U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Robertson, 30 U.S. 5 Pet. 641 641 (1831)
United States v. Robertson
30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 641
Construction of a bond executed by the President and Directors of the Bank of Somerset to the United States for the performance of an agreement made by them with the United States for the payment of a debt due to the United States from deposits made in the bank for the account of the United States.
The facts, including those stated in the opinion of the court, were the following.
In the circuit court, at January term, 1828, the United States instituted an action of debt on a bond executed on 15 July, 1820, by Thomas Robertson, Levin Ballard, Arnold E. Jones, Mathias Deshiell, Charles Jones, Marcey Maddux, William Done, George W. Jackson, and John H. Bell, of Somerset County, in the State of Maryland, in the penal sum of $100,000. The bond and the condition are stated in the opinion of the Court.
The plaintiffs gave in evidence a statement of the condition of the Bank of Somerset on 11 May, 1820, by which it appeared that the assets of the bank consisted of notes discounted, $106,995, real estate, $5,000, debts due by the Bank of Columbia and the Merchants' Bank of Alexandria, $1,607, and that its debts were, capital unredeemed, $4,250, notes in circulation, $15,000, deposits, including the United States, without interest, $115,426, making a deficit of $20,074. The plaintiffs also proved that from 15 July, 1820, to 15 July, 1825, the president and directors of the Bank of Somerset received in good current money from the debtors of the bank and from sales of their real estate a large sum of money. That they received in payment of debts due to the bank, and as the proceeds of the real estate of their debtors, a large sum of money in the bank notes of chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
the corporation and in certificates of deposits of bank notes of the same. A certificate of those receipts was exhibited and admitted in evidence, by which it appeared that the receipts, in the period stated, were $11,000 in good money in payment of debts due the bank and for the proceeds of real estate; $15,500 in bank notes of the corporation, in payment of debts due to the bank or the proceeds of the real estate of the debtors to the bank; $15,000 of such notes; that the payments were $10,000 for extinguishing prior lines on an estate conveyed to the bank by L. D. Teackle, a debtor to the bank; $1,000 for clerk and sheriff's fees in suits brought by the bank, $1,000 attorney's fees and commissions, $1,000 paid to William Done as agent for the bank, $500 for taxes on real estate and small charges. This statement contains an allegation by the corporation that the losses, by insolvencies of its debtors, amount to $60,000.
It was further given in evidence by the plaintiffs that Charles Jones, one of the obligors in the bond, was Sheriff of Somerset County from October, 1821, to October, 1824, and as such, received, under executions placed in his hands, in favor of the bank, $8,255.77 in notes and certificates of the bank and in good money, no part of which was proved to have been paid by him to the bank.
It was admitted that before 15 July, 1820, the notes of the Somerset Bank had largely depreciated, and were not current as paper as a circulating medium; that they have continued to depreciate, and are now worth nothing. No part of the debt due to the United States has been paid.
The defendants gave evidence of the payments made by the bank for the extinguishment of the liens on the estate of L. D. Teackle; for clerks and sheriff's fees on suits brought by the bank against the debtors to the bank; for attorney's fees and commissions, which were asserted to have been actually due and lawfully chargeable; for the lawful and reasonable commissions to William Done, as the agent of the bank; and for taxes on real estate and for small charges. All these payments were in good money, and were paid between 15 July, 1820, and 15 July, 1825. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The evidence given by the defendants, as to the taxes on the real estate of the debtors to the bank, and the lawfulness of the fees, cost and commissions, was opposed by evidence on the part of the United States. Evidence was also given which was intended to deny that the taxes, fees, &c., were due, or that they were reasonable.
The plaintiffs also gave in evidence that attachment suits were issued against the same debtors of the Bank of Somerset in the district court of the United States in the years 1818 and 1819 against whom suits were instituted and prosecuted by the president and directors in the County Court of Somerset, some of which suits were instituted prior and some subsequent to the instituting of the attachment suits in the district court of the United States, and all of which suits were actually proceeded in after the attachment suits, and in the prosecution of which Somerset County suits the principal fees, commissions, and costs were incurred.
The defendant further offered evidence that sometime after the execution of the bond upon which this suit was instituted, a contest arose between the Bank of Somerset and several of its debtors in consequence of the bank's having refused to receive its certificates of deposit, which the debtors tendered in payment of debts due by them to the bank, and that the right of a debtor to use such certificates in payment of a debt due by him to the bank was judicially brought before the Somerset County Court in an action instituted therein by the bank for the recovery of a claim which the debtor had refused to pay, except in said certificates; that the county court at its November term, in the year 1821, decided that the tender of the certificates of deposit by the said debtors to the bank, in payment of the debt due by them to the bank, was a satisfaction of the claim; and that the bank notes and certificates of the Bank of Somerset were a legal tender to the bank, and should be received in payments of judgments obtained in that court in favor of the bank, from the date of the Act of Assembly of the session of 1818, chap. 177, and that in conformity with the opinion, a verdict was entered for the debtor with a judgment for his costs. And the defendant also proved that the bank notes and certificates, received by the president and directors of the said bank as stated, were received by them subsequent to the said decision. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The defendant also gave in evidence that among the judgments in favor of the bank were several against Littleton D. Teackle, upon whose property there were prior liens, and that all the money paid away by the corporation for liens was in discharge of such liens, and that the bank, under their own executions, bought the property of said Teackle subject to such liens, and that the property so taken was and is worth more than such liens, and that the property was delivered by the bank to the United States, and has been and is now in the hands and possession of the United States or its authorized agents.
The plaintiffs then gave in evidence that the property last referred to was never otherwise in the hands or possession of the United States than as taken in execution under a writ of fieri facias, issued against the property of the bank, since possession of the United States than as taken in execution under a writ of fieri facias, issued against the property of the bank, since