Sturges v. The Collector
79 U.S. 19 (1870)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sturges v. The Collector, 79 U.S. 12 Wall. 19 19 (1870)

Sturges v. The Collector

79 U.S. 19

Syllabus

Under the 6th section of the Act of March 3, 1865, which enacts that

"There all be hereafter collected and paid on all goods, wares, and merchandise of the growth or produce of countries east of the Cape of Good Hope (except raw cotton and raw silk as reeled from the cocoon or not further advanced than tram, thrown, or organzine), when imported from places west of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten percentum ad valorem, in addition to the duties imposed on any such article when imported directly from the place or places of their growth or production,"

a duty of ten percent is chargeable on such goods, &c., when imported from places west of the Cape, though the same goods be freed from duty, when imported from the place of their growth or production, east.

This was an action brought in the court below against the collector of the port of New York to recover a sum exacted as a ten percent ad valorem duty upon a quantity of indigo, the product of a country east of the Cape of Good Hope, and which bad been imported into New York, on the 7th of July, 1865, from England.

Whether the right to lay the duty did or did not exist, depended on the construction of the 6th section of an Act of Congress of March 3, 1865, [Footnote 1] relating to the importations of goods from places west of the Cape of Good Hope, in cases where the goods were the products of places east of it. It was not denied, apparently, that if the indigo had been imported directly from the place of its growth, the duty would not have been payable. The difficulty was under the act just mentioned and in regard to an importation not direct, but from England, a place west.

This Act of March 3, 1865, already referred to, as in force when this particular cargo was imported, had been preceded by other acts on the same subject, and by some judicial construction oil one of them. That history was thus:

By section 14 of the Act of July 14, 1862, entitled an

Page 79 U. S. 20

act "increasing temporarily the duties on imports and for other purposes," [Footnote 2] it was enacted that

"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."

In the official edition of the statutes the word "and" just above printed in large capitals, was printed in italics -- a form of printing which indicated that the compiler of the edition supposed it an accidental insertion, and superfluous. An act subsequent to that above-quoted act -- namely, of March 3, 1863, [Footnote 3] enacted that the above-quoted section should be so modified 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."

These two articles were exempt from duty at the time of the passage of the above-quoted act of 1862.

Soon after the passage of the act of 1862, but before the act of 1863, modifying it, one Hadden imported into New York from England a quantity of raw silk, the product of Persia, and which it was admitted but for the act of 1862 would have been free from duty. A duty of ten percent being exacted and paid under protest, Hadden brought suit in the circuit court for New York against the collector, to recover what he had paid, his idea in bringing suit to recover the duty paid on the silks, being that

"1st. That the expression in the act of 1862, 'AND IN ADDITION to the duties imposed on such articles when imported

Page 79 U. S. 21

directly from the place or places of their growth or importation,' laid the ten percent only in cases where the product was already subject to some prior duty, large or small."

"2d. That by the words 'this side of the Cape,' goods imported into the Atlantic ports were within the terms and chargeable with duty, while goods imported into the Pacific ports were not within them, and not chargeable, and so that the clause of the Constitution, which requires all duties to be uniform throughout the United States, was contravened; and the enactment itself, of course, void."

The circuit court, admitting that previous sections of the act did undoubtedly lend some countenance to the importer's argument that the duty was laid only where a prior duty existed, and that the 14th section itself was obscure, still considered, oil the whole statute, that the silks were meant to be charged with the ten percent ad valorem, and that as the expression "this side of the Cape," was only another form of saying "places west of the Cape," that judgment was to be given for the United States. It was so given accordingly. That judgment was affirmed in this Court on error; [Footnote 4] the Supreme Court adverting to the act of 1863, modifying that of 1862, as showing that the understanding of Congress was that the ten percent was imposed as an additional duty, though in fact raw silk, as already stated, was at the time exempt.

In June, 1864, seven months after the decision just mentioned of Hadden's case, on the circuit, Congress repealed section 14th of the act of 1862, [Footnote 5] and by an act like the former one, entitled "an act to increase duties on imports," &c., enacted:

"That on and after the day and year this act shall take effect, there shall be levied, collected, and paid on all goods, wares, and merchandise of the growth or produce of countries east of the Cape of Good Hope (except raw cotton), when imported from places west of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten percentum ad valorem, in addition to the duties imposed on any such articles

Page 79 U. S. 22

when imported directly from the place or places of their growth or production."

The reader will observe that the words "this side" of the Cape of Good Hope, in the act of 1862, are changed in the new act to "west" of the Cape, and that the word "and" disappears.

This enactment was in substance (with an extension of the exemption from duty to raw silk in certain condition), reenacted in section 6th of an act of March 3, 1865, [Footnote 6] under the provisions of which the defendant levied and collected the duties upon the plaintiff's importations. That section enacted

"That there shall be hereafter collected and paid on all goods, wares, and merchandise of the growth or produce of countries [east] of the Cape of Good Hope (except raw cotton and raw silk as reeled from the cocoon, or not further advanced than tram, thrown, or organzine), when imported from places west of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten percentum ad valorem, in addition to the duties imposed on any such article when imported directly from the place or places of their growth or production."

In the present suit, the court below gave judgment for the collector, and the importer brought the case here.

Page 79 U. S. 24

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