Patapsco Guano Co v. Board of Agriculture of North Carolina

Decision Date31 May 1898
Docket NumberNo. 9,9
Citation43 L.Ed. 191,171 U.S. 345,18 S.Ct. 862
PartiesPATAPSCO GUANO CO. v. BOARD OF AGRICULTURE OF NORTH CAROLINA et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Thomas N. Hill and John W. Hinsdale, for appellant.

R. H. Battle, F. H. Busbee, and J. C. L. Harris, for appellees.

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER delivered the opinion of the court.

This was a bill filed in the circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of North Carolina, April 1, 1892, seeking to enjoin the collection of an inspection charge of 25 cents per ton on commercial fertilizers, as prescribed by an act of the general assembly of North Carolina of January 21, 1891, and from taking any steps whatever to enforce that act, on the ground of its unconstitutionality.

The court entered a restraining order, but, on the coming in of the answer, a motion to continue the injunction until the hearing was heard on bill, answer, affidavits, and exhibits, and denied, and the temporary injunction dissolved. The opinion of the circuit court, by Seymour, J., is reported in 52 Fed. 690. Proofs were taken, and a final hearing had, at June ter, 1893, at Raleigh. The bill was dismissed, and complainant thereupon prosecuted this appeal.

By section 14 of article 9 of the constitution of North Carolina of 1875-76, it was provided that, as soon as practicable after the adoption of that instrument, the general assembly should 'establish and maintain, in connection with the university, a department of agriculture, of mechanics, of mining, and of normal instruction.'

By an act of March 12, 1877 (Laws N. C. 1876-77, p. 506, c. 274), such a department was established, and, among other things, the subject of commercial fertilizers dealt with. By the eighth section, manipulated guanos, superphosphates, or other commercial fertilizers were forbidden to be sold, or offered for sale, until the manufacturer or person importing the same had obtained a license therefor, on payment of a privilege tax of $500 per annum for each separate brand or quality.

By section 9, every bag, barrel, or other package of such fertilizer offered for sale was required to have thereon a label or stamp setting forth the name, location, and trade-mark of the manufacturer, the chemical composition of the contents, and the real percentage of certain specified ingredients, and that the privilege tax had been paid. By section 10, the board was empowered to collect samples for analysis; by section 11, to require railroad and steamboat companies to furnish monthly statements of the quantity of fertilizers transported; and, by section 12, to establish an agricultural experiment and fertilizer central station in connection with the chemical laboratory of the university, and the trustees of the university, with the approval of the board, were directed to employ an analyst, skilled in agricultural chemistry, whose duty it should be 'to analyze such fertilizers and products as may be required by the department of agriculture, and to aid as far as practicable in suppressing fraud in the sale of com- mercial fertilizers,' and whose salary was to be paid 'out of the funds of the department of agriculture.'

The sections bearing on this subject were carried forward in the Code of 1883 (volume 2, c. 1, § 2190 et seq.).

In August, 1890, the circuit court for the Eastern district of North Carolina (Bond and Seymour, JJ.) held that section 2190 of the Code, declaring that no commercial fertilizers should be sold or offered for sale until the manufacturer or importer obtained a license from the treasurer of the state, for which should be paid a privilege tax of $500 per annum for each separate brand, was in violation of the federal constitution, and void. American Fertilizer Co. v. Board of Commissioners, 43 Fed. 609.

Thereupon, by the act of January 21, 1891 (Laws 1891, p. 40, c. 9), chapter 1 of volume 2 of the Code was amended, and sections 2190, 2191, and 2193 were made to read as follows:

'Sec. 2190. For the purpose of defraying the expenses connected with the inspection of fertilizers and fertilizing materials in this state there shall be a charge of twenty-five cents per ton on such fertilizers and fertilizing material for each fiscal year ending November thirtieth, which shall be paid before delivery to agents, delaers or consumers in this state: provided, the board shall [have] the discretion to exempt certain natural material as may be deemed expedient. Each bag, barrel or other package of such fertilizers or fertilizing materials shall have attached thereto a tag stating that all charges specified in this section have been paid, and the state board of agriculture is hereby empowered to prescribe a form for such tags, and to adopt such regulations as will enable them to enforce this law. Any person, corporation or company who shall violate this chapter, or who shall sell or offer for sale any such fertilizers or fertilizing material contrary to the provisions above set forth, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and all fertilizers or fertilizing materials so sold or offered for sale shall be subject to seizure and condemnation in the same mannera § is provided in this chapter for the seizure and condemnation of spurious fertilizers, subject, how- ever, to the discretion of the board of agriculture to release the fertilizers so seized and condemned upon the payment of the charge above specified and all costs and expenses incurred by the department in such proceeding: provided, that tags shall be attached by manufacturers, agents or dealers to all fertilizers now in the state; those protected under license previously issued shall be furnished free of charge.

Sec. 2191. Every bag, barrel or other package of such fertilizers or fertilizing materials as above designated offered for sale in this state shall have thereon plainly printed a label or stamp, a copy of which shall be filed with the commissioner of agriculture, together with a true and faithful sample of the fertilizer or fertilizing material which it is proposed to sell, at or before delivery to agents, dealers or consumers in this state and which shall be uniformly used and shall not be changed during the fiscal year for which tags are issued, and the said label or stamp shall truly set forth the name, location and trade-mark of the manufacturer; also the chemical compostion of the contents of such package, and the real percentage of any of the following ingredients asserted to be present, to wit, soluble and precipitated phosphoric acid, which shall not be less than eight per cent.; soluble potassa, which shall not be less than one per cent.; ammonia, which shall not be less than two per cent., or its equivalent in nitrogen; together with the date of its analyzation, and that the requirements of the law have been complied with; and any such fertilizer as shall be ascertained by analysis not to contain the ingredients and percentage set forth as above provided shall be liable to seizure and condemnation as hereinafter prescribed, and when condemned shall be sold by the board of agriculture for the exclusive use and benefit of the department of agriculture.'

Section 2192 refers to the proceedings to condemn.

'Sec. 2193. Any merchant, trader, manufacturer or agent who shall sell or offer for sale any commercial fertilizer or fertilizing material without having such labels, stamps and tags as hereinbefore provided attached thereto, or shall use the required tag the second time to avoid the payment of the tonnage charge, or if any person shall remove any such fertilizer, [he] shall be liable to a fine of ten dollars for each separate bag, barrel or package sold, offered for sale or removed, to be sued for before any justice of the peace and to be collected by the sheriff by distress or otherwise, one-half less the costs to go to the party suing and the remaining half to the department; and if any such fertilizer shall be condemned as herein provided it shall be the duty of the department to have an analysis made of the same and cause printed tags or labels expressing the true chemical ingredients of the same put upon each bag, barrel or package, and shall fix the commerical value thereof at which it may be sold; and any person who shall sell, offer for sale or remove any such fertilizers, or any agent of any railroad or other transportation company who shall deliver any such fertilizer in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.'

Section 2196, which corresponded to section 12 of the act of March 12, 1877, was amended by the substitution of the word 'control' for the word 'central,' and read as follows:

'The department of agriculture shall establish an agricultural experiment and fertilizer control station, and shall employ an analyst, skilled in agricultural chemistry. It shall be the duty of said chemist to analyze such fertilizers and products as may be required by the department of agriculture, and to aid as far as practicable in suppressing fraud in the sale of commerical fertilizers. He shall, also, under the direction of said department, carry on experiments on the nutrition and growth of plants, with a view to ascertain what fertilizers are best suited to the various crops of this state; and whether other crops may not be advantageously grown on its soil, and shall carry on such other investigations as the said department may direct. He shall make regular reports to the said department, of all analyses and experiments made, which shall be furnished, when deemed needful, to such newspapers as will publish the same. His salary shall be paid out of the funds of the department of agriculture.'

The following was substituted for section 2205: 'Whenever any manufacturer of fertilizers or fertilizing materials shall have paid the charges hereinbefore provided his goods shall not be liable to any further tax whether by city, town or county.'

Section 2208 remained unamended, and provided: 'All moneys arising from the tax on licenses, from...

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