143 U.S. 649 (1892), 1,052, Field v. Clark

Docket Nº:No. 1,052.
Citation:143 U.S. 649, 12 S.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294
Party Name:FIELD et al. v. CLARK, Collector.
Case Date:February 29, 1892
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 649

143 U.S. 649 (1892)

12 S.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294

FIELD et al.


CLARK, Collector.

No. 1,052.

BOYD et al.



No. 1,049.




No. 1,050.

United States Supreme Court.

February 29, 1892

Appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Illinois. Affirmed.

Appeals from the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of New York. Affirmed.


[12 S.Ct. 495] Chas. Curie and W. Wickham Smith, for Boyd et al., (No. 1,049.)

S. G. Clarke and E. B. Smith, for Sternbach et al., (No. 1,050.)

N. W. Bliss and John P. Wilson, for Marshall Field & Co., (No. 1,052.)

Atty. Gen. Miller and Sol. Gen. Taft, for United States Collector in all the cases.


Page 662

Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the court.

Duties were assessed and collected, according to the rates established by what is known as the 'Tariff Act of October 1,

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1890,' on woolen dress goods, woolen wearing apparel, and silk embroideries, imported by Marshall Field & Co., on silk

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and cotton laces imported by Boyd, Sutton, & Co.; and on colored cotton cloths imported by Herman, Sternbach & Co. 26 St. p. 567, c. 1244, § 1.

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The importers severally protested against the assessment, upon the ground that the act was not a law of the United

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States. Upon appeal to the board of general appraisers under the act of June 10, 1890, known as the 'Customs Administrative Act,' the decision of the collector in each case was approved. Chapter 407, §§ 14, 15, pp. 131, 137, 26 St. The

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judgment of the board having been affirmed by the circuit courts of the United States in the respective districts in which these matters arose, the cases have been brought here for review.

The appellants question the validity of the act of October 1, 1890, upon three grounds, to be separately examined.

1. The seventh section of article 1 of the constitution of the United States provides: 'All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the house of representatives, but the senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills. Every bill which shall have passed the house of representatives and the senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the president of the United States; if the approve, he shall sign it, but, if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that house in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of that house shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and, if approved by two-thirds of that house, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on [12 S.Ct. 496] the journal of each house, respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the president within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

'Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the senate and house of representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the president of the United States; and, before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or, being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two-thirds of the senate and house of representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.'

The Revised Statutes provide that 'whenever a bill, order, resolution, or vote of the senate and house of representatives

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having been approved by the president, or not having been returned by him with his objections, becomes a law or takes effect, it shall forthwith be received by the secretary of state from the president; and whenever a bill, order, resolution, or vote is returned by the president with his objections, and, on being reconsidered, is agreed to be passed, and is approved by two-thirds of both houses of congress, and thereby becomes a law or takes effect, it shall be received by the secretary of state from the president of the senate, or speaker of the house of representatives, in which so ever house it shall last have been so approved, and he shall carefully preserve the originals.' Section 204.

The original enrolled act in question, designated on its face 'H. R. 9416,' was received at the department of state, October 1, 1890, and, when so received, was attested by the signatures of Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the house of representatives, and Levi P. Morton, vice-president of the United States and president of the senate, and had thereon these indorsements:

'Approved October 1, 1890.


'I certify that this act originated in the house of representatives.


It is made the duty of the secretary of state to furnish to the congressional printer 'a correct copy of every act and joint resolution, as soon as possible after its approval by the president, or after it has become a law, in accordance with the constitution, without such approval.' That duty was performed by the secretary of state with respect to the act in question, and the act appears in the volume of statutes published and distributed under the authority of the United States. Rev. St. §§ 210, 3803, 3805, 3807, 3808.

The contention of the appellants is that this enrolled act, in the custody of the sectetary of state, and appearing, upon its face, to have become a law in the mode prescribed by the constitution, is to be deemed an absolute nullity, in all its parts, because--such is the allegation--it is shown by the

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congressional records of proceedings, reports of committees of each house, reports of committees of conference, and other papers printed by authority of congress, and having reference to house bill 9416, that a section of the bill, as it finally passed, was not in the bill authenticated by the signatures of the presiding officers of the respective houses of congress, and approved by the president. The section alleged to have been omitted was as follows:

'Sec. 30. That on all original and unbroken factory packages of smoking and manufactured tobacco and snuff, held by manufacturers or dealers at the time the reduction herein provided for shall go into effect, upon which the tax has been paid, there shall be allowed a drawback or rebate of the full amount of the reduction, but the same shall not apply in any case where the claim has not been presented within sixty days following the date of reduction; and such rebate to manufacturers may be paid in stamps at the reduced rate; and no claim shall be allowed or drawback paid for a less amount than five dollars. It shall be the duty of the commissioner of internal revenue, with the approval of the secretary of the treasury, to adopt such rules and regulations, and to prescribe and furnish such blanks and forms, as may be necessary to carry this section into effect. For the payment of the rebates provided for in this section there is hereby appropriated any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.'

The argument, in behalf of the appellants, is that a bill, signed by the speaker of the house of representatives and by the president of the senate, presented to and approved by the president of the United States, and delivered by the latter to the secretary of state, as an act passed by congress, does not become a law of the United States if it had not in fact been passed by congress. In view of the express requirements of the constitution, the correctness of this general principle cannot be doubted. There is no authority in the presiding officers of the house of representatives and the senate to attest by their signatures, not in the president to approve, nor in the secretary of state to receive and cause to be published, as a legislative act, any bill not passed by congress.

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But this concession of the correctness of the general principle for which the appellants contend does not determine the precise question before the court; for it remains to inquire as to the nature of the evidence upon which a court may act when the issue is made as to whether a bill, originating in the house of representatives or the senate, and asserted to have become a law, was or was not passed by congress. This question is now presented for the first time in this court. It has received, as its importance required that it should receive, the most deliberate consideration. We recognize, on one hand, the duty of this court, from the performance of which it may not shrink, to give full effect to the provisions of the constitution relating to the enactment of laws that are to operate wherever the authority and jurisdiction of the United States extend. [12 S.Ct. 497] On the other hand, we cannot be unmindful of the consequences that must result if this court should feel obliged, in fidelity to the constitution, to declare that an enrolled bill, on which depend public and private interests of vast magnitude, and which has been authenticated by the signatures of the presiding officers of the two houses of congress, and by the approval of the president, and been deposited in the public archives, as an act of congress, was not in fact passed by the house of representatives and the senate, and therefore did not become a...

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