UNITED STATES V. CARR, 132 U. S. 644 (1890)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Carr, 132 U.S. 644 (1890)

United States v. Carr

No. 411

Submitted December 3, 1889

Decided January 6, 1890

132 U.S. 644


When a sum of money has been voluntarily paid by the United States to a mail contractor, by mistake of fact, or under circumstances to bring the payment within the provisions of Rev.Stat. § 4057, the amount may be applied by the government toward the payment of any balance that may be found due him, in the settlement of his accounts, for other services under his contract.

A contract to carry the mails from one station to another station, by way of two intervening specified stations, a stated number of miles and back, is not performed by carrying them over that route one way, returning from the terminal station to the place of beginning by a shorter route, avoiding the intermediate stations.

When a contractor for carrying the mails seeks to recover the full contract price for a service which, as actually performed, was less than that contracted for, the burden of proof is on him to show knowledge or information by the Department of his conduct in the premises.

Knowledge by the Post-Office Department of the failure of a mail contractor to perform the full service required by his contract is not to be presumed from reports of the local postmaster to the Department that the service had been performed.

Carr filed his petition against the United States in the Court of Claims on the 17th of February, 1885, averring that the Postmaster General entered into a contract in writing with him in April, 1878, for carrying the mails of the United States from Salinas City, in the State of California, to Gabilan in that state and back from Gabilan to Salinas City for the annual sum of $796, a copy of which contract he attached to his petition; that at the time of the letting of the contract and for upwards of four years prior thereto, the mails were carried upon the route aforesaid, outward from Salinas to Santa Rita,

Page 132 U. S. 645

a distance of three miles, and from Santa Rita to Natividad, a distance of four miles, and from the last-named place to Gabilan, a distance of eight miles, and on the return trip direct from Gabilan to Salinas, a distance of about ten miles, without passing through Natividad and Santa Rita; that he believed that the mode of transportation last aforesaid was established under the authority of the Postmaster General for said route, and proposed to carry the mails upon said route for the compensation aforesaid upon the understanding that the mails were, during the term of the contract, intended by said proposal to be carried in the manner before stated; that he commenced service under the contract July 1, 1878, and for four years, including the 30th day of June, 1882, carried the mails six times a week from Salinas, by way of Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan, and back direct from Gabilan to Salinas, by a direct line, not passing through Natividad and Santa Rita; that the compensation was paid up to January 1, 1882, but not from the 1st of January to the 1st of July, 1882, and that the Postmaster General has refused to pay petitioner the sum of $398, the amount of compensation due for the period last mentioned, upon the ground that petitioner had not performed his contract, inasmuch as he had not carried the mails from Gabilan to Salinas by way of Natividad and Santa Rita. Petitioner further alleged that at the letting he presented proposals to the Postmaster General for carrying the mails upon four other routes for the period of four years, namely, from July 1, 1878, to June 30, 1882, and obtained contracts therefor at certain compensation in the proposals named; that, from the compensation due on the last-named contracts, $348.25 was withheld on account of the first-named contract, and there was also deducted from the four last contracts the sum of $35.92 for certain alleged delays in the transportation of the mail. Petitioner therefore prayed judgment for the sum of $782.17. The findings of fact and conclusions of law are as follows:




"In April, 1878, the Postmaster General and the claimant entered into a contract to carry the mails on route No. 46,118

Page 132 U. S. 646

in the State of California, from Salinas, by Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan and back, six times a week, for the annual sum of $796. The material portions of said contract are set forth in finding V."




"The mails were carried on said route under said contract for four years, commencing July 1, 1878, and ending June 30, 1882, as follows:"

"The mails were carried by the claimant from Salinas, by way of Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan, and back to Salinas by a direct route from Gabilan to Salinas. The distance from Salinas by Santa Rita and Natividad to Gabilan, is twelve miles. The distance from Gabilan to Salinas by a direct route is ten miles."

"That the said route was operated by the claimant since the year 1870, the mails being always carried in the same manner in which the same were carried by the claimant -- namely, from Salinas, by way of Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan, and from Gabilan to Salinas direct, and, until the date of the certificate of inspection of the 12th of May, 1882, have always been certified as duly carried, and paid for accordingly by the Post Office Department. The provisions of the contract under which said service was performed were in all respects similar to the provisions of the contract sued on."


"For the failure of claimant to carry the mails via Santa Rita and Natividad, as aforesaid, from July 1, 1878, to March 31, 1882, the Postmaster General, upon May 13, 1882, entered a deduction from his compensation of $746.25, which deduction equals one-quarter of the total compensation fixed by the contract for whole service under it, during the period covered by the alleged delinquency."

"There is no proof that any subsequent failure to said date of the claimant to carry the United States mail via Santa Rita and Natividad has ever come to the notice of the Postmaster General or the Post Office Department.

Page 132 U. S. 647





"In the advertisement of November 1, 1877, inviting proposals for carrying the mails of the United States in certain states and territories, the Postmaster General invited bids for carrying said mails on the following route in California, to-wit:"

"46, 118. From Salinas, by Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan, 15 miles and back, six times a week."

"Leave Salinas daily, except Sunday at 1 P.M. Arrive at Gabilan by 7 P.M."

"Leave Gabilan daily, except Sunday at 6 A.M."

"Arrive at Salinas by 12 M."

"Bond required with bid, $1,800."




"No. 46,118. $796."

" This article of contract, made on the 15th of March, 1878, between the United States of America, acting in this behalf by the Postmaster General, and J. D. Carr, contractor, and A. B. Jackson, of Salinas, Monterey County, California, and George Pomeroy, of Salinas, Monterey County, California, as his sureties, witnesseth that whereas J. D. Carr has been accepted, according to law, as contractor for transporting the mail on route No. 46,118, from Salinas, Cal., by Santa Rita and Natividad, to Gabilan and back, six times a week at $796 per year, for and during the term beginning July 1, 1878, and ending June 30, 1882, . . . for which services, when performed, the said J. D. Carr, contractor, is to be paid by the United States the sum of $796 a year, to-wit, quarterly, in the months of November, February, May, and August, through the postmasters on the route, or otherwise at the option of the Postmaster General, said pay to be subject, however, to be reduced or discontinued by the Postmaster General as hereinafter stipulated, or to be suspended in case of delinquency."

" It is hereby stipulated and agreed by the said contractor

Page 132 U. S. 648

and his sureties that the Postmaster General may discontinue or extend this contract, change the schedule and termini of the route, and alter, increase, decrease, or extend the service, in accordance with law, he allowing a pro rata increase of compensation for any additional service thereby required, or for increased speed, if the employment of additional stock or carriers is rendered necessary; and, in case of decrease, curtailment, or discontinuance of service, as a full indemnity to said contractor, one month's extra pay on the amount of service dispensed with, and a pro rata compensation for the service retained, provided, however, that, in case of increased expedition the contractor may, upon timely notice, relinquish the contract."

" It is hereby also stipulated and agreed by the said contractor and his sureties, as aforesaid, that they shall forfeit --"

" 1. The pay of a trip when it is not run, and, in addition, if no sufficient excuse for the failure is furnished, an amount not more than three times the pay of the trip."

" 2. At least one-fourth of the pay of the trip when the running is so far behind time as to fail to make connection with a depending mail."

" 3. For violating any of the foregoing provisions touching the transmission of commercial intelligence more rapidly than by mail, or giving preference to passengers of freight over the mail or any portion thereof, or for leaving the same for their accommodation, or carrying otherwise than in the mail matter which should go by mail; or transporting persons engaged in so doing, with knowledge thereof, a penalty equal to a quarter's pay."

" 4. For violating any other provision of this contract touching the carriage of the mails or the time and manner thereof without a satisfactory explanation of the delinquency in due time to the Postmaster General, a penalty in his discretion. That these forfeitures may be increased into penalties of a higher amount, in the discretion of the Postmaster General, according to the nature or frequency of the failure and the importance of the mail, provided that, except as herein

Page 132 U. S. 649

otherwise specified, and except as provided by law, no penalty shall exceed three times the pay of a trip in each case."

"* * * *"

" [Duly signed, sealed, and delivered.]"






"Washington, D.C. October 23, 1878"

" Sir: I hereby certify that the mails have been carried by contractors in accordance with provisions of contract, or orders on routes stated herein by number in the State of California, without any failures or delinquencies so far as shown by returns received, for the quarter ended September 30, 1878."

"* * 46,118 * *"


"Acting Second Assistant Postmaster General"



" On March 22, 1882, Second Assistant Postmaster General addressed a letter to the postmaster at Natividad, and received information from him on April 6, 1882, that the mail was not carried from Gabilan by way of Natividad and Santa Rita, and that such had been the practice since the present contractor had the contract. The postmaster at Santa Rita certified to the Postmaster General that such had been the practice since he became postmaster. The date of the letters as to the continuance of the mode of carrying the mails was May 1, 1882."


" Upon the foregoing facts, the court determines, as a conclusion of law, that the claimant is entitled to recover the sum of $746.25."

Judgment was thereupon rendered in favor of the petitioner

Page 132 U. S. 650

for $746.25, from which the defendant appealed to this Court. The opinion of the Court of Claims will be found in 22 Ct.Cl. 152.

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