Brown v. Maryland (1827)

Case Facts: Maryland passed a law that required importers of foreign goods to get a license from the state in order to sell the imported items.  Maryland charged Brown with importing and selling goods without a license.  

Issue/s: Can a state require all importers of foreign goods to acquire a license from the state in order to sell the goods imported?

Holdings/reasoning: No,

Maryland’s statute for a tax on imports interferes with federal governments control of commerce with foreign countries, a power that was vested to Congress by the U.S. constitution.  When there is a conflict between state legislation and federal legislation, Federal is supreme.  

Items are taxable by the state if they have been sufficiently intermixed with the domestic goods, but goods that remain with the importer in the original form or packaging that it was imported in then a state taxing them would be in conflict with the provision in the Constitution forbidding states to tax imports.


Vile, John. R. 2014 (but older versions are OK too). Essential Supreme Court Decisions: Summaries of Leading Cases in U.S. Constitutional Law. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.


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