Murphy v. Arnson
96 U.S. 131 (1877)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Murphy v. Arnson, 96 U.S. 131 (1877)

Murphy v. Arnson

96 U.S. 131

Syllabus

1. "Nitrobenzole," being a manufacture from benzole and nitric acid and a nonenumerated article, is subject to duty under the twentieth section, known as the similitude clause, of the Act of Aug. 30, 1842, 5 Stat. 565, which provides that

"On all articles manufactured from two or more materials, the duty shall be assessed at the highest rates at which any of its component parts may be chargeable,"

and not under the fifth section of the Act of July 14, 1862, 12 id. 648, which imposes a duty of fifty percent ad valorem on "essential oils not otherwise provided for."

2. Evidence tending to show that a nonenumerated article "resembles essential oil in the uses to which it is put, as a marketable commodity, more than any thing else," falls short of the requisition of the Act of Aug. 30, 1842, supra, which provides that

"On each and every nonenumerated article which bears a similitude in . . . the use to which it may be applied, to any enumerated article chargeable with duty"

there shall be levied, collected, and paid "the same rate of duty which is levied and charged on the enumerated article which it most resembles."

In March, 1871, Arnson & Wilzinski, the plaintiffs below, imported into New York a quantity of nitrobenzole, which is obtained by the chemical action of its constituents -- benzole and nitric acid -- upon each other. It is then refined and cleaned by distillation, and sold as nitrobenzole and as "oil of myrbane" to druggists, soap manufacturers, "and to the trade generally." The defense introduced testimony that this is a well known article of commerce, commercially known as oil of myrbane, used for perfuming and flavoring and also commercially known as "artificial oil of bitter almonds," as well as by its other names, and that in fact it resembles essential oil in the uses to which it is put, as a marketable commodity more than anything else, and is used as a substitute for an essential oil, being cheaper. Rebutting testimony was put in by the plaintiffs below.

Murphy, the collector, exacted duty upon this nitrobenzole as upon an "essential oil not otherwise provided for," fifty percent, under the fifth section of the Act of July 14, 1862, 12 Stat. 548, whereas the importers contended that it was a nonenumerated article and that forty cents a gallon was the proper duty, being the highest rate payable on either constituent,

Page 96 U. S. 132

agreeably to the similitude clause of the Act of Aug. 30, 1842, sec. 20, 5 Stat. 565.

Upon this evidence, the court directed a verdict for the plaintiffs. Judgment having been rendered thereon, the collector brought the case here.

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