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United States Supreme Court

82 U.S. 68

Cheney  v.  Van Arsdale

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in which court a certain Van Arsdale brought suit against Cheney, collector of internal revenue, to recover duties paid the said collector on certain iron castings, cast for thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes; matters used in the construction of the running-gear of vehicles for the road. The case was thus:

An act of June 30th, 1864, [1] to provide internal revenue to support the government, to pay interest on the public debt, and for other purposes, amended by an act of March 3d, 1865, [2] laid duties on nearly every sort of manufacture, including pig iron, railroad iron, all iron advanced beyond blooms, slabs, or loops, on iron castings used for bridges or other permanent structures, on stoves and hollow-ware, on steel in ingots, bars, sheet, or wire, &c., &c.

An act of July 13th, 1866, entitled 'An act to reduce internal taxation and to amend an act entitled 'An act to provide internal revenue to support the government, to pay interest on the public debt, and for other purposes,' approved June 30th, 1864, and acts amendatory thereof,' in its 9th section [3] imposes—

'On all iron, not otherwise provided for, advanced beyond muckbar, blooms, slabs, or loops, and not advanced beyond bars, and band, hoop, and sheet iron, &c., a tax of $3 per ton.

'On plate iron, &c., and cut nails and spikes, &c., a tax of $5 per ton.

'On steel made directly from muckbar, blooms, slabs, or loops, a tax of $3 per ton.

'On stoves and hollow castings in all conditions, whether rough, tinned, or enamelled, and on castings of iron, not otherwise provided for, a tax of $3 per ton.'

The act in that same section [4] imposes—

'On all manufactures, not otherwise provided for, of cotton . . . wood . . . iron . . . steel, or of other materials, a tax of 5 per cent. ad valorem.'

The same act in a subsequent, its 10th, section [5] exempts—

'Castings for iron bridges, malleable iron castings unfinished, and castings of all descriptions made specially for locks, safes, looms, spinning machines, steam engines, hot air and hot water furnaces, and sewing machines, and not sold or used for any other purpose, and upon which a tax was assessed and paid on the article of which the casting was part.

'Steel made from iron advanced beyond muckbar, blooms, slabs, or loops in ingots, bars, rails made and fitted for railroads, sheet, plate, coil or wire, hoop-skirt wire, covered or uncovered; car-wheels, thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes, and springs, tire and axles made of steel used exclusively for vehicles, cars, or locomotives; and clock springs, faces, and hands.'

We have thus far last spoken of an act of July 13th, 1866.

By an act of March 2d, 1867, it was enacted, [6]

'That on and after March 1st, 1867, in addition to the articles now exempt by law, the articles and products hereinafter enumerated shall be exempt from internal tax, namely, thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes made of iron.'

With these statutes on the statute-book Van Arsdale, a manufacturer of iron castings, &c., brought the suit already referred to. The question presented by the suit was whether iron castings, cast for thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes, between the first day of September, 1866, and the first day of March, 1867, were subject to an internal tax under the act of Congress of July 13th, 1866.

Evidence having been given tending to show that up to July, 1866, thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes had not been made of steel, but only of iron, the court instructed the jury that the act in question 'exempted from taxation thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes, whether made of steel or iron, cast or wrought.'

Verdict and judgment having been given for the plaintiff, the collector, whose counsel had contended that the exemption applied only when the articles were made of steel, brought the case here.


Mr. J. W. Cary, for the manufacturer, and in support of the charge:


To sustain the construction given by the government, the word 'steel' at the beginning of the clause of the second paragraph of the 10th section of the act of July 13th, 1866, commencing 'steel made from iron,' &c., must necessarily operate upon and qualify every article specified in the clause.

Does it? We think not. First, observe the punctuation; after the word 'uncovered,' there is a semicolon, and then follows 'car-wheels, thimble-skeins, and pipe-boxes,' articles that are never made of steel, and then comes the following: 'and springs, tire, and axles made of steel.' Now if the intention was to have the word 'steel' at the beginning of the clause qualify every article named in the clause, why did Congress deem it necessary to again use the word 'steel,' so as to say that only 'springs, tire, and axles made of steel' should be exempt? Is not this the explanation,-that having exempted car-wheels, thimble-skeins, and pipe-boxes, articles never made of steel, and which were to be exempt without reference to the material of which they were made, that they deemed it necessary to subsequently use the word 'steel' so as to confine the exemption of certain articles afterwards named to such only as should be made of steel.

Again, it must be presumed that Congress in exempting thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes, intended to exempt something which had an existence and was liable to taxation; otherwise, why the necessity of the exemption? It is a fact beyond question that these articles were never made of steel, but of iron. Then must we not necessarily come to the conclusion that it was the intention to exempt thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes made of iron?

The act of March 2d, 1867, exempting 'thimble-skeins and pipe-boxes made of iron,' is but to make more clear the exemption meant to be given by the 10th section of the act of July 13th, 1866.

Mr. G. H. Williams, Attorney-General, contra.

Mr. Justice STRONG delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

^1  13 Stat. at Large, 223.

^2  Ib. 469.

^3  14 Stat. at Large, 130, 131.

^4  P. 132.

^5  Pp. 148, 149, 150.

^6  14 Stat. at Large, 477.

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).