Green Bag Towel for Hartranft v. Meyer 149 U.S. 544 (1893) (Brewer, J., dissenting).

February 24th, 2016

On Saturday, I received in the mail a package filled with a huge, pink beach towel from the Green Bag.20160220_101059

The quote comes from Justice Brewer’s dissent in Hartranft v. Meyer (1893). (I freely admit I had to google it).

Would anyone suppose that the terms “handkerchiefs,” “napkins,” or “towels,” when used with statutory precision, were intended to include or did include the cloth imported in bolts?

This case concerned whether “chinas” And “marcelines,” types of clothes made of silk and cotton, should be subject to tarrifs as something that can be used for “hat and bonnet trimmings,” rather than linings. ┬áJustice Brewer dissented, because he thought they were not trimmings, but linings.

Now I am of the opinion that these goods were, in the condition in which they were imported, not trimmings. I concede that if they had a commercial designation as such, that would be sufficient within many rulings of this Court, but the testimony does not establish that fact, and the refusal of the first two instructions eliminates that matter from present consideration. That being eliminated, it does not seem to me that these goods, when and as imported, legitimately fall within the ordinary meaning of the word “trimmings.” …

Indeed, to my mind the word “trimmings” carries necessarily this idea: something in size, form, or condition fit and ready for present use in the making or ornamentation of hats, bonnets, or other such articles.

For these reasons, I cannot concur in the decision in the latter case.