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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Grossmayer, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 72 72 (1869)

United States v. Grossmayer

76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 72


1. Intercourse during war with an enemy is unlawful to parties standing in the relation of debtor and creditor as much as to those who do not.

2. Conceding that a creditor may have an agent in an enemy's country to whom his debtor there may pay a debt contracted before the war, yet the agent must be one who was appointed before the war. He cannot be one appointed during it.

3. A transaction originally unlawful -- such as a person's unlawful trading in behalf of another with an enemy -- cannot be made lawful by any ratification.

Elias Einstein, a resident of Macon, Georgia, was indebted, when the late rebellion broke out, to Grossmayer, a resident of

Page 76 U. S. 73

New York, for goods sold and money lent, and while the war was in progress a correspondence on the subject was maintained through the medium of a third person who passed back and forth several times between Macon and New York. The communication between the parties resulted in Grossmayer's requesting Einstein to remit the amount due him in money or sterling exchange, or, if that were not possible, to invest the sum in cotton and hold it for him until the close of the war.

In pursuance of this direction -- and, as it is supposed, because money or sterling exchange could not be transmitted -- Einstein purchased cotton for Grossmayer, and informed him of it, Grossmayer expressing himself satisfied with the arrangement. The cotton was afterwards shipped as Grossmayer's to one Abraham Einstein at Savannah, who stored it there in his own name in order to prevent its seizure by the rebel authorities. It remained in store in this manner until the capture of Savannah in December, 1864, by the armies of the United States, when it was reported to our military forces as Grossmayer's cotton, and taken by them and sent to New York and sold.

Grossmayer now preferred a claim in the Court of Claims for the residue of the proceeds, asserting that he was within the protection of the Captured and Abandoned Property Act.

That court considering that the purchase by Elias Einstein for Grossmayer was not a violation of the war intercourse acts set forth in the preceding case, decided that he was so, and gave judgment in his favor. The United States appealed.

Page 76 U. S. 74

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