, but, as it conferred a benefit, the acceptance of the act is to be presumed in the absence of any dissent on their part. The contention of the plaintiff is that the act of cession operated under the constitution to vest in the United States exclusive jurisdiction over the reservation, and that the last saving clause, being inconsistent with that result, is to be rejected. The constitution provides that 'congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states and the acceptance of congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings.' Article 1, § 8.

The necessity of complete jurisdiction over the place which should be selected as the seat of government was obvious to

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the framers of the constitution. Unless it were conferred, the deliberations of congress might, in times of excitement, be exposed to interruptions without adequate means of protection; its members, and the officers of the government, be subjected to insult and intimidation, and the public archives be in danger of destruction. The Federalist, in support of this clause in the constitution, in addition to these reasons, urged that 'a dependence of the members of the general government on the state comprehending the seat of the government for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the confederacy.' No. 43.

The necessity of supreme legislative authority over the seat of government was forcibly impressed upon the members of the constitutional convention by occurrences which took place near the close of the revolutionary war. At that time, while congress was in session in Philadelphia, it was surrounded and insulted by a body of mutineers of the continental army. In giving an account of this proceeding, Mr. Rawle, in his Treatise on the Constitution, says of the action of congress: 'It applied to the executive authority of Pennsylvania for defense; but, under the ill-conceived constitution of the state at that time, the executive power was vested in a council, consisting of thirteen members, and they possessed or exhibited so little energy, and such apparent intimidation, that the congress indignantly removed to New Jersey, whose inhabitants welcomed it with promises of defending it. It remained for some time at Princeton without being again insulted, till, for the sake of greater convenience, it adjourned to Annapolis. The general dissatisfaction with the proceedings of the executive authority of Pennsylvania, and the degrading spectacle of a fugitive congress, suggested the remedial provisions now under consideration.' Rawle, 113. Of this proceeding Mr. Justice STORY remarks: 'If such a lesson could have been lost upon the people, it would have been as humiliating to their intelligence as it would have been offensive to their honor.' 2 Comm. Const. § 1219.

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Upon the second part of the clause in question, giving power to 'exercise like authority,'—that is, of exclusive legislation 'over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings,'—the Federalist observes that the necessity of this authority is not less evident. 'The public money expended on such places,' it adds, 'and the public property deposited in them, require that they should be exempt from the authority of the particular state. Nor would it be proper for the places on which the security of the entire Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular member of it. All objections and scruples are here also obviated by requiring the concurrence of the states concerned in every such...

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311 practice notes
  • Coso Energy Developers v. County of Inyo, No. E034051.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 13, 2004
    ...a state, "no other legislative power than that of Congress can be exercised over" such area. (Fort Leavenworth R.R. Co. v. Lowe (1885) 114 U.S. 525, 537-538, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (Fort Leavenworth).) The state is barred "from exercising any legislative authority including its taxing an......
  • United States v. Parker, Case Nos. 2:13–CR–15–MR–DLH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 1, 2014
    ...It “was made with a view to prevent the territory from becoming a sanctuary for debtors and criminals[.]” Ft. Leavenworth R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 535, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885) (describing similar provision of Massachusetts law).Having granted the federal government the right to ac......
  • United States v. Parker, Case Nos. 2:13–CR–15–MR–DLH, 2:13–CR–16–MR–DLH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 1, 2014
    ...It “was made with a view to prevent the territory from becoming a sanctuary for debtors and criminals[.]” Ft. Leavenworth R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 535, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885) (describing similar provision of Massachusetts law). Having granted the federal government the right to a......
  • Atlantic Marine Corps Commun. v. Onslow County, Nc, No. 7:06-CV-35-H.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 26, 2007
    ...the federal government (or limited other methods of acquisition of jurisdiction not relevant here). See Fort Leavenworth Railroad v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885); 40 U.S.C. § 255 (1940); Adams v. United States, 319 U.S. 312, 314-15, 63 S.Ct. 1122, 87 L.Ed. 1421 A sta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
311 cases
  • Coso Energy Developers v. County of Inyo, No. E034051.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 13, 2004
    ...a state, "no other legislative power than that of Congress can be exercised over" such area. (Fort Leavenworth R.R. Co. v. Lowe (1885) 114 U.S. 525, 537-538, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (Fort Leavenworth).) The state is barred "from exercising any legislative authority including its taxing an......
  • United States v. Parker, Case Nos. 2:13–CR–15–MR–DLH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 1, 2014
    ...It “was made with a view to prevent the territory from becoming a sanctuary for debtors and criminals[.]” Ft. Leavenworth R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 535, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885) (describing similar provision of Massachusetts law).Having granted the federal government the right to ac......
  • United States v. Parker, Case Nos. 2:13–CR–15–MR–DLH, 2:13–CR–16–MR–DLH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 1, 2014
    ...It “was made with a view to prevent the territory from becoming a sanctuary for debtors and criminals[.]” Ft. Leavenworth R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 535, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885) (describing similar provision of Massachusetts law). Having granted the federal government the right to a......
  • Atlantic Marine Corps Commun. v. Onslow County, Nc, No. 7:06-CV-35-H.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 26, 2007
    ...the federal government (or limited other methods of acquisition of jurisdiction not relevant here). See Fort Leavenworth Railroad v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885); 40 U.S.C. § 255 (1940); Adams v. United States, 319 U.S. 312, 314-15, 63 S.Ct. 1122, 87 L.Ed. 1421 A sta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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