Austin v. United States
Annotate this Case
155 U.S. 417 (1894)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Austin v. United States, 155 U.S. 417 (1894)
Austin v. United States
Argued October 26, 1894
Decided December 17, 1894
155 U.S. 417
The Act of March 3, 1883,c. 111, 22 Stat. 804, authorizing the Court of Claims to hear and determine the claims of the successors and representatives of Sterling T. Austin, deceased, for cotton alleged to have been taken from him in Louisiana by the authorities of the United States in 1863, 1864, and 1865,
"any statute of limitation to the contrary notwithstanding, provided, however, that it be shown to the satisfaction of the court that neither Sterling T. Austin, Senior nor any of his surviving representatives gave any aid or comfort to the late rebellion, but were throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States,"
made the establishment of loyalty in fact, as contradistinguished from innocence in law produced by pardon, a prerequisite to jurisdiction, and the Court of Claims, having found that the claimant was not thus loyal, properly dismissed the petition.
Claimant filed a petition in the Court of Claims, June 5, 1883, alleging that Sterling T. Austin, of the Parish of Carroll, in the State of Louisiana, died in that state July 9, 1879; that March 20, A.D. 1883, claimant was duly appointed administratrix of the estate of said decedent, and duly qualified as such, and that her letters of administration were in full force.
The petition set up an Act of Congress approved March 3, 1883, c. 111, 22 Stat. 804, entitled "An act for the relief of the representatives of Sterling T. Austin, deceased," which referred the claims of the successors in interest and legal representatives of Sterling T. Austin for cotton taken by the military authorities of the United States during the war to the Court of
Claims to adjust and settle, and to render judgment for the net amount realized by the United States therefrom, removing the bar of any statute of limitation and providing that it be shown to the satisfaction of the court that neither Austin nor any of his surviving representatives "gave any aid or comfort to the late rebellion, but were throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States."
It was then charged that in the years 1863, 1864, and 1865, the military authorities took from Sterling T. Austin, claimant's decedent, in the States of Louisiana and Texas, large amounts of cotton; that the United States sold said cotton and realized therefrom various sums, aggregating $367,500, which they appropriated to their own use; that Sterling T. Austin left him surviving a widow and children; that neither he nor his widow, nor either of his children, "gave any aid or comfort to the late rebellion, but they and each of them were and was throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States." Judgment was asked
"for the sum of three hundred and sixty-seven thousand, five hundred dollars, being the net amount realized by the United States from the sale of the cotton hereinbefore referred to and described."
The averments of the petition were traversed by the United States. The Court of Claims filed findings of fact and a conclusion of law.
The court was not satisfied that Sterling T. Austin did not give aid or comfort to the late rebellion and that he was loyal throughout the war to the government of the United States, and found him disloyal, but the court was satisfied that the surviving representatives did not give any aid and comfort to the late rebellion, but were throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States.
The conclusion of law was that "the court decides, upon the foregoing facts, that the petition be dismissed." The opinion of the court, by Weldon, J., will be found in 25 Ct.Cl. 437. Judgment having been thereupon entered dismissing the petition, claimant appealed to this Court.