Sugar refined but not sent out of the refinery for sale before 1
July, 1802, when the act of Congress respecting certain internal
taxes came into operation, is not liable to duty.
That a law is the best expositor of itself, that every part of
an act is to be taken into view for the purpose of discovering the
mind of the legislature, and that the details of one part may
contain regulations restricting the extent of general expressions
used in another part of the same act are among those plain rules
laid down by common sense for the exposition of statutes which have
been uniformly acknowledged.
In the Circuit Court of the United States for the Pennsylvania
District, an action was instituted and a feigned issue formed to
try the question
Page 6 U. S. 34
whether sugar which had been refined and was in the manufactory
previous to 1 July, 1802, was, when sent out for sale, liable to
duty under the provisions of the Act of Congress passed June 5,
1794, entitled an "Act laying certain duties upon snuff and refined
The judgment of the circuit court was in favor of the plaintiff
below, and the defendant in that court brought this writ of
The second section enacts that
"From and after 39 September, 1794, there be levied, collected,
Page 6 U. S. 35
upon all sugar which shall be refined within the United States a
duty of two cents per pound."
The third section directs "that the duties aforesaid shall be
levied, collected and accounted for" by certain officers therein
The fifth section directs that every refiner of sugar shall make
true and exact entry and report in writing at the office of
inspection of every house or building where such business shall be
carried on, and every pan or boiler, together with the capacity of
each, and shall also give bond in the sum of five thousand dollars
with condition that he will enter in a book or paper, to be kept
for that purpose, all sugar which he shall refine, and the
quantities from day to day sent out of the building where the same
shall have been refined, and shall on 1 January, April, July, and
October in each year render a just and true account of all the
refined sugar which he shall have sent out from the time of the
last account rendered, producing and showing therewith the original
book or paper whereon the entries from day to day to be made as
aforesaid have been made,
"and he shall, at the time of rendering each account, pay or
secure the duties which by this act ought to be paid upon the
refined sugar in the said account mentioned."
By the seventh section it is enacted that every refiner of sugar
shall yearly, being thereunto required by an officer of inspection,
make oath that the accounts which have been by him rendered of the
quantities of refined sugar by him sent out of the building have
been just and true.
By the tenth section it is enacted
"That all snuff and refined sugar which shall have been
manufactured or made within the United States in manner aforesaid
after 30 September next whereof the duties aforesaid have not been
duly paid or secured according to the true intent and meaning of
this act shall, upon default being made in the paying or securing
of the said duties, be forfeited and shall and may be seized as
forfeited by any officer of the inspection or of the customs."
By the eleventh section, the refiner has the option to pay upon
rendering his account "the duties which shall
Page 6 U. S. 36
thereby appear to be due and payable," with a deduction of six
percent for prompt payment, or to give bond payable in nine
By the eleventh section, a drawback of the duties "hereby laid
upon sugar refined within the United States" is allowed upon
exportation to a foreign port.
But by the sixteenth section, such allowance is not to be made
unless the exporter shall make oath that the duties have been paid
The twentieth section declares it shall be lawful to export
refined sugar directly from the manufactory free from duty.
The first section of the repealing act of April 6, 1802,
"That from and after 30 June next, the internal duties on stills
and domestic distilled spirits, on refined sugars, licenses to
retailers, sales at auction, carriages for the conveyance of
persons, and stamped vellum, parchment and paper shall be
discontinued, and all acts and parts of acts relative thereto
shall, from and after the said 30 June next, be repealed, "
"Provided that for the recovery and receipt of such duties as
shall have accrued, and on the day aforesaid remain outstanding,
and for the payment of drawbacks or allowances on the exportation
of any of the said spirits or sugars legally entitled thereto, and
for the recovery and distribution of fines, penalties, and
forfeitures and the remission thereof which shall have been
incurred before and on the said day, the provisions of the
aforesaid acts shall remain in full force and virtue. "
Page 6 U. S. 51
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the
In this case a single point is presented to the Court. The
plaintiff in error was a refiner of sugar in the City of
Philadelphia, and had a large quantity of refined sugars in his
refinery on 1 July, 1802.
In April, 1802, Congress passed an act to repeal the internal
taxes. The first section of the repealing law enacts "that from and
after 30 June next, the internal duties," &c.
To recover the duty on sugars refined before 30 June and sent
out afterwards this action was brought. The single question is
whether the duty had then accrued and was on that day outstanding.
This is admitted on both sides, and the repealing law is to be
construed as if it had passed on 30 June, to take effect
immediately, and the proviso had been expressed in words of the
present tense, thus,
"provided, that for the recovery and receipt of such duties as
have now accrued and now remain outstanding, the provisions of the
aforesaid act shall remain in full force and virtue."
Had the duty accrued, and was it outstanding in contemplation of
the legislature on sugars refined but not sent out of the building
in which the operation was performed?
The solution of this question depends on the construction of the
act by which the duty was imposed.
This act passed in June, 1794, and is entitled "An act laying
certain duties on snuff and refined sugars." The first section
imposes a duty on snuff which shall be manufactured after 30
September then next ensuing, and the second section is in these
"and be it further enacted that from and after the said 30
September next, there be levied, collected,
Page 6 U. S. 52
and paid upon all sugar which shall be refined within the United
States a duty of two cents per pound."
The fourth section of the act contains provisions respecting the
duty on snuff, and the fifth section, after making several
regulations requiring the refiner of sugars to report the building
and utensils to be employed in the manufacture and to give bond
with condition that he shall keep books in which he shall enter
daily the sugars refined, as well as those sent out, proceeds to
"That he shall, on 1 January, April, July, and October in each
year, render a just and true account of all the refined sugar which
he or she shall have sent out or caused or procured to be sent out
from the first time of his or her entry and report aforesaid until
the day which shall first ensue of the days above mentioned for the
rendering of such account, and thenceforth successively from the
time when such account ought to have been and up to which it shall
have been last rendered, until the next day thereafter of the days
above mentioned for the rendering of such account, producing and
showing therewith the original book or paper whereon the entries
from day to day to be made as aforesaid have been made, and he or
she shall, at the time of rendering each account, pay or secure the
duties which by this act ought to be paid upon the refined sugar in
the said account mentioned."
Other sections of this act have been relied on by the counsel on
both sides, and the phraseology of the law in other acts said to be
in pari materia
has been brought into view. They have not
been unnoticed by the Court in forming the opinion now to be
delivered, but as the case depends principally on the just
construction of the sections which have been quoted, those sections
only are stated for the present.
That a law is the best expositor of itself, that every part of
an act is to be taken into view for the purpose of discovering the
mind of the legislature, and that the details of one part may
contain regulations restricting the extent of general expressions
used in another part of the same act, are among those plain rules
laid down by common sense for the exposition of statutes
Page 6 U. S. 53
which have been uniformly acknowledged. If by the application of
these rules it shall appear that the duty on refined sugars did
"accrue and was outstanding" before the article was sent out of the
building, then the refiner is unquestionably liable to pay it
notwithstanding the repeal of the law by which it was imposed.
To support the proposition that the duty did accrue, the words
of the second section of the act for imposing it have been relied
on. These words are
"That from and after 30 September next there be levied,
collected, and paid upon all sugar which shall be refined within
the United States a duty of two cents per pound."
These words, it is said, contain an express charge upon all the
sugars to be refined within the United States.
It is admitted by the counsel for the plaintiff in error that
such would be the operation of the section if unexplained and not
restrained by other parts of the law.
In order to determine the influence which other sections must
necessarily have on this, it is proper to ascertain with precision
the import of the words which have been stated.
"There shall be levied, collected and paid," &c. Each of
these words implies a charge upon the article, and if either of
them had been used singly, no doubt could have been entertained
that the article would have been burdened with the tax. They
present to the mind distinct ideas, and when used together seem to
designate distinct actions required by the law.
It would not, perhaps, be assuming more than is warranted to say
that either of them exclusively imports the creation and imposition
of the duty. The word "levy" is selected for this purpose, and yet
in the succeeding section the term is again used with a reference
to that new under consideration, and very plainly designates the
duty of the officer, not the operation of the act. The words of the
third section are "that the duties aforesaid shall be levied,
collected. and accounted for by the same officers," &c. The
Page 6 U. S. 54
of the term in this section is by no means equivocal, and there
does not appear sufficient ground for saying that it was used by
the legislature in the preceding section in a different sense.
Unquestionably the requisition that a duty shall be levied,
collected. or paid implies the existence of that duty; it seems to
be as clearly implied by the one term as by the other. But however
this may be, they act on the same subject and at the same time. The
object of each verb is precisely the same. "There shall be levied"
-- on what? on "all sugars to be refined within the United States."
There shall be "collected and paid" -- from and on what? "all
sugars to be refined within the United States." It has then been
very correctly said that these words, though not synonymous, are
certainly, as they stand in the sentence, coextensive in their
operation. They reach and embrace the same article at the same
time. If, then, the other parts of the act demonstrate that the
words "collected" and "paid" have not for their object all sugars
to be refined, this section is necessarily restrained in its
operation by those which follow and designate more particularly
what is in the first instance expressed in general terms.
That such is the real effect of the law is acknowledged. It is
admitted by the counsel for the defendant in error that the duties
are not to be collected and paid on all sugars to be refined, but
on all sugars to be refined and sent out of the building. It
follows, then, that the general terms of the second section were
intended by the legislature to be understood, in like manner, as if
their intent had been expressly qualified by adding the words
"according to the regulations hereinafter prescribed" or other
words of similar import.
But admitting this view of the case to be correct, great
difficulty remains to be solved. It is contended by the defendant
in error that the fifth section neither imposes a duty nor
restrains to a more limited object the duty which was before
imposed, and that its only effect is to prescribe the time of
payment -- that the duty on the article, taking the two sections
together, constitutes a present debt to be paid in future.
On the other hand the plaintiff in error insists that
Page 6 U. S. 55
the general terms of the second section are defined and
restricted by the fifth, as well with respect to the object of the
tax as to the time of its collection and payment.
The Court has felt great difficulty on this point. It is one on
which the most correct minds may form opposite opinions without
exciting surprise. After the most attentive examination of the laws
and the arguments of counsel, a judgment has at length been formed
differing from that rendered in the circuit court.
The object of the act imposing the duty being revenue, and not
to discourage manufacturers, it is reasonable to suppose that the
attention of the legislature would be devoted to the article in
that state in which it was designed to be productive of revenue.
There could be no motive for imposing a duty never to be collected
or for imposing it on the article in that condition in which it
might remain forever without yielding a cent to the Treasury. The
duty not being progressive, but complete in the instant of its
commencement, being one entire thing, no purpose was to be effected
by charging it on an object from which it was not afterwards to be
If, therefore, we find the whole attention of the legislature
directed to the article in one state, if we find it productive only
in one state, there is no reason for supposing, unless the words
require that construction, that the duty was imposed upon it in a
All those provisions of the act which are calculated to bring
the money arising from this tax into the Treasury, or to create any
liability in the person who is to pay it apply exclusively to
sugars sent out of the building.
Of those sugars only is an account to be rendered; on those only
are the duties to be paid or secured. It can scarcely be imagined
that the legislature, if imposing a duty on all sugars refined,
should entirely neglect to take any means whatever to secure the
collection of that duty, and should postpone those means until a
subsequent event should happen which might never occur.
Page 6 U. S. 56
It is argued by the counsel for the defendant in error that the
happening of this event was certain, and that it was unnecessary
for the legislature to perform any act which might occasion it,
because the interest of the refiner was a sure pledge for his
sending out the sugars he had refined.
This is true, but the argument is not less strong when urged to
prove that the legislature might rely on this interest to produce
the state of things which would create the charge. If this interest
was relied upon for the fact on which a duty should become payable,
it might well be relied upon to produce the fact on which the
article should be chargeable with the duty, and it is
unquestionably in the common course of legislative proceedings on
the subject of revenue to obtain security for the payment of duties
at the first convenient time after they shall have accrued.
If, as is contended for the defendant in error, the act of
refining the sugar creates a debt to be paid when sent out of the
building, then the refiner becomes immediately the debtor of the
government, and his situation by sending out the sugar is changed
in no other respect whatever, then that the debt before created
does by that fact become payable. The position to be proved is that
A., the refiner of sugars, becomes the debtor of the United States
to the full amount of the sugars refined, which debt does not
accrue, but only becomes payable on the fact of their being sent
out of the building.
Let this proposition be examined.
If A. becomes the debtor by the mere act of refining, then he
remains the debtor until he shall be legally discharged. Suppose
him to part with his manufactory and his capital stock, there being
at the time of transfer a quantity of refined sugars in the
building which pass with it to the purchaser. If, by the act of
refining, A. became the debtor of the government, which debt became
payable whenever the sugars should be sent out of the building,
then A. would remain the debtor notwithstanding his sale, and would
be liable for
Page 6 U. S. 57
those duties, if the purchaser should send them out without
rendering any account of them or securing their payment.
Yet this construction would be admitted to conflict with the
obvious meaning of the law. Not only the person who sends out the
sugars is to account and pay for them, but if he fails to do so,
the consequences of his failure fall entirely on himself. The sugar
is forfeited, and if lost to the purchaser, his recourse could only
be against the person from whom he purchased.
But let it be supposed that A. sends out his sugar and parts
with his building before the day on which the account is to be
rendered and the duties paid or secured. Who then would be the
debtor of the government? Who in that case would be liable for the
duties that had thus accrued? It is believed that only one answer
could be given to this question. The person who sent out the sugars
would unquestionably be liable for the duties on them, and if they
should be seized for the nonpayment of them, the purchaser would
have recourse to him for compensation.
If these positions be correct, it would seem to be a plain and
necessary deduction from them that the fact of sending out the
sugars, not the fact of refining them, created the debt, and that
the person sending them out became the debtor.
It has been argued that the provision of the fifth section,
which requires a daily entry to be made on the books of the
quantity of sugars refined evidences an intention in the
legislature to impose a tax on the article immediately. But this
argument did not appear to be much relied on, and it is too
apparent that the regulations of the fifth section were designed to
furnish the means of detecting any fraud which might be attempted
in the account of sugars sent out of the building to require that
the Court should employ any time in demonstrating the correctness
of that construction.
The argument drawn from the third section, which uses the
expression "the duties aforesaid," does not
Page 6 U. S. 58
appear to operate more in favor of the construction contended
for by the counsel for the defendant in error. The section is
employed not in designating the tax to be collected, but the person
to collect it, and the words have the same import as if instead of
"the duties aforesaid," the language had been changed and the words
"the duties imposed by this act" had been used.
The sections respecting drawbacks have been relied on by both
plaintiff and defendant as completely supporting his own
construction of the act, but the Court can perceive nothing in
those sections in any degree affecting the case.
It has been stated by both parties that all the revenue acts of
the United States may be considered as in pari materia
forming one connected system, and therefore to be compared together
when any one of them is to be construed.
In pursuance of this doctrine, they have been resorted to by the
defendant in error to show that the terms used in the second
section of the act under consideration are such as in all those
acts import the imposition of a duty.
This is not questioned. It is not denied that a tax is imposed,
nor would this have been denied if two of the three words used in
the act had been omitted. It is the general phraseology of laws
enacted for the purpose of raising money. But to reason by way of
analogy from the acts quoted to that under consideration, it would
be necessary to show that these general terms had been construed to
be more extensive than the particular regulations which follow for
the purpose of carrying them into execution. It is not recollected
that this has been attempted.
It has been argued that the duty on spirits of the home
manufactory is laid on their distillation, not on their removal,
and that the legislature must therefore be presumed also to have
imposed the duty on sugars on the act of refining them, and not on
the act of removal.
Page 6 U. S. 59
But the force of this argument is not admitted. Those political
motives which induce the legislature to select objects of revenue
and to tax them under particular circumstances are not for judicial
consideration. Where the legislature distinguishes between
different objects, and in imposing a duty on them evidences a will
to charge them in different situations, it is not for the courts to
beat down these distinctions on the allegation that they are
capriciously made, and therefore to be disregarded. It is the duty
of the court to discover the intention of the legislature and to
respect that intention. Where the provisions of two acts are so
unlike each other that the comparison exhibits only a contrast,
instead of saying that their opposing regulations were designed to
be similar, it would seem much more reasonable to say that the one
act exhibits a legislative mind materially variant in the
particulars where the difference exists from what is exhibited by
Every regulation of the act imposing a duty on spirits distilled
within the United States respects exclusively the time of
distillation, and they are all essentially variant from the
regulations of the act imposing a duty on snuff and refined
The duty on spirits is to be paid or secured previous to their
removal. That on sugars is not to be paid or secured until after
The credit for the duties on distilled spirits is allowed from
the date of a bond, to be quarter annually given for all the
spirits distilled, whether removed or not, so that the credit is as
near as possible from the date of distillation.
The credit for the duties on refined sugars is allowed from the
date of a bond quarter annually given for all the sugars removed
from the building, so that the credit is as near as possible from
the date of the removal.
Spirits having a duty imposed on them at the time of
distillation are liable to seizure and confiscation if removed
without paying or securing the duty.
Page 6 U. S. 60
Sugars, not being liable for the duty till removed, are not
seizable nor confiscable unless the refiner, after removal, shall
have failed to pay or secure the duties which became payable at a
given day after their removal.
With respect to country stills, the tax is laid on the capacity
of the still, and is to be paid without regard to the quantity
distilled, but if this tax should become oppressive, it may be
discharged by paying the duty on the quantity actually distilled.
In this case, no respect whatever is paid to the removal of the
spirits. Their distillation alone attracts the attention of the
With respect to all refined sugars, no duty can ever be demanded
unless the demand be predicated on the fact of removal.
Spirits, being chargeable with the duty when distilled, cannot
be removed without a permit.
Sugars, being only chargeable when sent out, may be removed at
the will of the refiner.
It is going very far indeed to argue a sameness of intention
from these dissimilar regulations. The court thinks it much more
correct to say that the intention of the legislature with respect
to these different objects was entirely different, and that in the
case of spirits, the duty was imposed on the distillation, while in
the case of sugars, the duty was imposed on the removal.
It is not improbable that the difference in the progress made in
the two pursuits, and the greater degree of forbearance required by
the one than by the other, or that the difference in the facility
with which frauds might be practiced in the two cases, might
occasion this apparent difference in the time of imposing the duty
on the article. But this, it is repeated, is a legislative, not a
judicial, inquiry, and if the difference exists, it must be
respected, whatever may be the motives which produced it.
Some arguments have been drawn from the repealing law which have
too much weight to be unnoticed.
Page 6 U. S. 61
It has been said that the provisions intended as a guard, to
prevent frauds in the collection of duties on sugars sent out of
the building, are dispensed with so far as respects sugars refined
before 30 June, but sent out after that day, and from thence it is
argued that the legislature could not have supposed sugars under
such circumstances to be liable to a duty. The weight of this
argument, if supported by the fact, is so apparent that the counsel
for the defendant in error controverts the fact itself, and not the
inference drawn from that fact if it be correctly stated.
It is and must be admitted that the first part of the first
section of the repealing law does away any forfeiture which was to
be produced by the future operation of the act repealed. If,
therefore, such forfeiture is retained, it must be by virtue of the
saving in the subsequent part of the section. That saving clause is
in these words, "Provided, &c." It is contended that the
forfeiture of sugars sent out after 30 June, 1802, and refined
before that period, is preserved by this proviso.
But this construction is deemed totally and clearly
inadmissible. The forfeiture of the thing is not the recovery and
receipt of a duty, but a punishment for the nonpayment of it, and
is never to be protected by a proviso extending only to remedies
given for the recovery of the duty itself. To render this point
still more clear, the proviso in express terms comprises fines,
penalties, and forfeitures incurred before 30 June. It is
impossible to suppose that they would not have deemed it equally
necessary to provide expressly for the preservation of those which
might afterwards be incurred if it was contemplated that the state
of things introduced by the act admitted of such subsequent
The force of this argument therefore remains undiminished.
It has very properly been observed at the bar that it was most
apparently the object of the legislature, through their whole
system of imposts, duties, and excises,
Page 6 U. S. 62
to tax expense, and not industry, and that in the particular
case of the duty now in question, this intent is manifested with
peculiar plainness. The refiner of sugars never hazards the payment
of the duty himself, because he is never to pay it until they are
presumed to be sold by being sent out of the building in which they
have been refined. In most other cases it has been deemed
sufficient to secure this object by a credit, which will allow time
for the sale of the article, after which the duty must be paid
whether the article be sold or not. But in the case of refined
sugars, the refiner never can be liable for the duty but on a fact
which is considered, and properly considered, as evidencing a sale,
after which a credit for the collection of the duty is still
allowed him. With respect to the refiner of sugars, then, it must,
on an inspection of the act, emphatically be said that the
legislature designed him to collect the duty from the consumer, but
never to pay it from the manufacture; that the tax should
infallibly be imposed on expense, and never on labor. If this
proposition be true, it furnishes an additional argument in favor
of that construction which is believed to be correct.
If the duty is payable on sugars refined before 30 June, 1802,
whenever they may be sent out, that duty will fall on the refiner
himself, because sugars refined before the 30th of June must come
into the market at the same price with those refined afterwards,
and cannot sell, in consideration of the duty with which they are
burdened, at a higher price than sugars admitted not to be
chargeable with that duty. So far as this effect would be produced
by the repealing law, it would occasion an oppression which the
enacting law has manifested a particular solicitude to avoid.
This effect, it is said, is produced in the case of those
distilled spirits which are subjected to a duty on the quantity
distilled or removed, and therefore the refiner of sugars ought to
be considered as receiving the same measure.
But it has already been shown that a difference is made in the
first creation of the tax between the distiller and the refiner,
and the same difference may be perceived throughout. But if they
were viewed with
Page 6 U. S. 63
precisely the same degree of favor, yet there is a difference
between relinquishing a right which was complete when the law under
which it accrued ceased to operate and one depending on a fact
afterwards to happen.
The argument which controverts the proposition that the
legislature designed in no instance to subject the refiner of
sugars to the tax on the article till a sale should take place is
founded on the circumstance that the refiner may be himself a
retailer, and may remove his sugars from the building to his retail
store, and thus become liable for the tax before the sale.
But the fallacy of this argument is immediately detected. A
person acting in two distinct characters must in many respects be
considered as two distinct persons. The refiner who is in a
different place the retailer of sugars must be considered as
selling them from the manufactory when he sends them out of it to
his retail store. The law contemplates the fact exactly in the same
manner, and must give to it the same effect as if they had been
sent to the retail store of a different person, and considers them
It has also been contended that the proviso in the act would be
unnecessary and absolutely inoperative unless it be construed to
apply to the duties on the sugars remaining in the building on 30
June. Those duties which were bonded cannot, it is said, be the
object of the proviso, because they, in contemplation of law, are
not outstanding; they are paid by the bond given by the debtor, and
there remains only the duty on sugars not sent out which is
outstanding, and is to be preserved by this part of the act.
It requires but a very slight attention to the subject to
perceive that this argument is not entitled to the weight which has
been attributed to it.
The act imposing the duty does in terms speak of its being
bonded, in contradistinction to its being paid. The duty is either
to be paid or secured by bond. To say then that a duty secured by
bond was not outstanding in contemplation of the legislature, but
was paid, would be to violate the very words of the act.
Page 6 U. S. 64
In addition to this circumstance, it ought to be observed that
the repeal takes effect at the close of 30 June, and the law has no
existence on 1 July. Yet the duties on sugars sent out during the
last quarter are to be secured or paid on 1 July. All admit that
there was no disposition to relinquish these duties. Of
consequence, if the proviso could be necessary in any possible
construction of the law, it was necessary in this case.
After the most attentive consideration of the acts of Congress
and the arguments of counsel, the Court is of opinion that the
duties on refined sugars remaining in the building on 1 July, 1802,
had not then accrued and were not then outstanding. The judgment of
the circuit court, which was in favor of the plaintiff below, must
Reversed and judgment rendered for the plaintiff in