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United States Supreme Court

33 U.S. 281

Mumma  v.  Potomac Company

IN error to the circuit court of the United States for the county of Washington in the District of Columbia.

At a circuit court of the District of Columbia, held at Washington city, on the first Monday of June 1818, Jacob Mumma, the plaintiff in error, recovered a judgment against the Potomac Company, the defendants in error, for the sum of five thousand dollars. No steps were taken to enforce the payment of the judgment, nor any further proceedings had in relation thereto, until the 18th day of April 1828, on which day a writ of scire facias was issued from the clerk's office of said court, against the said Potomac Company, to revive said judgment, which case was continued, by consent of parties, from term to term until December term of said court, in the year 1830, at which term the following plea and statement were filed by the consent of parties.

'The attorneys, upon the record of the said defendants, now here suggest and show to the court, that since the rendition and record of said judgment, the said Potomac Company, in due pursuance and execution of the provisions of the charter of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, enacted by the states of Maryland and Virginia, and by the congress of the United States, have duly signified their assent to said charter, &c., and have duly surrendered their charter and conveyed in due form of law, to the said Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, all the property, rights and privileges by them owned, possessed and enjoyed under the same, which surrender and transfer from said Potomac Company, have been duly accepted by the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, as appears by the corporate acts and proceedings of said company, and final deed of surrender from the said Potomac Company, dated on the 15th of August 1828, duly executed and recorded in the several counties of the states of Virginia and Maryland and the District of Columbia, wherein said Potomac Company held any lands, and wherein the canals and works of said company were situated; which said corporate acts and proceedings the said attorneys here bring into court, &c., whereby the said attorneys say, the charter of said Potomac Company became and is vacated and annulled, and the company and the corporate franchises of the same are extinct, &c.'

Whereupon the following statement and agreement were entered into and signed by the council for both parties, and made a part of the record.

'The truth of the above suggestion is admitted; and it is agreed to be submitted to the court, whether, under such circumstances, any judgment can be rendered against the Potomac Company upon this scire facias, reviving the judgment in said writ mentioned, and that reference for the said corporate acts and proceedings, and the deed in the above suggestion mentioned, be had to the printed collection of acts, &c. &c., printed and published by authority of the president and directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company in 1828.'

The circuit court gave judgment for the defendants, and the plaintiff prosecuted this writ of error.

The case was argued by Mr Brent and Mr Tabbs, for the plaintiff in error; and by Mr Jones and Mr Coxe, for the defendants.

For the plaintiff in error, it was contended,

1st. The corporated existence of the Potomac Company, was not so totally destroyed by the operation of the deed of surrender, as to defeat the rights and remedies of its creditors.

2d. The deed of surrender violates its obligation of contract, and can derive no legal effect from the several legislative acts which purport to authorize it.

After the counsel for the plaintiff in error, and for the defendants, had proceeded in the discussion of the case, the court intimated that 'the agreement of the counsel completely covered the first point, and precluded any examination of it. The arguments on this point are therefore omitted.

Upon the second point, the counsel for the plaintiff in error contended, that the surrender of the property by the Potomac Company to the Chesapeake and Ohio Company, was void, as it operated to impair the lien acquired by the judgment. The acts of the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland would be unconstitutional if such were their operation, as they would violate the contract under which the judgment was obtained. Upon this point the following authorities were cited. Sturges v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. 207, 5 Cond. Rep. 409; Green v. Biddle, 8 Wheat. 84, 5 Cond. Rep. 369; Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87, 2 Cond. Rep. 308; Terret v. Taylor, 9 Cranch 43, 3 Cond. Rep. 254; Town of Pawlet v. Clarke, 9 Cranch 292, 3 Cond. Rep. 408; Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518, 4 Cond. Rep. 526; Calder and Wife v. Bull, 3 Dallas 286, 1 Cond. Rep. 172; Dash v. Van Kluh, 7 Johns. 492, 499; 2 Gallison 139; Gilmore v. Shuter, 2 Mad. 210; 2 Lev. 227; Couch v. Jeffries, 4 Burr. 2460.

Mr Jones and Mr Coxe, argued that the lien of the judgment remained, and thus no violation of the constitutional guarantee of the vested right of the plaintiff in error was the consequence of the surrender of the property. If the judgment of the plaintiff could have been enforced against the property of the Potomac Company, the same right to proceed against the same property in the lands of the Chesapeake and Ohio Company existed.

Under this view of the case, the proceedings of the Potomac Company could have no effect on the rights of the plaintiff in error.

Mr Justice STORY delivered the opinion of the Court.


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).