The Protector/Opinion of the Court
|The Protector by
Opinion of the Court
It is plain that by the literal terms of the act of 1789 the period of limitation had expired more than three years prior to the taking of this appeal. But this court has decided, in the case of Hanger v. Abbott, that a statute of limitations did not run, during the rebellion, against a party residing in New Hampshire, so as to preclude his remedy for a debt against a person residing in Arkansas, one of the insurrectionary States. It is unnecessary to go over again the ground which was examined in that case. We are of opinion that the same law applies to this. And by throwing out of the eight years which elapsed between the decree and the appeal the four years and more during which the war continued, the time is reduced to a period of less than five years.
But it is urged that the act of March 2d, 1867, has regulated this subject, and has prescribed a limitation of one year from the passage of that act within which to bring all appeals and writs of error which were suspended or interrupted by the rebellion. We are of opinion that this statute is an enabling and not a restraining one; that it was not intended to take away any right of appeal, but to continue the right in cases where it had been lost. 'Where the common law and a statute differ,' says Blackstone, 'the common law gives place to the statute; and an old statute gives place to a new one. . . But this is to be understood only when the latter statute is couched in negative terms, or where its matter is so clearly repugnant that it necessarily implies a negative.' #fn-s-s-s  Such repugnancy does not exist here. Many cases may be supposed, in which the right of appeal would be saved by the statute of 1867, which would not be saved by the act of 1789 and the operation of the common law rule followed in Hanger v. Abbott. If four years of the five elapsed before the war, the right of appeal would be saved by the act of 1867, but would be gone under the operation of the act of 1789, unless the appeal were brought before the passage of the former act. If Congress had intended to limit all appeals from courts in the insurrectionary States to one year from the passage of the law, it should have been so expressed in the act.