Stockwell v. United States
80 U.S. 531

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U.S. Supreme Court

Stockwell v. United States, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 531 531 (1871)

Stockwell v. United States

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 531

Syllabus

The second section of the Act of March 3, 1823, amendatory of the act regulating the entry of merchandise imported into the United States from any adjacent territory (3 Stat. at Large 781), enacts:

"That if any person or persons shall receive, conceal, or buy any goods, wares, or merchandise knowing them to have been illegally imported into the United States and liable to seizure by virtue of any act in relation to the revenue, such person or persons shall, on conviction thereof, forfeit and pay a sum double the amount or value of the goods, wares, or merchandise so received, concealed, or purchased."

Held 1st, that a civil action of debt will lie at the suit of the United States to recover the forfeitures or penalties incurred under this section; 2d, that the section is remedial, and not strictly penal in its character; and 3d, that the section applies to illegal importers as well as to accessories after the illegal importation.

Page 80 U. S. 532

2. Debt lies whenever a sum certain is due to the plaintiff, or a sum which can readily be reduced to a certainty requiring no future valuation to settle its amount, and it is immaterial in what manner the obligation is incurred or by what it is evidenced.

3. The fourth section of the Act of July 18, 1866, entitled "An act further to prevent smuggling, and for other purposes," enacts:

"That if any person shall fraudulently or knowingly import or bring into the United States, or assist in so doing, any goods, wares, or merchandise contrary to law or shall receive, conceal, buy, sell, or in any manner facilitate the transportation, concealment, or sale of such goods, wares, or merchandise, after their importation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law, such goods, wares, and merchandise shall be forfeited, and he or she shall, on conviction thereof before any court of competent jurisdiction, be fined in any sum not exceeding five thousand dollars nor less than fifty dollars, or be imprisoned for any time not exceeding two years, or both, at the discretion of such court."

The eighteenth section of the act declares

"That nothing in the act shall be taken to abridge or limit any forfeiture, penalty, fine, liability, or remedy provided for or existing under any law now in force except as herein otherwise specially provided."

And the forty-third section of the act repeals several acts by name, and also " all other acts and parts of acts conflicting with or supplied by this act." Held that the penalty of the second section of the act of 1823 is not repealed by this act of 1866. The design of this latter act was to punish as a crime that which before had subjected its perpetrator to civil liability or quasi-civil liability.

4. On the trial of a civil action brought by the United States under the second section of the above act of 1823 to recover against two members of a firm residing at Bangor, in Maine, double the value of certain shingles, the produce of one of the British Provinces, alleged to have been received, concealed, and bought by the defendants knowing them to have been illegally imported, it is not error in the court to instruct the jury that the knowledge of another member of the firm, who was not sued, was to be deemed the knowledge of the defendants, and that if he knew at the time of the importation and reception of the shingles at Bangor

"that they were Province shingles, liable to duty and seizure, and illegally imported, it was not necessary for the government to prove that the defendants sued personally had actual knowledge of these facts, which were then within the knowledge of their partner,"

and that

"if with this knowledge on the part of the absent partner that the shingles were illegally imported and liable to seizure, the firm, in the usual course of the business, received the shingles at Bangor and they were disposed of by them and the profits of the business divided among all the partners, the jury were authorized to find that the defendants received the shingles, knowing that the same were illegally imported and liable to seizure."

The United States brought an action of debt, in the district court for the Maine District, against D. R. Stockwell

Page 80 U. S. 533

and J. L. Cutter to recover (inter alia) double the value of certain importations of shingles alleged to have been illegally made, and received, concealed, or bought by the defendants with knowledge that the shingles had been illegally imported into the United States.

The case, which depended partly upon statutes and partly upon facts and evidence, was thus:

On the 3d of March, 1823, [Footnote 1] Congress passed an act the 2d section of which enacts:

"That if any person or persons shall receive, conceal, or buy any goods, wares, or merchandise knowing them to have been illegally imported into the United States and liable to seizure by virtue of any act in relation to the revenue, such person or persons shall, on conviction thereof, forfeit and pay a sum double the amount or value of the goods, wares, or merchandise so received, concealed, or purchased."

The 5th section of the act enacted that all penalties and forfeitures incurred by force of it should be sued for, recovered, distributed, and accounted for in the manner prescribed by the act of March 2, 1799, entitled "An act to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage." That act (by its 89th section) directs all penalties accruing by any breach of the act to be sued for and recovered, with costs of suit, in the name of the United States of America in any court competent to try the same, and the collector within whose district a forfeiture shall have been incurred is enjoined to cause suits for the same to be commenced without delay.

On the 18th of July, 1866, [Footnote 2] Congress passed another act, entitled "An act further to prevent smuggling, and for other purposes." The 4th section of this statute enacted:

"That if any person shall fraudulently or knowingly import or bring into the United States or assist in so doing any goods, wares, or merchandise contrary to law, or shall receive, conceal, buy, sell, or in any manner facilitate the transportation, concealment,

Page 80 U. S. 534

or sale of such goods, wares, or merchandise after their importation, knowing the same to have been imported contrary to law, such goods, wares, and merchandise shall be forfeited and he or she shall, on conviction thereof before any court of competent jurisdiction, be fined in any sum not exceeding $5,000 nor less than $50, or be imprisoned for any time not exceeding two years, or both, at the discretion of such court."

The same section declares that present or past possession of the goods by the defendant shall be sufficient evidence to authorize his conviction, unless such possession be explained to the satisfaction of the jury.

The 18th section declares:

"That nothing in the act shall be taken to abridge or limit any forfeiture, penalty, fine, liability or remedy provided for or existing under any law now in force except as herein otherwise specially provided."

And the 43d section, that all other acts and parts of acts conflicting with or supplied by it should be repealed.

It was with both these statutes on the statute-\ book that the action was brought.

One set of courts was to recover the duties on the importations. Another set to recover, under the 2d section of the statute of 1823, double the value of the goods received by the defendants.

The admitted facts of the case and the evidence tending to establish or disprove those disputed were thus:

The defendants, residents of Bangor, Maine, had long been engaged in the trading in shingles there. They were partners with one Chalmers, under the firm of D. R. Stockwell & Co. Chalmers was not proceeded against. In 1863, the firm made an arrangement with one Leman Stockwell, also of Bangor, to go to Aroostook County, in Maine, Frederickton and St. John, in New Brunswick, and there collect, buy, and forward shingles, to be consigned to the firm at Bangor; under circumstances as to the division of profit and loss between the firm and their agent, Leman Stockwell, which it was not here denied made them partners with

Page 80 U. S. 535

him in the shingle business done under this arrangement, but not in their general business.

No question was made in this Court that the shingles, for the double value of which the suit was brought, were subject to duties if they were of Provincial growth.

In the years 1863-1864, Leman Stockwell was in Aroostook County, in Maine, and on the St. John River, and at Frederickton and St. John, engaged in the business of collecting, buying, and forwarding shingles to Bangor, on the account of this arrangement, consigned to D. R. Stockwell & Co.

There was evidence tending to show that the shingles for the importation of which these duties and penalties are claimed were not of the growth and produce of the State of Maine or of that portion of the state watered by the River St. John or its tributaries, but were the growth and produce of the Province of New Brunswick. There was also evidence to rebut this, and tending to show that they were of the growth and produce of Maine, as aforesaid. There was evidence tending to show that the defendants did in fact know that the said shingles were of the growth and produce of New Brunswick and there was evidence tending to show that they had no knowledge or information on the subject.

When these cargoes came to Bangor in 1863 or 1864, they were reported at the custom house, with the manifest and foreign clearances, and with certificates of their American origin. The collector required no duties on the cargoes, and no entries to be made, nor invoices, nor bills of lading to be produced, but the cargoes were allowed to be taken into the shed of D. R. Stockwell & Co., and there to be housed, sorted, and sold in the usual manner of the trade. They were treated, in fact, by all parties as not being subject to duties. The shingles were openly in the possession of D. R. Stockwell & Co., sometimes lying over a season unsold, and no attempts were made by either of the defendants, or by Leman Stockwell, or Mr. Chalmers, or by any person connected with them, to conceal the shingles or in any way to interfere with the exercise of the power of seizing them,

Page 80 U. S. 536

and the revenue department did not claim duties nor attempt to seize the shingles, and made no claim against the defendants or anyone connected with them of any kind until the commencement of this suit, which was April 2, 1868, when the shingles had been sold for three or four years or so.

As to the counts under the act of 1823 to recover double the value of the shingles, the defendants presented the following, among other prayers for instructions:

1. That a civil action will not lie to recover the double value, and that the United States cannot recover both the double values and the duties under the declaration.

2. That the jury must be satisfied, as to each defendant, that he knew that the shingles had been illegally imported and were liable to seizure before he received, concealed, or bought the same, and that such receiving, concealing, or buying must have been with an intent to defraud the revenues.

The presiding judge ruled that a civil action would lie for the double values under the act of 1823; and thus instructed the jury:

"If Leman Stockwell, in the conduct and management of the shingle business so entrusted to him and in the course of the business and for the common and joint benefit of himself and D. R. Stockwell & Co., went into New Brunswick, and there knowingly purchased and received on their joint account shaved shingles, the growth and produce of New Brunswick, and afterwards he, by himself or his agents, knowingly sent such shingles to his co-partners D. R. Stockwell & Co., at Bangor, fraudulently documenting them as of the growth of Maine, so that thereby, in the regular course of business, they should be and were admitted and received into the country by the defendants as the growth of Maine, the shingles so imported were illegally imported and liable to seizure, and these defendants, being then his partners, are in this action chargeable with and bound by this knowledge of Leman Stockwell, if such was his knowledge, viz., that the shingles were the growth of New Brunswick, liable to duty and seizure, being illegally imported. This being a civil action, and not a criminal prosecution, the knowledge of one of

Page 80 U. S. 537

the firm on these matters in this suit is to be deemed the knowledge of the defendants, his co-partners in the shingle business."

"If Leman Stockwell, at the time of the importation and reception of the shingles at Bangor, knew that they were Province shingles, liable to duty and seizure &c., it was not necessary for the government to prove that the defendants personally had actual knowledge of these facts, which were then within the knowledge of their partner, Leman Stockwell."

"If with this knowledge, as before stated, on Leman's part that the shingles were illegally imported and liable to seizure, D. R. Stockwell & Co., in the usual course of the business, received the shingles at Bangor, and they were disposed of by them, and the profits of the business divided as stated above, the jury are authorized to find that the defendants, being Leman's partners, received the shingles, knowing the same were illegally imported and liable to seizure."

When the charge to the jury was completed, the defendants' exceptions to the refusal of the court to give the instructions requested by them, and to the instructions given to the jury as above stated, were duly reserved to them.

The verdict was for the plaintiffs on the counts for the duties and the double values, and judgment going accordingly in the district court, and this being affirmed in the circuit, the defendants brought the case here on writ of error, no error being, however, assigned relating to the first-mentioned counts.

Page 80 U. S. 541

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