Miller v. Stewart - 22 U.S. 680 (1824)
U.S. Supreme Court
Miller v. Stewart, 22 U.S. 9 Wheat. 680 680 (1824)
Miller v. Stewart
22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 680
The contract of a surety is to be construed strictly, and is not to be extended beyond the fair scope of its terms.
Where a bond was given, conditioned for the faithful performance of the duties of the office of deputy collector of direct taxes for eight certain townships, and the instrument of the appointment, referred to in the bond, was afterwards altered so as to extend to another township without the consent of the sureties, held that the surety was discharged from his responsibility for moneys subsequently collected by his principal.
This was an action of debt upon bond, and the material facts disclosed in the pleadings were that the plaintiff, Ephraim Miner, being collector of the direct taxes and internal duties for the Fifth Collection District of New Jersey by an instrument of appointment, under seal and pursuant to law, appointed Stephen C. Ustick his deputy collector for eight townships within his
district. Upon that occasion, the defendant, Thomas Stewart, and certain other persons as sureties executed a writing obligatory, with Ustick, to Miller, in the penalty of $14,000 upon the following condition, viz.,
"The condition of the foregoing obligation is such, whereas Ephraim Miller, Esquire, collector, as aforesaid, hath, by authority vested in him by the laws of the United States, appointed the said Stephen B. Ustick, deputy collector of direct taxes and internal duties in the Fifth Collection District of New Jersey, for the Townships of Nottingham, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Springfield, New Hanover, Washington, Little Egg Harbor, and Burlington, in the County of Burlington, now therefore if the said Stephen C. Ustick has truly and faithfully discharged and shall continue truly and faithfully to discharge the duties of the said appointment according to law and shall particularly faithfully collect and pay according to law all money assessed upon said townships, then the above obligation to be void, and otherwise shall abide and remain in full force and virtue."
After the execution of this bond, and before Ustick had in any manner acted under this appointment or collected or received any moneys under the same, Miller, with the assent of Ustick but without the assent or knowledge of the defendant Stewart, altered the same instrument of appointment by interlining in it another township, called, "Willingborough," thereby making it an appointment for nine instead of eight townships, and under the appointment, so altered, Ustick received, within the original
eight townships, certain moneys as taxes which he omitted to account for, and this omission was the breach stated in the declaration. The question for the opinion of the court upon the special pleadings and demurrer was whether the alteration so made, without the consent of Stewart, discharged him from any responsibility for the moneys so subsequently collected by Ustick.