Chief Justice Chase vs. Underwood

May 24, 1867


Chief Justice Chase is challenging Underwood and his credibility.He has called him in under a writ of error based on three claims that involve a violation of property law.This case has roots in the Civil War and property of people who were involved in the war.


Chief Justice Chase vs. Underwood. We are pleased to learn that Chief Justice Chase has had the uprightness and independence to grant writs of error to the judgments of Underwood's court for so good reasons as those named in the article below from the Alexandria Gazette: "Writ of Error. -- In the case of the United States vs. Joseph Bruin, whose property was confiscated and sold under a decree of the United States District Court, sitting in Alexandria, Judge Underwood presiding, during the war, Chief Justice Chase this morning granted a writ of error on the following grounds: "1st. That the District Court condemned and sold the absolute estate of the petitioner in and to the property, which judgment it was beyond the power of the court to pronounce. "2d. That the condemnation of the property was for treason, of which the party could not be adjudged guilty except by the finding of a jury. "3d. That the proceedings were in admiralty, when they should have been upon the common law side of the court by information and not by libel." The Constitution of the United States provides that a man's real estate shall descend to his children at his death, even though he be convicted of treason; and Mr. Lincoln, much to his credit, refused to sign the confiscation law until it was made to conform to this wise and merciful provision. Notwithstanding these facts, Underwood, who in this case was probably more fool than knave, inasmuch as he is not supposed to know anything about Constitutions or laws, entered up decrees in his court ordering the sale of the fee simple of the lands which belonged to persons engaged in the recent rebellion. He himself bought one of the houses which were thus unceremoniously and illegally ordered to be sold, and still occupies it as a residence. Mr. Chase has been called upon to interpose, and has done so. When the eases shall come up before him, the law will, we hope and believe, be respected: the sales will be set aside, and the property either restored to the rightful owners, or sold only during the natural lives of the owners. Justice will yet overtake all such men as Underwood, it is to be hoped.
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