McClellan v. Chipman
164 U.S. 347 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McClellan v. Chipman, 164 U.S. 347 (1896)

McClellan v. Chipman

Nos. 35-36

Argued April 28-29, 1896

Decided November 30, 1896

164 U.S. 347

Syllabus

The provisions of §§ 96 and 98 of c. 157 of the Public Statutes of Massachusetts, invalidating preferences made by insolvent debtors and assignments or transfers made in contemplation of insolvency, do not conflict with the provisions contained in Rev.Stat. §§ 5136 and 5137, relating to national banks and to mortgages of real estate made to them in good faith by way of security for debts previously contracted, and are valid when applied to claims of such banks against insolvent debtors.

National Bank v. Commonwealth, 9 Wall. 353, affirmed to the point that it is only when a state law incapacitates a national bank from discharging its duties to the government that it becomes unconstitutional, and Davis v. Elmira Savings Bank,161 U. S. 275, affirmed to the point that national banks are instrumentalities of the federal government, created for a public purpose, and as such necessarily subject to the paramount authority of the United States, and the two distinct propositions held to be harmonious.

The Traders' National Bank, a corporation organized under the banking laws of the United States, carried on its business in the City of Boston. The firm of Dudley Hall & Company, composed of Dudley Hall and Dudley C. Hall, were likewise engaged in business in Boston, and were customers of the bank, having a deposit account therein. By an understanding between the bank and the firm, made to induce the latter

Page 164 U. S. 348

to keep its deposit account with the former, the firm was to be considered as entitled to a line of discount on its paper to the extent of $20,000. On the 16th of October, 1890, the partnership then being in the enjoyment of its full agreed-on discount, borrowed from the bank an additional sum of $12,500, which was evidenced by a note of Dudley C. Hall at one month, endorsed by the firm, and secured by the pledge of certain shares of the Aetna Mining Company and by two notes of that company, amounting to about $2,500. When this note matured, on the 16th of November, 1890, a new demand note in an equal amount was given in renewal thereof, and was secured by the same collaterals. On the 17th of December, 1890, payment of this note was demanded, and, the debtor being unable to meet it, a new note at two months was given, the sum thereof was passed to the credit of the firm, and the old note was debited, cancelled, and surrendered. This new note was drawn, like the preceding one, by Hall and endorsed by the firm, and was secured, not only by the same collaterals, but also by a conveyance of two pieces of land made by Dudley C. Hall to A.D. McClellan, a director of the bank, he giving to Hall a writing, in which it was declared that the conveyance was made for the sole purpose of securing the note held by the bank, and that, on its payment, the land would be retransferred. In March, 1891, the firm suspended payment, and the members thereof were adjudged to be insolvent under the insolvency laws of the State of Massachusetts, and made to their assignees an assignment of all their property, as required by the statutes of the state. In May, the assignees brought a writ of entry against McClellan to recover the two pieces of land.

Sections 96 and 93 of chapter 157 of the Public Statutes of the State of Massachusetts, relied on by the assignees to sustain their action to recover the land, are as follows:

"SEC. 96. If a person, being insolvent or in contemplation of insolvency, within six months before the filing of the petition by or against him, with a view to give a preference to a creditor or person who has a claim against him, or is under any liability for him, procures any part of his property to be

Page 164 U. S. 349

attached, sequestered, or seized on execution, or makes any payment, pledge, assignment, transfer, or conveyance of any part of his property, either directly or indirectly, absolutely or conditionally, the person receiving such payment, pledge, assignment, transfer, or conveyance, or to be benefited thereby, having reasonable cause to believe such person is insolvent or in contemplation of insolvency, and that such payment, pledge, assignment or conveyance is made in fraud of the laws relating to insolvency, the same shall be void, and the assignees may recover the property or the value of it from the person so receiving it or so to be benefited."

"SEC. 98. If a person, being insolvent or in contemplation of insolvency, within six months before the filing of the petition by or against him, makes a sale, assignment, transfer, or other conveyance of any description of any part of his property to a person who then has reasonable cause to believe him to be insolvent or in contemplation of insolvency, and that such sale, assignment, transfer, or other conveyance is made with a view to prevent the property from coming to his assignee in insolvency, or to prevent the same from being distributed under the laws relating to insolvency, or to defeat the object of, or in any way to impair, hinder, impede, or delay the operation and effect of, or to evade any of said provisions, the sale, assignment, transfer or conveyance thereof shall be void, and the assignee may recover the property or the value thereof as assets of the insolvent. And if such sale, assignment, transfer, or conveyance is not made in the usual and ordinary course of business of the debtor, that fact shall be prima facie evidence of such cause of belief."

The action was tried before a jury, and there was a verdict in favor of the surviving assignee, and exceptions were filed and allowed. While these exceptions were pending before the Supreme Judicial Court, the Traders' Bank filed its bill in equity against the surviving assignee of the estate of Dudley C. Hall and Dudley Hall and A.D. McClellan, setting up its right under the conveyance made to McClellan, the bringing of the writ of entry, and the fact that the bank had not been made party defendant therein. The bill charged

Page 164 U. S. 350

that the complainant, as a national bank, was entitled to take the conveyance of the real estate to secure the debt of Hall, and that the provisions of the statutes of Massachusetts which were relied on by the assignees were in conflict with sections 5136, 5137, Revised Statutes of the United States. The bill prayed that he assignee and McClellan be permanently enjoined from proceeding under the writ of entry and the exceptions filed therein; that McClellan be ordered to apply the proceeds of the property to the payment of the note and loan secured thereby. After due pleading, the issues tendered were reported by the presiding justice for the consideration of the full court upon certain questions of law reserved, and the full court affirmed the verdict of the jury and judgment thereon in the writ of entry case, and dismissed the bill in equity.

So far as concerned the federal question, the court held that there was no conflict between sections 5136 and 5137 of the Revised Statutes of the United States and sections 96 and 98 of chapter 157 of the Public Statutes of Massachusetts. Both cases were brought here by writ of error.

Page 164 U. S. 356

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