Wills v. Russell

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

100 U.S. 621

Wills  v.  Russell

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts.

This was an action brought by Willis, Edmands, & Co., against Thomas Russell, a former collector of customs for the port of Boston, to recover certain duties paid under protest upon an importation from India of jute rejections, made in September, 1872. A duty of ten per cent ad valorem, assessed under sect. 24 of the Tariff Act of March 2, 1861 (12 Stat. 196), and five dollars per ton under sect. 11 of the Tariff Act of July 14, 1862 (id. 554), had been paid; and this action was for the five dollars per ton.

The plaintiffs, after proving their payment of the duties alleged to the defendant, put in evidence the following protest for the purpose of showing that they had complied with sect. 14 of the act of June 30, 1864, c. 171. 13 Stat. 214.

'BOSTON, Oct. 7, 1872.

'SIR,-We desire respectfully to protest against your action in assessing and exacting a duty of fifteen dollars per ton upon an importation made by us into this port of 125 bales of jute rejections, weighing 37,500 pounds, or about, per ship 'Melrose,' from Calcutta, and entered for consumption, on the 18th of September, claiming that under existing laws this duty cannot be legally imposed upon this merchandise. Jute rejections are not enumerated in any tariff act in force, consequently can only be subjected to duty as a non-enumerated article. Jute rejections are unmanufactured. They are raw material, and have not passed through any process of manufacture before being imported into the United States. Being non-enumerated and unmanufactured, we claim that upon importation they should be classified and subjected to a duty of ten per cent ad valorem, under the twenty-fourth section of the act of March 2, 1861.

'Should it be determined that, because of the process which this merchandise passes through in being prepared for shipment, it is manufactured or partially manufactured, we then claim that it should be classified as a non-enumerated manufactured or partially manufactured article, under the section and act above referred to, and subjected to a duty of twenty per cent ad valorem.

'We pay this duty, amounting to two hundred and fifty-one dollars and six cents ($251.06) gold, in order to obtain possession of our property, and shall hold you and the government responsible for its exaction.

'Yours very respectuflly,

'WILLS, EDMANDS, & CO.

'To Hon. THOMAS RUSSELL, Collector.'

One of the plaintiffs having testified in chief to the payment of the duties and to the protest and appeal, but not as to what jute rejections were, or as to the contents of the protest, the defendant claimed upon cross-examination the right to examine him with a view of showing that jute rejections were a vegetable substance, within the eleventh section of the Tariff Act of July 14, 1862.

The plaintiffs objected, upon the ground that the witness had not testified in chief upon the subject inquired of; but the court overruled the objection, and permitted him to be examined as to whether jute rejections were a vegetable substance similar to the enumerated articles in the second clause of said sect. 11, what they were, and how jute was grown. To this ruling the plaintiffs excepted. The plaintiffs claiming that the vegetable substances not enumerated, named in said second clause, were limited to those used for cordage, offered to show that in 1862 jute, Sisal grass, sun hemp, and coir were so used, and that jute rejections were not then, never have been, and cannot be, so used. This profert of evidence being objected to, was rejected by the court as immaterial, and the plaintiffs excepted. They asked the court to instruct the jury as follows:--

First, That sect. 15 of the act of March 2, 1861, and sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862, and the provision in schedule C, sect. 2504 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, must be construed together, and full effect be given to the words 'used for cordage' as restrictive in the application of sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862, in the assessment of duties.

Second, That the words 'used for cordage' by necessary implication of law are to be implied in sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862.

Third, That the provision in schedule C, sect. 2504 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, as follows, 'vegetable substances used for cordage,' was a legislative declaration, on the first day of December, 1873, that such was the state of the law, and it is necessarily a construction of sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862, in connection with sect. 15 of the act of March 2, 1861. It was the declared purpose of Congress to collate all the statutes as they were at that date, and not to make any change in their provisions.

Fourth, If the jury shall find that commercially jute rejections were not used for cordage, then they were not liable to the duty imposed by the defendant under sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862, and their verdict must be for the plaintiffs.

The court declined so to instruct the jury; but instructed them that it was for them to find whether or not jute rejections were of a class of non-enumerated vegetable substances similar to the enumerated articles in sect. 11 of the act of July 14, 1862. If they were, then the duty was properly assessed; if not, then their verdict must be for the plaintiffs. The jury returned a verdict for the defendant; and judgment having been rendered thereon, the plaintiffs sued out this writ of error.

Mr. Charles Levi Woodbury for the plaintiffs in error.

Mr. Assistant Attorney-General Smith, contra.

MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.

Notes[edit]

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).