BARNETT V. DENISON, 145 U. S. 135 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Barnett v. Denison, 145 U.S. 135 (1892)

Barnett v. Denison

No. 297

Submitted April 13, 1892

Decided May 2, 1892

145 U.S. 135


When the charter of a municipal corporation requires that bonds issued by it shall specify for what purpose they are issued, a bond which purports

Page 145 U. S. 136

on its face to be issued by virtue of an ordinance the date of which is given, but not its title or its contents, does not so far satisfy the requirements of the charter as to protect an innocent holder for value from defenses which might otherwise be made.

The Court stated the case as follows:

This was an action to recover the amount of certain coupons cut from bonds issued by the City of Denison "for the reduction of and cancellation of the outstanding city scrip, and for the improvement of streets," etc.

The charter of the city, adopted March 7, 1873, conferred upon it power (sec. 27)

"to borrow money on the credit of the city, and issue bonds therefor, to an amount not to exceed $50,000. To make a loan exceeding $50,000, the question must be submitted to the qualified voters of the city, and, if sustained by a majority of the votes polled, such loan shall be lawful. All bonds shall specify for what purpose they were issued, and not be invalid if sold for less than their par value. And when any bonds are issued by the city, a fund shall be provided,"

etc. Sec. 28:

"To issue bonds in aid of any corporation or enterprise, either manufacturing, railroad, or for other purposes, calculated to advance the interests of the said city, and to borrow money for that purpose, and to take stock therein, or in any of them: provided,"


Pursuant to this charter, the city council, on August 9, 1873, adopted the following ordinance:

"SEC 1. Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Denison that there shall be issued by the City of Denison bonds to the extent of $20,000, and shall be known as 'Denison City Bonds.' Said bonds shall mature in ten years from the date of their issuance, and such bonds, or the proceeds thereof, shall be used for the purpose of redeeming the outstanding city scrip or other indebtedness, and the improvement of the streets, as may be directed by the city council, and said bonds shall bear an annual interest of ten percentum, payable semiannually, expressed by coupons thereto attached, and shall be payable at the office of the Importers' and Traders' National Bank of New York City. "

Page 145 U. S. 137

No reference was made in the bonds to the purpose for which they were issued, but they contained the following paragraph:

"These bonds are issued by virtue of an ordinance passed by the board of aldermen of said city on the 9th day of August, and approved by the mayor on the 9th day of August, 1873."

It was stipulated upon the trial that

"if the failure to state the purpose for which the bonds were issued more specifically than is contained in said bonds was such a defect as deprived them of the quality of negotiable paper, and visited all purchasers for value with notice, then the City of Denison had a good defense to the suit; but, if not such a defect, then plaintiff ought to recover as prayed for in his petition."

The court charged the jury that, by the charter, notice was imputed to all persons purchasing bonds that the purpose for which they were issued should be stated, and instructed them to return a verdict for the defendant, which was done. The plaintiff thereupon took out a writ of error from this Court.

Page 145 U. S. 139

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