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HUGHES v. UNITED STATES UNITED STATES V . HUGHES

June 16, 1913

HUGHES
v.
UNITED STATES

UNITED STATES
v.
HUGHES



APPEALS FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Lurton, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: White

[ 230 U.S. Page 24]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.

This suit was commenced to recover from the United States the sum of $200,560, subsequently reduced by an

[ 230 U.S. Page 25]

     amended petition to $165,000, and $12,000 per annum until the principal sum was paid on the ground that the United States had as the result of work done by it in relation to the Mississippi River, taken, in the constitutional sense, two certain plantations belonging to the claimant, one the Wigwam plantation situated on the east bank of the Mississippi, and the other a plantation known as the Timberlake plantation also lying on the east bank but higher up the river, that is, in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and opposite Arkansas City on the west bank. As to the first, the Wigwam plantation, there was judgment below in favor of the United States, rejecting the claim, and No. 718 is an appeal by the claimant from that judgment. As to the Timberlake plantation, there was a judgment against the United States for what was deemed to be the value of the plantation, and No. 719 is an appeal by the United States from that judgment. The court made a series of general findings stating what was considered to be the facts concerning the situation upon which the right to recover in a general sense as to both plantations was based. It then made particular findings as to the Wigwam plantation and like findings as to the Timberlake plantation. Although the general findings are in some respects amenable to the criticism that they draw erroneous conclusions of law concerning the legislation of Congress, with regard to the improvement of the Mississippi River, and the action of the officers under such legislation, as was done in the Jackson Case, and also treat such mistaken conclusions as findings of fact, such errors are not as apparent as they were in the Jackson Case. This results from the fact that the general expressions in the findings manifesting the error which we pointed out in the Jackson Case are as a rule in this case qualified by statements incompatible with the general expressions and which therefore serve to correct the error which otherwise would exist. Thus, in finding 1, after referring to the St.

[ 230 U.S. Page 26]

     Francis and other basins on the west bank and the outflow of water into these basins ultimately reaching the Gulf of Mexico, as described in the findings in the Jackson Case, and the stoppage of such outflow and consequent increase of the volume of water in the river which in the Jackson Case was virtually attributed exclusively to work done by the United States or under its control, the finding in this case accurately states the relation of the United States and the local authorities to the work as follows:

"The outlets and drains thus provided by nature were such as to accommodate said flood waters, and the lands of claimant were not overflowed as frequently before the outlets were closed by levee construction by the United States to improve the river navigation, and by the State and local authorities to protect and reclaim land subject to overflow in times of high water, and consequently were but little injured by said overflows."

So, again, in No. 2, although the finding refers to the adoption of the Eads plan almost in the same all-embracing words used in the Jackson Case, it yet states in explicit terms that the acts of Congress but authorized an improvement of navigation and empowered expenditures for that purpose and in referring to levee construction done pursuant to such Congressional action, it is declared in the finding: that the United States "for the improvement of the Mississippi River for navigation . . . and the local authorities or organizations of the States bordering along the river on both sides from Cairo to the Gulf have before and since 1883 constructed and are now constructing and maintaining certain lines of levees at various places and of various lengths for the purpose of protecting and reclaiming lands within their respective districts from overflow in times of high water." Again, in the concluding part of the fourth finding a statement in accord with that made in the Jackson Case is found concerning the cooperation of the United States and local authorities in

[ 230 U.S. Page 27]

     levee building which is qualified, however, by subsequent statements which with reasonable accuracy displays the real situation, that is, the unifying of the energies of the United States and the local authorities to a common end, levee construction, although the purpose on the one hand was the improvement of navigation and on the other the protection of land from overflow. And this also is further illustrated by finding 3 which points out the scope and character of the authority delegated by Congress to build levees, that is, the improvement of the navigation of the river.

The special findings relating to the Wigwam plantation but established that that plantation was situated in one of the minor basins below Vicksburg like those between Natchez and Baton Rouge which were described in the Jackson Case. Indeed, the court, in express terms found there was identity between that case and this, and placed its conclusion against the right to recover upon its ruling in the Jackson Case ; and in so doing, in view of our affirmance of the judgment in the Jackson Case, it follows that in our opinion no error was committed.

As to the Timberlake plantation, special findings were made, and omitting those which relate to the title of the claimant and to the loss suffered by the overflow of the property in the years following the special action by the Government, which it was ...


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