George Thomas v. United States

Decision Date23 February 1904
Docket NumberNo. 43,43
PartiesGEORGE C. THOMAS, Plff. in Err. , v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Frank D. Pavey, Walter J. Moore, and Charles C. Pavey, for plaintiff in error.

George C. Thomas was indicted for violation of the internal revenue laws of the United States in that, being a broker in the city of New York, he sold certain shares of Atchison preferred stock and omitted the required revenue stamps from the memorandum of sale. He demurred to the indictment on the ground that the act of June 13, 1898 (30 Stat. at L. 448, chap. 448),1 which required the stamps to be affixed, was unconstitutional. The demurrer was overruled, the court, Thomas, J., delivering an opinion. 115 Fed. 207.

Trial was had, defendant found guilty, and judgment rendered, sentencing him to pay a fine of $500.

The case was then brought here on writ of error.

Assistant Attorney General Purdy for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller:

[Argument of Counsel from pages 364-369 intentionally omitted] Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:

By the first clause of § 8 of article I. of the Constitution, Congress is empowered 'to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises.' 'but all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.'

This division of taxation into two classes is recognized throughout the Constitution.

By clause 3 of § 2, representatives and direct taxes are required to be apportioned according to the enumeration prescribed, and by clause 4 of § 9, no capitation or other direct tax can be laid except according to that enumeration.

By clause 1 of § 9, the migration or importation of persons by the states was not to be prohibited prior to 1808, but a tax or duty could be imposed on such importation, not exceeding $10 for each person.

By clause 5 it is provided: 'No tax or duty shall be laid on any articles exported from any state.'

By clause 2 of § 10, no state can, 'without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws.' By clause 3 the states are forbidden, without the consent of Congress, to 'lay any duty of tonnage.'

And these two classes, taxes so called, and 'duties, imposts, and excises,' apparently embrace all forms of taxation contemplated by the Constitution. As was observed in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & T. Co. 157 U. S. 429, 557, 39 L. ed. 759, 810, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 673, 680: 'Although there have been from time to time intimations that there might be some tax which was not a direct tax nor included under the words 'duties, imposts, and excises,' such a tax for more than one hundred years of national existence has as yet remained undiscovered, notwithstanding the stress of particular circumstances has invited thorough investigation into sources of revenue.'

The present case involves a stamp tax on a memorandum or contract of sale of a certificate of stock, which plaintiff in error claims was unlawfully exacted because not falling within the class of duties, imposts, and excises, and being, on the contrary, a direct tax on property.

There is no occasion to attempt to confine the words duties, imposts, and excises to the limits of precise definition. We think that they were used comprehensively to cover customs and excise duties imposed on importation, consumption, manufacture, and sale of certain commodities, privileges, particular business transactions, vocations,...

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58 cases
  • Bromley v. Caughn
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • November 25, 1929
    ...of the latter class. Hylton v. United States, supra; cf. Veazie Bank v. Fenno, 8 Wall. 533, 19 L. Ed. 482; Thomas v. United States, 192 U. S. 363, 370, 24 S. Ct. 305, 48 L. Ed. 481; Billings v. United States, 232 U. S. 261, 34 S. Ct. 421, 58 L. Ed. 596; Nicol v. Ames, supra; Patton v. Brady......
  • Coolidge v. Long 1930
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • February 24, 1931
    ...S. 261, 34 S. Ct. 421, 58 L. Ed. 596; Hylton v. United States, 3 Dall. 171, 1 L. Ed. 556; or a sale of it, Thomas v. United States, 192 U. S. 363, 370, 24 S. Ct. 305, 48 L. Ed. 481; Nicol v. Ames, 173 U. S. 509, 19 S. Ct. 522, 43 L. Ed. 786; or the gift of it, Bromley v. McCaughn, 280 U. S.......
  • Blodgett v. Holden
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan
    • February 17, 1926
    ...S. Ct. 493, 184 U. S. 608, 46 L. Ed. 713, a tax upon manufactured tobacco was held not to be a direct tax. In Thomas v. United States, 24 S. Ct. 305, 192 U. S. 363, 48 L. Ed. 481, a stamp tax on sales of shares of stock in corporations was held not to be a direct tax. In Flint v. Stone Trac......
  • Chas Steward Mach Co v. Davis 1937, 837
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 24, 1937
    ...759. There is no departure from that thought in later cases, but rather a new emphasis of it. Thus, in Thomas v. United States, 192 U.S. 363, 370, 24 S.Ct. 305, 306, 48 L.Ed. 481, it was said of the words 'duties, imposts, and excises' that 'they were used comprehensively to cover customs a......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Constitutionality of Taxing Agricultural and Land Use Emissions
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter No. 49-10, October 2019
    • October 1, 2019 of certain commodities, privileges, particular business transactions, vocations, occupations, and the like.” homas v. United States, 192 U.S. 363, 370 (1904). See generally Joel Alicea & Donald Drakeman, he Limits of New Originalism , 15 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 1161 (2012). 155. Direct tax......

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