We have been unable to find any such incongruity. The act of
1862 and its amendments make no mention of the right of the owner
of the lands to receive the surplus proceeds of their sale. But the
absence of such a provision is not sufficient to repeal the
positive enactment of 1861. On the contrary, it strengthens the
presumption that it was the purpose of Congress to allow that
provision to stand.
The act of 1862 provided that in states where insurrection
existed, the entire tax for a state should be apportioned and
Page 104 U. S. 219
levied upon its lands, which should become charged with their
respective shares of the tax, which, with a penalty of fifty per
cent, should be a lien thereon.
The owner could relieve his lands of the tax by paying it within
sixty days after the commissioners had fixed its amount. If he did
not pay within that time, the title to the lands became forfeited
to the United States, and upon a sale of them, as provided for in
the act, it vested in the United States, or the purchaser, in fee
simple, free and discharged of all prior liens, encumbrances,
right, title, and claim whatsoever.
The commissioners, in case of the nonpayment of the tax,
penalty, and charges, were required to sell the lands at public
sale to the highest bidder, for a sum not less than the amount of
the tax, penalty, &c., and, if no person bid more, then to
strike off and sell them to the United States for that sum.
In case the United States became the buyer, there was, of
course, no surplus. But if anyone purchased for a sum greater than
the tax, penalty, &c., the commissioners were to give him a
certificate of purchase, which should be evidence of title, and the
owner, or any person loyal to the United States having a lien
thereon, upon taking an oath to support the Constitution of the
United States, was allowed to redeem the lands sold. This Court
held, in Bennett v.
9 Wall. 326, that the primary object of the
acts of Aug. 5, 1861, and of June 7, 1862, being the raising of
revenue, they must be construed together. In other words, they are
to be construed as if passed at the same time, and effect must be
given to all the provisions of the first act not in conflict with
the later one.
In the same case it was held that the forfeiture declared by the
fourth section of the act of 1862 does not operate of its own force
to vest the title to the land forfeited in the United States upon
the nonpayment of the tax, but that a sale as prescribed by the act
was necessary to transfer the title.
We find nothing in the provisions of the act of 1862, above
recited, which takes from the owner the right accorded him by the
act of 1861 of applying for and receiving from the Treasury the
surplus proceeds of the sale of his lands, nor anything
inconsistent with that right.
But it is insisted by the appellant that sec. 12 of the act
Page 104 U. S. 220
1862 makes a disposition of the surplus proceeds of lands sold
for taxes inconsistent with the right thereto claimed by the
That section declares that
"The proceeds of said leases and sales shall be paid into the
Treasury of the United States, one-fourth of which shall be paid
over to the governor of said state wherein said lands are situated,
. . . when such insurrection shall be put down, . . . for the
purpose of reimbursing the loyal citizens of said state, or such
other purposes as the state may direct, and one-fourth shall be
paid over to said state as a fund to aid in the colonization or
emigration from said state of any free person of African descent
who may desire to remove therefrom."
On recurring to the preceding sections to ascertain what is
meant by the words "said leases and sales" the proceeds of which
are to be so disposed of, we find that the first eight sections
provide for the assessment of the direct tax upon the lands of the
states in insurrection; for their forfeiture for nonpayment of the
tax; for their sale at auction; for their purchase by the United
States, if no bid greater than the amount of the taxes, charges,
&c., is received; and for their redemption by the owner.
The act, beginning with sec. 9, then takes up a new subject,
which is continued through secs. 10 and 11. They relate exclusively
to the disposition to be made of the lands bought by the United
States at the tax sales. They authorize the commissioners under
certain circumstances to lease them or, under the direction of the
President, instead of leasing, to cause them to be subdivided into
parcels not to exceed three hundred and twenty acres and sold. Sec.
12, which provides that the proceeds of "said leases and sales"
shall be paid into the Treasury &c., must, we think, be limited
to the proceeds of the leases and sales authorized in the three
next preceding sections. Such is not only the natural and obvious
but also the grammatical construction of the act.
That act provided for the collection of direct taxes in
insurrectionary districts. It was not a confiscation act. It
allowed the owner to redeem his lands within sixty days after the
sale of them for taxes, and, while more stringent in its
Page 104 U. S. 221
was not antagonistic to the previous legislation on the same
Our opinion is, therefore, that the clause of the act of 1861,
which allowed the owner of lands sold for taxes to apply for and
receive the surplus proceeds remaining after payment of the taxes
and charges, is not repealed by the act of 1862.
The second question raised by the appeal is whether the Court of
Claims had jurisdiction of a suit for such proceeds when the
application of the Secretary of the Treasury and the bringing of
the suit therefor were both more than six years after the sale.
Sec. 1069 of the Revised Statutes provides that every claim
against the United States cognizable by the Court of Claims shall
be forever barred unless the petition setting forth a statement
thereof is filed in the court within six years after the claim
The thirty-sixth section of the act of 1861 required, as we have
seen, the surplus proceeds of the sale of land for taxes to be
deposited in the Treasury, to be there held for the use of the
owner or his legal representatives until he or they should make
application therefor to the Secretary of the Treasury, who, upon
such application should by warrant on the Treasury cause the same
to be paid to the applicant.
This section limits no time within which application must be
made for the proceeds of the sale. The Secretary of the Treasury
was not authorized to fix such a limit. It was his duty, whenever
the owner of the land or his legal representatives should apply for
the money, to draw a warrant therefor without regard to the period
which had elapsed since the sale. The fact that six or any other
number of years had passed did not authorize him to refuse payment.
The person entitled to the money could allow it to remain in the
Treasury for an indefinite period without losing his right to
demand and receive it. It follows that if he was not required to
demand it within six years, he was not required to sue for it
within that time.
A construction consistent with good faith on the part of the
United States should be given to these statutes. It would certainly
not be fair dealing for the government to say to the owner that the
surplus proceeds should be held in the Treasury
Page 104 U. S. 222
for an indefinite period for his use or that of his legal
representatives and then, upon suit brought to recover them, to
plead in bar that the demand therefor had not been made within six
The general rule is that when a trustee unequivocally repudiates
the trust and claims to hold the estate as his own, and such
repudiation and claim are brought to the knowledge of the
cestui que trust
in such manner that he is called upon to
assert his rights, the statute of limitations will begin to run
against him from the time such knowledge is brought home to him,
and not before. Merriam v. Hassam,
14 Allen (Mass.) 516;
Baker v. Whiting,
3 Sumn. 486; Kane v. Bloodgood,
7 Johns. (N.Y.) Ch. 90; Attorney General v. Proprietors of the
Meeting House in Federal Street in Boston,
3 Gray (Mass.) 1;
Bright v. Segerton,
2 De G., F. & J. 606;
Wedderburn v. Wedderburn,
2 Keen 722.
In analogy to this rule, the right of the owner of the land to
recover the money which the government held for him as his trustee
did not become a claim on which suit could be brought, and such as
was cognizable by the Court of Claims, until demand therefor had
been made at the Treasury. Upon such demand the claim first
accrued. As the suit was brought within six years from the date of
demand, it falls within the terms of the section giving
jurisdiction to the Court of Claims, and is not cut off by the
lapse of time.
Our opinion is that the appellee was entitled under the acts of
Congress to the fund in controversy, and that the petition therefor
was filed in the court below within six years after the claim first