Palliser v. United States/Opinion of the Court
|Palliser v. United States by
Opinion of the Court
Upon the record before us, the final order dismissing the writ of habeas corpus and remanding the prisoner to the custody of the marshal, appears to have been decision of the circuit court at a stated term, and therefore clearly subject to an appeal to this court, under the act of March 3, 1885, c. 353, (23 St. 437.) Carper v. Fitzgerald, 121 U.S. 87, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 825. But he was rightly remanded to custody, because the return shows that he was charged with a crime against the laws of the United States, and within the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States for the district of Connecticut. By section 5451 of the Revised Statutes, 'every person who promises, offers, or gives, or causes or procures to be promised, offered, or given, any money or other thing of value, or makes or tenders any contract, undertaking, obligation, gratuity, or security for the payment of money, or for the delivery or conveyance of anything of value to any officer of the United States, * * ** with intent to influence him to commit, or aidin committing, or to collude in or allow any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud on the United States, or to induce him to do or omit to do any act in violation of his lawful duty, shall be punished' by fine and imprisonment. By the act of June 17, 1878, c. 259, § 1, 'no postmaster of any class, or other person connected with the postal service, intrusted with the sale or custody of postage stamps, stamped envelopes, or postalcards, shall use or dispose of them in the payment of debts or in the purchase of merchandise or other salable articles, or pledge or hypothecate the same, or sell or dispose of them, except for cash,' on pain of being deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and punished accordingly. 20 St. 141. By this statute, postmasters are peremptorily forbidden, not only to dispose of postage stamps in the payment of debts or in the purchase of commodities, or to pledge them, but 'to sell or dispose of them except for cash.' The word 'cash' in this statute, as in common speech, means ready money, or money in hand, either in current coin or other legal tender, or in bank-bills or checks paid and received as money, and does not include promises to pay money in the future. A sale on credit is not, ordinarily speaking, and in the absence of any evidence of usage, a sale for cash, within the meaning of that word as used in statutes or contracts. Muller v. Norton, 132 U.S. 501, ante, 147; Bliss v. Arnold, 8 Vt. 252; Steward v. Scudder, 24 N. J. Law, 96; Foley v. Mason, 6 Md. 37; Blair v. Wilson, 28 Grat. 165, 175; Farr v. Sims, Rich. Eq. Cas. 122, 131; Meng v. Houser, 13 Rich. Eq. 210, 213.
The petitioner relies on the following passage in an opinion delivered by Mr. Justice SWAYNE: 'Life insurance is a cash business. Its disbursements are all in money, and its receipts must necessarily be in the same medium. This is the universal usage and rule of all such companies.' Hoffman v. Insurance Co., 92 U.S. 161, 164. But the only point decided in that case was that an agent of an insurance company could not, unless authorized by the company, accept personal property as* money in payment of a premium; no question arose or was considered as to the premium note; and it cannot reasonably be inferred that the learned justice meant to intimate that a premium note was cash or money, before the amount thereof was paid by the insured and received by the insurance company, according to the terms of their contracts.
The substance and effect of the letter written and sent by the petitioner, in behalf of himself and his partners, to De Wolf as postmaster, was to ask him whether, if they should send him from five to ten thousand circulars in addressed envelopes, he would put postage stamps on them, and send them out, at the rate of 50 to 100 daily; and to promise him that, if he would do so, and would render them a statement of his doings and an account of the stamps used, they would remit to him the price of the stamps. If we take 5,000, the smallest number of circulars proposed to be sent by the petitioner to the postmaster, and 100, the largest number suggested to be sent out by the postmaster daily, it would require 50 days for the postmaster to send out the circulars; and the petitioner would thus be allowed an average credit of at least 25 days on his payments to the postmaster for 5,000 postage stamps; and the postmaster would receive and retain a commission on the sale of as many stamps, which neither he nor any other postmaster would retain if the circulars were mailed by the petitioner at the post-office in New York, or any other post-office where the postmaster was paid by a salary. If this letter was not an offer of money to the postmaster, it was clearly a tender of a contract for the payment of money to him, with intent to induce him to sell postage stamps for credit, in violation of his lawful duty, and therefore came within section 5451 of the Revised Statutes, above quoted. A promise to a public officer that, if he will do a certain unlawful act, e § hall be paid a certain compensation, is an offer to bribe him to do the unlawful act; and an offer of a contract to pay money to a postmaster for an unlawful sale by him of postage stamps on credit is not the less within the statute because the portion of that money which he would ultimately have the right to retain, by way of commission, from the United States, would be no greater than he would have upon a lawful sale for cash of an equal amount of postage stamps.
The remaining and more interesting question is whether the petitioner can be tried for the offense in this district of Connecticut. The petitioner relies on those provisions of the constitution of the United States which declare that, in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the right to be tried by an impartial jury of the state and district where the crime shall have been committed. Article 3, § 2; amendments, art. 6. But the right thereby secured is not a right to be tried in the district where the accused resides, nor even in the district in which he is personally at the time of committing the crime, but in the district 'wherein the crime shall have been committed.' Reference was made in argument to the question, often disputed, where an indictment for murder shall be tried, when a mortal blow struck or shot fired in one jurisdiction is followed by death in another jurisdiction? See Com. v. Macloon, 101 Mass. 1, and authorities there cited; Queen v. Keyn, 2 Exch. Div. 63; The Franconia, 11 Amer. Law Rev. 625; State v. Bowen, 16 Kan. 475; U.S. v. Guiteau, 1 Mackey, 498. But there the original unlawful act is not only done by the offender, but reaches the person at whom it is aimed in one jurisdiction, and it is the subsequent effect only which takes place in another jurisdiction. We have no occasion now to consider such a case, beyond observing that, before the declaration of independence, provision had been made by statute, both in England and in Ireland, for trying such cases in either jurisdiction, and was never supposed to be inconsistent in principle with the provision of Magna Charta, c. 14, for trial by a jury of the vicinage. 1 East, P. C. 366; 1 Gabb. Crim. Law, 501. It is universally admitted that, where a shot fired in one jurisdiction strikes a person in another jurisdiction, the offender may be tried where the shot takes effect, and the only doubt is whether he can be tried where the shot is fired. Rex v. Coombes, 1 Leach, (4th Ed.) 388; U.S. v. Davis, 2 Sum. 482; People v. Adams, 3 Denio, 190, 207, 1 N. Y. 173, 176, 179; COCKBURN, C. J., in Queen v. Keyn, 2 Exch. Div. 233, 234.
Where a crime is committed partly in one district and partly in another it must, in order to prevent an absolute failure of justice, be tried in either district, or in that one which the legislature may designate; and congress has accordingly provided that, 'when any offense against the United States is begun in one judicial district and completed in any other, it shall be deemed to have been committed in either, and may be dealt with, inquired of, tried, determined, and punished in either district, in the same manner as if it had been actually and wholly committed therein.' Rev. St. § 731. Where an offense is committed by means of a communication through the post-office, the sender has sometimes, as appears by the cases cited for the petitioner, been held to be punishable at the place where he mails the letter. U.S. v. Worrall, 2 Dall. 384; U.S. v. Bickford, 4 Blatchf. 337; Rex v. Williams, 2 Camp. 506; King v. Burdett, 3 Barn. & Ald. 717, 4 Barn. & Ald. 95; Perkin's Case, 2 Lewin, 150; Regina v. Cooke, 1 Fost. & F. 64; Queen v. Holmes, 12 Q. B. Div. 23, 15 Cox. Crim. Cas. 343. But it does not follow that he is not punishable at the place where the letter is received by the person to whom it is addressed, and it is settled by an overwhelming weight of authority that he may be tried and punished at that place, whether the unlawfulness of the communication through the pos-of fice consists in its being a threatening letter, (King v. Girdwood, 1 Leach, 142, 2 East, P. C. 1120; Esser's Case, 2 East, P. C. 1125;) or a libel, (King v. Johnson, 7 East, 65, 3 Smith, Eng., 94; King v. Burdett, 4 Barn. & Ald. 95, 136, 150, 170, 184; Com. v. Blanding, 3 Pick. 304; In re Buell, 3 Dill. 116, 122;) or a false pretense or fraudulent representation, (Regina v. Leech, Dears. Cr. Cas. 642, 7 Cox, Crim. Cas. 100; Queen v. Rogers, 3 Q. B. Div. 28, 14 Cox, Crim. Gas. 22; People v. Rathbun, 21 Wend. 509; People v. Adams, 3 Denio, 190, 1 N. Y. 173; Foute v. State, 15 Lea, 712.)
The only decision to the contrary, cited for the petitioner, is one in which the circuit court of the District of Columbia, upon the authority of a former case in the same court in which no opinion is reported, held that where a letter containing a forged check was put in the post-office at Baltimore, addressed to a person in Washington, there was no uttering of the forged paper in Washington. U.S. v. Plympton, 4 Cranch, C. C. 309; citing U.S. v. Wright, 2 Cranch, 296. In Dana's Case, 7 Ben. 1, a warrant to remove to the District of Columbia a person alleged to have printed a libel in a newspaper published in New York, and circulated by his authority in the District of Columbia, was refused by Mr. Justice BLATCHFORD, then district judge, not because the offense could not be punished in the District of Columbia, but because the law of that District provided for its prosecution by information only, and was therefore unconstitutional. In U.S. v. Comerford, 25 Fed. Rep. 902, an indictment on section 3893 of the Revised Statutes, for 'knowingly depositing or causing to be deposited' in the post-office at New York a letter containing obscene matter in a sealed envelope addressed to a person in Texas, was quashed, not merely for want of jurisdiction in Texas, but because the court held that the act did not constitute an offense under that statute, in accord with the decision of this court at the present term in U.S. v. Chase, 135 U.S. --, ante, 756. In the case before us, the offense charged being an offer of money, or a tender of a contract for the payment of money, contained in a letter mailed in New York, and addressed to a postmaster in Connecticut, to induce him to violate his official duty, it might admit of doubt whether any offense against the laws of the United States was committed until the offer or tender was known to the postmaster, and might have influenced his mind. But there can be no doubt at all that, if any offense was committed in New York, the offense continued to be committed when the letter reached the postmaster in Connecticut; and that if no offense was committed in New York, an offense was committed in Connecticut; and that, in either aspect, the district court of the United States for the district of Connecticut had jurisdiction of the charge against the petitioner. Whether he might have been indicted in New York is a question not presented by this appeal. Order affirmed.
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