the United States (3 Lawrence, Compt. Dec., Introduction, xvi ; Ex-
porter's case, 5 Lawrence, Compt. Dec). Hence, if a Comptroller,
in parsing upon a claim, meets a very important question of law, not
settled by any opinion of the Sui>reme Court of ihe United States, it
may sometimes be deemed advisable to reject such claim, in order that
the question of law may, through the Court of Claims, be presented to
the Supreme Court for an authoritative decision (Meigs's case, postj
611). And when there may be no such question of law, but sufficient
cause to suppose the claim to be fraudulent, it may more effectually
secure the ends of justice alike to the claimant and the Government,
to reject the claim, so that all questions of fact may be fully investigated
in the Court of Claims, than to employ the remedial agencies provided
by sections 184, 185, 186, 187, and 364 of the Revised Statutes. It was,
doubtless, in view of this, that a distinguished judge of the Court of
Claims s»iid (Longwill v. United States, 17 Ct CI., 291) that—
"The accounting officers of the Treasury are in duty bound to scruti-
nize claims and accounts with great care, as is their custom ; and it ia
the undoubted right and duty of the Comptrollers (including the Sixth
Auditor and the Commissioner of Customs, who are Comptrollers in
fact though not in name), who alone of the accounting officers have
authority to decide thereon, to reject, in whole or in part, as their
judgment dictates, all those claims which they have reasonable cause
to suspect to be tainted with fraud, or to which they believe there
may be substantial defenses in law, or as to the valitlity of which
they are in doubt.
"Upon such rejection by the Comptrollers, the claimants are left to
their remedy by action at law against the United States in this court,
if within its jurisdiction, where the Government is defended by the*
Attorney-General and his able, painstaking, and industrious assist-
ants, and whatever defenses can be found will not escape the vigilance
of those officers (Davis v. United States, 10 Ct. CI., 285). In other
cases, not within the jurisdiction of this court, claimants' only relief is
to be sought by petition to Congress for redress of grievances, under
the right to do so guaranteed by the Constitution."
And the same learned judge, in Charles v. United States (19 Ot.
CI.), recently decided, says that : —
" Claimants are not required in the Treasury Department to prove
their cases with all that strictness required here and in other courts of
law. The Department is not organized for the trial of cases in that
way. The accounting officers have to depend upou the assumed in-
tegrity of other officers who have authority to receive supplies and is-
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sne vouchers, and no counsel appears before them to look up and inter-
pose defenses. Affidavits and ex parte evidence constitute all that is
presented in support of dai ms.
" When, in the course of the examination of accounts in the Depart-
ments, suspicions are aroused or doubts are entertained as to the va-
lidity of the demands of claimants, the parties may be sent to this
court to prove their cases under the rules and forms of law, upon legal
and competent evidence, or their demands may be rejected altogether,
leaving the claimants to prosecute them here ax>on their own voluntary
petitions, if they so desire. That is the main protection which the ac-
counting officers can secure for themselves and for the Government in
the case of claims of doubtful validity in fact or in law, and especially of
claims as to which there is a reasonable suspicion of fraud, irregularity,,
" It is but a just and well deserved tribute to the public officers of the
United States Government generally, and to the vigilance of the ac-
counting officers in particular, to say that in the immense business of
this Government, cases of payment on fraudulent vouchers and claims
are of rare occurrence."
An examination of the cases decided by the First Comptroller will
show to what extent, if any, courts, lawyers generally, writers on ele-
mentary law, legislative and executive officers, both National and State,
and claimants and their counsel, may be interested in his decisions, or
may find them of any service or utility. So far as they may decide
legal principles^ which are supported by sufficient rea^ons^ or so far as-
they may be found to correctly apply legal principles to any given state^
of facts, or to famish a reference to recognized authorities on important,
questions of law, they may be of some value in oourtSj and to tvriters
on elementary law^ some of whom have deemed it proper, to quote from
them, and to adopt their conclusions. (Burroughs, Public Securities,
1881, 29-36; Giauque, Guardian and Trustees in Ohio, Cincinnati,
1881, 292.) The courts must necessarily be interested in every proper
discussion of the relations of judicial to executive authority (Keyser's
case, post^ 267). And on that most difficult of all subjects, with which
courts, law officers, and lawyers are required to deal — the interpreta-
tion and construction of statutes — these decisions present, at least, an
ample field of inquiry, a wide range of subjects, and the application of
principles to a great variety of facts (Hardcastle, Statutory Law, 5 ;
London Times, March 10, 1876). These decisions, also, have, at all
events, traversed many fields of legal science, which, in some measure
at least, have previously remained unexplored, or in which, if explored,
there have been left but few landmarks, and the light of but little
written record to aid investigation and research. In view of the diffi-
culties inherent in ascertaining, establishing, and applying legal princi-
ples generally, and especially in the direction required in this series
of decisions, it is hoped that they may be found of some value to the
There prevails, to a certain extent, an unfounded opinion that con-
tractors with, and other creditors of, the Government are liable to meet
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with many and embarrassing obstacles in establishing and securing pay-
ment of their claims. It is but simple justice, and a vindication of the
truth of history, to afSrm that the law and regulations clearly point out
the officers, to whom application shall be made for the allowance of all
claims (1 Lawrence, Gompt. Dec, 2d ed., App., Cb. i, 411; Bender's
case, 1 Lawrence, Gompt. Dec, 2d ed., 353), prescribe the evidence re-
quired to support them (Eev. Stat., 1762, 3622, 4767 ; 3 Lawrence, Gompt.
Dec, Introduction, xxvi, xxx; Walsh's case, 3 Lawrence, Gompt. Dec,
122; Garfield case, J(Z., 375 ; Glerks' Investigation case, J<i., 256; Dana's
case, 2 Id.j 2d ed., 204 ; Specific Appropriation case, posty 140), and specify
the officers by whom, and the manner in which, payments shall be made
<Otto'8 case, 3 Lawrence, Gompt. Dec, 296). The evidence required is
l)lain, simple, and no more difficult to obtain than that usually required
by every great business establishment or corporation. Such evidence
is less technical, and is much more easily attainable than that required
in courts. And payments of all valid claims supported by the requisite
evidence are made from the proper appropriations, with a promptness
and fidelity rarely equaled and never surpassed by any government,
municipal or other cori>oration, company, or i>erson. The statistics of
the payments of claims without suit confirm this allegation. The agencies
employed for the purposes mentioned are ample to meet every claim
which can exist in pursuance of law (3 Lawrence, Gompt. Dec, Intro-
There are but two classes of claims for the adjustment of which there
is no adequate provision.
One class is composed of those claims, which are not enforcible ac-
xiording to strict principles of law, but which, ex cequo et bono, should be
recognized by everyjust Government. Jurisdiction of this class should be
given to the Gourtof Glaims,on the petition of any claimant, filed within
a limited time after the claim accrued, with authority to ascertain fact$,
and at least to recommend payment by Gongress.* The act of March 3,
1883 (22 Stat., 485), only extends to claims referred by either house of
Gongress, or by a committee thereof, or by the head of a Department.
It seems to be very generally and justly conceded that claims should
not, as a general rule, be investigated by a committee of Gongress.
There is no sufficient time during a session of Gongress for this pur-
* See Wood^s case (1 Lawrence, Compt. Dec, 2d ed., 1). And a case may be cited
by way of example, ia which public officers bad decided agaiust the United States u|>oa
a question of the right to lands, and had made an unauthorized grant of 960,000 acres.
Counsel employed at the instance of private parties, but never paid for their services,
were finally permitted to institute proceedings in the courts of the United States,
indemnifying the Government against liability for costs ; and the result was, that the
lands were recovered, and that more than a million of dollars was paid into the Treas-
nry as proceeds of the sale of the lands. Yet, all efibrts to provide compensation for
Buch services, even in the laws authorizing a sale of the lauds, by a small additional
charge in the price of the lauds, when sold, or from the proceeds, failed, though twice
agreed to by the House of Representatives (Osage Land case, 3 Lawrence, Compt.
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pose ; other duties require the whole attention of members ; there is not,
and cannot be, any adequate means for ascertaining facts ; and the
danger, that political considerations may unconsciously affect results,
cannot be overlooked.*
In reference to the other class, there should be a permanent tribunal,
international in character, to adjust claims of every kind against the
United States, in favor of aliens and citizens or subjects of every
foreign nation, having a similar tribunal for adjusting such claims of
our citizens against such nation. See New Hampshire v. Louisiana
(108 U.S., 90).
Such tribunal should have jurisdiction of all claims, which might
be submitted to it by the diplomatic action of this with any other Gov-
ernment. See House Bep., Ko. 134 (2d Sess., 43d Gong.); ^^Lawrence's
Law of Claims against Governments." With these additions, the legal
machinery of the United States for the adjustment of claims would be
worthy of adoption by every civilized nation.
With the above remarks, this volume is committed to the indulgent
consideration of the enlightened classes of men for whose use it is in-
FmST COMPTEOLLEE'S OFFICE,
December 31, 1883.
* This subject has been discussed with learning and ability in the Appendix to
DeTerenz's Yolnme of the reports of the Court of Claims (1856). See Lawrence's
Law of Claims against Govemmente (House Rep., No. 134— 2d Session, 43d Congress*
page 17); Jordan's case (3 Lawrence, Compt. Dec, S74), and Dobyns v. United
It is believed Jurisdiction should also be given to the Court of Claims as proposed
in the '* Letter from the First Comptroller of the Treasury apon the subject of Trials
in Customs-Revenue cases," for which see 17 Court Claims, XLix.
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The Fibst Comptroller (William Lawrence) in the Depart-
ment of the treasury of the united states.
IN THE M-OTTER OF THE RIGHT OP REGISTERS AND RECEIVERS OF
DISTRICT LAND-OFFICES TO RECEIVE A COMMISSION OF ONE PER
CENTUM EACH ON *HE MINIMUM CASH VALUE OF LANDS ENTERED
UNDER THE "TIMBER-CULTURE ACTS. "—TIMBER-CULTURE- ACT CASE.
1. The fonrth paragraph of eection 3238 of the Revised Statntes, taken from the act
of March 3, 1873 (17 Stat., 606, sec. 6), was saperseded by the act of March 13,
1874 (18 Stat., 21), and this act was in tarn superseded by the act of Jane 14,
1878 (20 Stat.).
2. When a later act revives the whole snbject, and provides for all the objects of a
former act, each former act is saperseded without any express words of repeal.
3. When an act refers to a provision of a former act as in force, and such former act
has, in fact, clearly been superseded or repealed, the provision so referred to is
not thereby revived, unless an intention to revive it is apparent.
4. Statutes having similar objects should generally be construed alike.
5. The policy and provisions of one class of statutes in relation to public lands may
aid in the construction of other statutics in relation to other public lands. But
such policy and provisions cannot be allowed to control the plain unambiguous
meaning of such other statutes.
6. Sections 2317, 2464, 2465, 2466, 2467, and 2468 of the Revised Statutes are superseded
by subsequent legislation. .
7. Neither registers nor receivers of local district land-offices are entitled to a com-
mission of one per centum each on tbe minimum cash value of lands entered under
the "timber-culture acts.''
November 10, 1882, tbe Commissioner of tbe General Land-Offlce
addressed a letter to the Secretary of tbe Interior, requesting tbat the
First Comptroller be asked for an expression of bis opinion on tbe
question, whether registers and receivers of district land-ofiBces are
entitled to receive one per centum each on the minimum cash value of
lands entered under tbe ^< timber-culture acts.'' November 13, 1882,
tbe acting Secretary of tbe Interior addressed a letter to tbe Secretary
of tbe Treasury, inclosing a copy of tbe aforementioned letter, and
other papers on tbe subject, for an opinion. November 15, 1882, these
1 D 83
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2 First ComptroUer^s Offioe^ Treasury Department.
were referred to the First Comptroller, for his opinion, by the Secretary
of the Treasury.
J. M. Adams, receiver of public moneys, at Yakima, Washington
Territory, in a letter of June 30, 1882, to the Commissioner of the Gren-
eral Land-Office, submitted an argument in support of his claim to com-
missions, an abstract of which is as follows:
1. The right to a commission of one per centum exists under the fourth
subdivision of section 2238, Eevised Statutes.
The act of June 14, 1878 (20 Stat., 113), section 5, gives a right 'to
fees^ and section 8 repeals acts in conflict. This only repeals provisions
" in conflict" which had previously existed. Section 2238 is not affected
by the act of June 14, 1878. Section 2238 gives commissions to be paid
by the Government; the act of June 14, 1878, requires applicants to pay
fees. The act of June 14, 1878, was designed to facilitate the growth
of forests, by reducing the quantity of land to be plowed, &c., and the
only object of the repealing clause was to wipe out the conflicting pro-
visions in the acts of March 3, 1873 (17 Stat., 605), March 13, 1874 (18
Stat., 21), and May 20, 1876 (19 Stat., 54), The law which requires
applicants to pay a fee is not "in conflict" with the statute which re-
quires the Government to pay commissions.
II. The "stone and timber land act" of June 3, 1878 (30 Stat., 89), is
analogous in principle to the several acts last above mentioned. This
requires purchasers to pa^^ registers and receivers a fee^ the same as
is required of purchasers of mineral lauds, and concludes with a repeal-
ing clause. Yet the usage is to collect the/ae from purchasers, and the
commissions from the Qovernment.
2. The fact that a commission is allowed registers and receivers on
the money value of homestead lands, pre-emption lands, timber lands,
mineral latids, desert lands, as well as of all other classes of lands, is evi-
dence that Congress designed that they should also receive a commis-
sion on the money value of timber-culture lands. The act of April 20,
1818 (3 Stat., 466), gave registers and receivers a commission on all
moneys received for public lands. When the homestead act of May 20,
1862 (12 Stat., 392), was passed. Congress perceived that the djonaltum
of lands to settlers would reduce the compensation of land officers, and
provision was made that they should receive a commission on tibe cash
value of lands thus entered. For the same reason the act of March 3,
1873 (17 Stat., 605), gave commissions on timber-culture entries. K
Congress had, in the subsequent legislation, designed to repeal this
provision for commissions, it would have been so declared in express
terms. The fixed policy of commissions referred to cannot be repealed
Hon. K C. McFarland, Commissioner of the General Land-Office, in
a letter of August 9, 1882, addressed to J. M. Adams, called his atten-
tion to the "table of fees and commissions" allowed registers and re-
ceivers, and said:
As the act of June 14, 1878 (20 Stat., 113), fixed the amount of
commissions allowed registers fina receivers, regardless of the area or
value of the land, at $4 for each entry made, in place of the commission
of one per cent, each on the cash vsdue of the land, as is provided in
section 2238, Bevised Statutes, and provided further that "all acts and
parts of acts in conflict with this act are hereby repealed," the amount
of commissions provided for in the later act is the proper amount^ to
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Commissians of Registers and Receivers — Timber- Culture- Act Case, 3
be allowed; therefore the commissions charged by yoa against the
cash valae of lands entered ander the timber-culture aet, in addition
to the legal commissions, are contrary to law."*
Opinion by William Laweence, First Comptroller.
r. The Revised Statutes provide as follow :
Sec. 2238. Registers and receivers, in addition to their salaries, sliall
be allowed each the following fees and commissions, namely :
First. A fee of one dollar for each declaratory statement filed atid
for services in acting on pre-emption claims.
Second. A commission of one per centum on all moneys received at
each receiver's oflRce.
^ Third. A commission to be paid by the homestead applicant, at the
time of entry, of one per centum on the cash price, as fixed by law, of
the land applied for; and a like commission when the claim is finally
est'Eblished, and the certificate therefor issued as the basis of a patent.
Fourth. The same commission on lands entered under any law to
encourage the growth of timber on western prairies, as allowed when
the like quantity of land is.entered with money.
The fourth and last paragraph above quoted is taken from the so-
called "Timber-Culture act" of March 3, 1873 (17 Stat., 606, sec. 6),t
entitled *'An Act to encourage the Growth of Timber on western
Prairies." The reference to "land • • • entered with money " is
to land pre-empted at the "minimum price," which is $1.25 per acre
(Bev. Stat., 2259, 2357).
IL If the fourth paragraph of section 2238 of the Revised Statutes
remains in force, it is clear, that, by virtue of this and the second and
third paragraphs of said sectio^. registers and receivers are each en-
titled to be paid by the nnite^[4l|te8 a commission of one per cent.,
or four dollars, on each quarter stulfon of land entered under the "Tim-
m. But the fourth paragraph of section 2238 of the Revised Statutes
is entirely superseded. The act of March 13, 1874 (18 Stat., 21), entitled
"An act to amend the act [March 3, 1873, 17 Stat, 605] entitled <An
act to encourage the growth of timber on western prairies,'" after the
uaoal enacting clause, provides :
* For the " table of fees and commissions '' above referred to, see District Land-
Office Case, 2 Lawrence, Compt. Dec., Sd ed., 426.
t The proviflions of tbis act, excepting the seyenth section, are carried into the
Be vised Statntes thus : Sec. 1 of tbe act into sec. 2464 of the Revised Statutes ; sec.
2 of the act into sees. 2466, 2466 of the Revised Statntes ; sec. 3 of the act into sec. 2467
of tbe Revised Statntes ; sec. 4 of tbe act into sec. 2317 of the Revised Statntes ; sec.
5 of tbe act into sec. 2468 of the Revised Statntes, and sec. 6 of tbe act into tbe
fourth paragraph of sec. SS38 of tbe Revised Statntes ; and tbe provisions of sec. 7
of tbe act, omitted from tbe Revised Statntes, were re-enacted in sec. 7 of the act
of March 13, 1874 (18 Stat., 21). The sections 2317, 2464, 2465, 2466, 2467, 246^, and
the fonrth paragraph of section 2238 of the Revised Statntes are superseded by the
repeal of the act of March 3, 1873.
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4 First Camptrollei^s Office^ Treasury Department.
"That the act entitled <An act to eucoarage the growth of timber on
weatern prairies,' approved March third, eighteen hundred und seventy-
three, be, and the same is hereby, amend^ so aa to read as follows :
Then follow the eight sections of the new act. Its provisions indi-
cate a purpose to give additional inducements to make entries of lands
and to cultivate timber thereon. Section 2 of the later act requi/es each
person applying for the benefit of the act to pay to the proper register
and receiver ten dollars (which is for the Government and not the offi-
cer), as did the act of March 3, 1873, and section six provides "that
the registers and receivers of the several [district] land-offices shall
each be entitled to receive [from the applicants] two dollars at the time
of entry, and the same sum when the claim is finally established and
theflnal certificate issued." These sums are called " commissions'' in the
"Table of fees and commissions," and belong to the officers. Several
considerations show that this act entirely superseded the act of March
1. The first provision in the act of March 13, 1874, declaring that the
act of March 3, 1873, "be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to
read as follows," operates per se, and by the necessary effect of the
words employed, to supersede the prior act. This is settled in princi-
ple in Steamboat Company v. The Collector (18 Wall., 478).
2. The act of March 13, 1874, is perfect in itself, and does not need
any provision of the act of March 3, 1873, to execute It.
3. The purpose of the act of Maich 13, 1874, to supersede that pro-
vision of the act of March 3, 1873, which gave to registers and receivers
the right to a commission of one per centum each, is shown by the fa«t
that, the said act of March 13, 1874 (1) omits the provision of the act
of March 3, 1873, as to commission and, (2) in lieu thereof, inserts
another provision, not in the act of IHnph 3, 1873, requiring payment by
applicants of " two dollars at the tlMrof entry," and of " the same sum
when the claim is finally established and the final certificate issued."
Thus, under the act of March 3, 1873, the register and receiver each was
entitled, both "at the time of entry," and also "when the claim is [was]
finally established, and the certificate therefor issued," to a commission
of one per cent, on the minimum cash price of lands entered, but under
the act of March 13, 1874, each is entitled to four dollars fees, called
commissions in the fee bill, and not authorized by the act of March 3,
4. The eighth section of the act of March 13, 1874, recognizes the
supersedure by providing:
* Under the act of March 3, 1872, the compenBation of regUters and receiveis in
Washington Territory was one dollar and fifty cents each for each declaratory state-
ment, and five dollars each for final certificates for 160 acres of land, ten dollars each
for 320 acres, and fifteen dollars each for 640 acres, and one per oentum commissions.
Under the act of March 13, 1874, their compensation is two dollars each at the time
of entry, irrespective of area, and two dollars each when the claim is finally estab-
lished. The act of June 14, 1878 (20 Stat., 113), continues the latter compensation.
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Commissions of Registers and Receivers — Timber- Culture- Act Case. 5
"That parties who have already made entries under the act ap-
proved March third, eighteen hundred and seventy-three, of which this
is amendatory, shall be permitted to complete the same upon full com-
pliance with the provisions of this act."
This assumes that, without this provision, the inchoate rights ac-
quired under the act of March 3, 1873, would be left without authority
to x>erfect them, or be wholly swept away. This provision would be
unnecessary, if the act of March 3, 1873, remained in force.
5. The act of March 13, 1874, is a revision of the whole subject of