CARROLL V. UNITED STATES, 80 U. S. 151 (1871)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Carroll v. United States, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 151 151 (1871)

Carroll v. United States

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 151




In a claim by an administrator of a deceased person against the United States under the Abandoned and Captured Property Act of March 12, 1863, which makes proof that the owner never gave aid or comfort to the rebellion a condition precedent to recovery, it is no bar that the decedent gave such aid or comfort, the property having been taken after the decedent's death and from the administrator, and not from him. The owner, within the sense of the statute, was the administratrix.

The Act of March 12, 1863, "to provide for the collection of abandoned property in insurrectionary districts within the United States," enacts that:

"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 claims to the proceeds thereof in the Court of Claims, and on proof to the satisfaction of said court of his ownership of said property, of his right to the proceeds thereof, and 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."

Under this act, Mrs. Lucy Carroll, administratrix of her husband, George Carroll, presented a claim for the proceeds in the Treasury of certain cotton. The husband, as appeared from the findings of the court, resided in Arkansas during the first years of the late civil war, and had raised and was owner of certain cotton. He died in September, 1863. During his life, he had given aid to the rebellion.

The cotton, upon his death, came into the possession of the claimant as administratrix, and was in her possession at the time it was captured by the army of the United States. She offered evidence to establish her own loyalty, and that she never gave aid or comfort to the rebellion, which seems to have been rejected by the court. The estate was insolvent,

Page 80 U. S. 152

the creditors numerous, and there was no proof in respect to their loyalty.

The Court of Claims decided as a conclusion of law from these facts that the claimant's right as administratrix depended upon proof of the loyalty of the decedent, and, it being shown that he voluntarily gave aid and comfort to the rebellion, dismissed the petition.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.

We think that the Court of Claims erred in the decision given by it. The statute of March 12, 1863, makes the

Page 80 U. S. 153

right to recover depend on proof of ownership of the abandoned or captured property, of right to the proceeds, and of the fact that the owner gave no aid or comfort to the rebellion. It is plain to us that the ownership to be proved was that which existed at the time of capture or abandonment, and that the right to the proceeds was that which existed at the time of the petition filed in the Court of Claims. These titles, in their nature, capable of separation, coexisted in the petitioner. True, her ownership was not absolute, nor was her right to the proceeds absolute. She could claim only in a representative capacity -- first, in right of the intestate and secondly as trustee for creditors and distributees. At the time of the death of the intestate, the cotton was in his possession, unaffected by any proceeding in confiscation. After his death, and upon appointment of his widow as administratrix, the title vested in her unforfeited. It was a title upon which she could maintain trespass or trover. * And it was the only title to the property subsisting at the time of the capture and sale and payment of the proceeds into the Treasury. The statute does not make it the duty of the court to inquire whether the intestate who had been the owner gave aid and comfort to the rebellion, but whether such aid or comfort was given by the actual owner at the time of capture. This owner, within the sense of the statute, was the administratrix. It would be much more reasonable to institute such inquiries in respect to the creditors and distributees than in respect to the intestate. But such an investigation might be endless, and could not, we think, have been contemplated by the legislature.

We think, therefore, that the Court of Claims erred in not admitting the proof offered by the petitioner, and for this cause the decree must be


* Redfield on Wills 114, 116; 1 Williams on Executors and Administrators 596; McVaughters v. Elder, 2 Brevard 313; Lawrence v. Wright, 23 Pickering 129.

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