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Pt. Vol. Doc. Page,
War Department, contracts and purchases..

5 23
contingent expenses of...

5 24
contingent expenses of the military establishment..

general annual militia returns.....

5 34
War, Secretary of, letter transmitting a report on Gen. Patterson's route
from Matamoras to Victoria.....

letter transmitting a statement relative to the national

4 20
letter transmitting reports of Colonels Abert and Hughes

relative to supplying Washington city with water... 5 33
War steamers....

1 224
Water, supplying Washington city with

5 33
Ways and Means...

3 11 12
Whittlesey, Elisha, letter transmitting a list of balances (see Doc. 49).

5 40
letter transmitting a list of balances (see Doc. 40)...

5 49


Yards and Docks, report of Com. Joseph Smith ...,

1 313






The act of 230 April, 1800, does not authorize pensions for wounds received in the line of

duty prior to the passage of the act; nor can the act of 3d March, 1837, be construed to embrace such cases.


September 3, 1838. SIR: You state in your letter of the 31st of August last, that Commodore David Porter claims a pension for wounds received in the line of his duty in the naval service prior to the 23d of April, 1800, (the date of the law which established the navy pension fund ;) and my opinion is requested whether your department has authority to grant pensions for deaths or disabilities which occurred before the pension fund was established.

My opinion is, that no such authority exists. Upon an examination of the act of 230 April, 1800, no expression is found indicating an intention on the part of Congress that the fund then provided should be subject to cases which had occurred before that time. The second section of the act the 3d of March, 1837, it is believed, cannot be so construed as to embrace a class of persons not included in former laws. The only object of that section is to make the pensions more ample in behalf of those entitled under pre-existing laws. Yours, very respectfully,



The act of 20 March, 1833, to modify the act of July 14, 1832, and other acts admitting silks, did not repeal the act of 14th July, 1832, and former acts, which impose duties on millinery, hosiery, and ready-made clothing ; and those articles, of whatever material composed, are subject to duties. The operation of the revenue laws cannot be legally suspended by the Comptroller, even though goods may have been ordered in view of an erroneous practice, and the importers wish to countermand their orders from abroad.


September 8, 1838. SIR: I have examined the two questions submitted for my opinion in your letter of the 4th instant. The first is, “ Has the act of the 2d of March, 1833, entitled 'An act to modify the act of July 14, 1832, and all former acts, by declaring that manufactures of silk, or of which silk shall be the component inaterial of chief value, coming from this side the Cape of Good Hope, except sewing silk, shall be admitted to entry free of duty,' repealed in effect those portions of the act of the 14th of July, 1832, and of former acts, in which certain duties are imposed upon milli. nery, hosiery, and ready made clothing, without reference to material, when such articles are composed wholly or in part of silk ??'

In deciding upon this question, it should be remembered that, prior to the passage of the act of the 14th of July, 1832, Congress had imposed certain duties on articles of millinery, hosiery, and ready-made clothing, at a higher rate than those specified in the fifteenth clause of the second section of that act; and the language of the fifteenth clause of the second section of the act of 1932 is as broad and comprehensive (so far as this question is concerned) as that of the fourth section of the act of 1833– the first reducing the duty to five per centum ad valorem upon the articles referred to in your inquiry, and the latter act repealing the duty altogether. Yet, under the act of 1832, the higher duties were collected upon millinery, hosiery, and ready-made clothing; nor have I learned that any serious question was ever raised upon the subject. Since the passage of the act of 1833, the same practice has prevailed, with slight variations, arising from the difficulty of classifying particular articles. The construction thus placed upon these acts immediately after their passage, and the acquiescence of the parties interested, and of Congress, furnish strong evidence that the construction was correct. Upon a view of all the acts upon this subject, and giving to them a reasonable interpretation, so as to carry into effect and not defeat the intention of the legislature, I have come to the conclusion that millinery, hosiery, aud ready-made clothing, of whatever materials composed, are subject to duties; and that the laws imposing them prior to the act of the 2d of March, 1833, are not repealed by that act.

To illustrate my opinion practically, I would say, that where the mer. cantile community have given a name, appellation, or description, to any article or articles of merchandise, and by that name, appellation, or description, Congress has imposed a certain duty on them, the duty is to be collected; and that, in all other cases, manufactures of silk, or of which silk shall be the component material of chief value, coming from this side the Cape of Good Hope, shall be free of duty, except sewing silk, which is subject to a duty of forty per centum ad valorem. By pursuing this course, it seems to me the Comptroller, in performing his duties of commissioner of the revenue, will act agreeably to the spirit of the various laws on this subject, and in accordance with the course hitherto pursued under them, and will avoid the dangerous practice of repealing laws by constructive implication.

Your second question is, “Can the Comptroller, in giving a construction to the revenue laws, which, from former erroneous practice, may prove injurious to the commercial community if immediately acted on, legally suspend their operation, as construed by him, with the view of allowing the importers of the goods time to countermand their orders for goods from abroad?"

My answer to this question is decidedly in the negative. The duty of the Comptroller is to execute the revenue laws. Neither he, nor any

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