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Opinion of the Court.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Maury, for plaintiff in error, cited: The Floyd Acceptances, 7 Wall. 666; Moffat v. United States, 112 U. S. 24; Cooke v. United States, 91 C. S. 389; Lockwood v. Kelsea, 41 N. H. 185; Wiseman v. Lyman, 7 Mass. 286; Moore v. Mandlebaum, 8 Michigan, 433; United States v. Cosgrove, 26 Fed. Rep. 908.
Mr. Nathaniel Wilson, (with whom were Mr. Samuel Shellabarger and Mr. J. M. Wilson on the brief,) for defendants in error, cited : Martin v. Mott, 12 Wheat. 19; Belcher v. Linn, 24 How. 508; United States v. Wright, 11 Wall. 648;. Schurz v. United States, 102 U. S. 378; Steel v. Smelting Co., 106 U. S. 447; Johnson v. Towsley, 13 Wall. 72; Warren v. Van Brunt, 19 Wall. 646; French v. Fyan, 93 U. S. 169; Marquez v. Frisbie, 101 U. S. 473; Vance v. Burbank, 101 U. S. 514; Quinby v. Conlan, 104 U. S. 420; Smelting Company v. Kemp, 104 U. S. 636; Baldwin v. Stark, 107 U. S. 463 ; Ehrhardt v. llogaboom, 115 U. S. 67; Page v. Bent, 2 Met. (Mass.) 371; Marshall v. Ilubbard, 117 U. S. 415; Smith v. Richards, 13 Pet. 26; Cary v. Curtis, 3 How. 236; Curtis v. Fiedler, 2 Black, 461; Liverpool Steamship Co. v. Emigration Commissioners, 113 U. S. 33.
Mr. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.
This action is brought by the United States to recover from the defendants, subcontractors for carrying the mail, moneys paid to them under a mistake of fact caused by their false representations as to the services. It appears that on the 15th of March, 1878, one Luke Voorhees entered into a contract with the United States, represented by the Postmaster General, to carry the mail over a route designated as No. 38,146, from Garland to Ouray, in the State of Colorado, passing by Lake City and several other places mentioned, and back, seven times a week, for $19,000 a year, for a term beginning July 1, 1878, and ending June 30, 1882.
Opinion of the Court.
On the 28th of September, 1878, Voorhees made a subcontract with the defendants, Barlow and Sanderson, by which they agreed to transport the mails over the route mentioned, for the period designated, and to perform the service required by his contract with the United States, in consideration whereof they were to receive the pay which was or might become due to him. They were recognized and accepted by the PostOffice Department as subcontractors for the service.
The distance between Garland and Lake City was one hundred and fifty miles, and the time prescribed for the service over it was twenty-seven hours, or five miles and fifty-five hundredths of a mile per hour. The distance between Lake City and Ouray by the route designated was forty-six miles, and the time prescribed by the contract for the transportation of the mails over it was thirty hours, that is, one mile and fifty-three hundredths of a mile per hour. The portion of this latter line, which lay between a place known as Mineral Point and Ouray, a distance of only ten miles, passed over mountains upon which the mails could be carried only a part of the year
in the winter only by men on snowshoes, and at other times only by pack horses. There was, in consequence, great irregularity in the delivery of the mails upon this portion of the route, and much complaint followed, leading, in October, 1878, to its abandonment and the substitution in its place of a line making a detour around the mountains of one hundred and ten miles, passing by way of Barnum, which afforded a good practicable road easily travelled with wagons.
The present action has grown out of the orders of the PostOffice Department in making this change of line, and expediting the service over it, and providing increased compensation for the additional service. The compensation allowed by the original contract, as mentioned above, was $19,000 a year, which, the distance being one hundred and ninety-six miles, was at the rate of about $96.93 a mile. At that rate the compensation for the additional service was allowed, amounting to $10,663.26 a year.
The time prescribed by the original contract for the service between Lake City and Ouray by way of Mineral Point across
Opinion of the Court.
the mountains — thirty hours, that is, at the rate of one mile and fifty-three hundredths of a mile an hour — was owing to the great difficulties attending the crossing of the mountains, as already mentioned. When the line was changed to one making a detour of the mountains by way of Barnum, over a road easily traversable by wagons, it was an obvious duty to the public that the service at the rate of one mile and fiftythree hundredths of a mile per hour should be expedited.
Petitions for a change of that portion of the route which led over the mountains came from officers of the counties of Ouray and Hillsdale, in which the proposed new line was to run, and they represented that over its whole distance there was a wagon road by which the mail could be carried the year round. On the 30th of September, 1878, whilst the PostOffice Department had before it the question of opening a new line between Lake City and Ouray, the defendant Sanderson addressed a letter to the Second Assistant Postmaster General, suggesting that, in lieu of the temporary service ordered between Barnum and Ouray, such service should be made by embracing Barnum in the route No. 38,146 between Garland and Ouray, increasing the distance one hundred and ten miles, “and expediting the schedule from the present, at the pro rata rate of seventy-two hours, to thirty-six hours between Lake City and Quray.” On the same day Sanderson was consulted by the Post-Office Department, or at least was requested to give an estimate, as to the additional number of horses and men which would be required for the increased expedition proposed, and in response to the request he wrote to the department the following letter verified by his oath:
“WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 1878. “Hon. Thos. J. BRADY,
“ Second Ass't Postmaster General: “Sir: To perform the service on route No. 38,146, between Lake City and Ouray, on the present schedule of seventy-two hours, requires twenty-two horses and eleven men, and to perform the same service on a schedule of thirty-six hours it will require (66) sixty-six horses and twenty-two men.
“ (Signed) J. L. SANDERSON.
Opinion of the Court.
"Subscribed and sworn to before me this 30th day of September, 1878.
“(Signed) J. II. HERRON,
“Notary Public." "
There was no existing schedule prescribing seventy-two hours for carrying the mail between Lake City and Quray, as assumed by Sanderson. As the schedule of time prescribed in the original contract between those places over the mountains was at the rate of one mile and fifty-three hundredths of a mile an hour, he assumed that rate as the existing schedule for the new and easily traversable line of one hundred and ten miles, which would require at the same slow pace seventy-two hours. Notwithstanding the obvious error of this assumption, the evidence tended to show that the Post-Office Department acted upon his representations and estimates. Having extended the route one hundred and ten miles, and allowed the additional compensation provided by the statute upon such extension, it also allowed compensation for expediting the service on the new line, upon this extravagant estimate, at the rate of $15,994.77 a year. That sum for the increased expedition was regularly paid during the term of the original contract.
It is admitted that no additional horses and men for which this allowance was made were ever employed. Neither the horses nor the men exceeded the number originally employed to perform the service, and the defendant Sanderson testified that no greater number was necessary to perform it within the thirty-six hours mentioned, and that he never afterwards corrected his estimate, but continued to draw pay from the government as though the additional horses and men were employed.
It appears that the sums thus allowed and paid to the subcontractors for stock and carriers, which were never required and never employed, aggregated $59,592.98, constituting the principal item in the amount claimed in this action.
On the trial, the plaintiffs requested the court to instruct the jury, among other things, to the effect, 1st, that if they believed that service on a portion of the route between Lake
Opinion of the Court.
City and Ouray by way of Barnum was expedited and extra compensation allowed for such expedition, upon the supposition that sixty-six horses and twenty-two men would be necessary to carry the mail on that portion upon a schedule of thirty-six hours, and there was in fact no increase in the number of horses and men required above the number which the defendants swore were necessary to perform the service upon a schedule of seventy-two hours, then the plaintiffs were entitled to recover the sums paid upon such allowance, for, in that event they were paid in violation of law; and, 2d, that in determining the questions in issue the jury could only consider the number of horses and men actually necessary to carry the mail, irrespective of the number of men and horses required by the defendants as carriers of passengers and freight.
The court refused to give these instructions, and charged the jury substantially as follows: That if the agreement for compensation for the additional service was made without authority of law and in excess of all provisions of the statute, the government could not recover any part of the consideration paid the defendants for carrying the mail, unless in the making of the contract there was fraud, participated in and countenanced by the officers of the department who acted in the matter; that if they were of opinion that the parties combined and agreed to raise the compensation to an extraordinary figure, with a view to benefit the defendants, knowing that the compensation was excessive, the government could recover it back; but if they were of opinion that those parties acted honestly and fairly, and in the belief that they were dealing fairly with each other, and that the compensation for the services to be performed was reasonable, there could be no recovery, without reference to what the service actually cost, and without reference to what turned out afterwards with respect to the force required. To the refusal of the court to give the instructions requested, and to the instructions given, the plaintiffs excepted. The jury found a verdict for the defendants, upon which judgment was rendered in their favor, to review which the case is brought to this court.