Amoskeag Manufacturing Company v. United States
APPEAL from the Court of Claims.
The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company brought suit in the Court of Claims against the United States on a contract, by which the company had agreed to make and deliver, and the United States had agreed to receive and pay for, all the Lindner carbines, not exceeding six thousand, which the company could make in six months from the 15th day of April, 1863, to be approved and inspected by Major Hagner, and by which for each carbine so inspected and delivered the United States was to pay $20.
Immediately after making this contract, the company entered upon the preparations necessary to the performance of the work; and it was found as a fact by the Court of Claims that the company had the necessary means and facilities, and could have delivered the six thousand carbines of the kind contracted for within the six months limited, in conformity with the agreement as first made, had not changes and alterations been desired and requested by the government.
In regard to these changes, the court found that General Ripley, chief of ordnance, by letter of the date of April 23d, 1863, requested certain alterations to be made in the construction of the carbine; that these were made by the contractors as requested, and that these necessitated other changes to make the parts conform, and also alterations in the machinery, and new tools and fixtures to perform the work. Other changes were made in the construction of the weapon by the contractors, on their own motion, which were important and judicious, and which materially improved it. How much time these changes required did not precisely appear; but it was admitted that they necessarily required two or three months, a part of which resulted from the action of the department, and that the contractors proceeded in good faith and without unnecessary delay.
It was further found that, on or about the 5th of April, 1864, the company exhibited one of the weapons for inspection, and gave notice to the department that the company was then ready to commence delivery, and would deliver the entire six thousand as rapidly as the government could inspect them, and asked that they should be then inspected and received by the department, which was not done then and had not since been done. It was further found that inspection of contract arms was always made at the place of manufacture, and was made of the parts of the arm before they were put together. It was also found that the time consumed by the company in filling the contract beyond the time fixed by its terms, to wit, six months, was rendered necessary and indispensable by the changes, alterations, and delays caused solely by and for the interest of the government; and further that the government was aware of the progress of the work, and gave no notice that it should refuse to accept the work if not delivered within the six months. The arms were inspected by a competent person, and found to be according to contract, and were packed in cases and tendered to the government, which refused to receive or pay for them.
The six thousand carbines were still at the time of this suit, brought March 15th, 1870, in the hands of the company, not having been offered for sale, and on the 21st of March, 1871, when the Court of Claims gave its judgment, were worth, according to the finding of the court, $3 each. Their value or market price at any previous time was not found. The Court of Claims (by an equally divided court) dismissed the petition, and the manufacturing company appealed.
Mr. G. H. Williams, Attorney-General, and Mr. S. F. Phillips, Solicitor-General, in support of that dismissal:
The contract was to take, not a definite number of carbines, but all that could be furnished within six months, whether fifty or five thousand, so that they did not exceed six thousand. In other words, the contract was for the results of the industry of the plaintiff on such carbines, limited to six months, be the results small or large, so that the carbines did not exceed, in number, six thousand.
The slight changes suggested by the United States would not, apparently, either by their direct or indirect effect, have diminished the percentage of those results to any considerable extent. The case, as made out by the company, leaves the court ignorant of that extent. The company mingled the effect upon the time of delivery, of the changes required directly or indirectly by the government, with that of those other improvements added of its own head. This is a sort of voluntary confusion of effects that justified the decree below.
We need not say how very important time is in all matters concerning a flagrant war, or how especially important during the year 1863 of the late war. The variation of a performance under which the government in 1863 might reasonably have expected several thousand arms from time to time within six months, to one in which it was to receive none for a year, was a variation of capital magnitude.
Messrs. C. F. Peck and W. W. McFarland, contra.
Mr. Justice MILLER (having recited much as the reporter has given them, the chief points of the findings of the court below) delivered the opinion of the court.