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OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE TWENTY-FOURTH CONGRESS:
LAWS, OF A PUBLIC NATURE, ENACTED DURING THE SESSION:
WITH A COPIOUS INDEX TO THE WHOLE.
FEB. 17, 1836.)
Sufferers by Fire in New York.
(H. OF R.
after they had reached their destination? Unless he worthless, will it be contended the importer shall be rehad satisfactory reasons to believe it was bis interest, he leased from the duty, because the article had not gotten would be just as far from doing this as a high-minded off his hands before it spoiled? Surely, none will so con. merchant from a western city would be from asking it, tend. As well might it be contended that, if such artior receiving it if offered.
cle had enhanced in value, the Government should be All who have assumed to represent the feelings of the entitled to the increased value. Such risks are incident merchants of New York, embraced by this bill, have to the nature of the business; and every rational man expressly disavowed, on behalf of those merchants, a who engages in it so calculates, and lays his profits acdesire or even willingness to accept of the proposed cordingly. measure, as a favor, boon, or charity, from the Govern I do not consider that the profit or per cent. which ment. They say they rest this claim upon its intrinsic the importer makes upon his importation is the considjustice; that it is founded on correct principle; and de eration that supports and renders valid the bonds given by mand of us, as a matter of right, the passage of this bim for duties, but it is the privilege of importing, and bill; to prove which, they assume that the importer is taking the chance of making a profit, that constitutes å mere agent of the Government; that the bond he ex their real consideration. The Government does not un. ecutes for duties is executed under a sort of legal re dertake to guaranty to the importer a sale of his imstraint; that his contract is not voluntary. Both of these ported goods, or a profit upon that sale. None, it is to positions I consider altogether untenable. The import. be presumed, will contend that the importer who has er cannot, in my conception, be understood to sustain failed to realize more than cost and carriage for his car. to the Government the relation of an agent to his prin-go, shall claim to be released from the duties he owes cipal. It certainly cannot be, as the supporters of this his Government, because he was unable to make a sale measure have contended, that the importer sustains to covering cost, carriage, and duty. the Federal Government the relation thal the collector The consideration of a bond for duties is exactly anal. of the revenues in the States dues to the State Govern- ogous to that of one executed for lottery lickets; the ments. The collectors of the ports, as I understand it, purchaser only buys a chance for a prize, and not the answer to the place of the collector of the revenues in prize itself. And the purchaser of a ticket could, with the States, and the importer, to every intent and pur- just as much propriety, go to the agent of those who pose, answers to the place of tax payer.
have made a lottery, and ask for his money back after The collectors of the revenues in the State Govern. he had drawn a blank, as the importer can come to us, ments have no right of property in the taxes they collect, sir, as the agents of the people, to whom all duties beand are, in strictness, agents, just as much as the auc long, and ask us to forgive him his bond, or to extend tioneer is the agent of the owner of the goods which he sells. him a credit averaging four years; for it will be borne An agent has no right of property in the article the owner
in mind that those who have advocated this bill have has placed in his hands: the owner has the entire right; avowed an intention of sustaining another bill to release and thus the one is easily distinguished from the other the duties on all goods that were destroyed in the hands Is not the importer, then, to every possible intent, the of the importer; and no small proportion of their arguowner of his imported goods! Can be not keep and use ments have borne on this question. But further to eluthem himself, or retail or wholesale them out, or refuse cidate my understanding of the practical operations of to do either, at his own option? None can deny this. the chancing bargain of the importer--suppose those And, if so, how can it be contended that the importer sufferers by the fire in New York had, since the fire, imsustains the relation to this Government of a mere agent? ported French goods to the value of 20,000,000 dollars, It really seems to me the position is too self-evidently and a war with France, or a total exclusion of all French fallacious to be susceptible of elucidation. The gen- goods from our ports, had been determined upon by tleman from Massachuselts contends that it is the spirit Congress: would not those importers have felt themand intention of the law that the consumer, and not the selves entitled to all the advantages accruing to them in importer, should pay the duty. And hence, before the such a contingency? would they not, as sensible men, goods are sold to the consumer, if they are destroyed have improved their fortuitous position to make a much by fire or other accident, the importer should be re greater profit on these importations than they anticileased from the duty. Now, whilst I readily admit the pated when they engaged in the enterprise? And who practical effect of imposing duties upon importations, in would ever think of their dividing their profits, thus this as in every other country, is, that the consumer greatly increased, with the Government, by whose immepays it, I do deny that there is any thing in the spirit diate action those profits were enlarged? and meaning or policy of the laws imposing duties on The gentleman from Massachusetts says, although it importations that requires a sale by the importer, or a
is the intention of the law that the consumer should pay consumption of the article imported, before the Gov. the duty, and not the importer, yet the situation of the ernment has a right, in justice and in law, to exact its importer is altogether different from the merchant in duties.
Cincinnati, who may have purchased from the importer; When an importer introduces a foreign article into this the importer, being a kind of agent of the Government, Government, he acts with a view of making a profit by has a right to demand his duties back of the Government it. If it be in great demand, he perhaps makes a heavy if the goods imported be consumed before sale; but if profit; if in less demand, his profit diminishes in the the Cincinnati merchant buy the whole cargo, and it is same proportion; if it be in no demand, he perhaps consumed by fire, whilst liis, though perhaps unremoved, fails in his sale, and loses upon the article. He makes the Government ought not to interfere, because one is his importation with a full knowledge of all his risks,
a sort of agent of the Government, and pays the duty, and only does it because of his conviction that the pros
and the other does not. Is this not rather a distinction pect of a good profit is greater that the probability of without a difference? In neither case has the article a loss. His is a chancing bargain; and, if he lose by
reached the hands of the consumer. And if the gentle it, nothing but just one of those contingencies which, man's argument be good, that it is the intention of the in the nature of things, must occasionally occur, has
law that the consumer should pay the duty, would it not transpired, and he has no just ground of complaint.
as much defeat that intention in the case of the CincinSuppose an importer introcluce a quantity of some ar nati merchantes in that of the New York importer; ticle subject to become worthless, and, after be enters and as much in the case of the village merchant, who is it, and gives his bond for the duty, it actually becomes perhaps the third owner, as in either instance?