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States pursuant to article seven of the treaty of Washington, and accruing therefrom, not appropriated to claims proved under the provisions of said chapter four hundred and fifty-nine, or any act extending the time for the filing of claims thereunder.
THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY. — The statement of the public debt of the United States for the month of March, 1877, shows a decrease of the debt during the month of March, of $14,107,016.41. This is explained by Secretary Sherman as follows:
The large reduction of the public debt, as shown by this statement, arises from the cancellation and destruction of the balance of the five per cent bonds of the Funded Loan of 1881, held in trust for the payment of the awards made by the “Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims," as provided by the fifteenth section of the act of June 23, 1874, viz. : $7,150,000 balance of the original investment of $15,500,000, and $2,403,800 representing accrued interest thereon.
MONEY PAID TO THE UNITED STATES PURSUANT TO ARTICLE SEVEN OF THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON. – A chapter in the history of the Geneva award, which possesses an enduring interest for the people of both countries, is that relating to the method by which payment of the $15,500,000 in gold awarded by the tribunal was effected. To the kindness and courtesy of the Honorable William A. Richardson (at present one of the judges of the Court of Claims) the reader is indebted for an explanation of the details of this transaction, which are now for the first time given to the public. Judge Richardson, it will be recalled, was at the head of the Treasury Department in 1873, when the money fell due. The correspondence on the subject will be found in Appendix VIII., and it needs no other word of introduction.
Section fourteen of the act of 1874 is as follows:
That the said court shall report to the Secretary of State a list of the several judgments and decisions made by it, a certified copy of which shall, upon the conclusion of the business of the said court, be by him transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury, who shall thereafter, as soon as may be, and upon such notice and in such manner as he shall prescribe, pay the said judgments, together with interest at the rate of four per centum per annum on the amount of such judgments from the date certified, unto the persons, respectively, in whose favor the same shall have been made, or to their respective legal representatives, in full satisfaction and discharge of said judgments : Provided, That if the sum of all the judgments rendered by the said court, together with interest, shall exceed the amount received into the Treasury of the United States as proceeds of the sum to be paid by Great Britain, by virtue of the said decision and award, then the Secretary of the Treasury shall distribute, in ratable proportions, among the parties in whose favor judgments shall have been rendered, or to their legal representatives, such moneys as have been received into the Treasury, according to the proportions which their respective judgments shall bear to the whole amount received into the Treasury as aforesaid, which payments shall be in full satisfaction and discharge of such claims and judgments.
The questions of gold and currency values ought properly to have engaged our attention at an earlier stage, when the subject of the measure of damages was under consideration. Little, however, is to be said other than is contained in the head-note to the cases of the “ Winged Racer."1 The court were then speaking of the value of goods. They applied a similar rule in estimating the value of a ship. The proof of the value of gold was made from official tables, showing daily New York quotations from the date of the suspension of specie payments till after the close of the war. The head-note in the cases referred to is as follows:
In fixing the value of goods purchased with coin or currency other than the legal-tender currency of the United States, the value of coin in currency at the date of purchase will be taken, when payment was actually made in coin at that time ; where payment was actually so made at a subsequent time, the value of coin at that time will be taken, if the payment was made according to the usual course of trade. If not made according to the usual course of trade, the value of coin will be computed at the lowest rate, whether at the time of purchase, or at the time when payment would have been made in the usual course of business, or when the payment was actually made.
Their respective legal representatives. - The Secretary of the Treasury paid these judgments by drafts drawn upon the subtreasury of the United States at New York. The warrants of the Secretary, drawn upon “ diplomatic appropriations,” gave the name to the drafts which were issued thereon, and which came to be known as “ diplomatic drafts.” 1
1 See Appendix VI.
Section fifteen of the act of 1874 is as follows:
That the Secretary of the Treasury is hereby authorized and required to pay the said respective judgments of said court, out of any such money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated; and for that purpose he is hereby authorized when necessary to issue and sell at public sale, after ten days' notice of the time and place of sale, at not less than par in coin, a sufficient amour of coupon or registered bonds of the United States, in such form as he may prescribe, of denominations of fifty dollars, or some multiple of that sum, redeemable in coin of the present standard value, at the pleasure of the United States after ten years from the date of their issue, and bearing interest payable quarterly in such coin at the rate of five per centum per annum ;
the payment, from time to time, of the said respective judgments of said court as before provided, the bonds of the United States mentioned in the act approved March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, entitled “ An act for the creation of a court for the adjudication and disposition of certain moneys received into the Treasury under an award made by the tribunal of arbitration constituted by virtue of the first article of the treaty concluded at Washington the eighth of May, anno Domini eighteen hundred and seventy-one, between the United States of America and the Queen of Great Britain," shall be cancelled and extinguished to the amount of such payments; and when all such payments shall have been made, any such bonds remaining shall be also cancelled and extinguished ; and after the payment of the said judgments, and the reimbursement of the expenses herein provided, if there shall remain any part of the said money, the same shall be and remain a fund from which Congress may hereafter authorize the payment of other claims thereon. And the moneys necessary for the payment of the salaries of the judges and other officers authorized by this act, and of the expenses of the said court as hereinbefore mentioned, are hereby appropriated out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.
1 Section 3477 of the Revised Statutes provides that “all transfers and assignments made of any claim upon the United States, or of any part or share thereof, or interest therein, whether absolute or conditional, and whatever may be the consideration therefor, and all powers of attorney, orders, or other authorities for receiving payment of any such claim, or of any part or share thereof, shall be absolutely null and void, unless they are freely made and executed in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses, after the allowance of such a claim, the ascertainment of the amount due, and the issue of a warrant for the payment thereof. Such transfers, as. signments, and powers of attorney, must recite the warrant for payment, and must be acknowledged by the person making them, before an officer having authority to take acknowledgments of deeds, and shall be certified by the officer; and it must appear by the certificate, that the officer, at the time of the acknowledgınent, read and fully explained the transfer, assignment, or warrant of attorney to the person acknowledging the same." It was a common course for the attorney of record to take from the party a duly executed power of attorney to collect the money due thereon, and remit the same less his fees. For a form of power of attorney to collect a draft, see Appendix VII.
If there shall remain any part of the said money. — Great Britain paid the $15,500,000 to the United States, September 9, 1873. Of this, under the act of 1874, there was paid out $9,316,120, for the judgments of the court and its expenses.
There remains of the fund to be distributed $9,553,800. This sum since March 31, 1877, has drawn no interest.1
Sections sixteen and seventeen of the act of 1874 are as follows:
That as soon as the business of said court shall be executed and completed, the records, documents, and all other papers in the possession of the court or its officers, shall be deposited in the office of the Secretary of State.
In ascertaining the amount of such losses, the memorials, affidavits, depositions, and any other papers in the several cases of losses claimed respectively, now filed in the State Department, or official copies thereof, may be read in evidence : Provided, That no affidavit shall be read except where it appears to the satisfaction of the tribunal that the affiant cannot be produced before it as a witness or his testimony taken by a commission upon interrogatories; and in the hearing of the cause, any party claiming shall produce all books, papers, letters, and documents that may be called for by a general description thereof by any opposing party, or satisfactorily account for their loss or non-production, or suffer such judgment as is prescribed in section fifteen of the act entitled “An act to establish the judicial courts of the United States," approved September twenty-nine, seventeen hundred and eighty-nine ; and on the hearing of the cause, any competent evidence may be produced by either party, either viva voce or by deposition taken upon interrogatories; and for this purpose depositions may be taken by either party de bene, or the court may admit affidavits where it is satisfactorily shown that the witness cannot be produced or his examination by interrogatories and cross examination cannot be had.
1 Rep. No. 307, Jud. Com. House, 47th Congr. 1st Sess.
By any opposing party. — The court decided that they had no power to determine conflicting questions of title, and used this language in their opinion :
“The act of Congress under which this court is organized gives us no authority to compel these different claimants to interplead. We have no power to compel either of the claimants to submit themselves (if they are competent witnesses) or any witnesses they may see fit to examine to cross-examination by any other person than the counsel of the United States. As against the United States, the parties are competent witnesses; as against each other, they may not be.
Besides, the extremely short period originally allowed by law, or even since the extension lately granted by Congress, for the hearing and disposition of the claims before this court is of itself evidence that it was intended that we should consider these claims only as against the United States."
By giving “ any opposing party” a right to call for books and papers, and investing the court with power summarily to enter judgment against the party refusing to produce them, or failing satisfactorily to account for their non-production, Congress seems to have designed that the court should exercise a more enlarged jurisdiction over contending claimants for the purpose of ascertaining and determining their rights, than this opinion recognizes. At all events it will be admitted that had Congress intended to restrict a right of calling for papers to the complainant on one side and the United States on the other, they would hardly have employed the words “any opposing party.” 2
1 Ante, p. 7. Per Jewell, J., McLeane, Adm'x v. United States (No. 763) Rep. 113. 2 The section of the Judiciary Act referred to is as follows :
“That all the said courts of the United States shall have power in the trial of actions at law, on motion and due notice thereof being given, to require the parties to produce books or writings in their possession or power, which contain evidence pertinent to the issue, in cases and under circumstances where they might be compelled to produce the same by the ordinary rules of proceeding in chancery ; and if a plaintiff shall fail to comply with such order to produce books or writings, it shall be lawful for the courts respectively, on motion, to give the like judgment for the defendant as in cases of nonsuit; and if a defendant shall fail to comply with such order to produce books or writings, it shall be lawful for the courts respectively, on motion as aforesaid, to give judgment against him or her by default.”
The Judiciary Act was approved September 24, 1789, and not September 29, as recited in the seventeenth section of the act of 1874. For distinction between powers of the commissioners in Comegys v. Vasse, 1 Pet. 193, and those of this court, see brief of counsel in Dockendorff v. United States, No. 393, hitherto referred to.