Arthurs v. Hart - 58 U.S. 6 (1854)
U.S. Supreme Court
Arthurs v. Hart, 58 U.S. 17 How. 6 6 (1854)
Arthurs v. Hart
8 U.S. (17 How.) 6
Where a jury is waived and questions of law and fact decided by the court in Louisiana, the rules of the state appellate court require that the whole evidence should be put into the record. But where a case is brought up to this Court by writ of error from the Circuit Court of the United States for Louisiana, the rules of this Court only require that so much of the evidence should be inserted as is necessary to explain the legal questions decided by the court.
Consequently the mere fact that some of the evidence given below is omitted from the record is not of itself sufficient to prevent this Court from examining the questions of law presented by the record.
Where the court decides questions both of law and fact, the admission of improper testimony is not the subject of a bill of exception, although the exclusion of proper testimony is so.
The rule stated according to which the appellate court should review the legal questions involved in the final judgment of the court below, which has decided both law and fact, and the mode pointed out by which counsel should separate the two classes of questions.
In an action upon a bill of exchange by a bona fide assignee against the acceptor, it is no good defense that the bill was accepted in order to pay for a sugar mill which was defective; that the drawers of the bill had promised to put it in order, and that the assignee of the bill knew these facts. The acceptor of the bill relied upon this promise to protect his rights, and not upon a refusal to pay the bill when due.
In 1847, Hart, who was a citizen of Louisiana, employed Nicholson and Armstrong, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to build and put up a sugar mill and engine upon his plantation. The mill and engine were put up, and a part of the purchase money paid. For the balance, a bill of exchange was drawn on March 1, 1848, by Nicholson and Armstrong upon and accepted by Hart to the order of James Arthurs and Brothers, and by them endorsed to Arthurs, Nicholson, and Co. The bill was payable twelve months after date, and was for the sum of $2,540.65. At maturity, the bill was presented for payment, and, payment being refused, was protested. Hart alleged that when the bill was accepted, it was with the understanding that the builders would remedy certain defects in the sugar mill and engine and that the holders of the bill knew of this arrangement.
In May, 1849, the plaintiffs in error, the holders of the bill, brought suit, by way of petition, according to the Louisiana practice, in the circuit court of the United States.
The cause was tried by the court without the intervention of a jury.
The following bill of exceptions states the point of evidence upon which the case came up to this Court:
"Be it remembered that on the trial of this cause, the defendant offered to prove by the testimony of Francis Armstrong that Mr. Arthur, Mr. Nicholson, and witness went to the levee, on board the steamboat Luna, to see Captain Hart, in reference to the second payment; that he Captain Hart complained that the machinery had not worked well, that it was not then running; that he complained, that, from the bad working of the sugar mill and engine, he had lost juice, and he required us to deduct the interest then due; that Messrs. Arthur and Nicholson suggested that Captain Hart should accept a bill of exchange for the balance then due, after deducting the interest; that it was understood that the sugar mill and engine were to be put in first-rate order and that Captain Hart then agreed to accept a bill; to the introduction of said evidence, or of any conversation, or of any agreement and understanding of the parties previous to and at the time of accepting the bill sued upon, the plaintiff objected for the reason that such evidence, or conversation, or agreement, or understanding, would tend to convert an absolute into a conditional acceptance, that it would either vary and contradict the written agreement entered into by the parties, and plaintiffs also objected to the competency of the witness, Francis Armstrong, to testify in this case for the reason that he was one of the drawers of the bill of exchange sued
upon. All of which objections were overruled by the court; to which ruling plaintiffs excepted, and tendered this their bill of exceptions, which is filed and signed by the court."
"THEO. H. McCALEB [SEAL]"
Judgment was rendered for the plaintiffs for the sum of $1,743,50 with interest.
The plaintiffs, thinking that the judgment ought to have been for the whole amount of the bill, brought the case up to this Court.