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33d CONGRESS, ) HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. 2d Session.
WM. A. CHRISTIAN-LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES OF.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 621.]
JANUARY 5, 1855.
Mr. Bocock, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, made the following
The Committee on Naval Affairs, to whom was referred the memorial of the
legal representatives of William A. Christian, deceased, late a purser in the United States nary, report:
That they have examined this claim and find it a reasonable and just one. They adopt the report made by the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs made during the 1st session of the 32d Congress. It is as follows:
“ It is alleged in the petition filed in this case by Purser Christian, that on assuming his duties on board the United States steamer Princeton, a regular transter was to him made, by Purser Upshur, of the accounts of the officers and crew of that vessel. Among these were the accounts of officers having acting appointments, namely: C. C. Bartling, acting sail-maker, William Taylor, acting boatswain, and James H. Conley, acting carpenter, to whom the memorialist continued to pay their salaries, as it had been done by his predecessors, Pursers McBlair and Upshur, on whose books they had previously been borne. The memorialist states that he knew the appointments of these officers had been made with the approbation of the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, and no orders had been received from the Navy Department or from Captain Stockton for their discharge from the service after the passage of the act of June 17, 1844, they being still continued in the performance of their respective duties.
“William Taylor, one of the above-named officers, was discharged on the 18th of July, 1844, and J. R. Fox appointed by Captain Stockton to succeed him as the acting boatswain of the ship. The memorialist states that having doubts whether this appointment would be approved by the department, he addressed the Fourth Auditor upon the subject, asking for information whether he could rightfully pay the salary of boatswain to Mr. Fox, under the existing law; that the Fourth Auditor referred this communication to the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, who returned it to the Auditor with the following endorsement : September 15, 1843, Captain Stockton was authorized to select and rate a carpenter, boatswain, &c., the deparment having none at his disposal
- let him be paid as rated. J. Y. M.;' which was promptly communicated to him (the memorialist) in reply by the Auditor.
“ This appointment and the approval were both subsequent to the passage of the act of June 17, 1844, and the memorialist alleges that ħe, therefore, felt no longer doubt respecting the propriety of paying these officers. Nor did he think he could afterwards hesitate to pay E. A. Yorke, as boatswain, when he was appointed by Captain Stockton to succeed Mr. Fox, who was discharged on the 15th December, 1844, as he had every reason to suppose that the department had recognised, by its former endorsement of approval, the power of Captain Stockton to make the appointment. The memorialist says that he continued under these impressions until he received a communication from the Hon. Mr. Bancroft, in which he is informed that Mr. Yorke cannot be paid as boatswain,' for reasons therein assigned. At the time this letter was received, however, Mr. Yorke had been discharged from the service and paid off in full. During his stay on board no apprehension was felt by the memorialist, as he states, respecting the propriety of paying him.
A proviso in the navy appropriation act of August 4, 1812, prohibited any increase of the officers of the navy beyond the number in the respective grades that were in service on the 1st day of January, 1842.'* As the warrant officers paid by Purser Christian had been employed in violation of this restriction, the Fourth Auditor very properly refused to allow a credit for the items of disbursement covering their pay
• But the committee regard this to be a very proper case for relief by the legislative interposition. The acting Secretary of the Navy, Mr. A. Thos. Smith, in a letter dated September 15, 1843, expressly authorized Captain Stockton to select and rate men for the places of carpenter, boatswain, &c. At the time Mr. Christian joined the ship he found these men enrolled and rated for pay by his predecessors, without intimation of objection from the department. When boatswain Taylor was discharged and a new appointment made by Captain Stockton, apprehending some possible difficulty at the accounting offices, he wrote to know whether he should place the new appointee upon the roll, and received a reply which reiterated and confirmed the authority of Captain Stockton, and was well calculated to satisfy all doubts as to the propriety of the payments made to the several other warrant officers of the ship. This last letter is so explained by the Fourth Auditor, as to relieve that excellent officer from any imputation of carelessness; but the fact still stands that the letter which Purser Christian received was a reasonable ground for believing the payments he was making were approved at the department. The letters which were referred to are annexed. It is doubtful whether the proviso in the act of 1842 was intended to apply to warrant officers. Be that, however, as it may, so inconvenient was the operation of it found to be, that Congress, by the act of March 3d, 1847, repealed the restriction so far as applied to the appointment of boatswains, gunners, carpenters, and sailmakers.
“ The committee believe that Purser Christian made the payments under an honest belief, founded upon reasonable grounds, that he was bound to do so, and that the payments were legal. No other person than the Secretary of the Navy was authorized to determine when the
complement of officers in any particular grade was full; and the fact of his authority to Captain Stockton to make these appointments, indicated to all the subordinates of the department that the list of the grade mentioned was not full, and that the appointments were legal. Whatever fault there was in the transaction was on the part of the acting Secretary of the Navy, who disregarded the existing law; and his fault ought not to be visited in judgment upon Mr. Christian.
“The committee report a bill for the relief of Purser Christian.”