« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
quarantine involves danger, as recent experience has shown, in the spread of contagious diseases. Small towns in the South and Southwest, where cholera and yellow fever are most liable to gain a foothold, do not maintain eminent medical experts in these diseases, and few of the physicians in these smaller towns have had laboratory and hospital training. It requires reasonable and uniform quarantine laws and skilled and well-trained medical men to meet the exigencies of an epidemic. State, county, and municipal boards of health are too often created by favoritism, and their tenure of office is short-lived. Local health officers are not always selected for their ability, experience, and fitness—often merely for political reasons; and the cost of maintaining thorough and efficient quarantine is apt to have a deterrent influence on cities with depleted treasuries.
The expenses incurred in preventing the spread of contagious diseases from one State to another, and from State to Territory, should properly fall as a burden upon the Federal government. The national government maintains at Washington through its Marine Hospital Service one of the best and most efficiently equipped biological and bacteriological laboratories in the country, and is constantly carrying on investigation and training members of the corps in work connected with contagious diseases, quarantine and sanitary matters. It has the machinery and the experience necessary to stamp out epidemic diseases promptly, when such have been brought to our shores. Notable instances of the prompt handling and the prevention of the spread of yellow fever may be cited as in the epidemics at Jacksonville, Florida, in 1888, and Brunswick, Georgia, in 1893. In both of these epidemics the disease was circumscribed in territory, and its spread prevented by the Marine Hospital Service. In addition to having complete outfits for detention camps, which are placed at convenient points and can be put in service on twenty-four hours' notice, the bureau has representatives, as experts and experienced surgeons, at every important port of entry along the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts. These medical gentlemen are specially trained for this work, and nearly all have been in the service for a considerable number of years. Surgeons entering the Marine Hospital Service are required to pass a rigid examination before the Board of Medical Examiners, and if successful, are then recommended to the President for appointment and
commission. Promotion in the service is attained by successful examinations.
In addition to the paramount importance of having trained and experienced men, and all necessary machinery, in the effort to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious and contagious diseases, instead of local and inexperienced men with local interests, it must be admitted, without taking into consideration the item of expense, that the government, exercising its prerogative of interstate commerce control, should take entire charge of quarantine relating to yellow fever, cholera, smallpox and the plague.
It is encouraging to note that a marked and radical change in sentiment throughout the South and Southwest has taken place regarding national control of quarantine.
At the eighth annual meeting of the Tri-State Medical Association of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, at Nashville, resolutions were introduced and passed, placing that Association on record as favoring national laws giving entire control of quarantine to the Marine Hospital Service in outbreaks in this country of cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, and the plague; and a concurrent resolution was recently introduced in the Georgia Legislature memorializing Congress to enact additional legislation enlarging the powers of the Marine Hospital Service. This resolution goes further and gives in charge to this Bureau all quarantine matters in the State of Georgia during the continuance of an epidemic.
Almost the entire press of the South has given its endorsement to these resolutions, and it is gratifying to know that the medical profession and boards of health and commercial bodies in the region affected by the recent epidemic of yellow fever have expressed their approval of national control of quarantine.
C. M. DRAKE.
NOTES AND COMMENTS.
THE LEGALITY OF PROGRESSIVE TAXATION. THE Supreme Court of Illinois, with but one dissenting voice, bas afirmed the constitutionality of the progressive inheritance tax law of that State, and the case* has now been appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States for a determination of the question whether progressive taxation is repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. The law in question was passed by the Illinois Legislature in 1895, and imposes a tax of one per cent. upon the excess above $20,000 received by each direct heir; two per cent. upon the excess above $2,000 inherited by each nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, or descendant thereof; and for more distant relatives and all others three per cent. of estates of from $500 to $10,000, four per cent. of estates of from $10,000 to $20,000, five per cent. of estates of from $20,000 to $50,000, and six per cent, of all exceeding $50,000. Thus where direct heirs and other near relatives are concerned the tax is not progressive in the usual sense of the word, though the generous deduction from each taxable legacy or distributive share in these cases really does make the percentage of the whole claimed by the State greater when the amount is large.
Aside from the intrinsic importance of the caso, the Illinois decision is the more noteworthy because the court which rendered it has the reputation of being a very conservative body; for example, a factory law limiting the hours of labor for women was recently annulled by this court on the ground that it interfered with freedom of contract. It is also wortby of notice that the court refused to follow the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court,t which had declared unconstitutional a similar progressive tax on direct heirs. The two laws were of course examined with reference to two different State constitutions, but so far as there was any difference between the constitutions in that respect that of Illinois was less favorable to progressive taxation. The Ohio court found nothing in the constitution of that State to prevent the tax in question, except the seemingly irrelevant propositions that "all political power is inherent in the people," and that “government is insti. tuted for their equal protection and benefit”; while the Illinois constitution does require that a tax on a franchise or privilege shall be “uniform as to the class upon which it operates." The question was what was meant by a class, and how far the legislature might make its own classification. The court held that when the legislature levied a progressive tax at six different percentages, six classes were created, and that the tax was uniform as to each class.
* Kochersperger v. Drake, 47 N, E, Reporter, 321.
Another line of reasoning based upon the law of inheritance also led up to the favorable decision. The court said in effect that the rights of inberitance and bequest being creations of statute law, the legislature might regulate and impose condition s or burdens upon them; tbat to deny the right of the State to impose such burdens would be to deny its right to regulate the administration of estates.
Arguments similar to both of these had been urged by the State in the Ohio case, but without avail, although the reasoning was equally applicable in both cases. It should be added, however, that the objections of the Ohio court were not wholly or even chiefly due to the progressive principle, as will be seen from the tollowing language of the court: “The right to receive the first twenty thousand dollars of an estate not exceeding that sum is protected from taxation, while the right to receive the first twenty thousand dollars of an estate exceeding that sum is taxed the sum of two bundred dollars. This is not equal protection. Again, the right to receive fifty thousand dollars' worth of property of an estate not exceeding that som is taxed five hundred dollars, while the right to receive fifty thousand dollars of an estate exceeding that sum is taxed seven hundred and Afty dollars. This is not equal protection.” In other words, the court's first objection was concerned with the injustice resulting from the exemption, which might have been obviated by allowing a deduction of $20,000 from every direct in. heritance, as in Illinois. The second objection was to this particular kind of progressive taxation, and this, too, might perhaps have been obviated by making each percentage apply only to the excess above the next lower class. Then the first $50,000, or the first $70,000, or any other sum, would be taxed the same amount in every case. The court's language does not make it clear whether a progressive tax of this kind would have been upheld, but it at least suggests that it might have been ; and at any rate the tax would bave been more equitable. Certainly the decision is not conclusive against this kind of progressive taxation, even in Ohio.
What, now, are the prospects of the Illinois law at the bar of the United States Supreme Court ? It is contended by the appellant that by this act the State of Illinois deprives persons of property without due process of law, denies to persons witbin its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, and abridges the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, all in violation of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment. In determining whether this section is applicable to any new case, it is necessary, as the Supreme Court itself has pointed out, to look at the purpose for which it was enacted. That purpose, as every one knows, was to raise the negroes to the status of citizenship and endow them with certain civil rights. In other words, it was proposed and adopted with the double purpose of defining citizenship and making permanent the essential features of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which gave to negroes “ the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce cuntracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, bold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.'' Although the amendment is naturally in more general terms than the statute, the latter shows about what was meant by “the equal protection of the laws." And the history of the provision showed so plainly that it was intended for the benefit of the negroes that the Supreme Court long doubted whether any act not directed by way of discrimination against the negroes
as a class would ever be held to come within its purview. In time, however, its application was extended to discriminations against the Chinese, and finally to matters having no connection with race or color, but coming strictly within the language of the amendment.
But the application of the Fourteenth Amendment is still by no means 80 wide as is often assumed. In particular, the clause prohibiting the taking of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, though it refers plainly enough only to sufficiency of legal procedure, has been appealed to as prohibiting all sorts of new or unusual legislation. Mr. Justice Miller, in the case of Davidson v. New Orleans, I called attention to the "strange misconception of the scope of this provision.” He described the situation in the present case exactly when he went on to say: “ It would seem, from the character of many of the cases before us and the arguments made in them, that the clause under consideration is looked upon as a means of bringing to the test of the decision of this court the abstract opinions of every unsuccessful litigant in a State Court of the justice of the decision against him, and of the merits of the legislation upon which such a decision may be founded.” In like manner Mr. Justice Peckham has recently & written : “It was never intended that the Court should, as the effect of the amend. ment, be transformed into a Court of Appeal, where all decisions of State Courts involving merely questions of general justice and equitable considerations in the taking of property should be submitted to this Court for its determination.” And he repeated the general rule laid down in the New Orleans case, that whenever a tax, assessment, servitude, or other burden is imposed upon property for the public use, and the law provides for a mode of confirming or contesting the charge in the ordinary courts of justice, together with due notice to the persons affected or such proceeding as may be appropriate, the owner is not deprived of property without due process of law.
The clauses concerning the privileges and immunities of citizens and the equal protection of the laws do not refer exclusively to legal procedure, but they have no application to the present case. Their meaning has already been defined by the Supreme Court. The privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States were enumerated in the Slaughter-House Cases, and more recentlyl a condensed definition has been given by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, who says: “The privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States are privileges and immunities arising out of the nature and essential character of the national government, and granted or secured by the Constitution of the United States.” The other clause is interpreted I to mean simply "that no person or class of persons shall be denied the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and under like circumstances."
The Court has been called upon to construe the Fourteenth Amendment in several cases in which questions of taxation were directly involved ; and it has become a well-established rule that the amendment does not prohibit classification by State legislatures on any reasonable basis. Mr. Justice * Slaughter
House Cases, 16 Wallace, 36; Strauder v. W. Va., 100 U. S., 303. Yick Wov. Hopkins, 118 U. S., 356. 196 U. S , 97.
Fallbrook Irrigation District v. Bradley, 164 U. 8., 112. [Giozza v. Tiernan, 148 U, S., 657. 1 Missouri v. Lewis, 101 U. 8., 22; Moore v. Missouri, 159 U. 8., 673.