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Opinion of the Court.
a conclusion is not in harmony with the idea and object of the protest. True, as held in Davies v. Miller, 130 U. S. 284, the clause, “within ten days after the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties,” merely fixes the limit beyond which the notice of protest shall not be given, and not the first point of time at which it may be given. That is to say, the notice of protest may be given before the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties, (as was specifically ruled in that case,) but it is not required to be given until some time within ten days after the liquidation.
Indeed, in another part of the same opinion in Westray's Case, the learned justice used language entirely inconsistent with the theory of the defendants in error. After stating that the decision of the collector had become final by reason of no protest having been made and no appeal having been taken to the Secretary of the Treasury, he said: “The same considerations lead to the conclusion that the Circuit Court correctly refused to rule that the ten days prescribed by the statute, within which notice of dissatisfaction is required to be given, did not begin to run until notice of the collector's liquidation was given to the plaintiffs in error, or until they had knowledge thereof. The limitation of the right to complain or to appeal commences with the date of liquidation, whenever that is made. No notice is required, but the importer who makes the entries is under obligation to take notice of the collector's settlement of the amount of duties." p. 330. And in the syllabus of the case by the reporter it is said: “The right of the importer to complain or appeal begins with the date of the liquidation, whenever that is made.” These quotations abundantly show, we think, that the question as to when the ascertainment and liquidation should take place was not considered by the court at all, further than that it should take place some time after the entry of the merchandise for warehouse.
We find nothing in the statutes or in any of the decisions of this court warranting the construction contended for by the defendants in error, that the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties referred to in section 2931 should be made at the
Opinion of the Court.
date of the final withdrawal of the merchandise from the bonded warehouse. On the contrary, we think the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties on merchandise entered in bond for warehouse should follow, in the regular course of business, as soon after the entry as is convenient, just as in the case of merchandise entered for immediate consumption. The statutory regulations as to the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties are the same in the one instance as in the other. The measurement, weighing or gauging of the merchandise, the inspection and appraisal of it, and the determination of its dutiable value are required to be proceeded with exactly the same in each instance. After the ascertainment of those facts in relation to the entry, the collector has to decide what the duties are in each case. His decision at that time is the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties referred to in section 2931 ; and there would seem to be no. good reason for his delaying that decision in the case of merchandise entered in bond for warehouse until the convenience of the importer shall suggest the removal of the merchandise from the warehouse.
It is urged, however, that section 2970 of the Revised Statutes, when construed in pari materia with section 2931, leads to the conclusion that the liquidation of the duties on merchandise entered in bond should be made when the merchandise is withdrawn for consumption. We do not think so. That section is as follows: "Any merchandise deposited in bond in any public or private bonded warehouse may be withdrawn for consumption within one year from the date of original importation on payment of the duties and charges to which it may be subject by law at the time of such withdrawal; and after the expiration of one year from the date of original importation, and until the expiration of three years from such date, any merchandise in bond may be withdrawn for consumption on payment of the duties assessed on the original entry and charges, and an additional duty of ten per centum of the amount of such duties and charges.
In our opinion that section was intended to provide for cases in which a change in the rate of duty had been made by stat
Opinion of the Court.
ute wbile the merchandise was in the bonded warehouse. Fabbri v. Murphy, 95 U. S. 191; act of March 14, 1866, 14 Stat. 8, c. 17. The first clause of the section means simply that if there has been a change in the rate of duty after the merchandise has been entered in bond, and the withdrawal of the merchandise takes place afterwards, and within one year from the date of the importation, the duties to be paid are such as are fixed by the law in force at the date of the withdrawal. The second clause of section 2970 provides that if the merchandise remain in the bonded warehouse more than one year it may be withdrawn for consumption at any time within
three years upon the payment of the duties and charges assessed upon the original entry, and ten per centum in addition. The phrase “duties assessed on the original entry,” etc., evidently means the duties on the original entry as finally ascertained and liquidated, within the meaning of those terms, as used in section 2931. In either case, if the statute changing the rate of duties goes into effect after the liquidation of the original entry, a reliquidation must necessarily take place. The two clauses of the section differ in one respect only, viz., in a ten per cent increase of duties, where the merchandise remains in the warehouse more than one year, and is withdrawn within three years from the date of importation. This construction renders the two sections of the statute harmonious.
Upon a careful examination of the question at issue, we are of opinion that the ascertainment and liquidation of the duties upon merchandise entered in bond for warehouse may take place at any time after the original entry of the merchandise, and that it is not required to be delayed until the importer chooses to withdraw his goods for consumption. The ten days referred to in section 2931, within which the importer is allowed to protest, begin to run upon such ascertainment and liquidation of the duties; and, therefore, the protest in the case at bar was too late.
In arriving at this conclusion we are not unmindful of the fact that the defendants in error made their protest in accordance with the regulations of the Treasury Department in force at that time. A regulation of a department, however, cannot
Opinion of the Court.
repeal a statute; neither is a construction of a statute by a department charged with its execution to be held conclusive and binding upon the courts of the country, unless such construction has been continuously in force for a long time. The cases cited go to that extent and no further. In regard to the law under consideration the construction of it by the Treasury Department has not been uniform. The construction contended for by defendants in error first arose in 1876 and lasted only until 1885, since which time the construction has been the same as in this decision. There is no such long and uninterrupted acquiescence in a regulation of a department, or departmental construction of a statute, as will bring the case within the rule announced at an early day in this court, and followed in very many cases, to wit, that in case of a doubtful and ambiguous law the contemporaneous construction of those who have been called upon to carry it into effect is entitled to great respect, and should not be disregarded without the most cogent and persuasive reasons. Edwards v. Darby, 12 Wheat. 206; United States v. Hill, 120 U. S. 169, 182; Robertson v. Downing, 127 U. S. 607, and very many other cases. The judgment of the Circuit Court is reversed, and the case
is remanded to that court, with directions to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER dissented from this opinion and judg. ment, on the ground that the practice of the Department at the time the proceedings in the custom-house took place, and the action of the Secretary of the Treasury in the matter of the protest and appeal, ought to take the case out of what he conceded to be the correct construction of the statute.
No. 311. Submitted November 25, 1890. – Decided December 22, 1890.
Merritt v. Cameron, ante, 542, affirmed and followed.
in bond, such as is involved in this case, is held dutiable at a greatly reduced rate, is of no aid to an importer who has not protested against the previous ruling.
This was an action against the collector of the port of Philadelphia to recover duties alleged to have been illegally exacted. Judgment for the plaintiffs, to review which the defendant sued out this writ of error. The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. Solicitor General for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Frank P. Prichard for defendants in error.
MR. JUSTICE LAMAR delivered the opinion of the court.
This was an action at law by Artemus Partridge and Thomas D. Richardson, trading as Partridge & Richardson, against John Cadwalader, collector of customs for the District of Philadelphia, to recover back certain alleged illegal and excessive duties exacted on merchandise imported at that port by them.
The only defence sat up by the collector was, that the protest of the importers against the assessment of the duties was not filed with him within ten days from the ascertainment and liquidation of them, as required by section 2931 of the Revised Statutes.
The case was tried by the court and a jury, which returned a special verdict, substantially as follows: On June 28, and July 22, 1886, the plaintiffs, who were merchants in Philadel