DeLima v. Bidwell
Annotate this Case
182 U.S. 1 (1901)
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U.S. Supreme Court
DeLima v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1901)
DeLima v. Bidwell
Argued January 8-11, 1901
Decided May 27, 1901
182 U.S. 1
By the Customs Administrative Act of 1890, an appeal is given from the decision of the collector "as to the rate and amount of the duties chargeable upon imported merchandise," to the Board of General Appraisers, who are authorized to decide
"as to the construction of the law and the facts respecting the classification of such merchandise, and the rate of duties imposed thereon under such classification,"
but where the merchandise is alleged not to have been imported at all, but to have been brought from one domestic port to another, the Board of General Appraisers has no jurisdiction of the case, and an action for money had and received will lie against the collector to recover back duties assessed by him upon such property and paid under protest.
With the ratification of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain, April 11, 1899, the Island of Porto Rico ceased to be a " foreign country" within the meaning of the tariff laws.
Whatever effect be given to the Act of March 24, 1900, applying for the benefit of Porto Rico the duties received on importations from that island after the evacuation by the Spanish forces, it has no application to an action brought before the act was passed.
This was an action originally instituted in the Supreme Court of the State of New York by the firm of D. A. De Lima & Co.
against the collector of the port of New York to recover back duties alleged to have been illegally exacted and paid under protest upon certain importations of sugar from San Juan, in the Island of Porto Rico, during the autumn of 1899 and subsequent to the cession of the island to the United States.
Upon the petition of the collector, and pursuant to Rev.Stat. sec. 643, the case was removed by certiorari to the circuit court of the United States, in which the defendant appeared and demurred to the complaint upon the ground that it did not state a cause of action and also that the court had no jurisdiction of the case. The demurrer was sustained upon both grounds, and the action dismissed. Hence this writ of error.
In this and the following cases, which may be collectively designated as the "Insular Tariff Cases," the dates here given become material:
In July, 1898, Porto Rico was invaded by the military forces of the United States under General Miles.
On August 12, 1898, during the progress of the campaign, a protocol was entered into between the Secretary of State and the French Ambassador on the part of Spain providing for a suspension of hostilities, the cession of the island, and the conclusion of a treaty of peace. 30 Stat. 1742.
On October 18, Porto Rico was evacuated by the Spanish forces.
On December 10, 1898, such treaty was signed at Paris (under which Spain ceded to the United States the Island of Porto Rico), was ratified by the President and Senate February 6, 1899, and by the Queen Regent of Spain March 19, 1899. 30 Stat. 1754.
On March 2, 1899, an act was passed making an appropriation to carry out the obligations of the treaty.
On April 11, 1899, the ratifications were exchanged, and the treaty proclaimed at Washington.
On April 12, 1900, an act was passed, commonly called the Foraker Act, to provide temporary revenues and a civil government for Porto Rico, which took effect May 1, 1900.
This case was argued with No. 507, Downes v. Bidwell, No. 501, Dooley v. United States, No. 502, Dooley v. United
No. 509, Armstrong v. United States. The briefs and the arguments were reported in length in a book entitled "The Insular Cases," compiled and published pursuant to a resolution of the House of Representatives passed in the Second Session of the 56th Congress and containing both the briefs of counsel and their oral arguments. Then amounted to 1075 pages. Of course, it is impossible to reproduce all here, even if it were desirable.