Hadden v. The Collector
72 U.S. 107 (1866)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hadden v. The Collector, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 107 107 (1866)

Hadden v. The Collector

72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 107

Syllabus

1. The title of an act cannot be used to extend or to restrain any positive provisions contained in the body of the act. It is only when the meaning of these is doubtful that resort may be had to the title, and even then it has little weight.

2. What is termed the policy of the government with reference to any particular legislation is too unstable a ground upon which to rest the judgment of the court in the interpretation of statutes.

3. On the 14th of July, 1862, Congress passed "An act increasing temporarily the duties on imports, and for other purposes." The fourteenth section of the act provides that after the first day of August, 1862,

"there shall be levied, collected, and paid on all goods, wares, and merchandise of the growth or produce of countries beyond the Cape of Good Hope, when imported from places this side of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten percent ad valorem, and in addition to the duties imposed on any such articles when imported directly from the place or places of their growth or production."

Upon the construction of the section,

Held that the latter clause does not qualify the general language of the first clause "on all goods, &c.," so as to exclude from it the articles previously exempt. It only provides that the duty laid by the first clause shall be in addition to existing duties imposed on such articles when imported directly from their places of growth or production; in other words, that such articles as already pay a duty when imported directly from these places shall pay a further duty if imported from places this side of the Cape, its object being to increase the duty upon the articles when not imported directly from their places of growth or production. The words "any such articles" do not mean all the articles embraced in the first clause, but only such of them as were already subject to duty.

4. The section in question does not make a discrimination in favor of the ports of the Pacific, and thus contravene that clause of the Constitution which requires that "all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." The terms "beyond the Cape of Good Hope" are employed as descriptive of the locality of certain countries, not their relative position with respect to ports of import. They indicate the locality of certain countries with reference to the position of the lawmakers at the national capital.

On the 14th of July, 1862, Congress passed "an act increasing temporarily the duties on imports and for other purposes." The 14th section was as follows:

"And be it further enacted that from and after the day and

Page 72 U. S. 108

year aforesaid [August 1, 1862], there shall be levied, collected, and paid on all goods, wares, and merchandise of the growth or produce of countries beyond the Cape of Good Hope, when imported from places this side of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten percent ad valorem, and in addition to the duties imposed on any such articles when imported directly from the place or places of their growth or production."

With this act in force, the plaintiffs imported into New York from Liverpool several packages of raw silk, the growth or produce of Persia and China, upon which the ten percent duty was exacted. This duty was paid under protest, and a case being agreed on, the present action was brought in the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York against the collector to recover back the amount.

The matter was the proper interpretation of the above section of the act of Congress, previously to the date of which it is admitted that the goods described were free of duty.

The following section of the Act of 3 March, 1863, was introduced into the argument as throwing light perhaps on the former:

"SEC. 2. And be it further enacted that section fourteen of an act entitled 'An Act increasing temporarily the duties on imports, and for other purposes,' approved July fourteenth, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, be, and the same hereby is modified so as to allow cotton, and raw silk as reeled from the cocoon, of the growth or produce of countries beyond the Cape of Good Hope, to be exempt from any additional duty when imported from places this side of the Cape of Good Hope, for two years from and after the passage of this act. [Footnote 1]"

The questions were:

1. Whether the 14th section of the act of July, 1862, was applicable to goods hitherto free of duty; and

2. Whether this statute is reconcilable with the Constitution of the United States, which requires that "all duties,

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imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

The court gave judgment for the defendant, and the plaintiffs thereupon brought the case here on error.

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