SEARIGHT v. CALBRAITH, 4 U.S. 325 (1796)

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U.S. Supreme Court

SEARIGHT v. CALBRAITH, 4 U.S. 325 (1796)

4 U.S. 325 (Dall.)

Calbraith et al.

Calbraith et al.

Circuit Court, Pennsylvania District.

April Term, 1796

SEARIGHT agreed, in February 1792, to sell to Calbraith & Co. a bill of exchange for 150,000 livres tournois, drawn upon Bourdieu, Chollet, and Bourdieu of London, payable in Paris, six months after sight; for which Calbraith and Co. agreed to pay at the rate of 17 pence the livre, (making in the whole, 10,625l. Pennsylvania currency) in their own notes, dated the 1st of May, and payable the 1st of July 1792. The bill was, accordingly drawn and delivered to Calbraith and Co. who indorsed it to George Barclay and Co. of London, by whom it was presented for acceptance; and on the 27th of March 1792, Bourdieu, Chollet, and Bourdieu accepted the bill, 'payable at the domicil of Messrs. Cottin, Jonge, and Girardot, at Paris.' George Barclay and Co. afterwards indorsed and forwarded the bill to G. Olivier, who, on the 6th of October 1792, presented it for payment to Messrs. Cottin, Jonge, and Girardot; and those gentlemen tendered payment in assignats, which, by the then existing laws of France, were made a lawful tender, in payment of debts. Mr. Olivier refused to receive the assignats, by order of George Barclay and Co., declaring, at the same time, that he would receive no other money than French crowns; and thereupon each party protested against the act of the other. The bill being returned under protest for non-payment, Searight, on the one hand, instituted a suit, to recover the sum which Calbraith and Co. had originally stipulated to pay; and, on the other hand, Calbraith

Page 4 U.S. 325, 326

and Co. instituted a suit to recover damages for the protest of the bill. And these suits were agreed to be tried together, by the same jury.

On the trial of the cause, evidence was produced, on both sides, to ascertain and fix the precise terms of the original contract, for the sale and purchase of the bill of exchange; particularly as to the stipulation of a rate for estimating the livre; as to the purchase being made for cash, or on credit; and as to the knowledge and view of the parties, relative to the existence of assignats, or the law of France, making them a legal tender in payment of debts. And the great question of fact for decision, was, whether the parties contracted for a payment in gold and silver; or tacitly left the medium of payment, to the laws of France, where the bill was payable? The law arising from the fact, was discussed at large, according to the different positions of the parties in interest.

For Searight, it was shown, by the decrees of the French government, that assignate were established as a circulating medium for the payment of debts, before, and at the time of, the contract for the bill of exchange: Decree of 16 and 17 April 1790. s. 3. King's Proclamation of 19 April 1790. and this fact being known, it was contended, that the purchase of a bill payable in France, must in itself import an agreement to receive in satisfaction, the lawful current medium of that country, unless the contract expressly provides against it, which, on the present occasion, was controverted and denied. In support and illustration of the general position, and its incidents, the following authorities were cited. 2 Burr. 1078, 9. 1083. Dav. Rep. 26, 7, 8. Dyer, 82, 83. 4 Com. Dig. 556. B. 7, 8. 2 P. Wms. 88, 89. 1 P. Wms. 696. Prec. Ch. 128. 2 Vern. 395. 2 Atk. 382. 465. Skin. 272. 4 Com. Dig. 256. B. 8. 4 Vin. Abr. 258. O. 13. Holt, 465. Davis' Rep. 24. 10 Mod, 37. 2 Br. Chan. 1 Smith's Wealth of Nations, 41. 1 Dall. Rep. 257. 1 Br. Ch. 376. Esp. N. P. 48. 26. 3 Wils. 211. Esp. N. P. 140, 1. Doug. 628. 3 T. Rep. 683. 554. 3 Bl. Com. 435. Salk. 130. 126. 12 Mod. 192. Kyd, 63.

For Calbraith and Co. it was contended, that an express contract had been proved to pay the bill in specie; that the very terms of the bill import the same understanding of the parties; that however binding the law of France may be on cases between French citizens, or between American and French citizens, it did not affect contracts between Americans; that, in legal contemplation, there has been neither a payment, nor a tender of payment; and that Searight has sustained no damage, nor shown any right to recover. 1 Pow. on Contr. 8. 2 Pow. on Contr. 158. Cun. B. of E. 258. Skin 272. 3 Watson's Philip 3, 136. 1 Ld. [4 U.S. 325, 327]

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