LANGFORD V. UNITED STATES, 101 U. S. 341 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Langford v. United States, 101 U.S. 341 (1879)

Langford v. United States

101 U.S. 341


1. As applicable to the government or any of its officers, the maxim that the King can do no wrong has no place in our system of constitutional law.

2. Quaere, where lands which are confessedly private property are by the express authority of the government taken for public use, can the just compensation therefor which is guaranteed by the Constitution be recovered under existing laws in the Court of Claims?

3. That court has jurisdiction only in cases ex contractu, and an implied contract to pay does not arise where the officer of the government, asserting its ownership, commits a tort by taking forcible possession of the lands of an individual for public use.

4. The provision restricting that jurisdiction to contracts express or implied refers to the well understood distinction between matters ex contractu and those ex delicto, and is founded on the principle that while Congress is willing to subject the government to suits on contracts, which can be valid only when made by some one thereunto vested with authority, or when under such authority something is by him done which raises an implied contract, that body did not intend to make the government liable to suit for the wrongful and unauthorized acts which are committed by its officers, under a mistaken zeal for the public good.

6. If, under claim that they belong to the government, an officer seizes for the use of an Indian agency buildings owned by a private citizen, no implied obligation of the United States to pay for the use and occupation of them is thereby raised.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.