Kennett v. Chambers
55 U.S. 38

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kennett v. Chambers, 55 U.S. 14 How. 38 38 (1852)

Kennett v. Chambers

55 U.S. (14 How.) 38

Syllabus

It belongs exclusively to the political department of the government to recognize or to refuse to recognize a new government in a foreign country, claiming to have displaced the old and established a new one.

Until the political department of the government acknowledged the independence of Texas, the Judiciary were bound to consider the old order of things as having continued.

While the government of the United States acknowledged its treaty of limits and of amity and friendship with Mexico as still subsisting and obligatory, no citizen of the United States could lawfully furnish supplies to Texas to enable it to carry on the war against Mexico.

A contract, made in Cincinnati, after Texas declared itself independent, but before its independence was acknowledged by the United States, whereby the complainants agreed to furnish, and did furnish money to a general in the Texan army, to enable him to raise and equip troops to be employed against Mexico, was illegal and void, and cannot be enforced in a court of the United States.

The circumstance that the Texan officer agreed, in consideration of these advances of money, to convey to them certain lands in Texas, of which he covenanted that he was then the owner, will not make the contract valid when it appears upon the face of it, and by the averments in the bill, that the object and intention of the complainants in advancing the money was to assist Texas in its military operations.

Page 55 U. S. 39

A contract made in the United States at that time for the purchase of land in Texas would have been valid even if the money was afterwards used to support hostilities with Mexico. But in this case it was not an ordinary purchase, but the object of the complainants, as avowed in the contract and the bill, was to aid Texas in its war with Mexico.

The contract being absolutely void by the laws of the United States at the time it was made, the circumstance that it was valid in Texas and that Texas has since become a member of the Union, does not entitle the complainants to enforce it in the courts of the United States.

No contract can be enforced in the courts of the United States, no matter where made or where to be executed, if it is in violation of the laws of the United States or is in contravention of the public policy of the government or in conflict with subsisting treaties.

In this cause Mr. Justice Catron was absent because of indisposition during the hearing before the court, and took no part in the decision.

The facts in the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

There were several causes of demurrer filed in the court below, but it is necessary to notice only the following, because the decision in this Court turned entirely upon them.

1. The said bill, if the facts therein were true, which is in no sort admitted, contains no matter or thing of equity upon which to ground any decree or give the complainants any aid or relief.

2. The complainants' said bill shows no legal or valid agreement upon which to ask the aid or decree of the court, but, to the contrary, sets out and shows an agreement which was in violation of the neutrality of the United States towards the Republic of Mexico in her contest with Texas.

3. The complainants' said bill seeks the aid or assistance of the Court to enforce the specific execution of an agreement made in the State of Kentucky between citizens thereof and this defendant in violation of the policy of the government of the United States in her intercourse with foreign governments.

The demurrer was sustained generally by the court below, and therefore all the points were open to argument in this Court, but it is not necessary to notice any except those upon which the judgment of the Court rested.

Page 55 U. S. 44

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