Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

The United States v. Ferreira.

an appeal does not lié in this case, but think we may with propriety present such views on the subject, and refer to such authorities, as in our judgment in any manner bear upon the question, and which will enable the court the more readily to apprehend and decide it.

The question now strictly before the court involves the nature of the claim, and the character of the tribunal whose decision is here for revision. We will, therefore, consider it in this order, and —

1st. As to the nature of the claim; is it, and is the class to which it belongs, the proper subject of judicial investigation and decision ?

(Then followed an explanation of the case, after which the inference was drawn.)

There can be, therefore, no objection to the ordinary jurisdiction of the courts of the United States arising from the nature of these claims. They are proper subjects for the investigation of courts of justice, involving as they do questions touching the rights of property and injuries thereto. They fall properly within the jurisdiction of courts of the United States, as the judicial inquiry, and the rights to which it refers, arise out of treaty stipulations, and acts of Congress to carry the treaty into effect.

They are, therefore, wholly unlike the duties attempted to be imposed by the act of March 3, 1792, on the Circuit and District Courts, relative to pensions, and which they refused to perform because they were not judicial, holding the act for that, among other things, unconstitutional and void. Vide 2 Dall. Rep. 410, note.

Whatever analogy, therefore, may be found in other respects, or if not found, made by construction, between the act of 1792 and that of 1823, they differ wholly in this, that the duty imposed by that act was not judicial in its nature; in this, it is strictly so; and the instructions of the legislature to the judicial tribunals on whom the duty is imposed “ to receive, examine, and adjudge,” is an explicit instruction to perform that duty judically.

II. We have next to consider the character of the tribunal whose decision is before this court for revision; and on this point several inquiries suggest themselves : :

1st. Was it a mere con mission, not judicial in its character, whose decision might he taken up to, and revised by, the Secretary of the Treasury in his capacity as an executive officer ?

2d. Or was it a judicial tribunal, part of a judicial system, created by the acts of 1823 and 1834, under the treaty, which acted and decided judicially, but from which an appeal lay, not to this court, but to the Secretary of the Treasury, as the highest The United States v. Ferreira.

appellate tribunal in that special system created under the treaty by those statutes ?

3d. Or was it a judicial tribunal whose decision was final in all cases coming within the special jurisdiction conferred upon it under the treaty ?

4th. Or was it an ordinary judicial tribunal, from which, in these as in other cases, an'appeal lies to this court ?

(Upon each of these questions the argument was very elaborate.)

IIÍ. Then arises the question, is the decision final, or does an appeal lie from it to this court?

There is nothing in the nature of the case itself, or the mode of proceeding directed by the acts of 1823 and 1834, which tends to settle this question. If the United States had not assumed the satisfaction of these injuries, suits would have been brought against the trespassers in the usual form, and a writ of error would have lain to revise the judgments. But the United States assumes the liability, agrees by treaty to open her courts, and allow the injuries to be established by her legal process, and binds herself to make satisfaction for the injuries, if any, which shall be so established. But the United States is not formally made defendant on the record; this, was not directed by the acts of Congress, but the claims were presented to the tribunals which she designated to receive, examine, and adjudge” them. They were claims against the United States, and it is not a matter of substance whether she was named on the record as defendant or not; they were, nevertheless, " cases," within the legal mean. ing of the term; whether belonging to that numerous class of cases called in the books ex parte, or the still more numerous class of cases inter partes, is immaterial. But what militates against the right of appeal is the provision, that the judges shall report their decision to the Secretary of the Treasury, who shall “pay the amount thereof."

But, on the other hand, we perceive nothing in these statutes to cut off an appeal, if the decision be against the claimant. The case before the court was prosecuted in, and decided by, the District Court of Florida, and there seems to be no other reason, than that named, why the general law authorizing appeals from those courts should not extend to and embrace this case. If, however, an appeal do not lie, it must be, as we think, because the decision of the judge of the District Court of Florida was final, not because the Secretary of the Treasury is the appellate tribunal.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the court. This purports to be an appeal from the District Court of the

The United States v. Ferreira.

United States for the Northern District of, Florida. The case brought before the court is this :

The treaty of 1819 by which Spain ceded Florida to the United States, contains the following stipulation in the 9th article.

“ The United States shall cause satisfaction to be made for the injuries if any, which by process of law shall be established to have been suffered by the Spanish officers and individual Spanish inhabitants by the late operations of the American army in Florida.”

In 1823 Congress passed an act to carry into execution this article of the treaty. The 1st section of this law authorizes the judges of the superior courts established at St. Augustine and Pensacola respectively, to receive and adjust all claims arising within their respective jurisdictions, agreeably to the provisions of the article of the treaty above mentioned ; and the 2d section provides “ that in all cases where the judges shall decide in favor of the claimants the decisions, with the evidence on which they are founded, shall be by the said judges reported to the Secretary of the Treasury, who on being satisfied that the same is just and equitable, .within the provisions of the treaty, shall pay the amount thereof to the person or persons in whose favor the same is adjudged.”

Under this law the Secretary of the Treasury held that it did not apply to injuries suffered from the causes inentioned in the treaty of 1812 and 1813, but to those of a subsequent period. And in conseqence of this decision, another law was passed in 1834, extending the provisions of the former act to injuries suffered in 1812 and 1813, but limiting the time for presenting the claiins to one year from the passage of the act. This law embraced the claim of the present claimant.

He did not, however, present his claim within the time limited. And in 1849 a special law was passed authorizing the District Judge of the United States for the Northern District of Florida, to receive and adjudicate this claim and that of certain other persons mentioned in the law, under the act of 1834; the several claims to be settled by the Treasury as in other cases under the said act. Florida had become a State of the Union in 1849, and therefore the District Judge was substituted in the place of the territorial officer.

Ferreira presented his claim according to the District Judge, who took the testimony offered to support it, and decided that the amount stated in the proceedings was due to him. The District Attorney of the United States, prayed an appeal to this court, from this decision; and under that prayer the case has been docketed here as an appeal from the District Court.

Sestimony offercoceedings wased an appeal to has who took the stated in the lited States, pra prayer the ci

The United States v. Ferreira.

The only question now before us is whether we have any jurisdiction in the case. And in order to determine that question we must examine the nature of the proceeding, before the District Judge, and the character of the decision from which this appeal has been taken.

The treaty certainly created no tribunal by which these damages were to be adjusted, and gives no authority to any court of justice to inquire into or adjust the amount which the United States were to pay to the respective parties who had suffered damage from the causes mentioned in the treaty. It rested with Congress to provide one, according to the treaty stipulation. But when that tribunal was appointed it derived its whole authority from the law creating it, and not from the treaty; and Congress had the right to regulate its proceedings and limit its power; and to subject its decisions to the control of an appelate tribunal, if it deemed it advisable to do so.

Undoubtedly Congress was bound to provide such a tribunal as the treaty described. But if they failed to fulfil that promise, it is a question between the United States and Spain. The tribunal created to adjust the claims cannot change the mode of proceeding or the character in which the law authorizes it to act, under any opinion it may entertain, that a different mode of proceeding, or a tribunal of a different character, would better comport with the provisions of the treaty. If it acts at all, it acts under the authority of the law and must obey the law.

The territorial judges therefore, in adjusting these claims, derived their authority altogether from the laws above mentioned; and their decisions can be entitled to no higher respect or authority than these laws gave them. They are referred by the act of 1823, to the treaty for the description of the injury which the law requires them to adjust; but not to enlarge the power which the law confers, nor to change the character in which the law authorizes them to act.

The law of 1823, therefore, and not the stipulations of the treaty, furnishes the rule for the proceeding of the territorial judges, and determines their character. And it is manifest that this power to decide upon the validity of these claims, is not conferred on them as a judicial function, to be exercised in the ordinary forms of a court of justice. For there is to be no suit; no parties in the legal acceptance of the term, are to be made

- no process to issue; and no one is authorized to appear on behalf of the United States, or to summon witnesses in the case.

The proceeding is altogether ex parte ; and all that the judge is required to do, is to receive the claim when the party presents it, and to adjust it upon such evidence as he may have before him, or be able himself to obtain. But neither the evidence, nor The United States v. Ferreira.

his award, are to be filed in the court in which he presides, nor recorded there; but he is required to transmit, both the decision and the evidence upon which he decided, to the Secretary of the Treasury; and the claim is to be paid if the Secretary thinks it just and equitable, but not otherwise. It is to be a debt from the United States upon the decision of the Secretary, but not upon that of the judge.

It is too evident for argument on the subject, that such a tribunal is not a judicial one, and that the act of Congress did not intend to make it one. The authority conferred on the respective judges was nothing more than that of a commissioner to adjust certain claims against the United States; and the office of judges, and their respective jurisdictions, are referred to in the law, merely as a designation of the persons to whom the author. ity is confided, and the territorial limits to which it extends. The decision is not the judgment of a court of justice. It is the award of a commissioner. The act of 1834 calls it an award. And an appeal to this court from such a decision, by such an authority from the judgment of a court of record, would be an anomaly in the history of jurisprudence. An appeal might as well have been taken from the awards of the board of commis. sioners, under the Mexican treaty, which were recently sitting in this city.

Nor can we see any ground for objection to the power of re. vision and control given to the Secretary of the Treasury. When the United States consent to submit the adjustment of claims against them to any tribunal, they have a right to prescribe the conditions on which they will pay. And they had a right therefore to make the approval of the award by the Secretary of the Treasury, one of the conditions upon which they would agree to be liable. No claim, therefore, is due from the United States until it is sanctioned by him; and his decision against the claimant for the whole or a part of a claim as allowed by the judge is final and conclusive. It cannot afterwards be disturbed by an appeal to this or any other court, or in any other way, without the authority of an act of Congress.

It is said, however, on the part of the claimant, that the treaty requires that the injured parties should have an opportunity of establishing their claims by a process of law; that process of law ráeans a judicial proceeding in a court of justice; and that the right of supervision given to the Secretary, over the decision of the District Judge, is therefore a violation of the treaty.

The court think differently; and that the government of this country is not liable to the reproach of having broken its faith with Spain. The tribunals established are substantially the same with those usually created, where one nation agrees by

« ZurückWeiter »