TILLSON v. UNITED STATES


100 U.S. 43 (____)

TILLSON v. UNITED STATES.

Supreme Court of United States.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Matt. H. Carpenter and Mr. Benjamin F. Grafton for the appellants.

The Solicitor-General, contra.


MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.

We have no doubt it was the wish of those who procured the passage of the special statute under which the Court of Claims took jurisdiction of this suit, to obtain from Congress authority for that court to give a judgment against the United States at least for interest, in case it should be found that payments on the contracts held by the claimants had been unreasonably delayed. But if Congress had desired to grant such authority, it would have been easy to have said so in express terms; and because it did not say so, we are led irresistibly to the conclusion that it did not intend to give any such power. By the statute, the court was required to investigate the claim, and "ascertain, determine, and adjudge the amount equitably due such firm, if any, for such loss or damage." There is nowhere any intimation that the investigation is to be conducted otherwise than judicially. The reference was made to the court as a court, and not to the judges as arbitrators. The determination is to be made according to the fixed rules which govern that court in the adjudication of causes, and not at the discretion of the judges. The same principles of jurisprudence and the same statutory regulations as to practice are to be applied here that would be if the case had come into the court under its general jurisdiction. It is to be ascertained and determined what, if any thing, is due the claimants from the government, according to the rules of law applicable to the settlement in that court of controversies between the government and its citizens. The special statute does not even provide that the adjustment shall be made upon principles applicable to suits between citizens. To our minds the word "equitably," as here used, means no more than that the rules of law applicable to the case shall be construed liberally in favor of the claimants.

As between citizens, no allowance could be made for loss of profits consequent on the advance in the price of materials while payments were withheld, nor for the discount on the certificates of indebtedness sold in the market. Such damages are too remote. Interest, however, would have been recoverable as against a citizen, if the payments were unreasonably delayed. But with the government the rule is different, for in addition to the practice which has long prevailed in the departments of not allowing interest on claims presented, except it is in some way specially provided for, the statute under which the Court of Claims is organized expressly declares "that no interest shall be allowed on any claim up to the time of the rendition of judgment thereon in the Court of Claims, unless upon a contract expressly stipulating for interest." Rev. Stat., sect. 1091. This is conclusive. No interest was stipulated for in this contract, and the prohibition against its allowance has not been removed in favor of the claimants.

Judgment affirmed.


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