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Detention of Mail-Matter.
G. Child, esq., United States attorney for the district of Connecticut, on the 19th instant, stating the arrest of a person at Stamford, Connecticut, "for using the mails to circulate obscene literature," in violation of the provisions of section 148 of the act of June 8, 1872, generally known as the Postal Code, (17 Stat., 302;) also another, (original,) addressed to you by Mr. Child, under date of the 23d instant, stating that since this arrest mail-matter has accumulated at the same office, consisting of about twenty retained letters, say six or seven apparently containing an inclosure, and a few dif fering in no respect in appearance from ordinary letters; all under seal.
In reference to these communications of the district attorney, you submit the question whether, under the 301st section of said act, which forbids the use of the post-office establishment for the conveyance of correspondence, opened or intended to be opened, &c., with intent to defraud, &c., and the 302d section, which provides for the disposition to be made, under the direction of the Postmaster-General, of "all letters, packets, or other matter which may be seized or detained for violation of law," or in virtue of other portions of the act, the Postmaster-General is empowered to order the detention of such unlawful mail-matter by the postmaster or other agent of the Department after it has reached its destination and been distributed by the postmaster ready for delivery.
In reply I have to say, that I do not think that such authority is conferred upon the Postmaster-General by the sections mentioned, or, upon a careful examination of the act, by any other of its provisions.
There may be a well-grounded suspicion on the part of the postmaster and the district attorney that the mail-matter referred to is or has been attempted to be circulated in violation of law, but this suspicion cannot be verified except by breaking the seals under which the letters or circulars of which it is supposed to consist are inclosed; a proceeding not authorized by any provision of the act in such or any other case; but, on the contrary, expressly forbidden by the proviso to section 300, which is as follows: "Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be so construed as to au
Claim of the Assignees of Simeon Hart.
thorize any postmaster or other person to open any letter not addressed to himself."
The letter of the district attorney is herewith returned.
GEO. H. WILLIAMS.
Hon. J. W. MARSHALL,
CLAIM OF THE ASSIGNEES OF SIMEON HART.
In May, 1861, Simeon Hart, then a resident of New Mexico, delivered commissary stores to the Government at certain military posts in that Territory, for which he received a voucher from the proper officer, but payment thereof was withheld, in consequence of an order issued from the War Department during the same month. Hart subsequently took an active part in the rebellion, but was pardoned by the President in November, 1865. He afterward assigned said voucher to two creditors, loyal persons, by whom payment of the same is now demanded. On a question whether payment is prohibited by the joint resolution of March 2, 1867, [No. 46]: Held that the case presented is not within the prohibition of that resolution, the claim having accrued after April 13,
The proviso in that resolution was intended only to make an exception in favor of claims existing prior to April 13, 1861, which had been assigned or agreed to be assigned to loyal citizens of loyal States prior to April 1, 1861, in payment of debts incurred prior to March 1, 1861; it does not relate to claims additional to those mentioned in the preceding words of the resolution.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
SIR: Your letter of the 29th ultimo incloses a communication from the Second Comptroller of the Treasury, stating the facts relating to the claim of Messrs. McKnight and Richardson, assignees of Simeon Hart, to be paid for commis. sary supplies delivered to the Government at Albuquerque and Fort Stanton, New Mexico, in the month of May, 1861, and inquiring whether payment for the same is not prohibited by joint resolution, approved March 2, 1867, "pro. hibiting payment by any officer of the Government to any person not known to have been opposed to the rebellion and in favor of its suppression." (14 Stat., 571.)
From the statement of facts submitted, it appears that
Claim of the Assignees of Simeon Hart.
the stores mentioned were delivered on the 13th, 23d, and 26th of May, 1861, and a commissary's voucher was issued therefor, of the genuineness and sufficiency of which there is no question. That the payment of said voucher was withheld by the commissary in consequence of an order of the Secretary of War of the date of May 11, 1861, but that on the 28th of February last "payment of the flour delivered on the 13th, 23d, and 26th of May, 1861, amounting to the sum of $30,675.68, was approved by the Secretary." That the payee of the voucher, Simeon Hart, resided and was domiciled in New Mexico at the time his claim accrued, but afterward engaged in a course of active disloyalty. That he was pardoned by the President in November, 1865, and that, before the approval aforesaid by the Secretary of War of his claim, he assigned it to Messrs. McKnight and Richardson, his creditors, loyal persons, &c.
The joint resolution is as follows: "That, until otherwise ordered, it shall be unlawful for any officer of the United States Government to pay any account, claim, or demand against said Government which accrued or existed prior to the 13th day of April, 1861, in favor of any person who promoted, encouraged, or in any manner sustained the late rebellion; or in favor of any person who, during said rebellion, was not known to be opposed thereto and distinctly in favor of its suppression; and no pardon heretofore granted, or hereafter to be granted, shall authorize the payment of such account, claim, or demand until this resolution is modified or repealed: Provided, That this resolution shall not be construed to prohibit the payment of claims founded upon contracts made by any of the Departments where such claims were assigned or contracted to be assigned prior to April 1, 1861, to creditors of said contractors, loyal citizens of loyal States, in payment of debts incurred prior to March 1, 1861."
In the communication of the Comptroller it is not stated by what part of the resolution the question as to the propriety of payment in this case is suggested, but it is presumed to be raised under the terms of the proviso. This proviso I do not understand as relating to claims additional to those mentioned in the preceding words of the resolution, but as intended only to make an exception in favor of the payment
Pension Agents and Agencies.
of such claims, accruing or existing prior to April 13, 1861, as had been assigned or agreed to be assigned to "loyal citizens of loyal States" prior to April 1, 1861, in payment of debts incurred prior to March 1, 1861; that is to say, an exception not intended to favor a disloyal claimant, but to protect the interests of loyal citizens, and of these only citizens of loyal States; enabling such a citizen to recover the debt due him that had been attempted to be paid by the assignment of a claim at a date prior to the commencement of active hostilities, when intercourse between the two sections of the country was yet lawful.
In this view the claim now in question, having accrued after April 13, 1861, is not within the prohibition of the resolution. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. WILLIAMS.
Hon. GEO. S. BOUTWELL,
Secretary of the Treasury.
PENSION AGENTS AND AGENCIES.
The consolidation by the President, on the 23d of January, 1871, of the two pension-agencies previously existing in the city of New York was within the competency of the Executive, and a valid exercise of power. The authority given the President by the act of February 5, 1867, chap. 32, touching the establishment of pension-agencies and the appointment of pension-agents, may be exercised by him according to his judgment, subject only to the restrictious imposed by the two provisoes in that act.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22d ultimo, in which you say:
"At the date of the passage of the act of February 5, 1867, (14 Stat., 391,) there were more than three agencies for the payment of pensions in the State of New York. On the 23d of October, 1871, the President, by an executive order, consolidated two of those agencies then established in the city of New York."
Upon this statement of facts, the following questions are submitted for my consideration and opinion:
"1st. Had the President the legal power to consolidate ́said agencies?
Pension Agents and Agencies.
"2d. If he had, can he now revoke said order of consolidation, and thereby restore both of the same?
"3d. If he had no legal power to make said consolidation, can he now revoke said order, and will such revocation operate as a restoration of said agencies?"
The act of February 5, 1867, (14 Stat., 391,) above referred to, is as follows: "That the President of the United States shall be, and he is hereby, authorized to establish agencies for the payment of pensions granted by the United States wherever, in his judgment, the public interests and the con. venience of the pensioners require, and, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint all pensionagents, who shall hold their offices for the term of four years, and until their successors shall have been appointed and qualified, and who shall give bonds, with good and sufficient sureties, for such amount and in such form as the Secretary of the Interior may approve: Provided, That the number of pension-agencies in any State or Territory shall in no case be increased hereafter so as to exceed three, and that no such agency shall be established, in addition to those now existing, in any State or Territory in which the whole amount of pensions paid during the fiscal year next preceding shall not have exceeded the sum of five hundred thousand dollars: And provided further, That the term of office of all pensionagents appointed since the first day of July, A. D. eighteen hundred and sixty-six, shall expire at the end of thirty days from the passage of this act, and the commissions of all other pension-agents now in office shall continue for four years from the passage of this act, unless such agents are sooner removed."
To answer the above questions it seems necessary to consider how the President could consolidate two agencies, or rather what the process of consolidation would be. The last proviso of the act in question, after providing for the removal of all pension-agents appointed between July 1, 1866, and the date of the act itself, enacts in relation to "all other pension-agents," namely, those appointed prior to July 1, 1866, that their commissions shall continue for a period of four years from the date of this act, "unless such agents are sooner removed." It leaves with the President the power to