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United States Supreme Court

80 U.S. 6

Yeager  v.  Farwell

ERROR to the Circuit Court for the District of Missouri, the case being thus:

Yeager & Co., shippers of flour, in St. Louis, and intimately associated with one Kerckhoff, a miller of that place, who was then building a mill, and needing $15,000 to complete it, wrote to Farwell & Co., flour commission merchants and capitalists, of Boston, intimate correspondents of their own, telling them what Kerckhoff was doing; that he wanted $15,000; that he would give security by trust deed on a valuable farm near St. Louis; that the security was good, and urging them to lend him the amount, 'for, say one or two years, or even one year, after which,' says the letter, 'we would make the advances ourselves.' As an inducement for 'coming to a favorable conclusion on their proposition,' they request Farwell & Co. to bear in mind that they, Farwell & Co., will get, as flour commission merchants in Boston, a large share of the business of the new mill.

Farwell & Co. did not (so far as their real wishes were expressed in their letters) seem much disposed to lend the money; at least they wanted 13 per cent. interest. However, on some remonstrance at such a rate from Yeager & Co., who proposed 10 per cent., they conclude 'to come as near the wishes of Yeager & Co. as they can,' and to lend the money at 12 per cent., provided, 'first and foremost,' they can feel that the farm is good and ample security beyond a question, for which certainty they say that they rely on Yeager & Co. 'The rate of interest,' they add, 'in itself is no object, for we can use our money to better advantage in Boston; but, desiring very much,' they continue, 'to accommodate you, and for the further consideration of getting a large share of the business of the new mill, we are willing to lend you the money on the above terms, but shall be very glad if you can obtain it more cheaply.'

Yeager & Co. now directed a note for the $15,000 and a trust deed of the farm to be prepared, and both were executed and the deed put on record. For some reason the rate of interest on both was put at 10 per cent, instead of 12, the rate agreed on. There were also certain clerical errors in the deed of trust, showing some carelessness in the preparation of it. Farwell & Co., on receiving the papers, and not having themselves as yet advanced any part of the money (though Yeager & Co. had advanced about $4000 to Kerckhoff as on account of the $15,000), noted the departure from the rate of interest proposed, as also the clerical errors in the deed. They accordingly returned both papers to Yeager & Co., saying, in regard to the interest, that unless a new note should be made, the drafts on them by Kerckhoff must be for 2 per cent. less, and requesting, unconditionally, that one of the clerical errors, deemed by them more important, in the deed, should be rectified, remarking that they think it better to have it put right 'in the beginning.' In the letter inclosing the papers they add:

'And, too, we will thank your Mr. Yeager to indorse the notes in the name of your firm, or his individual name, as may be preferred. This will do him no harm, and will be an accommodation to us.'

Yeager did accordingly indorse the note with his firm's name, and the clerical error in the deed and in the record of it was corrected. After this, the balance of the $15,000 was advanced by Farwell & Co. to Kerckhoff as drawn for by him.

The note, which by its terms was payable at one of the banks in Boston, fell due October 15th to 18th, 1867, but it was not paid, neither was demand of payment made, or any notice of dishonor given to the indorsers, Yeager & Co.

On the 18th of October, 1867, the last day of grace, Yeager & Co., not knowing, of course, what had or had not been, or would or would not be then done in or about the note in Boston, wrote this letter from St. Louis to Farwell & Co.:

ST. LOUIS, October 18th, 1867.


Mr. Kerckhoff fully expected to be able to place funds in our hands in time for us to have them with you to-day to meet his note of $15,000, but owing to the stringency of the money market, he has been unable thus far to complete arrangements to raise the money so as to have it in your hands to-day; but in a week or ten days it will be forthcoming, and he assures us it will be done without fail, and feels very sorry that circumstances were such as to prevent his meeting the note at maturity. We also feel very much annoyed about it, but we hold ourselves responsible for the payment of this note, and shall see that it is done at an early day. Thanking you for your many acts of kindness to us, we are

Yours, very truly,


Of course this letter did not reach Boston until some days after the last day of grace.

The note not being paid, the farm was sold under the trust deed, but did not bring enough to pay the sum due on the note. Thereupon Farwell & Co. sued Yeager & Co., in assumpsit, as indorsers of the note. The defences were:

1. That the indorsement was made at the instance and special request of the plaintiffs, after the note had passed into their possession, solely as an accommodation to them, and without any value or consideration whatever.

2. That if this was not so, and if Yeager & Co. had ever been liable as indorsers, they had been discharged by want of demand on the maker, and notice of non-payment to them.

The plaintiffs disclaimed all demand on the defendants as guarantors.

The court charged 'that if Yeager & Co. placed their names on the back of the note before the negotiations for the loan by the plaintiffs was closed, or before the plaintiffs advanced any money on the said loan, they were liable as indorsers.'

Verdict and judgment accordingly, and writ of error here.

Messrs. G. P. Strong, Slayback, and Haeussler, for the plaintiffs in error:

The suit is against Yeager & Co., as indorsers simply No claim is made on them as guarantors. Now,

1st. The indorsement was made after the execution of the papers, and after the record of the trust deed, by which the lien on the farm attached. It was purely at the instance of Farwell & Co. as 'an accommodation' to them, and on their assurance that it should do 'no harm' to Yeager. On such an indorsement the original indorsers cannot recover. [1]

2d. If this is not so, still the whole case of the other side rests on Yeager & Co.'s letter of the 18th October, 1867. But, when this letter reached Boston and was accepted, Yeager & Co. had been discharged from all liability for several days. The idea of the court below was, of course, that the letter was a waiver of demand of payment, and notice of non-payment. But there is not a word in the letter about either. To give such a letter value, for the purpose for which it is used, the other side should show that, in consequence of it, the holder of the note had omitted to make demand and to give notice (which assumes that the letter had been written before the time for demand); or show (if the letter was written after the demand) that it was written with full notice of the fact that no demand was made. Neither can be here pretended. The letter is used as a mere godsend in the case, and to reimpose, without consideration, a liability confessedly once clear gone. That it cannot do. [2]

Mr. T. T. Gantt, contra.

Mr. Justice DAVIS delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  Moore v. Maddock, 33 Missouri, 575; Dowe v. Schutt, 2 Denio, 624; Corlies v. Howe, 11 Gray, 127; Slade v. Hood, 13 Id. 99; Parish v. Stone, 14 Pickering, 201; Schoonmaker v. Roosa, 17 Johnson, 304.

^2  Freeman v. Boynton, 7 Massachusetts, 488; Garland v. Salem Bank, 9 Id. 408; Low v. Howard, 11 Cushing 268 Kelley v. Brown, 5 Gray, 108; Cayuga Bank v. Dill, 5 Hill, 404.

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).