UNITED STATES V. FERRARY, 93 U. S. 625 (1876)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Ferrary, 93 U.S. 625 (1876)

United States v. Ferrary

93 U.S. 625


1. Where, pursuant to the tenth section of the Act of July 20, 1868, 15 Stat. 129, a survey of a distillery and an estimate of its producing capacity is made and a copy thereof furnished the distiller, such survey and estimate conclusively determine the producing capacity of the distillery, fix the minimum tax due from him, and can only be abrogated by a new survey and estimate, ordered by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, a copy of which is furnished to the distiller.

2. An abortive attempt to make a new estimate to take the place of the former cannot have the effect to annul it.

This is an action on a distiller's bond given to the United States under the seventh section of the Act of July 20, 1868, 15 Stat. 127. The tenth section of that is as follows:

"Immediately after the passage of this act, every assessor shall proceed, at the expense of the United States, with the aid of some competent and skillful person, to be designated by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, to make survey of each distillery registered, or intended to be registered, for the production of spirits in his district, to estimate and determine its true producing capacity, and in like manner shall estimate and determine the capacity of any such distillery as may hereafter be so registered in said district, a written report of which shall be made in triplicate, signed by the assessor and the person aiding in making the same, one copy of which shall be furnished to the distiller, one retained by the assessor, and the other immediately transmitted to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. If the Commissioner of Internal Revenue

Page 93 U. S. 626

shall at any time be satisfied that such report of the capacity of a distillery is in any respect incorrect or needs revision, he shall direct the assessor to make in like manner another survey of said distillery; the report of said survey shall be executed in triplicate and deposited as hereinbefore provided."

In the fall of 1870, Ferrary, the principal in the bond, proposed to commence distilling whiskey at Louisville, Tenn., within the Second Collection District of that state. Nov. 10, 1870, an assistant assessor of that district, with a person to aid him, designated by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, made the survey agreeably to the requirements of the foregoing section, measured the tubs, and estimated the true producing capacity of the distillery. Triplicates of the report of this survey, made under the assessor's direction, were signed by him and the person aiding him; one copy was retained by him, another sent to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and the third furnished to Ferrary. By this survey and report the producing capacity of the distillery was estimated upon the basis of three gallons of whiskey for each bushel of corn.

The bond now in suit was entered into Nov. 8, 1870. It is conditioned "in all respects faithfully to comply with all the provisions of law in relation to the business and duties of distillers, and pay all penalties incurred," &c., and recites Ferrary's intention to be engaged in distilling from Nov. 15. The exceptions state that he manufactured whiskey from Dec. 16, 1870 (the date of the approval of the bond), to March 10, 1871. Nov. 18, 1870, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue officially informed the assessor that the report of survey, dated Nov. 10, 1870, was "regarded as erroneous in respect to the dry inches and the yield of spirit to the bushel. According to the ruling of this office, three dry inches for rye and seven for corn are the true allowances for tubs sixty inches or under in depth," adding, that if the distillation was "by direct steam, the yield should be three and a half gallons to the bushel." The assessor was accordingly ordered to make another survey, as provided in sec. 10, before referred to, and the letter concluded, "as no new measurements are required," no expense was to be allowed. The second report thus demanded was made Nov. 22, 1870, with the desired amendments, fixing the producing

Page 93 U. S. 627

capacity at three and a half gallons per bushel. In making this new estimate and determination of the producing capacity, the officers did not again visit the distillery, nor make any new measurements of any part thereof, but gave all the old measurements of the former report. Triplicate copies of this last report were made, one retained by the assessor and one sent to the commissioner. The assessor's clerk swore to having either mailed or delivered the third copy to Ferrary, and other evidence was introduced tending to show that it reached him; but he denied receiving or having any knowledge of it till about the time he closed his distillery, in March, 1871. His mail clerk and other employees testified in a manner tending to negative its delivery at the distillery.

Assessments were made for December, 1870, January, February, and March, 1871, based upon the estimates of the second report of survey; but the evidence showed that if they had been based upon the first, there would still have been a deficiency, for which Ferrary would be liable to be assessed. After instructions not excepted to, the presiding judge told the jury that if the second report of survey was not actually made by the assessor, or assistant assessor, and his designated assistant, in like manner with the survey which was the foundation of the first report, then said second report of survey was invalid, and any assessments based thereon would also be invalid, and the plaintiff could not recover thereon in this action. The plaintiff excepted to this instruction, as well as to an instruction that

"if the jury should be satisfied from the evidence that a second survey had not been made, or that a second copy of the same was not furnished Ferrary, then their verdict must be for the defendants."

The plaintiff asked the judge to instruct the jury:

1st, that the first report of survey was valid and binding until the same was abrogated by authority of law, and that was only when defendant was furnished with a copy of resurvey or second survey.

2d, that, if the copy of the second survey ordered was furnished to the defendant, he would be bound by it; but if he never received it, and continued to operate his distillery under the first one, then he would be bound by the first survey, of which he admitted having received a copy. These instructions were refused upon the ground

Page 93 U. S. 628

that no assessment was based on the first survey. An exception was taken to such refusal.

The jury found a verdict for the defendants, and, judgment having been rendered thereon, the United States sued out this writ of error.

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