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ATTORNEY-GENERAL-OPINION.

When an opinion is desired from the Attorney-General, the facts which

exist or are assumed as the basis of the inquiry should be definitely stated. The Attorney-General can not safely assume that facts not stated probably exist.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,

June 26, 1900. Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of June 9, 1900, with a copy of letter to you from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, of June 7, 1900, ard requesting my opinion upon the facts stated by the Commissioner whether the Standard Oil Company is taxable under section 27 of the act of June 13, 1899 (30 Stat., 448-464), on account of its receipts from certain pipe-line companies.

It is a rule of this Department, of long standing and universal recognition, that when an opinion is desired from the Attorney-General on a particular question of law arising in another Department, the facts which exist or are assumed as the basis of such question should be defintely stated. The Attorney-General can not, with either prudence or safety, assume that certain facts not definitively stated prohably exist.

An examination of the facts stated in the letter of the Commissioner fails to disclose sufficient data to enable me to advise you on the question submitted. The question is whether, within the meaning of the war-revenue act, the Standard Oil Company, a corporation, controls certain other corporations engaged in the transportation of oil in such a way as to subject the Standard Oil Company to taxation on account of the receipts of such other companies.

The section referred to taxes every person, corporation, etc., who owns or controls a pipe line for the transportation of oil whose gross yearly receipts from the business referred to in the section exceeds $250,000. The Commissioner's letter shows only that the Standard Oil Company is engaged in retining petroleum and also owns a majority of the stock of numerous pipe-line companies for the transportation of oil, but there is nothing in the case to show the extent to which, or whether at all, that company actually controls or manages the pipe lines or the corporations which nominally own and operate them, while it is claimed, on the other hand, that each of these pipe lines is owned and operated by a separate corporation, having its own organization, directors, officers, and by-laws, and carrying on the business in its own name and for the benefit of itself and stockholders.

Under these circumstances it is impossible for me to say whether the Standard Oil Company owns or controls either of the pipe lines referred to within the meaning of the section cited, and it is therefore impossible for me to decide whether it is taxable on account of its receipts from such pipe lines or not. Very respectfully,

JOHN W. GRIGGS. The SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.

FRENCH SPOLIATION CLAIMS.

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It is the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury under the act of March 3, 1899 (30 Stat., 1191), making appropriation for the payment of certain French Spoliation claims, to determine before payment whether or not these claims are “held by assignment or owned by any insurance company.” That duty is not altered by reason of the receipt of certificates of the Court of Claims issued under the authority of that act.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,

July 5, 1900. Sir: I have received your letter of the 30th ultimo, informing me that you have received certificates of the Court of Claims in eleven French Spoliation claims contained in the act of March 3, 1899, in favor of Charles F. Adams, administrator of Peter C. Brooks, and adding:

“The advice of the Attorney-General is desired by this Department, in view of his letter of March 7, 1899, above referred to, as to whether there is now any reason why these claims may not be paid.”

Your question seems to me, in effect, whether the certificates you say you have received do away with the question called to your attention in the Attorney-General's letter of March 7, 1899.

They do not. The court itself says that, notwithstanding the certificates the appropriation act gives it jurisdiction to issue, it is for your Department, and not the court, to decide whether or not these claims are held by assignment or owned by any insurance company.” In an opinion (herewith inclosed) recently delivered, in the matter of Charles Ghequiere's application for certificates under the same appropriation law, the court says:

“The authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to pay to the persons named in the act the several sums appropriated therefor is restricted by the last proviso in these words: ‘Provided, however, That any French Spoliation claim appropriated for in this act shall not be paid if held by assignment or owned by any insurance company.'

" Manifestly that is a direction to the Secretary of the Treasury. If the court should assume to go into the

ques. tion raised, it would in effect be considering a motion for a new trial as to the real party in interest; and, too, after the court has lost jurisdiction of the case.

“That we can not do without express authority of law; hence the motion, in so far as it asks the court to certify that the “claim is not held by assignment or owned by any insurance company,’ is overruled.

“The certificate that the claimant, as administrator, represents the next of kin of Charles Ghequiere, deceased, is ordered issued."

Besides, the certificates ordered sent you in the Brooks case are in a special form, omiting the usual words "the original owner of the claim on which said award was made.” I inclose the printed form ordinarily used. The court was asked by the claimant's attorney to modify its order, but would not do so.

Our letter of March 7, 1899, therefore, calling your attention to the proviso of the appropriation act, and to the case of Farnum v. Brooks (9 Pick., 212), where all the facts are explained, requires no modification.

This Department having been, while these claims were before the Court of Claims, in the position of attorney for the defendants, it would be agreeable to us, now that there is a question pending before you concerning the same claims, not to take any part in discussing that question. Doubtless the accounting officers, being lawyers, can afford all necessary aid in deciding it. However, if you request it, my assistant, Mr. Russell, will attend any hearing of both parties which your Department may conclude to have.

The matter is an important one, involving in all between two and three hundred similar claims of the same estate of Brooks, and probably seven or eight hundred thousand dollars. Respectfully,

JOHN W. GRIGGS. The SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.

SPANISH RAILWAY CONCESSIONS-PHILIPPINES.

The provinces in the Philippine Islands through which a railroad was

built in pursuance of a royal decree of April 9, 1885, and which in large measure received the benefit of said railroad, are equitably obligated to make some fair arrangement with the company as to the two-thirds of the guaranteed interest which the decree imposed upon

the provinces. This concession of Spain is regarded as a persoual contract, binding on

the parties who made it and equitably on the provinces affected thereby; but whatever obligation, if any, rests upon the United States in regard thereto, it is something different from the contract obliga

tions and may or may not coincide with its terms. Congress will determine whether, based upon the reception of benefits

from the railroad, the United States has incurred one-third or any such portion of the original indebtedness which, under the decree, was to be paid from the royal or peninsular funds in the Philippine

treasury. As Congress has not yet determined the future permanent status of the

islands, the President has authority to settle this preexisting accrued indebtedness, if he believes that the settlement can not justly and

wisely be left to await action by the future government. In such case the President, or, with his consent, the military govern

ment, may apply the local revenues of the provinces through which this road extends to the discharge of their equitable liability, based upon so much of the concessionary agreement as has been already executed, the amount of which liability he has authority to determine in view of all the facts and circumstances.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
July 26, 1900.

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the following request for an opinion:

"WAR DEPARTMENT,

Washington, July 2, 1900. "SIR: I have the honor to inclose herewith papers relating to the claim of the Manila Railway Company, Limited, for quarterly subventions under the concession granted it by Spain, and to request your opinion as to what obligations, if any, exist under said concession either against the revenues of the Philippine Islands or those of the United States; and if any such obligations do exist, as to what action can legally be taken in recognition and settlement thereof by the Executive Department of the United States, or the military government in those islands.

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With these papers are inclosed a copy of the note of the British ambassador at this capital, and of the report of the law officer of the Division of Customs and Insular Affairs. "Very respectfully,"

ELIHU ROOT,

"Secretary of War.

"(Inclosures: Copy of Judge Magoon's report 849 and inclosures 1 to 46, except 18 and 29, with p. c., the return of which papers is requested.)"

I perceive that the subvention as claimed is calculated from January 1, 1899. This date, of course, was more than three months before the ratifications of the treaty of Paris were exchanged, and therefore before the sovereignty of Spain over the Philippines was formally terminated. So far as there may be a liability of the sovereign Government as distinguished from that of the Philippine Islands or provinces therein, it would seem necessary to consider whether the concessionaire must not look to Spain, rather than to the United States, for indebtedness accruing prior to such exchange of ratifications.

The facts seem to be that, according to the method familiar to Spain, a project of a railway from Manila to Dagupan, on the northern coast of Luzon, was, in pursuance of a royal

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