U.S. Supreme Court
Sonn v. Magone, 159 U.S. 417 (1895)
Sonn v. Magone
Argued October 15, 1895
Decided November 11, 1895
159 U.S. 417
Lentils and white medium beans in a dry state, both mature and ordinarily used for food, though sometimes sold for seed, imported into New York in the years 1887 and 1888, were properly classified by the collector as chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
vegetables under paragraph 286 of Schedule G of the Act of March 3, 1883, c. 121, and as such were subject to a duty of ten percent ad valorem.
Maddock v. Mayone, 152 U. S. 368, affirmed to the point that
"in construing a tariff act, when it is claimed that the commercial use of a word or phrase in it differs from the ordinary signification of such word or phrase, in order that the former prevail over the latter, it must appear that the commercial designation is the result of established usage in commerce and trade, and that, at the time of the passage of the act, that usage was definite, uniform, and general, and not partial, local, or personal."
Whether the lentils and beans were properly classified by the collector was a matter for the court to decide.
This was an action to recover duties exacted by the collector of customs of the port of New York, and paid by the importers under protest in order to get their goods. The importations were made in the years 1887 and 1888, and the articles were invoiced in four of the six invoices as "white hand-picked Danubian beans," in one as "haricots," and in another as "Bohemia lentils."
By section 2502 of the Customs Duties Act passed March 3, 1883, 22 Stat. 488, c. 121, as a substitute for Title XXXIII of the Revised Statutes, duties were levied on the following articles: under Schedule A, entitled "Chemical Products," paragraph 94:
"All barks, beans, berries, balsams, buds, bulbs, and bulbous roots and excrescences, such as nut-galls, fruits, flowers, dried fibers, grains, gums, and gum-resins, herbs, leaves, lichens, mosses, nuts, roots and stems, spices, vegetables, seeds (aromatic, not garden seeds), and seeds of morbid growth, weeds, woods used expressly for dyeing, and dried insects, any of the foregoing of which are not edible, but which have been advanced in value or condition by refining or grinding, or by other process of manufacture, and not specifically enumerated or provided for in this act, ten percentum ad valorem."
Paragraph 16: "Castor beans, or seeds, fifty cents per bushel of fifty pounds."
Under Schedule G, entitled "Provisions," paragraph 259: "Wheat, twenty cents per bushel." Paragraph 260: "Rye and barley, ten cents per bushel." Paragraph 263: "Indian corn or maize, ten cents per bushel." Paragraph 264: "Oats, ten cents chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
per bushel." Paragraph graph 285: "Potatoes, fifteen cents per bushel of sixty pounds." Paragraph 286: "Vegetables, in their natural state, or in salt or brine, not specially enumerated or provided for in this act, ten percentum ad valorem." Paragraph 287: "Vegetables, prepared or preserved, of all kinds, not otherwise provided for, thirty percentum ad valorem."
Under Schedule N, entitled "Sundries," paragraph 452: "Hemp seed and rape seed, and other oil seeds of like character, other than linseed or flaxseed, one quarter of one cent per pound." Paragraph 465: "Garden seeds, except seeds of the sugar beet, twenty percentum ad valorem." Paragraph 466: "Linseed or flaxseed, twenty cents per bushel of fifty-six pounds, but no drawback shall be allowed on oil cake made from imported seeds."
By section 2503 the following articles were exempted from duty:
"Par. 636. Drugs, barks, beans, berries, balsams, buds, bulbs, and bulbous roots and excrescences, such as nut-galls, fruits, flowers, dried fibers; grains, gums, and gum-resin; herbs, leaves, lichens, mosses, nuts, roots, and stems; spices, vegetables, seeds aromatic, and seeds of morbid growth; weeds, woods used expressly for dyeing, and dried insects, any of the foregoing of which are not edible and are in a crude state, and not advanced in value or condition by refining or grinding, or by other process of manufacture, and not specially enumerated or provided for in this act."
"Par. 760. Plants, trees, shrubs, and vines of all kinds not otherwise provided for, and seeds of all kinds except medicinal seeds not specially enumerated or provided for in this act."
"Par. 761. Plants, trees, shrubs, roots, seed cane, and seeds imported by the Department of Agriculture or the United States Botanical Garden."
"Par. 778. Seed of the sugar beet."
"Par. 808. Tonquin, Tonqua, or Tonka beans."
The importations were classified by the collector as vegetables under paragraph 286, and subjected to duty accordingly, while the importers claimed that they should have been classified as seeds under paragraph 760 and admitted free. The circuit court directed a verdict for the defendant, and, judgment chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
having been rendered thereon, this writ of error was brought.