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CITY OF BOSTON.
IN COMMON COUNCIL, May 23, 1872. The undersigned, members of the Committee on Claims, respectfully dissent from the recommendation of the majority of the committee in the matter of the claim of Charles Burrill, and beg leave to state very briefly their reasons therefor.
The claim rests upon an agreement signed by the Mayor of Boston, on the 31st of May, 1864, to pay Charles Burrill the sum of one hundred and twenty-five dollars per man, for each and every full man credited upon the quota of the city, payment to be made to him whenever he presented to the Mayor an official certificate from the proper authority, showing that the credits had been given.
The claimant represents that under this agreement he did procure to be credited on the quota of the city 5,224 three years' men; that with the exception of presenting the official certificate of credit, a mere formality which the Mayor waived, he performed the contract according to the letter and the spirit; and that he is justly entitled to the sum of one hundred and twenty-five dollars for each man represented on his list, with the exception of a few men for whom the Aldermen might have obtained credit at the time without his service.
The account which he renders against the city at this time stands thus:
5,224 men, for 3 years each, at $125 per man, $653,000 00 Deduct for 283 men, which might have been
credited from the Aldermen's list, viz. : — 283 men at $125,
Amount due Oct. 1st, 1864, $617,625 00 Interest at 6 per cent. for 7 years and 8 months, 284,107 50
Either Mr. Burrill is entitled to the whole of this sum, or he is not entitled to anything. If the contract was an illegal one, we are not justified in taxing the citizens to pay the whole or any part of it; and we have just as much right to tax the citizens to pay the whole as any part of it. If he did not perform the contract, he is certainly not entitled to anything under it. The courts have decided that the contract was illegal; and the majority of the committee go a step further and say it was not performed; but, curiously enough, out of these two reasons for not paying anything to Mr. Burrill, either one of which is sufficient, they find a reason for paying something, applying the rule of grammar, perhaps, that two negatives make an affirmative.
How the sum of forty thousand dollars was arrived at as the correct thing to save the city's credit no one knows. Mr. Burrill testified before the Circuit Court that all his payments amounted to between $14,500 and $18,500. At the hearing before the Committee on Claims, in 1869, he gave
* Statement of Mr. Burrill before the Committee on Claims, 1869, p. 46, City Doc. 98 "According to the large list, there were 6,100 men in the naval service; 428 on the small list in the Marine Corps; total, 6,528; 1,403 of whom were one year men-one year enlistments; 1,262, two years enlistments; 3,434, three years enlistments; and 428 four years enlistments.
Q. Making in all, for enlistment one year, how many? A. 15,672 men for one year; or, reduced to three years enlistments, it makes 5,224 men,
a list of actual payments for different purposes amounting to $119,150. His counsel now says, in a general way, that his expenses amounted to more than $150,000. If the credit of the city is concerned in any degree, it is to the full extent of the contract. If Mr. Burrill's claim is a good one, the record of the city is no cleaner after the payment of $40,000, than it was before. The claimant will still believe that the city has defrauded him; that instead of paying its obligations in full it has taken advantage of a technical point of law to get a receipt in full on payment of about four cents on a dollar. The idea of preserving the credit of the city in this way may be an economical one, but it can hardly be called honest. The city has not yet gone into bankruptcy. It is fully able to meet all its just obligations. The real question, therefore, is whether Mr. Burrill is entitled to the value of his contract.
As he had been quite extensively engaged in procuring credits on the quotas of other cities and towns in this vicinity previous to his agreement with the Mayor of Boston, it can hardly be presumed that he, or the Mayor, was ignorant of the laws then in force in regard to recruiting and the payment of bounties. On the eighteenth of March, 1864, only two months and a half before this contract was made, the Legislature enacted that "Any town or city may raise money, by taxation or otherwise, and apply the same, under the direction of its Selectmen, or Mayor and Aldermen, or City Council, in aid of, and for the purpose of, procuring its proportion of the quota of volunteers in the military service, called for from the Commonwealth under the orders of the President of the United States, dated October seventeenth, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, and February first, eighteen hundred and sixty-four: Provided, that the amount of money so raised and applied shall not exceed the sum of one hundred and twenty-five dollars for each volunteer enlisted in said service, after the passage of this act, as a part of the
quota of said town or city, under said orders of the Presi-
The language of the act was unmistakable. The city was not authorized to pay a dollar for men enlisted previous to the 18th of March, 1864.
Under an order of the City Council approved April 1, 1864, the Treasurer was "authorized to borrow, under the direction of the Committee on Finance, the sum of two hundred thousand dollars, the same to be appropriated for the payment, under the direction of His Honor the Mayor, of one hundred and twenty-five dollars for each volunteer enlisted and mustered on and after the thirtieth day of March, 1864, into the service of the United States, as a part of the quota of the City of Boston."
The language of this order was equally explicit. Payments by the Mayor were limited to those who were enlisted and mustered on and after the 30th of March, 1864. It should be understood, that, previous to this, no bounties had been paid by the city for enlistments to its credit for over a year, the Legislature having enacted in February, 1863, that "No town or city shall hereafter raise or expend money for the purpose of offering or paying bounties to volunteers,"
By the act of Congress of 24th, February, 1864, credits were allowed for men enlisted in the navy after that date, but not before.
These were the laws in force when Mr. Burrill entered into his agreement with the Mayor, on the 31st of May. Of course he and the Mayor knew their scope; - he knew, and the Mayor knew, what could be done legally in the way of recruiting. According to the Mayor's interpretation of the writing which he gave to Mr. Burrill he was acting within the authority conferred upon him by the City Council.
He was told, and he believed, that new men were to be obtained. Mr. Norcross, who was consulted, understood it in
the same way. Mr. Burrill, says he intended to do then what he claims he afterwards did, obtain credits for men enlisted in the navy prior to the 24th of February, 1864,- notwithstanding such credits were not allowed by act of Congress, and payments for such credits were forbidden by the Legislature. He says the Mayor knew, in a general way, what he proposed to do, and cites in proof the letter written to General Frye, some three weeks later. This letter was ingeniously prepared by the counsel whom Mr. Burrill had engaged at this early stage in the game to assist him in carrying out his scheme. The Mayor says he did not understand the purport of this letter when he signed it; but that is not material. Mr. Burrill knew its purport, and he knew that he was engaged in an illegal transaction.
With this letter from the Mayor he went to Washington, and feeling quite sure of getting $125, for each name which he had copied from the books on board the receiving ship at Charlestown, he scattered his money, according to his own story, pretty freely. He gave a little money in hand to Simon Hanscom, a member of the Third House, from Massachusetts, and promised him a good deal more. He paid $30,000 to the Republican Fund for carrying on the campaign in 1864. He paid that sum (although President Lincoln had promised him that the men should be credited), because he was afraid "he (the President) might be weak-kneed and change front." He bought up numerous Congressmen, and did a variety of things involving great expense, in order to get a general law passed by Congress giving credit for men enlisted in the navy prior to the 24th of February. On the 4th of July a law was passed giving such credits. An examination of the "Congressional Globe" reveals the fact that the subject was under consideration before Mr. Burrill went to Washington, and that its passage was not advocated by those whom he has represented as acting for him in the matter. [See Appendix, marked "A.”]