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sels of war; and it was left to the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President, to determine on the models, capacity, and arma. ment, as in his opinion should be best for the public interest and most conformable to the public service. In tonnage and other respects, they were of the class of vessels denominated frigates. They were equipped with the masts, spars, sails, and rigging of a frigate, and with the engines and machinery to give them steam-power. By the department they were rated as frigates; and it is known that a great object in their construction and outfit was to make them effective ships of war, adapted to all purposes of navigation without resort to the auxiliary power of steam. And the question presented for consideration involves the inquiry how far Congress has, by the act of 26th August, 1842, exercised the unquestioned power of controlling the Navy Department in thus rating these vessels, and especially so far as concerns the pursers' pay. Was it intended to declare that all war steamers shall be divided into two classes, whatever may have been the rate given to them at the department? This is a most important inquiry. From the time of the separate organization of the Navy Department, in 1798, the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President, has exercised the power of rating all vessels which may have been authorized to be built. It is given to bim by the act of 30th April, 1798, which directs him to execute all orders which he may receive from the President relative to the procurement of naval stores and materials, and the construction, armament, and employment of vessels of war, as well as other matters connected with the naval establishment of the United States. It is a power of great importance to the department, involving the extent and character of complements of officers and men, and of allowances of all kinds of stores and supplies. Prior to the passage of the act of 1798, Congress not unfrequently-probably in all casesfixed by law the complement of officers and men for each ship. The power still exists in Congress, if they deem it proper to exercise it. But it is believed it has not been exercised since that date. In the act of 29th April, 1816, Congress directed the building of nineships, to rate not less than seventy-four guns; twelve ships, to rate not less than forty-four guns: and yet there is no act of Congress which has fixed the rate of a seventyfour or of a forty four gun ship. I have no doubt that the department has this power of rating vessels of war, under the direction of the President, unless Congress shall exercise its controlling power.

The act of 26th August, 1842, introduced an entire change in the organization of the pursers' department in the navy. That was its main object. It changed their duties and the mode of supplies, and, as a consequence, gave them a salary or annual payment, instead of the compensation previously received. The pay is graduated by the character of the vessel in which the purser serves; and it was rather the intention of Congress to adopt the rating of vessels fixed by the department, than to establish a rate for the department. At its passage, there were constructed and contemplated vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam, which did not appropriately belong to any one of the raies established by the department. To the purser of a frigate a specific pay is given, and to one of a steamer of the first or second class a different rate of pay is given. This graduation of pay was influenced by the size of the vessel and the care, trouble, and responsibility incurred. While it may be admitted that all vessels using steam may properly be called steamers, it is by no means inconsistent with a fair interpretation of the act that a vessel using steam may be a frigate. The act does not specify or direct what stearners shall be of the first or second class, but leaves the classification, as it had left the rating, to the department. And I construe the act to recognise all vessels rated by the department as belonging to that denomination or rate which had been or may be given; and such steamers as, from their outfit, tonnage, armament, and equipment, do not appropriately belong to any one of them, are to be classed as steamers of the first or second class, as may be determined by the department. If this be not so, then a vessel with all the outfit of a forty four gun ship, and rated by the department as a frigate, loses its rate, without any manifestation or declaration of a purpose on the part of Congress to produce that result.

I am, therefore, of opinion that the purser of the Missouri may be paid as the purser of a frigaie; and if it is found that this construction of the law, founded on the exercise of a discretionary power by the department, produces any embarrassment in the outfit or allowances of steam vessels, it may be readily obviated by the department by regulation arranging all the vessels of war using steam power into two classes. I have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

J. Y. MASON. Hon. GEORGE BANCROFT,

Secretary of the Navy.

SHIP-MASTERS A BROAD_WHEN TO DEPOSITE REGISTERS WITH CONSUL.

The 2d section of the act of 28th February, 1803, does not require the papers of an American

vessel in a foreign port to be delivered io the consul, only in cases where it becomes neces

sary to make an entry at the custom-house. A requisition of a deposite of papers, in all cases of arrival where, by the local laws, an entry

is not necessary, and where there is no trading or purpose to trade, night add to consular emoluments, but would be embarrassing to the interests of navigation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE,

June 11, 1845. Sir: I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 16th April last, with a letter from the United States consul at Nassau, asking my opinion on the question presented by the consul. He states that his instructions to his agents have been to this effect: “That any voluntary arrival at their ports obliges the master of the vessel, upon his arrival, to deposite his register, whether such arrival be for advices or not, or whether the vessel comes to an entry or not, and without respect to her remaining twenty-four hours, or any definite time or not.” And the question presented for consideration is, Are those instructions warranted by law? By the 2d section of the act of 28th February, 1803, it is made the duty of every master of a vessel belonging to citizens of the United States, who shall sail from any port of the United States, on his arrival at a foreign port, to deposite his register, sea-letter, or Mediterranean passport, with the consul, vice consul, or commercial agent, if any there be at such port. In case of refusal or neglect, he is subjected to a penalty of five hundred dollars. And the same section makes it the duty of such cousul, vice-consul, or commercial agent, on such master or commander producing to him a clearance from the proper officer of the port where his ship or vessel may be, to deliver to the said master or commander all of his said papers.

Taking the whole section together, it is very obvious that Congress required the papers of an American vessel in a foreign port to be delivered to the consul only where it was necessary to make an entry at the customhouse. It is on the master's producing a clearance, that the consul is to return him his papers; and there can be no clearance where there is no entry. If an American vessel arrive at her port of discharge, or for any reason other than the purpose of trading with the whole or portion of her cargo, she shall remain so long as, by the law of the country, to require it, she must enter at the custom house of such port; and, in all such cases, the master must deposite his register. But the law does not extend the duty beyond this. A requisition of a deposite of papers, in all cases of arrival where, by the local laws, an entry is not necessary, and where there is no trading or purpose to trade, might add to consular emoluments, but would prove extremely embarrassing to the navigating interest. The object of the law is to coinpel masters of vessels belonging to American owners, sailing from American ports, to respect our own laws, and those of the foreign countries to whose ports they may go for the purpose of trade; and this object is attained by requiring thein to exhibit the evidences of their being lawful traders to our consuls at the ports where they have to enter. Beyond this, neither the law nor good policy requires that their dirty shall extend. Í have the honor to be, respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,

J. Y. MASON. Hon. JAMES BUCHANAN,

Secretary of State.

POSTMASTERS-HOW TO BE COMPENSATED UNDER ACT OF 1845.

The act reducing the rates of postage upon letters, &c., transported in the public mails, passed

March 3, 1845, provides against embarrassment in the mail service on account of deficiency in its revenues, by placing funds at the disposal of the Postmaster General, to which he may resort in cases of necessity. This fund should be applied to the purposes for which, and in the spirit in which it was ap

propriated, viz: to supply any deficiency which might be actually ascertained, and which might threaten to defeat the objects of the establishment, subject to the proviso that the ex; penditures for the Post Office Department shall not, in the aggregate, exceed the annual amout of four million five hundred thousand dollars, exclusive of salaries of officers, clerks, and messengers of the General Post Office, of its fund for contingencies. The twenty-first and twenty-second sections are to be taken as in pari materiâ, as the sum ap

propriated in the former áffects, to its full extent, the amount which the Postmaster General may expend under the latter. The appropriation is the primary fund for the compensation of postmasters; but, as that is

from anticipated revenue only, any deficiency thereof that may happen in consequence of the reduction of postage may be made up from the fund thus provided.

ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE,

June 28, 1845. SIR: Your communication of the 5th ultimo, with the letter of the deputy postmaster at Boston accompanying it, was duly received, and I regret that urgent official engagements, and other causes beyond my control, have prevented me from furnishing my opinion at an earlier day.

You represent that there is reason to apprehend that the reduction of postages under the operation of the act of Congress of March 3, 1845, may be so great as to render the compensation allowed by law to the deputy postmasters insufficient to defray the expenses of their offices, including charges for the labor of assistants necessary to the dnty of receiv. ing, transmitting, and delivering the contents of the mails.

The question on which you ask my opinion is, Whether there is any provision of law which will authorize you to supply the apprehended des ficiency?

The subject is one of great interest and of extreme delicacy. It is a matter of regret that the question should be regarded as doubtful. The importance of a prompt and regular distribution of the mails and of an efficient management of the post office must be ackyowledged, while it is not desirable to claim for the department a discretionary power which may be liable to abuse. With a full appreciation of its importance, I have examined the subject with great care, and now give you the result of that examination.

The system established by law for furnishing to the public facilities of intercommunication by mail is of vast public importance, and in its operation reaches every part of our widely extended country. It consists of three great divisions—the General Post Office, the post offices, and the transportation of the mail. Each is essential to the operations of the other. The General Post Office at the seat of government directs and regulates the entire vast machine, the post offices receive and give out letters, papers, and other matter deposited, and the contractors transport them from one point to another for distribution. This system in all its parts is called in ihe laws the Post Office Department. Its expenditures may be classed in like manner. The expenses of the General Post Office are regulated by law, and are satisfied by specific appropriations made by Congress. The transportation of the mail is made by contract, and the contract prices are paid by requisitions of the Postmaster General on the revenues of the department on deposite in the treasury; and the expenses of the post offices are paid by an allowance to the deputy postmasters of commissions on those revenues received by them at their respective offices. priations for the first are made out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, while those for the other two brauches of service are made out of any moneys in the treasury arising from the revenues of the department.

The question under consideration depends on the extent of authority given by law to the Postmaster General to sustain the system in all its parts by supplying deficiencies of the emoluments allowed to meet necessary expenses in one of its important divisions.

By the fourteenth section of the act of March 3, 1825, the Postmaster General “ is authorized to allow to each postmaster such commission on the postages by him collected as shall be adequate to his services and er. penses, ” with a proviso that this commission shall not exceed certain spc cified rates per centum, which he cannot enlarge without authority of law. By the forty-first section of the same act it is directed that " whenever the annual emoluments of any postmaster, after deducting there from the necessary expenditures incident to his office, shall amount to more than two thousand dollars, the surplus shall be accounted for to the Postmaster

The approGeneral, to be accounted for by him as other moneys accruing from the post office establishment."

With the commissions thus allowed to the deputy postmaster, the necessary expenses incident to his office are defrayed. The law clearly contemplates that the emolument shall be adequate to compensate his services and to discharge necessary expenses; and when the allowance under the fourteenth section shall be excessive, the forty-first disposes of the surplus.

There is another source of revenue to the postmasters in the several cities of the Union, arising from the use of boxes or other receptacles for letters, by individuals, for their own convenience. By the act of the 18th of May, 1842, the postmasters are required “ to render an account of such receipts under oath; and if on such accounting it shall appear that a net sum has been so received exceeding three thousand dollars in any one year, such excess shall be paid to the Postmaster General for the uses and purposes of the Post Office Department.

The Postmaster General, in the exercise of authority given, established regulations for the government of the Post Office Department. By one of these, to be found in chapter 7, on the office of deputy postmaster, it is directed that the duties of his office “must be performed by bimself personally, or by a sworn assistant or assistants, whom he may employ to aid hiin when necessary; for the care and attention of every one of whom he will be himself responsible to the department."

The law thus gave to the deputy pustmaster funds, out of which he received bis own compensation, and defrayed the expenses of his office. From the nature and extent of his duties, he required assistants to enable him to perform them. Those assistants he was authorized to select and compensate. The mode of compensation made it his interest to consult economy, and a judicious selection is secured by his responsibility for their conduct. To perfect the system in this particular, the laws gave to the General Post Office a controlling power to supervise the expenses as well for assistants as for other objects, and the authority to prevent unnecessary expenditure, or the employment of a larger number of assistanis than was required for the proper performance of appropriate duties.

The act of the 2d of July, 1836, changed the organization of the Post Office Department, and provided niore effectually for the settlement of the accounts thereof. It required that the revenues arising in that department, and all debts due to the same, shall, when collected, be paid, under the direction of the Postmaster General, into the treasury of the United States; that the Postmaster General shall submit to Congress, at each annual ses. sion, specific estimates of the sums of money expected to be required for the service of the department in the subsequent year, commencing on the first day of July, under several specific heads, the first of which is compensation to postmasters. And the 3d section requires “ that the aggregate sum for the service of the Post Office Department in each year shall be

appropriated by law out of the revenues of the department, and that all payments of the receipts of the Post Ottice Department into the treasury shall be to the credit of the said appropriation. These estimates and appropriations have been annually made. The admissible mode of compensating postmasters, and of defraying their expenses of office, pre. scribed by the 14th section of the act of 1525, has been adhered to, and made the basis of estimates and the rule of expenditure

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