JONES V. LA TOMBE, 3 U. S. 384 (1798)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jones v. La Tombe, 3 U.S. 3 Dall. 384 384 (1798)

Jones v. La Tombe

3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 384



There is no cause of action against the drawer of a protested bill of exchange, acting as the consul general of France and where the bill purports to be a contract on the part of the government.

This was an action brought originally in the Supreme Court by John Coffin Jones, a citizen of Massachusetts, as endorsee of James Swan, against the defendant, the Consul General of the French Republic, as drawer of a number of protested bills of exchange (for the aggregate amount of 385,964 livres turnois, 3 sols, 8 den., equal to $70,052.46) corresponding with the following form: [omission] chanrobles.com-red

Page 3 U. S. 385

At the opening of the term Dallas and Du Ponceau had obtained a rule that the plaintiff show his cause of action, and why the defendant should not be discharged on filing a common appearance, and now Ingersoll and E. Tilghman showed cause, produced the bills of exchange, and the plaintiff's positive affidavit of a subsisting debt, including a declaration

"that he was induced, principally, to purchase the bills, in consideration of the character and private fortune of the defendant, and that without the fullest confidence in the personal credit and responsibility of the defendant, he verily believed he would not have purchased them."

They then contended that the positive affidavit was sufficient in this Court for holding the defendant to bail; that it was not incumbent on them to show to whose use the money was applied, since it was paid to the defendant; that when a consul acts as a merchant and draws bills for cash advanced, he is not entitled to any privilege; that the defendant must prove that he had a right to draw the bills as consul; that even if he had the right to draw, he might pledge his private credit in aid of his official function; and that the critical situation of the French Republic raises a presumption that the reliance was placed on the private credit of the defendant. The cases heretofore decided in the English courts are perfectly distinguishable from the present case. 1 T. 174. They occurred between parties belonging to the same government, and there was no proof of credit being given to the individual. In support of these positions were cited 2 H.Bl. 554; Vatt. b. 4. c, 6 s. 74, p. 139, s. 114; 2 Dall. 247. 2 Stra. 955.

The counsel for the defendant were stopped when they rose to reply, and the Court was unanimously and clearly of opinion that the contract was made on account of the government, that the credit was given to it as an official engagement, and that therefore there was no cause of action against the present defendant.

The rule was accordingly made absolute, and the plaintiff soon afterwards discontinued the action.


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