United States v. Sixty-Seven Packages of Dry Goods/Dissent Campbell

Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

58 U.S. 85

United States  v.  Sixty-Seven Packages of Dry Goods

Mr. Justice CAMPBELL dissented.

This court, in a series of cases arising upon a succession of frauds perpetrated by a combination of persons in England and this country, determined, that the 66th section of the act of 1799, and the 4th section of the act of 1830, as modified by the 14th section of the act of 1832, were not repugnant, but formed a harmonious system for the prevention of frauds upon the revenue. 16 Pet. 342; 3 How. 211; 4 Ib. 242, 251.

The system formed was: 1. By the act of 1799, if an invoice contains goods that are undervalued with design to evade duties, the goods so undervalued are forfeited. 2. By the acts of 1830 and 1832, if a package or invoice is made up with intent to defraud the United States, the package or invoice thus made up is forfeited.

The court in its opinions declared that the latter statutes apply only to the cases in which the fraudulent acts of the importer were discovered by the officers of the customs, in the opening and examination of the goods, in their transit through the custom-house; while the act of 1799 applies to the case of completed entries under false invoices, no matter when or where the detection took place, the suits were all for forfeitures where the goods had passed through the custom-house, with a regular entry and payment of duties, but upon false invoices, that is, importing on undervaluation.

In these entries, 'a true and original invoice' was demanded by the collector, under the acts of congress then in force, and simulated and fraudulent invoices were punished, and upon which the assessment of duties was made. A true and original invoice, showing the first cost of the imports, formed the legal basis for the estimate of the duties under these acts, and the production of this was the end which these enactments were designed to secure.

The tariff act of 1842 (5 Stat. at Large, 548,) was adopted after these decisions.

Its title signifies that its purpose, among other things, 'was to change and modify existing laws imposing duties on imports,' and all conflicting acts and parts of acts were expressly repealed. The frauds referred to in the cases cited, were accomplished by false representations of the cost of the import, in the invoice, and the danger of a forfeiture for an undervaluation did not prevent them.

The act of 1842 abolishes the 'cost price at the place of exportation,' as the basis of the estimate of duties, but employs the 'market value,' or 'wholesale price,' and provides appraisers, who were to ascertain these without regard 'to any invoice whatever.' To perform this office they were armed with inquisitorial powers, might call for merchants' books, letters, invoices, and papers, and examine, as witnesses, the parties in interest. False swearing was punished with the forfeiture of the import, and as a perjury.

Here, then, is the substitute for the invoice in the old system, in the ascertainment of the basis of the estimate, and these were the sanctions employed to secure its integrity.

The 'true and original invoice' would, nevertheless, afford important evidence to ascertain the 'market value,' for, in a majority of cases, this would be the 'cost.' The production of the true invoice was still required in every entry. If the invoiced value differed from the appraised or market value, ten per centum, an additional penal duty now amounting to twenty per centum was exacted. This was to compel a fair exhibition of a 'true invoice.' This duty is collected without suit, depends upon the single fact of a variation of ten per centum between the market and invoice price, and has proved a most efficient instrument to prevent fraud. Besides, the duty may be collected in goods at the invoice rate, and thus the undervaluation would be corrected.

Finally, 'if any person shall, wilfully and with intent to defraud, make out, or pass, or attempt to pass through the custom-house, a false, forged, or fraudulent invoice, every such person, his aiders and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be fined in any sum not exceeding five thousand dollars, or imprisoned for a term of time not exceeding two years, one or both, at the discretion of the court.' (5 Stat. at Large, 565, Sec. 19.)

The invoice spoken of in this section of the act, is one which does not represent truly the facts the importer is bound to disclose at the date of his entry, and which are exhibited by an original and true invoice, and where the misrepresentation, whether by falsehood, forgery, or fraud, is with the design to evade the duties. It is admitted that this act provides for cases never before comprehended in any revenue law. For the attempt to defraud is punished as well as the consummate effort. The system of the act of 1842 is thus disclosed: It relies upon a home valuation made by public officers, upon evidence, instead of a representation of cost by the importer, as the basis of value in the assessment; and it provides, by forfeiture, and fine, and imprisonment, against the false testimony of the importer. It compels the production of the original and true invoice, by a penal duty, but fine and imprisonment, and the power to take payment of duties in undervalued goods.

There are, besides, provisions directed against smuggling. The act contains a selection from the various laws which had been passed by congress, whether in force or otherwise, and introduces new securities for the collection of the revenue.

Every case provided for by the system first considered, is distinctly and efficiently provided for in the act of 1842.

The principle applicable to such a state of facts is laid down by this court, in Norris v. Crocker, 13 How. 429. 'That where a new statute covers the whole subject-matter of an old one, adds offences, and prescribes different penalties for those enumerated in the old law, that then the former statute is repealed by implication, as the two provisions cannot stand together;' and that where 'a recent statute covers every offence found in the former act,' and prescribes a new and different penalty, recoverable by indictment, 'it is plainly repugnant.'

The statement of the systems adopted at the different periods, will show that the importance of the 66th section of the act of 1799 had ceased, and that the retention of it, as a cumulative penalty, would accomplish no good, and serve only to involve the government in litigation, that the revenue officers might claim the penalty.

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).