Belcher v. Linn - 65 U.S. 508 (1860)
U.S. Supreme Court
Belcher v. Linn, 65 U.S. 24 How. 508 508 (1860)
Belcher v. Linn
65 U.S. (24 How.) 508
Where there was a controversy with respect to the amount of duties properly payable upon an importation, the collector and importers entered into an agreement to submit samples of the article to the board of general appraisers to be convened at New York, and to abide by their appraisement in the same manner and to the same extent as if it had been made by merchant appraisers, regularly appointed according to law.
The article imported was called in the invoice "concentrated molasses," which is syrup boiled down to a denser consistency, and thus evaporating the watery particles until the point of crystallization is reached.
The appraisers decided that this article was, in point of fact, a species of green sugar, and that the invoice and entry were erroneous, not only with respect to the value affixed to the article, but also as to its description.
Green sugar was subject to an export duty, but molasses was not. They therefore added, as appeared by their report, a sum equal to the amount of that duty, although none such had been paid. But the statement annexed to the report described the addition made thus, "to add export duty on."
1. That in the absence of fraud, the decision of the appraisers as to the character of the article and the dutiable value of the importations was final and conclusive.
2. That the report and statement must be construed together, and that by their true construction they showed, irrespective of the parol testimony, that the addition was made, not as an export duty, but to bring up the invoice valuation to the actual market value of the merchandise at the place of exportation.
3. That if the words "to add export duty on" were of doubtful signification, and must be separately considered, then the case would be one where parol testimony would be admissible, so that, in either point of view, there was no error in the action of the circuit court.
4. That the importer was not entitled to recover on account of the leakage while the merchandise was detained for the purpose of the appraisement.
5. That the assessment of duties is properly made upon the quantity of merchandise entered at the custom house.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.