United States v. Saunders,
89 U.S. 492 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Saunders, 89 U.S. 22 Wall. 492 492 (1874)

United States v. Saunders

89 U.S. (22 Wall.) 492


1. A statute is to be interpreted not only by its exact words, but also by its apparent general purpose. If its general purpose have plain reference to one class of persons, it will not include a single individual in a distinct class, though the mere words might include him.

2. The Botanical Garden at Washington, a long established public garden, and regarded by various acts as under the immediate direction and control of the Joint Library Committee of Congress, is a different garden from the garden established of more recent years by the Department of Agriculture, an executive department, as an appendage to that department.

3. The eighteenth section of the Act of July 28, 1866, providing an increase of 20 percent in pay for several persons employed under the direction of the two Houses of Congress or their committees, including "the three superintendents of the public gardens," and not providing for the pay of any employed in the executive departments, does not embrace a Superintendent of the Public Gardens of the Department of Agriculture. It is confined to the superintendents of the Botanical Garden.

The Superintendent of the Public Garden of the Department of Agriculture is provided for by a joint resolution of 28th of February, 1867, which gives an increase in pay for one year to persons employed in the executive departments.

On the 28th of July, 1866, Congress enacted: [Footnote 1]

"That there be allowed and paid to the officers, clerks, committee clerks, messengers, and all other employees of the Senate and House of Representatives, and to the Globe and official reporters of each House, and the stenographer of the House, and to the Capitol police, and the three superintendents of the public gardens, their clerks and assistants, and to the Librarian, assistant librarians, messengers, and other employees of the Congressional Library, an addition of twenty percent on their present pay, to commence with the present Congress."

This act was repealed July 12, 1870.

By a joint resolution of the 28th of February following, it was resolved: [Footnote 2]

Page 89 U. S. 493

"That there shall be allowed and paid to . . . its civil officers, clerks, messengers, and watchmen and employees in the executive mansion, and in any of the following named departments, or any bureau thereof, to-wit, State, Treasury, War, Navy, Interior, Post Office, Attorney General, Agricultural, and including civil officers and . . . clerks and employees in the office of the coast survey, naval observatory, navy yard, arsenal, paymaster general &c., and additional compensation of twenty percent on their respective salaries as fixed by law &c., . . . for one year."

With these two proceedings of Congress, the Act of 1866 and the joint resolution of 1870 in force, one Saunders, who was engaged at a salary in superintending the public gardens of the Department of Agriculture, at Washington, applied and got an addition of 20 percent to it under the joint resolution, for the one year, during which the resolution gave the increase.

Subsequently, assuming that the Act of Congress was a continuing act and not one making an allowance for one year only, and assuming also that his employment brought him within its provisions, he filed a petition in the Court of Claims, alleging that he was "Superintendent of Gardens in the Department of Agriculture," from March 4, 1865, to July 1, 1870, and asking the addition of 20 percent given by the act of Congress during that time.

The Court of Claims found as a fact that "he held the position and performed the duties of Superintendent of the Public Gardens of the Department of Agriculture," and during the time for which the 20 percent was claimed; and conceiving that he came within the act, gave him the addition prayed for.

From this, its decision the United States appealed.

The only question considered by this Court was whether Saunders was within the Act of Congress.

Page 89 U. S. 494

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