Bank of Alexandria v. Dyer - 39 U.S. 141 (1840)
U.S. Supreme Court
Bank of Alexandria v. Dyer, 39 U.S. 14 Pet. 141 141 (1840)
Bank of Alexandria v. Dyer
39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 141
An action was instituted by the Bank of Alexandria, in the County of Alexandria, against the defendants, residents in the County of Washington, in the same district, for money loaned. The suit was brought in the County of Washington. The defendants pleaded the statute of limitations of Maryland, which prevails in that part of the District of Columbia, and which limits such actions to three years, from the date of the contract. The plaintiff replied that he was "beyond seas," claiming the benefit of the exception in the statute in favor of persons "beyond seas."
The words "beyond seas" in the statute of limitations of Maryland, are manifestly borrowed from the English statute of limitations of James I, ch. 21, and it has always been held, that they ought not to be interpreted according to their literal meaning, but ought to be construed as equivalent to the words, "without the jurisdiction of the state." According to this interpretation, a person residing in another state of the Union was "beyond seas," within the meaning of the act of assembly, and therefore excepted from its operation, until he should come within the limits of Maryland. This statute is in force in Washington County, in the District of Columbia, and this Court will give it the same construction it has received in the courts of Maryland.
The County of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, cannot be regarded as standing in the same relation to the County of Washington that the states of this Union stand in relation to one another.
The Counties of Washington and Alexandria together constitute the Territory of Columbia, and are united under one territorial government. They have been formed by the acts of Congress into one separate political community, and the counties which constitute it resemble different counties in the same state, and do not stand towards one another in the relations of distinct and separate governments. Residents of the County of Alexandria were not "beyond seas" in respect to the County of Washington.
On 26 October, 1835, the plaintiff in error instituted a suit in the Circuit Court of the United States for the County of Washington, in the District of Columbia, against the defendants, for the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars, by them, the plaintiffs, before that time, in Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, lent and advanced to the defendants, at their special instance and request.
The defendants pleaded the statute of limitations of the State of Maryland, which limits actions of this nature to three years. To this plea the plaintiff replied that at the time of making of the promise alleged against the defendants, they, the said plaintiffs, were in the County of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, beyond the seas, and so continued until the day of the impetration of the original writ in this action.
The defendants demurred to this replication, and the circuit court gave judgment for the defendants. The plaintiffs prosecuted this writ of error.