UNITED STATES v. TELLER


107 U.S. 64 (____)

UNITED STATES v. TELLER.

Supreme Court of United States.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. James H. Mandeville for the plaintiff in error.

The Solicitor-General, contra.


MR. JUSTICE WOODS delivered the opinion of the court, and, after stating the case as above, proceeded as follows:—

The relator does not claim that there is anything due him under the pension laws prior to June 4, 1872. It appears from the answer of the Secretary of the Interior, and there is no evidence to the contrary, that since June 4, 1872, the relator has received every cent that is due him under the general pension laws. The special act of March 3, 1879, c. 290, declared that the pension of fifty dollars thereby granted to him by name should be in lieu of the pension he was then receiving, and at least cut off all claim to arrears of pensions under it. All, therefore, that is left of his case is his contention that in addition to that pension he is entitled to seventy-two dollars per month allowed him by the act of June 16, 1880, c. 236, and which has been paid him.

It appears from the answer of the Secretary of the Interior that under the advice of the Department of Justice the relator was paid both pensions from March 3, 1879, to June 4, 1882. The complaint of the relator is that the payment of double pensions is not continued, and it is for the purpose of enforcing his right to his special pension of fifty dollars, in addition to the general pension of seventy-two dollars, that he asks that the Secretary of the Interior may be compelled to return the certificate issued to him under the special act.

The right of the relator to double pensions, if he ever had such right, has been effectually cut off by sect. 5 of the act of July 25, 1882, c. 349, which declares "that no person who is now receiving or shall hereafter receive a pension under a special act shall be entitled to receive, in addition thereto, a pension under the general law, unless the special act expressly states that the pension granted thereby is in addition to the pension which said person is entitled to receive under the general law."

It was competent for Congress to pass this act. No pensioner has a vested legal right to his pension. Pensions are the bounties of the government, which Congress has the right to give, withhold, distribute, or recall, at its discretion. Walton v. Cotton, 19 How. 355. Therefore, the contention of the relator that, having received the pension of seventy-two dollars under the general law, he is also entitled to the pension of fifty dollars granted him by the special act, is without ground to rest on.

His pension certificate, issued under the special act, can be of no service to him unless he wishes to relinquish the pension of seventy-two dollars under the general law, and fall back upon the pension of fifty dollars granted him by the special act. But he expresses no such purpose. His object is to get the certificate in order to draw double pensions, which the law says he shall not have. He voluntarily surrendered his pension under the special act, in order to receive the larger pension to which he became entitled on the passage of the general act of June 16, 1880. As he is not entitled to any pension money upon the certificate under the special act, which he voluntarily surrendered, unless he waives his right to receive the larger pension given him by the general law, which he does not do, a judgment that the certificate be returned to him would be futile. From all that appears by the record the relator has been accorded by the officers of the Department of the Interior and of the Pension Bureau all his rights. Up to Sept. 4, 1882, he was paid all the pension money due him under any act of Congress. After that date he is entitled under existing laws to a pension of seventy-two dollars per month and no more, and this the Pension Bureau is ready to pay him. The Supreme Court of the District was, therefore, right in refusing the writ of mandamus, and its judgment must be

Affirmed.


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