Pelham v. Rose
ON certificate of division of opinion between the judges of the Circuit Court for the District of Indiana, the case being thus:
An act of Congress, approved July 17th, 1862, entitled 'An act to seize and confiscate the property of rebels,' thus enacts:
'Sec. 6. All the estate and property, moneys, stocks, and credits, of such person, shall be liable to seizure as aforesaid; and it shall be the duty of the President to seize and use them as aforesaid, or the proceeds thereof.'
'Sec. 7. That to secure the condemnation and sale of any such property, after the same shall have been seized, so that it may be made more available for the purposes aforesaid, proceedings in rem shall be instituted in the name of the United States, in any District Court thereof, or in any Territorial court, or in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, within which the property above described, or any part thereof, may be found, or into which the same may be brought, which proceedings shall conform, as nearly as may be, to proceedings in 'admiralty and revenue cases;' and if said property shall be found to have belonged to a person in rebellion, the same shall be condemned as enemies' property.'
Under this statute the attorney of the United States for the district of Indiana filed his libel of information against certain 'credits and effects' of one Henry Pelhan (the plaintiff), 'that is to say, one promissory note for the sum of $7000, dated March 1st, 1862, and due four years after date, executed by Lewis Pelham to him the said Henry.'
A writ of monition was issued, directed to a certain Rose, the then marshal of the district, which, after referring to the libel, ordered him to attach the note and detain the same n his custody, and to cite all persons claiming the same, or having anything to say why it should not be condemned and sold, to appear on a day designated and interpose their claims.
Rose made this return:
'In obedience to the within warrant, I have arrested the property within mentioned, and have cited all persons having or pretending to have any right, title, or interest therein, as by the said warrant I am commanded to do.'
The District Court subsequently proceeded to try and determine the matters involved in the libel, and decreed,
1st. That for failing to appear, the default of all persons interested in the note should be entered.
2d. That the charges of the libel should be taken as confessed.
3d. That the note should be condemned as forfeited to the United States; and,
4th. That the clerk should issue a writ of venditioni exponas to the marshal to sell the note at public auction.
This latter writ was accordingly issued and delivered to the marshal, and was returned by him with a certificate that he had sold the note at auction to Lewis Pelham, who was its maker, for $3000.
Henry Pelham now brought the action below against Rose and his sureties for a false return to the writ of monition.
The declaration, after stating such of the facts abovementioned as were pertinent, set forth that the marshal did not, in obedience to the writ of monition, attach the note therein described, nor seize the same by himself or deputy; that the note was not even within sight of the marshal or of any of his deputies at any time between the delivery of the writ to him for execution and its return; nor was it, pending the proceedings by libel, within the State of Indiana; but that during this time, and for a period long after the entry of the decree of confiscation, was in the custody and possession of the plaintiff in the State of Kentucky. Wherefore (the declaration asserted) the return of the marshal was wholly false, and the decree of condemnation was founded upon a false return, and hence an action had accrued to the plaintiff on the bond of the marshal.
The defendants demurred, and upon the argument of the demurrer the following questions arose, upon which the judges of the court were opposed in opinion:
'1st. Whether, upon the facts stated in the declaration, it was material and necessary to the due and legal service of the writ of monition, therein set forth by the marshal, that he should have seized and taken into his custody and under his control, the promissory note mentioned.
'2d. Whether the return to the writ of monition, as set forth in the declaration, must be construed to mean that the marshal had actually taken into his custody and under his exclusive control, the promissory note; and,
'3d. Whether, on the hypothesis that all the matters, as set forth in the declaration, were true, the judgment and proceedings in the District Court, as therein stated, would estop the plaintiff to maintain an action on the promissory note against the maker.'
Mr. Coburn, for the plaintiff in error, a brief of Messrs. Mor rison, Dye & Harris being filed; Mr. Miles, contra.
Mr. Justice FIELD, after stating the facts of the case, delivered the opinion of the court as follows: