U.S. Supreme Court United States v. Vowell & McLean, 9 U.S. 5 Cranch 368 368 (1809)
United States v. Vowell & McLean
9 U.S. (5 Cranch) 368
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Duties upon goods imported, do not accrue until their arrival at the port of entry.
The duty upon salt, which ceased with 31 December, 1807, was not chargeable upon a cargo which arrived within the collection district before that day, but did not arrive at the port of entry until 1 January, 1808.
Error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Columbia in an action of debt upon a bond given by the defendants in error to the United States for duties on a cargo of salt from St. Ubes, which arrived and came to anchor within the collection district of Alexandria, sixteen miles below the town and port of Alexandria, on 23 December, 1807, but did not arrive at the port of Alexandria until the 1 January, 1808.
The collector of Alexandria refused to permit the cargo to be landed until the duties were secured. Vowell contended that the salt was not subject to duty.
The facts being specially pleaded and admitted in the replication, to which there was a general demurrer, the only question was whether, as the duty upon salt ceased with 31 December, 1807, this cargo, which arrived within the district but not
at the port of Alexandria before 1 January, 1808, was liable to duty.
The court below was of opinion that it was not, and rendered judgment for the defendants upon the demurrer.
The United States brought its writ of error.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court to the following effect:
The distinction taken by the counsel for the defendants in error between a district and a port of entry is correct. The duties did not accrue in the fiscal sense of the term until the vessel arrived at the port of entry. If the question had been doubtful, the Court would have respected the uniform construction which it is understood has been given by the Treasury Department of the United States upon similar questions. It is understood that in case of an increase of duty, the United States has always demanded and received the additional duty if the goods have not arrived at the port of entry before the time fixed for the commencement of such additional duty, although the vessel may have arrived within the collection district before that time. The same rule of construction is to be observed when there is a diminution of duty.