« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
The various duties devolved on the Treasury Department, in relation to custom houses and land offices, have led to the exercise of powers not sufficiently defined by law. These are liable to be enlarged by successive gradations, under special exigencies, without legislative sanction, until the powers of the department to perform indispensable duties are derived from usage, rather than the statutes. Of this nature are those exercised in the payments for contingent expenses of the cutter service, repairs of custom houses, wharves, and warehouses belonging to the United States ; expenses to inspectors employed in special services, in addition to their per diem compensation; in the allowances to persons instructed to investigate transactions of custom houses and land officers; to assistant counsel, and for costs in suits and prosecutions; and for various services of less magnitude. The payments for these objects are usually made by collectors and receivers of public moneys, or by drafts on them from the 'Treasury Department, being considered as incidental to these branches of revenue. It is desirable that all such payments should be as specifically sanctioned by law, as those made out of moneys in the Treasury.
The Secretary of the Treasury deems it proper to make known to Congress that the duties imposed upon woollen goods, under the act of the 19th May, 1828, have, in pursuance of an instruction from the Treasury Department, dated 15th October, 1928, been charged upon the value of such goods, without the addition of 20 per centum on the cost of those imported from the Cape of Good Hope, or any place beyond the same, or from beyond Cape Horn; or 10 per centum on ihose from any other place or country.
The law, it is believed, may admit of a different construction ; but, as the orders for the importations, since the instruction above referred to, were giren with a knowledge of its operation, now, to add the 20 or 10 per cent. to the cost of such goods, would probably transfer the whole of them into a class higher than was fairly contemplated by the importer, and increase the duty very prejudicially to his interest. Under these circumstances, and as there may be some doubt as to the intention of the law, it has been deemed proper not to disturb the existing construction, but to submit the matter to the consideration of Congress.
Another subject, somewhat similar in character, has been, for special reasons, differently disposed of. A deduction of five per cent. on the invoices of broadcloths, for measurement, has become an established usage of trade. This usage was particularly noticed in an instruction issued by the Treasury Department on the 9th September, 1828, but which had been differently construed by the custom house officers at different ports: at some the deduction having been made from the measurement, and at others from the cost; by which different rates of duties were imposed. It was deemed not only a legal, but constitutional obligation, so far as the powers vested in the departinent would admit, to render the duty uniform throughout the United States. In preparing the necessary regulation for this purpose, it was considered that the five per cent. deduction was originally intended, as it purports to be, on "measurement, and not on price. This basis was also recommended by another and more important consideration, viz: the uniformity of its effect. The allowance being made for measurement, the merchant pays duty on the number of yards purporting to be imported; but, if made on price, it is nugatory, except the cloths are thereby transferred from a higher to a lower class, in which case it diminishes the duty by the amount of the difference between the duties charged on such classes. An instruction was accordingly issued, on the Sth August, 1829, directing the allowance of the five per cent. to be made on the measurement only. But this unavoidably deprived a number of importers, whose orders had been previously given, of the expected benefit of the deduction, in determining the classes of duriable prices to which their cloths belonged : such cloths Are, consequently, subjected to a rate of duty higher than was contemplated when the orders were given. The regulation has, therefore, injuriously affected the interest of these importers; and their case is submitted to the favorable consideration of Congress, who alone can give the proper relief.
The Secretary of the Treasury respectfully invites the attention of Congress to some modification of the existing revenue laws, as well for the convenience of those employed in commerce and navigation, as for the better security of the revenue.
The law in relation to licenses for coasting and fishing vessels operates unequally and injuriously upon some branches of that business; it requires, upon every change of structure of the vessel, or of ownership, by the transfer of the right of cne partner, the taking out of a new license, and the payment of a new duty.
The bounty allowed on vessels employed in the cod fisheries is understood to be unlawfully obtained by some of those engaged in the mackerel fisheries. It is believed that a bounty on the fish cured or exported, without reference to the origin of the salt, would belter promote whatever encouragement may be considered as proper to be given to the fisheries. This could be graduated to any scale, and, being more simple in its form, would be less liable to abuse.
It is found that the present mode of compensating custom house officers operates unequally, and not in proportion to the service rendered. As striking instances of this inequality, inspectors, in many places, receive more than double the compensation of the collectors who employ them; and, at some ports, custom houses are built or purchased by the Government, while, at others, they are provided at the expense of collectors.
The fees of office are liable to be variously computed, and are a constant source of embarrassment in the transaction of business. These, it is believed, may be generally abolished, and the mode of compensation by salary beneficially substituted ; retaining, however, those on manifests, clearances, entries, and permits, and that class of service which makes it the interest of the officers to require a strict observance of those acts, on the part of masters of vessels and shippers, which may be deemed essential to the security of the revenue.
The commissions now allowed to collectors on bonds put in suit, might be advantageously divided between them and the district attorneys. The former would thereby be more interested in taking proper security, and the latter have a salutary stimulus to the discharge of their duties.
Some additional provision of law is deemed necessary to compel the surrender of public books and papers, of district attorneys, marshals, custom house and land officers, in pursuance of orders from the proper department.
The labors of appraisers of imported goods have been greatly increased by the "Act in alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports,” passed 19th May, 1828. To give the proper efficiency to that branch of service, it is necessary to have warehouses and offices conveniently adapted for the examination, measuring, and repacking of goods; and that the persons employed by appraisers should be more immediately under their control. In the port of New York, where nearly half the importations into the United States are made, the whole labor of appraising devolves on two officers, who are exclusively responsible for that duty; and yet, all the assistance which can be provided for them, is supplied indirectly, and under an implied power. To avoid the embarrassment that must arise from sickness, or other necessary absence of one or both of these officers, an additional appraiser at that port seems indispensable. It is also deemed advisable that the commissioned appraisers at all the ports should be authorized, under proper restrictions, to employ persons to act as assistants, under regular official responsibility. These being distributed upon the different classes of business, could not fail to increase the power of the appraisers for an efficient and faithful performance of their duties, and without any material increase of expense.
The present system of storing goods for debenture, or in security for duties, may, it is believed, be beneficially modified. Goods are now stored under various circumstances :
1. Teas may, at the option of the importer, and at his expense, be stored under the direction of the custom house officers, in security for the duties, for two years.
2. Wine and spirits may be stored, in like manner, for one year.
3. All other goods may be stored, in like manner, for the term of credit on the duties, respectively.
4. Wine and spirits, to be entitled to drawback, must be deposited in a public store, and there remain, from their landing, until shipment, or, on being transported coastwise, may be again stored or shipped.
5. Goods, irregularly imported, are stored until they can be disposed of according to law.
Private stores are usually rented, for these purposes, by the collectors, but the facility of access to such buildings renders the security of little avail; and, that abuses have not more frequently occurred, is attributable much more to the integrity of the merchants, than the efficacy of the system. The remedy proposed, is, to erect warehouses, at the public expense, at the principal ports, for all the permanent objects connected with this branch of service; to be so situated and constructed as to be conveniently guarded, and rendered inaccessible except by permission of officers in charge. This being done, the warehouse system may be extended to all goods entered for draw back, and the right of debenture continued as long as they remain in store. There can be no doubt, that a moderate charge for storage would remunerate the Government for the expenditure, while the revenue would be rendered more secure, and the interests of navigation essentially promoted.
The intercourse between the United States and adjacent foreign territories requires some special regulation, as well for the convenience of the officers of the customs, as of travellers; and, also, for the better security of the revenue. Persons transientiy coming into the United States on business, and returning, are obliged to pay duty for the horses and vehicles employed; without benefit of drawback. Ferry-boats, having foreign goods on board, are required by law to enter and pay fees upon every trip across a boundary water. It is, also, desirable that United States vessels, of whatever burden, laden with foreign goods, passing on those waters, should be
subjected to the same regulations that are now imposed on coasting vessels passing from one district to another, not in an adjoining State. It may, however, be doubted, whether any regulation, short of a total prohibition of the importation of goods not the growth or product of the territories contiguous to the United States, and of their transportation upon the boundary waters in vessels of the United States, without accompanying evidence of the duties having been paid, will effectually prevent illicit importations from those countries.
The laws in relation to the coasting trade do not afford the nccessary means for preventing the unlawful introduction of foreign goods through that channel. The United States are divided into three great districts : 1. From their eastern limits to the southern limits of Georgia; 2. From the southern limits of Georgia to the Perdido river; 3. From the Perdido river, to the western limits of the United States. Masters of vessels licensed for carrying on the coasting trade, may now, with a given amount of cargo, pass from one port to another, within
either of these districts, or to a port in an adjoining State, without delivering a manifest, or obtaining a permit, previous to their departure, and without making any report, or entering their vessels at the port of destination: nor does the law require any evidence, except the oath of the master, in certain cases, of duties having been paid on foreign goods transported from one port to another, except by a defective provision as to wine, spirits, and teas, and goods entitled to drawback." It is apparent, from these facts, that very great facilities are given for illicit trade. If a single port can be found, where, through the negligence of the officers of the customs, or other cause, goods can be thus introduced, there is no sufficient obstacle to their being transported by water to another and a better market. The mere power to board a coasting vessel and demand her manifest, without any obligation on the master to report her to the collector, is wholly insufficient for proper security against frauds; and, especially, in those ports where an extensive coasting and foreign navigation is carried on.
There is also a feature in the law in relation to the seizure of goods suspected to have been shuggled, which, it is believed, may be beneficially modified. These goods are usually seized in small quantities; the owners. perhaps, escape, or no one appears to claim them, and yet the goods cannot be sold until libelled, and condemned in a court of the United States; the costs attending which frequently aniount to more than the proceeds of the articles when sold. The officer Mat only loses his reward, but the United States are subjected to costs, and what was intended as an inducement to vigilance becomes worse than nugatory. This might be remedied, by authorizing the sale, without condemnation of such goods as may be unclaimed, after a reasonable notice. An additional and salutary stimulus may also be given to the activity of revenue officers, by authorizing a relinquisisment to them of a portion of the proceeds of forfeited goods, which may accrue to the Government. The sum thus relinquished would probably be much more than repaid in the increased security of the revenue, arising from the incitement to greater vigilance.
The power to search for and seize goods found on land, requires to be enlarged and better defined. To avoid unnecessary vexation, the exercise of the power might be limited to a reasonable distance from the coast, navigable rivers, canals, or the interior border. It is known that considerable exertions are making for introducing goods into the United States, in vioation of the revenue laws; and the Secretary of the Treasury finds himself compelled to invite the special attention of Congress to the adoption of such measures as may be calculated to prevent an evil, not less dangerous to the morals of those exposed to the temptation, than injurious to the interests of the nation. Every measure intended for this object will unavoidably subject the fair trader to some inconvenience; but this should be considered as more than counterbalanced by the protection it affords against the ruinous competition of those who can only be restrained by efficient laws, rigorously executed.
The present credit system, it is believed, may be materially improved. If the purchaser of goods, or any other person than the importer, could be lawfully substituted, as the principal on custom house bonds, in all cases where the importer was not indebted on bonds due and unpaid, the secnirity of these debts might be greatly increased. It would, in such case, depend on the solvency of a class of merchants exposed to less hazard in their business, besides being divided among a greater number. The credits now allowed, are, also, unnecessarily complicated. The long credits on teas have been a source of heavy loss to the revenue, and consequently injurious to the interests they were intended to promote. Experience has proved, that, by furnishing an opportunity for, they stimulate adventurous speculation, not less ruinous to those connected with them, than prejudical to the Government. The terms of payment for duties now prescribed by law are as follows:
All sums not exceeding $50 are payable in cash; all sums exceeding $50, for duties on the produce of the West Indies (except salt) or places north of the equator, and situate on the eastern shores of America, or its adjacent scas, bays, and gulfs, one half in six months, and one half in nine months :On salt, nine months; On wines, twelve months; On all goods imported from Europe, (other than wines, salt, and teas,) one
third in eight months, one third in ten months, and one third in twelve
months; On all goods (other than wines, salt, and teas) imported from any other place ihan Europe and the West Indies, one third in eight months, one
ihird in ten months, and one third in eighteen months; On teas imported from China or Europe, stored as security for duties, a credit of two years is allowed: when delivered for consumption, the duties not exceeding $100, on a credit of four months, with security; if over $10, and not exceeding $500, eight months ; over $500, twelve months: the credit not in any case to extend beyond two years allowed
on deposite of the teas; On wines and spirits, stored as security for duties, the same credit, on de
iivery, as if not stored, not to exceed twelve months.
The term of six, nine, and twelve months, might be adopted as a fair average of existing credits. A change, if introduced prospectively, could not be sensibly felt in the price of any article of importation ; and the reduction of the duties on teas, and some other importations from countries south of the equator, if that be thought advisable, would counteract the effect of a shortened credit upon the interests of navigation in that region.
The average proposed somewhat increases the length of the credits on importations from the West Indies. Upon this point it may be observed, that the profits of the West India trade being reduced to their minimum, every proper facility given to it could not but be felt in the agriculture, as