United States v. American Sugar Ref. Co.
202 U.S. 563 (1906)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. American Sugar Ref. Co., 202 U.S. 563 (1906)

United States v. American Sugar Refining Company

No. 269

Argued April 27, 1906

Decided May 28, 1906

202 U.S. 563

Syllabus

Under the treaty between the United States and Cuba of December 11, 1902, and the Act of Congress of December 17, 1903, imports from Cuba were not entitled to reduction of duties imposed by the tariff Act of July 24, 1897, until December 27, 1903, the date proclaimed by the President of the United States and the President of Cuba for the commencement of the operation of the treaty.

After the treaty was amended by the Senate and the amendment accepted by Cuba, the time of its going into effect was to be fixed by act of Congress, and not as originally fixed by the treaty ten days after the exchange of ratifications.

Page 202 U. S. 564

There is a presumption against retrospective legislation, and words in a statute will not be construed as having such effect unless they clearly can have no other effect and the legislative intent cannot otherwise be satisfied, and in this respect the use in the statute of the future tense must be given weight..

The question in the case is whether certain sugars which were imported between the twelfth of June and the twenty-eighth of September, 1903, were chargeable with full duties under the tariff Act of July 24, 1897, or were entitled to twenty percent reduction of duties prescribed by that act, under the treaty between the United States and Cuba of the date December 11, 1902, and an act of Congress of December 17, 1903. The answer to the question depends upon when the treaty went into effect -- whether upon the tenth of April, 1903, or the twenty-seventh of December, 1903. The appellant contends for the former and the appellee for the latter date. Duties were assessed under the act of 1897 without reduction. Protests were filed and an appeal taken to the board of appraisers, who sustained the collector. The decision of the board was reversed by the circuit court. The treaty provided, 33 Stat. 2136, 2142, among other things, as follows:

"The President of the United States of America . . . and the President of the Republic of Cuba . . . have, in consideration of and in compensation for the respective concessions and engagements made by each to the other as hereinafter recited, agreed, and do hereby agree, upon the following articles for the regulation and government of their reciprocal trade, namely:"

"* * * *"

"Article II"

"During the term of this convention, all articles of merchandise not included in the foregoing Article I, and being the product of the soil or industry of the Republic of Cuba, imported into the United States, shall be admitted at a reduction of twenty percentum of the rates of duty thereon, as provided by the tariff act of the United States approved July 24, 1897, or

Page 202 U. S. 565

as may be provided by any tariff law of the United States subsequently enacted."

Article XI was as follows:

"The present convention shall be ratified by the appropriate authorities of the respective countries, and the ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, as soon as may be before the thirty-first day of January, 1903, and the convention shall go into effect on the tenth day after the exchange of ratifications, and shall continue in force for the term of five (5) years from date of going into effect, and from year to year thereafter until the expiration of one year from the day when either of the contracting parties shall give notice to the other of its intention to terminate the same."

By supplemental treaty signed January 26, 1903, 33 Stat. 2145, it was provided that "the respective ratifications of the said convention shall be exchanged as soon as possible, and within two months from January 31, 1903."

March 19, 1903, the Senate added the following amendment at the end of Article XI: "This convention shall not take effect until the same shall have been approved by the Congress."

On March 31, 1903, ratifications were exchanged. At this date, Congress was not in session, but was convened in special session November 9, 1903, and passed on December 17, 1903, 33 Stat. 3, an act entitled: "An Act to Carry into Effect a Convention between the United States and the Republic of Cuba, Signed on the eleventh Day of December in the Year 1902." Section 1 provides as follows:

"That whenever the President of the United States shall receive satisfactory evidence that the Republic of Cuba has made provision to give full effect to the articles of the convention between the United States and the Republic of Cuba, signed on the eleventh day of December, in the year nineteen hundred and two, he is hereby authorized to issue his proclamation declaring that he has received such evidence, and thereupon, on the tenth day after exchange of ratifications of such convention between

Page 202 U. S. 566

the United States and the Republic of Cuba, and so long as the said convention shall remain in force, all articles of merchandise being the product of the soil or industry of the Republic of Cuba, which are now imported into the United States free of duty, shall continue to be so admitted free of duty, and all other articles of merchandise being the product of the soil or industry of the Republic of Cuba imported into the United States shall be admitted at a reduction of twenty percentum of the rates of duty thereon, as provided by the tariff act of the United States approved July twenty-four, eighteen hundred and ninety-seven, or as may be provided by any tariff law of the United States subsequently enacted. The rates of duty herein granted by the United States to the Republic of Cuba are, and shall continue, during the term of said convention, preferential in respect to all like imports from other countries: Provided, That, while said convention is in force, no sugar imported from the Republic of Cuba and being the product of the soil or industry of the Republic of Cuba shall be admitted into the United States at a reduction of duty greater than twenty percentum of the rates of duty thereon, as provided by the tariff act of the United States approved July twenty-fourth, eighteen hundred and ninety-seven, and no sugar the product of any other foreign country shall be admitted by treaty or convention into the United States while this convention is in force at a lower rate of duty than that provided by the tariff act of the United States approved July twenty-fourth, eighteen hundred and ninety-seven: And provided further, That nothing herein contained shall be held or construed as an admission on the part of the House of Representatives that customs duties can be changed otherwise than by an act of Congress originating in said House."

The same day (December 17, 1903), the President issued his proclamation, 33 Stat. 2136, which, after setting forth the treaty and the act of Congress, and reciting the above facts, together with the fact that ratifications of said convention had been exchanged on March 31, 1903, declared:

Page 202 U. S. 567

"And whereas satisfactory evidence has been received by the President of the United States that the Republic of Cuba has made provision to give full effect to the articles of said convention;"

"Now therefore be it known that I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, in conformity with the said act of Congress, do hereby declare and proclaim the said convention, as amended by the Senate of the United States, to be in effect on the tenth day from the date of this, my proclamation. "

Page 202 U. S. 576

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