United States v. Macdonald
THE fifth section of the act of March 3d, 1841, enacts that in addition to the account required to be rendered by every collector, every collector shall render a quarter-yearly account to the Secretary of the Treasury, of all sums of money received or collected—
'For rent and storage of goods, wares, or merchandise which may be stored in the public storehouses, and for which a rent is paid beyond the rents paid by the collector; and if from such accounting it shall appear that the money so received in any one year by any collector, on account and for rents and storage as aforesaid, shall in the aggregate exceed the sum of two thousand dollars, such excess shall be paid into the Treasury of the United States, as part and parcel of the public money; and no such collector shall, on any pretence whatevery, hereafter receive, hold, or retain for himself, in the aggregate, more than six thousand dollars per year, including all commissions for duties, and all fees for storage, or fees or emoluments, or any other commissions or salaries which are now allowed and limited by law.'
With this act in force, the United States brought suit in the Circuit Court for the district of Maine, on his official bond, against Macdonald, collector of customs at Portland, and his sureties, for the recovery of $6281 reported to be due the United States on the adjustment of his accounts, and which he had refused to pay into the treasury. The rejoinder alleged that Macdonald received, accounted for quarter-yearly, and retained this sum, 'by virtue of his office, for storage of merchandise in bonded warehouses from January 20th, 1858, to April 18th, 1861, inclusive, as he lawfully might do,' not more than two thousand dollars in any one year. The United States demurred, and issue was joined.
The question raised by the pleadings was touching the true construction and effect of the above-quoted fifth section of the act of March 3d, 1841; that is to say, whether, under it, a collector of customs might retain, as compensation or emolument, any portion of the moneys which had accrued from the storing or custody of imported merchandise in private bonded warehouses?
The court below considered the rejoinder good, and gave judgment for the defendants. The case was now here on error to that judgment: the question here being the same as it was below, the true meaning of the section.
Mr. Stanbery, A. G., and Mr. Ashton, Assistant A. G., for the United States, plaintiff in error; Mr. W. P. Fessenden for the collector, contra.
Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.