DUGAN V. UNITED STATES, 16 U. S. 172 (1818)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dugan v. United States, 16 U.S. 172 (1818)

Dugan v. United States

16 U.S. 172


Where a bill of exchange was endorsed to T.T.T., Treasurer of the United States, who received it in that capacity and for account of the United States, and the bill had been purchased by the Secretary of the Treasury (as one of the commissioners of the sinking fund and as agent of that board) with the money of the United States, and was afterwards endorsed by T.T.T., Treasurer of the United States, to W. & S. and by them presented to the drawees for acceptance and protested for nonacceptance and nonpayment, and sent back by W. & S. to the Secretary of the Treasury, held that the endorsement to T.T.T. passed such an interest to the United States as enabled them to maintain an action on the bill against the first endorser.

Quaere whether, when a bill is endorsed to an agent, for the use of his principal, an action on the bill can be maintained by the principal in his own name?

However this may be between private parties, the United States ought to be permitted to sue in its own name whenever it appears, not only on the face of the instrument, but from all the evidence, that it alone is interested in the subject matter of the controversy.

Held that the United States might recover in the present action without producing from W. & S. a receipt or a reendorsement of the bill; that W. & S. were to be presumed to have acted as the agents or bankers of the United States; and that all the interest which W. & S. ever had in the bill was divested by the act of returning it to the party from whom it was received.

If a person who endorses a bill to another, whether for value or for the purpose of collection, comes again to the possession thereof, he is to be regarded, unless the contrary appears in evidence, as the bona fide holder and proprietor of such bill, and is entitled to recover thereon notwithstanding there may be on it one or more endorsements in full, subsequent to the endorsement to him, without producing any receipt or endorsement back to him from either of such endorsees, whose names he may strike from the bill or not as he thinks proper.

Page 16 U. S. 173

By the special verdict in this cause it appeared, that on 22 December, 1801, Aquila Brown, at Baltimore, drew a bill of exchange on Messrs. Van Staphorst & Co. at Amsterdam, for 60,000 guilders, payable at 60 days' sight, to the order of James Clarke, the defendants' testator. James Clarke endorsed the bill to

Page 16 U. S. 174

Messrs. Brown & Hackman, who afterwards endorsed it to Beale Owings, who endorsed the same to Thomas T. Tucker, Esq., Treasurer of the United States, or order, and delivered it to him as Treasurer as aforesaid, who received it in that capacity and on account of the United States. It further appeared that this bill had been purchased with money belonging to the United States and under the order and by an agent of the then Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for the purpose of remitting the same to Europe for the government of the United States, who, in ordering the purchase of this bill, acted as one of the commissioners of the sinking fund and as agent for that board. The bill was afterwards endorsed to Messrs. Wilhem & Jan Willink & N. & J. & R. Van Staphorst by Thomas Tucker, Treasurer of the United States, and appears by an endorsement thereon to have been registered by the proper officer at the Treasury of the United States on 28 December, 1801, before it was sent to Europe. The bill having been regularly presented for acceptance by the last endorsees to the drawees, who protested for nonacceptance. It was afterwards protested for nonpayment and then returned by them to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for and on their behalf, who directed this action to be brought. Of these protests due notice was given to the drawer of the bill.

On this state of facts, the circuit court rendered judgment for the United States, to reverse which, this writ of error was brought.

Page 16 U. S. 179

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