Gwinn v. Buchanan/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

45 U.S. 1

Gwinn  v.  Buchanan

As a general principle, it is undoubtedly true, that the marshal is responsible for the acts of his deputy in the execution of process; and if the deputy had taken the funds mentioned in the testimony without any orders from the plaintiffs, or their attorney, and returned the execution satisfied, the plaintiffs would not have been bound to accept these funds in discharge of their judgment, and might have insisted on the full amount from the marshal in gold and silver.

But it is clear, that the plaintiffs had a right to accept in payment of their execution whatever they thought proper. The deputy-marshal was bound to obey their directions upon that subject; and neither the deputy nor the marshal can be held responsible to the plaintiffs for any loss they may sustain by reason of an act done in pursuance of their own instructions.

But the plaintiffs seem to suppose that the authority given to the deputy was not pursued, and that the payment of the money to them without delay was a condition annexed to the authority, which had been disregarded by the deputy. But however this may be, as between him and the plaintiffs, the act or omission of the deputy in that respect cannot make the marshal himself liable. Gwinn knew nothing of the directions given by the plaintiffs' attorney. So far as Ferguson was acting as deputy-marshal, he had no right to receive, in payment of the debt, any thing but gold and silver. He had no authority from the marshal to take any thing else. But when the plaintiffs interfered, and directed him to receive the funds above mentioned, he was, in receiving such funds, not acting under the authority of the marshal as his deputy, but as agent of the plaintiffs. And if, in executing the power they gave him, he disobeyed their instructions, they must look to him, and not to the marshal, who knew nothing of these instructions, had no concern with them, and who cannot, therefore, upon principles of law or equity, be held responsible for the manner in which they were executed.

The judgment of the Circuit Court must, therefore, be reversed, with costs.


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).