MONROE V. UNITED STATES, 184 U. S. 524 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Monroe v. United States, 184 U.S. 524 (1902)

Monroe v. United States

No. 98

Submitted January 14, 1902

Decided March 10, 1902

184 U.S. 524


The approval of the Chief of Engineers was necessary to the legal consummation of the contract in this case.

A final reviewing and approving judgment was given to the Chief of Engineers, by a covenant so expressed as to constitute a condition precedent to the taking effect of the contract.

The contract was not approved, and the legal consequence of that cannot be escaped.

The appellees brought suit against the United States in the Court of Claims for the sum of $25,485.89, for expenses incurred and for damages. The latter consisted of losses suffered by them by the breach of a contract entered into by the United States through W. S. Marshall, captain in the Corps of Engineers. The contract was made in pursuance of an advertisement made by the United States inviting proposals for constructing a canal, to be known as the Illinois & Mississippi Canal, upon the terms, conditions, and specifications set forth in an exhibit which was attached to and made a part of the petition.

The contract contained the following clause: "This contract shall be subject to approval of the Chief of Engineers, United States Army." There was no averment that the contract had been so approved, and the United States demurred. The demurrer stated:

"Not only does the contract itself, a copy of which is attached as above, fail to show that the same was ever approved by the Chief of Engineers, U.S.A. but the testimony in the

Page 184 U. S. 525

case fully and conclusively shows, and the same is not denied by the claimant, that said contract has never been approved by the said Chief of Engineers, U.S.A. in any manner whatsoever."

It was prayed that the petition "be quashed and the action be dismissed accordingly."

The action of the court is expressed in the following order: "Allowed in part and judgment for defendants on findings of fact filed."

As a conclusion of law from the findings the court ordered the petition dismissed and a formal judgment was entered accordingly. 35 Ct.Cl.199. This appeal was then taken.

The findings of fact are as follows:

On or about the 25th of May, 1892, the United States through W. S. Marshall, a captain in its Corps of Engineers, advertised for proposals for constructing a canal to be known as the Illinois & Mississippi Canal. The claimants submitted a bid to do certain parts of the work. The bid was accepted by Captain Marshall, acting under an authority contained in a letter from the Chief of Engineers of the United States army.

"On the 20th day of July, 1892, Captain Marshall forwarded to claimants the formal contract annexed to and forming part of the petition, and bonds to be executed within ten days thereafter, all which claimants fully executed and returned to the said engineer on the 28th day of July, 1892, which formal contract was duly signed by Captain Marshall. The form of the contract had been prepared by the Chief of Engineers and forwarded to Captain Marshall for use in such cases."

"Immediately upon receiving notice of the acceptance of their said bid, claimants began preparation for the commencement of said work. They shipped their plant from Portsmouth, Ohio, to Rock Island, Illinois; rented and furnished a boat and had the same taken to Rock River, in the vicinity of the work, to be used as a boarding house for men employed on the work, built stables for their teams, hired men and teams, purchased a large amount of plant, consisting of shovels, plows, scrapers, and the like, and generally equipped themselves in a proper

Page 184 U. S. 526

manner to expeditiously perform the work, and commenced the work with men and teams about the 1st day of August, 1892."

"On the 6th day of August, 1892, without fault on their part and while the work was progressing, claimants were stopped by the United States and their contract abrogated against their consent, and the work that they had contracted to do readvertised, for the alleged reason that, by the Act of August 1, 1892, no work could be prosecuted by the United States without a stipulation in the contract binding the contractor not to permit his workmen to labor more than eight hours per day, and the United States refused to permit claimants to continue the work either under the terms of the contract or under the terms of the law of August 1, 1892, but immediately, and against the protest of claimants, readvertised and let the said work to other parties."

"In the prosecution of said work under said contract prior to the abrogation thereof on August 6, 1892, claimants expended the sum of $678.21, which has not been paid to them."

"By reason of the abrogation of said contract claimants lost the following sums expended and were deprived of the following profits which they would have made in the execution of said work:"

Expenses incurred . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ 678.21

Profits if they had been permitted to perform . . . 7,150.00

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