Blagge v. Balch
162 U.S. 439 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Blagge v. Balch, 162 U.S. 439 (1896)

Blagge v. Balch

Nos. 177, 284, 207

Argued and submitted March 24-25, 1896

Decided April 18, 1896

162 U.S. 439




The proviso in the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 540, 26 Stat. 908,

"That in all cases where the original sufferers were adjudicated bankrupts, the awards shall be made on behalf of the next of kin instead of to assignees in bankruptcy, and the awards in the cases of individual claimants shall not be paid until the Court of Claims shall certify to the Secretary of the Treasury that the personal representative on whose behalf the award is made represents the next of kin, and the courts which granted the administrations, respectively, shall have certified that the legal representatives have given adequate security for the legal disbursement of the awards,"

purposely brought the payments thus prescribed within the category of payments by way of gratuity and grace, and not as of right as against the government.

Congress intended the next of kin to be beneficiaries in every case, and the express limitation to this effect excludes creditors, legatees, assignees and all strangers to the blood.

The words "next of kin," as used in the proviso, mean next of kin living at the date of the act, to be determined according to the statutes of distribution of the respective states of the domicil of the original sufferers.

The said Act of March 3, 1891, c. 540, 26 Stat. 908, clearly indicates the judgment of Congress that the next of kin, for the purposes of succession, should be the beneficiaries, as most in accord with the theory of the appropriations.

These are writs of error to review judgments of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in Nos. 177 and 284, and a judgment of the Superior Court of the County of New Haven, Connecticut, in No. 207.

Plaintiffs in error in No. 177 are administrators de bonis non

Page 162 U. S. 440

with the will annexed of the estate of Crowell Hatch, deceased, late of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and defendant in error is administrator de bonis non with the will annexed of the estate of Henry Hatch, deceased.

Crowell Hatch died in the year 1805, leaving three daughters and one son, Henry Hatch. By his will, all his property was given in equal shares to the four children. Of each of the three daughters there are descendants now living. The son died, leaving a widow, but no issue, and left by his will the residue of his estate to his widow, who did not afterwards marry. Crowell Hatch was never bankrupt, and his estate and the estates of his four children have always been, and are, solvent. Plaintiffs in error, as administrators of the estate of Crowell Hatch, have received from the United States certain moneys for the loss of the brig Mary, being one of the claims on account of the spoliations committed by the French government prior to July 31, 1801, which were reported to Congress by the Court of Claims pursuant to the statute of the United States of January 20, 1885, 23 Stat. 283, c. 25, and for the payment of which Congress made appropriation by the statute of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 862, c. 540. By the statutes of Massachusetts in force when Crowell Hatch died, his estate, after the payment of debts and the expenses of administration, would have been distributed, if intestate, equally among his children. St. 1789, c. 2, v. 2, p. 30; Stat. 1805, c. 90,

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