Taylor v. United States
44 U.S. 197 (1845)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Taylor v. United States, 44 U.S. 3 How. 197 197 (1845)

Taylor v. United States

44 U.S. (3 How.) 197

Syllabus

It is the right of an officer of the customs to seize goods which are suspected to have been introduced into the country in violation of the revenue laws not only in his own district, but also in any other district than his own.

And it is wholly immaterial who makes the seizure, or whether it was irregularly made or not, or whether the cause assigned originally for the seizure be that for which the condemnation takes place, provided the adjudication is for a sufficient cause.

In the trial of such a case, the officers of the customs who made the seizure are competent witnesses.

A bill of lading, entry, and owner's oath concerning other goods than those seized, may be admitted as a link in the chain of evidence to show a privity between the parties to commit a fraud upon the revenue.

When a witness on the part of the United States stated that his firm were importers of cloths, and was asked upon a cross-examination to state the extent of their importations, to which he answered, "formerly we imported large quantities of woolens; for three or four years past we have imported but a few packages annually," it was a proper question on the part of the United States, "whether there was anything in the state of the market which caused the alteration."

It was also a proper question whether other goods than those seized were lying in the custom house at New York, under circumstances from which the jury might infer a connivance between parties inconsistent with fair dealing.

An invoice of other goods entered at another port, but marked like those seized, was also properly admitted as strengthening the evidence of the true ownership of packages with this mark.

To rebut the proof of a general usage of an allowance of five percent for measurement, other invoices were properly introduced in which there was no such allowance.

Where a witness was introduced to prove such usage, and had verified his own invoices, it was admissible to read a letter which had been addressed to the witness and was annexed to one of the invoices.

Revenue laws for the prevention of fraud, for the suppression of a public wrong, or to effect a public good, are not, in a strict sense, penal acts, although they impose a penalty. But they ought to be so construed as most effectually to accomplish the intention of the legislature in passing them, instead of being construed with great strictness in favor of the defendant.

Concealment and undervaluation of goods are good grounds, amongst others, for a decision of the court that probable cause of prosecution existed.

The 68th section of the act of 1799 reaches cases where, by a false and fraudulent undervaluation, less than the amount of duties required bylaw has been paid as well as those where no duties at all have been paid.

Page 44 U. S. 198

This was an information filed in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against sundry cases and pieces of cloths and kerseymeres, seized on land, as forfeited. The information contained thirteen counts.

The first and second were founded on the 50th section of the act of 1799, chap. 128.

The third on the 68th section of same act.

The fourth and fifth on the 66th section of same act.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth on the 4th section of the act of 28 May, 1830, chap. 147.

The ninth on the 14th section of the Act of 14 July, 1832, chap. 224.

The tenth on the same section as fourth and fifth.

The eleventh and twelfth on the same section as sixth, seventh, and eighth.

The thirteenth on the same section as ninth.

Upon the first and second counts the jury found a verdict for the claimants, and upon the remaining counts for the United States. The claimants were John Taylor, Jr., and William Blackburne & Co.

The claims filed were as follows:

"John Taylor, Jr., late of the City of New York, but now absent from the United States, by Edward Henry Bradbury, his attorney in fact, comes and claims the said goods, wares, and merchandise, in the said information and libel mentioned as his property, subject to the repayment of a certain advance or loan of sixty thousand dollars and upwards, thereon made to him by William Blackburne & Co., and the said John Taylor, Jr., by his said attorney, alleges, that at the time of the seizure aforesaid he was, and yet is the true and lawful owner of the said goods [wares] and merchandise, subject as aforesaid."

"JOHN TAYLOR, Jr."

"October 10, 1839 Pr. pro E. H. BRADBURY"

"Edward Henry Bradbury, being duly sworn, says, the facts above set forth are just and true, to the best of my knowledge and belief. I am the duly authorized attorney in fact of the above named John Taylor, Jr. He was absent from the United States at the time the seizure of the above mentioned goods, wares, and merchandise was made, and has ever since continued, and still is absent from the United States."

"E. H. BRADBURY"

"Sworn, October 11, 1839, before me."

"PTR. CHRISTIAN, Alderman"

"William Blackburne & Co. claim the said goods, wares, and merchandise, in the said libel and information mentioned, as the sole property of them, the said William Blackburne & Co., for the purpose of securing and paying an advance or loan thereon made by them to John Taylor, Jr., of sixty thousand dollars and upwards,

Page 44 U. S. 199

for securing which said loan or advance the said goods [wares] and merchandise were delivered to them, long before the said seizure, by the said John Taylor, Jr., in whose possession they were as his property, and remained in their possession as aforesaid at the time of said seizure, without any notice or knowledge on their part that there was any allegation whatever, that the same had not been duly imported, and the duties paid or secured, or that the same were on any account liable to seizure, and under the full and entire belief, on their part, that the said goods [wares] and merchandise had been duly imported and entered, and the duties thereon paid or secured according to law."

"WM. BLACKBURNE & CO."

"October 10, 1839"

"Francis Blackburne, being duly sworn, says I am a member of the firm of William Blackburne & Co., mentioned in the foregoing claim. The facts stated in the foregoing claim are just and true, to the best of my knowledge and belief. The said firm of William Blackburne & Co., at and before the time of the seizure of the goods and merchandise mentioned in the said information and libel, was composed of William Blackburne, Francis Blackburne, Christopher John Blackburne, and Charles F. Shaw; since that time, the said Charles F. Shaw has retired from said firm and is no longer a member thereof."

"FRS. BLACKBURNE"

"Sworn, October 11, 1839, before me."

"PTR. CHRISTIAN, Alderman"

"And now, _____, comes John Taylor, Jr., and, by leave of the court first had, withdraws so much only of his claim heretofore filed in this case as relates to forty-three pieces of cloths, part of the goods above mentioned, and on behalf of James Buckley, claims twenty-nine pieces of cloth, part of said forty-three pieces, as the property of the said James Buckley, and on behalf of John W. Bradbury, claims fourteen pieces of cloths, the residue of the said forty-three pieces, as the property of the said John W. Bradbury; and the said John Taylor, Jr., says, that the said Buckley and Bradbury are respectively the true, sole, and lawful owners of the respective parcels of cloth herein above claimed for them respectively, and, so being the owners, respectively consigned the said several parcels to the said John Taylor, Jr., who, as their consignee and factor, at the time of the seizure aforesaid, held, and is still entitled to hold the same, subject to the repayment of the advances made thereon by William Blackburne & Co., in whose actual possession they then were. And the said John Taylor, Jr., further says that the said Buckley and Bradbury are both resident in England, and were, at and before the time of said seizure, and now are, absent from the United States."

"JOHN TAYLOR, Jr."

Page 44 U. S. 200

"John Taylor, Jr., being duly sworn, says, that the facts above set forth are true to the best of his belief."

"JOHN TAYLOR, Jr."

"Sworn and subscribed before me, February 12, 1840."

"WILLIAM MILNOR, Alderman"

In March, 1840, the case came on for trial. Some of the points of law which were raised are thus stated in the record: and the counsel of the said plaintiffs, to support and prove the issue on their part, called as witnesses John J. Logue, George Gideon, and William Cairns, who, being respectively sworn on their voir dire, testified that they went to Blackburne's store, and there assisted in making the seizure of the goods mentioned in the said information, the said Logue and Gideon stating that they were, at the time of making said seizure, inspectors of the customs in the district of Philadelphia, and the said Cairns stating that he was, at the time of making said seizure, an inspector of the customs in the port of New York. Whereupon the said defendants objected to the admission of said Logue, Gideon, and Cairns, severally, as witnesses for the plaintiffs, they being interested in the event of the case. But the judge overruled the said objections and admitted the said witnesses, to which admission the defendants then and there excepted, and the said Logue, Gideon, and Cairns were thereupon severally sworn and examined on behalf of the plaintiffs, and proved the facts attending the seizure of the goods, and that certain original marks on packages containing the said goods had been erased, and among them the mark [B]F, which was originally upon one of said packages.

In the course of the examination of the said witnesses, the following papers were produced and given in evidence, being the affidavit, warrant, and authority under which the seizure of the said goods was made, viz.: a list of the goods seized, affidavit of William Cairns, warrant of Alderman Milnor, authority from Georg Wolf, Esq. collector of the port of Philadelphia. It was also proved that the greater part of said goods were seized in an apartment in the second story of the house No. 26 Church Alley, adjoining the house No. 24 Church Alley, which apartment was occupied by the house No. 24 Church Alley, into which a doorway had been cut, the communication between said apartment and the remainder of the house No. 26 Church Alley being closed.

The counsel of the United States, further to prove the issue on their part, offered in evidence the bill of lading, entry, and owner's oath, taken on 16 of July, 1839, in the month preceding the seizure of the goods in question, of nineteen cases of goods (not part of the goods seized) marked [B]F 1 a 19. To all which the said defendants objected; but the judge overruled the objection, and admitted the same in evidence. Whereupon the said papers were read in evidence.

The counsel of the United States, further to prove the issue on

Page 44 U. S. 201

their parts, offered evidence to prove that William Blackburne & Co. had, in January, 1839, imported certain invoices (no part of the goods seized) into Philadelphia, and had entered them at the custom house there; that the goods so imported had been appraised above the invoice prices; that the importers had acquiesced in such appraisement; and that Francis Blackburne thereupon stated that he had passed 140 cases at New York at similar prices, and would cease importing goods here; the counsel stating that this was to be followed by evidence to show that he never did import into New York in his own name. All which evidence was objected to by the defendants, but was admitted by the court, to which the defendants then and there excepted; and the said evidence was thereupon given. And the plaintiffs further proved the admission of the defendant Taylor, that the said mark [B]F was the mark of said defendant Francis Blackburne, and that said Taylor, as the agent of said Blackburne, had paid freight at New York for packages of goods imported there with that mark; and further proved that no importations had been made at that port in the name of said Francis Blackburne, or of said William Blackburne & Co., previously to the summer of 1839, but that large importations had been made there in the name of the claimant, John Taylor, Jr. It was proved that the goods seized had been imported into New York, and entered and passed there, and the duties thereupon paid, but it was no part of the evidence or case of the United States, that there had been any fraud or connivance on the part of the officers of the custom house of New York with the importers of said goods.

Abraham I. Lewis was examined as a witness on behalf of the United States, and having stated that his firm were importers of cloths and kerseymeres, and that he had thereby a knowledge of their quality and value, he was asked on cross-examination to state the extent of the importations of his firm, and in reply, said: "Formerly, we imported large quantities of woolens; for three, four, or five years past, we have imported but a few packages annually." Whereupon the counsel of the United States, on reexamination, proposed the following question, viz.,

"Was there anything in the state of the market which caused the alteration which you have mentioned, in the amount imported by you within four or five years last past?"

To which question the defendants objected. But the judge allowed the question to be put, saying the question may have a bearing on the case &c.; that it was but following out the question on the cross-examination. To which decision the defendants then and there excepted. Whereupon the said question was put to the witness, and answered by him.

The counsel of the United States further offered to prove by the oath of David Gardiner that certain goods marked [B]F, which had been imported into New York in the ship Eutaw, being the same on which defendant Francis Blackburne was alleged to have

Page 44 U. S. 202

paid the freight as aforesaid, were still in the custom house at New York. To which the defendants objected. But the judge overruled the objection and admitted the evidence, to which decision the defendants then and there excepted. Whereupon the said evidence was given.

The counsel of the United States further offered in evidence an invoice of merinos (not part of the goods mentioned in the information) bought of Abel Shaw, entered in Philadelphia by William Blackburne & Co., by ship Franklin, on 19 August, 1839, marked [B]F, 35 a 53, offered as strengthening the evidence of the ownership of packages with this mark. To which the defendants objected. But the judge admitted the evidence, to which decision the defendants then and there excepted. Whereupon the said invoice was read in evidence.

And the counsel of the United States, in rebuttal, offered in evidence invoices of Blackburne, Taylor and Okie & Robinson to show the absence of any such custom as to the allowance of five p.c. for measurement, as had been testified to by the witnesses on the part of the defendants. Which evidence was objected to by the defendants. But the objection was overruled by the court, and the said evidence was admitted, to which decision the defendants then and there excepted. Whereupon said invoices were read.

The defendants produced and examined John Robinson of the firm of Okie & Robinson and Robert Walker to prove an alleged usage of trade in England to make a discount or allowance of five percent for measure on cloths and cassimeres; said Robert Walker being cross-examined, several invoices of his own importations into the port of New York were shown to and verified by him, and the said invoices were placed by plaintiffs' counsel in the hands of the counsel of the defendants, and one of said invoices was read by the counsel of the United States to the jury. The counsel of the United States, pending this cross-examination, offered to read to the jury a letter from one Waite to the witness, which accompanied and was annexed to one of the said invoices, and left therewith in the New York custom house, on which the goods had been entered, and referring to the said invoice. The reading of which letter in evidence was objected to by defendants. But the court admitted the same to be read to the jury; to which decision the defendants' counsel excepted. Whereupon the said letter was read in evidence.

And the counsel of the United States further offered in evidence the several invoices which had been shown to defendants' witness, Robert Walker, during his cross-examination, and had been verified by him, of goods consigned to and imported by said Robert Walker into New York, the said invoices having been shown to the counsel for the claimants, and one of them read to the court and jury, without objection on the part of the claimant to any of them, which

Page 44 U. S. 203

being objected to by defendants, the judge said that he considered them to be already in evidence inasmuch as one had been read to the jury and the others shown to the witness Walker, verified by him, and shown to the counsel of the defendants, and all were offered for the same purpose, and that the papers should be considered in evidence. To which decision the defendants then and there excepted. Whereupon the said invoices were read to the jury.

And the judge charged the jury.

And thereupon the defendants' counsel excepted to the said charge generally and to every part thereof, and in addition to said general exception, and without prejudice thereto, specified the following exceptions, to-wit:

"That the judge, in his said charge, instructed the jury:"

"1. That the whole proceeding in the seizure of the goods in question was, and substantially, in conformity with the act of Congress."

"2. That the objections made to the proceedings are immaterial to the issue now trying."

"3. That the entry of the goods at New York, their appraisement at the custom house there, the payment of the duties according to that appraisement, and the delivery of the goods thereupon to the importers were not conclusive against the United States in this case."

"4. That the revenue acts mentioned in this information are not strictly penal laws."

"5. That the duties on the goods were not paid within the meaning of the 68th section of the act of 1799, although they had been passed at the custom house of New York, and the duties there assessed upon them had been paid, according to the value and prices in the invoice, if the jury should be of opinion that they were not invoiced at their fair and true cost and value."

"6. That the provision of the 66th section of the act of 1799, mentioned in the charge, was not repealed."

"7. That under the act of 1830, when a package or invoice has been made up with intention to defraud, the package or invoice (that is, the goods contained in the invoice) are forfeited."

"8. That the probable cause mentioned in the 7th section of the act of 1799 is not a cause existing and known to the persons by whom the seizure was made, antecedent to the seizure, and which was the warrant and ground of the proceedings. The probable cause intended by the act has no reference to the seizure, but to the trial. There must be probable cause for the prosecution, not for the seizure, and the court is to judge of it by what appears to the court -- by what comes to the knowledge of the court on the trial of the prosecution."

"9. That the United States has shown probable cause for the

Page 44 U. S. 204

prosecution, and that the onus probandi was thrown upon the claimants."

"10. That it was not necessary to affirm or deny the doctrine that there can be but one official appraisement of the goods, and that that must be made in the custom house at which the goods were entered."

"11. That the first step in the inquiry whether the goods are invoiced at their actual cost is to ascertain what was their actual cost, and how has this been done on the part of the United States? By certain appraisements made, in the first place, by official appraisers of the custom house of this city, and further by private appraisers selected for that purpose. If the opinions of Messrs. Stewart and Simpson (the official appraisers at the port of Philadelphia) have not the authority of an official appraisement or act, they have nevertheless the weight of the judgment of men accustomed to other goods of this description, and who, from the appointment, as well as their experience, may be presumed to have competent knowledge and skill in ascertaining their value. In this light the jury may consider their evidence and give credit to it accordingly."

"And thereupon the counsel for the said claimants did then and there except to the aforesaid charge and opinions of the said court, and inasmuch as the said charge and opinions, so excepted to, do not appear upon the record, the said counsel for the said claimants did then and there tender this bill of exceptions to the opinion of the said court, and requested the seal of the said judge aforesaid should be put to the same, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided."

"And thereupon the aforesaid judge, at the request of the said counsel for the claimants, did put his seal to this bill of exceptions, pursuant to the aforesaid statute in such case made and provided."

"JOS. HOPKINSON [L.S.]"

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