July 2, 2012
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the novel and now a movie, is a fantastical work of fiction. But Lincoln did fight hard against an evil that he believed to be leading to the deaths of Americans and sucking the country dry. A House committee report described the problem this way:
“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation, while patriot blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and bodies of their countrymen are moldering in the dust.”
Report of the House Committee on Government Contracts, March 3, 1863 cited by U.S. ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, 127 F.2d 233, footnote 12, (3d Cir. 1942)
FALSE CLAIM BOUNTY HUNTERS
The senator who introduced the bill claimed, “[m]en have striven to make the blood of our martyrs the seed of wealth.” Id. at 236. Abraham Lincoln championed the False Claims Act of 1863 to end the profiteering by vendors who were selling the government defective goods during the Civil War. It was referred to as “Lincoln’s Law.” These sales to the government not only wasted money from an already depleted Treasury but likely also contributed to the deaths of untold numbers of soldiers through shoddy munitions like guns that wouldn’t shoot, rotting rations and inadequate medical supplies.
The resulting legislation encouraged private individuals to bring scammers to justice through qui tam civil suits. 31 U.S.C.A. § 3729 et seq. These individuals, called “relators,” bring suits on behalf of the government and then share in the recovery. 31 U.S.C.A. § 3730. Relators came to be known as “bounty hunters” or “private attorneys general.”
Vampire Hunter doesn’t sound so far-fetched when you look at the history of the False Claims Act. After all, the act was “intended to protect the treasury against the hungry and unscrupulous host that encompasses it on every side.” U.S. v. Griswold, 24 F. 361, 366 (D. Oregon, 1885)
To learn more about the background of the FCA, I ran a search in WestlawNext with my jurisdiction set at All Federal, using the following terms:
history of the false claims act
There is a lot of talk about the legislative history of the FCA so to narrow in on material discussing the initial enactment of the law, I chose my document type—I looked in cases and secondary sources—then filtered my results by entering Lincoln and the Civil War into Search within results.