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portation thus called for. It did this with a very large number of officers all over the country, and upon Government blanks furnished and issued by the War Department for that very purpose, and bearing the authorized signature of the Quartermaster-General, and authorized the issuing officer to countersign them for the very purpose of proof to the carriers that the orders were properly issued. It did all this with the full knowledge that, generally, it would be impossible for ticket agents to either verify the signature, or know whether the officer issuing the order was still an officer, or whether it was for transportation on Government business, or whether the person there named was one entitled to Government transportation. All of this the Government left to the honesty and discretion of its officer, as between it and the carrier. The carriers honored these orders and furnished the transportation upon the very evidence which the Government invited them to accept as sufficient. If, under such circumstances, the officer betrayed his trust, or, after his dismissal, he was still left in possession of the same means for procuring transportation and the same evidence of his right to do so, and he used them, I know of no rule of law or equity which would shift the loss from the Government to the carrier.
I have, therefore, to advise you that, under the facts stated, the United States is legally bound to pay for the transportation thus furnished; and, this being so, the accounting officers of the Treasury may legally allow the same.
As requested, I return herewith the papers transmitted to me. Respectfully,
JOHN W. GRIGGS. The SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
ISTHMIAN CANAL COMMISSION-PUBLIC PROPERTY-SALE.
The president of the Isthmian Canal Commission has authority, upon
the completion of investigations by that body, under the direction or with the approval of the President, to sell, in such manner as will produce the best results, various materials, supplies, and equipments purchased and used by the Commission which can not profitably be brought to the United States.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
May 29, 1900. Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 23d instant, enclosing copy of a letter from Rear-Admiral John G. Walker, President of the Isthmian Canal Commission, in which you request my opinion relative to the disposition or sale of public property purchased and used by the Commission in Panama.
By sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the act of March 3, 1899, entitled “An act making appropriations for the construction, repair, and preservation of certain public works on rivers and harbors, and for other purposes” (30 Stat., 1150), an appropriation for the purpose is made and the President is authorized and empowered to make full and complete investigation of the Isthmus of Panama and ascertain the most feasible and practicable route with a view to the construction of a canal by the United States across said Isthmus to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Under the provisions of the law as contained in the said sections, the President appointed the Isthmian Canal Commission, consisting of nine members, and of which Rear-Admiral Walker is president.
The chief duty devolving upon the Commission was to survey and explore the several routes suggested as feasible for the construction of the canal. In furtherance of this duty I find, among other instructions given to the Commission by the direction of the President, the following:
* The Commission is authorized to make such journeys and to do such work as may be necessary to carry into effect the instructions contained in the act. To facilitate its work, the Commission is authorized to purchase in open markets such materials, including instruments, field outfit, supplies, etc., as in its judgment are necessary
Under this authority, the Commission purchased for use in prosecuting the work in Panama various materials, supplies, and equipments found to be necessary in carrying on the said work. The Commission has concluded the surveys and explorations with which it was charged, and considerable
quantities of the materials, supplies, and equipments which it had purchased and used in the course of its operations are left on hand in Panama, which must be brought to the United States or sold or abandoned where they are. You ask to be advised as to whether the Commission can lawfully sell this property, and, if authority exists to sell, whether the same can be sold in any other manner than at public auction after advertisement. In other words, you desire to know if, under the circumstances, the said property can be disposed of at private sale.
Rear-Admiral Walker, in his statement concerning this property, says that it is on the American isthmus and consists of sundry articles difficult to set forth in detail; but among other things there is a large amount of iron piping scattered along the route of the proposed Nicaragua Canal from the Caribbean Sea to Brito on the Pacific. This piping has been more or less used and is in various conditions as to value; that to collect and transport the piping to Greytown (from whence it would have to be shipped to the United States) would cost more than its value, while the freight on the same from Greytown to the United States would probably again equal its value. There are also a large number of canoes, of some value in Central America, very bulky and expensive to transport by steamer, and of no value in the United States; also camp equipage of all kinds, including tent flys, tarpaulins, cots, hammocks, and cooking and mess outfits, all of a cheap character, very much worn, and which would cost more than they are worth to transport to America, but which are of some value where they are; also two small sailing craft of light draft, bought for the purpose of transporting provisions along the coast of Darien to working parties in the field. These are not sufficiently seaworthy to be brought to the United States, and if they were brought here they would be of little or no value after their arrival; also a lot of provisions, canned food, etc., remaining on hand when the surveying and exploring parties are finally withdrawn.
There is no statute directing all sales of property belonging to the United States to be made at public auction or after :
advertisement. It is true that in some particular cases the method of sale is prescribed by law; as for instance, sales under section 3749, Revised Statutes, of unproductive lands or other property acquired under judicial process or otherwise in the collection of debts; and in other instances the property must be condemned before there is authority to sell. But these have no application here, and I find no legislation indicating the manner in which property such as that under consideration is to be sold. Certainly there is no law forbidding the sale of such property when the interests of the Government require it.
The Commission having finished its work finds itself in possession of a lot of property which was bought for use in conducting the surveys, explorations, and examinations which it had in hand. This property is in Panama and will remain there, resulting in a total loss to the Government of its value, whatever the same may be, unless it can be sold where it is. The president of the Commission in his statement discloses the impracticability of collecting the property and of advertising it in order to make sale thereof at public auction. Under these circumstances, I can not doubt the authority of the Commission, under the direction or with the approval of the President, to make sale of the property in question and to sell the same in such way as will produce the best results.
In case of a sale of the property, I call your attention to the law relating to the disposition of the proceeds. Section 3692 of the Revised Statutes provi'es that "All money's received
from sales of materials, stores, or supplies to any exploring or surveying expedition authorized by law, shall respectively revert to that appropriation out of which they were originally expended, and shall be applied to the purposes for which they were appropriated by law.”
This section not only shows that the sale of such property was contemplated by Congress, but it also directs that the money derived from the sales thereof shall be returned to the appropriation from which it was taken. I think this provision of law applies in this case, and that the proceeds of the sales of property purchased for the use of the Isthmian
Canal Commission from the appropriation above referred to should be returned to that fund. Respectfully,
JAMES E. BOYD,
Assistant Attorney-General. Approved:
JOHN W. GRIGGS. The SECRETARY OF STATE.
PORTO RICO-REMISSION OF TAXES.
By the act establishing the government of Porto Rico, the orders of the
Governor-General of August 22, September 6, and October 4, 1899, relative to the remission of taxes, were made a part of the substantive law of the island. As such they are binding upon the present administration to the same extent as they bound the military government. The action of the Governor in approving each specific remission is purely
executive and alministrative, and in no sense legislative. The Governor has power to establish rules and regulations governing
the submission to him of claims for remission of taxes for which his approval is sought. He may require that such applications shall be brought within a specified time and require the establishment of certain facts.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
May 31, 1900. Sir: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 28th instant, transmitting copy of a letter from the Governor of Porto Rico relative to the subject of remission of insular taxes, and requesting my opinion as to whether the governor is required to carry out the provisions of the orders of the Governor-General of August 22, September 6, and October 4, 1899, relative to the remission of taxes, due by landholders to the insular treasuries and municipalities, on account of damages caused to property by the hurricane of August, 1899.
Governor Allen rightly assumes that by the act establishing the government of Porto Rico these orders were made a part of the substantive law of the island. As such, they are binding upon the present administration to the same extent