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The Contract for "Pook Turtles"

bob7947

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No, they are not candy; no they are not turtles. However, they did have an iron shell. Pook Turtles were designed by Samuel M. Pook and were the "City Class" of armored gunboats that sailed the Mississippi and its tributaries beginning in early 1862. They were called Pook Turtles because people thought they looked like turtles. The seven ships were the USS Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg, and St. Louis. The recovered remnants of the USS Cairo now rest at the National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The contract is between James B. Eads, the ships' builder, and Montgomery C. Meigs. Among other accomplishments, Meigs was the architect and engineer of the Pension Building, now the National Building Museum, across G street from the GAO Building. In the contract, Eads is referred to as the "first part" and Meigs is referred to as the "second part." You will see reference to an 1808 act in the contract. That was a law passed to prevent members of Congress from benefiting from government contracts.

I found this 1861 contract while I was doing research for a future article. As you read it, you will notice some concepts that are in current government contracts. In fact, as you read the Wifcon Forum, you will note that its members ask questions about some of the same concepts that are in the following contract

Oh! About the price and delivery date--the price more than doubled and the delivery slipped by several months due to design changes. Some things never change!

Agreement between James B. Eads, of the city of Saint Louis, State of Missouri, of the first part, and Brig. Gen. M. C. Meigs, Quartermaster-General, acting for the United States, of the second part, witnesseth:

That the party of the first part, for and in consideration of the matter hereinafter referred to and set out, covenants and agrees with the party of the second part to build, on the Mississippi River, and deliver to the party of the second part at the wharf in the city of Cairo, State of Illinois, seven gun-boats, as described and referred to in the printed specification, a copy of which is annexed to, and is to be deemed and taken as part of, this contract, and do the same in conformity to said specifications and to the directions he may from time to time receive from the superintendents in charge.

Said gunboats are to be completed and finished, according to the specifications, on or before the 10th day of October next; and the said party of the first part agrees to forfeit to the United States the sum of $250 per day for each and every boat that is delayed beyond that time, i. e., the 10th day of October next.

The party of the first part further binds himself, with four sureties of $30,000 each, that he will faithfully perform his part of the contract, said sureties to be approved by the Secretary of War.

And the party of the second part, for and in consideration of the premises, covenants and agrees to pay to the party of the first part, for each and every boat so built, the sum of $89,600, as follows: The work to be estimated every twenty days, and 75 percent of said estimate to be paid by the party of the second part to the party of the first part.

Provided, nevertheless, That in case the party of the second part shall at any time be of the opinion that this contract is not duly complied with by the party of the first part is irregular or negligent, in such case he shall be authorized to declare this contract forfeited, and thereupon the same shall become null and void. And the United States shall thereupon be exonerated from every obligation thence arising and the reserved percentage on the contract price, as well as all the material furnished, upon which no estimate or payment may have been made, shall be forfeited to and become the right and property of the United States; and the party of the second part may thereafter agree with any other person for the execution of the remainder of the work, and the party of the first part shall have no appeal from the opinion and the decision aforesaid, and he hereby releases all right to except to or question the same in any place or under and circumstances whatever; but the party of the first part shall still remain liable to the party of the second part for the damages occasioned to him by said failure or refusal.

And it is further agreed between the parties that, in order to secure the punctual performance of the covenants above made by the party of the first part, and to indemnify and protect the party of the second part from loss in case of default and forfeiture of this contract, the said party of the second part shall be authorized to retain in his hands, until the completion of the contract, 25 per cent on the amount of moneys at any time due to said party of the first part.

The United States reserves the right to suspend the work under this contract at any time, and when the work has been faithfully performed by the contractor he will be paid in full for all work done up to the time of such suspension.

And it is further stipulated and agreed that no member of Congress shall be admitted to any share or part in this contract or agreement, or to any benefits to arise therefrom. And this contract shall be in all its parts subject to the terms and conditions of an act of Congress passed on the 21st day of April, 1808, entitled an act relating to public contracts.

Provided, Nothing herein contained shall be so construed as to authorize any officer of the United States to bind the United States by contract beyond the amount appropriated by Congress, or to sanction any such contract heretofore made:

Provided, also, That it is expressly understood and agreed that this contract, nor any part thereof, shall not be sublet nor assigned, but that it shall be well and truly carried out and fulfilled in good faith by the above-recited party of the first part, and that all payments on account thereof shall be made to the aforesaid party of the first part, his heirs, executors, or administrators.

It is further agreed that the party of the second part shall immediately appoint a superintendent, whose duty shall be to inspect the material used in constructing said boats as the work progresses, and to reject all that he may deem defective. If all of said boats are not built in one yard, then an assistant superintendent shall be appointed for each additional yard where the said boats may be in course of construction, provided there shall not be more than one superintendent to two boats. All extra work shall be estimated and paid for accordingly.

And for the true and faithful performance of all and singular the covenants, articles, and agreements hereinbefore particularly set forth, the subscribers hereunto bind themselves, jointly and severally, their and each of their successors, heirs, executors, ad administrators.

Thus covenanted and agreed by the said parties this 7th day of August, in the year of our Lord 1861, as witness their hands and seals.

James B. Eads,

M. C. Meigs,

Quartermaster-General

Witness: William A. Gordon



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Thank you for this post! Though the language is certainly more florid than we are accustomed to, many concepts of contracting still come through loud and clear:

It is further agreed that the party of the second part shall immediately appoint a superintendent, whose duty shall be to inspect the material used in constructing said boats as the work progresses, and to reject all that he may deem defective. If all of said boats are not built in one yard, then an assistant superintendent shall be appointed for each additional yard where the said boats may be in course of construction, provided there shall not be more than one superintendent to two boats.

...also known as appointing a COR and ACOR!

The usual clichés about simpler times come to mind when I read the sentence regarding modifications:

All extra work shall be estimated and paid for accordingly.

If only all mods were as easy to execute...

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Liquidated damages, assignment of contract, etc. I see more but I want to see what others can find.

The specifications, which were design specifications, ran on for over 10 pages.

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The volumes are: War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (ORA). In this specific instance it is at Series III., Vol. 2, p. 816. There are over 100 volumes of the ORA and there are many volumes of the Navy series. Then there is the Medical series.

There is no listing of old contracts. You have to get lucky and find it.

I also have my own copies of Harpers Weekly from the first issue in 1857 through 1864. I've scanned an image of these gun boats and hope to find other wood cuts of them. If I get a chance, I may add them here.

These volumes can be found on the internet.

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Bob, your article jogged my memory concerning government contracts with ( I think), John Ericsson for Monitor Class ironclads, later during the Civil War. As I recall, the terms were rather draconian in some respects. I think the article was in "the American Heritage of Invention and Technology Magazine that I subscribed to for a long time. After reading your article, I looked up some really interesting stories about Ericsson and the Monitor. Although there are conflicting dates and timeframes involved, the Monitor was built in response to spy leaks from loyalists working in the shipyard that was converting the salvaged hull of the USS Merrimack info the ironclad steamer gunboat CSS Virginia during the summer of 1861. The USS Monitor story is very interesting. The actual construction period was very short, depending upon which source one reads. The design was so radical that the terms of the contract included a clause that essentially required perfect performance or zero pay. But the U.S. was facing probable Naval Blockade disaster that could have allowed the Confederate Navy to directly attack Washington DC. Times were extremely tenuous for the Union during this period...

Thanks for your article.

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