Mechanics Bank of Alexandria v. Lynn
26 U.S. 376 (1828)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mechanics Bank of Alexandria v. Lynn, 26 U.S. 1 Pet. 376 376 (1828)

Mechanics Bank of Alexandria v. Lynn

26 U.S. (1 Pet.) 376

Syllabus

A court of equity ought not to decree specific performance of a contract to the letter where, from change of circumstances, mistake, or misapprehension it would be unconscientious so to do. The court may so modify the agreement as to do justice as far as circumstances will permit, and refuse specific execution unless the party seeking it will comply with such modifications as justice requires.

If a bill charges a defendant with notice of a particular fact, an answer must be given without a special interrogatory to the matter. But a defendant is not bound to answer an interrogatory not warranted by some matter contained in a former part of the bill.

When a judgment debtor comes into the court asking protection on the ground that he has satisfied the judgment, the door is fully open for the court to modify or grant the prayer upon such conditions as justice demands.

The appellee filed his bill on the chancery side of the Circuit Court for the County of Alexandria in the District of Columbia against the Mechanics Bank of Alexandria to enjoin the bank from proceeding upon a judgment at law which the bank had obtained against him and upon which an execution had issued and he had been taken and confined.

The bill stated that the judgment which had been obtained against the complainant was for what is called, according to the bank phrase, "an overdraw," amounting to $1,573.85, and that after this judgment had been obtained, he had made a deed of trust to Thomas F. Mason to secure the payment of his debts, and that this judgment against him was among the first to be paid, and also that the security provided in the deed was ample for that object.

The bill then states that the complainant, after this deed had been made, entered into a settlement with the bank of the various claims which they had against him, and agreed with them upon certain modes of payment of his debts, and among others of the judgment of $1,573.85 for the overdraw. That this $1,573.85 was to be paid out of the trust fund conveyed to Mr. Mason; and as an evidence of it, the bill refers to the account stated in the written settlement, in which the defendant Lynn is charged with the judgment for the overdraw, and credited by "the security in deed to Mason for overdraw."

The bill alleges also that in pursuance of this settlement, the complainant carried into effect the terms of the said settlement, and that everything due from him to the bank was satisfied,

Page 26 U. S. 377

except the sum of $3,700, which was to be secured to the satisfaction of the bank; and that so far as respected this $3,700, he had offered security, such as the committee of the bank had considered ample, and such as the bank ought to have accepted, but which they refused to accept.

The bill then alleges that notwithstanding this settlement and the fulfillment of it on the part of the complainant, the bank had issued an execution against him upon the judgment for "the overdraw," and had confined him in the bounds of the jail under the execution, and prayed he might be relieved from his imprisonment and that the bank should look to the security provided in the deed of trust to Mason and to that fund only. Upon this bill an injunction was granted, and the complainant was released from his confinement under the execution.

The appellants filed an answer to this bill, and among other things stated that they had agreed upon a settlement with the complainant of the various claims which the bank had upon him. That they were very desirous of securing the payment of these claims, and in order to effect the said settlement, they had given up to the complainant $784,04, and had agreed to take his bank stock and property at prices above their value, and had also agreed to take their payment for "the overdraw" out of the trust fund in Mason's hands, provided they could have had the full benefit thereof. They admit that in pursuance of this agreement the defendant Lynn did transfer to the bank his stock and lands leaving nothing unpaid, but the judgment for "the overdraw," and the sum of $3,700 which was to have been secured to the satisfaction of the bank. They refer to the articles of agreement to show that the security to be given for this $3,700 was to be such as was satisfactory to the board of directors, and the answer states that it never was secured to their satisfaction, and that no tender or offer of security was ever made that ought to have been acceded to by the bank, and that the bank was right in refusing the security offered.

The answer also states that as to the judgment for the overdraw, it never was satisfied, and that the deed of trust to Mason was entirely inoperative as to this debt, and was made upon such terms that the bank could not accede to them. That their cashier, immediately after the agreement had been entered into between Lynn and the bank, had called upon the trustee, Mr. Mason, to know whether the bank might expect payment from that fund, and was informed by him that one of the conditions of the deed was that the creditors accepting the benefit of the deed should within six months of the date of it release to Lynn all claims and demands which they had upon him; that this deed had been executed on 16 November, 1820, and

Page 26 U. S. 378

that the agreement of Lynn with the bank had been executed on 19 May, 1821, so that the six months had in fact expired before the said agreement had been made. The trustee therefore informed the cashier that the bank was not entitled to any benefit under that deed, and that they could not reckon upon that fund for the payment of their said judgment. The answer then states that the bank, finding it was not entitled to any benefit from the trust funds, and seeing no other means of payment from Lynn, had resorted to an execution upon their judgment, and he was accordingly taken in execution and remained in execution nearly a year, until it became necessary for him to take the oath of insolvency, and under these circumstances he obtained the injunction, and they prayed that it might be dissolved.

The deed of trust of Mason bearing date 16 November 1820, was filed as an exhibit with the bill of Lynn, the complainant. This deed has in it the following proviso, viz.,

"Provided always however, and it is hereby expressly required that each and every of the aforesaid creditors, before they receive the benefit of this deed, shall sign and execute a full and complete discharge from all claims and demands whatsoever against the said Adam Lynn, and the period of six months shall be and is hereby allowed them from the date of this instrument to come in and elect and sign such discharge, and the dividend or share to which each and all of those who may refuse or neglect for the space of six months as above allowed, for that purpose, to sign and execute such discharge as aforesaid, shall go and be disposed of for the benefit of such of the aforesaid creditors as shall accept of the terms of this deed, and in the order above directed."

The agreement entered into between the defendant Lynn and the bank, was also made an exhibit with the bill. It bears date on 29 May, 1821, and so far as respects the matter in dispute is as follows, viz.,:

"ARTICLE 1. That the account of A. Lynn, with the Mechanics Bank be stated as follows:"

To A. Lynn's stock note $15,360 00

Mrs. Buckland and Mrs. Coryton's 125.00

A. Lynn's note endorsed R. Yount 11,100.00

Interest on do. to 4th May, 1820 320.00

Interest on do. 36.54

Overdraw 1,573.85

Five protests 8.75

----------

$29,880.19

By A. Lynn's stock $21,014.50

Discount 10 percent 2,101.45

---------- 18,913.05

By Mrs. B. & Mrs. C. do. 357.50

Discount 10 percent 35.75

---------- 321.75

Interest on $3,553, difference between

stock and stock note 434.00

123 acres of land at $25 3,087.50

House and lot 1,500.00

Security in deed to Mason for overdraw 1,572.85

Balance 4,049.98

----------

$29,880.19

Page 26 U. S. 379

"ARTICLE 2d. The above balance, except $349.98, say $3,700 to be secured by A. Lynn to the satisfaction of the board, and to be paid in one, two, and three years."

Depositions were taken on the part of the bank to prove that the committee of the bank who entered into the settlement with the defendant Lynn, were not authorized to decide upon the security which he had offered for the balance of $3,700, and that they did not in fact agree to accept the security.

Upon the final hearing of the case in the circuit court on the bill, answer, exhibits, and depositions, the court ordered a perpetual injunction, and to this decretal order an appeal was entered to this Court by the Mechanics Bank.

Page 26 U. S. 381

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