TREMLETT V. ADAMS, 54 U. S. 295 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tremlett v. Adams, 54 U.S. 13 How. 295 295 (1851)

Tremlett v. Adams

54 U.S. (13 How.) 295


The Tariff Law of July 30, 1846, 9 Stat. 42, reduced the duties on imported coal, and was to take effect on 2 December, 1846. The sixth section provided that all goods, which might be in the public stores on that day, should pay only the reduced duty.

On 6 August, 1846, 9 Stat. 53, Congress passed the Warehousing Act, authorizing importers, under certain circumstances, to deposit their goods in the public stores, and to draw them out and pay the duties at any time within one year.

But this right was confined to a port of entry unless extended by regulation of the Secretary of the Treasury to a port of delivery.

Therefore, where New Bedford was the port of entry and Wareham a port of delivery, the collector of New Bedford, acting under the directions of the Secretary of the Treasury, was right in refusing coal to be entered for warehousing at Wareham.

Where an importer deposited a sum of money, as estimated duties, with the collector, which, upon adjustment, was found to exceed the true duty by a small amount, and the collector offered to pay it back, but the importer refused to receive it, the existence of this small balance is not sufficient reason for reversing the judgment of the circuit court, which was in favor of the collector.

This was a suit brought in the circuit court by Thomas Tremlett, a merchant of Boston, against Adams, the collector of the port of New Bedford, for return of duties.

The case is stated in the bill of exceptions, which was as follows:

"This was an action of assumpsit, brought against the defendant, collector for the port of New Bedford, to recover the sum of twenty-two hundred and sixty-seven dollars, seventy-seven cents, and interest, excess of duties upon sundry cargoes of coal, imported into the port of Wareham, in the collection district of New Bedford, by the plaintiff, and claimed to be illegally exacted by said defendant, and paid by said plaintiff under protest."

"At the trial of the case before his honor, judge Sprague the following facts were admitted by the defendant, namely: "

"1st. That in the months of September and October, 1846,

Page 54 U. S. 296

the plaintiff, Thomas Tremlett, a merchant of Boston, imported from Pictou, in Nova Scotia, into the port of Wareham, in the collection district of New Bedford, nine cargoes of coal, as follows, namely: "


"Amounting, in the aggregate, to 1,458 9/12 chaldrons, or 1,922 tons, 8 cwt. 1 qr. 26 lbs., as appears by the custom house records."

"These several cargoes of coal were shipped at Pictou for the port of Wareham, a port of delivery only, and upon the arrival at that port of the first-mentioned vessel, the brig Indus, on or about 3 September, 1846, the plaintiff made application at the custom house in New Bedford, to the defendant, Joseph T. Adams, then collector at said port, to enter said coal, for warehousing, at Wareham, aforesaid, under the provisions of the Act of Congress entitled, 'An act to establish a warehousing system,' &c., passed August 6, 1846. But the defendant refused to allow the plaintiff to enter said coal for warehousing as aforesaid under the act aforesaid because said Wareham was not a port of entry, but a port of delivery, and required him, if he would land said coal at said Wareham, to enter the same under the Act for the collection of duties passed August 30, 1842, and to deposit $285 to cover the duties which might be found to be legally due and payable thereon. The plaintiff, in order that said vessel might be permitted to discharge her cargo, complied with this requisition, first entering the following protest in writing: 'I protest against paying duties, wishing to warehouse the coal per brig Indus, from Pictou,' and signed 'Thomas Tremlett, by his attorney, Jacob Parker.'"

"The usual permit was then granted by the collector to land the coal from said vessel at said Wareham, and the coal was accordingly landed, and upon the arrival at said Wareham of the other cargoes of coal by the several vessels above named,

Page 54 U. S. 297

said plaintiff made like applications to the defendant at the collector's office at New Bedford to enter each cargo for warehousing under said Act of August 6, 1846, at Wareham, aforesaid."

"But the defendant, in like manner as in the case of the brig Indus, refused permission to warehouse as aforesaid and required the plaintiff to make the same entry as in that case, and deposit a sum of money upon the entry of each cargo sufficient to cover the duties which might be found to be legally due and payable thereon under the provisions of the Act of August 30, 1842, the plaintiff first entering a protest in writing in each case, and upon the entry of each cargo in manner and form as in the case of the brig Indus, above mentioned, and said coal was thereupon landed and deposited in the same manner as that per brig Indus."

"2d. That all of said coal landed at said Wareham from the above-named vessels was deposited in one pile and remained in the place where it was originally deposited until after December 19, 1846."

"3d. That the aggregate sum deposited with the defendant by the plaintiff, to cover the amount of duties on the several cargoes of coal above mentioned, was $3,403, and the duties on said coal, computed under the Tariff Act of August 30, 1942, would amount to $3,364.14; that by the Act of July 30, 1946, the duties on the coal in question would amount to $1,135.23."

"4th. That the brigs Indus and Mary Sophia were British vessels; that it has been the invariable practice of the collectors at New Bedford for more than twenty years to allow foreign vessels the same rights and privileges as to unlading and discharging their cargoes at the port of Wareham that are granted to American vessels, and that no objection was made or intimated by the defendant to the plaintiff to his landing the cargoes of said Indus and Mary Sophia at said Wareham."

"5th. That said Wareham is the principal port, in the collection district of New Bedford, where coal is imported for consumption."

"6th. That the defendant, on or before 19 December, 1846, delivered to the plaintiff's attorney a statement of the balance due to the plaintiff for money deposited, over and above the amount of duties claimed on the nine cargoes of coal aforesaid, amounting to $38.86, and offered then to pay the same to M. Parker, the plaintiff's attorney, which he declined to receive, and that on 13 November, 1849, Mr. Adams, the defendant, tendered the same amount in specie to Thomas Tremlett, the plaintiff, at his office in Boston, which he refused to receive, and informed the defendant that in 1846 he instructed Mr. Parker, his attorney not to receive it. "

Page 54 U. S. 298

"7th. That the paper hereto annexed marked A is a true copy of the commission under which D. Nye acted as an officer of the revenue from the date of the commission till after January, 1849, and that the paper marked B, annexed hereto, is a true copy of an official letter, received by D. Nye from said defendant at or about the time it bears date, and that the papers annexed, marked C and D, are true copies of official letters received by the defendant from the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States."

"Boston, December 13th, 1849."

"The paper marked A was merely an authority to David Nye to act as deputy collector, inspector, gauger, weigher, and measurer, for the port of Wareham, dated October 3, 1843."

"The paper marked B was an authority to Nye, from Adams, under the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury, to warehouse coal &c. at Wareham under the Warehousing Act of 1846. But this authority was dated August 22, 1848."

"The paper marked C was dated August 27, 1846, and was a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury to Adams refusing to allow any article to be warehoused without the limits of a port of entry."

"The paper marked D was from the same to same, dated July 5, 1849, merely saying that the district Attorney had been instructed to defend Adams in the suit brought by Tremlett"

"Upon those facts, the plaintiff, by his counsel, requested the court to rule and instruct the jury -- "

"1st. That the right or privilege of warehousing goods at any ports or places within the United States is regulated by the laws of Congress, which specify the ports and places at which, and the manner in which, such warehousing shall be permitted, and that no discretion as to the selection of such ports or places, or as to the manner in which such warehousing shall be allowed, is reposed in the collector, or any other executive officer."

"The plaintiff further requested the court to rule and instruct the jury -- "

"2d. That by law there is no distinction as to the exercise of such right of warehousing between ports of entry and ports of delivery, and that if the plaintiff at the time had a right, under the existing laws, to warehouse his goods in a port of entry in any district in the United States, he had equally a right to warehouse them at any port of delivery in such district, upon complying with the requirements of the laws regulating the warehousing of goods."

"The plaintiff further requested the court to rule and instruct the jury -- "

"3d. That the plaintiff, being unlawfully prevented from warehousing

Page 54 U. S. 299

his goods as aforesaid and required to pay duties upon them according to the rates established by the Tariff Law of 1842, ought to recover of the defendant the difference between the amount of duties chargeable under the Tariff Act of 1842 and that under the Tariff Act of 1846, and interest thereon from the time of payment of the several sums."

"The plaintiff further requested the court to rule and instruct the jury -- "

"4th. That if, upon the facts, the plaintiff could not recover the whole of the difference between the amount of duties properly chargeable under the act of 1842 and the amount properly chargeable under the act of 1846, he was entitled to recover the sum of $38.86, being the surplus in the defendant's hands over and above the amount of the duty properly chargeable according to the act of 1842. But the court refused to give the instructions so prayed for; but, on the contrary thereof, did rule and instruct the jury that the plaintiff could not maintain his action, nor recover either of said sums of money, or any part thereof; to all which rulings and instructions the plaintiff excepts, and prays that his exceptions may be allowed."


"Judge &c."

The jury accordingly found for the defendant, and upon these exceptions the case came up to this Court.

Page 54 U. S. 302

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