Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U.S. 20; 42 S. Ct. 449; 66 L. Ed. 817 (1922)

Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U.S. 20; 42 S. Ct. 449; 66 L. Ed. 817 (1922)

Facts—Congress passed the Child Labor Tax Law of 1919 requiring that those employing children under the age of fourteen must pay a tax amounting to 10 percent of their net profits. Bailey, collector of internal revenue, assessed a tax on the Drexel Furniture Company, which hired a boy under the age of fourteen. The company paid the tax under protest. It contended that the Child Labor Tax Law violated the states’ powers under the Tenth Amendment.

Question—Did Congress exercise constitutional power in passing the Child Labor Tax Law?


ReasonsC.J. Taft (8–1). The Court was of the opinion that the tax required in the Child Labor Tax Law was passed by Congress for the purpose of en- forcing police power legislation. Although the Child Labor Law did not de- clare the employment of children illegal, the same purpose was accomplished by imposing the tax. The Court did not deny the power of Congress to tax. The tax in this law, however, seemed to accomplish the purpose of a penalty for not obeying the employment standards set down by Congress. The em- ployment standard within a state is clearly a state power. Therefore, the Court ruled that the power to tax by Congress must be reasonably adapted to the collecting of a tax and not solely to the achievement of some other purpose plainly within the power of the states.

J. Clark dissented without filing a written opinion.

NoteBailey and Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918), decided under the influence of “dual federalism,” were reversed in United States v. Darby (1941).

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