Morris and Johnson v. United States - 74 U.S. 578 (1868)
U.S. Supreme Court
Morris and Johnson v. United States, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 578 578 (1868)
Morris and Johnson v. United States
74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 578
1. An information under the Acts of August 6, 1861, and July 17, 1862, which presents only a case of the unlawful conversion of property to the use of the persons proceeded against, cannot be sustained.
2. Neither the act of 1861 nor the act of 1862 contemplates any proceeding, as in admiralty, where there existed no specific property or proceeds capable of seizure and capture.
By an Act of Congress of August 6, 1861, property used in aid of the rebellion was made the lawful subject of prize and capture wherever found, and it was made the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be seized, confiscated, and condemned. And a subsequent Act, that of 17 July, 1862, authorized the seizure and confiscation of the property of certain persons engaged in the rebellion.
These statutes being in force, an information was exhibited in this case in the court below, alleging, in substance, that certain bales of cotton had become the property of the
United States through the surrender of the Confederate General Taylor, on the 5th of May, 1865, or otherwise had become liable to seizure and condemnation under the acts of Congress just mentioned; that this cotton was stored, until some day in April not specified, in the warehouse of the defendant, Johnson; and on some day, not specified, in the year 1865, was removed by him and the defendant, Morris, from the warehouse and sold; and that the said defendants had appropriated the proceeds to their own use. The information did not allege that the cotton was at the time or had ever been in any place where it could be seized, or that any proceeds of the sale existed in any such form as to be capable of seizure.
The defendants answered, setting up various matters of defense, and filed with their answer several exceptions to the information, of which two only, as this Court considered, required notice.
The first was that the information did not show any valid and subsisting seizure at the time of filing the information.
The second was that the information did not allege any seizure under the acts of Congress.
These exceptions were overruled by the district court, which proceeded to render a personal judgment against the defendants for the value of the cotton as found by the court. From this decree the defendants appealed.