Shankland v. Corporation of Washington
30 U.S. 390 (1831)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Shankland v. Corporation of Washington, 30 U.S. 5 Pet. 390 390 (1831)

Shankland v. Corporation of Washington

30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 390

Syllabus

The plaintiff was the owner of a half ticket in "the fifth class of the National Lottery," authorized by the charter granted by Congress to the City of Washington. The number of the original ticket was 5591, which drew a prize of $25,000. The whole ticket was, in the hands of Gillespie, to whom all the tickets in the lottery had been sold by the Corporation of Washington, and his agent issued the half ticket, which was signed by him as the agent of Gillespie, the purchaser of all the tickets in the lottery. After the drawing of the prize, and before notice of the interest of any other person in the ticket No. 5591, Gillespie returned the original ticket to the managers or commissioners of the lottery, and the agents of the Corporation, and received back from the Corporation an equivalent to the value of the prize drawn by it, in securities deposited by him with the Corporation for the payment of the prizes in the lottery. Held that the Corporation of Washington was not liable for the payment of half of the prize drawn by ticket No. 5591 to the owner of the half ticket.

The purchaser of tickets in a lottery authorized by an act of Congress has a right to sell any portion of such ticket less than the whole. The party to whom the sale has been made would thus become the joint owner of the ticket thus divided, but not a joint owner by virtue of a contract with the Corporation of Washington, but with the purchaser in his own right and on his own account. The Corporation promise to pay the whole prize to the possessor of the whole ticket, but there is no promise on the face of the whole ticket that the Corporation will pay any portion of a prize to any sub-holder of a share, and it is not in the power of a party merely by his own acts to split up a contract into fragments and to make the promisor liable to every holder of a fragment for a share.

It is certainly very difficult to maintain that in a court of law, any parol evidence is admissible substantially to change the purport and effect of a written instrument and to impose upon it a sense which its terms not only do not imply but expressly repel.

It is a general rule of law that a delegated authority cannot be delegated.

This case came before the Court under an unusual agreement of the parties, by which matters of fact, properly cognizable before a jury, are submitted to the judgment of the court. The Court desires to be understood as not admitting that it is competent for the parties by any such agreement to impose this duty upon it. The peculiar circumstances of this case furnish a sufficient apology for this agreement, but it is not to be drawn into precedent.

Page 30 U. S. 391

The facts of the case, with the exception of those stated more particularly in the opinion of the Court in this case, are the same with those of the case of Clark v. Corporation of Washington, 12 Wheat. 40.

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