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On April 11, 1899, the ratifications were exchanged, and the treaty proclaimed at Washington.
On April 12, 1900, an act was passed, commonly called the Foraker act, to provide temporary revenues and a civil government for Porto Rico, which took effect May 1, 1900.
Mr. Justice BROWN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case raises the single question whether territory acquired by the United States by cession from a foreign power remains a “foreign country” within the meaning of the tariff laws.
1. Did the question of jurisdiction raised by the demurrer involve only the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court as a Federal court, we should be obliged to say that the defendant was not in a position to make this claim, since the case was removed to the Federal court upon his own petition. It is no infringement upon the ancient maxim of the law that consent cannot confer jurisdiction, to hold that, where a party has procured the removal of a cause from a State court upon the ground that he is lawfully entitled to a trial in a Federal court, he is estopped to deny that such removal was lawful, if the Federal court could take jurisdiction of the case or that the Federal court did not have the same right to pass upon the questions at issue that the State court would have had, if the cause had remained there. Defendant neither gains nor loses by the removal, and the case proceeds as if no such removal had taken place. (Cowley v. Northern Pacific Railroad Co., 159 U. S. 569, 583; Mansfield Railway Co. v. Swan, 111 U. S. 379; Mexican Nat. Railroad v. Davidson, 157 U. S. 201.)
This, however, is more a matter of words than of substance, as the defendant unquestionably has the right to show that the State court had no jurisdiction, or that the complaint did not set forth facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. This we understand to be the substance of the defense in this connection.
By R. S. sec. 2931, it was enacted that the decision of the collector “as to the rate and amount of duties” to be paid upon imported merchandise should be final and conclusive, unless the owner or agent entered a protest, and within thirty days appealed therefrom to the Secretary of the Treasury; and, further, that the decision of the Secretary should be final and conclusive, unless suit were brought within ninety days after the decision of the Secretary. By R. S. sec. 3011, any person having made payment under such protest was given the right to bring an action at law and recover back any excess of duties so paid.
The law stood in this condition until June 10, 1890, when an act known as the Customs Administrative Act was passed, (26 Stat. 131,) by which the above sections (R. S. secs. 2931, 3011) were repealed and new regulations established, by which an appeal was given from the decision of the collector “as to the rate and amount of the duties chargeable upon imported merchandise,” if such duties were paid under protest, to a Board of General Appraisers, whose decision should be final and conclusive (sec. 11) “as to the construction of the law and the facts respecting the classification of such merchandise and the rate of duties imposed thereon under such classification,” unless within thirty days one of the parties applied to the Circuit Court of the United States for a review of the questions of law and fact involved in such decision. (Sec. 15.) It was further provided that the decision of such court should be final, unless the court were of opinion that the question involved was of such importance as to require a review by this court, which was given power to affirm, modify or reverse the decision of the Circuit Court.
The effect of the Customs Administrative Act was considered by this court in In re Fassett, Petitioner, (142 U. S. 179,) in which we held that the decision of the collector that a yacht was an imported article might be reviewed upon a libel for possession filed by the owner, notwithstanding the Customs Administrative Act. It was held that the review of the decision of the Board of General Appraisers, provided for by section fifteen of that act, was limited to decisions of the board “as to the construction of the law and the facts respecting the classification” of imported merchandise "and the rate of duties imposed thereon under such classification,” and that it did not bring up for review the question whether an article be imported merchandise or not, nor, under section fifteen, is the ascertainment of that fact such a decision as is provided for. Said Mr. Justice Blatchford: “Nor can the court of review pass upon any question which the collector had not original authority to determine. The collector has no authority to make any determination regarding any article which is not imported merchandise; and if the vessel in question here is not imported merchandise, the court of review would have no jurisdiction to determine any matter regarding that question, and could not determine the very fact which is in issue under the libel in the District Court, on which the rights of the libellant depend.”
“Under the Customs Administrative Act, the libellant, in order to have the benefit of the proceedings thereunder, must concede that the vessel is imported merchandise, which is the very question put in contention under the libel, and must make entry of her as imported merchandise, with an invoice and consular certificate to that effect.” It was held that the libel was properly filed.
The question involved in this case is not whether the sugars were importable articles under the tariff laws, but whether, coming as they did from a port alleged to be domestic, they were imported from a foreign country—in other words, whether they were imported at all as that word is defined in Woodruff v. Parham, (8 Wall. 123, 132.) We think the decision in the Fassett case is conclusive to the effect that, if the question be whether the sugars were imported or not, such question could not be raised before the Board of General Appraisers; and that whether they were imported merchandise for the reasons given in the Fassett case that a vessel is not an importable article, or because the merchandise was not brought from a foreign country, is immaterial. In either case the article is not imported.
Conceding then that section 3011 has been repealed, and that no remedy exists under the Customs Administrative Act, does it follow that no action whatever will lie? If there be an admitted wrong, the courts will look far to supply an adequate remedy. If an action lay at common law the repeal of sections 2931 and 3011, regulating proceedings in customs cases, (that is, turning upon the classification of merchandise,) to make way for another proceeding before the Board of General Appraisers in the same class of cases, did not destroy any right of action that might have existed as to other than customs cases; and the fact that by section 25 no collector shall be liable “for or on account of any rulings or decisions as to the classification of such merchandise or the duties charged thereon, or the collection of any dues, charges or duties on or on account of any such merchandise,” or any other matter which the importer might have brought before the Board of General Appraisers, does not restrict the right which the owner of the merchandise might have against the collector in cases not falling within the Customs Administrative Act. If the position of the Government be correct, the plaintiff would be remediless; and if a collector should seize and hold for duties goods brought from New Orleans, or any other concededly domestic port, to New York, there would be no method of testing his right to make such seizure. It is hardly possible that the owner could be placed in this position. But we are not without authority upon this point.
The case of Elliott v. Swartwout, (10 Pet. 137,) was an action of assumpsit against the collector of the port of New York to recover certain duties upon goods alleged to have been improperly classified. It was held that as the payment was purely voluntary, by a mutual mistake of law, no action would lie to recover them back, although it would have been different if they had been paid under protest. Said Mr. Justice Thompson: “Here, then, is the true distinction: when the money is paid voluntarily and by mistake to an agent, and he has paid it over to his principal, he cannot be made personally responsible; but if, before paying it over, he is apprised of the mistake, and required not to pay it over, he is personally liable.” If the payment of the money be accompanied by a notice to the collector that the duties charged are too high, and that the person paying intends to sue to recover back the amount erroneously paid, it was held that such action must lie “unless the broad proposition can be maintained, that no action will lie against a collector to recover back an excess of duties paid him, but that recourse must be had to the Government for redress.” The case recognized the fact that, with respect to money, paid under a mistake of law, the collector stood in the position of an ordinary agent and could be made personally liable in case the money were paid under protest.
This decision was made in 1836. Apparently in consequence of it an act was passed in 1839 requiring moneys collected for duties to be deposited to the credit of the Treasurer of the United States; and it was made the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to draw his warrant upon the Treasurer in case he found more money had been paid to the collector than the law required. It was held by a majority of this court in Cary v. Curtis, (3 How. 236,) that this act precluded an action of assumpsit for money had and received against the collector for duties received by him, and that the act of 1839 furnished the sole remedy. It was said of that case in Arnson v. Murphy, (109 U. S. 238, 240,): “Congress, being in session at the time that the decision was announced, passed the explanatory act of February 26, 1845, which, by legislative construction of the act of 1839, restored to the claimant his right of action against the collector, but required the protest to be made in writing at the time of payment of the duties alleged to have been illegally exacted, and took from the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to refund conferred by the act of 1839. (5 Stat. 349, 727.) This act of 1845 was in force, as was decided in Barney v. Watson, (92 U. S. 449,) until repealed by implication by act of June 30, 1864,” (13 Stat. 14,) carried into the Revised Statutes as sections 2931 and 3011. In the same case of Arnson v. Murphy, (109 U. S. 238, it was decided that the common law right of action against the collector to recover back duties illegally collected was taken away by statute, and a remedy given, based upon these sections, which was exclusive. The decision in Elliott v. Swartwout was recognized, but so far as respected customs cases (i. e., classification cases) was held to be superseded by the statutes. So in Schoenfeld v. Hendricks, (152 U. S. 691,) it was held that an action could not be maintained against the collector, either at common law or under the statutes, to recover duties alleged to have been exacted, in 1892, upon an importation of merchandise, the remedy given through the Board of General Appraisers being exclusive.
The criticism to be made upon the applicability of these cases is, that they dealt only with imported merchandise and with the duties collected thereon, and have no reference whatever to exactions made by a collector, under color of the revenue laws, upon goods which have never been imported at all. With respect to these the collector stands as if, under color of his office, he had seized a ship or its equipment, or any other article not comprehended within the scope of the tariff laws. Had the sugars involved in this case been admittedly imported, that is, brought into New York from a confessedly foreign country, and the question had arisen whether they were dutiable, or belonged to the free list, the case would have fallen within the Customs Administrative Act, since it would have turned upon a question of classification.
The fact that the collector may have deposited the money in the Treasury is no bar to a judgment against him, since R. S. sec. 989 provides that, in case of a recovery of any money exacted by him and paid into the Treasury, if the court certifies that there was probable cause for the act done, no execution shall issue against him, but the amount of the judgment shall be paid out of the proper appropriation from the Treasury.
We are not impressed by the argument that, if the plaintiffs insisted that these sugars were not imported merchandise, they should have stood upon their rights, refused to enter the goods, and brought an action of replevin to recover their possession. It is true that, to prevent the seizure of the sugars, plaintiffs did enter them as imported merchandise; but any admission derivable from that fact is explained by their protest against the exaction of duties upon them as such. They waived nothing by taking this course. The collector lost nothing, since he was apprised of the course they would probably take. It is true that in the Fassett Caso, (142 U. S. 479,) the proceeding was by libel for possession of the vessel, which is analogous to an action of replevin at common law; but it would appear that R. S. sec. 934 would stand in the way of such a remedy here, since by that section “all property taken or detained by any officer or other person under authority of any revenue law of the United States shall be irrepleviable, and shall be deemed to be in the custody of the law and subject only to the orders and decrees of the courts of the United States having jurisdiction thereof.” If the words “under authority of any revenue law” are to be construed as if they read “under color of any revenue law,” it would seem that these sugars could not be made the subject of a replevin; but even conceding that replevin would lie, we consider it merely a choice of remedies, and that the plaintiffs were at liberty to waive the tort and proceed in assumpsit. We are all of opinion that this action was properly brought.
2. Whether these cargoes of sugar were subject to duty depends solely upon the question whether Porto Rico was a “foreign country" at the time the sugars were shipped, since the tariff act of July 24, 1897, (30 Stat. 151,) commonly known as the Dingley act, declares that there shall be levied, collected and paid upon all articles imported from foreign countries” certain duties therein specified. A foreign country was defined by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Story to be exclusively one within the sovereignty of a foreign nation, and without the sovereignty of the United States. (The Boat Eliza, 2 Gall. 4; Taber v. United States, 1 Story, 1; The Ship Adventure, 1 Brock. 235, 241.)
The status of Porto Rico was this: The island had been for some months under military occupation by the United States as a con