Resolving Revolutionary War Benefits Issues

There are some who see the federal government as a source of free money. Here is one of the more creative attempts to get rich.

In a rather creative suit against the United States Government, Mr. Deeks sought three million dollars to honor an agreement made by the government in 1781. (Deeks v. United States, U.S.C.A.Fed.Cir., No. 05-5073, 10/04/05) His claim was based on a handwritten document prepared in 1792 by a Colonel Marinus Willett.

The document purports to document an agreement made the year before between Willett and sixty members of the Oneida tribe who were to receive blankets in return for their assistance during the Revolutionary War against the British.

Here is the text of the purported document:

I do hereby certify that in a pursuit of the enemy in the county of Montgomery the latter end of October in the year 1781. In order to stimulate a party of the Oneida Indians then with me. I promised in case of exerting themselves to overtake the enemy who were put to flight. That they should each of them have a blanket. That in conveyance of this promise they began a vigorous pursuit and in a short time overtook and killed a number of the enemy. That at my return it was not in my power to comply with the promise I had made in behalf of the public. Nor have I since been able to have that engagement complied with. New York, January 26th, 1792

M. Willett
note there were sixty Indians in the party.
M. Willett
(Opinion, p. 2, citing Appellant’s App. B, Ex. 1 at 30)

Inexplicably, some two hundred plus years later, Andree Deeks filed suit in the Court of Federal Claims citing the so-called contract and alleging that the United States never honored the agreement made by Colonel Willett with the Oneida tribe.

He claimed some three million dollars was owed to the tribe. The lower court dismissed his claim for lack of jurisdiction finding that it should have been filed by 1866, or, alternatively, finding that Deeks lacked standing because he did not show that he had personally suffered an injury or had any relationship to the Oneida tribe. (Id.)

Undeterred, Deeks appealed to the Federal Circuit. That court agreed with the trial court that the statute of limitations for such a suit had long since run, and affirmed dismissal of the claim. (Opinion, p. 3)

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.