Converse v. United States
62 U.S. 463

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U.S. Supreme Court

Converse v. United States, 62 U.S. 21 How. 463 463 (1858)

Converse v. United States

62 U.S. (21 How.) 463

Syllabus

1. The provisions in the appropriation acts of 1849 and 1850 &c., must be construed in connection with the previous laws in relation to the same subject matter.

2. A compensation for extra services where no certain compensation is fixed by law cannot be allowed by the head of a department to any officer of the government who has by law a fixed or certain compensation for his services in the office he holds. Nor can it be allowed by the court or jury as a setoff in a suit brought by the United States against an officer for public money in his hands.

3. No allowance beyond his fixed compensation can be made except for the performance of certain duties required by law to be performed, for which the law grants a certain compensation to be paid, and which have no connection with the duties of the office he holds.

4. The Secretary of the Treasury, under the acts of Congress above mentioned, was authorized to appoint an agent to purchase all the supplies necessary for the lighthouse service throughout the United States, and to make the necessary disbursements therefor. And such agent was entitled to a compensation of two and a half percent on the amount disbursed, and the money was appropriated to pay it.

5. The secretary had a right, under these laws, to select as agent anyone already holding office if he supposed him to be best qualified for the duty. But he had

Page 62 U. S. 464

no right to order a collector of the revenue, or any other officer of the government, to perform this duty without compensation outside of the lighthouse district of which he was superintendent, or outside of and alien to the office he held.

6. The collector of Boston, having been the agent selected by the Treasury Department to purchase supplies for the lighthouse service throughout the United States, and to make the disbursements, is entitled to the compensation fixed by law for this service, so far as it was outside of his district and beyond the limits to which his duties as an officer extended.

7. It has not been the policy of the United States to give unlimited power to the heads of departments over the subordinate officers of the government whose salaries and duties are regulated by law.

The case is explained in the opinion of the Court.

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