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is, in my judgment, conclusive that he knew there was no foundation : it. I have no doubt, therefore—not the shadow of one—that the claim should have been allowed under the act of 1814.
What is the effect upon it of its then suspension and the subsequet: fruitless efforts to have it revived iinder that act?
It may be true-though that I should greatly dont--that but for the act of the 14th of August, 1848, snch suspension of etfirts would be conclusive against it now. But that act renders such an inquiry un necessary. Congress was applied to for special relief by the claimant, and his heirs in 1832, 1836, 1838, 1814, 1846, and 1817. In 1846 a favorable report was made hy the Committee of Claims of the Senate. In January, 1947, another favorable report by the same committee; and on the 21 of February, 1848, a third report of a like character by the Judiciary Committee of that body, accompanied by a bill, which was passed. This bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee of the House, who rejected it, with an amendmeut, accompanied by a detailed report in its favor. As amended, it was passed afterwards by both honses, and is the law of the 14th of August, 1848. In considering that act, these several favorable recognitions of the claim by committees of Congress are to be regarded. Under the circumstances atending them. I am clear in the opinion that the fact of a claim by De la Francia is to be con. sidered as admitted by Congress, the amount only being to be ascertained by your department.' In this mind I am sustained by various opinions of this office; and a moment's reflection will show that it is founded on the respect due by the Executive to Congress. When they have legis. lated upon reports of their appropriate committees, charged especially with such investigations, it would be against the courtesy due from the Executive to the legislitive depariment of the government to disregard such reports.
They seem to show the intent of Congress, and, in a case of this character, must be held to give the true construction of the law. The claim, then, being thus, in my opinion, established by the evidence as well as by legislative recoguition, and the amount only open for inquiry, three questions in this connexion are to be considered : First
. What is the amount of the principal of the claim ? Second. What
, if any, interest is due upon it?' Third. From what period and to what period is the interest to be calculated?
First, as to the principal. This is settled by the contract of purchase of the 3d December, 1810. It is, as agreed by that contract, eleven thousand eight hundred and fifty dollars. If anything is due for princi: pal, that is the amount.
Second, as to the interest. The general rule, and one exceediugly important, for obvious reasons, to observe, is, that the government pays no interest. It rests upon the assumption that the government is ever willing to discharge all its obligations, and that the delay in doing so is not to be attributed to any laches on its pirt. Bit to this rule there are exceptions. Without staring all the growds upon which exceptions have been made, it is sufficient in my judgment, in this particular case, to state that, in the construction of the act of 1914, interest was allowed upon all the claims liquidated muder it, from the time the claiin arose to the date of that act; and Congress afterwards recognised the propriety this construction by appropriating expressly for the principal and interest allowed. (Acts of sth April, 1818, and i1th April, 1820.) This was,
no doubt, owing to the particular character of the claims, growing out of the patriotic exertions giving rise to them, and the direct benefit of these exertions in securing to the United States a desirable and valuable territory.
Considerations of state policy require, in the liquidation of such de. mands, the indulgence of liberality; and it was, in regard 10 interest, as in regard to all other matters, extended to them. The propriety and the obligation, therefore, of allowing interest upon them, are not, I think, to be esteemed open questions. The act of 1814 bas received that interpre. tation; and it is manifestly in accordance with the policy which led to
Interest being chargeable, the second inquiry under this head is, what rate should be allowed? The claimant insists that he is entitled to ten per cent. upon the ground of contract, and because that was the rate established in December, 1814, in West Florida. The only written contract is the receipt, &c., for the arms, &c., and that is silent as to interest. Col. Kemper says, in one of his answers to an interrogatory propounded to him in the suit against him before alluded to, that he agreed to pay ten per cent. interest; and, as against him, that statement would be conclusive. But to that suit the United States were neither parties nor privies, and his statements are, as against them, no evidence. And without these there is no proof as to the interest at all. The claim, therefore, is to rest upon the alleged legal rate allowed in Florida. Without inquiring whether that was the rate claimed, I am of opinion that it cannot be allowed. Al though there were high reasons of state policy invoking the United States to pay these claims, they were under no legal obligations to pay them. Their legal liability grew out of their own law of 1814, and that, as uniformly construed in the case of each claim heretofore liquidated under it, only bound them to pay the rate of interest known here; that is, six per cent. The propriety of this construction never seems to have been questioned; and, in my opinion, it is now too late to call it into doubt. I decide, therefore, that the claimant is entitled to that rate of interest, and no other.
Thirdly, from what and to what time is it to be calculated? I think it is to be from 30 December, 1810, to the 14th of August, 1848—the first being the date of the contract of purchase, and the last the date of the passage of the act under which the claim is now before you. Under the act of 1814, the interest on each claim allowed was allowed from the date of the claim to that of the law, and not from the refusal of the accounting officers to pass the claim in question. The allowance of this claim, however, was refused; and from that time to the act of 1946, at various periods and in various modes, the claimant continued to press it upon the government until he succeeded in obtaining the passage of the act of 1815. I am clear in the opinion that it would be unjust to deny interest during the interval. Every principle of justice and equity prescribes a different rule, and the act requires those principles to govern the liquidation. I think the claimant is entitled to interest from the date of the claim to the date of the act of 1848. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
REVERDY JOHNSON. Hon. John M. CLAYTON,
Secretury of State.
RIGHTS OF CLAIMANTS UNDER THE ARREDONDO GRANT.
The claimants of certain lands in Florida, under a grant known as “the Arredondo grani,"
having instituted proce dings under the act of 1824 lo establish its validity, and having 06tained a decree confirming the same, provided it could be located according to its descrip tion, which decree was subsequently affirmed by the Supreme Court, on appeal, with the qualification that, unless certain points and locations could be made, it would be voti: uncertainty; and a mandate to that effect having been sent to the court below, before which all proceedings were suspended until a report was made by the surveyor general to the General Land Office that the grant could be located under the said opinion, are not enu: without completing their legal proceedings, and obtaining a judicial decision upon al ise questions necessary to be decided, to take the like quantity of land in parcels from other lands in Florida subject to entry and sale. The validity of the grants embraced by the act of 1824, as well as their extent and bounda
ries, were to be submitted to and bé determined by the courts as judicial questions; and they must be so determined before the executive department can act in the premises.
ATTORNEY GENERAL's Office,
Juwe 4, 1849. Sir: The question submitted to this office on the 6th of April, 1845, by the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, in the matter of the Arredondo grant of thirty-eight thousand acres of land in Florida, I have duly considered.
The grant itself, under which the claim arises, was before the Supreme Court of the United States on an appeal from the appropriate tribunal be. low, and the case is reported in volume 13 of Peiers. The claimants under the grant had proceeded under the first and second sections of the act of May 26, 1824, applied to Florida by the act of May 23, 1828, to obtain a decree establishing their grant, and its extent, locality, and boundaries, 'and any other matter connected with it proper to be decided. The court below maintained the title to be a good one; and, on appeal, the decree was affirmed. But the court further declared that the validity of the grant depended on the practicability of locating it according to its descriprion. This the Supreme Court decided could only be done, first, by finding that Alligator creek existed, and that Alligator town can be found, and then by running the lines as stated in their opinion; or, secondly, in the event that no such creek exists within or at the distance of seven miles from Alligator town, or at a reasonable distance over seven miles to the west of it, then by running the lines in another way stated in the opinion. But, in the contingency that these alternative locations could not be made, the court were of opinion that the description in the grant was too indefinite to enable a survey to be made at all, and that nothing could, in that event, be taken under it.
A mandate to this effect was sent to the court below, and there, as far as the papers before me show, the case is undecided. An attempt was, however, made to ascertain if either of the locations above stated could be made, but it was resisted by the people in the vicinity and prevented. Since then, under instructions from the Land Office, the surveyor gene. ral has reported that the grant can be located under the opinion of the Supreme Court, and he has returned a diagram of the location. It is among the papers.
The claimants now insist that this survey establishes the validity of the title, and that they have a right, under the act of May, 1824, to declare an actual location, and to take the like quantity of land in parcels any. where in Florida, from the lands of the United States heretofore offered at public sale. The inquiry submitted to me is, whether, under the terms of the opinion and decree of the Supreme Court, this right now exists.
I am of opinion that it does not. The validity of the grants embraced by the act of 1824, as well as their extent and boundaries, were, by that act, intended to be submitted to the courts as judicial questions. They were such in their nature. Their existence in fact, and their validity when existing; their proper location, and the conflict of such location with grants before or afterwards made; and the fact of prior sales or dis. position or location,-were all matters appropriate to judicial investigation. Without these, neither the interests of the claimants, the United States, nor others, would be well protected. It was, therefore, in my opinion, the purpose of the act of 1824 to have all these questions so decided. And, in this instance, that course was adopted by the claimants. The Supreme Court have maintained the absolute validity of the grant under which they claim. That, they say, depends on the ability to locate it; and that ability depends on some of the specified points in its calls being found. How are these facts to be asceriained? In my opinion, it can only be done when the court below decides them 10 exist, and that de. cision is unappealed from, or, being appealed from, is affirmed. Nor is it the peculiar province of the Land Office to grant the claimants the privilege now claimed under the Ilih section of the act in question. To obtain that, something else is necessary than making good the grant. It must appear, either that the land covered by it was before sold by the Uvited States or otherwise disposed of, or that it had not been before located. These, also, are matters for the court to adjudicate; and as they find them existing or not, are they authorized to decree the right given the grantees by the Ilth section. (10 Peters, 100, 105.) It will, I think, be readily seen that any other doctrine would defeat the jurisdiction (by arresting it) of the courts invested therewith in such cases by the act of 1824. Take, for instance, the present case. The claimants have invoked the aid of that jurisdiction. Perhaps, without it, their title would never have been established. The courts before whom they have come, and whose authority is perfect, have decided that as certain facts exist or not, is their riile valid or invalid. These have been reserved by the mandare of the Supreme Court for subsequent determination; and the claimants now maintain, before such determination has been had, that because the surveyor general, under instructions from the Land Office, has, as he thiuks, ascertained that these facts, or such as are material, do exist, the grant is to be considered as established under the act of 1824; and yet further, without any step being taken before the court by the claimants to ascertain whether it has not been heretofore located, that that fact is also to be assumed, and the privilege of locating elsewhere than according to the terms of the grant is to be considered now existing as a right. Such a claim clearly arrests the courts midway their proceedings. It is their duty and power to decide whether the facts necessary to the validity of the grant exist. It is their duty and power to decide, if they do exist, whether the right to locate elsewhere, under the 11th section of the act of 1829, also exists; and as that right depends on either prior sale, disposition, or location, these inquiries must also be adjudicated by them.
My opinion, therefore, is, that the right asserted by the claimants in the present case cannot be maintained. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
REVERDY JOHNSON. Hon. THOMAS EWING,
Secretary of the Interior.
EXPENSES OF COLLECTING CUSTOMS UNDER ACT OF 1849.
The limitation of expenses in the collection of revenue from customs imposed by the 4th see.
tion of the act of 3d March, 1819, is not applicable to the first half of the fiscal year com
mencing June 30, 18.9. The 3d and 4th sections of the act are to be read together; and the term “thereafier," in the
proviso to the 4th section, is to be construed to apply to the period for which estimates are to be made under the 3d section, and not to the beginning of the coming fiscal year.
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE,
June 5, 1849. Sir: The question you have submitted to this office as to the construction of the act of 3d March, 1849, requiring all moneys, &c., to be paid into the treasury, I have considered with the care due to its importance. It is, whether the limitation of expenses in the collection of the revenue from customs, imposed by the 4th section, is applicable to the first half of the fiscal year commencing the 30th of the present month?
The inquiry is one of great difficulty; and the conclusion I have reached has been arrived at after much and anxious consideration. But I believe it to be the proper one, and that demanded by the respect due to the intelligence and patriotism of Congress.
Before this act was passed, the expense of collection of this portion of the revenue was without limit; that of the previous year had exceeded, I believe, two millions. This large amount was owing, in some measure, to the manner of executing the law. Whether a different and a niore economical mode could have been adopted, I have no means of judging; nor if I had, would it be my province in this place to decide. But cer. tain it is, that the system, as yet, so far from increasing the revenue, as its friends maintained would be its result, has had a contrary effect. This branch of expenditure, and others, impressed Congress with the conviction that the entire expenditure could, with safety, be reduced; and to provide for this was the object of the act in question. They have en. deavored to accomplish it hy directivg-first, that the gross amount of all the revenues be paid into the treasury; and, secondly, that the Secre. tary of the Treasury furnish, at each regular session, estimates of the expense of collecting the customs and the proceeds of the public lands. No such estimate for the ensuing fiscal year was before them, nor in existence. They had, therefore, no means of ascertaining what would he the expense of collecting for the first half of that fiscal year. To limit that, therefore, when Congress would not be in session to correct the mischief of too low a limit, and the copsequent injury to the interests of the government, can hardly be supposed to have been the design. To what, then, did they intend the limit to apply? This is to be ascertained by construing the 3d and 4th sections together. The third makes it the duty of the Secretary to subunit, at the next regular session of Congress, estimates of appropriations which may be required to provide for the es. penses of collecting the revenue from custonıs and from public lands for the second half of the next fiscal year; and separate estimates for the said purpose for the year ending the 30th June, 1850; and similar estimates from year to year thereafter. The first estimate, therefore, of the Secretary was not to embrace the expense of collecting for the first half of the first year; nor could it do so, the act being passed on the 31 of March, 1849, the year beginning the 30th of June, and the next regular session of Congress not commencing till the following December.