276 U.S. 394 (1928), 242, J. W. Hampton, Jr. & Company v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 242
Citation:276 U.S. 394, 48 S.Ct. 348, 72 L.Ed. 624
Party Name:J. W. Hampton, Jr. & Company v. United States
Case Date:April 09, 1928
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 394

276 U.S. 394 (1928)

48 S.Ct. 348, 72 L.Ed. 624

J. W. Hampton, Jr. & Company

v.

United States

No. 242

United States Supreme Court

April 9, 1928

Argued March 1, 1928

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES

COURT OF CUSTOMS APPEALS

Syllabus

1. Section 315(a), Title III, of the Tariff Act of Sept. 21, 1922, empowers and directs the President to increase or decrease duties imposed by the Act so as to equalize the differences which, upon investigation, he finds and ascertains between the costs of producing at home and in competing foreign countries the kinds of articles to which such duties apply. The Act lays down certain criteria to be taken into consideration in ascertaining the differences, fixes certain limits of change, and makes an investigation by the Tariff Commission, in aid of the President, a necessary preliminary to any proclamation changing the duties.

Page 395

Held that the delegation of power is not unconstitutional. P. 405.

2. Congress has power to frame the customs duties with a view to protecting and encouraging home industries. P. 411.

14 Ct.Cust.App. 350 affirmed.

Certiorari, 274 U.S. 735, to a judgment of the Court of Customs Appeals, which affirmed a judgment of the United States Customs Court, 49 Treas.Dec. 593, sustaining a rate of duty as increased by proclamation of the President.

Page 400

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

J. W. Hampton, Jr., & Co. made an importation into New York of barium dioxide which the collector of customs assessed at the dutiable rate of six cents per pound. This was two cents per pound more than that fixed by statute. Paragraph 12, c. 256, 42 Stat. 858, 860. The rate was raised by the collector by virtue of the proclamation of the President, 45 Treas.Dec. 669, T.D. 40216, issued under, and by authority of § 315 of Title III of the Tariff Act of September 21, 1922, ch. 356, 42 Stat. 858, 941, which is the so-called flexible tariff provision. Protest was made, and an appeal was taken under § 514, Part 3, Title IV, ch. 356, 42 Stat. 969-970. The case came on for hearing before the United States Customs Court, 49 Treas.Dec. 593, T.D. 41478. A majority held the Act constitutional. Thereafter, the case was appealed to the United States Court of Customs Appeals. On the 16th day of October, 1926, the Attorney General certified that, in his opinion, the case was of such importance as to render expedient its review by this Court. Thereafter the judgment of the United States Customs Court was affirmed.

Page 401

14 Ct.Cust.App. 350. On a petition to this Court for certiorari, filed May 10, 1927, the writ was granted. 274 U.S. 735. The pertinent parts of § 315 of Title III of the Tariff Act, ch. 356, 42 Stat. 858, 941, U.S.C. Tit.19, §§ 154, 156, are as follows:

Section 315(a). That, in order to regulate the foreign commerce of the United States and to put into force and effect the policy of the Congress by this Act intended, whenever the President, upon investigation of the differences in costs of production of articles wholly or in part the growth or product of the United States and of like or similar articles wholly or in part the growth or product of competing foreign countries, shall find it thereby shown that the duties fixed in this Act do not equalize the said differences in costs of production in the United States and the principal competing country, he shall, by such investigation, ascertain said differences and determine and proclaim the changes in classifications or increases or decreases in any rate of duty provided in this Act shown by said ascertained differences in such costs of production necessary to equalize the same. Thirty days after the date of such proclamation or proclamations, such changes in classification shall take effect, and such increased or decreased duties shall be levied, collected, and paid on such articles when imported from any foreign country into the United States or into any of its possessions (except the Philippine Islands, the Virgin Islands, and the islands of Guam and Tutuila): Provided, That the total increase or decrease of such rates of duty shall not exceed 50 percentum of the rates specified in Title I of this Act, or in any amendatory Act. . . .

(c) That, in ascertaining the differences in costs of production under the provisions of subdivisions (a) and (b) of this section, the President, insofar as he finds it practicable, shall take into consideration (1) the differences

Page 402

in conditions in production, including wages, costs of material, and other items in costs of production of such or similar articles in the United States and in competing foreign countries; (2) the differences in the wholesale selling prices of domestic and foreign articles in the principal markets of the United States; (3) advantages granted to a foreign producer by a foreign government, or by a person, partnership, corporation, or association in a foreign country, and (4) any other advantages or disadvantages in competition.

Investigations to assist the President in ascertaining differences in costs of production under this section shall be made by the United States Tariff Commission, and no proclamation [48 S.Ct. 350] shall be issued under this section until such investigation shall have been made. The commission shall give reasonable public notice of its hearings, and shall give reasonable opportunity to parties interested to be present, to produce evidence, and to be heard. The commission is authorized to adopt such reasonable procedure, rules, and regulations as it may deem necessary.

The President, proceeding as hereinbefore provided for in proclaiming rates of duty, shall, when he determines that it is shown that the differences in costs of production have changed or no longer exist which led to such proclamation, accordingly as so shown, modify or terminate the same. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a transfer of an article from the dutiable list to the free list or from the free list to the dutiable list, nor a change in form of duty. Whenever it is provided in any paragraph of Title I of this Act that the duty or duties shall not exceed a specified ad valorem rate upon the articles provided for in such paragraph, no rate determined under the provision of this section upon such articles shall exceed the maximum ad valorem rate so specified.

Page 403

The President issued his proclamation May 19, 1924. After reciting part of the foregoing from § 315, the proclamation continued as follows:

Whereas, under and by virtue of said section of said Act, the United States Tariff Commission has made an investigation to assist the President in ascertaining the differences in costs of production of and of all other facts and conditions enumerated in said section with respect to . . . barium dioxide, . . .

Whereas, in the course of said investigation, a hearing was held of which reasonable public notice was given and at which parties interested were given a reasonable opportunity to be present, to produce evidence, and to be heard;

And whereas the President, upon said investigation . . . , has thereby found that the said principal competing country is Germany and that the duty fixed in said title and Act does not equalize the differences in costs of production in the United States and in . . . Germany, and has ascertained and determined the increased rate of duty necessary to equalize the same.

Now therefore I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, do hereby determine and proclaim that the increase in rate of duty provided in said Act shown by said ascertained differences in said costs of production necessary to equalize the same is as follows:

An increase in said duty on barium dioxide (within the limit of total increase provided for in said Act) from 4 cents per pound to 6 cents per pound.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this nineteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, and of the Independence of the

Page 404

United States of America the one hundred and forty-eighth.

Calvin Coolidge

By the President: Charles E. Hughes, Secretary of State

The issue here is as to the constitutionality of § 315, upon which depends the authority for the proclamation of the President and for two of the six cents per pound duty collected from the petitioner. The contention of the taxpayers is two-fold -- first, they argue that the section is invalid in that it is a delegation to the President of the legislative power, which by Article I, § 1 of the Constitution, is vested in Congress, the power being that declared in § 8 of Article I that the Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises. Their second objection is that, as § 315 was enacted with the avowed intent and for the purpose of protecting the industries of the United States, it is invalid because the Constitution gives power to lay such taxes only for revenue.

First. It seems clear what Congress intended by § 315. Its plan was to secure by law the imposition of customs duties on...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP