LAPEYRE V. UNITED STATES, 84 U. S. 191 (1872)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lapeyre v. United States, 84 U.S. 17 Wall. 191 191 (1872)

Lapeyre v. United States

84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 191


1. A proclamation of the President relieving parties who had been transacting business in ignorance of it from penalties and restoring to them their rights of property held, under special circumstances, by the judgment of the Court to have taken effect when it was signed by the President and sealed with the seal of the United States, officially attested.

2. Publication in the newspapers held, in the same way, not requisite to make it operative.

By the Act of 13 July, 1861, [Footnote 1] the President was authorized to proclaim, "that the inhabitants of a state, or any part thereof, where such insurrection exists, are in state of insurrection against the United States," and thereupon, "all

Page 84 U. S. 192

commercial intercourse" between such inhabitants and the citizens of the rest of the United States "shall cease and be unlawful so long as such condition of hostility shall continue."

By the Act of July 2d, 1864, [Footnote 2] provision was made for the transmission and sale of cotton from the insurrectionary states. Among other things, it was provided that a person having cotton in the states west of the Mississippi might transport the same through the lines of the armies of the United States to the city of New Orleans, and there deliver the same to an agent of the United States, who should buy the same and return to the person producing the cotton three-fourths of the market value thereof in the City of New York. In substance, this act permitted the introduction and sale of cotton from an enemy's country, subject to a tax of 25 percent on the value thereof.

On the 6th of April, 1865, Lee, commanding the body of the rebel forces at Richmond, surrendered. Johnson with another part of them, surrendered on the 26th of the same month, and Kirby Smith, who commanded west of the Mississippi, did the same on the 26th of May following.

On the 10th of May, 1865, the President issued his proclamation that "armed resistance to the authority of this government may be regarded as virtually at an end." [Footnote 3]

On the 18th of June, 1865, one Lapeyre caused to be shipped to New Orleans, from some point west of the Mississippi River, 476 bales of cotton, and consigned the same to the purchasing agent of the government. This cotton reached New Orleans on the 24th day of June. On the 26th, the owner executed a bill of sale of the same to the government agent, who returned to him 367 bales, being three-fourths thereof, and retained 119 bales, being one-fourth, under the provisions of the act referred to. At this time, neither the claimant nor the agent had any knowledge of the proclamation now to be mentioned.

This proclamation, following one which had been issued on the 13th of June, 1865, [Footnote 4] removing all restrictions on "internal

Page 84 U. S. 193

domestic and coastwise trade, and upon the removal of products of states heretofore declared in insurrection east of the Mississippi River," removed the restrictions upon the trade and intercourse from the states west of it, [Footnote 5] and restored the former relations between the states. It was an instrument by the President, bearing date June 24, 1865, in the usual form of a proclamation, and was made by authority of the Congress of the United States. It was headed:



After making various recitals it proceeded:

"Now, therefore, be it known that I, Andrew Johnson President of the United States, do hereby declare,"


It closed thus:

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington this twenty-fourth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, and of the independence of the United States of America the eighty-ninth."


"By the President:"

"W. HUNTER, Acting Secretary of State"

It was a fact undisputed, and was found by the Court of Claims, in one of its findings -- the third:

"That this proclamation of the President, of June 24, 1865, was not published in the newspapers until the morning of the 27th of the month, nor was it published or promulgated anywhere or in any form prior to said last-named day, unless its being sealed with the seal of the United States in the Department of State was a publication or promulgation thereof."

It was equally undisputed and found that the Secretary of the Treasury sent a telegram to the Treasury agent in New

Page 84 U. S. 194

Orleans, on the 27th June, and also a letter on the 28th June, informing him that the exaction of 25 percent on cotton had been rescinded.

The transaction now under consideration had been entered into by both parties ignorant of the removal of the restrictions.

On a suit brought by Lapeyre in the Court of Claims to recover the proceeds of the 119 bales which had been sold by the United States, the question arose whether this instrument, prior to its being published anywhere or in form otherwise than as mentioned, had the force and effect of a proclamation. The Court of Claims was of opinion that it had not, and decided against Lapeyre. He now brought the case here for review.

Page 84 U. S. 195

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