Solomon v. Arthur

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

102 U.S. 208

Solomon  v.  Arthur

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.

This was an action brought by Solomon Solomon and others, constituting the firm of Solomon Brothers, against Arthur, the collector of the port of New York. The following facts were admitted upon the trial, it being agreed that neither party should offer any evidence.

Plaintiffs are partners in business, and as such imported at the port of New York, in December, 1873, and January, 1874, certain goods manufactured of silk and cotton. The defendant exacted upon them a duty of fifty per cent ad valorem, which rate the plaintiffs paid under protest, the substantial part of which is, that under existing laws the goods are only liable to a duty of thirty-five per cent, because they are provided for at that rate by sect. 22 of the act of March 2, 1861, and sect. 13 of the act of July 14, 1862. This protest was followed by an appeal to the Secretary of the Treasury, who affirmed the decision of the collector. This suit was brought in due time.

The goods were composed of silk and cotton, in varying proportions, the warp being all cotton and the filling partly silk. It is admitted by the plaintiffs, for the purpose of this case, that silk was the component material of chief value. The goods generally are known in trade and commerce as goods made of mixed materials, but each kind thereof is also known by its specific name. If the plaintiffs are entitled to recover, judgment shall be rendered in their favor for the difference between thirty-five and fifty per cent, which amount is $461.75 gold, with $75.40 interest in currency.

Mr. Edward Pierrepont and Mr. William Stanley for the plaintiffs in error.

The jury found a verdict for the defendant pursuant to the instructions of the court, and the plaintiffs sued out this writ.

The duty was exacted under the last clause of sect. 8 of the act of June 30, 1864, which imposes fifty per cent ad valorem 'on all manufactures of silk, or of which silk is the component material of chief value, not otherwise provided for.' 13 Stat. 202, 210.

It is plain that the commercial designation of the goods in question was, 'goods made of mixed materials.' A commercial designation is that 'known in trade and commerce.'

The tariff acts recognize two species of dutiable goods, into one of which silk must enter and be 'the component part of chief value,' and a totally distinct kind of 'mixed goods,' into which silk may or may not enter in part, as the case may be.

We invite attention to the act of Aug. 5, 1861, and the act of March 2, 1861. Sect. 16 of the latter act prescribes: 'On silk ribbons, galloons, braids, fringes, laces, tassels, buttons, button cloths, trimmings, and on silk twist, twist composed of mohair and silk, sewing-silk in the gum or purified, and all other manufactures of silk or of which silk shall be the component material of chief value, not otherwise provided for, thirty per cent ad valorem.' 12 Stat. 186. Sect. 22 describes the other kind, in these words: 'Manufactures, not otherwise provided for, composed of mixed materials in part of cotton, silk, wool or worsted, or flax.' Id. 192. Sect. 2 of the act of August 5, which raises the duty on silk goods to forty per cent, leaves that on 'mixed goods' at thirty per cent. The enumeration of the silk goods on which the duty was raised to forty per cent is precisely the same, word for word, as in the preceding act. Id. 293.

By sect. 13 of the act of July 14, 1862, the duty on 'manufactures composed of mixed materials in part of cotton, silk, wool, or worsted, hemp, jute, or flax,' was raised to thirty-five per cent. Id. 557.

No higher duty than thirty-five per cent had ever been imposed by any statute upon this class of goods. And it is here to be noted that the statute of 1862, which increased the duty on 'manufactures composed of mixed materials,' did not change the duty upon goods of which silk was the component material of chief value.

The attempt is now made to strain the statute of 1864, relating to silk goods, to cover 'manufactures composed of mixed materials,' into which silk may so enter as to form the more costly part.

After enumerating some thirty silk manufactures, the section ends in the words we have first quoted.

The class of goods 'known in trade and commerce as goods made of mixed materials,' which are specifically named in the other statutes, and upon which the duty was in 1861, thirty per cent, and in 1862 thirty-five per cent, is nowhere alluded to in this statute of 1864. Sect. 22 expressly provides 'that the duties upon all goods, wares, and merchandise imported from foreign countries not provided for in this act shall be and remain as they were, according to existing laws prior to the 29th of April 1864' (13 id. 216), and 'that all acts and parts of acts repugnant to the provisions of this act be, and the same are hereby, repealed.'

Thus we find running through the statutes these two classes of manufactures: those into which silk must enter; and the 'mixed manufactures,' into which silk might or might not enter. It is an admitted fact that the goods in question are generally known in trade and commerce as goods made of mixed materials; but inasmuch as 'silk was a component material of chief value,' it is argued by the learned Assistant Attorney-General that these 'mixed goods' must pay a duty of fifty per cent, under the act of 1864, which relates to a totally different kind of goods.

Surely no such construction can fairly be given to the acts, and such ruling would be quite out of harmony with numerous decisions of this court. Arthur v. Zimmerman, 96 U.S. 124; Arthur v. Unkhart, id. 118; Arthur v. Lahey, id. 112; Arthur v. Davies, id. 135; Arthur v. Homer, id. 137; Reiche v. Smythe, 13 Wall. 162; Homer v. The Collector, 1 id. 486, and the long list of earlier cases on commercial designation.

Mr. Assistant Attorney-General Smith, contra.

MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).