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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/77

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be done without interfering with the rights of the creditor. The latter, however, has the right to enforce payment of his debt in whatever way he thinks easiest and best, i. e., in whatever way he chooses; and equity cannot prevent the exercise of that right without a violation of law. If, then, the surety or his property should be compelled to pay the debt, the legal consequences would be, first, that the debt would be gone, and the debtor’s personal obligation to the creditor extinguished, for payment by the surety or by his property has the same legal effect as payment by the debtor or by his property; secondly, that, the personal obligation of the debtor being extinguished, the real obligation of his property would be extinguished also, for the latter is only accessory to the former, and hence it cannot exist without it. Moreover, other legal consequences to the surety would be, first, that the surety would lose the benefit of any legal priority that the creditor might have had over other creditors of the same debtor; secondly, that the surety would have no means of obtaining indemnity from the debtor unless he could prove a contract by the latter (either express or implied in fact) to indemnify him. But here equity employs a useful fiction in aid of the surety; for it treats the latter as having (not paid, but) purchased the debt. Hence, it treats the debt as still subsisting in equity until it is paid by the debtor or by his property. In other words, payment by the surety or by his property does not extinguish any of the rights of the creditor in equity, though it does at law; and yet, after payment by the surety or by his property, the creditor holds his rights, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the surety. This, therefore, is an instance in which equity creates one equitable right (namely, in the creditor), in order to make it the subject of another equitable right (namely, in favor of the surety).

There are other cases in which the object of subrogation is to obtain not exoneration, but contribution, namely, where there are several persons who ought in justice to contribute equally towards the discharge of a debt or other burden. Such is the case when there are several co-sureties for an insolvent debtor, or when several persons incur a debt jointly.

There is a class of cases in which the doctrine of subrogation seems to have been unwarrantably extended under the name of marshalling. For example, if the owner of houses A and B