DE FOREST V. LAWRENCE, 54 U. S. 274 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

De Forest v. Lawrence, 54 U.S. 13 How. 274 274 (1851)

De Forest v. Lawrence

54 U.S. (13 How.) 274


The tariff law of 1846, passed on 30 July, 9 Stat. 42, contains no special mention of imported sheepskins, dried with the wool remaining on them.

They must be regarded as a nonenumerated article, and charged, with a duty of twenty percent ad valorem.

The plaintiffs in error, W. W. De Forest & Co. sued the collector to recover back money paid under protest, for duties on importations into New York, in the years 1847 and 1848, from Buenos Ayres, invoiced as sheepskins, having the wool on them.

The collector under instructions from the Secretary of the Treasury demanded and received a duty of thirty percent ad valorem on the wool upon the sheepskins, and a duty of five percent ad valorem upon the pelts.

The wool upon the skins was appraised at . . . . . $18,596.52

Duty thereon at thirty percent . . . 5,578.95

Skins without the wool . . . . . . . . 9,972.14

Duty thereon at five percent . . . . 498.60


Total valuation of wool and skins. . . $28,568.66


Total duty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 6,077.55

Whilst the collector thus charged one duty upon the skin and another upon the wool, the importers claimed to enter the articles at a duty of five percent upon the whole, and the court decided that the proper duty to be charged was twenty percent upon the entire valuation.

The cause of this great difference of opinion was as follows:

By the Act of 19 May, 1828, 4 Stat. 271, chap. 55, sec. 2, first paragraph, a duty is imposed on wool unmanufactured: "And all wool imported on the skin shall be estimated as to weight and value, and shall pay the same rate of duty, as other imported wool."

By the Act of July 14, 1832, same vol. chap. 227, sec. 2, first paragraph, 584, wool unmanufactured is charged with duty: "Provided, that wool imported on the skin shall be estimated, as to weight and value, as other wool."

By the Act of 30 August, 1842, 5 Stat. chap. 270,

Page 54 U. S. 275

sec. 1, paragraph first, 548, a duty on wool unmanufactured is imposed: "Provided, also, that wool imported on the skin shall be estimated, as to weight and value, as other wool."

In the 5th section and sixth paragraph of that same act of 1842, p. 554, duties are imposed

"On sheepskins, tanned and dressed, or skivers, two dollars per dozen; on goat or sheepskins, tanned and not dressed, one dollar per dozen; on all kid and lambskins, tanned and not dressed, seventy-five cents per dozen; and on skins tanned and dressed, otherwise than in color, to-wit, fawn, kid, and lamb, usually known as chamois, one dollar per dozen; . . . on raw hides of all kinds, whether dried or salted, five percent ad valorem; on all skins pickled and in casks, not specified, twenty percent ad valorem."

Subsequently to these three statutes, so mentioning and distinguishing those three several classes of imports, same the statute of 30 July, 1846, 9 Stat. Little & Brown, chap. 74, 42, entitled "An act reducing the duties on imports, and for other purposes."

The first section enacted that from and after the first day of December then next,

"In lieu of the duties heretofore imposed by law on the articles hereinafter mentioned, and on such as may be now exempt from duty, there shall be collected, levied, and paid, on the goods, wares, and merchandise, herein enumerated and provided for, imported from foreign countries, the following rates of duty."

Then follows the enumeration of various articles, subject to various duties, in schedules from A to H, ranging from duties of one hundred percentum to five percentum ad valorem.

Section 2 enacts that the goods "mentioned in schedule I, shall be exempt from duty."

Section 3 imposes on all goods, wares, and merchandise imported from foreign countries, "and not specially provided for in this act, a duty of twenty percentum ad valorem."

In schedule C, of articles subject to thirty percent ad valorem, "wool unmanufactured" is mentioned, but "wool imported upon the skin" is not specially provided for therein. In schedule H, among other articles subject to the duty of five percent ad valorem, "raw hides and skins of all kinds, whether dried, salted, or pickled," are mentioned; but "wool imported on the skin" is not therein mentioned. In schedule I, of articles exempt from duty, wool imported on the skin, is not mentioned, neither is it mentioned in anyone of the schedules, from A to I inclusive.

On the trial of the case in the circuit court, Mr. Justice Nelson instructed the jury that the article came most appropriately within the schedule of nonenumerated articles, and as such was chargeable with a duty of twenty percent.

Page 54 U. S. 276

To which charge the counsel for the plaintiffs excepted, on the ground that the court should have charged the jury that the article imported by the plaintiffs, raw sheepskins dried, fell under schedule H, of the Tariff of 1846, and was not a nonenumerated article, but on the contrary, was enumerated under said schedule H, and was liable only to a duty of five percent, and not to a duty of 20 percent. That the said article being a raw skin dried, and being not otherwise specifically provided for in said act, was liable only to the same rate of duty as all other raw skins dried. And the counsel for the said plaintiffs requested the court to charge the said jury accordingly, which request was refused by the court, and the counsel for the plaintiffs thereupon excepted.

Upon this exception, the cause came up to this Court.

Page 54 U. S. 279

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