1 U.S. 229 (1788)

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U.S. Supreme Court

MILLER v. HALL, 1 U.S. 229 (1788)

1 U.S. 229 (Dall.)


Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

January Term, 1788

RULE to show cause why an Exoneretur should not be entered on the bail-piece. The Defendant had obtained his discharge under the insolvent law in the State of Maryland, which law was enacted subsequent to the debt in question, and to the institution of this suit. It was stated, and allowed, that the money for which the action was brought, had been paid to Hall in Maryland, on account of goods sold and delivered upon a commission as the partner of Millar; but that the original agreement under which they acted in the sale of those goods was executed in Philadelphia, and that the proceeds belonged to merchants residing in Pennsylvania, where, consequently, the payment was to be made. It was, likewise, admitted, that the Defendant was resident in, and subject to the laws of, Maryland, and that the Plaintiff was resident in, and subject to the laws of Pennsylvania: And it did not appear to the Court that the Plaintiff was returned as a creditor in the Defendant's schedule; nor was any notice of the time and place of surrender served upon him, though a general publication, of the Defendant's intention to take the benefit of the Insolvent law, was made, in the usual form, in the Baltimore Gazette.

Moylan, in showing cause against the rule, argued, that according to the strict idea of a municipal law, it was limited in its operation to the jurisdiction of the state that made it; for jus civile est quod quisque fibi populus constituit; and to a free people particularly, it must appear unreasonable that there should be legislation where there is no representation. 2 Inst. 98. There are, however, he acknowledged, cases in which an indirect effect is given to foreign statutes

Page 1 U.S. 229, 230

in order to accomplish the rules of justice; as in the instance of contracts entered into in other countries; or of bargains which are unlawful where made; or of a certifcate obtained under a bankrupt law in a foreign nation, of which both debtor and creditor are members and subjects. Prin. of Eq 363. 1 Black. Rep. 234. 256. But still, in all these exceptions, the foreign statutes, as such, have no coercive authority extra territorium, but are received only by consent as far as they are necessary to justice. He then contended from the facts, that the Defendant did not come within the principle of any of the cases referred to; for, as the Plaintiff was not a subject of Maryland, it cannot be presumed that either by himself or his representatives, he has consented to the Defendant's discharge, or rather to the law, by which that discharge was authorized; that, as between the Plaintiff and Defendant, the place of the contract, which the law materially regards, was Philadelphia, where the merchants to whom the money was, in fact, payable, resided; and that even if the contract had been made in Maryland, the Defendant would not be in a better condition on that account, as the law under which he was discharged, was enacted several years afterwards, and, therefore, could not have been in the contemplation of the parties in making their agreement. He urged, likewise, the inconveniencies that would attend the adverse doctrine, from a variety of considerations. Suppose there had been no bankrupt law in Pennsylvania, and that, in truth, our Legislature disapproved of it, yet, every debtor by going into Maryland and complying with the terms of their General Act, or, perhaps, by virtue of a special one, might obtain a certificate, which, it is contended, would discharge him from his creditors here; and thus another state would make laws for us, not only without our consent, but contrary to our interior policy. Again, if no other notice is required than an advertisement in a Maryland newspaper, which the citizens of Pennsylvania seldom read, the spoils may be shared among the creditors present, to the exclusion of the absent; who, at the same time, have been guilty of no fault or negligence, but, if they had been apprized of the transaction, might have suggested such circumstances of fraud, as would prevent the granting the very certificate, which is set up as a conclusive bar to their just demands. In England the king is not bound by the bankrupt laws, 1 Atk. 303. and shall we be bound, who are not in any degree connected with the government that made them? If Maryland had given a preference to her own citizens in the distribution of an insolvent's, or a bankrupt's estate, ought we, who are strangers, to be affected by the certificate of discharge, though we derive no benefit from the surrender of property? Where, or how, is the line to be drawn? If, indeed, the certificate is to be universally operative, so ought the assignment of the bankrupt's estate to be, since the words of the bankrupt laws are, in this respect, as comprehensive and forcible, as in that; and yet it is an established doctrine, that the assignment is only binding in the state in which the commission issues. Doug. 160. The act of [1 U.S. 229, 231]

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