Priestman v. United States
4 U.S. 28 (1800)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Priestman v. United States, 4 U.S. 4 Dall. 28 28 (1800)

Priestman v. United States

4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 28

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT

FOR THE PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT

Syllabus

Public policy, national purposes, and the regular operations of government require that the revenue system shall be faithfully observed and strictly executed.

The omission of the owner of foreign merchandise transported across the State of Delaware from Baltimore to Philadelphia to take a permit for the same subjects them to seizure and forfeiture according to the provisions of the nineteenth section of the Act of Congress passed 18 February, 1793, entitled "an act for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels employed in the coasting trade. . . ."

An information was filed in the district court in the following terms:

"Be it remembered, that on this 15 January, 1798, into the District Court of the United States for the Pennsylvania District, in his proper person comes William Rawle attorney for the said United States for the district aforesaid, who for the said United States in this behalf prosecutes and for the said United States gives the court here to understand and be informed that between the first day of November last past and the exhibition of this bill two hundred and three silver watches, three gold watches, two enameled watches, two metal watches, two hunting watches, and seven pinchbeck watches, being articles of foreign manufacture and liable to the payment of duties imposed by the laws of the United States and being together of the value of $800. and more were transported from the State of Maryland across the State of Delaware to the District of Pennsylvania without a permit from the collector of any district in the said State of Maryland for that purpose first had and obtained."

"And the attorney aforesaid prosecuting as aforesaid further gives the court to understand and be informed that the said goods wares and merchandises so as aforesaid transported to

Page 4 U. S. 29

the District of Pennsylvania were not within twenty-four hours after the arrival thereof in the said District of Pennsylvania reported to the collector of the said District of Pennsylvania by the owner or consignee thereof or by any other person whatever."

"Whereby and by force of the acts of the Congress of the said United States, the said 203 silver watches, 3 gold watches, 2 enameled watches, 2 metal watches, 2 hunting watches, and 7 pinchbeck watches have become forfeited to the said United States and for the causes aforesaid have been seized by Sharp Delany, Esq., Collector of the said District of Pennsylvania, and are now in the custody of the marshal, &c. Wherefore the said attorney prosecuting as aforesaid prays the advice of the court upon the premises, and due process. . . ."

This information was founded on the act of Congress entitled "An act for enrolling and licensing ships, or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same," 2 vol. 168, and particularly upon the 19th section of the act, which is in these words:

"Sec. 19. And be it further enacted that it shall and may be lawful for the Collector of the District of Pennsylvania to grant permits for the transportation of goods, wares, or merchandise of foreign growth or manufacture, across the State of New Jersey to the District of New York, or across the State of Delaware, to any district in the State of Maryland or Virginia, and for the collector of the District of New York, to grant like permits for the transportation across the State of New Jersey, and for the collector of any District of Maryland or Virginia, to grant like permits for the transportation across the State of Delaware, to the District of Pennsylvania, provided that every such permit shall express the name of the owner, or person sending such goods, and of the person or persons, to whom such goods shall be consigned, with the marks, numbers and description of the packages, whether bale, box, chest, or otherwise, and the kind of goods contained therein, and the date, when granted, and the owner or person sending such goods shall swear or affirm that they were legally imported, and the duties thereupon paid or secured, and provided also that the owner or consignee of all such goods, wares, and merchandise shall, within twenty-four hours after the arrival thereof, at the place to which they were permitted to be transported, report the same, to the collector of the district where they shall so arrive, and shall deliver up the permit accompanying the same, and if the owner or consignee aforesaid, shall neglect or refuse to make due entry of such goods within the time, and in the manner, herein directed, all such goods, wares, and merchandise shall be subject to forfeiture, and if the permit granted shall not be given up,

Page 4 U. S. 30

within the time limited for making the said report, the person or persons to whom it was granted, neglecting or refusing to deliver it up, shall forfeit fifty dollars for every twenty-four hours it shall be withheld afterwards, provided that where the goods, wares and merchandise, to be transported in manner aforesaid, shall be of less value than eight hundred dollars, the said oath and permit shall not be deemed necessary, nor shall the owner or consignee be obliged to make report to the collector of the district where the said goods, wares and merchandise shall arrive."

William Priestman, the plaintiff in error, filed a claim for the watches, setting forth

"that he had paid the duties upon them, and that he did not transport them from the District of Maryland, across the State of Delaware, into the District of Pennsylvania."

The attorney of the district having filed a general replication to the claim, a case was made for the opinion of the court, in which the material facts were stated, as follows:

"That the watches in question were of the value of $3,899. That they were imported into the District of Maryland, and the duties thereon paid or secured according to law. That they were afterwards carried by the claimant or his agent, from the District of Maryland across the State of Delaware to the State of Pennsylvania, to-wit, to the City of Philadelphia without any license or permit so to do, first had and obtained from the collector of the port of Baltimore, and that no notice was given to the collector of the port of Philadelphia. That the watches were publicly offered for sale, next door to the custom house, in the City of Philadelphia with a number of other articles; and were afterwards seized as forfeited. That the watches did not belong to the master, owner, or any mariner of the ship, or vessel, in which they were imported from beyond sea into Baltimore; nor was the claimant captain, owner, or mariner, of the packet boat, in which they were brought from Baltimore to Frenchtown, or from Newcastle to Philadelphia."

The case was argued before the district judge in December 1798, and a decree of condemnation pronounced, which was affirmed upon a writ of error to the circuit court, in April term, 1800, and thereupon the cause was removed into this Court.

Page 4 U. S. 34

On 15 August, the judges briefly delivered their opinions seriatim, concurring in the following result.

By the Court:

The case stated comes clearly within the 19th section of the act of Congress for enrolling and licensing vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries. The provisions of the section are salutary, and were made to guard against frauds upon the revenue in the transportation of goods of foreign growth or manufacture across the several states. Public policy, national purposes, and the regular operations of government require that the revenue system should be faithfully observed and strictly executed. It is obvious that the claimant is an offender within the purview of the 19th section. To purge the offense, he relies upon the 33d section of the same act. But it is too plain for argument that this section cannot, by any fair and rational construction, be made to refer to the 19th section. It is inapplicable, because the objects are entirely different.

Judgment affirmed.

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