Open main menu

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

54 U.S. 268

Neves  v.  Scott

THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Georgia.

It was argued at December term, 1849, and is reported in 9 How. 196. It being suggested afterwards that, at the time when the case was argued and decided, Richard Rowell, the principal defendant, was dead, the judgment was stricken out and the cause argued again.

It was argued by Mr. Johnson, for the appellants, and Mr. Cone, for the appellees.

Mr. Cone, for the appellees made the following points:

1st. The marriage contract is executory; it conveys no titles, and creates no trusts, nor does it impair or abridge the rights of the husband during the continuance of the coverture. 2 Story's Eq. Jur. sects. 1, 379, 380, 381, 382, 383. Clancy on Rights, 269; Hill on Trustees, 420.

2d. Roper on Husband and Wife, 156, 161; Scarborough v. Bowman, 1 Beav. 34; Stanton v. Hall, 2 R. & M. 180; Harkins v. Colton, 2 Porter's Rep. 463; Cook v. Kinny, 12 Alabama Rep. 42; Stewart v. Stewart, 7 Johns. Ch. Rep. 229; 7 Smedes & Marshall's Rep. 798; Lee v. Perdue, 3 Brown's Chancery Rep. 358.

The fact that the parties to the contract considered it as final, and contemplated no further settlement, cannot alter its legal character or change its legal effect. Hester, Executor, v. Young, 2 Georgia Rep. 45, 46; Barker v. Giles, Rice, Eq. R. 516; Lee v. Perdue, 3 Brown's Chancery Rep. 381; Hill on Trustees, 84; Antrobus v. Smith, 12 Ves. 39; 6 Humph. Rep. 127.

2d. The complainants are not within the marriage consideration, and do not claim through any person, that is, they claim not as heirs, but as purchasers under the articles; they are, therefore, volunteers. Osgood v. Strode, 2 P. Williams. 255; Goodwin v. Goodwin, 1 Ves. 228; Tudor v. Anson, 2 Ves. 582; Marston v. Gowan, 3 Bro. Ch. 170; Strode v. Russel, 2 Vern. 621; Bias v. Bias, 2 Ves. 164; Atherley on Mar. Set. 66, 73, 74, 75; Story's Eq. Jur. sect. 986; Kittery v. Atwood, 1 Vern. 298, 471; 2 P. Williams, 172; 1 P. Williams, 483; Beatson v. Beatson, 12 Sim. 281; Goring v. Nash, 3 Atk. 186; Holt v. Holt, 2 P. Williams, 248; Johnson v. Legard, Turner & Russell, 281, 293; Colgate v. Mulgrave, 2 Kenn, 98; Salton v. Chetwynd, 3 Meriv. 249; 6 Maule & Selw. 60.

3d. Courts of equity will not interpose in favor of volunteers, either upon a contract, covenant, or settlement. 2 Story's Eq. sects. 793, 973, 986, 987; 1 Turner & Russell, 296; Coleman v. Sarel, 2 Ves. Jr. 50; Hill on Trustees, 83; Atherley on Mar. Set. 72, 73, 74, 76; 2 Story's Eq. Jur. 372, 433, 706, 787; Jeffreys v. Jeffreys, 1 Craig & Phil. 138, 141; Ellison v. Ellison, 6 Ves. 656; Colman v. Sarel, 3 Brown's Ch. 12; Edwards v. Jones, 1 Mylne & Craig, 226; Dillon v. Coffin, 4 Mylne & Craig, 647; Halloway v. Headington, 8 Sim. 324, 571; Meek v. Hallowell, 1 Hare, 464, 475; Wycherly v. Wycherly, 2 Eden, 177; 2 Keen, 81, 123, 134.

4th. But if there were any doubt in relation to the soundness of the foregoing positions, the law of Georgia upon these points has been settled by a decision of the Supreme Court of that State, made upon the contract now under consideration, and being a contract made in Georgia, and to be executed in Georgia, its character, interpretation, force, and effect, must be governed by the laws of that State.

Carroll v. Renich, 7 Smedes & Marshall, 798; 12 Wheat. 153, 167; 5 Pet. 151; 6 Pet. 172; 8 Pet. 361; 8 How. 170; 1 Gall. Circuit Court Rep. 160, 371.

In the case of Merritt et al. v. Scott & Beall, 6 Georgia Rep. 563, the questions now presented to this court upon this contract came before the Supreme Court of that State. That court established the following positions:

1st. That marriage articles, like those now under consideration, will be specifically executed upon the application of any person within the scope of the consideration of such marriage, or claiming under such person.

2d. That in no case whatever will courts of equity interpose in favor of mere volunteers, whether it be a voluntary contract, or a covenant, or a settlement, however meritorious may be the consideration, and although they stand in the relation of a wife or child.

3d. That where a bill is brought by a person who is within the scope of the marriage consideration, or claiming under them there, courts of equity will decree a specific execution throughout, as well in favor of mere volunteers as plaintiffs in the suit.

4th. That no persons are within the marriage consideration but the husband and wife and their issues; that all others are volunteers.

5th. That the complainants in that case (who occupied the exact position that the complainants do in this case in relation to the contract) were not entitled to the aid of a court of equity to enforce the covenant in their favor.

6th. That although the contract under consideration made no provision for the issue of the marriage, yet that did not aid the case of the complainants; that they were still volunteers, and as such, not entitled to the aid of a court of equity.

7th. That the decree rendered in the case of Catherine Neves against Richard Rowell was not such a partial execution of the marriage contract as would enure to the benefit of complainants, nor could said decree be invoked in their favor; and that they were not entitled to the discovery and relief that they sought.

Mr. Justice CURTIS 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).