• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court banned taxes levied by states on incoming passengers, holding that such taxes directly regulated interstate commerce.

Smith v. Turner and Norris v. Boston, together known as the Passenger Cases, involved New York and Massachusetts taxes on inbound passengers, including citizens of other countries. By a 5-4 vote, a badly divided Supreme Court held that state taxes on alien passengers were direct regulations of interstate commerce and therefore void. Amid the confusion of eight separate opinions, the judges appeared to have decided that people were articles of commerce. The opinions demonstrated how strongly the justices disagreed concerning issues of slavery and federalism. In his dissent, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney wrote an influential statement about the right of citizens to travel throughout the country “without interruption.”Interstate commerce;Passenger Cases[Passenger Cases]Travel, right to;Passenger Cases[Passenger Cases]

These immigrants, crossing the Atlantic in 1902, benefited from an 1849 ruling in which the Supreme Court held that states could not place taxes on newcomers.

(Library of Congress)

Commerce, regulation of

Federalism

Travel, right to

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