U S v. CERECEDO HERMANOS Y COMPANIA(1908)
[209 U.S. 337, 338] Assistant Attorney General Sanford for appellant.
No appearance for appellees.
Mr. Justice McKenna delivered the opinion of the court:
The appellee imported into Porto Rico from France 30 cases of red wine, 24 bottles to the case, and each bottle containing more than one pint and less than a quart of wine.
The wine was classified by appraisers at the port of San Juan under paragraph 296 of the present tariff act [30 Stat. at L. 174, chap. 11, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 1654] and the reciprocity treaty with France of May 30, 1898, as being dutiable at $1.25 per dozen bottles, making a total of $75. Upon this classification the entry was liquidated and the duty paid.
The appellee in due time protested against the classification and the decision of the collector, stating that 'the wine in question has been assessed at $1.25 per dozen bottles, when it should be by cases of 24/2 bottles.'
The board of appraisers decided against the collector and in favor of the protest, saying:
The district court affirmed the decision of the board of appraisers.
The only question in the case is the construction of parapraph 296, the material portions of which are as follows:
We think the contention is right, and needs nor comment to make it clear.
Counsel for the government also points out that the provisions of the tariff act of 1875 and subsequent acts were substantially similar to paragraph 296, and that the Treasury decisions thereunder were in accordance with the interpretation for which the government now contends. The first of these decisions was made in 1879. Re De Luze, T. D. 4,060. The ruling was repeated in 1893. Re Sheldon, T. D. 14,461. And again in 1899. Re Wyman, T. D. 20,843.
We have said that, when the meaning of a statute is doubtful, great weight should be given to the construction placed upon it by the department charged with its execution. Robertson v. Downing, 127 U.S. 607 , 32 L. ed. 269, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1328; United States v. Healey, 160 U.S. 136 , 40 L. ed. 369, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 247. And we have decided that the re- enactment by Congress, without change, of a statute which had previously received long-continued executive construction, is an adoption by Congress of such construction. United States v. G. Falk & Bro. 204 U.S. 143, 152 , 51 S. L. ed. 411, 414, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 191.
Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Peckham concur solely because of the prior administrative construction.