Miltenberger v. Cooke , 85 U.S. 421 ( 1874 )

  • 85 U.S. 421 (1873)
    18 Wall. 421


    Supreme Court of United States.

    *425 Messrs. J.A. and D.G. Campbell, for the plaintiff in error.

    Mr. O.D. Barret, contra

    *426 Mr. Justice SWAYNE delivered the opinion of the court.

    The question presented for our determination is whether the securities upon which the judgment was recovered, are fatally tainted with illegality.

    Cooke was the collector of internal revenue for one of the collection districts of Mississippi. Curtis was his deputy. New Orleans was the designated place of deposit for the *427 revenue collected. In the state of things then existing in Mississippi, it was dangerous for the collector to have money about him. He, therefore, advertised that he would receive payment of the tax upon cotton by drafts upon New Orleans. He took such drafts instead of money as a matter of safety. Nearly all the revenue paid was thus collected. He received a half million of dollars or more in this way. All the drafts taken were paid, except those in question in this case and one or two others. None were received but such as were considered good. The collector was authorized to transmit to New Orleans the moneys collected by buying exchange. When the drafts were given the bales were marked as if the tax had been paid, and the requisite permit for their removal was delivered. The drafts in question were taken by Curtis, by the authority of Cooke, and indorsed by the former to the latter. They were all received for the tax not otherwise paid, upon cotton shipped to Miltenberger & Co. by Caruthers & Co., the drawers of the drafts. Caruthers & Co. drew them pursuant to a letter from the plaintiffs in error, which, under such circumstances, authorized them to be drawn, and promised to accept and pay them. Curtis took the drafts upon the faith of this letter. Miltenberger & Co. were advised at the time of the drawing of each draft and of the shipment of the cotton, upon which it was founded. Cooke, in these as in all other instances of the kind, reported the tax to the government as paid, and charged himself accordingly, and was so charged upon the books of the Treasury Department. He considered the tax paid by such transactions, and the drafts wholly at his risk. The proper officers of the revenue bureau, with knowledge of the facts, have left his account open as to the amount of these drafts, and given him time to collect them.

    Such is the case upon the facts as presented in the record.

    The act of August 6th, 1846,[*] requires all taxes and duties accruing to the government to be paid in gold and silver, or treasury notes. The act of July 13th, 1866,[†] imposed a tax *428 of three cents per pound upon all cotton raised in the United States, and required the tax to be paid in the district where it was produced before its removal, with an exception which does not affect this case. The collector, upon receiving payment, was required to mark the bales and packages accordingly, and to give the owner or person in charge of the cotton a permit for its removal, stating the amount and payment of the tax, the time and place of payment, and the marks upon the bales and packages, so that they could be identified; and it was made his duty to keep an account of all cotton inspected and of the marks and identifications, and of all permits for removal issued, and of all his transactions in relation thereto, and to make full returns monthly to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

    The judgment of the court below must be sustained upon several grounds:

    As between the parties, the tax was paid by Cooke for Caruthers & Co. His marking the bales, giving the permit, charging himself with the amount, and reporting it to the government as paid, had that effect. The result was the same to Caruthers & Co. as if so much money had been advanced at their request, and so applied for their benefit. They were permitted to ship the cotton to the plaintiffs in error, in all respects as if the money had been actually paid and the requisite vouchers had been given upon the basis of such payment. The assumpsit of the collector supplied the place of the money. No demand has been made by the government against Caruthers & Co. They have had the full benefit of the arrangement. As between them and Cooke, the transaction is as if Cooke had lent Caruthers & Co. the amount in gold or silver, or treasury notes, with one hand, and received it back with the other. It has been held that promissory notes given under such circumstances can be enforced by the payee.[*]

    *429 Conceding that the transaction was illegal, the statutory provisions relied upon by the plaintiffs in error are for the protection and benefit of the United States, and it was for the latter to object or not as they deemed proper. In this view of the case, they could have repudiated the transaction and called upon Caruthers & Co. for payment. With full knowledge of the facts they chose not to do so. The matter was one between them and their agent. The option to object belonged to the government and cannot be exercised by those who have not and could not have been injured.

    The written promise of the plaintiffs in error to accept these drafts was equivalent to acceptance. No question is raised upon that subject by their counsel. After notice of the drawing of the drafts, and the sale of the cotton, they had so much money in their hands to be applied according to their engagement. There was no stipulation between them and Cooke. Their contract was with Caruthers & Co. When the money was received for the cotton they held it in trust for Cooke, and their sole duty and business in relation to it was to pay it over upon the drafts when called for, according to their agreement. If they paid it to Caruthers & Co. they did so in their own wrong. The fact in no wise affected their liability to Cooke and is not an element in the case to be considered. In no view can they be permitted to keep the money for their own use, or avail themselves of a payment made in violation of Cooke's rights and their duty. They can no more object to the consideration of the drafts than if the money were still in their hands. For the purposes of this case, it must be regarded as there when payment of the drafts was demanded.

    It is a consideration of weight, though not controlling, that there is nothing disclosed which looks like fraud on the part of the defendant in error. There was neither concealment, indirection, nor oppression. Nothing beyond the tax was demanded or stipulated to be paid. Caruthers & Co. received in full the consideration upon which the drafts were drawn, and the defendants in full the consideration upon which they agreed to accept and pay them. It would *430 be contrary to equity and good conscience, as well as the law, to permit the plaintiffs in error to cast upon the defendant in error the burden of the loss to which they have endeavored to subject him.



    [*] Brightly's Digest, 888.

    [†] 14 Stat. at Large, 98.

    [*] St. Alban's Bank v. Dillon & McGowan, 30 Vermont, 122; Kelley v. Noyes, 43 New Hampshire, 211; see also Smith v. Mawhood, 14 Meeson & Welsby, 463.

Document Info

Citation Numbers: 85 U.S. 421, 18 Wall. 421, 21 L. Ed. 864, 1873 U.S. LEXIS 1317

Judges: Swayne

Filed Date: 1/19/1874

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/14/2017