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1st Session.

No. 165.






Books imported through the mails.

APRIL 11, 1882.-Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and ordered to be


TREASURY DEPARTMENT, April 8, 1882. SIR: I have the honor to state that this department is informed by customs officers that considerable difficulty and delay is experienced in regard to the importation through the mail of books not liable to duty, either for the reason that they are specially exempted from the operation of the tariff by the provisions of the free list, or that they are imported for institutions established for philosophical, literary, or religious purposes, or for the encouragement of the fine arts, or for the use or by the order of a college, academy, school, or seminary of learning.

The difficulty is caused to a considerable extent by the fact that affidavits must be forwarded under existing regulations to customs officers at the port where the books were originally imported, and whence they were forwarded to the postmaster at the place of destination; and that postmasters are not empowered by law to administer the oaths. I therefore suggest the passage of a bill empowering postmasters to administer oaths, for custom-house purposes, to persons importing books through the mail. A form for a bill to accomplish the object is inclosed herewith. Very respectfully,


Secretary. Hon. J. W. KEIFER,

Speaker House of Representatires.

A BILL to empower postmasters to administer oaths to importers of books. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatires of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That post masters are empowered to administer oaths for customhouse purposes to persons importing books through the mail, Section five thousand three hundred and pinety-two of the Revised Statutes, relating to the penalty for perjury, shall extend to such oaths.

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1st Session.

No. 166.

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Advertising for proposals for supplies or services in any of the departments

of the government.

APRIL 10, 1882.–Referred to the Committee on Appropriations and ordered to be



Washington, D. C., April 5, 1882. SIR: I have the bonor of handing you with this a proposed amendment to section 3709 of the Revised Statutes, and of respectfully requesting that the same may be referred to the appropriate committee, with these the reasons of this department for asking the change in the law.

The committee will see by a reference to the Revised Statutes how the section referred to now reads. It will also see by a reference to the circular from the Commissioner of Customs of this department, which I have marked "A-C. J. F.,” the construction which that officer has put upon that section, and the requirement that he has made upon the several disbursing officers of the department. It is understood that the First and Second Comptrollers entertain the same view of the meaning of the section and make the same requirement.

It is found, in the practical working of the department, that an adherence to that requirement will be productive of much embarrassment and delay in carrying on the contingent operations of the department, and will create much expense without a correspondent advantage. With a view to a prevention of those evils, I referred the matter to several heads of bureaus to learn by their consultation if it would be practicable to meet the difficulty by a Treasury regulation, and it is seen by a reading of their report that in their judgment it will not. The practical difficulties are these:

First. However small in value or importance the article needed, it must be advertised for, unless a public exigency requires an immediate delivery of the article. Now a public exigency, as that phrase is fairly to be interpreted, is such a state of things as will brook no delay in the

the having the article at once, for use at once; and the phrase has its proper signification when it is held to apply to the time that may elapse before the need for the article is so pressing as that no more delay may be suffered before it is procured. With this interpretation, no matter how small in importance or in worth the thing needed, there must be an advertisement for proposals to furnish it; it may not be bought as a private person would buy it, at the nearest or the lowest priced dealers. There must then be not only the preparation of the advertisement for proposal, but the waiting for it to run its course, the opening of the proposals, the awarding of the contract, and the labor of doing all this; but there must also be the expense of the advertising, which may often exceed the cost of the article needed. When it is remembered that it is law, that in advertising for proposals in the District of Columbia the notice must appear the requisite time in five newspapers, it will be seen that the expense of advertising will outgo often the cost of the article advertised for.

Second. As the law now stands, it is for the disbursing officer to construe, at his risk of whether the view of the accounting or auditing officer will be like his. The latter is the final arbiter, and he may not deem that a public exigency requiring an immediate delivery which the former has thought to be such; and so the disbursing officer is mulcted in the cost of the article for what the auditing officer deems an error of judgment.

It is freely conceded that exact and stringent laws are needed for the government and check of disbursing officers. Yet it seems to me that there may safely be so much flexibility as will allow an adaptation to such a state of things as has been shadowed in the above remarks; especially where that flexibility is to be limited in degree by prescribed regulations.

For these reasons, I recommend an amendment of the section 3709 of the Revised Statutes, so that it shall read as set out in the accompany: ing report in schedule “A” thereto attached. All of which is respectfully submitted.


Secretary of the Treasury. To the Hon. J. WARREN KEIFER,

Speaker of the House of Representatives. N. B.—The amendments proposed are the parts of a sentence included in brackets, thus [ }, in two places.


Washington, D. C., April 5, 1882. Hon. CHARLES J. FOLGER,

Secretary of the Treasury: SIR: We have received and duly considered the letter of the 2d ultimo, addressed to heads of bureaus and chiefs of divisions in the Treasury Department, stating that the attention of the Secretary having been drawn to the provisions of section 3709 and section 3828 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, and of the necessity of establishing a uniform practice by all officers making purchases under the law on be half of the government, and of a uniform construction of said statutes by the accounting officers of this department, you desire that the First

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and Second Comptrollers, the Commissioner of Customs, and representatives from each office of the department charged with the purchase of supplies, should meet together at an early day, with a view to framing a circular of instructions for the government of the department in the premises, to be presented to you for your approval and promulgation.

After a careful consideration of section 3709 of the Revised Statutes, we have reached the conclusion that it is impracticable to make regulations which will meet all the difficulties in the way of making purchases of supplies under this section as it now stands. We hæve, therefore, the honor to recommend that you will call the attention of Congress to the subject, and submit an amendment to section 3709 of the Revised Statutes, so that it will read as stated in the exhibit hereto annexed, marked "A." An addition to the section has been considered, which is also deemed expedient, and which is submitted for your consideration, and is hereto annexed and marked "B."

If this section of the statutes should be amended as suggested, new regulations would be required; and in view of the probability that any recommendation you would make upon the subject would be approved by Congress, it bas been deemed inexpedient to prepare or recommend permanent regulations until it shall be ascertained whether a change will be made in the law. If, however, you desire that a circular of instructions for the government of the department in making purchases be prepared and presented for your consideration, we will at once give attention to the subject, and make such recommendations as may be deemed advisable.

Some difference of opinion exists as to whether the exigency men. tioned in section 3709 of the Revised Statutes is one having reference solely to want of time in which to advertise, or whether, if the cost of advertising for a class of articles be so great as to render advertising inexpedient, that would constitute an exigency within the meaning of the statute.

We submit herewith for your consideration a regulation which has been marked "C" presented to us by a member of the committee, in regard to which doubts are entertained as to its propriety, or whether it is authorized by law.

We annex hereto, also, certain circulars and regulations touching this subject which are already in force. Very respectfully,

WM. LAWRENCE, First Comptroller.

We desire to state that the foregoing is submitted in the form directed by the whole committee, but we do not concur in all the views presented.

WM. LAWRENCE, First Comptroller.



SEC. 3709. All

purchases and contracts for supplies or services in any of the departments of the government, except for personal services, shall be made by advertising a sufficient time previously for proposals

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