Evansville Bank v. Britton Britton/Dissent Bradley

Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinions

United States Supreme Court

105 U.S. 322

Evansville Bank  v.  Britton Britton


I dissent from the judgment of the court in these and the two preceding cases, for the reason that, in my opinion, the State laws authorizing the capital stock of national banks to be taxed, without allowing any deduction for the debts of the stockholders, where such deduction is allowed in relation to other moneyed capital, are void in toto so far as relates to national banks. To hold the laws valid except as to those who are actually indebted, and actually claim the benefit of the deduction, and actually set it up in a suit brought by the bank for relief, is practically to render the condition of the act of Congress nugatory, and to deprive of its protection the national banks and their stockholders. The tax though laid on the stockholders is required to be paid by the bank itself, which must pay without deduction unless the shareholders give the bank notice of the amount of their debts. This is a most ingenious expedient to avoid such deductions altogether. The probability that not one in ten of the shareholders will ever have notice of the assessment in time to make the claim, and the natural reluctance they would have (if they had notice) to lay the amount of their debts before a board of bank officers, will effectually secure the State from claims for deduction. And that was, no doubt, the object of the law. But this unequal operation of it, in its practical effect, might not be sufficient to render it void. It is void, in my judgment, because it makes no exception, but is general in its terms, subjecting to taxation the capital stock of national banks without the privilege of deducting debts. Denying to it operation and effect as to those who desire to claim the benefit of the deduction, and giving it effect as to all others, is to tear a portion of the law out by the roots. It is not like the case where a portion of a law, which may be separated from the rest, can be declared invalid without affecting the remainder of the law; nor like the case of a general law which the legislature has power to make, but from the operation of which some individuals may have a legal or constitutional exemption, which they can plead in their defence; but it is wrong in form, wrong in toto. The legislature had no authority or power to make the capital of national banks taxable except in the same manner as other moneyed capital of the State. The practical iniquity of the law is seen in this, that it affects the value of all the stock, whoever holds it. As the law stands, it acts as a prohibition against the purchase of the stock by those who owe debts, and they constitute a considerable portion of every community. It does not help the validity of the law for us to declare that it is pro tanto void, and, in fact, make a new law for the State. Its validity must be decided by its actual form and terms. If these cannot stand, the law is void.

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).