1 U.S. 267 (1788)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WILLIAMS v. GEHEOGAN, 1 U.S. 267 (1788)

1 U.S. 267 (Dall.)


Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

April Term, 1788

Moylan, in showing cause against a rule for a Special Court, at the instance of the Plaintiff, contended, first, that Williams was not within the description of the persons for whom the act provides a summary relief; and, secondly, that the difficulty of obtaining the Defendant's testimony at a short notice, was a sufficient reason to induce the Court to discharge the rule.

On the first point, it was stated, that Williams was not in America at the time when the debt was contracted, for which this action was brought; but that he came hither merely to collect the debts of a house, in which he had formerly been a partner; that, therefore, he could not claim the benefit of the act, which, it was urged, extended only to foreigners, who came to this country in the way of trade, who resided here while their merchandize was sold, and who were not punctually paid at the expiration of the credit which they gave. 3 St. Laws. 31. Lewis v. Turner in the Common Pleas of Philadelphia, was cited. The Plaintiff in that case was a resident of New York, and came to Philadelphia merely to sue, and recover from the Defendant. The Court determined that he was not entitled to a Special Court; and Shippen, President, said, that a citizen of the United States was not a foreigner in Pennsylvania.

On the second point, it was observed, that the Defendant being sued as super-cargo, it would be incumbent on him to state all the accounts of the vessel in question; that he was at this time in Charleston, South Carolina, having in his possession all the documents and vouchers necessary to his defence; that he had always expressed a determination to attend the trial of the cause, and that his absence

Page 1 U.S. 267, 268

could not be long protracted, as the special bail had sent a bail-piece and power of attorney to take the Defendant, and surrender him in this Court.

Goulthurst, for the Plaintiff, said, that the debt was contracted in Philadelphia, and was there due and payable from the Defendant to the Plaintiff; that Williams came hither to pay the debts of the company, as well as to collect their credits; that he was a foreigner, in the strongest meaning of the word, and, consequently, could not be affected by the case of Lewis v. Turner, which was decided on the ground of the party's being a citizen.

With respect to the accounts, he endeavoured to show, from the cause of action, that they could not be material to the defence on this occasion; and contended, that the Defendant's absence was no reason to defeat the Plaintiff's claim to the benefit of the act.

M'Kean, Chief Justice.

The act seems to be intended for the benefit of every man, whether an inhabitant, or a foreigner, who is about to leave the State; and the Plaintiff is clearly within the description of persons entitled to a Special Court. But, we think, for the second reason which has been urged by the Defendant's counsel, that it would be doing manifest injustice to hurry the trial on at this time: Therefore,

By the Court: Let the rule be discharged.

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