Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100; 10 S. Ct. 681; 34 L. Ed. 128 (1890)

Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100; 10 S. Ct. 681; 34 L. Ed. 128 (1890)

Facts—Leisy, a brewer of Peoria, Illinois, brought an action to recover a quantity of barrels and cases of beer that had been seized in a proceeding on behalf of the state, for violating the Iowa statute prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors in the state. The beer in question was shipped from Illinois and sold in the original packages.

Question—Can a state prohibit articles of commerce from being imported into the state, in the absence of legislation on the part of Congress?


ReasonsC.J. Fuller (6–3). The power of Congress to regulate commerce is unlimited, except for those restrictions specified in the Constitution. If Congress does not regulate concerning certain phases of interstate commerce, that commerce shall be free and unhampered. Beer, therefore, may be brought into the state and sold, after which time it becomes mingled in the common mass of property of the state, and subject to its control. The right to sell any article brought into a state is an inseparable incident to the right to import the article.

Note—The original package doctrine regarding foreign imports, Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheaton 419 (1827) was carried over and covered interstate commerce in Leisy. In Leisy, though, the Court invited Congress to enact legislation giving the states some power to regulate articles involved in interstate commerce, which it did in 1890 in the Wilson Act, subsequently validated in In re Rahrer, 140 U.S. 545 (1891).

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