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United States Supreme Court

88 U.S. 354

Hotchkiss  v.  National Banks

APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York.

This was a suit to compel the defendants to surrender to the complainant three coupon bonds of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company, each for $1000, of which he professed to be owner, and which he alleged were received by the defendants in bad faith, with notice of his rights. The instruments were dated May 6th, 1863; by each of them the company acknowledges its indebtedness to certain persons named, or bearer, in the sum designated, and promises to pay the amount to the bearer on the 1st of January, 1893, at the office of the company in the city of New York, with semi-annual interest at the rate of seven per cent. per annum, on the presentation and surrender of the coupons annexed as they severally become due, with a provision that in case of non-payment of interest for six months the whole principal of the bond shall become due and payable.

Immediately following this acknowledgment of the indebtedness of the company and its promise of payment, there was in each of these instruments a further agreement of the company to make what is termed 'the scrip preferred stock,' attached to the bond, full-paid stock at any time within ten days after any dividend shall have been declared and become payable on such preferred stock, upon surrender, in the city of New York, of the bond and the unmatured interest warrants.

The several instruments also stated that the bonds were parts of a series of bonds issued by the company, amounting to $2,200,000, and that upon the acquisition of certain other railroads the issue of bonds might be increased in certain designated amounts; that the bonds were executed and delivered in conformity with the laws of Wisconsin, the articles of association of the company, the vote of the stockholders, and resolution of the board of directors; and that the bearer of each bond was entitled to the security derived from a mortgage of the property and franchises of the company, executed to certain designated trustees, and to the benefits to be derived from a sinking fund, established by the mortgage, of all such sums of money as are received from the sales of lands granted to the company by the United States or by the State of Wisconsin.

To each of these bonds there was originally attached by a pin the certificate of scrip preferred stock which is referred to in the body of the instrument. This certificate was to the effect that the complainant was entitled to ten shares of the capital stock of the company, designated as 'scrip preferred stock;' and that upon the surrender of the certificate and accompanying bond, and all unmatured coupons thereon, at any time within ten days after any dividends should have been declared and become payable on the full stock of the preferred stocks of the company, the complainant should be entitled to receive ten shares of such full-paid preferred stock, and that this scrip preferred stock was only transferable on the books of the company at their office in the city of New York, in person or by attorney, on the surrender of the certificate.

In November, 1868, these bonds, with coupons and certificates attached, belonged to the complainant, and during that month were stolen from a bank in Bridgeport, Connecticut, together with a large amount of other property there on deposit. They were received in January and February, 1869, by the defendants, banking institutions in the city of New York, as collateral security for notes discounted by them, and were now held as such security for those notes, or new notes given in renewal of them, and they were received without actual notice of any defect in the holders' title. At that time the certificates of scrip preferred stock, originally pinned to the bonds, were detached from them.

And the questions for determination were, whether the agreement in the instruments as to the scrip preferred stock affected their negotiability, and whether the absence of the certificates attached was a circumstance sufficient to put the banks upon inquiry as to the title of the holder.

Mr. F. N. Bangs, for the appellant; Mr. J. S. Woodward, for the Tradesmen's National Bank, one of the appellees; and Mr. Henry N. Beach, for the National Shoe and Leather Bank of the City of New York, another.

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).