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Jones v. United States (48 U.S. 681)

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

48 U.S. 681

Jones  v.  United States


THIS case was brought up by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia.

It was a suit brought by the United States upon a postmaster's bond against Walter F. Jones (the postmaster at Norfolk, in Virginia), and Thomas Ap Catesby Jones and Duncan Robertson, his sureties. Judgment went by default against the postmaster and Robertson.

The act of Congress upon which the defence rested was the following, viz.:--

The act of the 3d March, 1825, (4 Statutes at Large, 102,) is entitled 'An act to reduce into one the several acts for establishing and regulating the Post-Office Department,' and in its third section enacts,--

'That it shall be the duty of the Postmaster-General, upon the appointment of any postmaster, to require and take of such postmaster bond, with good and approved security, in such penalty as he may judge sufficient, conditioned for the faithful discharge of all the duties of such postmaster required by law, or which may be required by any instruction or general rule for the government of the Department: Provided, however, That if default shall be made by the postmaster aforesaid, at any time, and the Postmaster-General shall fail to institute suit against such postmaster and said sureties for two years from and after such default shall be made, then and in that case the said sureties shall not be liable to the United States, nor shall suit be instituted against them.'

Jones was postmaster from 1830 to August, 1839, during which time a running account was kept up with him at the Post-Office Department, with only one rest, namely, in August, 1836, when the account was added up and a balance transferred to a new account. The following is the debit side of the account.

To balance transferred from old account,. $345

quarterly returns as postmaster, vis.:-

" Oct. 1 " Dec. 31, ". 2,488

" Jan. 1 " March 31, 1837,. 2,746

" April 1 " June 30, ". 2,634

" July 1 " Sept. 30, ". 2,187

" Oct. 1 " Dec. 31, ". 2,298

" Jan. 1 " March 31, 1838,. 2,450

" April 1 " June 30, ". 2,422

" July 1 " Sept. 30, ". 2,233

" Oct. 1 " Dec. 31, ". 2,618

" Jan. 1 " March 31, 1839,. 2,829

" April 1 " April 3, ".. 53


$27,381


To balance,5,515

The credit side of the account ran on continuously as in the following, which is the conclusion of the account:-- 1838.

" 4, " " " 8452,....... 42

" 4, " " " 8455,....... 77

" 4, " " " 8465,....... 98

" 15, " " " 8745,....... 50

" 15, " " " 8746,....... 43

" 17, " " " 8768,...... 132

" 31, " " " 8967,....... 88

" 31, " " " 8968,...... 206

" 20, " " " 9801,...... 863

" 13, " " " 274,....... 38


$27,381

The substance of the pleadings in the court below, and the prayers of the respective counsel, are given in the opinion of this court, and need not be here repeated.

It was argued by Mr. Walter Jones, for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. Toucey (Attorney-General), for the United States.

Mr. Jones contended, that although no quarterly balances were struck, yet an analysis of the account would show that the postmaster was in default continually.

Thus, on the 30th of September, 1836, (the end of the first quarter after the date of the bond,) the balance against him was $1,894

On the 31st December, 1836, it was 1,793

On the 30th September, 1837, it was 6,020

On the 31st December, 1837, it was 5,446

On the 30th September, 1838, it was 4,530

On the 31st December, 1838, it was 5,297

And on the 31st March, 1839, it was 6,384

The sureties were therefore discharged under the operation of the act of Congress above recited.

Mr. Justice DANIEL delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

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).