Ceballos & Co. v. United States,
214 U.S. 47 (1909)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ceballos & Co. v. United States, 214 U.S. 47 (1909)

J. M. Ceballos & Company v. United States

No. 108

Argued March 10, 1909

Decided May 17, 1909

214 U.S. 47


Where a contract requires construction as to the mode of its performance, a similar contract in writing between the same parties which had been fully performed prior to the execution of the contract to be construed serves, within proper limitations, to throw light upon the construction of the later contract, and may be referred to for that purpose.

A contract having been made by the United States with Ceballos & Co. for the repatriation of the Spanish prisoners in Cuba after the Spanish war, similar in terms to another contract subsequently made with the same parties for the repatriation of the Spanish prisoners

Page 214 U. S. 48

in Manila, providing certain accommodations for officers and steerage accommodations for men and other persons designated by the Secretary of War, the fact that in the performance of the Cuban contract the wives and children of the officers were given similar cabin accommodations to those of their respective husbands and fathers, and the United States had paid therefor the higher rate, held to be material in construing the Philippine contract and also held that Ceballos & Co. were entitled to payment for the transportation of the wives and children of officers at cabin rates.

The same contract construed as entitling Ceballos & Co. to half rates of cabin transportation for children under ten, and steerage rates for the "other persons designated by the Secretary of War," that expression not embracing wives and children of officers, but embracing all designated persons other than officers and their wives and children. A contract carrying out treaty obligations should be liberally construed so as to effectuate the purposes intended by the treaty.

In the light of all the surrounding circumstances, it will not be assumed that the United States, in carrying out its stipulations for the capitulation of Manila, would commit an act of inhumanity such as separating the surrendered officers from their wives and children by furnishing the former with cabin and the latter with steerage accommodations on the voyage to Spain under the repatriation provision of the treaty of peace.

42 Ct.Cl. 318 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of the contract between Ceballos & Co. and the United States for the repatriation of the prisoners of war and other persons from the Philippine Islands to Spain, are stated in the opinion.

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