The Protector , 79 U.S. 700 ( 1872 )

  • 79 U.S. 700 (____)
    12 Wall. 700


    Supreme Court of United States.

    *701 Mr. Phillips contended that it was not; Mr. F.S. Blount, contra, urging that it was.

    The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.

    The question, in the present case is, when did the rebellion begin and end? In other words, what space of time must be considered as excepted from the operation of the statute of limitations by the war of the rebellion?

    Acts of hostility by the insurgents occurred at periods so various, and of such different degrees of importance, and in parts of the country so remote from each other, both at the commencement and the close of the late civil war, that it *702 would be difficult, if not impossible, to say on what precise day it began or terminated. It is necessary, therefore, to refer to some public act of the political departments of the government to fix the dates; and, for obvious reasons, those of the executive department, which may be, and, in fact, was, at the commencement of hostilities, obliged to act during the recess of Congress, must be taken.

    The proclamation of intended blockade by the President may therefore be assumed as marking the first of these dates, and the proclamation that the war had closed, as marking the second. But the war did not begin or close at the same time in all the States. There were two proclamations of intended blockade: the first of the 19th of April, 1861,[*] embracing the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; the second, of the 27th of April, 1861,[†] embracing the States of Virginia and North Carolina; and there were two proclamations declaring that the war had closed; one issued on the 2d of April, 1866,[‡] embracing the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and the other issued on the 20th of August, 1866,[§] embracing the State of Texas.

    In the absence of more certain criteria, of equally general application, we must take the dates of these proclamations as ascertaining the commencement and the close of the war in the States mentioned in them. Applying this rule to the case before us, we find that the war began in Alabama on the 19th of April, 1861, and ended on the 2d of April, 1866. More than five years, therefore, had elapsed from the close of the war till the 17th of May, 1871, when this appeal was brought. The motion to dismiss, therefore, must be



    [*] 12 Stat. at Large, 1258.

    [†] Ib. 1259.

    [‡] 14 Stat. at Large, 811.

    [§] Ib. 814.