Lufkin v. City of Galveston

Decision Date03 March 1885
Docket NumberCase No. 2031.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

APPEAL from Galveston. Tried below before the Hon. Wm. H. Stewart.

L. E. Trezevant, for appellant, cited: Burroughs on Taxation, 370, 373, 375; Cooley's Const. Lim., 231, 644 (4th ed.); 1 Desty on Taxation, 477-479; 2 Id., 1064-1091; Cooley on Taxation, 72, 210, 211, 257; Clark v. Davenport, 14 Iowa, 494.

James B. Stubbs, for appellee, cited: Const., art. 11, Mun. Corp., sec. 5; Charter of Galveston, sec. 79, approved August 2, 1876; Const., art. 8, Tax. and Rev., sec. 9; Dean v. Lufkin, 54 Tex., 265;Galveston Gas Co. v. County of Galveston, 54 Tex., 287;Red v. Johnson, 53 Tex., 284.


This suit questions the right of the city council of the city of Galveston to levy for the municipal year beginning March 1, 1884, a tax of ninety-nine cents on the one hundred dollars of property within the city for general purposes, and seven cents on the one hundred dollars as an emergency fund.

The city claims the right to levy both of these taxes under her charter of 1876, and the appellant contends that the grant of power under which the first tax is laid is unconstitutional, and that in levying the second the city has exceeded her chartered authority.

The city's charter permits a levy of one dollar and fifty cents on the one hundred dollars of the assessed value of all real and personal property not exempt from taxation, and the right to do so is claimed under article 11, section 5, of our state constitution, which, so far as it bears upon the present question, reads as follows:

“Cities having more than ten thousand inhabitants may have their charters granted or amended by special act of the legislature, and may levy, assess and collect such taxes as may be authorized by law, but no tax for any purpose shall ever be lawful for any one year which shall exceed two and one-half per cent. of the taxable property of such city.”

It cannot be questioned but that this section, standing alone, authorizes the legislature to empower the council to make the levy and the tax complained of in the petition.

But it is urged that this section is modified and controlled by section 9 of article 8 as amended in 1883, which reads as follows:

The state tax on property, exclusive of the tax necessary to pay the public debt and of the taxes provided for public schools, shall never exceed thirty-five cents on the one hundred dollars' valuation; and no county, city or town shall levy more than twenty-five cents for city or county purposes, and not to exceed fifteen cents for roads and bridges, on the one hundred dollars' valuation, except for the payment of debts incurred prior to the adoption of this amendment, and for the erection of public buildings, street, sewer and other permanent improvements not to exceed twenty-five cents on the hundred dollars' valuation in any one year and except as is in this constitution otherwise provided.”

It is a cardinal rule in the construction of constitutions and statutes that the whole instrument must be taken together--the whole scheme had in view by the law-making power must be understood and carried out; and where there are apparent conflicts or inconsistencies between different parts of the instrument, that construction must be adopted which will give effect to every part, rather than that which will render any portion nugatory and of no avail.

As a natural result of this principle, it follows that where in one section a general rule is prescribed, which without qualification would embrace an entire class of subjects, and in another section a different rule is prescribed for individual subjects of the same class, the latter must be construed as exceptions to the general rule, and be governed by the section which is applicable to them alone.

This gives effect to both sections, and prevents the otherwise necessary result that the special section would entirely fail to have any force whatever. Erwin v. Blanks, 60 Tex., 583;Warren v. Shuman, 5 Tex., 442; Sedgw. on Con. & Stat. Law, 242; Vattel's Rules of Construction, No. 8.

This rule of interpretation should certainly be adopted when the constitution or statute under construction contains language which shows that the general section must yield to the other as to the special subjects provided for in the latter.

When the instrument itself contains a rule for its own interpretation, that rule must be adopted; and when this rule accords with a general principle of construction, there can be no doubt but that this general principle was in view and intended as a guide to the construction of the instrument when it was adopted.

The general section in this case is the amended section 9 of article 8, and the special section is section 5 of article 11.

The former provides for the rate of ad valorem taxation, both state and municipal; the latter provides for city taxes alone. The former includes counties, cities and towns of all classes and sizes; the latter only cities of more than ten thousand inhabitants.

After prescribing the amount of ad valorem tax which might be levied by all classes of municipal government, and the different purposes for which they might be levied, the section concludes with these words: “except as in this constitution is otherwise provided.” This is as much as to say, that if it is provided in any other portion of this constitution that a different rate of taxation may be levied by counties, cities or towns for the same or other purposes, that provision shall have force and be treated as...

To continue reading

Request your trial
35 cases
  • State v. Balli
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • December 20, 1944
    ...a general provision of the statute conflicts with a special provision of the same law, the special provision must prevail. Lufkin v. City of Galveston, 63 Tex. 437; City of Austin v. Cahill, 99 Tex. 172, 88 S.W. 542; Id., 99 Tex. 172, 89 S. W. The State contends through its fourth point of ......
  • Jones v. Williams, 6051.
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • December 23, 1931 every other provision." (Italics ours.) Cooley's Constitutional Limitations (8th Ed.) vol. 1, pp. 127, 128, 129; Lufkin v. City of Galveston, 63 Tex. 437, 439; Texas Jurisprudence, Vol. 9, p. 434, §§ 24, Applying these rules, it is plain that sections 51 and 55 of article 3 cannot be con......
  • State v. Balli
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • June 23, 1943
    ...52 Tex. Civ.App. 473, 115 S.W. 61. It seems clear that the Legislature intended to confirm the title to Padre Island. Lufkin v. City of Galveston, 63 Tex. 437. The State further contends that appellees are not entitled to the benefit of the Act. This contention is predicated upon Article XI......
  • Cities Conroe v. Paxton (In re City of Conroe)
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • August 31, 2018
    ...v. City of Boerne , 111 S.W.3d 22, 25 (Tex. 2003) ; Howard Oil Co. v. Davis , 76 Tex. 630, 13 S.W. 665, 666 (1890) ; Lufkin v. City of Galveston , 63 Tex. 437, 439 (1885) ) ).87 Cf. Hood , 541 U.S. at 447–48, 124 S.Ct. 1905 (distinguishing bankruptcy court’s in rem jurisdiction to "determin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT