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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Eighty-Four Boxes of Sugar, 32 U.S. 7 Pet. 453 453 (1833)

United States v. Eighty-Four Boxes of Sugar

32 U.S. (7 Pet.) 453


The claimants of eighty-four boxes of sugar, seized in the port of New Orleans, for an alleged breach of the revenue laws and condemned as forfeited to the United States for having been entered as brown instead of white sugar, claimed an appeal from the district Court of the United States to the Supreme Court. The sugars, while under seizure, were appraised at $2,602.51, and after condemnation they were sold for $2,338.48; leaving, after deducting the expenses and costs of sale, the sum of $2,150.06. The duties on the sugars, considering them as white or brown, being deducted from the amount, reduced the net proceeds below two thousand dollars, the amount upon which an appeal could be

taken. Held that the value in controversy was the value of the property at the, time of the seizure, exclusive of the duties, and that the claimant had a right to appeal to this Court.

The statute under which these sugars were seized and condemned is a highly penal law, and should, in conformity with the rule on the subject, be construed strictly. If either through accident or mistake the sugars were entered by a different denomination from what their quality required, a forfeiture is not incurred.

In the port of New Orleans, eighty-four boxes of sugar, imported from Matanzas, were entered as brown sugar and were seized by the officers of the customs for having been so entered, the same being alleged to be white sugar, and therefore forfeited to the United States; a libel was filed against the whole importation, but afterwards, a part of the cargo was released and the proceedings in the libel were against the remaining eighty-four boxes. The whole parcel had consisted of one hundred and fifty-five boxes, of which seventy-one were marked B, and eighty-four marked C. The seventy-one boxes released were marked C, and of the eighty-four remaining, seventy were marked B, and fourteen were marked C.

In the answer of the claimants, all fraudulent intention was denied, and the character of the sugar, as entered, was asserted,

Page 32 U. S. 454

and the claimants also alleged that if the contrary should be adjudged by the court, the just conclusion should be that a mistake had been committed, and not that a fraud was meditated.

The sugars, while under seizure, were appraised by two officers of the customs, at $2,602.51. After their condemnation, they were sold by the marshal of the United States at a public sale for $2,338.48, leaving $2,150.06, after deducting the costs and charges attending the suits and sale. Upon the sugars, whether white or brown, the duties amounted to a sum sufficient to reduce the net proceeds below $2,000; considering the sugars as white sugars, these proceeds would be $1,388.36.

Testimony was taken as to the real nature and description of the sugars, all of which was set forth in the record of the proceedings in the district court, and which is particularly referred to in the opinion of this Court. The district court condemned the sugars as forfeited to the United States, for having been entered under a false denomination; the entry stating them to have been brown sugars, and the court having adjudged them to have been white sugars.

The claimants prayed an appeal, which the district court refused to allow, taking the ground, that the value of the property in dispute was not above $2,000, and insisting, that to ascertain the value, the duties must be deducted from the amount of sales, which deduction would leave a sum much below $2,000. Upon this refusal, notice was given to the district judge and district attorney, of an application to this Court for a mandamus, for the allowance of appeal. And the case came before the court upon a motion for such mandamus. The record in court being full, it was, to avoid delay, agreed that if this Court shall consider that the case admits of an appeal, it might, on the present transcript, proceed to decide the merits of the cause.

Page 32 U. S. 458

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