From the Hylton to the Pollock Case

The result of the Hylton case was not challenged until after the Civil War. A number of the taxes imposed to meet the demands of that war were assailed during the postwar period as direct taxes, but without result. The Court sustained successively, as “excises” or “duties,” a tax on an insurance company’s receipts for premiums and assessments,1956 a tax on the circulating notes of state banks,1957 an inheritance tax on real estate,1958 and finally a general tax on incomes.1959 In the last case, the Court took pains to state that it regarded the term “direct taxes” as having acquired a definite and fixed meaning, to wit, capitation taxes, and taxes on land.1960 Then, almost one hundred years after the Hylton case, the famous case of Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co.1961 arose under the Income Tax Act of 1894.1962 Undertaking to correct “a century of error,” the Court held, by a vote of five-to-four, that a tax on income from property was a direct tax within the meaning of the Constitution and hence void because not apportioned according to the census.

Footnotes

1956
Pacific Ins. Co. v. Soule, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 433 (1869). [Back to text]
1957
Veazie Bank v. Fenno, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 533 (1869). [Back to text]
1958
Scholey v. Rew, 90 U.S. (23 Wall.) 331 (1875). [Back to text]
1959
Springer v. United States, 102 U.S. 586 (1881). [Back to text]
1960
102 U.S. at 602. [Back to text]
1961
157 U.S. 429 (1895); 158 U.S. 601 (1895). [Back to text]
1962
28 Stat. 509, 553 (1894). [Back to text]