Austin v. United States
Action by Florine A. Austin, as administratrix of the estate of Sterling T. Austin, deceased, against the United States, to recover for certain property of her decedent taken or destroyed during the Rebellion. The claim was, by special act of congress removing the bar of the statute of limitations, referred to the court of claims, which dismissed claimant's petition for want of jurisdiction under the terms of the act, and claimant appeals. Affirmed.
Claimant filed a petition in the court of claims, June 5, 1883, alleging that Sterling T. Austin, of the parish of Carroll, in the state of Louisiana, died in that state July 9, 1879; that March 20, A. D. 1883, claimant was duly appointed administratrix of the estate of said decedent, and duly qualified as such; and that her letters of administration were in full force.
The petition set up an act of congress, approved March 3, 1883 (22 Stat. 158, c. 111), entitled 'An act for the relief of the representatives of Sterling T. Austin, deceased,' which referred the claims of the successors in interest and legal representatives of Sterling T. Austin for cotton taken by the military authorities of the United States during the war to the court of claims to adjust and settle, and to render judgment for the net amount realized by the United States therefrom; removing the bar of any statute of limitation, and providing that it be shown to the satisfaction of the court that neither Austin nor any of his surviving representatives 'gave any aid or comfort to the late Rebellion, but were throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States.'
It was then charged that, in the years 1863, 1864, and 1865, the military authorities took from Sterling T. Austin, claimant's decedent, in the states of Louisiana and Texas, large amounts of cotton; that the United States sold said cotton, and realized therefrom various sums, aggregating $367,500, which they appropriated to their own use; that Sterling T. Austin left, him surviving, a widow and children; that neither he nor his widow, nor either of his children, 'gave any aid or comfort to the late Rebellion, but they and each of them were and was throughout the war loyal to the goverment of the United States.' Judgment was asked 'for the sum of three hundred and sixty-seven thousand, five hundred dollars, being the net amount realized by the United States from the sale of the cotton hereinbefore referred to and described.'
The averments of the petition were traversed by the United States. The court of claims filed findings of fact and a conclusion of law.
The court was not satisfied that Sterling T. Austin did not give aid or comfort to the late Rebellion, and that he was loyal throughout the war to the government of the United States, and found him disloyal; but the court was satisfied that the surviving representatives did not give any aid and comfort to the late Rebellion, but were throughout the war loyal to the government of the United States.
The conclusion of law was that 'the court decides, upon the foregoing facts, that the petition be dismissed.' The opinion of the court, by Weldon, J., will be found in 25 Ct. Cl. 437. Judgment having been thereupon entered dismissing the petition, claimant appealed to this court.
John C. Fay, S. Shellabarger, and S. M. Wilson, for appellant.
Asst. Atty. Gen. Conrad, for the United States.
Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.