Reeside v. United States,
Annotate this Case
75 U.S. 38 (1868)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Reeside v. United States, 75 U.S. 8 Wall. 38 38 (1868)
Reeside v. United States
75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 38
Under the Act of 28 February, 1861, which authorizes the Postmaster General to discontinue, under certain circumstances specified, the postal service on any route, a "suspension" during the late rebellion at the Postmaster General's discretion, of a route in certain rebellious states, with a notice to the contractor that he would be held responsible for a renewal when the Postmaster General should deem it safe to renew the service there, was held to be a discontinuance, and the mail carrier's contract with the government calling for a month's pay if the postmaster discontinued the service, it was adjudged that he was entitled to a month's pay accordingly.
In 1859 and subsequently, Reeside made certain contracts with the Postmaster General to carry the mail until 30 June, 1862, over certain parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Each contract contained a provision that the Postmaster General might discontinue or curtail the service in whole or in part whenever the public interests required it he allowing one month's pay on the amount of the service dispensed with. Early in 1861, as is known, the late rebellion in the Southern states broke out, the states above particularly mentioned, joining in it. In view of the condition of things, Congress enacted, [Footnote 1] on the 28th February, 1861:
"That whenever, in the opinion of the Postmaster General, the postal service cannot be safely continued, or the post office revenues collected, or the postal laws maintained on any post route, by reason of any cause whatever, the Postmaster General is hereby authorized to discontinue the postal service on such route or any part thereof and any post offices thereon till the same can be safely restored,"
and shall report his action to Congress.
And it was part of the case, as found by the court below that on the 15th April following, "a state of actual war"
existed between the United States and the states in which the contracts were to be executed.
On the 27th of May, 1861, the Postmaster General issued an order suspending the service on all the routes till further order from and after May 31. Reeside requested the Postmaster General, instead of suspending the service, to annul the contracts. But this the Postmaster General refused to do, and Reeside was informed that he would be held responsible under the contracts and be ordered to renew the service whenever, in the opinion of the Postmaster General, it would be safe to do so.
No special notice of the discontinuance was ever served on him.
On the 13th July, 1861, Congress authorized the President, under certain circumstances which it set forth, to issue a proclamation declaring any one of several Southern states, which it named (and which included the three through which Reeside's contract called on him to carry the mail) or any part of it to be in insurrection against the United States, and enacted that thereupon all intercourse should cease between the same and the citizens thereof and the citizens of the rest of the United States. On the 16th of August following, the President did issue such a proclamation and declared these three states, along with some others, to be in insurrection, and prohibited the intercourse.
Reeside resided in Washington, and the case showed that it would have taken him twenty days to have gone to Arkansas, and to have disposed of his property on his several routes. No part of his stage property was removed from them.
Reeside, who had been paid up but to the 1st of June, 1861, and whom the Postmaster General considered entitled to nothing more, now filed a petition in the court below setting forth that taking into consideration the distance from the seat of government (where, as already said, he resided) to the place of service, he was entitled to receive a reasonable notice before suspending the mail service on the
several routes where he was the contractor, and that he was entitled, at all events, to his mail pay for one month.
The court below dismissed the claim; and hence this appeal.