Decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia in the Impressment case.
The Atlanta (Georgia)
papers tell of an interesting judicial decision rendered by the Supreme Court of that State in an impressment case.
, under instructions from the Secretary of War
, seized most of the sugar in Atlanta, Georgia
, for the use of the Government
, allowing therefore the sum of seventy-five cents per pound, the price fixed by the Impressment Commissioners
of that State.
The parties represented by Cox
refused to accept the seventy-five cents per pound as just compensation, having paid considerably over that price for the sugar.
They at once commenced action against Major Cummings
, and by mutual agreement between the parties a case was at once made up, presenting all the points involved — the object of both parties being fairly to the test the constitutionality and validity of the law. We quote from the Atlanta (Georgia) Confederacy:
It was argued before Judge Bull
, at Chambers
, in this city, a short time age, by the consent of the parties, and his decision sustaining the constitutionality of the law, the competency of Congress to pass such an act, and the equity of the schedule of prices fixed by the Commissioners
, has been published in our columns.
At the time the case was argued before Judge Bull
, both parties, by mutual consent, made him an arbitrator to say, not officially as a Judge, but in his opinion as a citizen, looking alone to equity, if the particular lot of sugar in question, being of an extra quality, was not worth more than the price fixed by the Commissioners
to be paid for the sugar — both parties consenting and agreeing that such arbitration and his award should not prejudice the case either way, in any Court in which it might thereafter be considered.
awarded that this lot of sugar was worth 85 cents per pound, being ten cents more than the Commissioners
had fixed as the price to be paid for sugar.
When the case came before the Supreme Court, the counsel presented this arbitrament, and asked them to pass upon it the same as Judge Bull
did, as well as upon the law involved in the case.
It will be seen from the following minute of the decision that the Supreme Court has determined that the schedule of the Commissioners
was not "just compensation," and, therefore, reverse the decision of the Court
below, and that they decline to perform the office of arbitrators, or to say what is just compensation, as Judge Bull
did. But inasmuch as both parties had agreed to settle the matter in dispute, so far as this particular lot of sugar was concerned, by the arbitration as well as to have the principle involved in the law adjudicated, the Supreme Court have directed that just compensation be ascertained by a trial before a special jury at the next term of the Supreme Court, in this county, if, in the meantime, the parties do not agree upon some price.
It will also be seen that the Court
have refused to decide the constitutionality of the law, or the competency of Congress to pass such an act — though it was fairly before them.
It, however, was not necessary to dispose of the case, and the Court
have evinced a desire to avoid a decision on the case before it is absolutely unavoidable.
The following is the minute of the Supreme Court's decision:
"The judgment of the Court
is reversed upon the ground that the adjustment of the schedule of prices, to govern for sixty days, did not secure to the holder of the property seized by the Government
just compensation, as required by the Constitution
"The parties in this case having, by their consent, taken the case out of the course of proceedings prescribed by law, and thrown upon the Court
the duty of assigning just compensation; and this Court declining to take upon themselves the duty of affixing the same, nevertheless, to meet the anomalous state of the case produced by this consent, it is ordered and adjudged that unless the parties agree upon some just compensation, or some mode of ascertaining the same, before the first day of the next Superior Court, the Judge
of said Court cause an issue to be made by the parties, and tried before a special jury for the ascertainment of the same."