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Constitutional Law > Constitutional Law Keyed to Brest > From Reconstruction to the New Deal: 1866-1934

Downes v. Bidwell


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Constitutional Law Keyed to Brest

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Constitutional Law Keyed to Brest

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. 182 U.S. 244 (1901).

    Brief Fact Summary.

    When Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory, Congress established sources of income for the territory, including duties on Puerto Rican goods imported into the U.S. Downes (Plaintiff) challenged, arguing that the duties violated Article I, § 8, cl.1 of the Constitution.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The revenue clauses in the Constitution extend only to states, not to U.S. territories.

    Facts.

    The United States ratified a treaty with Spain that ended the Spanish-American War. As part of that treaty, Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory. Congress passed the Foraker Act in 1900 to temporarily provide for a civil government and sources of revenue for Puerto Rico. One of the sources of revenue was a duty imposed on Puerto Rican oranges imported into the U.S. Plaintiff was a merchant seeking to import these oranges and he challenged these duties as in violation of Article I, § 8, cl. 1 of the Constitution. Article I, § 8, cl. 1 of the U.S. Constitution states that “all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”� Bidwell (Defendant) was the government agent responsible for collecting the duties. The Supreme Court decided the case. (The remainder of the procedural posture is omitted from the casebook). 

    Issue.

    Do the Constitution’s revenue clauses extend beyond the states and apply to U.S. territories?

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