Adams v. Law (58 U.S. 417)

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

58 U.S. 417

Adams  v.  Law

THIS was an appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the District of Columbia, holden in and for the county of Washington.

The opinion of the court states the marriage articles between Thomas Law and Elizabeth Park Custis, and the further history of the matter, up to the death of Thomas Law, in 1834.

In 1832, Thomas Law executed a will, in which he bequeathed $5,000 each to Thomas Law and Edmund Law, the sons of the late John Law, Esq., of Washington. These parties were represented by Henry May, their administrator, and one of the appellants. James Adams was the executor of the will.

He also bequeathed to a lad named Joseph Edmund Law, the son of Mary Robinson, the sum of $1,000. This was the complainant below, and appellee in this court.

In 1838, the above-named Joseph E. Law filed his bill in the circuit court, by his next friend, Mary Robinson, against Adams, the executor, praying that he might be ordered to invest the sum of $1,000, and pay the interest thereof to the complainant; and by an amended bill, prayed that Edmund and Thomas Law, Edmund Rogers, Eliza Rogers, and Eleanor Rogers, and the other heirs of Eliza P. Custis, together with sundry other persons, might be made parties.

In order to understand the position of the respective parties, it is proper to mention that the only child of the marriage between Thomas Law and Eliza P. Custis, was a daughter named Eliza, who intermarried with Lloyd N. Rogers. Eliza Rogers died in the lifetime of her mother. At the time of these proceedings, Edmund Rogers and Eleanor Rogers were the only surviving children of Lloyd N. Rogers and Eliza, his wife.

On the 29th of December, 1832, during the lifetime of Thomas Law, Lloyd N. Rogers obtained from the orphans' court of Washington county, D. C., letters of administration upon the personal estate of Mrs. Elizabeth P. C. Law; and, as administrator, claimed the arrearages of the annuity of $1,500, payable to Mrs. Law, with interest thereon, from the periods respectively, when the said annuity became payable and was in arrears.

This claim arose in this way. On the 9th of August, 1804, Thomas and Eliza Law, being desirous of separating, owing to domestic differences, Law executed to George Calvert and Thomas Peters a deed of certain real estate, to secure, by way of mortgage, to his said wife, Eliza P. Law, an annuity during her life of $1,500, for her own separate use and benefit, the said real estate, at her death, to be reconveyed to Thomas Law and his heirs, clear of all incumbrances imposed by Calvert and Peters.

It should have been mentioned that, by a codicil to his will, Thomas Law bequeathed to his grandchildren, Edmund, Eliza, and Eleanor Rogers, five thousand dollars, with a provision, that it should be null and of no effect, if they should set up a claim under the marriage settlement.

All the parties being before the circuit court, an interlocutory decree was passed referring the case to the auditor, and James Adams was appointed trustee to sell the property, &c., &c.

The auditor made six reports, running from October, 1848, to September, 1852, on which day the last was filed. Exceptions were filed by Henry May, administrator of Thomas and Edmund Law, and also by Adams, the executor of the will. It is not material to state any other exceptions than those upon which the case came up to this court. These related to the two following claims:--

1. The claim of Lloyd N. Rogers, as administrator of Eliza P. Custis, the wife of the testator, amounting, in fact, to $29,249.33.

2. A claim of Edmund and Eleanor Rogers, grandchildren of Thomas Law and his wife Eliza P., $66,154.84.

If these claims should be admitted, the estate would be exhausted, and there would be nothing for the legatees.

In December, 1852, the circuit court passed a final decree, overruling the exceptions, and establishing, amongst other things, the two following orders:--1. That the defendants, Edmund Law and Eleanor A. Rogers, as grandchildren of Mr. Law and children of Mrs. Rogers, take under the words of the deeds of 1796, 1800, and 1802.

6. That the administrator of Mrs. Law is entitled to the arrears of the annuity of $1,500, from the 9th of August, 1804, to the death of Mrs. Law, with interest.

From this decree, May and Adams appealed to this court.

It was argued by Mr. Brent and Mr. May, for the appellants, and by Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Coxe, for the appellees.

The reader will find references to the authorities in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Justice GRIER delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).