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IN RE PALLISER, 136 U. S. 257 (1890)

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U.S. Supreme Court

In re Palliser, 136 U.S. 257 (1890)

In re Palliser

No. 1538

Argued May 1, 1890

Decided May 19, 1890

136 U.S. 257


A sale by a postmaster of postage stamps on credit is a violation of the Act of June 17, 1878, c. 259, § 1, forbidding him to "sell or dispose of them except for cash."

Sending a letter to a postmaster asking him whether, if the writer of the letter will send him five thousand circulars in addressed envelopes, he will put postage stamps on them and send them out at the rate of one hundred daily, and promising him, if he will do so, to pay to him the price of the stamps, is a tender of a contract for the payment of money to the postmaster, with intent to induce him to sell postage stamps on credit and in violation of his duty, and is punishable under § 5451 of the Revised Statutes.

The offense of tendering a contract for the payment of money in a letter mailed in one district and addressed to a public officer in another, to induce him to violate his official duty may be tried in the district in which the letter is received by the officer.

Charles Palliser, being detained by the United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York under a warrant from a commissioner of the circuit court of the United States for that district, obtained from that court a writ of habeas corpus as well as a writ of certiorari to the marshal and commissioner, both returnable at a stated term of the court, in obedience to which the commissioner returned a record of proceedings had before him under § 1014 of the Revised Statutes, which enacts that "for any crime or offense against the United States, the offender may," by any commissioner of the circuit court, "be arrested and imprisoned or bailed, as the case may be, for trial before such court of the United States as by law has cognizance of the offense," and that where any offender "is committed in any district other than that where the offense is to be tried," a warrant may be issued by the district judge and executed by the marshal of that district, "for his removal to the district where the trial is to be had." The proceedings stated in the return were as follows:

First. The complaint, of which the following is a copy: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 136 U. S. 258

"United States of America, Southern District of New York, ss. John H. Bario, being duly sworn, deposes and says that he is an inspector of the Post Office Department; that on October 23d 1888, Charles Palliser of the City and New York, then and there doing business under the name and style of Palliser, Palliser & Co. at Old Lyme, in the County of New London, in the State and District of Connecticut, with force and arms unlawfully and willfully did tender to one W. R. De Wolf, who then and there was and thereafter continued to be until the 4th day of March, 1889, a postmaster of the United States at a certain post office known as Black Hall, in said County of New London, a certain contract in the words and figures following:"

"New York, October 23, 1888"

"Postmaster, Black Hall, Conn."

" Dear Sir: We desire in each county a place through which to send out mail matter, as we want to reach every businessman, mechanic, and real estate owner in every state by circular. If we ship to you from our printing department, located in the country in your state, say 5,000 or 10,000 circulars in envelopes, and each addressed, will you give the same your careful attention, sending out daily 50 to 100 during the coming months until they are all out, and then render us statement of same, with account for stamps used, and we will remit. We are doing this at other general store post offices in adjoining counties to yours, and it is perfectly legitimate, and we await your reply in addressed and stamped envelope enclosed herewith, as, if you cannot attend to same, we must at once send elsewhere."

" Yours very truly,"


"with the intent of him, the said Palliser, to induce him, the said De Wolf, as such postmaster, to do certain acts in violation of his lawful duty as such postmaster -- that is to say, to sell him, the said Palliser, postage stamps of the United States otherwise than for cash, to-wit, upon the credit of said Palliser, against the peace of the United States and contrary

Page 136 U. S. 259

to the statutes thereof in such case made and provided. Deponent further says that said Charles Palliser is now within the Southern District of New York."


"Subscribed and sworn to before me this 27th day of September, 1889."

"JOHN A. SHIELDS, U.S. Commissioner"

Second. The warrant of arrest, dated September 2 7, 1889, reciting the substance of the complaint, and that it had been satisfactorily proved to the commissioner "that the said Charles Palliser is now within the Southern District of New York."

Third. The bringing of the prisoner before the commissioner, and his discharge on bail pending his examination.

Fourth. The evidence taken before the commissioner, tending to prove the following facts: Palliser was a member of the firm of Palliser, Palliser & Co., architects and publishers of works on building, having their principal place of business in the City of New York, and a printing office at Bridgeport in the State of Connecticut. The letter set forth in the complaint was signed and mailed by Palliser at New York in a sealed envelope and was received at Black Hall in the County of New London and State of Connecticut by De Wolf, postmaster at that place, who was a postmaster of the fourth class, receiving no salary, and compensated upon the basis of, among other things, the amount of stamps cancelled at his office. Act of March 3, 1883, c. 142, § 2, 22 Stat. 602. At the same time, Palliser sent similar letters from New York or Bridgeport to many other postmasters of the same class in Connecticut. About a fortnight afterwards, De Wolf received by freight a box of circulars, and on November 26, 1888, he sent by mail to Palliser, Palliser & Co. at the City of New York a reply to their letter in these words:

"Gentlemen: Have received a case of circulars from you, which I did not order, as cannot handle them. They are here subject to your order. Take notice of sec. 515 of postal laws and regulations, 1887."

"Yours, etc.,"

"W. R. De Wolf, P.M."


Page 136 U. S. 260

Fifth. An order of the commissioner, dated November 26, 1889, committing the prisoner, upon his surrender by his bail, to the custody of the marshal.

Sixth. The final order of the commissioner, dated December 3, 1889, by which, after reciting the arrest and examination, and

"it appearing to me from the testimony offered that there is probable cause to believe the said Charles Palliser guilty of the offense charged in said warrant, the said Charles Palliser is hereby committed for trial at the District of Connecticut, the district in which the offense is alleged to have been committed, and he is hereby remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York until the warrant for his removal shall issue by the United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, or he be otherwise dealt with according to law."

The record transmitted to this Court, after setting forth the proceedings above stated, further set forth: 1st, an opinion of the circuit judge, filed December 3, 1889, treating the case as before him, and not before the circuit court, and directing the writ of habeas corpus to be dismissed; 2d., an order of the circuit court at a stated term held on the same day, ordering the writ of habeas corpus to be dismissed and the prisoner remanded to the custody of the marshal; 3d., an appeal from that order to this Court. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 136 U. S. 262

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