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Downes v. Bidwell

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Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901).

Facts: The US was expanding and gaining territories, but in regard to certain territories such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the government did not assume these territories would be treated as the other territories were treated. Downes imported oranges from Puerto Rico, and sued the NY collector of duties for imposing higher duties on these oranges. Downes argued that Puerto Rico was part of the US so higher duties violate Article 1, § 8: "All duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

Issue: Does Puerto Rico qualify as a territory? Does Article 1, § 8 apply?

Holding: Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, but it is not covered under the revenue clauses of the Constitution.

  • Territories are not "part" of the United States
    • Created by states for the states
  • Territories had no representatives so not included in the Constitution
  • You can be under US jurisdiction without being a part of the US
  • Power of Congress limited over states, not territories

Dissent: (Harlan): The framers never intended for Congress to rule over the territories without regard to the Constitution.