United States v. Lapene
84 U.S. 601 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Lapene, 84 U.S. 17 Wall. 601 601 (1873)

United States v. Lapene

84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 601

Syllabus

In February, 1862, while the whole State of Louisiana, including the City of New Orleans, was under the civil and military control of the rebels of the late rebellion, it mercantile firm in New Orleans sent their agent into certain interior parishes of the state to collect money clue to the firm and to make purchases of cotton. After the agent had got into the interior parishes, but before he bad bought any cotton, the City of New Orleans, where his principals were, was captured (April 27, 1862) by the forces of the United States, and remained from that time under the control of the government, the interior parishes, however, still remaining in the control of the rebels. Subsequently to this the agent made purchases of cotton from persons in these interior parishes, still, as just said, under the control of the rebels. Held that the firm was guilty of trading with the enemy, and that the property was rightly taken by the federal government.

"On the 20th of February, 1862, while the whole State of Louisiana, including the City of New Orleans, was in the possession and under the control of the rebels, Lapene & Ferre, a mercantile firm in the said city, sent their traveling clerk from the said City of New Orleans into certain parishes in the interior of the state, to collect moneys due to the firm there, and gave him authority to purchase sugar and cotton for the firm."

"In March or April, 1862, they requested one Avegno, who was then going from New Orleans to the said parishes, to remit to their said clerk the sum of $5,000, and to assist the said clerk in the business of buying sugar and cotton. Avegno agreed to do this, and, in pursuance of his agreement, did deliver the said sum to the said clerk, in the said interior parishes, then in the possession and under the control of the rebels."

"While the said clerk and the said Avegno were in the said parishes, on the 27th day of April, 1862, the City of New Orleans was captured by the United States forces, and thenceforth through the whole term of the rebellion was held by those forces. "

Page 84 U. S. 602

"After the said capture, the said clerk with the said sum of $5,000 and other moneys collected by him in the said parishes, which parishes were, when the purchases were made, in the possession and under the control of the rebels, bought in different lots a quantity of cotton, and left it at the places where it was purchased."

"He returned from those parishes to New Orleans on the 14th of July, 1862. There was no evidence of any communication having been had between him and Lapene & Ferre, in relation to the said purchases of cotton, between the capture of New Orleans and his own return to that city, except the aforesaid delivery to him by Avegno of the said $5,000."

"The cotton so purchased remained at the points at which it was purchased until April and May, 1863, when it was captured by military forces of the United States and shipped to and received by the federal authorities at New Orleans."

Hereupon Lapene & Ferre filed a petition in the Court of Claims, claiming the cotton or the proceeds of it as their property, and the Court of Claims decreed that it belonged to them. From this decree the United States took the present appeal.

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