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United States Supreme Court

96 U.S. 580

Bissell  v.  Heyward

It is objected that there is a fatal defect of parties complainant. The point of this objection is that Henry Heyward and William C. Bee were not able together to make a title that ought to be satisfactory to Bissell, and hence that the decree should be reversed.

The will of William C. Heyward took effect only upon his death. Until the occurrence of that event, the devisees therein named had no more title to or interest in the property in question than if their names had not been mentioned in the will. If he had consummated his contract with Bissell by executing a deed of the property, this would have worked an absolute revocation of the devise as to this property. The execution of the contract (with the partial payment thereon) was a transfer in equity of the title of the land to Bissell; leaving in the representatives of William C. Heyward simply a naked title as trustee for Bissell, to be conveyed upon performance on his part. By the terms of the will, this legal title was vested in William C. Bee, the trustee to preserve remainders.

Henry Heyward was tenant for life, and as such offered to convey to Bissell, 'by feoffment, and livery of seisin, and to procure the release of right of entry and action by William C. Bee, the remainder-man for preserving contingent remainders;' and he avers in his bill that this would have made a good and effectual conveyance of the legal estate.

Bee held the legal title under the will, and his title to the legal estate continued in force as long as the remainders were contingent; and there is nothing in any part of the record showing that such was not the condition of the title when Heyward offered to convey, and that it is not so at the present time.

Chancellor Kent says (Com., vol. iv. p. 256), 'The trustees are entitled to a right of entry in case of a wrongful alienation by the tenant for life, or whenever his estate for life determines in his lifetime by any other means. The trustees are under the cognizance of a court of equity, and it will control their acts, and punish them for a breach of trust; and if the feoffment be made by the purchaser with notice of the trust, as was the fact in Chudleigh's Case, a court of chancery will hold the lands still subject to the former trust. But this interference of equity is regulated by the circumstances and justice of the particular case. The court may, in its discretion, forbear to interfere; or it may and will allow, or even compel, the trustees to join in a sale to destroy the contingent remainder, if it should appear that such a measure would answer the uses originally intended by the settlement.' To this he cites many authorities.

We think this objection is not well taken.

Was there error in the amount decreed to be paid?

One of the statements of fact in the case sets forth that Bissell tendered the money; and fails to state that he deposited it, or in any manner set it apart or appropriated it for the purpose of the tender. The other states that he used the money he had thus provided. The legal effect is the same. To have the effect of stopping interest or costs, a tender must be kept good; and it ceases to have that effect when the money is used by the debtor for other purposes. Roosvelt v. The Bull's Head Bank, 45 Barb. (N. Y.) 579; Giles v. Hart, 3 Salk. 343; Sweatland v. Squire, 2 id. 623.

The defendant insists that the value of the Confederate notes should be reduced to gold or sterling exchange, which would still farther depreciate their value.

This objection cannot be sustained. By the laws of the United States, all contracts between individuals could then be lawfully discharged in the legal-tender notes of the United States. These notes, and not gold or sterling exchange, were the standard of value to which other currencies are to be reduced to ascertain their value. Knox v. Lee, 12 Wall. 457; Thorington v. Smith, 8 id. 1; Dooley v. Smith, 13 id. 604; Rev. Stat. So. Car., p. 285.

Confederate notes, although without the authority of the United States, and, indeed, in hostility to it, formed the only currency of South Carolina at the date of the transactions in question. United States currency was unknown, except when found upon the person of the soldiers of the United States taken and held as prisoners.

Confederate notes can in no proper sense be treated as commodities merely. The contract in question was made payable in terms in dollars; but both parties agree in writing that Confederate-note dollars were intended. The $20,000 was paid in Confederate notes; and, when the defendant tendered his $100,000, he tendered it in Confederate notes as dollars, and he obtained them by selling sixty-three bales of cotton for Confederate dollars. Stewart v. Salamon, 94 U.S. 434.

Decree affirmed.


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).