This is an appeal from the judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing the petition of the claimant. Upon hearing, that court made the following findings of fact, 37 C. Clms. 365:
"I. The claimant, Ulysses S.G. White, was on the 9th day of January, in the year 1877, appointed a civil engineer in the Navy from civil life. He remained such civil engineer and was such at the time of the passage of the Navy Personnel Act of March 3, 1899.
"II. The claimant, by reason of service in the Army, amounting to six years, seven months and twenty-one days, previous to his entry into the Navy, reached the maximum pay of his grade, $3500, May 19, 1885, under Revised Statutes, sections 1478, 1556. Thus the amount of pay received by him between the 9th of January, 1877, and the 19th of May, 1885, was as follows:
Three years and 130 days, at $2700 per annum ... $ 9061 64 Five years, at $3000 per annum ................. 15,000 00 __________ Total ...................................... $24,061 64
"If he were, upon the date of his appointment, credited for computing his pay with five years' service, and entitled to be paid from that date, he would receive pay at the following rates:
Three years and 130 days, at $3000 per annum ... $10,068 49 Five years, at $3500 per annum ................. 17,500 00 __________ Total ..................................... $27,568 49 or $3506.85 more than he has previously received."
The claim arises under the act of March 3, 1899, commonly
"That, after June thirteen, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine, commissioned officers of the line of the Navy and of the Medical and Pay Corps shall receive the same pay and allowances, except forage, as are or may be provided by or in pursuance of law for the officers of corresponding rank in the Army: Provided, That such officers when on shore shall receive the allowances, but fifteen per centum less pay than when on sea duty; but this provision shall not apply to warrant officers commissioned under section twelve of this Act: Provided further, That when naval officers are detailed for shore duty beyond seas they shall receive the same pay and allowances as are or may be provided by or in pursuance of law for officers of the Army detailed for duty in similar places: Provided further, That naval chaplains, who do not possess relative rank, shall have the rank of lieutenant in the Navy; and that all officers, including warrant officers, who have been or may be appointed to the Navy from civil life shall, on the date of appointment, be credited, for computing their pay, with five years' service. And all provisions of law authorizing the distribution among captors of the whole or any portion of the proceeds of vessels, or any property hereafter captured, condemned as prize, or providing for the payment of bounty for the sinking or destruction of vessels of the enemy hereafter occurring in time of war, are hereby repealed: And provided further, That no provision of this Act shall operate to reduce the present pay of any commissioned officer now in the Navy; and in any case in which the pay of such an officer would otherwise be reduced he shall continue to receive pay according to existing law: And provided further, That nothing in this Act shall operate to increase or reduce the pay of any officer now on the retired list of the Navy."
The part of the statute particularly under consideration in
It is the contention of the claimant that he comes within the terms of this proviso, and, as an officer appointed to the Navy from civil life, is entitled, as of the date of his appointment to be credited with five years' service, having been appointed January 1, 1887, and by previous service in the Army entitled, under another statute, 22 Stat. 472, c. 97, to a credit of six years, seven months and twenty-one days, reaching the maximum pay of $3500 on May 19, 1885.
The reading of the statute is not altogether clear, and we are to arrive at the meaning of Congress by such aids as may be legitimately resorted to in order to determine the effect and purpose of the lawmaking power in the language used. The statute is part of a voluminous act to reorganize and increase the efficiency of the personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps of the United States. In the title, the language used looks to the future; it contemplates a readjustment of rank and pay. It is true that the title of the act may not control the plain language of the enacting clauses, but nevertheless we may look to the declared scope and purpose of the act as evidenced by its title whenever it becomes necessary, in view of the use of language, incapable by itself of exact construction. Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 465.
Chief Justice Marshall, in United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358, 386, said:
"Where the intent is plain, nothing is left to construction. Where the mind labors to discover the design of the legislature, it seizes everything from which aid can be derived; and in such case, the title claims a degree of notice, and will have its due share of consideration." Coosaw Mining Co. v. South Carolina, 144 U.S. 550, 563; Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 462.
But it is urged that the plain meaning of this statute includes officers in the situation of the claimant and requires a readjustment of their pay for years past. The language used is "all officers that have been or may be appointed to the Navy from civil life," and it is claimed that unless this construction is given to the act, violence is done to its terms, and to the rights intended to be conferred upon the claimant and other officers similarly situated. The proviso directs credit on the date of appointment. It is argued that this means as of the date of appointment. If this be true, it is in conflict with the first clause of the act, which makes increased pay begin on June thirtieth. The effect of this construction of the proviso when read with the first clause of the act is thus pertinently
"The subject matter of the proviso in question pertains to the rank of chaplains and to the basis for computing the pay of `all officers, including warrant officers, who have been or may be appointed to the Navy from civil life;' and the purview or body of the section refers to the pay of `commissioned officers of the line of the Navy and of the Medical and Pay Corps,' many of whom — nearly all from the Medical Corps — were appointed from civil life, while the chaplains, the majority of the professors of mathematics, nearly all the civil engineers, and other officers were appointed from civil life.
"So that the language of the proviso, `all officers . . . who have been or may be appointed to the Navy from civil life,' clearly includes those officers mentioned in the body of the section who were appointed from civil life.
"If, therefore, the claimant's contention should prevail, those officers so appointed whose pay was increased after June 30, 1899, by assimilation to Army pay, would, in addition thereto, be entitled to receive from the date of appointment a gratuity of five years' additional pay, thereby fixing in the same section two distinct dates for the beginning of the pay of the same officers."
But quite as important, in our view, is the declared purpose for which the credit is to be given "computing their pay." Does it not do violence to this expression of purpose to give the law a retrospective effect? The purpose for which the five years' service is to be credited cannot be ignored. It is thus that the object of the act is to be accomplished, and it is not declared to be with a view of readjusting the pay of officers within the classes named, or giving to them, as Congress might, a gratuity for past services, but the credit is solely given for the purpose of "computing their pay," and this is to be read in the light of the purview of the statute wherein its operation is declared to be effective from the beginning of the coming fiscal year.
The construction here given is consistent with the declared purpose of the act; it gives to the law a future, not a retrospective operation, and, in our judgment, carries out the expressed purpose of Congress in passing the law.
Judgment of the Court of Claims affirmed.