Coulson v. Walton
34 U.S. 62 (1835)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Coulson v. Walton, 34 U.S. 9 Pet. 62 62 (1835)

Coulson v. Walton

34 U.S. (9 Pet.) 62


Tennessee. A bond was executed in 1787 by which the obligor bound himself to pay one hundred pounds for a horse or to make over to the obligee his interest in a certain entry and warrant of land, and if the deed or grant for the land should issue to him, to transfer the land by deed, and to warrant and defend the said deed. The obligor elected to pay the bond by giving the land for the same. He made no valid conveyance of the land in his lifetime, but it was taken possession of by the obligee, and has ever since been occupied under the title so acquired by the obligee. After the son and sole heir of the obligor came of age, he commenced an action of ejectment for the land, and those who claimed title under the obligee filed a bill for an injunction, and that the defendant, the plaintiff in the ejectment, be decreed to convey the land according to the stipulations in the bond. This bill was filed in 1822.

The court said, in considering the question as to the genuineness of the bond on which this controversy is founded, the first important fact that occurs to the mind is the remoteness of the transaction. Nearly half a century has elapsed since this instrument purports to have been executed. The obligor and the obligee and both the witnesses are dead. The contract belongs to the past age. It was executed, if at all, when the country was new and unsettled, and the parties to it seem to have been illiterate men and unacquainted with business transactions. These circumstances are referred to not to show that this bond should be received without proof, but to show that as strict proof should not be required of its execution as if it were of recent date. The law makes some allowance for the frailties of memory, and where a great length of time has elapsed since the signing of an instrument attempted to be proved, circumstances are viewed as having an important bearing upon the question.

The case of Barr v. Gratz, 4 Wheat. 231, 4 Cond. 426, cited.

Construction of the statutes of limitations of North Carolina of 1815 and 1819.

Statutes of limitations are applied by courts of equity in all cases where at law they might be pleaded. At law, to make the statute a bar, there must be an adverse possession, and by analogy a court of equity in a similar case will hold the statute to be a good bar.

But the statute insisted on as a bar in this case does not depend upon possession. It bars a creditor who does not sue the heir within seven years. There can be no doubt that the statute applies where a creditor seeks to make the heir liable for the debt of his ancestor on the ground that either personal or real property descended to him. And this appears to be the decision of the Supreme Court of Tennessee on the statute. There is nothing in their decisions referred to which shows that they have given effect to the statute beyond this. By the statute of 1819, which is wholly different in its language from the

act of 1815, a bar is created indiscriminately to suits in equity as well as at law. The statutes do not apply to this case.

The instruments under which a part of the complaints set up an equity

Page 34 U. S. 63

derived from the heirs of the obligor, are proved, but they cannot be sanctioned by this Court except where such instruments were executed by the heirs of full age. It is the duty of the court to protect the interests of minors, and the decree of the circuit court in this respect, as well as in every other, is correct.

The case is fully stated in the opinion of the court.

Page 34 U. S. 70

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