United States v. George Macdaniel

Decision Date01 January 1833
PartiesUNITED STATES, Plaintiffs in error, v. GEORGE MACDANIEL
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

the service had then been rendered, and the moneys disbursed, when the exception was taken; that witness knows that the accounts of public disbursements, including all these allowances of commissions upon disbursements, are annually submitted to congress, and inspected by a committee specially appointed for that purpose; that said committee attends at the different offices, where the books are open for their inspection; that the accounts embracing defendant's claims and allowances are regularly so submitted and inspected, and that no objection, as witness has ever heard, was taken by any committee, or any individual, to such allowances, until defendant's final account, after leaving office, was settled by the fourth auditor. Defendant promptly paid over all the moneys in his hands, when the amount was adjusted, reserving only the sums claimed by him, which appear in the accounts exhibited; and if they are allowed him, he has no public money in his hands. Defendant further offered in evidence a report from the secretary of the treasury to congress, 1st March 1831. Doc. 126, H. R. 21st Cong. 2d Sess.

'Upon the evidence so given to the jury, the counsel for the United States prayed the court to instruct the jury, that if they should believe the same to be true, that still the defendant had no right, by law, to the commissions which he claims in this case, and that, as the sum so charged as aforesaid, as commissions, had never been allowed to him, by any department of the government, it was not competent for the jury to allow them upon this trial. Which instruction the court refused to give; to which refusal the United States, by their attorney, excepted.'

The account exhibited on the trial by the district-attorney of the United States, by which the balance alleged to be due was shown, was as follows:

To balance due the United States per his account current,

rendered on the 5th June 1829, $688 33

This sum disallowed, as per reconciling statement of his

navy expenditure account herewith, 228 14

Commission on $69,229.92, paid over to the treasurer of the

United States, at one per cent. as debited in his account

as late special agent of the navy department, marked A.

Recorded on the 5th June 1829. Not allowed, 692 32 Compensation as agent for paying pensions from the 1st of

March to the 31st of May 1829. Not allowed, 62 50

Error in statement No. 141 (previous report), in payments

of Fall's pension, 6 00


$1677 29

By this sum deposited to the credit of the treasurer of the

United States, the 3rd of August 1829, 688 33


Balance due the United States, by statement examined by

comptroller, 12th of August 1829, $988 96

THOMAS H. GILLIES, Act. 4th Aud.

The case was argued by Taney, Attorney-General, for the United States, and by Coxe and Jones, for the defendant.

THOMAS H. GILLIES, Act. 4th Aud.

For the United States, it was contended, that the defendant was not entitled to the commissions claimed by him and mentioned in the bill of exceptions. The attorney-general stated, that the question presented in the case was, whether the defendant was entitled to commissions on payments made by him for navy purposes? The navy-agents, although not established by any particular law, have been recognised in various acts of congress. Their duties are well known and ascertained. There are navy-agents at each navy yard, and there are navy-agents who are not permanent. There is also an agent at the navy department to settle accounts not properly belonging to other navy-agents. Mr. Macdaniel was employed as the permanent navy-agent at Washington; and also as the special agent of the department. A reference to the accounts in the record will show, that he made payments for sloops of war, ship-houses, and for the marine corps. In making these payments, he performed duties which properly belonged to permanent navy-agents, and for which they were entitled to be paid.

The question then is, whether he is entitled to commissions on the disbursements of money, which properly belonged to the duties of other agents?

By the act of congress of 27th March 1804 (2 U. S. Stat. 297), the commandant of the navy yard at Washington was required to perform all the duties which have been performed by the defendant in error. This continued to be the law until July 10th, 1832, when congress passed an act repealing the provisions assigning the duties of navy-agents to the commandant of the navy yard, and authorizing the appointment of a permanent navy-agent. The act of 1809 (2 U. S. Stat. 536), did not embrace the navy yard at Washington.

Capt. Tingey was, for many years, the commandant of that navy yard; but he did none of the duties assigned to him by the act of 1804; those duties were performed by the defendant. The case then was that of an officer of the United States, on whom duties were specially imposed, omitting to comply with them, and those duties executed by another person, who had no authority under any law to perform them. All the allowances, therefore, made to him for commissions on disbursements, as all his disbursements were such as ought to have been made by the commandant of the navy yard, were in violation of the act of 1804. These allowances have been made by a mistake of the law, and cannot be set off. Can the head of the navy department, by allowing payments not authorized by law, or by one...

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