Butler v. United States
88 U.S. 272 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Butler v. United States, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 272 272 (1874)

Butler v. United States

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 272


A person who signs as surety a printed form of government bond, already signed by another as principal, but the spaces in which for names, dates, amounts &c., remain blank, and who then given it to the person who has signed as principal in order that he may fill the blanks with a sum agreed on between the two parties as the sum to be put there, and with the names of two sureties who shall each be worth another sum agreed

Page 88 U. S. 273

on, and then have those two persons sign it makes such person signing as principal his agent to fill up the blanks and procure the sureties, and if such person fraudulently fill up the blanks with a larger sum than that agreed on between the two persons and have the names of worthless sureties inserted, and such sureties to sign the bond, and the bond thus filled up and signed be delivered by the principal to the government, who accepts it in the belief that it has been properly executed, the party so wronged cannot, on suit on the bond, again set up the private understandings which he had with the principal.

Debt on a joint and several internal revenue bond, executed by Emory, as principal, and by Butler, Sawyer, and Choppin as sureties, the bond on oyer appearing to be in the sum of $15,000.

Butler pleaded that at the time he signed and affixed his seal to the bond, it was a mere printed form, with blank spaces for the names, dates, and amounts to be inserted therein; that the blanks were not filled, and there was no signature thereto except Emory's; that Emory promised, if Butler would sign the bond, he, Emory, would fill up the blanks with the sum of $4,000, and would procure two additional sureties in the District of Columbia, each of whom was to be worth $5,000, and that he, Butler, signed the bond and delivered it to Emory with the understanding and agreement that the bond was otherwise not to be binding on him, Butler, nor delivered to the United States or to any of its agents or officers, but was to be returned to him; that Emory did not so fill up the bond, but, on the contrary, falsely and fraudulently filled it up with the sum of $15,000, and with the names of Sawyer and Choppin, neither of whom resided in the District of Columbia and neither of whom was worth $5,000, but, on the contrary, both of whom were wholly insolvent and worthless; that Emory accordingly obtained the signature of him, Butler, by false and fraudulent representations; that the bond was therefore not the bond of him, Butler, when made, and that he had never afterward ratified or acknowledged its validity.

Page 88 U. S. 274

The circuit court, relying on Dair v. United States,* ruled that this was no defense to the action. The defendant excepted and brought this writ of error.

In the case of Dair v. United States, just mentioned, two persons, as sureties, signed a bond to the government at the instance of a third person, who had signed it as principal, the two signing as sureties doing so upon the condition that the instrument was not to be delivered to the government until it should have been executed by a third person named, as surety, and then placing it in the hands of the person who had signed it as principal, who without the performance of the condition and without the consent of the two persons signing as sureties delivered the bond to the government, the bond being regular on its face and the government having had no notice of the condition, but where, on suit by the United States, the parties who had signed as sureties were held by this Court bound.

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