McBlair v. Gibbes
THIS was an appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Maryland, sitting as a court of equity.
The controversy related to a share in the Mexican Company, which was held by Goodwin, and also to a claim on his behalf, to a commission of five per centum upon the proceeds in virtue of his agency, and under an agreement with the company.
The nature of this case has already been explained in the preceding volumes of these reports, and is again touched upon in the opinion of the court in the present case. The reader is referred to 11 How. 529; 12 Ib. 111; and 14 Ib. 610.
The bill was originally filed by McBlair, in a state court, but was removed into the circuit court of the United States by Gibbes and Oliver, who stated themselves to be citizens of the State of New York.
On the 13th of March, 1852, McBlair took out letters of administration upon the estate of Lyde Goodwin, from the orphans' court of Baltimore city; and filed his bill to recover from the executors of Oliver, the proceeds of Goodwin's share in the company, and also his commission of five per centum. The claim rested upon the allegation that all the assignments which Goodwin had made to Oliver were void, as was also the purchase by Oliver, of Goodwin's interest from his trustee in insolvency. If these were void, the proceeds of the share would of course belong to Goodwin's personal representatives.
On the 3d of December, 1853, the circuit court dismissed the bill with costs, whereupon the complainant appealed to this court.
It was argued by Mr. Davis and Mr. Robert N. Martin, for the appellant, and by Mr. Campbell and Mr. John on, for the appellees. Only those points of the argument will be noted, upon which the opinion of the court rested, viz: the validity or invalidity of the assignments to Oliver.
The counsel for the appellant contended that the assignment from Goodwin to Oliver, made in 1829, was void, because:--
It must be considered as settled by this court—
1. That the purposes and dealings of the Mexican Company, were illegal, and by the laws of the United States, not less than those of Maryland, void.
2. That till some change was wrought the claim of the company was not assignable, but that any assignment was void.
3. That no such change as made the claim either valid or assignable, was wrought by any act prior to the treaty of 1839.
4. That neither the treaty nor the award operated retroactively to make valid prior acts. Therefore the assignments are void, and nothing passed by them. Gill v. Oliver, 11 How. 529; Williams v. Oliver, 12 Ib. 111; Deacon v. Oliver, 14 Ib. 610; Kennet v. Chambers, 14 Ib. 38, 49, 51, 52. The assignment of 1829 was not binding on Goodwin, because there is no proof of the release of the debt on the books of Oliver.
Upon this branch of the case, the counsel for the appellee contended, as a 5th point:--
5. But conceding, for argument sake, that the appellant may urge without impediment the illegal act of him whom he represents, on what ground does he assail the assignment of Goodwin of 1829?
That the claim was not validated till 1839, if true, will not avail him, because equity will not permit an assignor to defeat his own assignment by procuring a good title subsequently for his own benefit, but will hold such subsequent acquisition to enure to the assignee's benefit.
2 Smith's Leading Cases, 464; 1 McLean, 384; 2 Story, 630; 11 How. 325; 3 Story, 175; 2 Serg. and Rawle, 507; 2 Barr, 325.
Mr. Justice NELSON delivered the opinion of the court.