« AnteriorContinuar »
action, in its essence, is for the recovery of damages, but, as the case is one sounding in tort, no suit for damages can be maintained under the statute against the United States. It is none the less a case sounding in tort because the claim is in form for the use of the vessel after actual hostilities were suspended by the protocol of August 12, 1898. A state of war did not in law cease until the ratification in April, 1899, of the treaty of peace. "A truce or suspension of armies," says Kent, “ does not terminate the war, but it is one of the commercia belli which suspends its operations.
At the expiration of the truce hostilities may recommence without any fresh declaration of war.” (1 Kent, 159, 161.) If the original seizure made a case sounding in tort, as it undoubtedly did, the transaction was not converted into one of implied contract because of the retention and use of the vessel pending negotiations for a treaty of peace. Besides, the treaty of peace between the two countries provided that “the United States and Spain mutually relinquish all claims for indemnity, national and individual, of every kind, of either Government, or of its citizens or subjects, against the other Government, that may have arisen since the beginning of the late insurrection in Cuba and prior to the exchange of ratifications of the present treaty, including all claims for indemnity for the cost of the war. The United States will adjudicate and settle all claims of its citizens against Spain relinquished in this article.” This stipulation clearly embraces the claim of the plaintiff — its claim against the United States for indemnity having arisen prior to the exchange of ratifications of the treaty of peace with Spain.
We may add that even if the act of March, 1887, standing alone, could be construed as authorizing a suit of this kind, the plaintiff must fail, for it is well settled that in case of a conflict between an act of Congress and a treaty – each being equally the supreme law of the land — the one last in date must prevail in the courts. (The Cherokee Tobacco, 11 Wall., 616, 621; Whitney v. Robertson, 124 U, S., 190, 194; United States v. Lee Yen Tai, 185 U. S., 213, 221.)
We have thus quoted from that case at length because the ruling and language in that case cover the present case completely, unless excepted therefrom by reason of the peculiar relation of the United States to Cuba, and as to that let us now inquire.
It must be borne in mind that at the time of the capture and use of the vessel in question Cuba was under the dominion and sovereignty of Spain, and so remained until relinquished by the terms of the treaty of Paris, when, on December 13, 1898, the United States, pursuant to the terms of that treaty, entered into the occupancy of said island and established therein a military government and maintained the same under the direction of the President as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States until May, 1902, when the government and control of the island were transferred to the President and Congress of the Republic of Cuba.
Even if it should be conceded that the surrender of the port and city of Santiago to the military and naval forces of the United States in July, 1898, carried with it the sovereignty of the United States over that particular district, still by the protocol of August 12, 1898, the United States in effect conceded the sovereignty of Spain over the island. The protocol - a basis for the establishment of peace – which in terms suspended hostilities between the two countries, did not operate either to suspend or terminate the sovereignty of Spain over Cuba. By article V thereof provision was made for the appointment of commissioners to meet at Paris not later than October 1, 1898, to treat of peace; and it was not until by article I of the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, that Spain relinquished“ all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba.” Hence the United States thereby recognized the sovereignty and authority of Spain over Cuba until terminated by the treaty; and though for some purposes the military authorities of the United States had prior thereto exercised dominion over particular parts of the territory acquired by conquest, the island nevertheless was foreign territory, held in trust by the United States for the inhabitants thereof. The conquest was not with the intention of holding or taking title to the island or any part thereof, as had previously been declared by the joint resolution of Congress.
In other words, “during the continuance of the war, the conqueror in possession has only a usufructuary right, and the latent title of the former sovereign continues, until the treaty of peace, by its silent operations, or express provisions, extinguishes his title forever” (Sec. 545 Wheaton's International Law and authorities there cited). Here, while by the treaty the sovereignty of Spain was relinquished, it was not transferred to the United States, so that the authority of the United States over the island or any district thereof was, as expressed in said joint resolution, only " for the pacification thereof."
In the case of Neely v. Henkel (180 U. S., 109, 120) the court, after reviewing the objects intended to be accomplished by the war with Spain and the military occupation thereof as disclosed by public acts and official documents, said:
Cuba is none the less foreign territory, within the meaning of the act of Congress, because it is under a military governor appointed by and representing the President in the work of assisting the inhabitants of that island to establish a government of their own, under which, as a free and independent people, they may control their own affairs without interference by other nations. The occupancy
of the island by troops of the United States was the necessary result of the war. That result could not have been avoided by the United States consistently with the principles of international law or with its obligations to the people of Cuba.
It is true that as between Spain and the United States indeed, as between the United States and all foreign nations Cuba, upon the cessation of hostilities with Spain and after the treaty of Paris, was to be treated as if it were conquered territory. But as between the United States and Cuba that island is territory held in trust for the inhabitants of Cuba, to whom it rightfully belongs and to whose exclusive control it will be surrendered when a stable government shall have been established by their voluntary action.
But the contention of the claimants is that their action is based on the Executive order of the President of July 13, 1898, which was promulgated by the Secretary of War in General Order No. 101, July 18, 1898, providing, among other things, as follows:
Private property, whether belonging to individuals or corporations, is to be respected, and can be confiscated only for cause. Means of transportation, such as telegraph lines and cables, railways, and boats, may, although they belong to private individuals or corporations, be seized by the military occupant, but unless destroyed under military necessity are not to be retained.
Private property taken for the use of the Army is to be paid for, when possible, in cash at a fair valuation; and when payment in cash is not possible receipts are to be given.
The contention is that the order of the President so promulgated is a regulation of the War Department, and that, therefore, they are entitled to maintain their action thereon under section 1, act of 1887. But this question, we think, is fully met by the ruling in the case of Hijo v. The United States, supra — that is to say, “the seizure, which occurred while the war was flagrant, was an act of war occurring within the limits of military operations. The action, in its essence, is for the recovery of damages, but as the case is one sounding in tort, no suit for damages can be maintained under the statute against the United States. It is none the less a case sounding in tort because the claim is in form for the use of the vessel after actual hostilities were suspended by the protocol of August 12, 1898.” And this, we think, applies with equal force to Cuba as to Porto Rico, as the vessel captured was owned by Spanish subjects, natives of Spain, residing in Cuba. Native Spaniards who were Spanish subjects residing in Cuba during said war were enemies, and their property was entitled to no more protection from the United States than other Spanish subjects, and particularly when, as in the present case, the vessel prior to its capture had been used in transporting Spanish troops, munitions of war, and supplies for the Spanish troops from place to place.
While the military and naval forces of the United States were enjoined by the Executive order to respect "private property, whether belonging to individuals or corporations,” it also authorized the confiscation of such property for cause. Besides, the same order authorized the seizure, by the military occupant, of the means of transportation, including “ telegraph lines and cables, railways and boats,” although such property belonged to private individuals or corporations. True, when so seized the order directed the return of such property "unless destroyed under military necessity.”
The Government, in the present case, elected to return the vessel instead of destroying it, but the return thereof is an argument in favor of the generosity of the Government and not a confession that the seizure was not an act of war.
But it is contended that the joint resolution of Congress respecting the independence of the people of Cuba and the relinquishment of Spanish authority in the island, coupled with the disclaimer on the part of the United States to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island --- other than for the pacification thereof — operated to constitute the people of Cuba an ally to force Spain to relinquish her authority and control in said island, thereby segregating from Spanish territory as enemy's country said island.
And from official documents as well as from the history of the time, of which the court takes judicial notice, the insurrectionists in said island against the Government of Spain did cooperate with the military forces of the United States in liberating Cuba from Spanish control. But the island was nevertheless under the sovereignty and control of Spain during the capture and use of the vessel in question, which capture and use were held by the executive department of the Government as a military necessity arising in the belligerent prosecution of the war, and for that reason the Department denied to the claimants herein any compensation therefor.
What the United States did to establish and maintain the freedom and independence of Cuba was voluntarily undertaken and done; and in the execution of the purpose of the joint resolutions it was the judgment of the President, charged therewith, that the capture of the vessel and its use for the military and humane purposes set forth in the findings were for purposes of war and not for gain. In this view of the case individual rights must give way to the rights of the people of Cuba, for whose independence the United States intervened and for whose benefit the island was later held in trust.
But if we should assume that because of the acts of the United States the island was not enemy's country and the claimants, by reason of their residence in Cuba, were not enemies, still the court would be confronted with Article VII of the treaty of Paris, which provided that “the United States and Spain mutually relinquish all claims for indemnity, national and individual, of every kind, of either Government, or of its citizens or subjects, against the other Government, that may have arisen since the beginning of the late insurrection in Cuba and prior to the exchange of ratifications of the present treaty, including all claims for indemnity for the cost of the war.”
The claimants herein were not only Spanish subjects, but were natives of Spain, so that whatever claim may have accrued to them against the United States during said war was relinquished in the treaty by the act of Spain.
Nor do we deem it material in the present case to consider the difference between native Cubans as subjects of Spain and natives of Spain who were subjects thereof residing in Cuba, for it is clear that whatever claim the subjects of Spain had against the United States from the date of the insurrection in Cuba to the date of the exchange of ratifications of the treaty were relinquished; and while the United States by Article VII of the treaty agreed to “adjudicate and settle the claims of its citizens against Spain,” thereby protecting Spain against the claims of any citizen of the United States, Spain did not obligate itself by the treaty to pay the claims of her subjects against the United States which she had relinquished, but we do not see that this is material or that it in any way strengthens the claimants' right to recover for the use or damages for the detention of their vessel. By the act of Spain the United States were released from the payment of such claims, and they can not now be asserted against the United States.
True, within the time prescribed by Article IX of the treaty the claimants renounced their allegiance to Spain, and thereby adopted the nationality of Cuba; but that was long after the capture, use, and detention of the vessel and after the return thereof to the claimants, as set forth in the findings.
We deem it unnecessary to enter upon a discussion of the circumstances under which the vessel was restored to the claimants further than