Boese v. King/Dissent Matthews

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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

108 U.S. 379

Boese  v.  King

MATTHEWS, J., dissenting.

Mr. Justice MILLER, Mr. Justice GRAY, Mr. Justice BLATCHFORD, and myself, are unable to agree with the opinion and judgment of the court in this case. The grounds of our dissent may be very generally and concisely stated as follows:

The New Jersey statute of April 16, 1846, the validity and effect of which are in question, is an insolvent or bankrupt law, which provides for the administration of the assets of debtors who make assignments of all their assets to trustees for creditors, and for their discharge from liabilities to creditors sharing in the distribution. It was accordingly in conflict with the national bankrupt act of 1867 when the latter took effect, and from that time became suspended and without force until the repeal of the act of congress. It is conceded that the fourteenth section, which provides for the discharge of the debtor, is void by reason of this conflict, and, in our opinion, this carries with it the entire statute. For the statute is an entirety, and to take away the distinctive feature contained in the fourteenth section, destroys the system. It is not an independent provision, but an inseparable part of the scheme contained in the law.

This being so, the assignment in the present case must be regarded as unlawful and void as to creditors. For it was made in view of this statute, and to be administered under it. Such is the express recital of the instrument, and the finding of the fact by the court. It is as if the provisions of the act had been embodied in it and it had declared expressly that it was executed with the proviso that no distribution should be made of any part of the debtor's estate to any creditor except upon condition of the release of the unpaid portion of his claim.

It is not possible, we think, to treat the assignment as though the law of the state in view of which it was made, and subject to the provisions of which it was intended to operate, had never existed, or had been repealed before its execution; because there is no reason to believe that, in that state of the case, the debtor would have made an assignment on such terms. To do so is to construct for him a contract which he did not make, and which there is no evidence that he intended to make. It must be regarded, then, as a proceeding under the statute of New Jersey, and as such, with that statute, made void as to creditors by the national bankrupt act of 1867. Otherwise that uniform rule as to bankruptcies, which it was the policy of the constitution and of the act of congress, pursuant to it, to provide, would be defeated. No title under it, therefore, could pass to the defendants in error, and the judgment creditors who acquired a lien upon the fund in their hands were by law entitled to appropriate it, as the property of their debtor, to the payment of their claims.

For these reasons we are of opinion that the judgment of the court of appeals of New York should be reversed.

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).