1 U.S. 188 (1786)

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U.S. Supreme Court

JAMES v. ALLEN, 1 U.S. 188 (1786)

1 U.S. 188 (Dall.)

James et al.

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County

September Term, 1786

The case was this: The Plaintiffs and the Defendant had been concerned together in trade; and upon settling their accounts, a considerable ballance appeared against Allen; for the recovery of which an action was brought in the State of New Jersey in May 1782; and judgment was therein obtained in November following, when a Fi. fa. issued, and on a return of Nulia bona to that writ, a Ca. Sa. was sued out returnable to May 1783 In the mean time, the Defendant, on the 27th of April 1783, was arrested in Pennsylvania for the same debt, and gave bail; but, on his return to New Jersey, he was there taken on the Ca. Sa. which

Page 1 U.S. 188, 189

had issued in that State against him; and, afterwards, in October, 1783, was discharged by their Act of Insolvency. A rule to plead had been entered in the action brought in Pennsylvania at June Term 1783, and judgment was signed for want of a plea, at the ensuing September Term. Bradford moved to set the judgment of this Court aside, or to open it in order to admit the Defendant to plead the proceedings and discharge in New Jersey. Upon the argument it was stated, and agreed, that no person was entitled to relief under the Insolvent Law of New Jersey, who was not born in that state, or had not resided in it one year free from arrest; that a man indebted to any amount was entitled to the benefit of it; that a person not in execution was not excluded; that the Act requires notice to be inserted in the public papers of New York if the debtor lives in East Jersey, or in those of Pennsylvania if he lives in West Jersey; and that every debtor, who complied with the terms of the Act, became thereby expressly discharged from all debts due at the time of the assignment of his effects for the use of his creditors, or contracted for before that time and payable after, 'so far as regards the imprisonment or detention of his person.' Bradford and Lewis, in support of the motion, contended that the benefit and effect of the New Jersey law ought, in the present case, to be extended to Pennsylvania, as well by the general principle of the law of nations, a by the particular obligation arising from the articles of confederation. 1. They observed, that by the Law of Nations, every transaction, not yet compleated, which has a view to its completion in a foreign country, must be determined according to the municipal law of that country: But, if perfectly compleat in the country in which it originated, the Lex Loci that decided, must protect it in every other country where the validity of the transaction is called in question. 1 Black. Rep. 258. 2 Burr. 1078. Finch 186. 2 Show. 231. If the validity of a contract depends upon the laws of a foreign country in which it is perfected, and cannot be affected by any arguments drawn from the laws of the country where a subsequent action is brought, certainly a judicial decision (which, like an Act once in force, but afterwards repealed, vests a right in the party, though its immediate operation is impeded) cannot be otherwise expounded and enforced than by the laws of the country where it is pronounced: And proceedings under the Insolvent Act amount to a judicial decision; for, they determine a debt, and give a remedy. Sir T. Raym. 473. They might, indeed, be said to amount to more; as, in giving the creditor all the advantage of the debtor's effects they become a species of execution, and, therefore, may be considered a satisfaction. It is no small injustice, when a debtor has been compelled to assign all his effects, when he has given every satisfaction that he possibly can, to pursue his footsteps, on every charge of situation, and commit him again and again into custody. If the suit in New Jersey had terminated in another manner, for instance, [1 U.S. 188, 190]

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