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The United States v. Ferreira.

treaty to pay debts or damages which may be found to be due to the citizens of another country. This treaty meant nothing more than the tribunal and mode of proceeding ordinarily established on such occasions; and well known and well understood when treaty obligations of this description are undertaken. But if it were admitted to be otherwise, it is a question between Spain and that department of the government which is cmarged with our foreign relations; and with which the judicial branch has no concern. Certainly the tribunal which acts under the law of Congress, and derives all its authority from it, cannot call in question the validity of its provisions, nor claim absolute and final power for its decisions, when the law by virtue of which the decisions are made, declares that they shall not be final, but subordinate to that of the Secretary of the Treasury, and subject to his reversal.

And if the judicial branch of the government had the right to look into the construction of the treaty in this respect, and was of opinion that it required a judicial proceeding; and that the power given to the Secretary was void as in violation of the treaty, it would hardly strengthen the case of the claimant on this appeal. For the proceedings before the judge are as little judicial in their character as that before the Secretary. And if his decisions are void on that account, the decisions of the judge are open to the same objections; and neither the principal nor interest, nor any part of this claim could be paid at the Treasury: For if the tribunal is unauthorized, the awards are of no value.

The powers conferred by these acts of Congress upon the judge as well as the Secretary, are, it is true, judicial in their nature. For judgment and discretion must be exercised by both of them. But it is nothing more than the power ordinarily given by law to a commissioner appainted to adjust claims to lands or money under a treaty, or special powers to inquire into or decide any other particular class of controversies in which the public or individuals may be concerned. A power of this description may constitutionally be conferred on a Secretary as well as on a commissioner. But is not judicial in either case, in the sense in which judicial power is granted by the Constitution to the courts of the United States.

The proceeding we are now considering, did not take place before one of the territorial judges, but before a District Judge of the United States. But that circumstance can make no difference. For the act of 1849, authorizes him to receive and adjudicate the claims of the persons mentioned in the law, under the act of 1834; and provides that these claims may be settled by the Treasury, as other cases under the said act. It conferred on the District Judge, therefore, the same power, and the same character,

The United States v. Ferreira.

and imposed on him the same duty that had been conferred and imposed on the territorial judges before Florida became a State.

It would seem, indeed, in this case, that the District Judge acted under the erroneous opinion that he was exercising judicial power strictly speaking under the Constitution, and has given to these proceedings as much of the form of proceedings in a court of justice as was practicable. A petition in form is filed by the claimant; and the judge states in his opinion that the District Attorney appeared for the United States, and argued the case, and prayed an appeal. But the acts of Congress require no petition. The claimant had nothing to do, but to present his claim to the judge with the vouchers and evidence to support it. The District Attorney had no right to enter an appearance for the United States, so as to make them a party to the proceedings, and to authorize a judgment against them. It was no doubt his duty as a public officer, if he knew of any evidence against the claim, or of any objection to the evidence produced by the claimant, to bring it before the judge, in order that he might consider it, and report it to the Secretary. But the acts of Congress certainly do not authorize him to convert a proceeding before a commissioner into a judicial one, nor to bring an appeal from his award before this court.

The question as to the character in which a judge acts in a case of this description, is not a new one. It arose as long ago as 1792, in Hayburn's case, reported in 2 Dall. 409.

The act of 23d of March, in that year, required the Circuit Courts of the United States to examine into the claims of the officers and soldiers and seamen of the Revolution, to the pensions granted to invalids by that act, and to determine the amount of pay that would be equivalent to the disability incurred, and to certify their opinion to the Secretary of War. And it authorized the Secretary, when he had cause to suspect imposition or mistake, to withhold the pension allowed by the court, and to report the case to Congress at its next session The authority was given to the Circuit Courts; and a question arose whether the power conferred was a judicial one, which the Circuit Courts, as such, could constitutionally exercise.

The question was not decided in the Supreme Court in the case above mentioned. But the opinions of the judges of the Circuit Courts for the Districts of New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, are all given in a note to the case by the reporter.

The judges in the New York Circuit, composed of Chief Justice Jay, Justice Cushing, and Duane, District Judge, held that the power could not be exercised by them as a court. But in



The United States v. Ferreira.

consideration of the meritorious and benevolent object of the law, they agreed to construe the power as conferred on them individually as commissioners, and to adjourn the court over from time to time, so as to enable them to perform the duty in the character of commissioners, and out of court.

The judges of the Pennsylvania Circuit, consisting of Wilson and Blair, Justices of the Supreme Court, and Peters, District Judge, refused to execute it altogether, upon the ground that it was conferred on them as a court, and was not a judicial power when subject to the revision of the Secretary of War and Congress.

The judges of the Circuit Court of North Carolina, composed of Iredell, Justice of the Supreme Court, and Sitgreaves, District Judge, were of opinion that the court could not execute it as a judicial power; and held it under advisement whether they might not construe the act as an appointment of the judges personally as commissioners, and perform the duty in the character of commissioners out of court, as had been agreed on by the judges of the New York Circuit.

These opinions, it appears by the report in 2 Dall., were all communicated to the President, and the motion for a mandamus in Hayburn's case, at the next term of -- the Supreme Court, would seem to have been made merely for the purpose of having it judicially determined in this court, whether the judges, under 'that law, were authorized to act in the character of commission

For every judge of the court, except Thomas Johnson, whose opinion is not given, had formally expressed his opinion, in writing, that the duty imposed, when the decision was subject to the revision of a Secretary and of Congress, could not be executed by the court as a judicial power: and the only ques. tion upon which there appears to have been any difference of opinion, was whether it might not be construed as conferring the power on the judges personally as commissioners. And if it would bear that construction, there seems to have been no doubt, at that time, but that they might constitutionally exercise it, and the Secretary constitutionally revise their decisions. The law, however, was repealed at the next session of the legislature, and a different way provided for the relief of the pensioners: and the question as to the construction of the law was not decided in the Supreme Court. But the repeal of the act clearly shows that the President and Congress acquiesced in the correctness of the decision, that it was not a judicial power.

This law, is the same in principle with the one we are now considering, with this difference only, that the act of 1792 im. posed the duty on the court eo nomine, and not personally on the judges. In the case before us it is imposed upon the judge, and


The Urited States v. Ferreira.

it appears from the note to the case of Hayburn, that a majority of the judges of the Supreme Court were of opinion that if the law of 1792 had conferred the power on the judges, they would have held that it was given to them personally by that description; and would have performed the duty as commissioners, subject to the revision and control of the Secretary and Congress, as provided in the law. Nor have Justices Wilson, Blair, and Peters, District Judges, dissented from this opinion. Their communication to the President is silent upon this point. But the opinions of all the judges embrace distinctly and positively the provisions of the law now before us, and declare that, under such a law, the power was not judicial within the grant of the Constitution, and could not be exercised as such.

Independently of these objections, we are at some loss to understand how this case could legally be transmitted to this court, and certified as the transcript of a record in the District Court. According to the directions of the act of Congress, the decision of the judge and the evidence on which it is founded, ought to have been transmitted to the Secretary of the Treasury. They are not to remain in the District Court, nor to be recorded there. They legally belong to the office of the Secretary of the Treasury, and not to the court; and a copy from the clerk of the latter would not be evidence in any court of justice. There is no record of the proceedings in the District Court of which a transcript can legally be made and certified ind consequently there is no transcript now before us that we an recognize as evidence of any proceeding or judgment in taat court.

A question might arise whether commissioners appointed to adjust these claims, are not officers of the United States within the meaning of the Constitution. The duties to be performed are entirely alien to the legitimate functions of a judge or court of justice, and have no analogy to the general or special powers ordinarily and legally conferred on judges or courts to secure the due administration of the laws. And, if they are to be regarded as officers, holding offices under the government, the power of appointment is in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the senate; and Congress could not by law, designate the persons to fill these offices. And if this be the construction of the Constitution, then as the judge designated could not act in a judicial character as a court, nor as a commissioner, because he was not appointed by the President, every thing that has been done under the acts of 1823, and 1834, and 1819, would be void, and the payments heretofore made, might be recovered back by the United States. But this question has not been made; nor does it arise in the case. It could arise only in a suit by the United States to recover back the money. And


The United States v. Ferreira.


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as the case does not present it, and the parties interested are not before the court, and these laws have for so many years been acted on as valid and constitutional we do not think it proper to express an opinion upon it. In the case at bar, the power of the judge to decide in the first instance, is assumed on both sides, and the controversy has turned upon the power of the Secretary to revise it; and it is in this aspect of the case, that it has been considered by the court, in the foregoing opinion.

The appeal must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.


This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record-from the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Florida, and was argued by counsel.

On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this court, that this cause be, and the same is hereby dismissed for the want of jurisdiction.

NOTE BY THE CHIEF JUSTICE, INSERTED BY ORDER OF THE COURT. Since the aforegoing opinion was delivered, the attention of the court has been drawn to the case of the United States v. Yale Todd, which arose under the act of 1792, and was decided in the Supreme Court, February 17, 1794. There was no official reporter at that time, and this case has not been printed. It shows the opinion of the court upon a question which was left in doubt by the opinions of the ditferen“ judges, stated in the note to Hayburn's case. And as the subject is one of much interest, and concerns the nature and extent of judicial power, the substance of the decision in Yale Todd's case is inserted here, in order that it may not be overlooked, if similar questions should hereafter arise.

The 2d, 3d, and 4th sections of the act of 1792, were repealed at the next session of Congress by the act of February 28, 1793. It was these three sections that gave rise to the questions stated in the note to Hayburn's case. The repealing act provided another mode for taking testimony, and deciding won the validity of claims to the pensiors granted by the former law; and by the 3d section it saved all rights to pensions which might be founded “ upon any legal adjudication,” under the act of 1792, and made it the duty of the Secretary of War, in conjunction with the AttorneyGeneral, to take such measures as might be necessary to obtain an adjudication of the Supreme Court, “on the validity of such rights, claimed under the act aforesaid, by the determination of certain persons styling themselves commissioners."

It appears from this case, that Chief Justice Jay and Justice Cushing acted upon their construction of the act of 1792, immediately after its passage and before it was repcaled. And the saving and proviso, in the act of 1793, was manifestly occasioned by the difference of opinion upon that question which existed among the justices, and was introduced for the purpose of having it determined, whether under the act conferring the power upon the Circuit Courts, the judges of those courts when refusing for the reasons assigned by them to acts as courts, could legally act as commissioners out of court. If the decision of the judges, as commissioners, was a legal adjudication, then the party's right to the pension allowed him was saved ; otherwise not.

In pursuance of this act of Congress, the case of Yale Todd was brought before the Supreme Court, in an amicable action, and upon a case stated at February Term, 1794.

The case was docketed by consent, the United States being plaintiff and Todd the defendant. The declaration was for one hundred and seventy-two dollars and ninetyonc cents, for so much money had and received by the defendant to the use of the United States; to which the defendaj t pleaded non assumpsit.

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