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Title: Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar to George S. Boutwell, 3 June 1870

Date: June 3, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: nar.01353

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Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kevin McMullen, and John Schwaninger

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June 3, 1870.

Hon. Geo. S. Boutwell,

Secretary of the Treasury.


I have to acknowledge the reference by you, under date of May 23d ulto., of the letter to you of May 18th, ulto., from L. E. Chittenden, calling your attention to suits instituted by the original owner, his heirs or assigns, of lands sold by the direct tax commissioners, against the purchaser from these commissioners, his heirs or assigns.—It seems to me that where the purchaser paid to the United States more than the amount of taxes, penalties and costs due to the United States, and his title fails in consequence of some illegality or want of conformity with law on the part of the commissioners, without the fault or neglect of the purchaser, then in case the purchaser is evicted from the land by the judgment of a Court of the United States, he should receive back the money he has paid, after deducting therefrom whatever was due the United States on account of the land; and that a provision requiring the plaintiff in an action to recover the land, before he is put into possession, to pay to the defendant or person entitled thereto, the amount of taxes, penalties, etc., due to the United States, would secure to the United States the payment of taxes due, and would accomplish what is as nearly just as is practicable. A provision permitting the removal of suits of this character to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District where the land is situated, by the defendant, independently of the citizenship of the parties, or the amount or value of the land, seems to me desirable.

I have not considered whether Congress can constitutionally pass a statute of limitations in regard to these suits, or whether it would be expedient for Congress to pass such a statute, if it has the power. Indeed the whole question, as it involves new legislation, is one exclusively for Congress to consider and determine,—but as it concerns your Department, and as you have done me the honor to refer to me Mr. Chittenden's letter, I have not thought it improper for me to make the foregoing suggestions.

A draft of an amendment, in conformity with this letter, has been prepared and handed me by one of the clerks of this office, which I enclose, without however, expressing any opinion upon the propriety of enacting it.

Very respectfully,

E. R. Hoar,

Attorney General

The letter of Mr. Chittenden is enclosed.


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