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CLAIMS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES OF DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR OFFICERS OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR REIMBURSEMENT AND EXTRA PAY.
EIGHTEENTH CONGRESS-FIRST SESSION.
January 19, 1824.
[Senate Report No. 17.]
Mr. Mills, from the Committee on Foreign Relations, to whom was referred the petition of Richard O'Brien, submitted the following report:
That the petitioner prays an allowance for losses sustained, expenses incurred, and services rendered the United States as consul-general at Algiers.
The committee find that in May, 1806, soon after the return of Captain O'Brien from the coast of Barbary, his account as consul-general was allowed and settled at the proper Department and the balance in his favor, amounting to $33,159, was paid to him from the Treasury; that this sum comprised the whole amount then claimed of the Government, so far as the committee can judge from the copy of the account then exhibited, excepting the sum of $600, which was referred by the Auditor to the Secretary of State, as belonging exclusively to that Department, and which was thereupon allowed and paid to the said O'Brien.
The committee further find that in April, 1808, the said O'Brien exhibited another claim principally on account of the loss of a vessel called the Vickelhadge, purchased of the Regency of Algiers for a dispatch vessel, and which was taken and condemned at Malaga while proceeding with dispatches to the United States. This claim amounted to $17,099.25, and purported to be in full of all claims in favor of said O'Brien, and was admitted and sanctioned by the then Secretary of State, Mr. Madison, although a part of said claim was unsupported by any voucher or evidence except the oath of the petitioner. The balance, amounting to $13,899.25, was thereupon paid him.
In the year 1814 the said O'Brien again presented himself to the Department with further claims, but of what character or to what amount does not appear, for, before they were conclusively acted upon, the petitioner, in consequence of domestic misfortunes, returned home, and nothing further was then done upon the subject.
It appears further to your committee that the original general account of Captain O'Brien was, in August, 1814, consumed with the Treasury building, together with all the vouchers, subordinate accounts, and abstracts connected therewith, which had been filed in that office.
625 S. Doc. 231, pt 3-- -40
Some time after this, in 1818, the petitioner exhibited to the Department a variety of claims; but as the loss of the accounts and papers, as above stated, rendered it impossible to determine whether the items in that account had or had not been admitted in the former settlements, the whole claim was rejected by the Department, and the petitioner withdrew his account.
Afterwards the petitioner applied to Congress, and in May, 1820, an act passed for his relief, under which he obtained the sum of $10,174.66, $8,700 of which was to indemnify him for so much paid the Dey's broker and ministers for the loss of their shares, respectively, in the vessel Vickelhadge, taken and condemned as above mentioned. And in this settlement it is stated by the Secretary of State that two items only of the account presented on that occasion by the petitioner were deemed inadmissible under the act, the one amounting to $8,000, for the cost and outfit of said vessel, and the other amounting to $1,934.50, for his own interest in the cargo.
In May, 1822, an act was passed explanatory of the last-mentioned act, under which he obtained the further sum of $8,000, being for the cost and outfit of said vessel. Any allowance for his own interest in the cargo of said vessel, was expressly prohibited by said acts of Congress, on the ground of the danger of permitting public officers to engage in equivocal commercial speculations, in which the public agent is blended with the private adventurer in transactions which when successful turned wholly to the profit of the latter, and when disastrous to the charge of the Government.
The committee are not unmindful of the important services rendered to the Government by Captain O'Brien in a situation of great public embarrassment and personal hazard, and were desirous that the most complete and ample justice should be done by those in whose interests he evinced so much zeal and ability; but, considering that his accounts underwent a full and fair investigation while these services were well known to the Government and fresh in his own recollection; that his claim was then allowed in its utmost extent, and that the settlement of 1808 purported to be a final one of all his claims as consul.general; considering the sums which have since been allowed him under the acts of Congress above mentioned and the loss of his papers as above stated, they can not, in justice to the Government, recommend any further interposition of Government in his bebalf. They therefore submit the following resolution: Resolved, That the petitioner have leave to withdraw his petition.
(Ley. Jour., p. 113.)
May 21, 1824.
On an act for the relief of John Mitchell, Mr. Mills reported:
The petitioner was agent for prisoners of war at Halifax during the late war, and claims to be remunerated for certain extraordinary expenses incurred and to be exempted from the payment of a draft which he drew entirely on account of the Government and which was lost by the failure of the person in whose favor it was drawn, through the remissness of other agents of the Government. Mr. Mitchell rendered the Government great service during the Revolutionary war and is entitled to relief.
(Ley. Jour., pp. 768, 780, 781.)
[See pp. 628, 629.]
NINETEENTH CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION.
January 25, 1826.
On petition of Alexander Scott, Mr. Mills reported:
That from the petition and documents referred to them it appears: That some time previous to March, 1812, the said petitioner was appointed by the then President Madison a political or diplomatic agent to Venezuela, in South America.
That he was in the employment of the Government in that capacity until May 31, 1813, and that on settlement of his accounts at the proper Department in December of that year he was allowed compensation at the rate of $2,000 per annum.
The petitioner now asks from Congress a further allowance and states in his petition various facts and arguments tending to show that he sustained great pecuniary injury by undertaking said mission, and that he is entitled as well upon principles of justice as the stipulations of the then Executive to this allowance.
The committee, however, without expressing any opinion upon the merits of the claim, would barely observe that the appointment of the petitioner and the fund for his compensation were under the entire control of the Executive, and from a view of all the facts and circumstances, which must be much better known to the Executive than to Congress, if justice has not already been done to the petitioner, that department has full power to render it. They therefore recommend the adoption of the following resolution:
Resolved, That the Committee on Foreign Relations be discharged from the further consideration of the petition of Alexander Scott, and that the petitioner have leave to withdraw his petition and papers.
March 27, 1826. On petition of Edward Stevens, of St. Croix, Mr. Macon reported:
That the petition and accompanying account claim from the United States the sum of $9,400 as a balance due to said Stevens for his salary and for expenses incurred by him between the 10th day of March, 1799, and the 25th day of September, 1801, in the character of consul-general and chargé d'affaires to the authorities of Santo Domingo. That in the year 1804 said Stephens presented to the proper officers of the United States his account, in which he claimed the sum of $27,325, leaving said sum of $9,400 now claimed unpaid until some additional vouchers could be procured and furnished by him. That said Stevens resides in the island of St. Croix and has been very much afflicted with the gout. In consequence of which and of the unsettled state of public affairs in the island of Santo Domingo, where alone the additional vouchers required could be procured, the petitioner never has been enabled to procure any additional documents. The petitioner further represents that such documents as he possessed in 1804 were, with his account, deposited in the proper office, and that afterwards, in the year 1814, they were destroyed by fire. It is likewise represented by said agent that there is justly due to said Stephens the sum of $5,625 in addition to said sum of $9,400, which will be abandoned if said last-mentioned sum is now paid without further trouble; but if he is compelled to procure vouchers for said $9,400, he will then claim the whole sum due him, amounting to $15,025.
Upon examining the documents which accompanied the petition and such others as the committee have been able to procure from said Stevens which will authorize this application to Congress, and this would of itself be a decisive objection with them against any allowance being made by virtue of said petition, for, although in this instance no inconvenience might result from it, yet once establish the precedent that an allowance would be made in such cases and the time is not distant when it must either be departed from or numerous frauds would be the consequence.
But, independent of this objection, the committee can see no wisdom which would authorize them to say the United States owed any sum whatever to said Stevens. In 1804 the whole sum appears to have been paid to him which the proper officers then thought the vouchers produced would justify. It is admitted that no additional vouchers have been since produced and that those in existence have been accidentally destroyed, so that no vouchers whatever now exist. If the vouchers produced in 1804 would not authorize the payment of the sum now claimed, your committee are at a loss to know how they would be justified in recommending a law to be passed which would direct such payment without any voucher whatever. Without the necessary vouchers to show that the sun claimed is justly due the committee are of the opinion no payment should be made, and if the necessary vouchers are produced no law whatever is necessary to be passed.
The committee beg leave further to state that the suggestion that a larger sum may hereafter be claimed until the present demand is now satisfied ought, in their opinion, to have no influence, because whenever the petitioner shall show that the United States are indebted to him in any sum whatever, as they are able, so it is hoped and believed, they will be willing to satisfy such demand, without regard to its amount.
Upon the whole the committee recommend that said agent have leave to withdraw his petition and the accompanying documents.
[See pp. 627, 629.]
NINETEENTH CONGRESS, SECOND SESSION.
January 29, 1827.
On petition of Alexander Scott, Mr. Sanford reported as follows:
That from the petition and documents referred to them it appears that some time previous to March, 1812, the said petitioner was appointed by the then President, Madison, a political or diplomatic agent to Venezuela in South America; that he was in the employment of the Government in that capacity until the 31st day of March, 1813, and that on settlement of his accounts at the proper department in December of that year he was allowed compensation at the rate of $2,000 per annum.
The petitioner now asks from Congress a further allowance, and states in his petition various facts and arguments tending to show that he sustained great pecuniary injury by undertaking the said mission, and that he is entitled, as well upon principles of justice as the stipulations of the then Executive, to this allowance.