United States v. Seaman - 58 U.S. 225 (1854)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Seaman, 58 U.S. 17 How. 225 225 (1854)
United States v. Seaman
58 U.S. (17 How.) 225
By the Act of Congress passed on the 26th of August, 1852, ch. 91, it was made the duty of the superintendent of public printing to receive all matter ordered by Congress to be printed and to deliver it to the public printer or printers.
In 1854, Beverly Tucker was printer to the Senate, and O. A. P. Nicholson, printer to the House of Representatives.
The act further provided that when any document should be ordered to be printed by both Houses of Congress, the entire printing of such document should be done by the printer of that House which first ordered the printing.
In January, 1854, the Commissioner of Patents communicated to the Senate that portion of his Annual Report for 1853, which related to arts and manufactures, and on the ensuing day the same communication was made to the House of Representatives. Each House having ordered it to be printed, the printing was assigned to Mr. Tucker.
In March, 1854, the agricultural portion of the report was sent to both Houses, and both of them, on the same day, ordered it to be printed. In actual priority of time, the order of the House was passed first. The printing of it was given to Mr. Nicholson.
A writ of mandamus will not lie from the circuit court of the United States, commanding the superintendent to deliver the printing to Mr. Tucker.
Whether the two portions of the report constituted one document and which House passed the order first were questions requiring the exercise of judgment and discretion in the public officer, who had something more than a mere ministerial daty to perform.
The cases upon this point examined.
The question was whether the Report of the Commissioner of Patents relating to arts and manufactures and also to agriculture, which was divided into the two branches and made to Congress at different times, was or was not one document, and
whether the delivery of it to the public printer of one or the other House of Congress was or was not a mere ministerial duty.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.