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Opinion of the Court.

required has been to prepare the articles for exportation, in order to preserve the credit of the exports of the State in foreign markets, as well as to certify their genuineness and purity for the benefit of purchasers generally. Chief Justice Marshall, in Gibbons v. Ogden, said: “The object of inspection laws is to improve the quality of articles produced by the labor of a country ; to fit them for exportation, or it may be, for domestic use.” 9 Wheat. 1, 203. In Brown v. Maryland, speaking of the time when inspection is made, he adds: “Inspection laws, so far as they act upon articles for exportation, are generally executed on land before the article is put on board the vessel ; so far as they act upon importations, they are generally executed upon articles which are landed. The tax or duty of inspection, then, is a tax which is frequently, if not always, paid for service performed on land.” 12 Wheat. 419, 438. Whilst, from the remark of the Chief Justice, last cited, it would appear that inspection may be made of imported goods, as well as goods intended for export, yet in what manner and to what extent this may be done without coming in collision with the power of Congress to regulate foreign and interstate commerce, may be somewhat difficult to explain with precision. In the case of People v. Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, 107 U. S. 59, it was held by this court that a law of the State of New York imposing a tax upon alien passengers coming by vessel from a foreign country to the port of New York is a regulation of foreign commerce, and void, although it was declared by the title of the law to be “An act to raise money for the execution of the inspection laws of the State;” which laws authorized passengers to be inspected in order to determine who were criminals, paupers, lunatics, orphans or infirm persons, without means or capacity to support themselves, and subject to become a public charge. It is true that the law was held not to be an inspection law, because such laws have reference only to personal property, and not to persons. But the question is still open as to the mode and extent in which state inspection laws can constitutionally be applied to personal property imported from abroad, or from another State, — whether such laws can go beyond the identi


Opinion of the Court.

fication and regulation of such things as are directly injurious to the health and lives of the people, and therefore not enti. tled to the protection of the commercial power of the government, as explained and distinguished in the case of Crutcher v. Kentucky, ante, 47, just decided.

It may be remarked, in passing, that in the notes to Turner v. Maryland, 107 U. S. 38, 51, 53, prepared by Mr. Justice Blatchford, in which is contained a list of the various inspection laws of the different States, we do not observe any laws which seem to provide for the inspection of articles other than those which are the produce of the State, and this generally with a view to preparing them for exportation.

But, be this as it may, and without attempting to lay down any specific proposition on this somewhat difficult subject, there is enough in the case before us to decide it on satisfactory grounds, without passing upon the general right of the State to inspect imports or the qualifications to which it must necessarily be subject. The law in question is a discriminating

a law, and requires the inspection of flour brought from other States, when such inspection is not required for flour manufactured in Virginia. This aspect of the case brings it directly within the principle of Brimmer v. Rebman, 138 U. S. 78, decided at the present term. The law in question in that case was another statute of Virginia, making it unlawful to sell within the State any fresh meats (beef, veal or mutton) slaughtered one hundred miles, or over, from the place at which it might be offered for sale, until it had been inspected and approved as provided in the act. Mr. Justice Harlan, delivering the opinion of the court in that case, said: “Undoubtedly, a State may establish regulations for the protection of its people against the sale of unwholesome meats, provided such regulations do not conflict with the powers conferred by the Constitution upon Congress, or infringe rights granted or secured by that instrument. But it may not, under the guise of exerting its police powers, or of enacting inspection laws, make discriminations against the products and industries of some of the States in favor of the products and industries of its own or of other States. The owner of the meats here


in question, although they were from animals slaughtered in Illinois, had the right, under the Constitution, to compete in the markets of Virginia upon terms of equality with the owners of like meats, from animals slaughtered in Virginia or elsewhere within one hundred miles from the place of sale. Any local regulation which in terms or by its necessary operation denies this equality in the markets of a State is, when applied to the people and products or industries of other States, a direct burden upon commerce among the States, and, therefore, void. Welton v. Missouri, 91 U. S. 275, 281; Railroad Co. v. Husen, 95 U. S. 465; Minnesota v. Barber, 136 U.S. 313, 319.” The case of Brimmer v. Rebman was decided in accordance with these views, the law in question being held to be unconstitutional and void. The decision in that case is so directly apposite to the present that it is unnecessary to prolong the discussion, or to cite further authorities.

The judgment of the Corporation Court of the city of Norfolk is Reversed, and the cause remanded for further proceedings

not inconsistent with this opinion.

MR. JUSTICE BRown, not having been a member of the court when this case was argued, took no part in the decision.

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No. 344. Argued April 28, 1891. – Decided May 11, 1891.

A contract with a municipal corporation, whereby the corporation grants

to the contractor the sole privilege of supplying the municipality with water from a designated source for a term of years, is not impaired, within the meaning of the contract clause of the Constitution, by a grant to another party of a privilege to supply it with water from a different


Opinion of the Court.


Where a contract with a municipal corporation is susceptible of two mean

ings, the one restricting and the other extending the powers of the corporation, that construction is to be adopted which works the least harm to the State.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Mr. W. Hallett Phillips for appellant.

Mr. T. A. Hamilton and Mr. D. P. Bestor for appellee.

MR. JUSTICE Harlan delivered the opinion of the court.

This case presents a question under the clause of the Constitution of the United States relating to the impairment by state legislation of the obligation of contracts.

The appellant, who was the plaintiff below, claims that his testator, Albert Stein, deceased, acquired by valid contract, and to the exclusion of all other persons or corporations, the right and privilege, by a system of public works, of supplying the city of Mobile and its inhabitants with water, from whatever stream or river drawn, until that city should redeem and purchase the water works constructed and maintained by the testator in accordance with the terms of that contract; and that the obligation of such contract was impaired by an act of the legislature of Alabama, approved February 19th, 1883, incorporating the Bienville Water Supply Company. Acts of Alabama, 1882–1883, p. 451. In this view the court below did not concur, and it dismissed the bill for want of equity. 34 Fed. Rep. 145.

It will conduce to a clear understanding of the issue between the present parties if we trace the history of the question of water supply for Mobile and its inhabitants, as disclosed in the legislation of Alabama and in the action upon that subject, from time to time, of the constituted authorities of that city. This being done, the inquiry as to whether the above act of 1883 impairs the obligation of the contract that Stein had with the city can be solved without extended discussion.

The first act, to which attention is called, is that of December 20th, 1820, incorporating the Mobile Aqueduct Company.

Opinion of the Court.

Its preamble recites that "it has been represented, that it would be of singular advantage to the health and commerce of the city of Mobile, to be supplied with water from some of the running streams in its vicinity, which would be attended with too much labor and expense to be effected by laying a tax for the purpose,” and that "it has also been represented, that certain individuals have agreed to associate themselves together for the purpose of conducting a supply of water from a creek called Three Mile Creek, otherwise Bayou Chatogue, for the use of the citizens and other persons residing in the city of Mobile.” In consequence of these representations certain named persons were constituted a corporation under the name of the Mobile Aqueduct Company, with authority to establish a channel or canal large enough to contain and conduct water in quantities sufficient to supply the citizens and other persons of Mobile. The act provided “that the said corporation and their successors shall have and enjoy the exclusive right and privilege of conducting and bringing water for the supply of said city for the space of forty years: Provided, The said corporation or their successors shall, before the expiration of three years, from the passage of this act, cause to be conducted the water from the said bayou or creek, to the said city of Mobile, in the manner herein before proposed : And provided also, That, after the expiration of the said term of years, the said water works shall become the property of the said city, and shall be for the free use of the inhabitants thereof forever.” Acts of Alabama, 1820, p. 72.

Nothing was done by this company. And by an act approved December 24th, 1824, amendatory of the charter of Mobile, the act of December 20th, 1820, was declared null and void, and all the rights, privileges and powers granted by it were transferred to and vested in that city for the use and benefit of its inhabitants. Acts of Alabama, 1821–5, p. 68. On the 1st day of December, 1836, an agreement in writing

, was entered into between the city and one Hitchcock, whereby the former granted and leased to the latter, his executors and assigns, for the term of twenty years, the entire use, control, management, rents, profits and issues of the “Mobile City

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