May 10, 1893: United States Supreme Court Finds Tomatoes to be Vegetables



The Tariff Act of 1883 decreed that a tariff would be imposed on imported vegetables but not on imported fruit.  The United States Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893) resolved the question of whether the tariff would be exacted on imported tomatoes:



MR. JUSTICE GRAY, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The single question in this case is whether tomatoes, considered as provisions, are to be classed as “vegetables” or as “fruit” within the meaning of the Tariff Act of 1883.

The only witnesses called at the trial testified that neither “vegetables” nor “fruit” had any special meaning in trade or commerce different from that given in the dictionaries, and that they had the same meaning in trade today that they had in March, 1883.

The passages cited from the dictionaries define the word “fruit” as the seed of plaints, or that part of plaints which contains the seed, and especially the juicy, pulpy products of certain plants covering and containing the seed. These definitions have no tendency to show that tomatoes are “fruit,” as distinguished from “vegetables” in common speech or within the meaning of the tariff act.

There being no evidence that the words “fruit” and “vegetables” have acquired any special meaning in trade or commerce, they must receive their ordinary meaning. Of that

meaning the court is bound to take judicial notice, as it does in regard to all words in our own tongue, and upon such a question dictionaries are admitted not as evidence, but only as aids to the memory and understanding of the court. Brown v. Piper, 91 U. S. 37, 91 U. S. 42; Jones v. United States, 137 U. S. 202, 137 U. S. 216; Nelson v. Cushing, 2 Cush. 519, 532-533; Page v. Fawcet, 1 Leon. 242; Taylor on Evidence (8th ed.), §§ 16, 21. (more…)

Published in: on May 10, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 10, 1893: United States Supreme Court Finds Tomatoes to be Vegetables  
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