CRAWFORD v. WILLING, 4 U.S. 286 (1803)

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U.S. Supreme Court

CRAWFORD v. WILLING, 4 U.S. 286 (1803)

4 U.S. 286 (Dall.)

Crawford et al.
Willing et al.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

December Term, 1803

THIS was an action of account render, brought by Crawford and Co. of Rotterdam against Willing and Morris of Philadelphia. There was a judgment quod computent, under which the auditors reported, 'that the sum of 1658l. 11s. 8d. Pennsylvania currency is due from the defendants to the plaintiffs; but not being agreed, with respect to an allowance of interest, they submit that point to the Court.' The plaintiffs thereupon filed a suggestion, 'that the defendants ought to be charged 3770l. 15s. for interest, on the several sums of money by them accounted for, in their account, mentioned in the report of the auditors; and that the plaintiffs are entitled to have and recover from the defendants the said sum of 3770l. 15s. as well as the principal.' To this suggestion the defendants pleaded, 1st. 'That they ought not to be charged with the said sum of 3770l. 15s. for interest, &c. and that the plaintiffs are not justly entitled to have and recover the same, &c. because, they say, that the same, or any part thereof, is not justly due from the defendants to the plaintiffs: and this they pray may be inquired, &c.' 2d. Payment of the principal sum. 3d. The bankruptcy and certificate of Morris, one of the defendants. Issue was joined on the first plea; and the second and third were confessed.

On the evidence, it appeared, that the transactions on which the debt to the plaintiffs was founded, occurred before the year 1775; that during the years 1775 and 1776, and during several years after the war, the debt was repeatedly acknowledged, and a remittance of the amount promised, in a correspondence between the plaintiffs and Morris, as the acting partner of the defendants;

Page 4 U.S. 286, 287

that the partnership commenced by articles dated the 1st of January 1773, and continued for five years; that the partnership was renewed, taking Swanwick in as a partner in the year 1783; that partial remittances were made by Morris in the year 1786, which reduced the balance of the principal sum to the amount reported by the auditors; and that Willing never knew of the plaintiff's demand, until the present suit was amicably instituted by agreement with Morris alone, dated the 4th of August 1798. E. Tilghman and Ingersoll, for the plaintiffs, proposed to inquire, 1st. Whether considered as a commercial case, generally, it is not a case in which interest ought to be allowed? 2d. Whether the special circumstances of the case, exclude the claim of interest, with reference to the law of partnership? 3d. Whether the case is affected by the existence and operation of the revolutionary war? 1st. It is true, that, in the old books, the claim of interest upon simple contract debts, is treated with great rigour, and allowed only in the case of a note; but the law, gradually accommodating itself to common sense and common honesty, is at length settled, that for money lent; for liquidated balances: nay for goods sold and delivered, where the usual credit is expired; for money detained, which ought to be paid over, and during the continuance, as well as before the commencement of a suit; the creditor shall be entitled to interest. 1 Dall. Rep. 349. 1 Fr. Vezey, 63. Rep. temp. Hard. (Ridgway) 286. 1 Vez. 310. 3 Br. Ch. 436. Doug. 361. And, under circumstances of vexatious delay, interest may be recovered, even beyond the amount of the principal. Atk. 80. 2 Vez. j. 300. 2d. The debt was contracted, the correspondence was carried on, during the existence of the partnership, between Willing and Morris. Each partner was, therefor, liable, not as a surety, but as a principal, for the lawful contracts and transactions of the other, in relation to their joint business. 1 Wils. 682. 3 F. Vez. 277. Bankrupt Act of Congress, s. 34. Doug. 629. 3d. The Courts of Pennsylvania (differing in their view of the subject from the federal Courts) have made an abatement of interest during the continuance of the revolutionary war (a period computed at seven years and a half) in suits brought by British creditors, against American citizens, the immediate parties to the war: but there is neither law, justice, nor precedent in any Court, for applying the rule to suits brought by the citizens of a neutral, or friendly, nation: And as to the practicability, as well as the lawfulness, of a remittance, it is notorious, that the intercourse between the United States and Holland was never suspended, at any period of the contest. Lewis, for the defendants, stated his general position to be, that interest is not due of course, upon an account current; or an unliquidated [4 U.S. 286, 288]

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