GRAEME v. HARRIS
1 U.S. 456

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U.S. Supreme Court

GRAEME v. HARRIS, 1 U.S. 456 (1789)

1 U.S. 456 (Dall.)

Graeme et. al. Admors
v.
Harris

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

September Term, 1789

This Cause came before the Court on a case stated, which was, in substance, as follows: The intestate, John Graeme, in his life time, to wit, in December term 1772, obtained a Judgement against the Defendant, in a plea of debt, in the County Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. He afterwards died, being resident at the time of his death in Great Britain, of which kingdom he was a subject. Upon his decease, the Plaintiffs obtained Letters of Administration from the Archbishop of York, in the said kingdom, which bore date the 25th of June 1784; but to this action, which was a scire facias to revive the above-mentioned Judgment, the Defendant pleaded, that the Plaintiffs never were Administrators: Issue was thereupon joined; and this question submitted to the opinion of the Court, whether under the authority of the Letters of Administration granted by the Archbishop of York, the Plaintiffs could maintain the present action?

The point was argued on the 26th of September, by Rawle, for the Plaintiffs, and by Sergeant and Swift for the Defendant.

Rawle relied on the Act of Assembly, which declares, that Letters of Administration granted out of the Province were sufficient for the

Page 1 U.S. 456, 457

purpose of bringing actions. State Laws. 30. He urged, that this law, as well as other laws of the Province, was recognized and confirmed by the act of the 28th of January, 1777; that such letters of administration were a competent authority by the law of nations; Godb. 33. 47. and that it had been determined in a sister State, that letters of administration granted in New York, were sufficient to maintain actions in Connecticut. Kirb. Rep. 270.

Serjeant and Swift contended, that the necessary operation of the Revolution, had altered the law declared in the act of Assembly, and the words 'out of the province,' were evidently meant of places within the British dominions. They urged, that this was an attempt to give more force to the letters of administration, than they would be entitled to even in the British dominions; for, it there were bona notabilia, in England, and in Ireland, letters of administration must be taken out in both kingdoms. 2 Bac. Abr. 399. II Vin. 59. pl. 6. ibid. 74 pl. 1. or, even if there were bona notabilia in two different provinces, as Canterbury and York, letters of administration must be granted in each. Palm. 163. The arguments ab inconvenienti, are likewise in favor of the Defendant; for, if this authority is good, the creditors of the intestate must pursue the administrators in England, or any foreign country, where the law differs with respect to the priority of debts. Besides, the security given by administrators, is only with relation to the apparent value of the personal estate where administration is granted. See 2 State Laws 41. Art. of Confed. art. 4. Const. Penn. sect. 34.

The Court, having considered the case and arguments, were unanimously of opinion, that the letters of administration, granted by the archbishop of York, were not a sufficient authority to maintain an action in this Commonwealth; and gave, Judgment for the Defendant.


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