United States v. Heth
Annotate this Case
7 U.S. 399 (1806)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Heth, 7 U.S. 3 Cranch 399 399 (1806)
United States v. Heth
7 U.S. (3 Cranch) 399
The collector of the district of Petersburgh was not, by the Act of 10 May, 1800, restricted to a commission of two and a half percent on the moneys by him collected and received after 30 June, 1800, on account of bonds previously taken for duties arising on goods imported into the United States.
The question was whether the defendant, as Collector of the Customs for the District of Petersburgh, was restricted to a commission of two and a half percent on any or all of the monies collected and received by him after 30 June, 1800, on account of bonds previously taken for duties arising on goods, wares, and merchandise imported into the United States.
This question arose upon the 2d section of the Act of Congress, entitled "An act supplementary to an act entitled An act, to establish the compensation of the officers employed in the collection of the duties on import and tonnage,'" passed on 10 May, 1800, vol. 5, p. 173. The words of which are
"That in lieu of the commissions heretofore allowed by law, there shall, from and after the thirtieth day of June next, be allowed to the collectors for the Districts of Alexandria, Petersburgh, and Richmond, respectively, two and a half percentum on all monies which shall be collected and received by them . . . for and on account of the duties arising on goods, wares, and merchandise imported into the United States and on the tonnage of ships and vessels."
Breckinridge, Attorney General, in behalf of the United States, observed that the words of the act appeared to him so plain that they could not be elucidated by argument. He understood the language of the act to be that only two and a half percent should be allowed on monies received after 30 June. Although the collector may have done the greater part of his duty by taking bonds for the duties, yet they were neither collected nor paid before that day. It cannot be deemed an unconstitutional act as being ex post facto, because the prohibition of the Constitution extends to criminal cases only. 3 U. S. 3 U.S. 386, Calder v. Bull.