Opinion of Mr. Commissioner Frazer in the
case of John R. Hanna, vs. The United States,
No. 2. (See p. 58, ante.)
This is a claim for the destruction of 819 bales of cotton belonging to the claimant by rebels in arms against the United States. The property was destroyed in Louisiana and Mississippi in 1862 by the confederate forces with the concurrence of the rebel authorities of Louisiana, one of the Confederate States so called. Her Britannic Majesty had recognized the so-called Confederate States as a belligerent and the contest of arms then prevailing as a public war. After such recognition by the sovereign, the subject of such sovereign cannot, in his character as such subject, aver that the fact was not so. The act of his government in that regard is conclusive upon him.
Aside from this recognition by Her Majesty, it is public history of which this commission will take notice without averment or proof, that the confederate forces were engaged at the time in a formidable rebellion against the government of the United States. It may not be important to the question in hand, therefore, that Her Majesty had taken the action already stated.
It should be further observed that the particular “State of Louisiana” which concurred and participated in the destruction of the claimant’s property was a rebel organization, existing and acting as much in hostility to the Government of the United States as was the Confederate States, so-called. It was inform and fact a creature unknown to the Constitution of the United States, and acting in hostility to it. It was an instrumentality of the rebellion. Its agency, therefore, in the spoliation of this cotton cannot be likened to the act of a State of the American [Page 240] Union claiming to exist under the Constitution; and any argument tending to show that under international law the national government is liable to answer for wrongs committed by such a state upon the subjects of a foreign power, can have no application to the matter now under consideration. The question presented is simply whether the Government of the United States is liable to answer to a neutral for the acts of those in rebellion against it under the circumstances stated, who never succeeded in establishing a government. It is not deemed necessary in this case to inquire whether the claimant, having a commercial domicile in Louisiana at the time, is to be deemed a British “subject of Her Britannic Majesty” in the sense of Article XII of the treaty which creates this commission. That question is argued by counsel, but it is thought better to meet the question above stated for the reason that the case will thereby be determined more distinctly upon its merits.
The statement of the question would seem to render it unnecesary to discuss it. It is not the case of a government established de facto, displacing the government de jure. But it is the case merely of an unsuccessful effort in that direction, which, for the time being, interrupted the course of lawful government without the fault of the latter.
Its acts were lawless and criminal, and could result in no liabilty on the part of the Government of the United States.