Knote v. United States,
95 U.S. 149 (1877)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Knote v. United States, 95 U.S. 149 (1877)

Knote v. United States

95 U.S. 149


1. The general pardon and amnesty granted by President Johnson, by proclamation, on the 25th of December, 1868, do not entitle one receiving their benefits to the proceeds of his property, previously condemned and sold under the Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862, 12 Stat. 589, after such proceeds have been paid into the Treasury of the United States.

2. Whilst a full pardon releases the offender from all disabilities imposed by the offense pardoned and restores to him all his civil rights, it does not affect any rights which have vested in others directly by the execution of the judgment for the offense or which have been acquired by others whilst that judgment was in force. And if the proceeds of the property of the offender sold under the judgment have been paid into the Treasury, the right to them has so far become vested in the United States that they can only be recovered by him through an act of Congress. Moneys once in the Treasury can only be withdrawn by an appropriation by law.

3. To constitute an implied contract with the United States for the payment of money upon which an action will lie in the Court of Claims, there must have been some consideration moving to the United States, or they must have received the money charged with a duty to pay it over, or the claimant must have had a lawful right to it when it was received, as in the case of money paid by mistake. No such implied contract with the United States arises with respect to moneys received into the Treasury as the proceeds of property forfeited and sold under that act.

The petition of the claimant alleged that he was the owner of certain described personal property in West Virginia, which was seized and libeled by the authorities of the United States on the alleged ground of his treason and rebellion; that by a decree of the district court for that district, the property was condemned and forfeited to the United States and sold; and the net proceeds of the sale, amounting to the sum of $11,000, were paid into the Treasury of the United States, the proceedings for its condemnation and sale having been taken under the Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862; that subsequently, by

Page 95 U. S. 150

virtue of the amnesty proclamation of the President, of Dec. 25, 1868, the claimant was pardoned and relieved of all disabilities and penalties attaching to the offense of treason and rebellion, for which his property was confiscated, and was restored to all his rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and thus became entitled to receive the said proceeds of sale; but that the United States, disregarding his rights in the premises, had refused to pay them over to him, and therefore he prayed judgment against them. Upon demurrer for insufficiency of the facts thus alleged to constitute a cause of action the petition was dismissed, and hence the present appeal.

The proclamation of President Johnson relied upon is in the following words:

"Whereas the President of the United States has heretofore set forth several proclamations offering amnesty and pardon to persons who had been or were concerned in the late rebellion against the lawful authority of the government, which proclamations were severally issued on the eighth day of December, 1863, on the twenty-sixth day of March, 1864, on the twenty-ninth day of March, 1865, on the seventh day of September, 1867, and on the fourth day of July, in the present year."

"And whereas the authority of the federal government having been reestablished in all the states and territories within the jurisdiction of the United States, it is believed that such prudential reservations and exceptions, as at the dates of said several proclamations, were deemed necessary and proper, may now be wisely and justly relinquished, and that a universal amnesty and pardon for participation in said rebellion, extended to all who have borne any part therein, will tend to secure permanent peace, order, and prosperity throughout the land, and to renew and fully secure confidence and fraternal feeling among the whole people, and their respect for and attachment to the national government designed by its patriotic founders for the general good."

"Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested by the Constitution, and in the name of the sovereign people of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare unconditionally, and without reservation, to all and to every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion, a full

Page 95 U. S. 151

pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof."

15 Stat. 711.

Page 95 U. S. 152

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