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differentiate between the status of the United States in its relation to that half of the debt and its relation to the other half characterized as that of a guarantor, a difference between one who promises that he will do a thing himself and one who undertakes that another will do it.
As to one-half of this debt, the United States undertook with the bondholders, in effect, that the District would pay it out of its revenues from taxation, and as to the other half it promised the bondholders that it would appropriate it out of the Treasury. The original pledging clause did not make certain these proportions. They might ultimately be seven-eighths out of District revenues and one-eighth out of the revenues of the United States. So far as the bondholders were concerned, it was the pledge of the United States to provide the necessary revenues which was effective, and so far as they were concerned, an undertaking on the part of the United States that it would provide all the funds necessary out of District revenues derived from taxation would have been equally effective. In other words, the United States as guarantor, in terms, for the payment of all of this debt would have been just as acceptable to the bondholders as the United States as guarantor of an unascertained part and as a promisor to pay of the other part. If, then, that was all the United States was to be as to all the debt, either to the bondholders or as between it and the District, why might it not as easily and effectively have been so stated?
Great governments in the transaction of their business and in the fixing of their liabilities must not be less circumspect than an individual. Because the transaction involved governments furnished no good reason why the contract should in terms purport one thing to be modified in parol or to be otherwise construed on the motion of one of the obligated parties.
The United States undoubtedly assumed, so far as the bondholders were concerned, that it would pay one-half of this debt. In entering into this contract with the bondholders—a contract by which it divided liabilities with the District—it provided no condition upon its liability or indemnity or subrogation in its favor.
In its direction to the District to issue these bonds it agreed that it would contribute to their payment. In its after determination of the amount of its contribution it fixed it at one-half. It did this by legislation, of course; declarations in public enactment by its duly constituted legislative authority, approved by its Chief Executive. By what process of reasoning can it be said that these declarations published to the world as fixing the status of the United States with reference to these bonds meant one thing to one party affected thereby and, without differentiation or condition therein, an entirely different thing to another?
When the United States thus directed the issuance of these bonds, and as a part of that direction took on itself a part of the obligation which it afterwards defined, as then contemplated that it should do, it not only entered into an obligation to those who should become holders of those bonds, but it at the same time entered into a compact with the District that it would pay a portion thereof, and afterwards determined that portion to be one-half. It can not be material that its determination of the question as to sinking fund came after the determination of the question as to interest, neither can the obligation assumed be now held as nonexistent because in the first instance the debt was the debt of the District. The competent legislative power might define the obligations of the United States to the District as well as to others, might assume a part thereof to the District as well as to others, without consideration or reason therefor except, perchance, a recognition of its equitable obligation, and when so assumed and declared by the law they remain fixed, so long, at least, as the law remains without amendment and unrepealed.
I do not assume to say anything as to the possible difference between the relations of the United States to the bondholders and the relations of the United States to the District in connection with any possible question of the right of modification by subsequent legislation. My province is to treat them as I find them under existing laws in so far as they are involved in this question arising under this provision in the District bill for the current year. With the status of fiscal relations between the United States and the District, outside of this question, I have no proper concern, except to say that the determination of this question is only conclusive of matters within its own proper scope.
I have therefore to advise you that under the “Act making appropriations to provide for the expenses of the government of the District of Columbia for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, ninete hundred and fourteen, and for other purposes" (37 Stat., 938), payment to be made during said year of interest on and sinking fund for the payment of the funded debt in question should be made, within the limits of the amount appropriated for said purpose, with moneys withdrawn from the Treasury of the United States by the Treasurer in accordance with section 2 of the act of March 3, 1883 (22 Stat., 470), and 50 per cent thereof charged to the revenues of the District of Columbia and 50 per cent thereof charged to the amount appropriated for the expenses of the District from the moneys of the United States, and the money so paid should be accounted for accordingly.
COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES TO EMPLOYEES, ISTHMIAN CANAL.
An employee engaged in work in connection with the construction of the Isth
mian Canal who was injured subsequent to the Executive order of February 26, 1913, but prior to the issuance of the Executive order of March
24, 1913, is entitled to compensation under the first Executive order. For basis to be used in computing compensation, see opinion. Comptroller Downey to the chairman, Isthmian Canal Commission, January 3,
I have received your letter of the 3d ultimo, requesting a decision, as follows:
“I enclose herewith copies of two claims filed by Arthur T. Griffin, formerly a foreman at $150 per month in the Ancon Hospital laundry, whose arm was amputated as the result of an injury received by him March 19, 1913, while he was repairing the extractor in the washroom. I also attach copy of the report of injury made by Major Robert E. Noble, acting assistant chief sanitary officer, and copy of the memorandum of the examiner of accounts upon which disapproval of one of the claims was based.
“ On April 5, 1913, Mr. Griffin filed a claim under the provisions of the act of May 30, 1908, as amended by the act approved March 4, 1911. This claim was approved for payment of compensation at the rate Mr. Griflin was receiving at the time of his injury for not exceeding one year, in accordance with the law under which the claim was filed and the decision of the Comptroller of April 23, 1913. Mr. Griffin refused to accept the compensation which was offered to him under this approval of his claim, as he had filed another claim under the provisions of the Executive order of the President, which was made effective March 1, 1913, and was issued by virtue of the authority contained in the last paragraph of sec. 5 of the Panama Canal act. This claim was disapproved by the acting chairman of the commission on June 4, 1913, for the reason stated in the disapproval, as follows:
“The Executive order of February 26, 1913, having been withdrawn, there is no authority in law to make payment thereunder.'
“ The operation of this order was suspended by the Executive order of the President of March 24, 1913, quoted in the papers attached. .
“ Sec. 5 of the Executive order of February 26, 1913, relating to partial disability, gives the basis for the allowance of this claim if it is oi-hich should be allowed. That section reads as follows:
“SECTION 5. Partial disability.-If the injury results in partial disability, there shall be paid to the employee a monthly compensation equal to fifty per cent of the difference between his monthly pay and his wage-earning capacity per month after the beginning of such partial disability. This compensation shall be paid during such disability for a period not exceeding six years from the fifth day of disability of any kind resulting from the injury. After such period of six years, there shall be paid to the employee during such disability a monthly compensation equal to not more than forty per cent and not less than twenty-five per cent of the difference between his monthly pay and his wage-earning capacity per month after such period of six years.'
“Section 14 is also directly applicable to this claim if it should be allowed. It reads as follows:
** SECTION 14. Commutation of periodical payments. If the monthly payments to the beneficiary are less than five dollars per month, or if the beneficiary is not a citizen of the United States, or is or is about to become a nonresident of the United States, or if the governor of the Panama Canal determines that it is for the best interests of the beneficiary, the liability of the United States or of the Panama Railroad Company for compensation to such beneficiary shall be discharged by the payment of a lump sum equal to two-thirds of all future payments of compensation. The probability of the beneficiary's death before the expiration of the period during which he is entitled to compensation shall be determined according to the American table of mortality. The probability of the happening of any
other contingency affecting the amount or duration of the compensation shall be disregarded.
"Until such time as the President, under the authority of section 4 of the act of August 24, 1912, entitled “An act to provide for the opening, maintenance, protection, and operation of the Panama Canal, and the sanitation and government of the Canal Zone," shall discontinue the Isthmian Canal Commission, compensation shall be paid in a lump sum in all cases, unless the chairman of the Isthmian Canal Commission in any case determines that payment in instalments for any part or all of the period during which compensation is payable is for the best interests of the United States or of the Panama Railroad Company or of the beneficiary.
“Mr. Griffin has requested reconsideration of his claim, basing such request upon the proposition that the President did not have authority to issue an order taking away from employees injured prior to the date of such order rights to compensation which had accrued in their favor under an order issued by due authority of law.
“Your decision is respectfully requested as to whether this claim may be approved under the Executive order of February 26, 1913, and payment made from any of the appropriations for the construction of the Panama Canal.
“ If you decide that the claim may be approved and paid, then your decision is desired upon the following points:
“a. How shall the difference between Mr. Griffin's monthly pay and his wage-earning capacity per month be determined under the provisions of sec. 5 quoted above?
“b. In what manner and on what basis shall the periodical payments be commuted to one lump-sum payment, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 14? If the claim is allowed payment will be made in one lump sum.
“c. What effect, if any, would the fact have upon the amount of compensation payable to Mr. Griffin that he was employed at the time of the accident at a salary in excess of that which would ordinarily be paid in similar occupations in the States, where Mr. Griffin would in all probability have returned upon completion of the construction of the Panama Canal? In other words, must the commission, in determining the difference between the employee's monthly pay and his wage-earning capacity, pay the difference between his ordinary wageearning capacity and the high maximum pay at the time of the injury?
Section 5 of the Panama Canal act of August 24, 1912 (37 Stat., 560), which you refer to as the authority for the Executive order of February 26, 1913, taking effect March 1, 1913, so far as necessary for present consideration, is as follows:
“ The President shall provide a method for the determination and adjustment of all claims arising out of personal injuries to employees thereafter occurring while directly engaged in active work in connection with the construction, maintenance, operation, or sanitation of the canal, or of the Panama Railroad, or of any auxiliary canals, locks, or other works necessary and convenient for the construction, maintenance, operation, or sanitation of the canal, whether such injuries result in death or not, and prescribe a schedule of compensation therefor, and may revise and modify such method and schedule at any time; and such claims, to the extent they shall be allowed on such adjustment, if allowed at all, shall be paid out of the moneys hereafter appropriated for that purpose or out of the funds of the Panama Railroad Company, if said company was responsible for said injury, as the case may require
Upon your request for a decision as to the effect of the Executive orders of February 26 and March 24, 1913, my predecessor held, in a decision of April 23, 1913, that,
“ The effect of the later order is to withdraw the former one, so that the laws, rules, and regulations in force prior to the passage of the Panama Canal act in question shall continue to apply to the payment of these claims' until such further order or direction' by the President under the provisions of said Panama Canal act.”
Considerable weight was given to the fact that Congress had made no appropriation for the payment of claims, while it was provided in section 5 of the Panama Canal act, supra, that such claims
shall be paid out of the moneys hereafter appropriated for that purpose.
After that date, to wit, on June 23, 1913, the sundry civil appropriation act for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1914, was passed and in the appropriations for the Panama Canal is the following:
“ The foregoing sums, so far as necessary, shall be available for the operation of the canal, for the permanent organization authorized to be established under the Panama Canal act, for dry docks, * for the payment of claims arising out of injuries or deaths of employees
This appropriation is available for payments due for disabilities during the current fiscal year, and if the President's order of February 26, 1913, was applicable to injuries received between March 1 and 24, 1913, this appropriation is also available for payments in lump sums, as you propose to make them, if allowed, in the claim of Arthur T. Griffin. Is, then, the President's order of February 26, 1913, applicable to Mr. Griffin's case? Mr. Griffin's injuries occurred