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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Shoemaker, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 338 338 (1868)

United States v. Shoemaker

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 338


Prior to the Act of June 12, 1858, providing compensation not exceeding one quarter of one percent to collectors acting as disbursing agents of the United States in certain cases, such collector, if receiving his general maximum compensation under the Act of March 2, 1831 (§ 4), and also his special maximum of $400, under the Act of May 7, 1822 (§ 18), could not recover on a quantum meruit or otherwise for disbursements made for building a custom house and marine hospital at the port where he was collector.

This suit was brought by the United States on a bond chanrobles.com-red

Page 74 U. S. 339

executed by Shoemaker and his sureties, the defendants, on the 19th of May, 1857, in a penalty of $20,000, conditioned that said Shoemaker, as disbursing agent for the new marine hospital and custom house at Detroit, Michigan, should well and truly disburse all moneys that may come into his hands from the Secretary of the Treasury for the object mentioned and account for the same.

On the trial, the plaintiff proved that the defendant, Shoemaker, was collector of the customs at Detroit, in 1857 and 1858; that he was instructed by the Secretary of the Treasury to disburse about $200,000 appropriated by Congress for building a custom house and marine hospital at that port, and that, between the 1st April, 1857, and the 12th June, 1858, and subsequently, the collector made disbursements accordingly.

It was proved also that during all the above period he had been allowed and had received his general maximum compensation, under the Act of March 2, 1831, § 4, as collector; and also his special maximum of $400, under the Act of May 7, 1822 (which provides (§ 18), that no collector shall ever receive more than $400 annually, exclusive of his compensation as collector, for any service he may perform for the United States in any other office or capacity), and that he had been allowed one quarter of 1 percent upon all disbursements made after June 12, 1858.

The plaintiff then rested; and the defendants, to maintain their defense, gave in evidence, that the balance shown in the Treasury transcripts, against the collector, was composed of an excess over the $400 allowed, under the act of 1822, of 2 1/2 percent upon his disbursements; and that this percentum was but a reasonable compensation for the service.

The Act of August 4, 1854, [Footnote 1] authorized the building of a custom house and marine hospital, at Detroit, and made an appropriation for the same. The duty was devolved upon the Secretary of the Treasury, and a sum equal to 10 percent of the moneys appropriated, was also appropriated to chanrobles.com-red

Page 74 U. S. 340

cover the compensation of architects, superintendents, advertising, and other contingent expenses.

The act of June 12, 1858, [Footnote 2] provided that collectors of customs should thereafter be disbursing agents for the payment of all moneys appropriated for the construction of custom houses, courthouses &c., with a compensation not exceeding one quarter of 1 percent. This act appropriated a small sum for fencing and grading the grounds about the hospital at Detroit. With this exception, no compensation had been allowed to the collector for the disbursement of the moneys made by him.

The court below directed the jury to find for the defendant if they believed his commission to be a reasonable one. Verdict and judgment went accordingly, and the United States brought the case here on error.


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