1. In 1870, the Board of Trustees of Colored Schools for the
District of Columbia had authority to employ an architect to
prepare the plans and specifications for a school house in
Washington and superintend its construction, and could, as the
agent of the District, bind it to pay him for his services.
2. The disallowance of his claim by the board of audit
constituted by the Act of June 20, 1874, c. 337, 18 Stat., pt. 3,
p. 118, does not bar his right of recovery.
3. The corporation which the Act of Feb. 21, 1871, c. 62, 16
Stat. 419, created by the name of the District of Columbia
succeeded to the property and liabilities of the corporations which
were thereby abolished.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.
MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1870, the Board of Trustees of Colored Schools for the
District of Columbia employed the plaintiff, who is an architect by
profession, to prepare the plans and specifications for a school
house in Washington, and to superintend its construction, agreeing
to give him for his services five percent on the cost of the
building. This was the ordinary rate of charge as compensation for
similar services in the District. In 1872, the building was
constructed, and cost about $66,000. The board of trustees approved
of the work, and paid the plaintiff $1,100 in cash, and gave him a
voucher for $2,155 more, being for the balance due, and also the
sum of $255 for services in superintending repairs upon other
buildings. This voucher the plaintiff
Page 103 U. S. 706
sold and delivered to the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company,
for whose benefit this action is brought.
The Board of Trustees of Colored Schools has since been
abolished, and a new board organized to take charge of all the
public schools, whether of white or colored children. But when the
original board existed, it was the agent of the District for the
purposes entrusted to it, and could bind the District for the
services rendered by the plaintiff. The building constructed, and
the other buildings upon which the repairs were made under his
superintendence, belong to the District and are used by it for
colored schools, yet the amount due him for which the voucher was
given has never been paid. The jury were of opinion that the
District should pay it, and we agree with them.
The disallowance of the claim by the board of audit, if such had
been allowed to be proved, would not have concluded the plaintiff.
That board was not a judicial body, whose action judicial body,
whose action was final; it exercised little more than the functions
of an accountant. A claim allowed by it was not necessarily a valid
one; a claim disallowed was not, therefore, illegal. Its action
either way left the matter open to contestation in the courts.
Though the contract of the plaintiff with the board of trustees
was made before the act creating the District into one municipal
corporation, the work was not completed until afterwards, when it
was accepted and approved. The new corporation succeeded to the
property of the two former ones, and also to their liabilities.