Williams v. United States,
42 U.S. 290 (1843)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Williams v. United States, 42 U.S. 1 How. 290 290 (1843)

Williams v. United States

42 U.S. (1 How.) 290


The act of Congress passed January 31, 1823, prohibiting the advance of public money in any case whatsoever to the disbursing officers of government except under the special direction of the President does not require the personal and ministerial performance of this duty, to be exercised in every instance by the President under his own hand.

Such a practice, if it were possible, would absorb the duties of the various departments of the government in the personal action of the one chief executive officer and be fraught with mischief to the public service.

The President's duty, in general, requires his superintendence of the administration, yet he cannot be required to become the administrative officer of every department and bureau or to perform in person the numerous details incident to services, which, nevertheless, he is in a correct sense by the Constitution and laws required and expected to perform.

It is legal evidence that the President specially authorized and directed, in writing, the Secretary of the Treasury to make such advances, and that such paper was destroyed when the Treasury building was burned. It is sufficient if the witness states his belief that it was so destroyed. The case in 22 U. S. 9 Wheat. 486 examined and confirmed.

The dockets and records of a court showing that money had been received by the marshal or his deputies under executions are good evidence in a suit against his securities. The acts of the court must, in the first instance, be presumed to be regular, and in conformity with settled usage; and are conclusive until reversed by a competent authority.

The facts were these:

On 4 February, 1831, Henry Ashton was appointed Marshal of the District of Columbia, and on the 7th executed a bond for the faithful performance of the duties by himself and his deputies. There were several securities, among whom was James Williams, the plaintiff in error. He remained in office until 28 February, 1834.

In June, 1835, the United States brought suit upon the bond, to which there was a plea of performance. The replication assigned five breaches: 1. that he had neglected to return executions issued for fines and costs, 2. that he had discharged persons committed to his custody under execution, 3. that he had not accounted for fines paid, 4. that he had not accounted

Page 42 U. S. 291

for money advanced to him by the Secretary of the Treasury under the special direction of the President of the United States, and 5. that he had discharged persons from prison without authority of law. To this replication there were a rejoinder and issues, and in 1839 the case was tried. The verdict of the jury was for the United States. The two bills of exception taken at the trial are set forth in the opinion of the Court, and need not be repeated.

Page 42 U. S. 293

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