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Opinion of the Court.
is, under sections 2450 and 2451, as theretofore, left with the Commissioner of the General Land Office, except that he is to be guided by the principles of equity and justice, and by the regulations settled by the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General and the Commissioner, conjointly. The only question is whether all decisions of the Commissioner upon such suspended entries must be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General, acting as a board, for approval.
If the matter rested upon section 2450 and the first part of section 2451, it might well be contended that a decision rejecting or cancelling a suspended entry should, equally with a decision sustaining such an entry, be submitted to the board for approval. But the latter part of section 2451 does not sustain that view. It is there declared that “every such adjudication,” if approved by the board, “shall operate only to divest the United States of the title of the lands embraced thereby.” A decision merely rejecting or cancelling the entry could not, with or without the approval of the board, have the effect of divesting the United States of its title. That effect could only flow from a decision sustaining the entry, and since the effect of a decision by the Commissioner such as is required to be submitted to the board and of an approval thereof by the board, is to divest the United States of its title, it follows that only decisions sustaining irregular entries are required to be submitted to the board for its approval. Decisions rejecting or cancelling such entries have the force and effect otherwise accorded to them by the general land laws, and are subject to the appellate or supervisory authority of the Secretary of the Interior as in other instances.
The reasons for requiring the approval by the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General of decisions of the Commissioner sustaining irregular entries, under this exceptional legislation, do not apply to decisions rejecting and cancelling such entries. In the one instance claims to public lands are sustained, although acquired in an irregular manner, while in the other such claims are rejected and the public title preserved.
Hackley's entry of the lands in controversy was not suspended because of any error or informality therein arising from ignoOpinion of the Court.
rance, accident or mistake susceptible of explanation, but because of the charge that the same was unlawfully and speculatively made for the benefit of others and not for his own exclusive use and benefit. The suspension was ordered with a view to an investigation and hearing upon that charge. The decision of the Commissioner sustaining the entry, following this investigation and hearing, was not therefore rendered in pursuance of the special authority conferred upon him by sections 2150 to 2457 of the Revised Statutes, but under the general authority given to him, in respect of the public lands, by sections 441, 453 and 2478 of the Revised Statutes and by the act of June 3, 1878, under which Hackley's entry was made.
We are of opinion that the Commissioner's decision baving been made under his general authority, and not under the exceptional authority given by sections 2450 to 2457, was not required to be submitted to the Secretary of the Interior and the Attorney General, acting as a board, for approval, but was subject to the appellate or supervisory authority of the Secretary of the Interior under sections 441, 453 and 2478 of the Revised Statutes. Knight v. United States Land Association, 142 U. S. 161, 177. It follows that the Secretary of the Interior in reversing the decision of the Commissioner of the General Land Office and in rejecting and cancelling Hackley's entry did not exceed the jurisdiction conferred upon him by law.
The matter determined by the decision of the Secretary was whether Hackley's entry was made in good faith for his own exclusive use and benefit. After notice, investigation and hearing, the Secretary of the Interior determined that question against Hackley. In the absence of a charge that this decision was fraudulently given or obtained—and no such charge is made—the Secretary's determination of this question of fact is conclusive upon the courts. This is established by repeated decisions. And if the charge against Hackley's entry be considered as one of fraud, involving a mixed question of fact and law, still the decision of the Secretary of the Interior cancelling that entry fully states the evidence or facts from which the fraud was held by him to be deducible as a matter of law. Upon an examination of that decision and of the evidence or facts there
in recited we are not prepared to hold that any error of law was committed by that officer.
This disposes of all the questions in the case that need be noticed, and the decree below is
MAY V. NEW ORLEANS.
No. 332. Argued March 6, 7, 1900. – Decided May 21, 1900.
May & Co., merchants at New Orleans, were engaged in the business of
importing goods from abroad, and selling them. In each box, or case in which they were brought into this country, there would be many packages, each of which was separately marked and wrapped. The importer sold each package separately. The city of New Orleans taxed the goods after they reached the hands of the importer (the duties baving been paid) and were ready for sale. Held: (1) That the box, case or bale in which the separate parcels or bundles
were placed by the foreign seller, manufacturer or packer was to be regarded as the original package, and when it reached its destipation for trade or sale and was opened for the purpose of using or exposing to sale the separate parcels or bundles, the goods lost their distinctive character as imports and each parcel or bundle became a part of the general mass of property in the State and
subject to local taxation; (2) That Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, established these proposi.
tions: 1. That the payment of duties to the United States gives the right to sell the things imported, and that such right to sell cannot be forbidden or impaired by a State; 2. That while the things imported retain their character as imports, and remain the property of the importer, “in his warehouse, in the original form or package in which it was imported,” a tax upon it is a duty on imports within the meaning of the Constitution; 3. That a State cannot, in the form of a license or otherwise, tax the right of the importer to sell, but when the importer has so acted upon the goods imported that they have been incorporated or mixed with the general mass of property in the State, such goods have then lost their distinctive character as imports, and have become from that time subject to state taxation, not because they are the products of other countries, but because they are property within the State in like condition with other property that should contribute, in the way of taxation, to the support of the government which protects the owner in his person and estate.
Opinion of the Court.
The case is stated in the opinion of the court.
Mr. D. C. Mellen for plaintiffs in error. Mr. J. Ward Gurley was on his brief.
M:. W. B. Sommerville for defendant in error. Mr. Samuel L. Gilmore was on his brief.
MR. JUSTICE IIarlan delivered the opinion of the court.
The plaintiffs in error, a commercial firm in New Orleans, brought this action in the Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, to prevent the enforcement of certain tax assessments made by the city of New Orleans in the year 1897.
The petition alleged that during the whole of the year 1897 the plaintiffs were engaged in importing for sale foreign goods upon all of wbich they paid the duties and imposts levied by the United States;
That the Board of Assessors for the Parish of Orleans assessed them for that year $2500 on “merchandise and stock in trade," and $1000 under the head of “money loaned on interest, all credits and all bills receivable, money loaned and advanced or for goods sold, all credits of any and every description ;” and,
That such assessments were void for the following reasons: 1. All merchandise and stock in trarle had and carried by the plaintiffs during 1897 consisted of dry goods imported by them from foreign countries upon which duties, imposts and import taxes were levied by the United States and paid by them, and which were sold only in unbroken original packages as imported, and the assessment thereon was in violation of Article 1, section 10, paragraph 2, of the Constitution of the United States. 2. All the credits and bills receivable of the firm during that year consisted wholly of sums due on the purchase price of the above merchandise soll in unbroken and original packages as imported, and the assessment thereon was in violation of the same constitutional provision. 3. The assessment of $1000 upon “money loaned on interest” was unconstitutional,
Opinion of the Court.
because the plaintiffs at no time during 1897 had any money loaned on interest.
A temporary injunction having been granted against any sale of the plaintiffs' property for the taxes in question, the city answered denying each allegation of the petition.
The only evidence in the case was the testimony of one of the plaintiffs as to the manner in which the company conducted its business. That testimony—using substantially the words of the witness—may be thus summarized:
Representatives of the firm went to Europe and obtained from different manufacturers samples of goods which were sent to New Orleans and were used by plaintiffs in obtaining what were known as import orders. Besides that method, if any article was thought good they placed what were known as stock orders—that is, they ordered the goods on their own account. But in most cases the firm sold the goods and did not keep a stock on hand. All their goods were imported and customs duties were paid on them. They did not handle domestic goods.
They sold the goods in the packages in which they were received because the bulk of their business was jobbing trade. Two, three or five hundred packages might be ordered. If the order were for five hundred dozen towels, they might come packed two, three or five dozen in a package. Such a package was never broken. -If a small customer came in they might sell him one package. It had often happened that customers desired only a sample, in wbich case a package might be broken to get it. Upon these samples the importers obtained orders. If an order was given for five hundred dozen towels, put up in packages of five dozen each when shipped to the firm by the manufacturer in Europe, they would be enclosed in a wooden case. Cases containing such orders might not come to the firm's store at all but would go directly to the customer unopened. But if there were two or three orders in a case it would be brought to the store, opened, and the different orders taken out. But they never opened any of the packages in the case.
An import order was one placed on samples to be manufactured, and about sixty-five per cent of the firm's business was