Слике страница
PDF
ePub

223

226

INTRODUCTION.

As some order is better than no method, even in the preface of a book, I have thought proper to arrange the matters which have been deemed suitable to compose this Introduction in numerical sequence, as follows: 1. Of the authority under which this classified Synopsis was prepared, and the processes by which it was produced. 2. Of the enumeration and virtual identity of the Laws, with the Decisions given in execution of the Laws. 3. Of the relative proportions of Legislation devoted to the Fiscal Department and other branches of the Government. 4. Of the applicability of this Analysis of the Laws to the Instructions and Decisions for their execution. 5. Of the availability of Laws and Decisions which have been repealed or become obsolete, as beacons to future legislation and Executive action. 6. A summary Analysis of the work, with a few remarks on the different fiscal systems or projets, and specifications of the manner in which the laws have been executed.

1. The preparation of a descriptive Index or Synopsis of Treasury Instructions and Decisions, in execution of the Revenue Laws, as expressed in Circular Letters addressed to Collectors of the Customs and other officers of the Treasury, having been put in my charge without definition or limitation as to the plan or mode of executing the work, I not only felt fully authorized, but deemed it proper and expedient, in the absence of all restrictions, to avail myself of the confiding liberality of the Department, by adopting such a plan as would suggest itself in the course of its prosecution—which was commenced by examining and collating the materials, restoring copies froin the records and all other available sources, and arranging them in chronological order for binding. Such, necessarily, was the first step taken in this intricate enterprise, in order to redeem these invaluable archives from the dilapidated condition into which most of them had fallen, perhaps unavoidably, through a long course of years—the same having been but very imperfectly reclaimed by the praiseworthy efforts of the Department, in making special calls on officers of the Customs and others to replace them, since the conflagration of the Treasury building in 1832. This compilation being thus perfected, as far as was practicable from all available sources, consists of two series, of six quarto volumes—three of Secretaries' and three of Comptrollers' Circulars, interspersed with others, from other officers, on subjects of kindred bearing. The instructions in execution of the Revenue laws being thus embodied, it was now determined to make a separate abridgment of each series, taking the volumes of the Comptroller's Circulars first in order, being more in detail, and those of the Secretaries of the Treasury next-making specific references, at the end of each item of instruction, to the original circulars corresponding with the item.s so abridged : and this was the second process, which was executed with the greatest possible exactness and care, making the abridgments, in certain cases, more literal and full than in others, according to the greater importance of the particular subject. Finding that the Instructions of the Secretaries and the Comptrollers, from beginning to end, with very few exceptions, related to the same subjects, often making repetitions, confirmations, or references to each other, and in some instances those of the former rescinding those of the latter, and of their respective predecessors, it was, in the next place, necessary to incorporate the two sets of abstracts or abridgments, according to the date and subject-matter of each item, that they might throw reciprocal light on each other, as well as to form a continuous and unbroken whole of Treasury Instructions, according to chronological order : and this was the third process. Having thus completed the incorporation of the two masses, though their commingled subjects began now to assume more form and consistency, yet, being only in the sequence of dates, serious breaks, or separations of important instructions on the same subject, would occur at short intervals throughout, which would be but imperfectly remedied by an alphabetical index of references to them, as they would still be contemplated in more or less isolated condition wben consulting those references. Under these circumstances, a CLASSIFICATION RAISONNÉ next appeared to be indispensable, in order to impart perspicuity and the greatest practical utility to the whole system. To accomplish such a classification, the whole consolidated abridgment

a

of the two sets of instructions was subjected to thorough and repeated revisions, in all the mazy details of its miscellaneous, and in many instances seemingly heterogeneous contents, noting at every moment whatever susceptibility the different items possessed of being grouped under general heads, according to their respective affinities—more or less obscure in some instances, and latent or difficult of detection in others—until at length the most isolated and dubious gradually assumed, with the rest, their appropriate places, in juxtaposition with their nearest of kind, under their proper chapters, sections, and classes, which respectively had, in the same process, somewhat more readily taken their range of precedence or sequence, according to their more obvious and natural order of development. Thus, the classification which I ultimately, after great labor and intense scrutiny, succeeded in producing, gradually emerged out of the chaos of documents, which had never been framed with any view to method, and had fallen into a state of still more hopeless confusion: and this was the fourth process—the intricacies and difficulties of which, alone, can hardly be estimated, even by the seemingly apt comparison of it to an attempt to re-produce the several orders of Grecian architecture by collecting and arranging their minute fragments from ancient ruins ; simply because the existing models of those orders would afford a guide to the proper and scientific disposition of their respective fragments; whereas, in the present case, instead of having any model for a guide, the whole classification of this Synopsis had to be constructed according to the indications of the analysis of the parts, as developed step by step simultaneously with the examination and disposition of the materials of which it is composed.

2. Upon a final survey of the classified Synopsis of Treasury Instructions thus produced, it was perceived that it afforded an authentic history, to a considerable extent, of the transactions of the Treasury, connected and continuous, without stop or interruption, under the respective heads or divisions to which they were assigned; and that the inquirer for specific information would, with the aid of the alphabet of references to the detailed objects it embraces, not only be introduced to the particular object of his search, but be thrown into the entire group of kindred subjects acted on through the long series of years from the beginning of the Government to the present time; and that, by the analogy of the parts of such group, he would often derive more information than he was in uest of, which not unfrequently would serve him a better purpose than the isolated object of his original inquiry. Also, it was manifest that by this classification the most insignificant item of incidental ex parte instruction would acquire a consequence from the company it is grouped with, receiving and imparting illustration, in a greater or less degree, not unfrequently conflicting and contradictory, indeed, whereby a question of right decision would necessarily arise between the items so at issue, which would rarely be suspected to exist between them, viewed separately and alone; but the authority of either, under such isolated view, would most commonly be taken as a fair representation of the law in the case. So that, by thus confronting antagonistical decisions and instructions in the contrast of close proximity, issued at however distant periods, and by whatever high authority, the observing mind becomes more and more impressed with the fallibility of official instructions and decisions for the administration of the laws, whether from oversight or misconstruction, on hasty emergencies, or otherwise; but which nevertheless become, in practice, paramount to the laws, in such cases, instead of doing their legitimate purpose of executing them.

Under this view of intimate connection and virtual identity between the laws and the instructions in execution of them, one could not fail to appreciate the importance of the official notices of the Revenue laws transmitted to Revenue officers, and of the commentaries thereon in the circular instructions accompanying them. Accordingly, it became a paramount subject of inquiry: first, whether the list of laws, as derived from the official notices in the circulars, was a full enumeration, giving an adequate idea of the vast extent of those laws ? Secondly, whether the INSTRUCTIONS could be considered as a fair and perfect mirror of the entire Revenue laws? either of which inquiries would be answered in the affirmative, if such list were complete, and the instructions were without oversights or misconstructions. But, upon a strict examination, great omissions were discovered in the enumeration made of those laws from the official notices; and, in many instances, no commentary or instruction was given in the circulars accompanying those actually transmitted, however occasionally supplied or not, under emergency afterwards; all of which urged the indispensable necessity of producing a complete list or catalogue of the Revenue laws, carefully compiled from the entire code, with an alphabetical index of the subjects in detail, to serve as a ready reference, in making comparison with the details of Treasury instructions in execution of the same, by which, alone, the completeness or deficiency of the executive MIRROR of those laws might be as nearly estimated as possible. And, to this list, which was substituted for the defective one, derived from both sets of circulars, was prefixed a Review of the promulgation* of the laws in general, and of the Revenue laws to Revenue Officers in particular, as a suimary of pertinent information respecting the practical facilities afforded for securing the faithful observance and execution of the laws, general and special.

In surveying the said complete list, it may appear to some to have been unduly extended, in embracing the acts making provision for carrying into effect the Treaties and Conventions with foreign nations, relative to commerce and navigation; acts respecting the introduction of Aliens, their naturalization and registry, their entry being under custom-house regulations; acts providing for, and regulating the issue of, Letters of Marque, Sea-letters, and Passports; acts providing for the defence of Ports and Harbors, the protection of the Commerce and Seamen of the United States, the government and regulation of seamen on public and private vessels, and for the erection of Marine Hospitals, &c., &c.; whilst it omits other acts which directly appertain to sources of Revenue and the regulation thereof, such as those which relate to the sales of Public Lands, those establishing the rates and collection of Postage Duties, and those regulating the rates and collection of fees on Letters Patent for useful inventions. If the reasons are not so obvious to all for introducing those first mentioned, the frequent references to them in the instructions, as well as to others that might also seem out of place in the list, will sufficiently justify their location in connection with the Treasury Department; and, in regard to those which are omitted, notwithstanding their connection with sources of Revenue, the two latter relating to Revenue from Postage Duties and Patent Fees, (though not incompatible with a consistent, uniform, and homogeneous Treasury system,) being under the exclusive control of other departments, could not find a place in this list, although subject (nominally indeed) to the Treasury Department in the settlement of their accounts of receipts and disbursements; and as to the laws relating to the Revenue from the sales of Public Lands, they already, in a special and eminent degree, as previously shown, enjoy the amplest provisions for separate consideration, so as to forbid their being blended, in any manner, with the multifarious subjects, direct or collateral, of those branches of Revenue derived from Impost and Tonnage Duties, Hospital Tax, Internal Duties, Direct Taxes, Loans, and Miscellaneous resources, &c., which are the more appropriate subjects of these instructions, including the regulations for the settlement of all accounts of the receipts and expenditures of the Government.

Others, again, might with reason contend, that there is scarcely a law that does not in a considerable degree maintain a connection and dependance on the pecuniary resources and the fiscal operations of the Treasury Department, proximate or remote, initiative or final; and, therefore, should come into this LIST, thereby leaving out hardly a law in the whole Statute Book; the municipal legislation being for the most part reserved to the State legislatures; and this reflection brings into strong relief the true impress of the universal presence, agency, and actual control, more or less, of the Treasury Department in all the operations of the Government; and shows, that to do justice to its ubiquity in the affairs of the nation, it would not only be necessary to resort to such a list, but to make such a general classification and digest of the laws as would exhibit the minute ramifications of the Treasury agency with the other Departments, as also the like development of the co-ordinate systems of the War, Navy, Post Office, and State Departments, detailing all their minute connections with each other, as well as with the Treasury; which, indeed, is not incompatible with the proper design of illustrating the whole action and bearing of the Treasury, or financial system of the United States, so fitting and appropriate as it would be to impart any adequate conception of the entire sway of the Treasury system, deservedly occupying the centre of the co-ordinate systems, which revolve about it in reciprocal and commingling spheres, making one vast and magnificent whole,

* The aforesaid descriptive list of the Revenue laws, and the review of the promulgation of the laws, with the alphabetical Index to the subjects of those laws, have been omitted, as tending to swell this printed edition.

« ПретходнаНастави »