TYLER V. DEFREES, 78 U. S. 331 (1870)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tyler v. Defrees, 78 U.S. 11 Wall. 331 331 (1870)

Tyler v. Defrees

78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 331


1. The Congress of the United States, to which is entrusted all the great powers essential to a perpetual union, to-wit, the power to make war, to suppress insurrection, to levy taxes, to make rules concerning captures on land and sea, is not deprived of those powers when the necessity for their exercise is called out by domestic insurrection and internal civil war.

2. The proceedings of the courts in the execution of laws made to suppress such civil rebellion, when brought before this Court on review, should not be subjected to so strict a construction as to defeat the execution of the laws and render them a nullity.

3. The doctrine of the case of Miller v. United States, supra, 78 U. S. 268, affirmed and held to govern the present case.

4. When, under the Act of July 17, 1862, property intended for confiscation has been seized by the marshal, and the seizure is brought before the court by the filing of a libel for the forfeiture of the property, and is recognized and adopted by it, the property is subject to the control of the court in the hands of its officer, and it has jurisdiction of the case so far as a seizure of the res is essential to give it.

5. This is especially so of real estate lying within the territorial jurisdiction of the court and which, being incapable of removal, will always be found to answer the orders and decrees of the court in the progress of the cause.

This was an action of ejectment to recover certain real property in the City of Washington. The defendant pleaded title from a purchaser at a sale of the property under a judicial decree, made in proceedings instituted under the Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862. It was conceded that the plaintiff had a good title to the premises unless that title had been divested by the sale under that decree. The issue involved was therefore the validity of the decree.

The provisions of the confiscation act just referred to, along with some facts in connection with it, are set out fully

Page 78 U. S. 332

in the report of Miller v. United States (the leading one of the Confiscation Cases), immediately preceding this one; and to the part of the report of that case beginning on page 78 U. S. 269, with the words (prefixed by a "**"), "The Act of July 17, 1862, contains fourteen sections," to the words (prefixed by a "***") "On the 24th November, 1863," on page 78 U. S. 274, the reader must now please to turn. He will find there what but to avoid mere repetition would be given here, and that which makes a necessary part of the statement of the present case. After reading it, he may resume his reading here.

The facts of the present case were found by special verdict. It appeared that in June, 1863, the marshal of the District of Columbia, in pursuance of an order addressed to him by the district attorney of the United States, stating that proceedings were to be instituted for the condemnation of the same to the use of the United States, seized the property in question. His return stated that he had made seizure of the property and given notice to the tenants in possession, as directed, and accompanied his return with a copy of the notice served on the tenants, which stated that the property seized was "held subject to the order of the United States district court, and the district attorney."

Shortly after this return the district attorney filed a libel of information for the forfeiture of the property, alleging against Tyler that since the 17th of July, 1862, he had held and exercised an office and agency, of honor, trust, and profit, under the Confederate government, and that he had given aid and comfort to the rebellion, and to those engaged in it, by acting as a soldier and as a non-commissioned officer in the army and navy of the Confederate States, and by contributing money and property to aid and encourage those engaged in the rebellion.

Upon this libel's being filed, an order was made that process issue and that notice by given to the owner or owners of the property and to all persons interested or claiming interest therein to appear and answer the information on the first Monday of August then next (1863), and show cause, if any they had, why the property should not be condemned and

Page 78 U. S. 333

sold, and that notice be given by posting a copy of the order upon the door of the courthouse, and by publication in the National Republican, a newspaper of the District.

A monition was accordingly issued, commanding the marshal to attach the property, and to detain the same in his custody until the further order of the court, and to give notice to all persons having or claiming any interest in the property to show cause as above stated. This process was never served by the marshal, and the only return which he made to it was a certificate that he had made the publication of notice in the designated paper.

On the 29th of July, 1863, and not on the first Monday of August, which latter day was specified as the day for the claimants and others to appear and show cause against the condemnation of the property, the court, without evidence being taken in the case, upon the papers and pleadings filed, entered a decree that the property be forfeited and condemned to the United States.

Upon this decree, process issued to the marshal, to sell the property, and under the said process the property was sold, and purchased by a person through whom the defendant claimed.

Upon the facts found by the jury, the court ordered judgment in favor of the defendant. From this judgment, the case was brought to this Court on writ of error.

Page 78 U. S. 344

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