Fort Leavenworth R. Co. v. Lowe
114 U.S. 525 (1885)
The Fort Leavenworth Military
Reservation was built on land was originally purchased by the Federal
government from France (in the Louisiana Purchase), and was constructed
before Kansas became a State.
When Kansas became a State,
nothing was said about the Fort.
Kansas, like all States,
came into the Union on an 'equal footing', this meant that they received
sovereignty over all the land, including the Fort.
The Federal government could
have, as a condition of Statehood, asked to retain dominion over the
Fort, but did not do so.
A few years later, this
omission was rectified, and the Kansas Legislature passed a law that ceded
jurisdiction of the Fort to the Federal government.
However, the Kansas law said
that the State retained the right to tax property on the Fort.
The Fort Leavenworth Railroad
Co. operated a railroad that was entirely located inside the Fort.
Kansas ordered the railroad to
pay property taxes. The railroad objected, claiming that the property
inside the base was exempt from taxation.
The railroad argued that the
Enclave Clause (Art. 1 §8, cl.
17) says that the Federal government has exclusive authority
over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State
for the construction of forts and similar buildings.
So basically, the railroad
argued that the Enclave Clause
meant that the Federal government has exclusive jurisdiction on the
Fort, and were the only ones who could tax the railroad.
The Trial Court found for
Kansas. The railroad appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The railroad appealed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed
and found that Kansas could tax the railroad.
The US Supreme Court found
that the Fort was not originally purchased with the consent of Kansas
(since it wasn't a State). In addition, Kansas never ceded the right to
tax to the Federal government. Therefore, the Enclave Clause is not applicable.
Basically, even though the Enclave
Clause says that the Federal
government can acquire exclusive jurisdiction over land with the consent
of the State Legislature, they could also acquire land in different
ways, and those acquisitions may not come with exclusive jurisdiction.
The Enclave Clause isn't all or nothing. The States can cede some powers, and retain others.
Btw, today, only about 6%
of Federal land is an enclave.
The Court noted that, as a
condition of admission to the Union, the Federal government could have
required Kansas to cede all sovereignty related to the Fort, but did not
Note that while this case held
that States can retain some authority over Federal land, they cannot
retain direct authority over Federal facilities.
So for example, in this case
Kansas could tax the privately-owned railroad, but they would not have
been allowed to tax buildings and facilities directly owned by the
There aren't very many modern
cases regarding the Enclave Clause.
It is much more common for the Federal government invoke a combination of
the Property Clause and the Supremacy
Clause to keep the States from
regulating Federal land.
For example, see Kleppe
v. New Mexico (426 U.S. 529 (1976)).