Sawyer v. Turpin

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

91 U.S. 114

Sawyer  v.  Turpin

APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts.

On the fifteenth day of May, 1869, J. C. Bacheller, in order to secure a debt due by him to Novelli & Co., executed a bill of sale conveying his chattel interest in certain property to Turpin, one of the defendants below.

This conveyance was not recorded, nor was possession had thereunder.

On the 31st of July, 1869, Turpin having surrendered the bill of sale, Bacheller, in exchange therefor, executed to him a mortgage upon the same property. This mortgage was recorded on the 17th of the following September.

Bacheller filed his petition in bankruptcy the twenty-second day of October then next ensuing; and the appellants, his assignees, filed their bill in the District Court to set aside the mortgage as a fraudulent preference of a creditor, alleging that Bacheller was insolvent when the mortgage was given, and that Turpin, and Novelli & Co., the other defendants, knew of the fact.

The District Court passed a decree dismissing the bill, which was affirmed by the Circuit Court. The assignees appealed to this court.

The recording statutes of Massachusetts which apply to the case are set forth in the opinion of the court.

Mr. Benjamin Dean and Mr. J. G. Abbott for the appellants.

The question presented in this case is, whether the chattel mortgage of July 31, 1869, given by the bankrupt Batcheller to the defendant Turpin, is void as against the assignees, as being a fraudulent preference of a creditor under the Bankrupt Act.

The defendants cannot claim under the absolute conveyance of May 15, because it is admitted by them that it was surrendered. They took the mortgage under which they claim as collateral security for a pre-existing debt due from the mortgagor. He was then insolvent, and they knew it. The case comes exactly within the provisions of the Bankrupt Act, avoiding such transactions as fraudulent; and it is entirely immaterial that a prior conveyance of the same property was given up.

The conveyance of May 15 was null and void against creditors or their representatives, as it was never recorded, nor was possession of the mortgaged property given or taken under it. Stat. of Mass., ch. 151, sect. 1.

The Bankrupt Act substantially provides that a mortgage, to be valid against assignees, must be recorded according to the laws of the State where it is made. Bankrupt Act, sect. 14, prov. 2.

No sale or delivery was intended. The instrument of May 15 was given only as security for a debt, not to make an absolute sale of the property; so that, even between the parties, no title had passed before it was surrendered.

It has been repeatedly held, in reference to questions of bankruptcy and insolvency, that the validity of any instrument claimed under against an assignee must be determined by the state of facts existing at the time of its execution. Forbes v. Howe, 162 Mass. 427; Blodgett v. Hildreth, 11 Cush. 311; Paul v. Waite, 11 Gray, 190; Simpson v. Carlton, 1 Allen, 109; Denny v. Same, 2 Cush. 160.

Every conveyance by a bankrupt, which by the laws of the State where it is made is void against creditors, is also void against the assignee in bankruptcy. Allen v. Massey, 17 Wall. 357; Bank of Leavenworth v. Hunt, 11 id. 391; Kane, Assignee, v. Rice, Nat. Bank Reg., vol. x. 469; Edmondson v. Hyde, id. vol. vii. 1; Thornhill v. Link, id. vol. viii. 521; In re Wynne, id. vol. iv. 5, Chase, C. J.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).