The Jay, Rutledge, and Ellsworth Courts (1789–1800)


CourtSpeak: Hylton v. United States Tax Case (1796)

Justice Samuel Chase (unanimous ruling): “I think, an annual tax on carriages for the conveyance of persons, may be considered as within the power granted to Congress to lay duties…. It seems to me, that a tax on expence is an indirect tax; and I think, an annual tax on a carriage for the conveyance of persons, is of that kind; because a carriage is a consumeable commodity; and such annual tax on it, is on the expence of the owner.”

Justice William Paterson: “A tax on carriages, if apportioned, would be oppressive and pernicious. How would it work? In some states there are many carriages, and in others but few. Shall the whole sum fall on one or two individuals in a state, who may happen to own and possess carriages? The thing would be absurd, and inequitable.”

Justice James Iredell: “I am clearly of opinion, this is not a direct tax in the sense of the Constitution, and, therefore, that the judgment ought to be affirmed.”


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