Dair v. United States

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

83 U.S. 1


ERROR to the Circuit Court for the District of Indiana.

The United States brought an action of debt on a distiller's bond, executed by Jonathan Dair and William Sauks as principals, and by James Dair and William Davison as sureties. There was no dispute as to the right to recover against the principals, but the sureties, who pleaded separately, denied their liability upon the bond, and upon the issue thus raised by them, there was the following special finding by the court:

'That the said James Dair and William Davison signed the said writing obligatory upon the day of its date, as sureties, at the instance of Jonathan Dair, one of the principals, but that it was signed by them upon the condition that said writing obligatory was not to be delivered to the plaintiff until it should be executed by one Joseph Cloud as co-surety; that the said writing obligatory, upon its signing by them upon the condition aforesaid, was placed in the hands of the said principal, Jonathan Dair, who afterwards, without the performance of that condition, and without the consent of the said James Dair and William Davison, delivered the same to the plaintiff. And, that when the bond was so delivered, it was in all respects regular upon its face, and that the plaintiff had no notice of the condition.'

As a conclusion of law upon these facts, judgment was rendered in favor of the United States, against all the parties to the bond, for the amount which it was conceded the principals owed the government. This writ of error was prosecuted by them to reverse that decision.

Messrs. J. E. McDonald and J. M. Butler, for the plaintiffs in error:

This court, in Pawling et al. v. The United States, [1] held that parol evidence might be introduced to establish the fact that a bond which on its face purported to have been delivered, absolutely, had been delivered in violation of the conditions upon which it had been signed, by some of the parties, and that if such defence should be made out, it was sufficient to defeat the suit on this bond as to those who had signed it thus conditionally.

The same doctrine is laid down in a leading case in New York, People v. Bostwick et al., [2] where most of the leading cases on both sides of the question are cited, and the questions are treated upon the legal principles involved, as well as in the light of adjudicated cases, and such conclusions are reached as make it impossible to disregard them without a departure from well-established propositions of law relating to the execution of instruments like the one under consideration.

But Pawling et al. v. The United States binds this court as an authority.

It is an axiom of the law that a bond speaks from the time of its delivery, and it makes no difference how perfect it may be in form, it is, unless it has actually been delivered, no bond. To constitute a delivery it must pass out of the hands of the obligors with their consent, and must be received by the obligee or his agent in that behalf, for the purpose for which it was intended.

Mr. G. H. Williams, Attorney-General, and Mr. C. H. Hill, Assistant Attorney-General, contra, relied on State v. Peck, [3] a case, they said, directly in point for the government; the principle involved being, after all, they argued, only that plainly just one, long ago declared by Lord Holt, [4] when he said in a case somewhat similar in principle:

'Seeing somebody must be a loser by this deceit, it is more reason that he that employs and puts a trust and confidence in the deceiver should be a loser than a stranger.'

Mr. Justice DAVIS delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  4 Cranch, 219.

^2  32 New York, 445.

^3  53 Maine, 284.

^4  Hern v. Nichols, 1 Salkeld, 289; and see in recent times Pickard v. Sears, 6 Adolphus & Ellis, 469, per Denman, C. J.

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).