Farrell v. United States (99 U.S. 221)/Opinion of the Court
The evidence given in the court below we cannot consider. It is improperly brought before us. The Circuit Court made no special finding of facts. All the finding it made was, that the high wines or distilled spirits mentioned in the distiller's warehousing bond were entirely destroyed by fire without any fault, negligence, or carelessness on the part of the distiller, or of any person in charge of the distillery and bonded warehouse in the employment of the distiller; that they were so destroyed while in the bonded warehouse connected with the distillery, and that the warehouse was in the charge of any internal-revenue store-keeper. The single question, therefore, is, whether these facts thus found relieve the obligors in the bond from liability to pay the government tax upon the liquors thus destroyed. We think they do not. The bond was dated on the 13th of June, 1870. It bound the obligors in a penal sum, conditioned to pay the taxes on the spirits deposited in the warehouse before their removal, and within one year from the date thereof. The obligation was unconditional, and it was exactly that which the distiller and his sureties were by the act of Congress required to assume. Act of July 20, 1868, sect. 23; 16 Stat. 135, 136. Depositing distilled spirits in a government warehouse did not make them the property of the government, or cause them to be held at the risk of the bailee. The property remained in the distiller, and the risk of loss by fire or any other casualty was consequently his. He and his sureties undertook to pay the government tax upon the spirits in the warehouse within one year, with no exception for any possible contingency. The judgment of the Circuit Court was, therefore, correct. The case of the distiller may be a hard one; but his misfortune is not the fault of the government. He might have protected himself by insurance, and possibly he did; or he might have obtained relief under the act of Congress of May 27, 1872, 17 Stat. 162. By that act Congress has provided a way in which a remission of the tax upon distilled liquors, casually destroyed while in the custody of a revenue officer in a bonded warehouse, may be obtained. The provision of such a mode of relief indicates a purpose to exclude any other.