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STRONG v. UNITED STATES.

December 1, 1867

STRONG
v.
UNITED STATES.



ERROR to the District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Clifford stated the case, and delivered the opinion of the court.

Messrs. N. Wilson and E. M. Stanton, for the plaintiff in error; Mr. Stanbery, Attorney-General, and Mr. Ashton, special counsel for the United States, contra.

Examination of the exceptions to the instructions of the court will first be made, as they give rise to the principal questions presented for decision.

Exception was taken by the defendant to that part of the charge of the court in which the jury were told that the Navy Department, in requiring the principal in the bond to perform duties as purser which would have been performed by a navy agent, if there had been such an officer at that navy yard, did not constitute him a navy agent, and that the department in so doing did not require of him the performance of duties, against defaults in which his sureties had not undertaken to protect the government.

I. Argument is hardly necessary to show that the principal in the bond was not thereby constituted a navy agent, as it is clear that navy agents cannot be appointed in any other mode than that prescribed in the act of Congress providing for their appointment. Authority to appoint navy agents is derived from the third section of the act of the third of March, 1809, which provides that 'no other permanent agents' than those previously mentioned in the section 'shall be appointed, either for the purpose of making contracts, or for the purchase of supplies, or for the disbursement, in any other manner, of moneys for the use of the military establishment or of the navy of the United States, but such as shall be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.'*fn1

Prior to that time persons had been appointed, as occasion required, to act as navy agents, by the head of the department, but no such office had been created or was recognized by any act of Congress. Since that enactment navy agents have uniformly been appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and it is as obvious as anything can be that they cannot be appointed in any other way.*fn2

Such an appointment by the President, in this case, is not pretended; and it is equally clear that the evidence in the record disproves the theory that the head of the department ever intended, or attempted to confer, any such authority. On the contrary, the record proves that all the moneys in the hands of the principal in the bond were moneys remitted to him as purser, as is fully shown both by his requisitions and the treasury warrants issued by the proper officer of the treasury department.

Pursuant to the requirements of law, he twice gave bond for the faithful discharge of his official duties, and the declaration in the suit was founded upon those bonds, in both of which the defendant was a surety. Alleged breach of the condition of the respective bonds is, that he failed to disburse and apply large sums of money remitted to him as purser for the use and benefit of the plaintiffs, as he, in his official character, was by law bound to do; and that he had neglected and refused to pay the balance, not so disbursed and applied, into the Treasury of the United States as public money. Verdict and judgment were for the plaintiffs, and the defendant sued out this writ of error.

II. Second objection to the charge of the court is, that the court erred in giving the instruction that the defendant, as surety, was liable for the defaults of the principal in failing to disburse or account for the moneys remitted to him as purser, notwithstandingh e, the principal, had been required by the department to perform duties which would have been performed by a navy agent, if there had been one stationed at that navy yard.

Certified transcripts of the accounts of the delinquent purser, as adjusted by the accounting officers of the treasury, were introduced in evidence at the trial. They showed that the balance due to the plaintiffs, together with the interest since accrued, was the amount as found by the jury in their verdict, and that all the moneys charged in the accounts were moneys remitted to the principal in the bonds during the periods covered by the bonds, as alleged in the declaration.

Subsequent to the settlement of the accounts of the principal, he was duly requested to pay the balance, as thus ascertained, into the treasury, and the record shows that he neglected and refused to comply with that request. Witnesses were examined at the trial, and the parol proofs showed that he, the principal, was stationed at that navy yard, on the fifteenth day of April, 1850, and that for the period of nine months next ensuing there was no navy agent at that navy yard, and that he, in his character of purser, made disbursements of moneys remitted to him as purser, which would have been made by a navy agent if there had been such an officer at that naval station. All such disbursements, however, were included in his accounts, as rendered to the department, and as settled by the accounting officers of the treasury, and the transcripts show that they were rendered and settled under the same heads as the disbursements made by him in the usual and strict course of his duty as purser, and it does not appear that he ever sustained any loss in making such disbursements, or that any just and legal credits claimed by him in that behalf have been rejected or disallowed.

Complaint of the defendant is not that the moneys disbursed and applied by his principal for the use and benefit of the plaintiffs have not been fully allowed in the adjustment of his accounts, but that the court erred in giving the instruction that he, the defendant, as surety, was legally liable for the balance of the moneys remitted to his principal, as purser, and which he, the purser, never disbursed or applied in any way for the use and benefit of the plaintiffs, and which he neglects and refuses to pay into the treasury.

Stripped of all circumlocution, the defence is, that the surety is not liable for the default of the principal, because some portion of the moneys remitted to the latter would have been remitted to the navy agent, if some person holding the office of navy agent had been stationed at that navy yard. No person holding that office was stationed there, and all the moneys in question were remitted to the principal in these bonds, as purser, and the record shows that he has never disbursed the amount claimed for the use and benefit of the plaintiffs, or paid it into the treasury as adjusted.

Pursers, under the act of the twenty-seventh of March, 1794, were warrant officers, but by the act of the thirtieth of March, 1812, they were required to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and the provision was that every purser before entering upon the duties of his office, shall give bond, with two or more sufficient sureties, ...


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