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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Three Hundred Fifty Chests of Tea, 25 U.S. 12 Wheat. 486 486 (1827)

United States v. Three Hundred Fifty Chests of Tea

25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 486


The term "concealed," as used in the sixty-eighth section of the duty act of 2 March, 1799, ch. 128, applies only to articles intended to be secreted and withdrawn from public view on account of the duties' not having been paid or secured to be paid, or from some other fraudulent motive. The forfeiture inflicted by that section does not extend to a case where, the duties not having been paid or secured in any other manner than by giving the general bond and storing the goods according to the sixty-second section of the act, the goods were fraudulently removed from the storehouse agreed upon by the collector and the importer by some persons other than the claimants, who were bona fide purchasers of the goods, and without their knowledge and consent, to another port, where the goods were found stowed on board the vessel in which they were transported, in the usual manner of stowing such goods when shipped for transportation.

Under the sixty-second section of the act, in the case of teas, the duties "are secured to be paid" in the sense of the law by the single bond of the importer, accompanied by a deposit of the teas imported, to be kept under the lock and key of the inspector and subject to the control of the collector and naval officer until the duties are actually paid or otherwise secured, and no forfeiture is incurred under the sixty-eighth section by the removal and concealment of the goods on which the duties have been thus "secured to be paid."

To authorize the seizure and bringing to adjudication of teas under the forty-third section of the act, it is necessary not only that the chests should be unaccompanied by the proper certificates, but also by the marks required to be placed upon them by the thirty-ninth section.

The lien of the government for duties attaches upon the articles from the moment of their importation, and is not discharged by the unauthorized and illegal removal of the goods from the custody of the custom house officers.

Quaere whether such lien can be enforced against a bona fide purchaser without notice that the duties were hot paid or secured.

The lien for duties cannot in any case be enforced by a libel of information in the admiralty; the revenue jurisdiction of the district courts, proceeding in rem, only extending to cases of seizures for forfeitures under laws of impost, navigation, or trade of the United States.

But a suit at common law may be instituted in the district or circuit courts in the name of the United States, founded upon its legal right to recover the possession of goods upon which it has a lien for duties or to recover damages for the illegal taking or detaining the same.

Page 25 U. S. 487

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