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AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY v. IOWA

decided: January 3, 1905.

AMERICAN EXPRESS COMPANY
v.
IOWA



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IOWA.

Author: White

[ 196 U.S. Page 140]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

Although the majority of the Supreme Court of Iowa doubted the correctness of a ruling previously made by that court, nevertheless it was adhered to under the rule of stare decisis, and was made the basis of the decision in this cause. In the previous case it was held by the Supreme Court of Iowa that, where merchandise was received by a carrier with a duty to collect the price on delivery to the consignee, the merchandise remained the property of the consignor, and was held by the carrier as his agent with authority to complete the sale.Upon this premise it was decided that intoxicating liquors shipped C.O.D. from another State were subject to be seized on their arrival in Iowa in the hands of the express company. Sustaining upon this principle the seizure in this case, the Supreme Court of Iowa did not expressly consider the defense based on the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States, because the court deemed that its ruling on the subject of the effect of the C.O.D. shipment was a wholly non-Federal

[ 196 U.S. Page 141]

     ground, broad enough to sustain the conclusion reached. And this the court considered was sanctioned by O'Neil v. Vermont, 144 U.S. 324.

In accord with the opinion of the Supreme Court of Iowa it is insisted at bar that this writ of error should be dismissed for want of jurisdiction, because the decision below involved no Federal question, and the case of O'Neil v. Vermont, supra, is relied upon. The contention is untenable. As pointed out in Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. v. Sims, 191 U.S. 441, the view taken of the O'Neil case is a mistaken one. True, in that case the Supreme Court of Vermont gave to a C.O.D. shipment the effect attributed to it by the Supreme Court of Iowa in this case. True, also, a writ of error was prosecuted from this court to the Vermont court upon the assumption that the commerce clause of the Constitution was involved, but this court dismissed the wirt of error because it did not appear that the commerce clause of the Constitution was relied on in the state court, was in any way called to the attention of that court, or was passed upon by it. As on this record it appears that the protection of the commerce clause was directly invoked in the state court, it is apparent that the O'Neil case is inapposite. And as, in order to decide the contention that the judgment below rests upon an adequate non-Federal ground, we must necessarily consider how far the C.O.D. shipment was protected by the commerce clause of the Constitution, which is the question on the merits, we pass from the motion to dismiss to the consideration of the rights asserted under the commerce clause of the Constitution.

We can best dispose of such asserted rights by a brief reference to some of the controlling adjudications of this court.

In Bowman v. Chicago & N.W. Ry. Co., 125 U.S. 465, it was held that the statutes of Iowa, forbidding common carriers from bringing intoxicating liquors into the State of Iowa from another State or Territory without obtaining a certificate required by the laws of Iowa, was void, as being a regulation of commerce between the States, and, therefore, that those laws

[ 196 U.S. Page 142]

     did not justify a common carrier in Illinois from refusing to receive and transport intoxicating liquors consigned to a point within the State of Iowa.

In Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100, it was held that a law of the State of Iowa, forbidding the sale of liquor in that State, could not be made to apply to liquors shipped from another State into Iowa, before the merchandise had been delivered in Iowa and there sold in the original package, without causing the statute to be a regulation of commerce repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. In Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412, the same doctrine was reiterated, except that it was qualified to the extent called for by the provisions of the act of Congress of August 8, 1890, 26 Stat. 313, commonly known as the Wilson Act. In that case a shipment of intoxicating liquors had been made into the State of Iowa from another State, and the agent of the ultimate railroad carrier in Iowa was proceeded against for an alleged violation of the Iowa law, because when the merchandise reached its destination in Iowa he had moved the package from the car in which it had been transported to a freight depot, preparatory to delivery to the consignee. The contention was that, as by the Wilson Act, the power of the State operated upon the property the moment it passed the state boundary line, therefore the State of Iowa had the right to forbid the transportation of the merchandise within the State and to punish those carrying it therein. This was not sustained. The court declined to express an opinion as to the authority of Congress, under its power to regulate commerce, to delegate to the States the right to forbid the transportation of merchandise from one State to another. It was, however, decided that the Wilson Act manifested no attempt on the part of Congress to exert such power, but was only a regulation of commerce, since it merely provided, in the case of intoxicating liquors, that such merchandise, when transported from one State to another, should lose its character as interstate commerce upon completion of delivery under the contract of interstate shipment, and before sale in the original packages.

[ 196 U.S. Page 143]

     The doctrine of the foregoing cases was applied in Vance v. Vandercook Company, No. 1, 170 U.S. 438, 442, to the right of a citizen of South Carolina to order from another State, for his own use, merchandise, consisting of ...


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