BURWELL V. CAWOOD, 43 U. S. 560 (1844)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Burwell v. Cawood, 43 U.S. 2 How. 560 560 (1844)

Burwell v. Cawood

43 U.S. (2 How.) 560


Although by the general rule of law, every partnership is dissolved by the death of one of the partners where the articles of co-partnership do not stipulate otherwise, yet either one may, by his will, provide for the continuance of the partnership after his death, and in making this provision, he may bind his whole estate or only that portion of it already embarked in the partnership.

But it will require the most clear and unambiguous language, demonstrating in the most positive manner that the testator intended to make his general assets liable for all debts contracted in the continued trade after his death, to justify the court in arriving at such a conclusion.

Where it appears from the context of a will that a testator intended to dispose of his whole estate and to give his residuary legatee a substantial beneficial interest, such legatee will take real as well as personal estate, although the word "devisee" be not used.

The case was this.

In July, 1836, Joseph Mandeville and Daniel Cawood, both of the Town of Alexandria, entered into articles of co-partnership under the firm of Daniel Cawood & Company, which was to continue until 1 September, 1838. Numerous stipulations were made which it is not necessary to mention.

In June, 1837, Mandeville made his will, which began thus:

"I, Joseph Mandeville, of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, thankful to Divine Providence, which has ever rewarded my industry and blessed me with a fair portion of health, do hereby direct the disposal which I desire of my earthly remains after my decease, and of such real and personal property as I may possess when called hence to a future state."

After sundry legacies, he said:

"If my personal property should not cover the entire amount of legacies I have or may give, my executors will dispose of so much of my real estate as will fully pay them,"

and then added:

"John West, formerly of Alexandria, now of Mobile, I hereby make my residuary legatee, recommending him to consult with and follow the advice of my executors in all concerning what I leave to him. "

Page 43 U. S. 561

Robert J. Taylor and William C. Gardner were appointed executors.

In July, 1837, the following codicil was added:

"Codicil to the preceding will, made this eleventh day of July, 1837"

"It is my will that my interest in the co-partnership subsisting between Daniel Cawood and myself, under the firm of Daniel Cawood & Company, shall be continued therein until the expiration of the term limited by the articles between us, the business to be conducted by the said Daniel Cawood, and the profit or loss to be distributed in the manner the said articles provide."

"In witness whereof I have hereto subscribed my name."


Shortly after adding the above codicil, Mandeville died, in July, 1837. Taylor renounced the executorship, and Gardner obtained letters testamentary upon the estate.

Cawood & Company continued to carry on the business as before.

In July, 1838, the following note was given and draft drawn:

"Alexandria, 28 July, 1838"

"Dolls. 800"

"Thirty days after date, we promise to pay to the order of Mr. N. Burwell, eight hundred dollars for value received, negotiable and payable at the Bank of Potomac."


"Alexandria, 28 July, 1838"

"Dolls. 1,000"

"On the 31st inst. pay to the order of Mr. William H. Mount one thousand dollars for value received, and charge to account of yours."


"To Daniel Cawood and Co., Alexandria, D.C."

"Accepted DAN'L CAWOOD & Co."

Neither the note or draft was paid at maturity, and both were protested.

In December, 1838, Burwell, the appellant in the present case, filed a bill on the equity side of the circuit court against Cawood and Gardner reciting the above facts and praying relief.

In June, 1839, Gardner answered. He admitted those facts, but denied that the assets in his hands as executor were liable to the payment of the debts of the firm of Daniel Cawood & Company, and required the complainant to make proof of it. He further alleged a deficiency of personal assets. chanrobles.com-red

Page 43 U. S. 562

In October, 1839, Cawood filed his answer admitting in substance the facts set forth in the bill, but neither admitted nor denied the insolvency of the firm.

The case was referred to a commissioner with instructions to adjust the accounts of the executor and also of the firm of Cawood & Company.

In May, 1841, the commissioner made an elaborate report, the particulars of which it is not necessary to state.

In November, 1841, on the motion of John West, claiming to be interested in the subject matter of the suit, it was ordered by the court that the complainant have leave to amend his bill and make John West a defendant. The case was again referred to a commissioner with instructions to state, settle, and report to the court the account of William C. Gardner as executor of Joseph Mandeville, deceased, stating the personal estate of the said Mandeville left by him at his death and how much thereof has come to the hands of the executor, the value of it, and how the same have been disposed of, particularly whether any of the legacies have been paid out of the personal executor, and that he report also the value of the personal assets still in the hands of the executor, and that he report any special matter that he may deem pertinent or either party may require.

In December, 1841, the complainant, under the above order, filed his amended bill, making West a party.

In April, 1842, West demurred to the bill because the other legatees of Mandeville were not made defendants and because the complainant had not, by his bill, shown a case in which he was entitled to relief.

In May, 1842, the commissioner made a report under the above reference stating that Gardner, as executor, had then in his hands assets amounting to $1,036.70.

In June, 1842, the demurrer was argued, and the court being of opinion that the general assets of the estate of the said Joseph Mandeville, deceased, in the hands of his executor, William C. Gardner, one of the said defendants, are not chargeable with any debt contracted by the defendant Cawood in the name of the firm of Daniel Cawood and Co. after the death of the former partner of the firm, the said Joseph Mandeville, and being of opinion that the defendant's said demurrer is well taken and fully sustained in argument, and that the complainant's bill contains no matter, allegation, or chanrobles.com-red

Page 43 U. S. 563

charge laying any foundation for equitable relief in the premises, dismissed the bill with costs.

The complainant, Burwell, appealed from this decree. chanrobles.com-red

Page 43 U. S. 573


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