May 10, 2012
There might have been a few other cases on the docket, but what could be more important?
On this very date in 1893:
Nix v. Hedden:
The Supreme Court of the United States affirms the lower court ruling that the tomato should be classified under customs regulations as a vegetable rather than a fruit.
The Court's unanimous opinion held that the Tariff Act of 1883 used the ordinary meaning of the words "fruit" and "vegetable," under which a tomato is classified as a vegetable, instead of the technical botanical meaning.
Any important decision, you can bet there was money involved.
The tariff act required a tax to be paid on imported vegetables, but not fruit.
So the Nixes, John Nix, John W. Nix, George W. Nix, and Frank W. Nix filed against Edward L. Hedden, Collector of the Port of New York, to recover back duties paid under protest.
At the trial the plaintiffs' counsel, after reading definitions of the words 'fruit' and 'vegetables' from Webster's Dictionary, Worcester's Dictionary, and the Imperial Dictionary, called two witnesses, who had been selling fruit and vegetables, for over 30 years, and asked them, after hearing these definitions, to say whether these words had "any special meaning in trade or commerce, different from those read."
One witness testified that in regard to the dictionary definition:
"[the dictionary] does not classify all things there, but they are correct as far as they go. It does not take all kinds of fruit or vegetables; it takes a portion of them. I think the words 'fruit' and 'vegetable' have the same meaning in trade today that they had on March 1, 1883. I understand that the term 'fruit' is applied in trade only to such plants or parts of plants as contain the seeds.”
Ambiguous to say the least.
Experts seem to feel that the tomato is technically the fruit of the tomato plant, but it's used as a vegetable in cooking.
In other words, if you think it's a vegetable, it's a vegetable.
I hope that clears it up.