Page images
PDF
EPUB

Kennett et al. v. Chambers.

furnishing means to a general of the Texan army, for the avowed purpose of aiding and assisting him in his military operations.

It might indeed fairly be inferred, from the language of the contract and the statements in the appellants' bill, that the volunteers were to be raised, armed, and equipped within the limits of the United States. The language of the contract is : “ That the said party of the second part, (that is the complainants,) being desirous of assisting the said General T. Jefferson Chambers, who is now engaged in raising, arming, and equipping volunteers for Texas, and is in want of means therefor." And as General Chambers was then in the United States, and was, as the contract states, actually cngaged at that time in raising, arming, and equipping volunteers, and was in want of means to accomplish his object, the inference would seem to be alınost irresistible that these preparations were making at or near the place where the agreement was made, and that the money was advanced to enable him to raise and equip a military force in the United States. And this inference is the stronger, because no place is mentioned where these preparations are to be made, and the agreement contains no engagement on his part, or proviso on theirs, which prohibited him from using these means and making these military preparations within the limits of the United States.

If this be the correct interpretation of the agreement, the contract is not only void, but the parties who advanced the money were liable to be punished in a criminal prosccution, for a violation of the neutrality laws of the United States. And certainly, with such strong indications of a criminal intent, and without any averment in the bill from which their innocence can be inferred, a court of chancery would never lend its aid to carry the agreement into specific execution, but would leave the parties to seek their remedy at law. And this ground would of itself be sufficient to justify the decree of the District Court dismissing the bill.

But the decision stands on broader and firmer ground, and this agreement cannot be sustained either at law or in equity. The question is not whether the parties to this contract violated the neutrality laws of the United States or subjected themselves to a criminal prosecution ; but whether such a contract, made at that time, within the United States, for the purposes stated in the contract and the bill of complaint, was a legal and valid contract, and such as to entitle either party to the aid of the. courts of justice of the United States to enforce its execution.

The intercourse of this country with foreign nations, and its policy in regard to them, are placed by the Constitution of the

VOL. XIV. ·

Ker. Ett et al. v. Chambers.

United States in the h. nds of the government, and its decisions upon these subjects a obligatory upon every citizen of the Union. He is bound to be at war with the nation against which the war-making power has declared war, and equally bound to commit no act of hostility against a nation with which the government is in amity and friendship. This principle is universally acknowledged by the laws of nations. It lies at the foundation of all government, as there could be no social order or peaceful relations between the citizens of different countries without it. It is, however, more emphatically true in relation to citizens of the United States. For as the sovereignty resides in the people, every citizen is a portion of it, and is himself personally bound by the laws which the representatives of the sovereignty may pass, or the treaties into which they may enter, within the scope of their delegated authority. And when that authority has plighted its faith to another nation that there shall be peace and friendship between the citizens of the two countries, every citizen of the United States is equally and personally pledged. The compact is made by the department of the government upon which he himself has agreed to confer the power. It is his own personal compact as a portion of the sovereignty in whose behalf it is made. And he can do no act, nor enter into any agreement to promote or encourage revolt or hostilities against the territories of a country with which our government is pledged by treaty to be at peace, without a breach of his duty as a citizen, and the breach of the faith pledged to the foreign nation. And if he does so he cannot claim the aid of a court of justice to enforce it. The appellants say, in their contract, that they were induced to advance the money by the desire to promote the cause of freedom. But our own freedom cannot be preserved without obedience to our own laws, nor social order preserved if the judicial branch of the government countenanced and sustained contracts made in violation of the duties which the law imposes, or in contravention of the known and established policy of the political department, acting within the limits of its constitutional power.

But it has been urged in the argument that Texas was in fact independent, and a sovereign state at the time of this agreement; and that the citizen of a neutral nation may lawfully lend money to one that is engaged in war, to enable it to carry on hostilities against its enemy.

It is not necessary, in the case before us, to decide how far the judicial tribunals of the United States would enforce a contract like this, when two states, acknowledged to be independent, were at war, and this country neutral. It is a sufficient answer to the argument to say that the question whether Texas had or

Kennett et al. v. Chambers.

had not at that time become an independent state, was a question for that department of our government exclusively which is charged with our foreign relations. And until the period when that department recognized it as an independent state, the judicial tribunals of the country were bound to consider the old order of things as having continued, and to regard Texas as a part of the Mexican territory. And if we undertook to inquire whether she had not in fact become an independent sovereign state before she was recognized as such by the treaty-making power, we should take upon ourselves the exercise of political authority, for which a judicial tribunal is wholly unfit, and which the Constitution has conferred exclusively upon another department.

This is not a new question. It came before the court in the case of Rose v. Himely, 4 Cr. 272, and again in Hoyt v. Gelston, 3 Wheat. 324. And in both of these cases the court.said, that it belongs exclusively to governments to recognize new states in the revolutions which may occur in the world; and until such recognition, either by our own government or the government to which the new state belonged, courts of justice are bound to consider the ancient state of things as remaining unaltered.

It was upon this ground that the Court of Common Pleas in England, in the case of De Wutz v. Hendricks, 9 Moore's C. B. Reports, 586, decided that it was contrary to the law of nations for persons residing in England to enter into engagements to raise money by way of loan for the purpose of supporting subjects of a foreign state in arms against a government in friendship with England, and that no right of action attached upon any such contract. And this decision is quoted with arnobation by Chancellor Kent, in 1 Kent's Com. 116.

Nor can the subsequent acknowledgment of the independence of Texas, and her admission into the Union as a sovereign State, affect the question. The agreement being illegal and absolutely void at the time it was made, it an derive no force or validity from events which afterwards happened.

But it is insisted, on the part of the appellants, that this contract was to be executed in Texas, and was valid by the laws of Texas, and that the District Court for that State, in a controversy between individuals, was bound to administer the laws of the State, and ought therefore to have enforced this agreement.

This argument is founded in part on a mistake of the fact. The contract was not only made in Cincinnati, but all the stipulations on the part of the appellants were to be performed there and not in Texas. And the advance of money which they

Wis wall v. Sampson.

agreed to make for military purposes was in fact made and intended to be made in Cincinnati, by the delivery of their promissory notes, which were accepted by the appellee as payment of the money. This appears on the face of the contract. And it is this advance of money for the purposes mentioned in the agreement, in contravention of the neutral obligations and policy of the United States, that avoids the contract. The mere agreement to accept a conveyance of land lying in Texas, for a valuable consideration paid by them, would have been free from objection.

But had the fact been otherwise, certainly no law of Texas then or now in force could absolve a citizen of the United States, while he continued such, from his duty to this government, nor compel a court of the United States to support a contract, no matter where made or where to be executed, if that contract was in violation of their laws, or contravened the public policy of the government, or was in conflict with subsisting treaties with a foreign nation.

We therefore hold this contract to be illegal and void, and affirm the decree of the District Court.

Mr. Justice DANIEL and Mr. Justice GRIER dissented.

Order. This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the District Court of the United States for the District of Texas, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof it is now here ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this court, that the decree of the said District Court in this cause be, and the same is hereby, affirmned with costs.

Joseph WISWALL, PLAINTIFF IN ERROR, v. David SAMPSON,

LESSEE OF EDWARD HALL AND EDWARD S. Dargan.

Where real estate is in the custody of a receiver, appointed by a court of chancery,

a sale of the property under an execution issued by virtue of a judgment at law, is

illegal and void. The proper modes of proceeding pointed out, to be pursued by any person who

claims title to the property, either by mortgage, or judgment, or otherwise.

This case was brought up, by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States.for the Southern District of Ala. bama.

Wis wall v. .Sampson.

It was an ejectment for the following lot, in the city of Mobile, bounded south by St. Francis street, and lying between Water and Commerce and Planters streets of the said city, having a front of thirty-live feet on St. Francis street, and extending to Planters street, with the same breadth ; bounded east by lands formerly belonging to M. D. Eslava, and west by a lot of Beach, Ela & Co.

The declaration contained threc counts; two upon a demise from Edward Hall, a citizen of the State of Maryland, an the third a demise from Edward S. Dargan.

Although the decision of the court turned upon a single point it is necessary to connect it with the other circumstances of the case which are somewhat complicated.

The following table contains a reference to the principal facts bearing upon the respective titles of the plaintiff and defendant. 1810, April 28. Ticknor, being in possession, conveyed the property to Day Plaintiff's Title.

Defendant's Title. 1840.

1840. Dec. 28. Fowler and others obtained a

judgment against Ticknor for $4.991. Dec. 31. Crouch and Sneed obtained a judymi nt against Ticknor for $7,176.25. 1842.

1842.
June 14. Wiswall obtained judgment

Against Ticknor for $2,233.17.
July 1. Fi.fir. issued on it, returned “no.

property found.'
1843.

1843. Feb. 7. Bill filed by Wiswall to set asido

the deed from Ticknor to Day as fraud. ulent.

1845. Feb. 24. dlias fi fu. on Crouch and

Snccd's judgment.
April 7. Alius fi. fa. on Fowler's judg-

April Term. Derd from Ticknor to Dry

set aside as fraudulent. June 27. Receiver appointed by the chan

cellor, took possession. July 7. Lot sold to Dargan under the

executions. August 13. Marshal exccuted a dced to Dargan.

Nov. 26. Darcan anplied to the chancel

lor to have the property delivered over to him, or for leave to bring an eject

ment. Both refused. 1847.

1847. March 1. Lot sold by the master in

chancery to Wiswall, und deed made. 1848.

1818. April Dargan brought an ejectment

against Wiswall.

1845.

ment.

« EelmineJätka »