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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Padelford, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 531 531 (1869)

United States v. Padelford

76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 531


1. Claimants under the Captured and Abandoned Property Act, of March 12,1863, are not deprived of the benefits of that act because of aid and comfort not voluntarily given by them to the rebellion.

2. But voluntarily executing as surety, through motives of personal friendship to the principals, the official bonds of persons acting as quartermasters or as assistant commissaries in the rebel army was giving aid and comfort to the rebellion, although the principals, by their appointment to the offices named, escaped active military service and were enabled to remain at home in the discharge of their offices respectively.

3. Taking possession of a city by the national forces was not, of itself, and without some actual seizure of it in obedience to the orders of the commanding general, a capture within the meaning of the act of the cotton which happened to be in the city at the time of the entry of the forces.

4. Hence, where, prior to any such seizure an owner of cotton, who, though opposed to the rebellion, had given aid and comfort to it to the extent above-mentioned, but was not within any of the classes excepted by the President's proclamation of December 8, 1863, and in regard to whose property in the cotton no rights of third persons had intervened -- took the oath prescribed by that act and kept it -- held, after a seizure and sale of the cotton by the government, that he was entitled to the net proceeds as given to loyal owners under the Abandoned and Captured Property Act. Having been pardoned, his offense, in executing the bonds, could not be imputed to him.

That among the citizens of Georgia during the late rebellion was one Edward Padelford. That he never gave any voluntary aid or comfort to the late rebellion or to persons engaged therein; but "consistently adhered to the United States," unless the matter of certain special facts constituted in law such aid and comfort. The special facts were these:

"In April, 1861, after the breaking out of the rebellion, a subscription for a loan of $15,000,000 to the Confederate government was opened in the City of Savannah, and all

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persons were expected and required to subscribe to it who were able to do so, and declarations and threats were publicly made, that all who did not subscribe voluntarily should be made to subscribe. These threats were openly made at the place of subscription, and by persons influential with the populace. Padelford's name was mentioned, his absence was remarked upon, and inquiries were made as to where he was, and it was publicly threatened that if the Marine Bank, of which he was a director, did not subscribe liberally, it should be pulled down. Padelford was informed of these things, and advised to subscribe to the loan because of them, by friends, loyal as well as rebel; and under these threats and the pressure of circumstances stated, he subscribed $5,000 to the loan, and declared he did it unwillingly and because of the public excitement, and he sold out the stock he had subscribed for in two weeks after."

"The Marine Bank of the City of Savannah was, in 1861, under the direction of Northern men, and Padelford was one of its most influential directors and largest stockholders. When the other banks of Savannah increased their capital stock and lent their funds to the aid of the Confederacy by exchanging them for Confederate notes and securities, the Marine Bank objected to doing so, and instead contracted its business for its own security. This conduct and the known loyalty of many of the directors of the bank subjected it to public odium, and it was nicknamed the Yankee Bank. At the time the subscription to the loan was opened in Savannah, the political excitement was at its highest point, and it was, as has been stated, publicly threatened that if the bank did not subscribe liberally, it should be pulled down. Under these threats and the pressure of the circumstances stated, the bank subscribed $100,000 to the Confederate loan. This was the least it could subscribe according to its capital, and its refusal to subscribe would have endangered the bank and its directors; but Padelford opposed the loan made, and from that time absented himself for the most part from the meetings of the directors, on the ground that the course of the bank was controlled by outside pressure. "

Page 76 U. S. 533

In addition to these facts, the Court of Claims found that Padelford, during the rebellion and prior to October, 1863, "voluntarily executed" as surety three different bonds, conditioned for the performance by the different principals of their duties -- one as commissary of the rebel army, one as assistant commissary, and one as assistant quartermaster; that all the principals in these bonds were, and for some years had been, respectively, intimate personal friends of Padelford; that two of the principals were within the terms of the conscription acts pending or in force at the time of the execution of their several bonds, and that by their appointment to office they escaped active military service in the field, and were enabled to remain at their homes in office respectively; and that Padelford was induced to execute the bonds by motives of personal friendship and regard for the several principals.

So far the findings of the court as to the loyalty of Padelford.

An Act of July 17, 1862, [Footnote 1] having by its thirteenth section authorized the President at any time thereafter, by proclamation, to extend to persons who might have participated in the rebellion, pardon and amnesty, with such exceptions and at such time, and on such conditions as he might deem expedient for the public welfare, President Lincoln did, by proclamation dated December 8, 1863, [Footnote 2] make known to all persons who had directly or by implication, thus participated, with some exceptions specified, that on their taking a certain oath, the form of which his proclamation set forth, and thenceforth keeping and maintaining it inviolate,

"a full pardon was thereby granted to them and each of them, with restoration of all rights of property, except as to slaves, and in property cases where rights of third parties shall have intervened."

About a year after this proclamation -- that is to say, on the 21st December, 1864, the City of Savannah was captured by the government forces under General Sherman; Padelford

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and one Mott being owners, at the time, of a large amount of cotton in store there. On the 18th of January, 1865, and, as the Court of Claims found, before any actual seizure or taking possession of the property in question by the military, otherwise than by the capture of the city, Padelford, in due form of law, took and subscribed the oath of amnesty and allegiance to the United States government prescribed by the President's proclamation issued in pursuance of the act; he not having been, as to his person or property, within the exceptions of the proclamation; and he thenceforth complied with all the requirements and conditions named in the act and proclamation, and kept and maintained his oath of allegiance and amnesty inviolate. After Padelford thus took the oath, the cotton was taken possession of by the military authorities, and by them turned over to the proper agents of the United States Treasury, under whose direction it was transported to New York and sold, and the net proceeds, amounting to $246,277, paid into the Treasury of the United States. Padelford and Mott, now, March, 1866, filed a petition in the Court of Claims to have these proceeds, their petition being founded on the act of March 12, 1863 [Footnote 3] -- entitled "An act to provide for the collection of abandoned property &c., in insurrectionary districts within the United States," and which provided as follows:

"Any person claiming to have been the owner of any such abandoned or captured property may, at any time within two years after the suppression of the rebellion, prefer his claim to the proceeds thereof in the Court of Claims; and on proof to the satisfaction of said court (1) of his ownership of said property, (2) of his right to the proceeds thereof, and (3) that he has never given any aid or comfort to the present rebellion, receive the residue of such proceeds, after the deduction of any purchase money which may have been paid, together with the expense of transportation and sale of said property, and any other lawful expenses attending the disposition thereof."

After the petitioners had filed their claim, Congress, by an

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act of June 25, 1868, [Footnote 4] enacted

"That whenever it shall be material in any suit or claim before any court to ascertain whether any person did or did not give any aid or comfort to the late rebellion, the claimant or party asserting the loyalty or such person to the United States, during such rebellion, shall be required to prove affirmatively that such person did, during said rebellion, constantly adhere to the United States, and did give no aid or comfort to persons engaged in said rebellion."

The petitioner were permitted to sever in their claim, and to sue severally for their respective interests. And in the suit of Padelford, judgment was rendered in his favor for one-half ($123,138) of the net proceeds of the cotton. From this judgment the United States appealed.

The view of the court was, as matter of law, that Padelford's conduct prior to the capture of the city did not constitute the giving of aid or comfort to the rebellion or to persons engaged in the rebellion within the provisions of the Acts of March 12, 1863, and June 25, 1868, and did not bar him from recovering in this action the net proceeds of the property in question. And apparently that if it had, he was entitled to recover, having taken the oath and been loyal afterwards.

Page 76 U. S. 537

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