Open main menu

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

62 U.S. 251

Belcher  v.  Lawrason

THIS case was brought up by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for the eastern district of Louisiana.

It was an action brought by Belcher & Co. to recover back from the collector $6,159.20, which they alleged to have been exacted as illegal duties, and which they had paid under protest.

The following was the statement of facts in the court below:

1. That the plaintiffs imported into New Orleans, from the island of Cuba, the several cargoes of reboiled molasses, concentrated molasses, sugar-house molasses, cistern bottoms, and cistern sugars, fully set forth in the petition.

2. That said importations were made on entries, from which it appears that the importers were the manufacturers of the goods imported, and not purchasers thereof in the market.

3. That upon the appraisement of the merchandise so imported as aforesaid, the value thereof was fixed by the appraisers at a sum exceeding the invoice value by more than ten per cent., and that no appeal from this appraisement was made by the importers to merchant appraisers.

4. That the defendant thereupon exacted from the plaintiff a penal duty of twenty per centum on the appraised value of the merchandise imported, and that said penal duty, so levied as aforesaid, amounted to the sum of $6,159.20.

5. That said penal duty was paid under protest, as shown by the protests filed, which are made part of this statement of facts.

Upon this statement of facts, the Circuit Court decided that the said merchandise was not legally subject to a penal duty of twenty per cent. on the appraised value aforesaid, but was legally subject to a penal duty of fifty per cent. on the amount of duties which would have been properly chargeable if the invoice had expressed the true value of the merchandise imported, and the excess of penal duty so charged as aforesaid being ascertained to amount to $1,539.80, which ought to be returned to plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs brought the case up to this court.

It was argued by Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Johnson for the plaintiffs in error, and by Mr. Hull and Mr. Black (Attorney General) for the defendants.

One of the questions raised in the Circuit Court was abandoned by the counsel here. They conceded that the report of the official appraisers could only be corrected by an appeal to merchant appraisers. The question was settled in Bartlett v. Kane, (16 How., 263,) reported subsequently to the bringing of the action.

Upon the first of the remaining two propositions they contended that the exaction of the penal duty of twenty per cent. on the invoice value of the importations, under the eighth section of the tariff act of 1846, was clearly illegal, that point being settled by this court in the case of Greely v. Thompson, (10 How., 226,) also ruled by the New York Circuit Court, in Christ v. Spear, Thompson v. Maxwell, Durand et al. v. Lawrence.

Upon the other proposition, the arguments of the counsel on both sides were founded upon critical examinations of the tariff laws, which would not be interesting after the historical inquiry into these acts contained in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Justice NELSON delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).