Hazlett v. United States - 115 U.S. 291 (1885)


U.S. Supreme Court

Hazlett v. United States, 115 U.S. 291 (1885)

Hazlett v. United States

Argued October 23, 1885

Decided November 2, 1885

115 U.S. 291

Syllabus

A person who, by a contract made with him by the Quartermaster's Department of the army in behalf of the United States, agrees to furnish all the steamboat transportation required by the United States for officers and soldiers between certain places and to certain Indian posts and agencies during a certain time, and to

"receive from the officers or agents of the Quartermaster's Department all such military, Indian, and government stores, supplies, wagons and stock as may be offered or turned over to him for transportation in good order and condition by said officers or agents of the Quartermaster's Department, and transport the same with dispatch, and deliver them in like good order and condition to the officer or agent of the Quartermaster's Department designated to receive them,"

at a certain rate is not entitled to claim compensation for Indian supplies, never in the charge of the Quartermaster's Department for transportation, transported between places named in the contract, by another person under a contract between him and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, although during the same time some Indian supplies are delivered by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Quartermaster's Department, and by that department turned over to the claimant for transportation at the rate specified in his contract.

The foundation of this action is a written agreement of February 17, 1870, between the United States and the appellant, who was claimant below, in relation to the transportation by him at specified rates of military, Indian, and government stores, supplies, wagons, and stock.

Article I of the written agreement, on which the controversy arose, was as follows:

"[Article I. That the said Hiram K. Hazlett shall furnish all the steamboat transportation required by the United States government for officers and soldiers on the Missouri River from St. Louis, Mo., Wyandotte and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Omaha, Neb., to Sioux City, Iowa, and Fort Benton, M.T., and the posts or Indian agencies between Sioux City and Fort Benton, and which are mentioned in the tabular statement hereto annexed, and from Sioux City, Iowa, Yankton Agency, Fort Randall, Whetstone, Lower Brules, and Crow Creek agencies,

Page 115 U. S. 292

Fort Sully, Big Cheyenne, and Grand River agencies, Forts Rice, Stevenson, and Buford, D.T., and Camp Cooke, M.T., to any or all the posts or Indian agencies that are above each respectively at any time from March 20th, 1870, to October 31st, 1870, and shall receive at any time during said period, from the officers or agents of the Quartermaster's Department at St. Louis, Mo., or any point between St. Louis and Fort Benton mentioned in the tabular statement hereto annexed, all such military, Indian, and government stores, supplies, wagons, and stock as may be offered or turned over to him for transportation in good order and condition by said officers or agents of the Quartermaster's Department, and transport the same with dispatch, and deliver them in like good order and condition to the officer or agent of the Quartermaster's Department designated to receive them at Sioux City, Iowa, or any of the posts or Indian agencies above that point mentioned in the annexed tabular statement, all stores, supplies, wagons, and stock to be delivered at their destination within the year eighteen hundred and seventy, it being expressly understood that the contractor shall furnish the required transportation from any of the posts, stations, or Indian agencies mentioned in this article to any post, station, or Indian agency that may be established on the Missouri River between Sioux City, Iowa, and Fort Benton, D.T. (if any one or more of the posts or Indian agencies named in this agreement are situated between the point of departure and the point of delivery) at the rate herein provided for transportation, from the point of departure to the nearest post or Indian agency named in this agreement below the point of delivery -- added to the rate to be fixed for the additional distance from such nearest post or Indian agency to the point of delivery -- the rate of such additional distance to be the same per mile as from the point of departure to the nearest post or Indian agency named in this agreement to the point of delivery. In case, however, none of the posts or Indian agencies named in this agreement is situated between the point of departure and the point of delivery, then the transportation shall be furnished at the same rate per mile as from the point of departure to the nearest post or Indian agency

Page 115 U. S. 293

named in this agreement above the point of delivery. The distances in all cases are to be determined by the Chief Q. M. Mil. Div., Mo. For the faithful performance of the above service, the contractor shall be paid in the manner hereinafter provided in Article XII of this agreement and at the rates specified and shown in the tabular statement and remarks or memoranda hereto annexed, as signed by the parties to this agreement, which statement and remarks or memoranda are considered a part hereof."

A finding of the Court of Claims, which also affects the controversy, will be found in the opinion, post, pp. 115 U. S. 298-299.]

The appellant received full compensation for all services actually performed by him. But he contended that he was entitled to transport certain Indian stores and supplies, which were delivered, against his protest, to the Northwest Transportation Company for transportation to posts and agencies included in his contract. The supplies and stores last named were transported under a written contract made without advertisement by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in September, 1870, at higher rates than those allowed the claimant. If they had been transported by him under his contract, he would have realized a large profit, after deducting what it would have cost to do the work, and also a reasonable sum for being relieved from the care, trouble, responsibility, and risk attending such service. Although fully prepared and offering to transport them, the officers of the Indian Bureau refused to turn them over to him. This, he contended, was a breach of his contract. The court below adjudged that the law was with the government and dismissed the petition, from which judgment the claimant appealed. He now insists that the judgment proceeded upon an erroneous construction of his contract, and was also inconsistent with the practical interpretation given to its provisions by officers of the government immediately charged with its execution.

Page 115 U. S. 296



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