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Title: Henry Stanbery to Senate of the United States, 20 December 1867

Date: December 20, 1867

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: National Archives and Records Administration

Whitman Archive ID: nar.00363

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kevin McMullen, John Schwaninger, and Nima Najafi Kianfar



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December 20, 1867

To the Senate of the United States:

By Resolution, passed by the Senate December 16th, 1867, the Attorney General is requested to inform the Senate:

"1: What amount was paid by the United States for special counsel employed to assist the Attorney General in cases depending before the Supreme Court of the United States for the years ending June 30, 1865, June 30, 1866, and June 30, 1867.

"2: Whether the present force in the Attorney General's Office is sufficient for the proper business of that office.

"3: Whether the Solicitors and clerks acting as such in the various Departments, and in the Court of Claims cannot be dispensed with, and the duties they perform be discharged under the direction of the Attorney General, so as to bring all the Law officers of the Government under one head, with saving of expense, and benefit to the public service.

"4: The amount paid for the year ending June 30, 1865, June 30, 1866, and June 30, 1867, for assistance rendered to the District Attorneys.

In answer to these inquiries, (transposing, for convenience, the order in which they are stated,) I have the honor to inform the Senate that there was paid by the United States for special counsel employed to assist the Attorney General in cases depending before the Supreme Court of the United States, the following amounts:

For the year ending June 30, 1865...$6,500

  "      "     "     "   "  1866...13,000

  "      "     "     "   "  1867....7,800

The amounts paid for the same years for assistance rendered to the District Attorneys, are as follows:

For the year ending June 30, 1865...$14,000

  "      "     "     "   "  1866....16,000

  "      "     "     "   "  1867....25,000

—which last includes fees paid to special counsel employed in the prosecution of Mr. Davis for high treason.

These amounts include the sums paid to lawyers called Assistant District Attorneys, whose compensation is in the form of an agreement for an annual allowance, and to special counsel employed to assist the District Attorney in special cases by the Attorney General. The fees of special counsel employed by Heads of the Departments are not included in the amounts stated.

The present force in the office of the Attorney General is not sufficient for the proper business of that office. As to the mere administrative business of the office, the present force is sufficient, but as to the proper duties of the Attorney General, especially in the preparation and argument of cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, and the preparation of opinions on questions of law referred to him, some provision is absolutely necessary to enable him properly to discharge his duties. After much reflection, it seems to me that this want may best be supplied by the appointment of a Solicitor General. With such an assistant, the necessity of appointing Special counsel in the argument of cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, would be, in a great measure, if not altogether dispensed with.

It will be observed that the sums paid to special counsel in that court, have, for the last three years, averaged the sum of $9100 per year. So that a salary might be allowed to a Solicitor General sufficient to command the services of a competent lawyer, with a positive saving of expense to the Government.

On the third point of inquiry, in my opinion, the various law officers now attached to the other Departments, and the Court of Claims, might, with advantage to the public service, be transferred to the Attorney General's Office, so that it may be made the Law Department of the Government, and thereby secure uniformity of decision, of superintendence, and of official responsibility.

Henry Stanbery,

Attorney General.


see Report, pp. 58-72 seq.


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