LAWRENCE V. CASWELL, 54 U. S. 488 (1851)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lawrence v. Caswell, 54 U.S. 13 How. 488 488 (1851)

Lawrence v. Caswell

54 U.S. (13 How.) 488


By the Tariff of 1846, the duty of one hundred percent, ad valorem, upon brandy ought to be charged only upon the quantity actually imported, and not on the contents stated in the invoices.

Duties illegally exacted are those which are paid under protest and where there is an appeal to the judicial tribunals.

The Revenue Act of 1799, 1 Stat. 672, directed that an allowance of two percent for leakage should be made on the quantity of liquors which were subject to duty by the gallon. Where brandy was subjected to a duty ad valorem, it was no longer within the provisions of this act, and the allowance of two percent ceased.

This was a suit brought by John Caswell and Solomon T. Caswell, merchants of New York, against Lawrence, the collector, to recover an excess of duties upon brandy paid under protest. The whole case is set forth in the bill of exceptions, which was as follows:

"Bill of Exceptions. The counsel for the plaintiffs, after proving that the plaintiffs were partners, engaged in trade and commerce in the City of New York, further to maintain the issue on their part gave in evidence divers warehouse entries and withdrawal entries, and calculations of duties thereon, invoices, and gaugers' returns of certain importations of brandy made by the plaintiffs into the port of New York by the several vessels in the table or statement hereinafter set forth, particularly mentioned, which said several vessels arrived in the said port of New York at the respective dates, also in said table, or statement, mentioned, in and by which said documents it appeared that said several importations of brandy were, on the arrival thereof, respectively deposited in the public stores in said port of New York in pursuance of the Act of Congress establishing a warehousing system approved August 6, 1846, that upon the gauging of said several importations of brandy by the United States gaugers, made at the time of the arrival thereof respectively, the actual contents of each of said importations were found to be less than the contents stated in the invoices thereof respectively, the difference in each case between such invoice contents and the actual contents as ascertained by the said gaugers being specified in the said table or statement; that the said goods so imported were afterwards from time to time withdrawn from such public stores, and duties paid thereon by the plaintiffs to the defendant as collector of the port of New

Page 54 U. S. 489

York, who demanded as such duties under schedule A of the Tariff Act of July 30, 1846, one hundred percentum ad valorem upon the cost of the contents of said importations as such contents were stated in the invoices thereof respectively, amounting in the whole, as also appears in said table, to the sum of $41,658, which said duties, so exacted, were paid by the plaintiffs to the said defendants as such collector under protest in writing, endorsed on the withdrawal entries, against the payment thereof, the said plaintiffs claiming that the duties should be computed not upon the said invoice contents of said importations, but upon the actual contents thereof, as shown by the aforesaid gaugers' returns, after deducting from the actual contents shown by such returns the allowance of two percentum thereon, directed by the 59th section of the Revenue Collection Act of March 2, 1799."

"The following is the form of the protests referred to, and they were all alike:"

" We claim deduction for all deficiency from the quantity shipped, also two percent allowance for leakage as heretofore customary, and protest against the collector's exacting the whole amount of the invoice."


"The counsel for the said plaintiffs also proved that the duties so as aforesaid paid to and received by the said defendant, as such collector, were by him duly paid at the time of the receipt thereof into the Treasury of the United States."

"The table or statement above referred to contained also a specification of the excess of duty alleged by the plaintiffs to have been exacted by the defendant as such collector upon each of the said several importations, amounting in the aggregate to the sum of $1,609, the said table or statement being in the words and figures following."

"[The table is omitted as not being necessary to be inserted.]"

"The plaintiffs' counsel then proved that under the Act of March, 1799, and from the passage of said act until the Tariff Act of July 30, 1846, took effect, it was the uniform practice in the New York custom house, upon the entry of such importations of liquors subject to duties, to proceed as follows: "

"1st. The United States gaugers, after ascertaining the capacity of each cask, deducted the 'outs,' or number of gallons deficient, and, from the actual contents thus ascertained, made a further deduction of two percent on such actual contents for the allowance of leakage, directed by the 59th section of said Act of March 2, 1799, and made a return to the collector, exhibiting the result."

"2d. The duties were then calculated and exacted upon the

Page 54 U. S. 490

net dutiable quantity so exhibited by the gaugers' return, and upon that quantity only, and without regard to any statement of quantity in the invoice."

"To this evidence the counsel for the defendant objected in due season as inadmissible, but his honor the presiding judge then and there overruled the said objection and decided that such evidence was admissible, to which ruling and decision of the said judge the counsel for the said defendant then and there excepted."

"The plaintiffs' counsel claimed to recover against the defendant the sum of $1,609, above stated and interest thereon to the day of trial, amounting in the whole to $2,039.35."

"The counsel for the plaintiffs there rested."

"The counsel for the defendant then insisted that the only allowances which could be considered in this case for deficiencies in said brandy had been provided for by acts of Congress, and had already been made at the custom house, and that by law the plaintiffs were not entitled to recover, and he prayed the court so to charge the jury."

"But the court charged the jury that the United States were only entitled to collect duties upon the importations in question upon the quantity remaining after deducting from the actual contents ascertained and exhibited by the gaugers' returns the aforesaid allowance of two percent for leakage, and that the plaintiffs were therefore entitled to recover the amount so as aforesaid claimed by them."

"To which charge of his honor the judge, and to every part thereof, the defendant's counsel then and there excepted."

"The jury thereupon found a verdict for the plaintiffs for the sum of $2,039.35 damages and six cents costs."

"And because the prayer of the said defendant by their said counsel and the several rulings and decisions and instructions and charge of the said judge and the several exceptions taken to the same do not appear by the record of the verdict aforesaid, the defendants have caused the same to be written on this bill of exceptions, to be annexed to such record, and have prayed the said judge to set his hand and seal to the same."

"Whereupon the said Samuel R. Betts, the judge before whom the said issues were tried and the said exceptions taken, has hereunto set his hand and seal the 6th day of February, in the year of our Lord, 1852."


Page 54 U. S. 491

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