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Supreme Court Decisions

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CIVIL-BIGHTS'CASE. The United States Suprome Court gave its decisión in the case of Hall, administratrix, of Benson, vs. McCuire, error to the Supreme Coxirt of Louisiana. In this case Benson was master of a steamboat enroiJed and lioensed under the laws of the United States and piying between New Orleans and Vicksburg. He refused passage to defendant on account of her color, and this suit was brought under the law of the State forbidding discrimination by common carriers within the State on account of race or color. The defense was that the law of the State was a void act, as it had undertaken the legulation of commerce so far as the business of defendant's vessel was concerned - as it was engagel in in State commerce - a matter wholly within the jurisdiction and control of Congress. The State conrt held that the law was valid, and the same question was presented here. The statute is regarded, in accordanee with the decisión below, as requiring those engaged in inter-Sfcate commerce to give all persons traveling in Louisiana upon public conveyances employed in their business equai rights and privileges, without dis iinction on account of race or color, and t is said that for thi3 reason the court has nothing to do with it as a regulation of internal commerce, or as affecting anything else than commerce among the States; and, as to this, the court says there can be no doubt that exclusive power has been conferred upon Oongress. The difficulty has never been as to the existence of this power, but as to what is to be deemed an encroachment upon it, and it may be saf ely said that State legislation wh'ich seeks to impoae a direct burden upon inter-State commerce, or to interfere directly with its freedom, encroaches upon the exclusive power of Congress. The statute in qupstion occupies this position. It does not act upon business through local instruments to be employed after the vehicle of conveyance comes within the State, but directly upon the business as it comes into the State from without, or goes out from within. While it purports only to control the carrier when engaged within the State, it must necessarily influence bis conduct to some extent in the management of bis business throughout his entire voyage. Keversed. The Chief Justice delivered the opinión. BANK-TAI CASE. Farrington vs. State of Tennessee and Shelby county, error to the Supreme Court"of Tenneesee. Plaintiff in error in tbis oase representa the Union and Planters' Bank, Tennessee, whose charter declares "Thatit shallpayto the State an annual tax of one-half of 1 per cent. on each share of capital stock subseribed, which tshall be in lieu of all other taxes." In 1872, uüder eubsequent legislation, the stock of the bank was taxed for State and county purposes at par valué of its stock at the rate flxed by the later statute. The court held that the bank was exempt f rom any different rate of taxation than that flxed in its charter by the compact therein contained between the State and corporation, and that subsequent legislation was void as inipairing the obligatious of the contract. A compact, says the court, lies at the foundation of all national life. Contracts mark the progress of comnranities in civilización and prosperity. They guard as far as possible against the fluctuations of human affairs. They seek to give stability to the present and certainty to the future. They gauge the confldence of man in the truthfulness and integrity of his fellow-man. They are the springs of business, trade and commerce, and without them society could not go on. Spotless faith in their fulñllment honors alike communities and individuals. Under the contract in this case there could be no further tax upon the shares of the bank, for rights have vested under it, and these rights are sacred. Reversed. Justioe Swayne delivered the opinión. Dissenting- Justiees Strong, Clifford and Field, who held that the assumption of a contract does not extend to the shares of the bank taxed as property against individuals holding them. Four other cases are disposed of by this decisión.


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