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United States Supreme Court

84 U.S. 411

Ray  v.  Smith

ERROR to the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama; the case being thus:

Smith, in November, 1866, sued Ray in the court below as the indorser of two negotiable notes, made by one Hark-away. The notes were both dated April 12th, 1861, and were made payable at the Bank of Mobile, one on the 1st day of March, 1862, and the other on the 1st day of November, in the same year. Both the maker and the indorser were then, and continued to be, citizens of the State of Alabama; and the holder of the notes was, and continued to be, a citizen of the State of New York. When the notes fell due in 1862, they were not presented for payment, in consequence of the war of the rebellion then existing, but they were presented in 1866, a certain time after the close of the war, and were dishonored. Notice of the dishonor was then given to the indorser.

The plaintiff alleged, in his declaration, as an excuse for the non-presentation of the notes at the time when they fell due, the existence of the civil war, and the residence of the holder in the State of New York, and that of the maker and indorser in Alabama, regions then at war with each other; and alleged further that he had presented the notes and given notice of the dishonor within a reasonable time after the termination of the war, specifying the date of the presentation, &c. The defendant set up that the date named was not reasonable in point of time. And evidence was given as to when the war ended and intercourse was resumed; when the notes could have been presented, and when they were in fact presented.

A portion of the evidence (descriptive of the course of business out of which the claim arose) was derived from a deposition of the plaintiff, taken de bene esse, which before the trial the defendant had moved to suppress. The court on this motion refused to suppress it. An exception was taken to this refusal, but on the trial it was read without objection.

It appeared in evidence that the maker of the notes, and Ray, the indorser, were partners in a business which was actively conducted by Ray; that after the notes were indorsed to the plaintiff, and before their maturity, Ray had in his hands of the profits of the business, belonging to the maker, a sum larger than the amount of the two notes; that this sum remained in his hands until after the notes matured, and that he was authorized to apply it to their payment, at their maturity. But it also appeared that he could not find the notes at their maturity, nor until the spring of 1866, at which time, as already said, they were presented to the maker for payment, and that before they were thus presented, the maker had instructed the defendant to apply the sum in his hands to the payment of other debts, which the defendant had done.

The court charged:

'If there were no evidence in this case that the maker of the notes in suit had provided the indorser with funds to discharge them at maturity, then the question whether the notes were legally presented for payment, and the question whether legal notice of protest was given to the indorser, would have had to be submitted to the jury. The evidence on this point is that Ray was provided by the maker of the notes with the means of indemnifying himself against his indorsement. He need not have parted with these means until the notes were paid and in his possession. He chose to do so, however, and cannot now complain of the want of demand on the maker, or notice of protest to himself. I therefore direct your verdict for the plaintiff for $1124.50, with interest thereon from the 4th March, 1862, and for $1124.50, with interest thereon from the 4th November, 1862.'

To this charge the defendant excepted, and offered to state to the court the grounds of his exceptions; but the court refused any such statement.

Messrs. R. T. Merrick and S. F. Rice, for the plaintiff in error, insisted:

1st. That the court had taken the case improperly from the jury.

2d. That it had improperly refused to suppress the deposition before the trial.

Mr. P. Phillips, contra.

Mr. Justice STRONG 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).