Williams v. United States
137 U.S. 113 (1890)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. United States, 137 U.S. 113 (1890)

Williams v. United States

No. 46

Argued October 31, November 3, 1890

Decided November 17, 1890

137 U.S. 113

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

Syllabus

The Court of Claims disallowed the claim of the administrator de bonis non of Colonel Francis Taylor, for five years' full pay to Taylor, as a colonel of infantry, under the resolution of the Continental Congress of March 22, 1783 (4 Jour.Cong. 178), holding that he was not in the military service, in the continental line, to the close of the war of the Revolution in 1783. This Court affirms the judgment.

Page 137 U. S. 114

Nor was Colonel Taylor entitled to half pay for life under the resolutions of October 3 and 21, 1780, 3 Jour.Cong. 532, 538, because he was not a "reduced" officer.

He was not entitled to recover under the provisions of the Act of Congress of July 5, 1832, 4 Stat. 563.

Under § 906 of the Revised Statutes, the decision of the Governor of Virginia, made under the Act of that state of March 11, 1834, Laws of 1834, p. 6, p. 22, that Colonel Taylor was a "colonel in the continental line from October 1, 1775, to the close of the war," is not either obligatory in law or conclusive as evidence against the United States.

The Court of Claims did not err in refusing to find that Colonel Taylor "was an officer in the continental service on the 22d day of March, 1783, and continued therein as such officer to the end of the war," whether that was a conclusion of fact or one of law.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE BLATCHFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing the petition of John G. Williams, administrator de bonis non of Francis Taylor, against the United States.

The original petition was filed by George Taylor Jenkins and others, December 8, 1865. After a traverse and an amended petition, an answer was filed to the latter, and also a special plea, and the case was submitted to the court June 10, 1868. On June 15, 1868, a judgment was rendered dismissing the petition. A motion for a new trial was made in December, 1868, and granted in December, 1869. An amended petition was filed in December, 1877, and a traverse thereto, and in February, 1878, the court ordered that John G. Williams, as administrator de bonis non of Francis Taylor, be substituted as the claimant, and he filed on the 18th of April, 1878, the petition which is now before us. A traverse was filed thereto, together with a special plea, to which latter there was a replication. The court entered a judgment on June 7, 1880, dismissing the petition, and filed certain findings of fact

Page 137 U. S. 115

and conclusions of law, with an opinion, which are set forth in the report of the case in 15 Ct.Cl. 514. Those findings embrace identically the findings now before us, to and including finding 10.

On the 7th of September, 1880 at the same term, the claimant filed a motion for a new trial, on the ground of newly discovered evidence. This motion was held over until the 14th of March, 1887, when the court overruled it, giving all opinion, which is reported in 22 Ct.Cl. 116. It also then substituted new findings of fact and conclusions of law instead of the original ones, the findings of fact being the same as the original ones, to and including finding 10, and adding finding 11. On the 16th of May, 1887, it made an order which vacated and set aside the judgment of June 7, 1880, and entered a new judgment nunc pro tunc as of March 14, 1887, dismissing the petition. The appeal of the claimant is for a review of this last judgment.

The amended findings of fact, with the conclusions of law thereon, are as follows:

"1. Francis Taylor was commissioned captain in the second state regiment of the Virginia forces on continental establishment May 8, 1776. He continued in active service, and was promoted and commissioned major in said regiment with rank from July 12, 1778, and he became supernumerary major by the arrangement of the Continental Army at White Plains in September, 1778."

"2. The regiment, commonly designated as the 'Albemarle Guards,' was originally authorized by the Resolution 19th December, 1778, of the House of Delegates of the State of Virginia, but was taken up on continental establishment, under and by virtue of the resolution 9th January, 1779, 3 Jour.Cong. p. 179. From the 9th January to the 5th March, 1779, Francis Taylor was in command of the regiment as lieutenant colonel. On March 5, 1779, he was commissioned as colonel by the Governor of Virginia, and as such commanded said battalion up to the 15th day of June, 1781, when the battalion was disbanded by the discharge of such men as were enlisted to serve only during the continuance of the convention prisoners in the State of Virginia.

Page 137 U. S. 116

"

"3. There is no evidence showing that Colonel Francis Taylor ever resigned his commission in the continental service, or that he was ever otherwise than ready and willing to render service in the same or higher grade when required so to do."

"4. The acceptance of the Virginia line and officers of the commutation offered under the resolution of Congress of March 22, 1783, was made and duly reported as required by the resolution."

"5. Colonel Francis Taylor died on or about the 16th day of November, 1799."

"6. Colonel Francis Taylor was not paid the half pay for life, under the Resolution of Congress of October 21, 1780, and no commutation certificate was issued to him or his heirs in lieu thereof."

"7. Colonel Francis Taylor, during his lifetime, and his heirs and legal representatives since, have made frequent and continuous application to the government and to Congress for the payment of this claim up to the time of bringing this suit, and on the 22d day of January, 1859, a memorial to Congress praying its payment was referred by the House of Representatives to this Court for adjudication. Which resolution is in the words following:"

" Ordered that the petitions and papers in the cases of Dr. Charles Taylor, Colonel Francis Taylor, and James Broadus, be withdrawn from the files of the House, and referred to the Court of Claims."

"House Journal 1858-59, p. 241."

"8. It appears, and the court finds the fact to be, that on the 5th March, 1779, Lieut. Colonel Taylor, then commanding the regiment known as the 'Albemarle Guards,' was commissioned as colonel by the Governor of Virginia, and that he continued to command the regiment with the rank of colonel until it was disbanded. It further appears that the regiment continued in the continental service after the expiration of the year's service designated in the Resolution of 9th January, 1779, 3 Jour.Cong. p. 179, and until the 15th June, 1781, when the regiment was disbanded. It further appears that on the 13th February, 1781, while the Baron Steuben was acting as inspector general of the continental forces, and

Page 137 U. S. 117

was charged with the duty of consolidating and reducing the regiments of the line furnished by Virginia under the resolutions of 3d and 21st October, 1780, 3 Jour.Cong. pp. 532, 538, Mr. Jefferson, then Governor of Virginia, addressed the following official communication to Colonel Taylor:"

"Richmond, Feb. 13, 1781"

" Sir: . . . Congress having determined newly to model their forces, the Baron Steuben is now here on that business."

" The assembly have directed the executive to have the same done as to the state troops."

" Your regiment, being in the continental service, will be submitted to Baron Steuben. Till this be done, which, however, will be done in a few days, no promotions can take place. . . ."

"And on the 14th March, 1781, Mr. Jefferson, as Governor of Virginia, likewise addressed the following official communication to Colonel Taylor:"

"In council, March 14, 1781"

"Colonel F. Taylor."

" Sir: Before this comes to hand, Colonel Woodwill have received orders to carry the conventioners to Knowland's Ferry, thence to be guarded by the State of Maryland."

" At that place, therefore, you will please to discharge such of your regiment as were enlisted to serve only during the continuance of the conventioners in Albemarle, or in this state. . . ."

"It also appears that Mr. Jefferson, while Governor of Virginia, on the 28th of November, 1779, addressed the following communication to the Commander in Chief:"

"Williamsburg, November 28, 1779"

"To his Excellency, General Washington:"

" Sir: Your Excellency's letter on the discriminations which have been heretofore made between the troops raised

Page 137 U. S. 118

within this state, and considered as part of our quota, and those not so considered, was delivered me four days ago. I immediately laid it before the assembly, who thereupon came to the resolution I now send you."

" The resolution of Congress of March 15, 1779, which you were so kind as to enclose, was never known in this state till a few weeks ago, when we received printed copies of the Journal of Congress."

" It would be a great satisfaction to us to receive an exact return of all the men we have in continental service who come within the description of the resolution, together with our state troops in continental service. Colonel Cabell was so kind as to send me a return of the continental regiments commanded by Lord Stirling, of the First and Second Virginia State Regiments, and of Colonel Gist's regiment."

" Besides these are the following, viz.: Colonel Harrison's regiment of artillery; Colonel Baylor's horse; Colonel Bland's horse; General Scott's new levies, part of which are gone to Carolina and a part are here; Colonel Gibson's regiment, stationed on the Ohio; Heath and O'Hare's independent companies at the Stomel Station; Colonel Taylor's regiment of guards to the convention troops. Of these we have a return."

" There may possibly be others not occurring to me."

" A return of all these would enable us to see what proportion of the Continental Army is contributed by us. . . ."

"It further appears that no official records are known to exist which set forth the grounds upon which Colonel Taylor was commissioned as colonel of the Albemarle Guards on the 5th March, 1779, nor any official record which would explain the reason why the said regiment continued in service beyond the year for which it was enlisted under the resolution of 9th January, 1779; nor any official record which would show whether the said regiment, or a portion of it, did or did not reenlist for the war under the resolution of January 23, 1779, 3 Jour.Cong. p. 190; nor any official record which would show whether a portion of the said regiment continued in service after the regiment was disbanded on the 15th June, 1781; nor

Page 137 U. S. 119

any official record which would show that Colonel Taylor was discharged from the service when his regiment was disbanded."

"But it appears from an ancient writing found in the public archives of the State of Virginia, purporting to be the proceedings of 'a board of field officers, begun at Chesterfield, February 10, 1781, by order of Maj. Gen. Baron Steuben, for the purpose of arranging the Virginia line,' that the regiments reduced in the State of Virginia under the resolutions 3d and 21st October, 1780, 3 Jour.Cong. pp. 532-538, were the eleven regiments of the Virginia line, and one regiment of artillery, the former during the month of February being reduced to eight regiments, and that the only colonels mentioned in the said proceedings as reduced were Cols. William Heath and Abraham Buford, two of the twelve regiments being at the time without colonels. It does not appear that any other reduction of Virginia troops took place under the resolutions 3d and 21st October than that at Chesterfield; nor does it appear that the regiment known as the 'Albemarle Guards' was reduced by the Baron Steuben or by any other official authority under the resolutions aforesaid. The ancient writing referred to is among the official papers of the First Auditor's office of the State of Virginia. It is not signed or authenticated by any person, but was placed among the official records not long subsequent to the proceedings of the board, and has always been treated by the officers having it in charge as an authentic record of the proceedings of the board."

"9. No certificate of indebtedness, as prescribed by the resolution March 22, 1783, 4 Jour.Cong. p. 178, was ever issued to Colonel Taylor by the Superintendent of Finance for the commutation of five years' full pay, instead of the half pay for life, given to officers of the Continental Army by the previous resolution, October 21, 1780, nor by the Paymaster General, as prescribed by the resolution 4th July, 1783, 4 Jour.Cong. p. 237."

"On the 30th July, 1783, the State of Virginia, by the Auditor of Public Accounts, pursuant to an Act of Assembly passed at the November session, 1781, 10 Hen.Stat. 462, settled the account of Colonel Taylor for the balance of his full pay, commonly known as 'depreciation pay,' and issued

Page 137 U. S. 120

to him evidence of indebtedness for

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