Grogan v. Hiram Walker Sons Anchor Line Henderson Bros v. Aldridge, Nos. 615 and 639

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHOLMES
Citation259 U.S. 80,42 S.Ct. 423,66 L.Ed. 836
PartiesGROGAN, Collector of Internal Revenue, et al. v. HIRAM WALKER & SONS, Limited. ANCHOR LINE (HENDERSON BROS.), Limited, v. ALDRIDGE, Collector of Customs
Decision Date15 May 1922
Docket NumberNos. 615 and 639

259 U.S. 80
42 S.Ct. 423
66 L.Ed. 836
GROGAN, Collector of Internal Revenue, et al.


HIRAM WALKER & SONS, Limited. ANCHOR LINE (HENDERSON BROS.), Limited, v. ALDRIDGE, Collector of Customs.

Nos. 615 and 639.
Argued April 19, 1922.
Decided May 15, 1922.

Mr. Assistant Attorney General Goff, for appellants Grogan et al. and appellee Aldridge.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 80-82 intentionally omitted]

Page 82

Mr. Alfred Lucking, of Detroit, Mich., for appellee Hiram Walker & Sons, Limited.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 82-84 intentionally omitted]

Page 84

Mr. Lucien H. Beers, of New York City, for appellant Anchor Line, limited.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 84-87 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases raise the question whether the Constitution and the Volstead Act prohibit the transportation of intoxicating liquors from a foreign port through some part of the United States to another foreign port. The first is a bill by a corporation of Canada against the Collector of Customs and the Collector of Internal Revenue for the Eastern District of Michigan to prevent their carrying out the orders of the Treasury Department to stop the plaintiffs from shipping whiskey intended as a beverage from Canada by way of Detroit in bond through the United States to Mexico, Central or South America. The irreparable injury that will be done to the plaintiff's business is fully shown, and the decision depends on the single question stated above. An injunction was granted by the District Court. Walker v. Lawson, 275 Fed. 373. The second case is to prevent similar interference with the transshipment of whiskey from one British ship to another in the harbor of New York. Upon a consideration of the same general questions an injunction was refused by the District

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Court for the Southern District of New York, October 21, 1921.

The plaintiffs rely upon Rev. St. § 3005, as amended (Comp. St. § 5690), and Article XXIX of the treaty, concluded with Great Britain on May 8, 1871 (17 Stat. 863). By the former, an exemption in a revenue act, merchandise arriving at any port of the United States destined for any foreign country may be entered at the custom house and conveyed in transit through the territory of the United States, without the payment of duties, under such regulations as to examination and transportation as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe. See United States v. Yuginovich, June 1, 1921, 256 U. S. 450, 41 Sup. Ct. 551, 65 L. Ed. 1043. By the treaty, for the term of years mentioned in Article XXXIII merchandise arriving at the ports of New York, Boston and Portland, and other ports specially designated by the President, and destined for British possessions in North America may be entered at the customs house and may be conveyed in transit without the payment of duties through the territory of the United States under such rules, &c., as the Government of the United States may prescribe; and under like rules, &c., from such possessions through the territory of the United States for export from the said ports of the United States. President Cleveland and President Harrison in messages to Congress expressed the opinion that Article XXIX had been abrogated. In view of the parallelism between the statute and the treaty the question seems of no importance except so far as the existence of the treaty might be supposed to intensify the reasons for construing later legislation as not overruling it. But make-weights of that sort are not enough to affect the result here.

On the other side is the Eighteenth Amendment forbidding 'the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all

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territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.' There is also the National Prohibition Act of October 28, 1919, c. 85, title 2, § 3, 41 Stat. 305, 308, which provides that except as therein authorized, after the Eighteenth Amendment goes into effect no person shall manufacture, sell, barter, transport, import, export, deliver, furnish or possess any intoxicating liquor. All the provisions of the act are to be liberally construed to the end that the use of intoxicating liquor as a beverage may be prevented.

The routine arguments are pressed that this country does not undertake to regulate the habits of people elsewhere and that the references to beverage purposes and use as a beverage show that it was not attempting to do so; that it has no interest in meddling with transportation across its territory if leakage in transit is prevented as it has been; that the repeal of statutes and a fortiori of treaties by implication is not to be favored; and that even if the letter of a law seems to have that effect a thing may be within the letter yet not within the law when it has been construed. We appreciate all this, but are of opinion that the letter is too strong in this case.

The Eighteenth Amendment meant a great revolution in the policy of this country, and presumably and obviously meant to upset a good many things on as well as off the statute book. It did not confine itself in any meticulous way to the use of intoxicants in this country. If forbade export for beverage purposes elsewhere. True this discouraged production here, but that was forbidden already, and the provision applied to liquors already lawfully made. See Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Co., 251 U. S. 146, 151, n. 1, 40 Sup. Ct. 106, 64 L. Ed. 194. It is obvious that those whose wishes and opinions were embodied in the Amendment meant to stop the whole business. They did not want intoxicating liquor in the United States and reasonably may have thought that if they let it in some

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of it was likely to stay. When, therefore, the Amendment forbids not only importation into and exportation from the United States but transportation within it, the natural meaning of the words expresses an altogether probable intent. The Prohibition Act only fortifies in this respect the interpretation of the Amendment itself. The manufacture, possession, sale and transportation of spirits and wine for other than beverage purposes are provided for in the act, but there is no provision for transshipment or carriage across the country from without. When Congress was ready to permit such a transit for special reasons, in the Canal Zone, it permitted it in express words. Title 3, § 20; 41 Stat. 322.

Street v. Lincoln Safe Deposit Co., 254 U. S. 88, 41 Sup. Ct. 31, 65 L. Ed. 151, 10 A. L. R. 1548, was decided on the ground that the liquors were in the strictest sense in the possession of the owner (254 U. S. 92, 93, 41 Sup. Ct. 31, 65 L. Ed. 151, 10 A. L. R. 1548; see Union Trust Co. v. Wilson, 198 U. S. 530, 537, 25 Sup. Ct. 766, 49 L. Ed. 1154), and that to move them from the warehouse to the dwelling was no more transportation in the sense of the statute than to take them from the cellar to the dining room; whereas in Corneli v. Moore, January 30, 1922, 257 U. S. 491, 42 Sup. Ct. 176, 66 L. Ed. 332, they were not in the owner's possession and required delivery and transportation to become so. In United States v. Gudger, 249 U. S. 373, 39 Sup. Ct. 323, 63 L. Ed. 653, the only point was that transportation through a State was not transportation into it within the meaning of the statute before the Court. None of these cases has any bearing upon the question here. We are of opinion that the decree in Grogan v. Hiram Walker & Sons, Ltd., should be reversed, and the decree in The Anchor Line, Ltd., v. Aldridge, affirmed.

615. Decree reversed.

639. Decree affirmed.

Mr. Justice McKENNA dissenting.

I am unable to concur in the opinion and judgment of the Court.

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