Grant v. United States
Annotate this Case
74 U.S. 331 (1868)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Grant v. United States, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 331 331 (1868)
Grant v. United States
74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 331
1. An "inspection" at the place of shipping instead of at the place of delivery, by the officers of the United States, of supplies which a contractor has agreed to deliver at a distant point does not pass the property to the United States so as to relieve the contractor from his obligation to deliver at such distant point.
2. Where a contract with the government to furnish to it supplies does not stipulate for an inspection at a place earlier than the place of delivery, it is optional with the contractor whether he will have the goods inspected at such earlier place.
3. Where a delay by the government in making an inspection of supplies, agreed to be made at the place of shipping instead of at the place of delivery, is not the proximate cause of a loss of the supplies afterwards suffered, the loss must be borne by the party in whom the title to the supplies is vested, and if still in the contractor, by him.
4. This rule applies even where supplies have been seized by the public enemy without any default of the owner.
5. Where the government makes a contract with an individual that he shall furnish all supplies needed at a certain post, and afterwards rescinds the contract, the individual cannot recover from the government for a breach of the contract unless he prove that supplies were needed at the post designated.
6. The Court of Claims was not instituted to try cases of mere nominal damages.
Appeal from the Court of Claims, in which court Grant, for himself, and as assignee of one Taliafero, a former partnor, had filed a petition claiming reimbursement and damages from the United States. The case was this:
On the 9th of March, 1860, the Secretary of War, at that time Mr. Floyd, addressed an order to the Quartermaster General and Commissary General of Subsistence, granting to the said Taliafero and Grant the privilege of furnishing
and delivering, at certain posts in Arizona, for a period of two years, all the supplies that might be needed there for the use of the service, at certain stipulated rates. There was nothing in this order making an inspection necessary elsewhere than at the place of delivery.
On the 29th of July, 1860, the proper officer in Arizona served a requisition on Grant for commissary articles, and the War Department approved the order on the 22d day of September following, with notice that the articles to be purchased would be inspected at Boston or New York.
Some delays took place in regard to the inspection; for the appointment of a proper person to make which, the shipping agents of Grant had made a request on the 20th September, 1862. Major Eaton finally inspected the last of the supplies, certifying that they were contained in strong, sound, full-hooped barrels and well secured tierces, properly marked with the names of the places to which they were destined, and were of the kind and quality usually provided by the subsistence department. This inspection did not take place until the 3d, 4th, 5th of December, 1860. The Court of Claims found, however, as facts, that the only delay attributable to the United States was a delay in appointing an inspector from the 22d September to the 21st November, 1860; that such delay did not preclude Grant's agents from purchasing the supplies required, and having them ready for inspection; that the supplies inspected by Major Eaton were sold to Grant on the 20th of November, 1860; that the United States were ready to inspect supplies on the 21st of November, 1860, and thereafter, and on that date so notified to Grant's agents; that the inspection was not made at that time, but was postponed at the request of the said agents from the difficulty they had found in procuring a part of the supplies; that these were not then ready for shipment and inspection; that there was no evidence of any notice to the United States to make inspection other than one contained in a letter of the agents to Major Eaton, dated November 22, 1860.
The supplies thus inspected were immediately afterwards
shipped to Lavacca, and arrived there about the 10th January, 1861. They were here laden on wagons, forty-one wagons in all, but after proceeding a short distance, the train was obliged, owing to want of pasturage at that season of the year, to stop and go into camp and await the growth of grass. A delay was thus incurred of about two months and ten days, when the train again proceeded, and arrived at Rio Honde, where it was captured on the 20th April by the troops of Texas, then in a state of rebellion against the United States.
For the goods, wagons, and teams thus lost, the petitioners claimed reimbursement.
The petition also set forth great loss to the petitioner, asking damages for it, from the fact that while, as alleged, he was in the due execution of his contracts, and actually engaged in the transportation of supplies from Lavacca to Arizona, the United States, of its own wrong, and without any fault or negligence on his part, and without notice to him, and without his agreement or consent, had set aside and rescinded the said contracts. On this part of the case it appeared that in April, 1861, the Assistant Commissary General had recommended to Mr. Cameron, by this time Secretary of War, that the contracts "be rescinded," and that, from a sense of insecurity, certain of the articles should be forwarded from St. Louis, and that others might be procured in Arizona or Sonora, of those persons who would furnish them at the cheapest rates. The secretary approving the order, the contract was no longer regarded by the United States as valid.
The Court of Claims dismissed the petition, and the claimant appealed.