Stewart v. United States (206 U.S. 185)/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

206 U.S. 185

Stewart  v.  United States

 Argued: April 12, 1907. --- Decided: May 13, 1907

Except for the treaty between the United States and the Osage Indians, relative to the lands in question, and the passage of appropriate legislation by the United States, the lands would never have been sold, as they were not public lands of the United States for the sale of which Congress had already provided under its general legislation. The treaty, however, provided that the lands described in article 1 were to be surveyed and sold under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior on the most advantageous terms, for cash, as public lands are surveyed and sold under existing laws; and under article 2 the lands were to be sold for the benefit of the Indians by the Secretary of the Interior, under such rules and regulations as he might, from time to time, prescribe, under the direction of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, as other lands are surveyed and sold; and, under article 16, in case of the removal of the Indians, the diminished reserve was to be disposed of by the United States in the same manner and for the same purposes as provided in relation to the so-called trust lands. Thus power was given to the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of Public Lands, to make the same rules and regulations for the sale of the treaty lands as applied to the survey and sale of 'public lands,' and to that end he had power to provide for their sale by the various receivers and registers of the land office in the state of Kansas, in whose jurisdiction such lands lay. Although the treaty provided the sum of $20,000 to pay the expense of carrying out its provisions, yet it is evident that the purpose of the treaty was that these lands should be sold at the least expense to the Indians in their sale, and we think that the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Commissioner of the General Land Office, had the right to provide, as was done in this case, that the various registers and receivers should sell the lands and should not receive more than the maximum compensation for their services per annum otherwise allowed by law. In cases where the maximum amount would not be received without resorting to the treaty fund, such resort was permitted, and the fund was in fact resorted to in this case in order to reach the maximum for the fractional years of claimant's service. The Secretary of the Interior having made this rule, and the instructions of December 19, 1867, being in existence when the claimant herein received his appointment as register, he took it subject to the provision that his maximum compensation for all services rendered should not exceed the sum named by law. See §§ 2237, 2238, 2240, and 2241, U.S. Rev. Stat., U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, pp. 1366, 1367, 1369, prescribing, among other things, the compensation of registers and receivers. This compensation the claimant was paid thirty years since, without objection or protest from him that he was entitled to any further payment on account of services in the sales of these treaty lands.

The case of United States v. Brindle, 110 U.S. 688, 28 L. ed. 286, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 180, does not aid claimant. In that case Brindle was, on the 28th day of October, 1856, "duly appointed special receiver and superintendent to assist the special commissioner to dispose of the Delaware Indian trust lands at Fort Leavenworth, in the territory of Kansas, under the treaty with the Delaware tribe of Indians.' On the 18th of February, 1857, he was appointed and commissioned for four years as receiver of public moneys for the district of lands subject to sale at Lecompton, Kansas, and on the 15th day of may, 1857, he was duly appointed as special receiver and superintendent to assist the special commissioner to dispose of the trust lands of the Kaskaskia and Peoria, Piankeshaw and Wea Indian confederated tribes of Indians at Paoli, Kansas territory.' Brindle was thus appointed special receiver and superintendent of the Delaware Indian trust lands before he was made receiver of public money, and while he was receiver of public money he was duly appointed as special receiver of the other Indian tribes, as above stated. The duties of the positions (special receiver, etc., and receiver of the public moneys) were thus kept separate and apart. As receiver he was to receive public moneys for land subject to sale at Lecompton, Kansas, while his duties in regard to the other positions to which he had been specially appointed referred to the disposition of the Indian lands, in one case at Fort Leavenworth and in the other case at Paoli, both in the territory of Kansas. This court held that when, subsequent to his appointment as receiver of the public moneys, Brindle was appointed special receiver and superintendent to assist the special commissioner 'in disposing of the trust lands, he was employed to render a service in no way connected with the office he held. He was not appointed to any office known to the law. No new duty was imposed on him as receiver of the Land Office. The President was, both by the treaties and the act of 1855 [10 Stat. at L. 700, chap. 204], charged with the duty of selling the lands, and, under his instructions, Brindle was employed to assist in the work. By express provisions in the treaties the exenses incurred by the United States in making the sales were to be paid from the proceeds. This clearly implied the payment of a reasonable compensation for the service of those employed to carry the trust into effect.'

In the case at bar the duty had already, prior to claimant's appointment, been imposed on the various receivers and registers, as such, of attending to the sale of these lands within their various districts, and express provision had been made that in no case was their compensation to exceed the maximum sum already provided by law. When such provision had been made in regard to compensation there is no room for any implication of a promise to pay an additional reasonable compensation for the services of such registers and receivers in the sale of those lands. Such implication was specially negatived before the claimant took office. He received his pay under the provision of law already stated, without any protest or claim on his part that he was entitled to anything further or other than the amount he from time to time received. More than thirty years after the last payment, Congress passed the act of March 3, 1903, the 13th section of which is contained in the foregoing statement of facts. The passage of the act did not imply any admission that there was anything due the claimant. It simply provided for the presentation of his claim to the court and for a decision on the merits, without assuming to say that he had any claim of a meritorious nature.

We agree with the Court of Claims that the claimant has failed to make out a case, and the judgment dismissing his petition is affirmed.

Mr. Justice Moody took no part in the decision of this case.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).