Page images

balance that would make up the difference between actual value, if he was able to prove it, and the amount of the appraisal. That is a method that has received the approval of Congress in two or three differents acts that have already been passed.

Mr. WHALEY. Would the Government appoint all the appraisers? Col. GILBERT. Yes; ordinarily it would have been the Presidentsuch amount as the President determines. In two or three acts it is used that way, nothing more definite, assuming, of course, that the President would act through some one else in making the determi'nation. There is one act, section 120 of the national-defense act, which is so indefinite that there is no method whatever defined in determining the values. There is only a provision that the party shall have just compensation.

Mr. WHALEY. That throws him into court?

Col. GILBERT. Well, there is a provision in there about the President paying for it.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Haven't they got a provision in there that if he isn't satisfied with that suit may be brought?

Co. GILBERT. Not in the national-defense act.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. You can sue the United States Government under express authority.

Mr. WHALEY. Going back to line 10, section 2, do you think the Government could possibly suffer by amending the section by writing in at the beginning of line 10, section 2, "At the time fixed by said proclamation, which shall be at least twenty-four hours after the promulgation thereof, such title," etc.? In other words, it would give the occupant 24 hours. Take my own case; if I had a sick child in my house and some fellow comes along and says get out to-day, it would be a very embarrassing case for a man.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. A man wouldn't want to be a trespasser on the Government's property.

Mr. WHALEY. Of course these gentlemen wouldn't do it; but some of them get puffed up over their authority, and I don't think some of them would hesitate to put a man's sick wife and child outdoors if they had authority to do it.

Col. GILBERT. That would be all right. Sure. If a longer length of time I would hate to see it put in there.

Mr. GARD. If it was to be any time, it should be longer than 24 hours I think. It should either be in the discretion of the honest officer or some statutory limitation.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Of course in a time of war like this the time ought not to be of such great importance that a few days would amount to anything.

Col. GILBERT. That is simply the time fixed in the proclamation. Mr. WHALEY. That would be all right. Let the President fix the time in the proclamation.

Mr. NEELEY. The President won't have anything to do with this. Mr. WHALEY. He would have something to do with it after the first drastic action.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. He would have to issue a proclamation. He wouldn't want to put any 24 hours on there unless there was some necessity for it.

Mr. WHALEY. After the time stated in the proclamation.

Mr. NEELEY. Or at such future time as may be stated in the proclàmation.

Col. GILBERT. And upon the date named in such proclamation such title to be, etc.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. I would rather put it as to the possession instead of title.

[ocr errors]

Col. GILBERT. You put in down here and instead of saying "may immediately enter into possession thereof" you want it at the date fixed in such proclamation"?

Mr. GARD. What is this in section 10. What is the suspension of section 355-I haven't the statute before me.

Col. CALL. That statute requires two things-that the title be approved by the Attorney General and jurisdiction over such lands ceded by the State. It suspends two requirements, one is the approval of title by the Attorney General, and the other is cession of jurisdiction by the State in which the lands lie. That section prohibits the expenditure of any public money acquired for the use of the United States until the Attorney General has proved the title and the State has consented to the purchase; that is, has ceded jurisdiction.

Mr. GARD. This bill retains the approval of the Attorney General.
Col. CALL. The title would be taken over by proclamation itself.
Mr. GARD. The money wouldn't be paid until it is approved.
Col. GILBERT. Yes.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. You have got to know that he has got title when he pays the money.

Col. GILBERT. The rule is that the money is only to be paid upon the Attorney General's approval of the title, and so it would suspend it so far.

Mr. WHALEY. All you do in that case is to waive that requirement of the State to ceding jurisdiction.

Mr. GARD. What provision is there in this bill for the protection of the holder of a mortgage on some real estate? Suppose I hold a first mortgage on some real estate here in Washington and the Government comes in and takes the fee title.

Col. GILBERT. That is covered by section 5.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. It makes the mortgage due, practically, whether it is due or not.

Col. GILBERT. Where it can not be safely paid, then it goes on and makes provision about paying it into court.

Mr. GARD. Is it intended to have this law operate beyond the continental limits of the United States so as to include the territorial United States?

Col. GILBERT. Well, as drawn it would operate coextensively with the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Col. CALL. The question arose the other day about leaseholds' interests for storage purposes in Hawaii. It wouldn't operate in the Philippines.

Mr. GARD. It should be made that way, I should say, if there is any necessity for it, and as a safeguard I should say that it should include the Philippines and Panama Canal and such other things as is held to be necessary.

Mr. WHALEY. Is there anything in it to protect a man where you don't fix price by the President, but would buy it outright to protect the mortgagee?

Col. GILBERT. No; if you were buying it outright, you wouldn't be buying it under this act.

Mr. WHALEY. I know, if you were buying it outright. Suppose you have a case where you don't have to fix the price by the President, they accept the price that has been fixed, the money may be paid to the owner. There may be a mortgage in there. Where is he protected the holder of the mortgage?

Col. GILBERT. The Government must protect itself against the mortgagee in that case, because the Government is given the option when there is any question whatever about title to pay the money into court instead of paying it over to the supposed owner.

Mr. WHALEY. I was just thinking maybe that is the reason that provision of the Attorney General was put in there. I don't know. You have got it provided for where the 75 per cent is to be paid, but haven't got it provided for in the other case.

Col. CALL. You couldn't pay the money without an abstract of insured title.

Col. GILBERT. I have not called your attention to several matters that we regard down there as the necessities for the bill.

Mr. GARD. You better state that.

Col. GILBERT, I am not sure but that all you gentlemen can see this matter as I do, and as those of us do who are having to deal with it. I mentioned, and Col. Call has mentioned, the legislation under which we are proceeding to get real property. I think it might be proper to call your attention more fully to the situation with reference to the acquisition of personal property. There are possibly two acts under which the Government may take personal property even for war purposes. One is section 120 of the national-defense act. It may place orders with manufacturing concerns and only from them, and demand preference on those orders. Aside from that the only means the Government has for acquiring personal property is under provision of section 10 of the food, feed, and fuel act. Col. Call has called your attention to the fact that that is quite limited. It covers, food, feed, and fuel, but it also uses the expression "and other things needed "-I forget the exact language, for the uses of the Army and the Navy. You readily see by that language there is growing up a very positive and perhaps successful contention that the word "other" has got to be construed as meaning of like character with food, feed. and fuel, and therefore you see what a limited field the Government is put in when it desires to requisition any personal property.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Of course you have got another, you can take ships? Col. GILBERT. Yes: we can take ships. I was thinking of things on land.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. I suppose that is personal property.

Col. GILBERT. Yes; it is personal property, that is true, but I was speaking of something more strictly movable than that.

You can readily imagine that the War Department is in need of using requisitions for a great many different kinds of personal property and it is operating to-day under that very limited section, and

[ocr errors]

it is having to scheme and connive and forge a reason out some way that it can make progress, do the things that are absolutely necessary to do, and yet keep within the law and the limitation laid down by that section of the statute.

Without going largely into details that indicates the extent of the situation under which the Government is laboring for having some kind of an instrument whereby it may proceed with some ease and some dispatch and some feeling of certainty for the acquisition of personal property.

As to the uses of real property that is a field in which the Government is very much hampered. It has no means of acquiring temporary use of real property except under the act of July 2, 1917, which was recently amended and which is very much circumscribed and under the provisions of section 10 of the food, feed, and fuel act which gives it the right to requisition real estate for storage of the things it may take under that act, namely, food, feed, and fuel, so when it gets outside of the range of storage facilities it can only take the temporary use of the things covered in the act of July 2, 1917, and that is for fortification, coast defenses, military training camps, nitrate plants, and, I think, electric plants to be used in operation therewith.

So you see the Government to-day if it wants to rent a building it has got to rely upon private contract. As an instance at hand the Medical Department is sorely in need to-day of a hospital in certain sections. It can not get it under any law that exists, and unless this law be passed if it ever gets this hospital it will have to get a special act of Congress in order to enable it to do so.

Take the question of storage for automobiles, for example. The Government in its war operation has much need of automobile storage. How are we going to furnish it. I know of no way under the existing law. So it appears really that the Government is in worse position with respect to acquisition of personal property and with respect to acquisition of temporary use of real estate than anything else because those are the things that it most frequently wants to acquire. Where it wants to acquire real estate the conditions don't happen there as frequently, but the means that are at its disposalI may add that this act has endeavored and, if passed, would harmonize the procedure to be followed in all cases.

There is much diversity of proceedings provided for under the present law as going through the old method of condemnation; then where the 75 per cent clause is put in, 75 per cent of the appraised value being paid and sue for the balance. In some cases Congress has provided that that suit may be brought in the district court where the value does not exceed $10,000, and if the valuation exceeds $10,000 it may be brought in the United States Court of Claims. In other cases it is provided that it must be brought in the United States Court of Claims regardless of the amount. If those were followed you would have to follow the method of procedure, but, as I say, I think this bill would harmonize it all because procedure would be under this bill and there would be a uniform method.

Mr. WHALEY. Under the reading of this bill as regards personal property it would be construed as a price-fixing measure.

Col. GILBERT. Yes; the Government would primarily fix the price. Secondarily, the courts would fix the price.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Let me ask you. It is an additional act; that is, it is an act in addition to the existing act. Of course it is broad enough to cover anything, but suppose here is a piece of property you are taking for any specific purpose for which there is now a specific law. Will you take it under this act or would you have to take it under the existing statute?

Col. GILBERT. The section to which you refer was placed in this act for the purpose of making it possible to take under this act instead of some previous provision of law. It was intended to be sufficiently broad in its scope to cover that.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. It is a question in my mind whether it does. I am just reading it over hastily.

Col. GILBERT. Which section is that?

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Six. Would this supersede, for instance, the provision under which the railroads have been taken over?

Col. GILBERT. Wouldn't this clause cover the thing you mentioned, "and any appropriations heretofore or hereafter made that are available for the procuring or purchase of real or personal property may likewise be used in making payment for such property when acquired under the provisions of this act "?

Mr. VOLSTEAD. I don't think that would change it. We could at least modify it.

Col. GILBERT. It is very desirable that the language shall be broad enough to cover that purpose, and it was my intention to cover it.

Mr. VOLSTEAD. Broad enough so we might proceed under this act and disregard the other act, but this is not intended to repeal the other act in any way, but simply to add an additional power?

Col. GILBERT. That is all. That is the exact intention of the section.

(This concluded the hearing on H. R. 11136.)

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »