United States v. Wright
78 U.S. 648

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Wright, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 648 648 (1870)

United States v. Wright

78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 648

Syllabus

Under the 5th section of the Act of March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. at Large 702, which declares that

"Whenever by reason of the presence of a military or naval force near any post office, unusual business accrues thereat, the Postmaster General is hereby required to make a special order allowing proportionately reasonable compensation to the postmaster, and for clerical services,"

the Postmaster General is the sole judge to determine not only whether the exigencies in the case provided for by the act have arisen, but also, in case that he decides that they have, to determine the manner and extent of the allowance to be made. It is not competent for a court or jury to revise his decision.

This was an action by the United States against a principal and his sureties on a postmaster's bond. At the trial, the defendants claimed, by way of setoff, under the 5th section of the Act of March 3, 1863, [Footnote 1] certain credits which were proved to have been presented by the postmaster to the department and disallowed. The section mentioned provides:

"That whenever, by reason of the presence of a military or naval force near any post office, unusual business accrues thereat, the Postmaster General is hereby required to make a special order allowing proportionately reasonable compensation to the postmaster and for clerical services during the period of such extraordinary business."

Testimony was admitted as to the presence of United States military forces near the office of the postmaster during

Page 78 U. S. 649

the term to which his claim related, and the court charged the jury that

"if they were satisfied that, owing to the presence of such forces near said office during said time, an increased amount of business had been occasioned, it would be proper for them to inquire as to what clerical assistance, if any, was rendered necessary thereby, and to allow said postmaster as a credit the fair compensation for such necessary clerical assistance."

The question was the correctness of this charge. It depended, of course, upon the construction to be given to the 5th section above quoted of the Act of March 3, 1863.

It is necessary to state that by the 9th section of the Act of July 5, 1836, [Footnote 2] which prescribes the general duties of the Postmaster General, that officer is, among other things, required

"To control, according to law, . . . the allowances to postmasters, the expenses of post offices, and other expenses incident to the service of the department; to regulate and direct the payment of the said allowances and expenses for which appropriations have been made,"

&c.

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