Skip to main content

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar to John A. Rawlins, 15 March 1869

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

March 15, 1869. Hon. John A. Rawlins, Secretary of War. Sir: I am in receipt of the letter of your predecessor of the 12th inst. enclosing a communication addressed to him by R. C. Hawkins, Esq. counsel of the Neptune Submarine Company of New York,— and a letter by the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War, relative to the controversy which has arisen between the Neptune Submarine Co. of N. Y. and the New York Submarine Co. with regard to the wreck of the steamer Scotland, on the bar outside of Sandy Hook. Your predecessor requests that the Dist. Attorney of the U. S. be instructed to take such action in relation to this controversy, as the interests of the U. S. may require. Upon the presentation of the case made in these papers, it does not appear to me that the law officer of the government should be instructed to intervene in the suit which is referred to in the letter of Mr. Hawkins. You will find that my predecessor, Mr. Evarts, on the 21st of September last, gave an opinion to the Secretary of War, with respect to the rights of the two Companies above mentioned, in the wreck of this vessel. The Neptune Submarine Co., it appears from that opinion, were, or are, the agents employed by the government under the authority of an Act of Congress of July 28, 1868, to remove this wreck, and it was held by Mr. Evarts that the Neptune Submarine Co. could not be lawfully interfered with in carrying on & perfecting this work by the New York Submarine Co. All that the government has to do with the matter is to see that the Company with whom it has made a contract to remove the wreck, performs its obligation.— If, under that contract, has any rights to a portion of the wreck of this vessel, & those rights are contested, they must be asserted & enforced in the proper way against any one who may contest them. The suit to which reference has been made seems to have been instituted for the purpose of trying the right of the New York Submarine Co. to this wreck. If the Neptune Submarine Co. has a paramount right, it will succeed in this litigation. I do not understand that any officer of the United States has been made a party to the suit, nor do I understand that the operations of the Neptune Submarine Co, under the contract, are interfered with by the pending suit. If this be the state of the case, I perceive no reason for the interference of the government, or any instruction to its law officer. Should, however, more full information be obtained in regard to this suit which would show that the government has an interest which ought to be protected by the intervention of the law officer, or, that the operations in removing the obstructions to the harbor are interfered with by any order of the court, I will be glad of course to give the necessary instructions to him. I would advise that more full information be obtained of the counsel of the Company. I have the honor to return herewith the enclosures of the letter of the 12th inst. from your Department. I have the honor to be, &c. &c E. R. Hoar, Attorney General.
Back to top