"Now, the law in question is nothing more than an exercise of the power which every State and sovereignty possesses, of regulating the manner and terms upon which property, real or personal within its dominion may be transmitted by last will and testament, or by inheritance, and of prescribing who shall and who shall not be capable of taking it. Every State or nation may unquestionably refuse to allow an alien to take either real or personal property situated within its limits, either as heir or legatee, and may, if it think proper, direct that property so descending or bequeathed shall belong to the State. In many of the States of this Union at this day, real property devised to an alien is liable to escheat. And if a State may deny the privilege altogether, it follows that when it grants it, it may annex to the grant any conditions which it supposes to be required by its interests or policy. This has been done by Louisiana. The right to take has been given to the alien, subject to a deduction of 10 per cent for the use of the State.
"In some of the States laws have been passed at different times imposing a tax similar to the one now in question upon its own citizens, as well as foreigners, and the constitutionality of these laws has never been questioned. And if a State may impose it upon its own citizens, it will hardly be contended that aliens are entitled to exemption, and that their property in our own country is not liable to the same burdens that may lawfully be imposed upon that of our own citizens.
'We see no objection to such a tax, whether imposed on citizens and aliens alike, or upon the latter exclusively."
"While the laws of all civilized States recognize in every citizen the absolute right to his own earnings, and the enjoyment of his own property, and the increase thereof during his life, except so far as the State may require him to contribute his share for public expenses, the right to dispose of his property by will has always been considered purely a creature of statute and within legislative control. 'By the common law, as it stood in the reign of Henry II., a man's goods were to be divided into three equal parts, of which one went to his heirs or lineal descendants, another to his wife, and a third was at his own disposal; or, if he died without a wife, he might then dispose of one moiety, and the other went to his children; and so, e converso, if he had no children, the wife was entitled to one moiety, and he might bequeath the other; but if he died without either wife or issue, the whole was at his own disposal. 2 Bl. Com. 492.
"Prior to the statute of wills enacted in the reign of Henry VIII., the right to a testamentary disposition of the property did not extend to real estate at all, and as to personal estate was limited as above stated. Although these restrictions have long since been abolished in England, and never existed in this country, except in Louisiana, the right of a widow to her dower, and to a share in the personal estate, is ordinarily secured to her by statute.
"By the Code of Napoleon, gifts of property, whether by acts inter vivos or by will, must not exceed one-half the estate if the testator leave but one child, one-third if he leaves two children, and one-fourth if he leaves three or more. If he have no children, but leaves ancestors, both in the paternal and maternal line, he may give away but one-half of his property, and but three-fourths if he have ancestors in but one line. By the law of Italy one-half of a testator's property must be distributed equally among all his children. The other half he may leave to his eldest son, or to whomsoever he pleases. Similar restrictions upon the power of a disposition by will are found in the codes of other continental countries, as well as in the State of Louisiana. Though the general consent of the most enlightened nations has, from the earliest historical period recognized a natural right in children to inherit the property of the parents, we know of no legal principle to prevent the legislature from taking away or limiting the right of testamentary disposition, or imposing such conditions upon its exercise as it may deem conducive to public good."