In Whitman's Hand

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Title: Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar to William W. Belknap, 7 April 1870

Date: April 7, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: nar.01307

Source: National Archives and Records Administration. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, John Schwaninger, and Nima Najafi Kianfar

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April 7, 1870.

Hon. W. W. Belknap,

Secretary of War.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 6th instant, with the accompanying papers, all relating to an attempt by the officers of the Territory of New Mexico, under an Act of the Legislature for that Territory, to levy a tax upon the military officers of the United States stationed within the limits of the Territory, for their pay and allowances received from the United States—and also for the horses and other equipments owned by them, and necessary for the performance of their military duties, as well as for other property owned by them.

The Legislature of the Territory clearly has no right to levy a tax upon such officers on account of their pay and allowances,— and if the attention of the Territorial authorities is called to the case of Dobbins, vs. the Commissioners of Erie County, 16 Peters, 435, I think they will refrain from levying any such tax.

The right of the Legislature of the Territory to impose a tax upon officers for horses or any other property owned by them, and necessary for the performance of their military duties, is also denied by the United States; and if the Territorial officers persist in levying a tax upon either the military pay, or military property of army officers, the United States Attorney should be instructed to defend them, and in case of an adverse decision by the Territorial Courts, to bring the question before the Supreme Court of the United States, if a case arises over which that Court has appellate jurisdiction.

I have to say, however, that as New Mexico is a Territory, and not a State, and therefore is subject to the legislative control of Congress, if you deem it a matter of sufficient importance, the attention of Congress can be called to this law of the Territory, in its application to military officers, and Congress can then nullify it, or modify it in such manner as they may see fit.

If you desire any instructions given to the Attorney of the United States for the Territory, will you please inform me?

The enclosures of your letter are herewith returned.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

E. R. Hoar,

Attorney General.


question of taxes by New Mexico Territory of officers of U.S.A.


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