2 U.S. 206 (1793)

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ROACH v. COM. OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2 U.S. 206 (1793)

2 U.S. 206 (Dall.)

The Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

January Term, 1793

Case. Pleas non-assumpsit and payment. The opinion of the Judges was now delivered in this cause, the facts and principles involved in it, being stated by the Chief Justice as follows.

M'Kean, Chief Justice.

This action was tried by a Jury, in last January Term, and a verdict taken for the plaintiff, for L 298 8 1; to wit, L 41 8 1, for an uniform suit of clothes, which he claimed as a grant in 1779, from the State; and L 257 for half pay as a captain in the State-Navy, from February the 13th, 1781, until July the 1st, 1783, together with interest from the said 1st of July; subject to the opinion of the Court on two questions stated.

1st. Whether clothing received by the plaintiff as an officer of the State-Navy, from the Commonwealth, in consequence of a Resolution of the Legislature, passed on the 24th of March, 1779; or in consequence of an act of the Legislature, passed the 1st of March, 1780, is to be debited to the plaintiff, or considered as a gratuity; and, if debited, at what price?

Page 2 U.S. 206, 207

2nd. Whether the plaintiff is entitled to half-pay from the time of his discharge, until the 1st of July, 1783, and interest thereon from that day?

These questions have been argued by Messrs. Ingersoll, Lewis, and Serjeant, for the plaintiff; and, by Messrs. Dallas, and Wilcocks, for the Commonwealth; they have been considered by the Court, and we shall now deliver our opinions.

The answer to the first question depends on the construction of a Resolve of the General Assembly, passed on the 5th of December, 1778, in page 252, of the Journals of Assembly, published by M. Hillegas; which is, 'that all such matters, as may appear to the Council to be absolutely necessary to the comfort of the troops of this State, be sold to them for one fourth part the original cost, for cash only, &c.' And of another Resolve of March the 13, 1779, in page 337, which is, 'that to every officer of the said troops, a complete suit of regimental uniform be furnished every year by this State, to be charged to the officer, at the price for which the said uniform might have been purchased at the commencement of the war, &c.' And, of an act of Assembly, passed March the 1st, 1780, whereby a complete suit of uni orm was directed to be given annually to each officer gratis during the war.

Respecting this, there seems to have been a Legislative construction. For, it appears in the Journals of the Assembly, page 552 and 555, of the 14th and 18th of December, 1780, that the Legislature would not charge the officers with the clothes, &c. furnished them, at the specie price. From which it may be clearly inferred, the clothes, that had been furnished them, were to be paid for in Continental bills of credit only; and, under the second resolve before cited, the price was to be regulated by the price at the commencement of the war.

Without the aid of this authority, I should have been of opinion, that the clothes, thus furnished the officers, were to have been paid for in the Continental bills of credit, and that this was the intention of the then Assembly: Because, first, whatever might have been their private sentiments respecting these bills being depreciated, they deemed it inexpedient to acknowledge it in their public character. Secondly; because, Continental money was then by law equal to specie, and it was penal to make a distinction between them. And, lastly, because it is manifest, they intended to be generous to, or at least to relieve the known distresses of, the officers of the State, both in the army and navy. For, by the first resolve, the Assembly directed, that the officers should be furnished with the articles necessary for them, at a fourth part of the then original costs, for cash only; and by the second, they were to be furnished with a complete suit of regimental uniform, at the price for which it [2 U.S. 206, 208]

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