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United States Supreme Court

55 U.S. 227

Calkin and Company  v.  Cocke

THIS case was brought up by writ of error from the Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals for the State of Texas, under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act.

Calkin and Company were merchants of the county of Galveston, Texas, and Cocke was collector of Galveston under the Republic of Texas.

By a joint resolution of Congress, approved on the 1st of March, 1845, the President of the United States was authorized to submit one of two alternative propositions to the Republic of Texas, as an overture for her admission as a State into the Union. One of these contemplated the completion of this measure and the adjustment of its terms, by legislation, and the other by negotiation. The President selected the former, and presented to Texas the proposals contained in the first and second sections of the said resolutions. The first section declared 'that Congress doth consent that the Territory of Texas may be erected into a State, to be called the State of Texas, with a republican form of government, to be adopted by the people of said Republic, by deputies in convention assembled, with the consent of the existing government, in order that the same may be admitted as one of the States of this Union.'

And the second section declares that this consent, on the part of the United States, was given upon several conditions, one of which required the constitution, which was to be framed by the Convention, to be transmitted, with the proper evidences of its adoption by the people of the said Republic of Texas, to the President of the United States, to be laid before the Congress of the Union for its final action, on or before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and forty-six. This consent, with the conditions on which it was given, was communicated to the Republic of Texas, and in the course of the following summer and autumn the people of Texas, by deputies in Convention assembled, with the consent of the then existing government, erected it into a new State, with a republican form of government, as shown by the constitution then adopted by them for its government, and declared and ordained that they accepted the proposal contained in the resolutions just spoken of, and assented to the conditions on which it was made. The constitution adopted by the people of Texas, with the evidence of its adoption, and of their acceptance of the proposal made by Congress, and their assent to the conditions with which it was accompanied, was laid before Congress at the opening of the session of 1845-6, and on the 29th of December, 1845, the Congress of the United States, after taking cognizance of the acceptance of the proposal and of the conditions annexed to it by the people of Texas, and of the constitution adopted by them, declared that the State of Texas 'shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America,' &c.

This constitution of Texas, thus adopted by that State and laid before Congress, contained, amongst others, the following provisions. By the first section of the twelfth article of the said constitution, it was declared that 'all process which shall be issued in the name of the Republic of Texas, prior to the organization of the State government under this constitution, shall be as valid as if issued in the name of the State of Texas.' In the second section of the same article it was provided, that 'all criminal prosecutions or penal actions which shall have arisen prior to the organization of the State government under this constitution, in any of the courts of the Republic of Texas, shall be prosecuted to judgment and execution in the name of the State,' &c. The sixth section contained a provision that if it should appear, on the second Monday of November, 1845, from the returns, that a majority of the votes polled of the people of Texas were given for the adoption of the constitution, the President should make proclamation of that fact, and thenceforth the constitution was ordained and established as the constitution of the State, to go into operation, and be of force and effect, from and after the organization of the State government under the said constitution. By section ten, it was declared 'that the laws of this Republic relative to the duties of officers, both civil and military, of the same, shall remain in full force, and the duties of their several offices shall be performed in conformity with the existing laws, until the organization of the government of the State under this constitution, or until the first day of the meeting of the legislature,' &c.

On the same day that Congress declared that Texas shall be and is hereby declared to be one of the United States, viz. on the 29th of December, 1845, (9 Stat. at Large, 108,) Congress passed an act extending the laws of the United States over Texas, and declaring them to have full force and effect within the State. It provided also for the establishment of a court of the United States, with its necessary officers. And on the 31st of December, 1845, another law was passed, constituting Texas a collection district, and making Galveston a port of entry.

The Legislature of Texas did not meet, nor was the State government completely organized under its new constitution, until the 16th of February, 1846.

On the 30th of January, 1846, Calkin and Company imported into Galveston, from New Orleans, a large amount of merchandise, principally the growth and manufacture of the United States.

These goods were seized by Cocke, claiming one thousand dollars as duty, under the revenue laws of Texas. Calkin and Company protested against this, and demanded that the goods should be delivered to them in accordance with an act of Congress of the United States, of the 31st December, 1845, and of a circular of the Secretary of [the] Treasury of the United States, of 9th January, 1846, declaring that 'vessels and their cargoes arriving in any port of the State of Texas, either from a foreign port, or a port in any other State or Territory of the United States, are to be placed on a similar footing with vessels and their cargoes arriving at ports in any of the States of the Union.'

On the trial of the case in the District Court of the State of Texas, on the 5th of January, 1847, a judgment was rendered therein in favor of plaintiffs, restraining the defendant from claiming any duties on the merchandise, and condemning him to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, the damages assessed by the jury, as damages for the unlawful detention of the merchandise, and the costs of the suit. From this judgment a writ of error was prosecuted to the Supreme Court of Texas, and by that tribunal the judgment was reversed, and one given in favor of the defendant for the sum of nine hundred and sixteen dollars, the amount of duties unpaid, and the amount of costs expended in and about the suit.

A writ of error brought this judgment up to this court.

The case was argued, in printed arguments, by Mr. Miles Taylor, for the plaintiff in error, and Mr. Harris, for the defendant in error.

Mr. Taylor, after reciting the laws and other proceedings relative to annexation, continued:

Now it is an undoubted truth, that when a proposition, made by one party to another, is accepted as made, there is, from the instant of the acceptance, a valid contract, which from that moment is obligatory upon both, and must, to the full extent of its provisions, thereafter regulate the respective rights and obligations of the respective parties. Here the proposition was, that Texas should be admitted a member of the Union, on her compliance with certain terms and conditions. She complied with the terms and conditions, and accepted the proposition, and the Congress, in which the power to admit was vested, admitted her as a State into the Union, and on the 29th day of December, 1845, declared that she 'is one of the United States.' Was she not so? I believe she was, and that whilst this necessarily results from the terms of the proposition to admit her into the Union, and of its acceptance, it is further shown by the action of Texas herself.

Texas regarded the contract for her admission into the Union as complete, when she had given her assent to the proposition submitted to her in relation to it, and had acceded to the specified conditions. This is at once evident from the fact that immediately after her assent was given, she called on the Executive of the United States to employ the military force of the nation to protect her from hostilities threatened by Mexico. I have not the public documents before me, so as to be able to refer to the precise date of this application. It was made, however, some time before the meeting of Congress, in the autumn of 1845, and was based upon the obligation imposed on the national government by the Constitution, of exercising its power to protect every member of the confederacy from invasion. That this construction given by Texas to the effect of her acceptance of the proposition submitted to her is correct, cannot be doubted. The contract was complete from the time of her acceptance. She was entitled, from that moment, to all the advantages growing out of it, and was subject to all the burdens resulting from it. It is true, there was a new state of things created, not contemplated by the existing laws, and that some action on the part of Congress was necessary to give effect to the new rights and obligations, and to extend the laws of the nation over Texas. That was the case with respect to the judiciary, the rovenue system, the operations of the post-office, &c. But whilst something was necessary for these purposes on the part of the Congress of the United States, there was nothing which was required to be done by Texas. The Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, is the supreme law of the land, and when Congress exercised the power delegated to it by the Constitution, on the 29th day of December, 1845, by act of Congress, and said that all the laws of the United States were thereby 'declared to extend to and over, and to have full force and effect within the State of Texas, admitted at the present session of Congress into the confederacy and Union of the United States,' the revenue and other laws were extended proprio vigore, and not because of any thing contained in the constitution of Texas, which had just been adopted, for 'the Constitution of the United States, and the laws made in pursuance thereof,' being the supreme law of the land, if any thing had been contained in the constitution of Texas, which conflicted with them, it would have been absolutely null and void, and have no more force or effect than if not written.

The pretensions set up by the defendant, in his pretended capacity of collector, under the authority of the revenue laws of the late Republic of Texas, are understood to be based on the 10th section of the twelfth article of the constitution of Texas, in which it is declared 'that the laws of this Republic, relative to the duties of officers, both civil and military, of the same, shall remain in full force, and the duties of their several offices shall be performed in conformity with the existing laws, until the organization of the government of the State under this constitution, or until the first day of the meeting of the legislature.'

An attentive consideration of this section, and of the other sections embraced in the same article of the constitution of Texas, will, I think, make it apparent that no such consequence as that now contended for, was contemplated, or could legitimately flow from it. The different sections contained in that article were designed to provide for the transition from an independent government to one adapted to the new order of things, and were not intended or designed to limit or restrain the rightful authority of the Constitution or laws of the United States, within the territory of Texas, or to fix a time when the independent authority of Texas should yield and give place to the national authority of the United States. By the first section of this article, it was declared, that 'all process that should be issued in the name of the Republic of Texas, prior to the organization of the State government under the constitution, should be as valid as if issued in the name of the State of Texas.' The second section provided, 'that all criminal prosecutions or penal actions' which should have arisen prior to the organization of the State government under the constitution, in any of the courts of the Republic of Texas, should 'be prosecuted to judgment and execution in the name of the State,' &c. The sixth section directed, that 'if it should appear on the second Monday of November, 1845, from the returns, that a majority of the votes polled of the people of Texas, were given for the adoption of the constitution, the President should make proclamation of that fact, and thenceforth the constitution was ordained and established as the constitution of the State, to go into operation and be of force and effect from and after the organization of the State government under the constitution. And then in the tenth section of the same article, is found the provision before recited, to the effect that the laws of the Republic relative to the duties of officers, both civil and military, of the same, should remain in full force, and the duties of the several offices be performed 'in conformity with the existing laws, until the organization of the government of the State,' under the constitution, or 'until the first day of the meeting of the legislature,' &c.

These various provisions were introduced into the constitution of Texas, not, as I before remarked, to bind or restrain the rightful authority of the Constitution and laws of the United States within the territory of Texas, or fix a time when the independent authorities of Texas should yield to and give place to the national authorities of the United States, but to obviate the inconveniences which might otherwise have grown out of the change from one constitution to another. In the absence of any declaration to the contrary, it cannot be presumed that any limitation or condition, on the contract just completed by their formal assent, was intended by these general expressions, because full effect can be given to them without adopting such a construction. But if it were otherwise, and it were the design of the people of Texas to impose such a limitation, the provision would have produced no such effect. If Texas ever has been an integral part of the Union, she was so when Congress declared her to be so, on the 29th day of December, 1845, after her acceptance of the proposition submitted to her in relation to it. If she were so at that time for any purpose, she was so for all purposes; and then it would of necessity follow, that as the Constitution of the United States, and the laws adopted under its authority, are the supreme laws of the land, the constitution and laws of the Republic of Texas, wherever they conflicted with them, were at once abrogated, and that the people of Texas could not at any future time give validity or binding force to any new constitutional or legal provision which conflicted with it.

Mr. Harris, for the defendant in error.

It is obvious that the main question presented by the record is, whether Texas was annexed to the United States, on the 26th of December, 1845, or on the 16th of February, 1846; and, as a consequence, at which of these periods the right of the late Republic to collect import duties terminated. It is contended by the plaintiffs, that this right ceased on the 29th of December, 1845, when the joint resolution of Congress was passed for the admission of Texas as one of the States of the Union; while it is contended, on the part of the defendant, that it did not cease until the 16th day of February, 1846, the day on which the State government was organized.

For the settlement of this question, resort must be mainly had to the terms of the joint resolution 'for the annexation of Texas,' &c., approved March 1, 1845; to those of the constitution of the State of Texas, and of the joint resolution of the 29th of December, mentioned above.

It is submitted that the first of these amounts to nothing more than a proposition, on the part of Congress, for the annexation of Texas, and this resolution may be said to be only preliminary to that object. The first and second sections, it is contended, clearly show that it was not the intention of Congress to concede to Texas the power to consummate annexation by any act of her own; for it provides that the constitution of the proposed State, 'with the proper evidence of its adoption by the people of the said Republic of Texas, shall be transmitted to the President of the United States, to be laid before Congress, for its final action, on or before the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and forty-six.' This is entirely consistent with the preamble of the joint resolution 'for the admission of the State of Texas into the Union.'

The last section of the constitution of Texas, provides that 'the ordinance passed by the convention on the fourth day of July, assenting to the overtures for the annexation of Texas to the United States, shall be attached to the constitution, and form a part of the same.' They were transmitted to the President, to be laid before Congress together, and the meaning of the ordinance was restrained and limited, not only by the intention of the first joint resolution, but also by the spirit and terms of the constitution itself.

This constitution, containing the conditions upon which Texas consented to be annexed, and having been accepted by Congress, must, with all its terms and conditions, be regarded as a part of the contract, or treaty of annexation. It having been adopted by Congress, it is supposed that its provisions became a portion of the laws of the United States, and that the constitution of Texas, and the joint resolution of the 29th of December, 1845, should be taken and construed together. Under this view, attention is most respectfully invited to several articles of that instrument.

The first section of the 21th article of the constitution provides, that 'all process which shall be issued in the name of the Republic of Texas, prior to the organization of the State government under this constitution, shall be as valid as if issued in the name of the State of Texas.' In the second section, it is provided, 'that all criminal prosecutions, or penal actions, which shall have arisen prior to the organization of the State government, under this constitution, in any of the courts of the Republic of Texas, shall be prosecuted to judgment and execution, in the name of the State,' &c. The sixth section, under the same article, among other things, provides, that if the constitution be adopted by the people, it shall 'go into operation, and be of force and effect, from and after the organization of the State government, under said constitution,' &c.

By the 10th section it is declared, 'that the laws of the Republic relative to the duties of officers, both civil and military, of the same, shall remain in full force, and the duties of their several offices shall be performed in conformity with the existing laws until the organization of the government of the State under this constitution, or until the first day of the meeting of the legislature.'

It is most respectfully submitted, that these provisions furnish cumulative and convincing evidence, that the people of Texas (one of the contracting parties) intended and stipulated that the government of the Republic of Texas and all its laws should remain in full force until the 16th of February, 1846, 'the first day of the meeting of the legislature.' It is also submitted, that the other party, by accepting this constitution, became bound by all its terms and stipulations, as portions of the contract of annexation.

For the convenience of the argument, it may be supposed that Texas proposed to be annexed upon the terms and conditions contained in her State constitution, and that this proposition was accepted by the government of the United States. Had such been the case, it is easy to see that the effect of the contract would not be changed. If it had been so consummated, it is equally obvious that no diversity of opinion would have arisen in regard to its construction.

Then the condition, that the sovereignty and laws of the Republic should remain unimpaired until the 16th of February, 1846, was proposed by Texas and assented to by Congress.

It may be further remarked, that Congress must have understood this to be one of the stipulations of the contract. By reference to the act of Congress, of the 29th of May, 1846, (see acts of 1845, '46, page 23,) it will be seen, that the 3d section provides that the Postmaster-General was not authorized to pay the expenses incurred for carrying the mail in Texas, prior to the 16th of February, 1846. When the contract of annexation was one and indivisible, was it the intention of Congress to receive its benefits from the 29th of December, 1845, and to postpone its burdens to the 16th of February, 1846?

Mr. Justice NELSON delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).