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Supreme Court of the United States
Submitted January 4, 1898. ; February 28, 1898, Decided
[*335] [**376] [***769] MR. JUSTICE WHITE, after making the foregoing statement of the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The errors relied upon to obtain a reversal rest on three contentions: 1st. That the appointment of Eaton as acting [*336] vice-consul was without warrant of law, and hence not susceptible of ratification by the State Department. 2d. Even if the appointment was authorized by law, the statute conferring the power was in violation of the Constitution of the United States. 3d. Because, even conceding the appointment to have been valid, the court allowed a sum in excess of the amount which the claimant was legally entitled to recover. We will dispose of these contentions in the order stated.
In the third paragraph of section 1674, Revised Statutes, the following definition is found: "Vice-consuls and vice commercial agents shall be deemed to denote consular officers, who shall be substituted, temporarily, to fill the places [****10] of consuls-general, consuls or commercial agents, when they shall be temporarily absent or relieved from duty." And this definition by Congress of the nature of a vice-consulship was not changed by the amendment to section 4130 of the Revised Statutes by the act of February 1, 1876, c. 6, 19 Stat. 2, as the obvious purpose of that act was simply to provide that where the words "minister," "consul" or "consul-general" were generally used, they should be taken also as embracing the subordinate officers who were to represent the principals in case of absence. In other words, that where a delegation of authority was made to the incumbent of the office, the fact that the name of the principal alone was mentioned should not be considered as excluding the power to exercise such authority by the subordinate and temporary officer, when the lawful occasion for the performance of the duty by him arose. Provision for the appointment and the pay of vice-consuls are found in the following sections of the Revised Statutes:
] "SEC. 1695. The President is authorized to define the extent of country to be embraced within any consulate or commercial agency, and to provide for the appointment of vice-consuls, [****11] vice-commercial agents, deputy consuls and consular agents, therein, in such manner and under such regulations as he shall deem proper; but no compensation shall be allowed for the services of any such vice-consul, or vice-commercial agent, beyond nor [**377] except out of the allowance made by law for the principal consular officer in whose such appointment [*337] shall be made. No vice-consul, vice-commercial agent, deputy consul or consular agent, shall be appointed otherwise than under such regulations as have been or may be prescribed by the President."
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
169 U.S. 331 *; 18 S. Ct. 374 **; 42 L. Ed. 767 ***; 1898 U.S. LEXIS 1498 ****
UNITED STATES v. EATON.
Prior History: [****1] APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.
IN October, 1890, Sempronius H. Boyd was commissioned as minister resident and consul-general of the United States to Siam; he qualified and proceeded to his post, and was in June, 1892, engaged in the discharge of his official duties. At that time, being seriously ill, Boyd was granted by the President a leave of absence. Before leaving Bangkok, Siam, Boyd, to quote from the findings of fact, "believing his illness would terminate fatally, and being desirous to protect the interests of the Government during his absence and until the then expected arrival from the United States of Robert M. Boyd, whom Sempronius Boyd desired should act as consul-general, the latter called to his aid Lewis A. Eaton (now a plaintiff herein, who then a missionary at Bangkok) and asked him to take charge of the consulate and its archives. Thereupon the following letter, dated June 21, 1892, was written by Boyd:
"U.S. LEGATION AND CONSULATE-GENERAL, Bangkok, June 21, 1892.
"KROM LUANG DEVAWONGSEE VAROPROKAN, "Minister for Foreign Affairs:
"MONSIEUR LE MINISTRE: It is with exceeding regret to me to be forced to abandon my diplomatic and consular duties at the [****2] court of His Majesty, with the enjoyment, pleasure, comfort and genuine friendship so marked and distinguished, which the representative of the United States fully appreciated and imparted to his Government.
"All the physicians advise me to go soon to a cold climate. The President has wired me to that effect. In 20 or 30 days I may be strong enough for a sea voyage, of which I will avail myself. I am authorized to designate and do designate L. A. Eaton vice-consul-general until I am able to assume. If not incompatible with public affairs, I beg you to so regard him.
"Monsieur le Ministre, I am too weak and feeble to call in person, which I would so much like to have done, and expressed my thanks and that of my Government to the foreign office and attaches.
"With assurance of my high consideration, I have the honor to be, Monsieur le Ministre, your obedient servant."
Boyd thereupon administered to Eaton an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of the office of vice-consul-general, etc. The findings state that Boyd believed he had authority for this action. Robert M. Boyd, who is referred to above, was then in the United States, and, although appointed as vice consul, [****3] had not qualified. Sempronius H. Boyd remained in Siam until the 12th day of July, 1892, when he left for the United States, and on his departure he turned over to Eaton, as the representative of the Government of the United States, all the archives and property of the legation. Boyd arrived at his home, in the State of Missouri, on August 27, 1892, and although his leave of absence expired October 26, 1892, he did not, on account of illness, return to his post, but remained at his home, where he died June 22, 1894. Eaton, on the departure of Boyd, was the sole person "in charge of the interests of the Government at Bangkok, and performed whatever duties were required there of either a minister resident or a consul-general, with the knowledge of the Department of State and with that department's approval. The department acknowledged his communications and acted upon them as communications from a person authorized to perform the duties of minister resident and consul-general in the emergency then existing." On "September 2, 1892, Eaton executed (under instructions from the Department of State) an official bond, calling himself acting consul-general of the United States at Bangkok; [****4] this was received at the Department of State and was approved January 3, 1893; subsequently, under instructions from the Department of State, dated January 24, 1893, he executed another bond as vice-consul-general of the United States at Bangkok, which was approved by the Secretary of State April 23, 1893. Both of these bonds bore date June 13, 1892, with the knowledge and consent of Eaton's sureties thereon, and were so dated because of a pencil memorandum on each bond when received in blank by Eaton from the Department of State, directing him to insert the date of his appointment in the blank space reserved for the date."
On November 2, 1892, the Secretary of State wrote Eaton, enclosing him the commission of Robert Boyd, which had been issued in 1891, as vice-consul at Siam. In February, 1893, Robert Boyd appeared in Siam, and, in accordance with the instructions of the Secretary of State, Eaton introduced him as vice-consul, and on May 18 he qualified, when Eaton's performance of the duties of the office ceased. The findings below say:
"Eaton rendered to the accounting officers of the Treasury his account for salary for the entire period of his service, in which he charged [****5] and claimed one half of the salary of $5000 per annum appropriated for said post of minister resident and consul-general, from July 12, 1892, to October 26, 1892; that is, from the departure of the minister to and including the date on which the leave of absence for sixty days (excluding transit time) expired, and the full salary at the rate of $5000 per annum from October 27, 1892, to May 17, 1893, inclusive.
"Eaton also rendered with his salary account a return of all fees collected during the entire period of his service, both fees official and unofficial, including fees notarial and fees and fines received in the United States consular court at Bangkok, amounting in all to $245.41.
"Eaton also rendered to the Department of State his account of disbursements from the contingent fund of the legation and consulate-general from July 1, 1892, to April 30, 1893, which was there approved.
"In the settlement of said accounts by the accounting officers of the Treasury the sum of $5.73, expended by Eaton for candles and lanterns, was suspended for information, which was thereafter furnished, but said sum remains disallowed and unpaid.
"In the settlement of Eaton's salary accounts [****6] by the Treasury the total amount of fees received, to wit, $245.41, was charged to him and covered into the Treasury. The one half salary from July 12, 1892, to October 26, 1892, amounting to $726.90, was suspended for 'further information,' which was thereafter furnished; but this sum remains unpaid. The full salary from October 27, 1892, to May 17, 1893, amounting to $2792.35, as approved by the Department of State, was allowed and credited. Deducting from this $245 leaves in Eaton's favor a balance of $2546.94, which was certified to his credit by the First Comptroller December 4, 1893, no part of which has been paid."
It is inferable from the facts found that the amount of compensation which the accounting officers of the Government settled and allowed in favor of Eaton, as above stated, was withheld from him because of a claim advanced by Sempronius H. Boyd to the entire salary as minister resident and consul-general during a part of the time for which a portion of or the whole of the salary had been allowed Eaton. Indeed, on the 16th of June, 1894, Sempronius H. Boyd sued in the court below to recover his full salary as minister resident and consul-general from July, 1892, [****7] to February 11, 1893. Thereupon in December, 1894, Eaton commenced his action to recover the sums embraced in the following items:
For notarial or unofficial fees charged to him in
the settlement of his salary account by report
No. 162,708, as aforesaid, as per Exhibit C here-
For the item of salary suspended in the settle-
ment of his accounts for salary by report No.
162,708, as aforesaid
For the balance of salary found due to claimant
by report No. 162,708, as aforesaid, and certi-
fied to his credit
For item expended for contingent expenses by
claimant, and suspended in the settlement of
his account therefore by report No. 162,709, as
The court below consolidated the two cases, and on its finding the facts above recited, rejected the claim of Sempronius H. Boyd, his widow having been substituted as a party plaintiff on his death, and allowed the full amount of the claim sued for by Eaton. From this judgment the United States alone appeals.
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