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ADAMS EXPRESS CO. V. KENTUCKY, 238 U. S. 190 (1915)

U.S. Supreme Court

Adams Express Co. v. Kentucky, 238 U.S. 190 (1915)

Adams Express Company v. Kentucky

No. 271

Argued May 10, 11, 1915

Decided June 14, 1915

238 U.S. 190


The first resort, with a view to ascertaining the meaning of a statute, is to the language used; if that is plain, there is an end to construction, and the statute is to be taken to mean what it says.

The purpose of Congress in enacting the Webb-Kenyon Act of March 1, 1913, c. 90, 37 Stat. 69, was not to prohibit all interstate shipment or transportation of liquor into so-called dry territory, but to render the prohibitory provisions of the statute operative whenever, and only when, the liquor is to be dealt with in violation of the law of the state into which it is shipped.

Page 238 U. S. 191

Except as affected by the Wilson Act of 1890, which permits state law to operate on interstate shipments of liquor after termination of transportation to the consignee, and the Webb-Kenyon Act of 1913, which prohibits interstate transportation of liquor into a state to be dealt with therein in violation of the laws of that state, the interstate transportation of liquor is left untouched, and remains within the sole jurisdiction of Congress under the federal Constitution. As it appears that an interstate shipment of liquor into Kentucky was not to be used in violation of the laws of that state as such laws have been construed by its highest court, the Webb-Kenyon Act had no effect to change the general rule that a state may not regulate commerce which is wholly interstate.

The facts, which involve the construction and application of § 259a of the statutes of Kentucky in regard to local option and of the Act of Congress known as the Webb-Kenyon Law, are stated in the opinion.

Page 238 U. S. 193

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