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Opinion of the Court.
so offered was excluded by the court, and the plaintiffs excepted.
It also appears from the bill of exceptions that the plaintiff's counsel claimed the right to go to the jury upon the questions: (1) Whether the collector, acting as appraiser, fully and fairly examined the goods. (2) Whether the goods were invoiced at their fair and actual value in the principal markets of France at the time of exportation. (3) Whether a fair examination of the goods was made by the general appraiser, associated with the merchant appraiser, when that matter was referred to him. (4) Whether the facts stated in the protests of the appraisers had been established by the evidence; and (5) whether the appraiser followed the evidence before him or disregarded it, and whether the collector disregarded the evidence or was negligent in his appraisal.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to charge the jury that if the collector did not fully and fairly examine the goods, then the verdict need not necessarily follow the appraisement; that the general appraiser not having re-examined the goods after he made his first report, the jury is not concluded by his report at 49 francs, or the collector's action therein.
The court refused to submit the questions aforesaid to the jury or to charge the jury as requested, and the plaintiffs ex
The bill of exceptions further states that no claim was made to submit to the jury any question of fraud on the part of the collector or appraiser, and that no claim was made during the trial that any excluded evidence was offered for the purpose of showing or did show or tended to show fraud on the part of the government officers.
The question presented by the exceptions of plaintiffs is whether the valuation of merchandise made by the customs officers under the statutes of the United States for the purpose of levying duties thereon is, in the absence of fraud on the part of the officers, conclusive on the importer, or is such valuation reviewable in an action at law brought by the importer to recover back duties paid under protest.
The solution of this question depends upon the provisions of
Opinion of the Court.
the acts of Congress regulating the subject, which are as follows:
Section 2900 declares in substance that the owner, &c., of any merchandise may, when he shall produce the original invoice to the collector and make and verify his written entry, and not afterward, make such addition to the cost or value given in the invoice as shall raise the same to the actual market value at the time of importation in the principal markets of the country from which the same has been imported, and the collector shall cause such actual market value to be appraised, and if such appraised value shall exceed by ten per centum or more the value declared in the entry, then there shall be collected in addition to the duties imposed by law a duty of twenty per cent. ad valorem on such appraised value.
Section 2902 declares :
“It shall be the duty of the appraisers of the United States, and every of them, and every person who shall act as such appraiser, or of the collector and naval officer, as the case may be, by all reasonable ways and means in his or their power, to ascertain, estimate, and appraise the true and actual market value and wholesale price, any invoice or affidavit thereto to the contrary notwithstanding, of the merchandise at the time of exportation and in the principal markets of the country whence the same has been imported into the United States, and the number of such yards, parcels, or quantities, and such actual market value or wholesale price of every of them, as the case may require.”
Section 2906 provides :
merchandise, or when the duty imposed shall be regulated by or directed to be estimated or based upon the value of the square yard, or of any specified quantity or parcel of such merchandise, the collector ..shall cause the actual market value or wholesale price thereof at the period of exportation to the United States in the principal markets of the country from which the same has been imported to be appraised, and such appraised value shall be considered the value on which the duty shall be assessed." Opinion of the Court.
Section 2922 is as follows:
“The appraisers, or the collector and naval officer, as the case may be, may call before them and examine upon oath any owner, importer, consignee, or other person, touching any matter or thing which they may deem material in ascertaining the true market value or wholesale price of any merchandise imported, and require the production on oath to the collector, or to any permanent appraiser, of any letters, accounts or invoices in his possession relating to the same. All testimony in writing, or depositions, taken by virtue of this section, shall be filed in the collector's office, and preserved for future use or reference, to be transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury when he shall require the same.”
Section 2929 provides that the principal appraisers shall revise and correct the report of the assistant appraisers as they may judge proper, and report to the collector their decision thereon, who, if he deems any appraisement of goods too low, may order a reappraisement either by the principal appraisers or by three merchants designated by him for that purpose, and may cause the duties to be charged accordingly.
Section 2930 is as follows:
“If the importer, owner, agent, or consignee of any merchandise shall be dissatisfied with the appraisement, and shall have complied with the foregoing requisitions, he may forth with give notice to the collector, in writing, of such dissatisfaction ; on the receipt of which the collector shall select one discreet and experienced merchant to be associated with one of the general appraisers wherever practicable, or two discreet and experienced merchants, citizens of the United States, familiar with the character and value of the goods in question, to examine and appraise the same, agreeably to the foregoing provisions ; and if they shall disagree, the collector shall decide between them, and the appraisement thus determined shall be final and deemed to be the true value, and the duties shall be levied thereon accordingly.”
Section 2949 provides that the Secretary of the Treasury from time to time shall establish such rules and regulations,
Opinion of the Court.
not inconsistent with the laws of the United States, to secure a just, faithful, and impartial appraisement of all merchandise imported into the United States, and just and proper entries of the actual market value or wholesale price thereof.
The provisions of the statute law show with what care Congress has provided for the fair appraisal of imported merchandise subject to duty, and they show also the intention of Congress to make the appraisal final and conclusive. When the value of the merchandise is ascertained by the officers appointed by law, and the statutory provisions for appeal have been exhausted, the statute declares that the “appraisement thus determined shall be final and deemed to be the true value, and the duties shall be levied thereon accordingly.” This language would seem to leave no room for doubt or construction.
The contention of the appellants is, that after the appraisal of merchandise has been made by the assistant appraiser, and has been reviewed by the general appraiser, and a protest has been entered against his action by the importer, and the collector has appointed a special tribunal, consisting of a general and merchant appraiser, to fix the value, and they have reported each a different valuation to the collector, who has decided between them and fixed the valuation upon which the duties were to be laid, that in every such case the importer is entitled to contest still further the appraisement and have it reviewed by a jury in an action at law to recover back the duties paid. After Congress has declared that the appraisement of the customs officers should be final for the purpose of levying duties, the right of the importer to take the verdict of a jury upon the correctness of the appraisement should be declared in clear and explicit terms. So far from this being the case, we do not find that Congress has given the right at all. If, in every suit brought to recover duties paid under protest, the jury were allowed to review the appraisement made by the customs officers, the result would be great uncertainty and inequality in the collection of duties on imports. It is quite possible that no two juries would agree upon the value of different invoices of the same goods. The legislation of Congress, to which we have referred, was designed, as it apOpinion of the Court.
pears to us, to exclude any such method of ascertaining the dutiable value of goods. This court, in referring to the general policy of the laws for the collection of duties, said in Bartlett v. Kane, 16 How. 263, “ The interposition of the courts in the appraisement of importations would involve the collection of the revenue in inextricable confusion.” And, referring to section 3 of the act of March 30, 1851, which is reproduced in section 2930 Revised Statutes, this court declared, in Belcher v. Linn, 24 How. 508, that, in the absence of fraud, the decision of the customs officers “is final and conclusive, and their appraisement, in contemplation of law, becomes, for the purpose of calculating and assessing the duties due to the United States, the true dutiable value of the importation.” To the same effect see Tappan v. United States, 2 Mason, 393, and Bail?y V. Goodrich, 2 Cliff. 597.
The appellants contend, however, that the right to review the appraisement of the customs officers by a jury trial is given to the importer by sections 2931 and 3011 of the Revised Statutes. The first of these sections provides that on the entry of any merchandise the decision of the collector as to the rate and amount of duties shall be final and conclusive unless the importer shall, within two days after the ascertainment and liquidation of the proper officers of the customs, give notice in writing to the collector on each entry, if dissatisfied with his decision, setting forth distinctly and specifically the grounds of his objection thereto, and shall within thirty days after such ascertainment and liquidation appeal therefrom to the Secretary of the Treasury, and the decision of the Secretary in such appeal shall be final and conclusive, and such merchandise shall be liable to duty accordingly, unless suit shall be brought within ninety days after such decision of the Secretary of the Treasury. Section 3011 provides that any person who shall have made payment under protest of any money as duties, when such amount of duties was not, or was not wholly, authorized by law, may maintain an action, which shall be triable by jury, to ascertain the validity of such demand and pay. ment of duties, and to recover back any excess so paid ; but no recovery shall be allowed in such action unless a protest