Amos Kendall, Postmaster General of the United States, Plaintiff In Error v. the United States, On the Relation of William Stokes Et Al

Decision Date01 January 1838
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 524-527 intentionally omitted] IN error to the circuit court of the United States in the District of Columbia, for the county of Washington.

On the twenty-sixty day of May, 1837, William B. Stokes, Richard C. Stockton, Lucius W. Stockton, and Daniel Moore, presented a petition to the circuit court of the District of Columbia, for the county of Washington, stating, that under contracts duly and legally made by them with the late William T. Barry, then postmaster general of the United States, and duly authorized by law, they were entitled to certain credits and allowances on their contracts for the transportation of the mail of the United States; that the credits and allowances were made and given to them on their contracts, and amounts of money actually paid on such accounts; that some time in 1835, William T. Barry resigned his situation as postmaster general, and Amos Kendall was appointed to the office; that after he had entered on the duties of his office, he undertook to re-examine the contracts entered into by his predecessor, and the credits and allowances made by him; and ordered and directed the allowances and credits to be withdrawn, and the petitioners recharged with divers payments they had received.

The petitioners state that they were dissatisfied with these proceedings of Amos Kendall, as postmaster general; and, believing he had exceeded his authority, and being unable to adjust their differences with him, they addressed a memorial to the congress of the United States. A copy of the memorial was annexed to the petition.

The memorial stated, at large, all the circumstances which the petitioners considered as affecting their case; the proceedings of the postmaster general in the matter; and the heavy grievances done to the memorialists by the course adopted by the postmaster general. They ask such proceedings on the part of congress as its wisdom and justice may direct.

The petition states that congress passed an act, which was approved by the President of the United States on the 2d of July, 1836, which act provided, 'that the solicitor of the treasury be and he is hereby authorized and directed to settle and adjust the claims of William B. Stokes, Richard C. Stockton, of Maryland, and Lucius W. Stockton, and Daniel Moore, of Pennsylvania; for extra services performed by them, as contractors for carrying the mail, under and by virtue of certain contracts therefor, alleged to have been made and entered into with them by William T. Barry, late postmaster general of the United States; and for this purpose to inquire into, and determine the equity of the claims of them, or any of them, for or on account of any contract or additional contract with the said postmaster general, on which their pay may have been suspended by the present postmaster general; and to make them such allowances therefor, as upon a full examination of all the evidence may seem right, according to the principles of equity; and that the said postmaster general be, and he is hereby directed to credit such mail contractors with whatever sum or sums of money, if any, the said solicitor shall so decide to be due to them for or an account of any such service or contract; and the solicitor is hereby authorized to take testimony, if he shall judge it to be necessary to do so; and that he report to congress, at its next session, the law and the facts upon which his decision has been founded: Provided, the said solicitor is not authorized to make any allowance for any suspension, or withholding of money by the present postmaster general for allowances or overpayments made by his predecessor, on route number thirteen hundred and seventy-one, from Philadelphia to Baltimore, for carrying the mail in steamboats, when it was not so carried by said Stockton and Stockes, but by the steamboat company; nor for any suspension or withholding of money as aforesaid, for allowances or overpayments made as aforesaid, for carrying an express mail from Baltimore to York or Lancaster; nor for any suspension or withholding of money, as aforesaid, for allowances or overpayments, made as aforesaid, on route number thirteen hundred and ninety-one, from Westminster to M'Connerston, as described in the improved bid; nor for any suspension or withholding of money, as aforesaid, for allowances or overpayments, as aforesaid, on the route from Baltimore to Wheeling, for running a certain daily line to Hagerstown and Wheeling, from the first of September, eighteen hundred and thirty-two, to the first of April, eighteen hundred and thirty-three, when the line referred to only run tri-weekly; nor for any suspension or withholding of money, as aforesaid, for allowances or overpayments, made as aforesaid, on the route from Baltimore to Washington, under the contract of eighteen hundred and twenty-seven: but nothing in this proviso shall prejudice any application they may make, hereafter, in reference to these routes, if they shall think it proper to make such application.'

The petition states, that in pursuance and in execution of this act, Virgil Maxey, being solicitor of the treasury, did proceed to examine adjust and settle the said claims; and on the 12th day of November, 1836, did make out and transmit to the said Amos Kendall, postmaster general, in part, his award and decision upon certain items of said claims so referred to him; and on the 23d of November, 1836, he communicated to the postmaster general his decision and award on the residue of the claims of the petitioners.

The decision of the solicitor of the treasury of the 12th of December, 1836, after stating the particular items of account, from which the balances arose, was as follows:

'I, therefore, in pursuance of the authority conferred on me, by the aforementioned act of congress, make allowance to said Richard C. Stockton, for his said claims up to the 1st of April, 1835, of the above sum of eighty-three thousand two hundred and seventy-eight dollars.

I, also, by virtue of the same authority, make allowance to said Stockton, for his said claims for extra services, from the 1st of April to 31st of December, 1835, of the said sum of twenty-six thousand eight hundred and sixty-two dollars.

A claim for interest having been made, I have postponed the consideration of it until the equity of the other claims of the gentlemen named in the title of the act, shall have been inquired into and determined.'

On the 22d of November, 1836, the solicitor made a final award, which was also communicated by him to the postmaster general. That award, after setting forth the items of the accounts presented and established in the judgment of the solicitor of the treasury against the United States, was:

'I have examined the evidence touching the above claims, and find due to the petitioners, or to Richard C. Stockton, the following sums: For additional daily mail to Washington, thirty-four thousand two hundred dollars. For compensation for carrying the mail in the spring of 1831, between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and for other services connected therewith, less two hundred and ninety-four dollars, the sum of eleven thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven dollars and sixteen cents. Claims for interest, four thousand eight hundred and thirty-six dollars and eighty-nine cents; one thousand six hundred and sixty-four dollars and seventy cents, and three hundred and ninety-two dollars and thirty-four cents.'

The petitioners state, that under and by virtue of the award of the solicitor of the treasury, they became entitled to have the sum of one hundred and sixty-two thousand seven hundred and twenty-seven dollars and five cents carried to their credit; or at least, after allowing some deductions therefrom made by the said solicitor, with their assent, the sum of one hundred and sixty-one thousand five hundred and sixty-three dollars and eighty-nine cents, as the amount of principal and interest due to them by the terms of the award and decision.

But the said postmaster general, although fully notified of the premises, and after a considerable delay, only so far obeyed and carried into execution the said act of congress and said award, as to direct and cause to be carried to the credit of the petitioners, the sum of one hundred and twenty-two thousand one hundred and one dollars and forty-six cents, which said last mentioned sum of money has been accordingly paid or credited to the petitioners; and he has from that time, and does still refuse, omit, and neglect, notwithstanding the provisions of said act of congress, and the said award and decision of said solicitor of the treasury, so made, communicated and reported, as aforesaid, to pay, or credit to the petitioners the residue of the said sum so awarded, being the sum of thirty-nine thousand four hundred and sixty-two dollars and forty-three cents; or to credit or pay to the petitioners, or either of them, the interest upon the said balance so unjustly and illegally withheld.

The petition states, that after the refusal, omission, or neglect of Amos Kendall to execute his duty, by obeying the act of congress, in passing the amount awarded to his credit; the petitioners communicated the facts of their case to the President of the United States, requesting him to cause the said act of congress to be executed: who thereupon, transmitted the same to Amos Kendall, the postmaster general; and having received a reply to the same, stating why he had thus refused to comply with the award; and suggesting an application to congress for further legislation. The president, in December, 1836, transmitted this reply to the petitioners; and in his communication says: 'It appearing that there is a difference of opinion between the solicitor and the postmaster...

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