Lee v. Munroe & Thornton,
11 U.S. 366 (1813)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lee v. Munroe & Thornton, 11 U.S. 7 Cranch 366 366 (1813)

Lee v. Munroe & Thornton

11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 366


The United States is not bound by the declarations of its agent founded upon a mistake of fact unless it clearly appear that the agent was acting within the scope of his authority and was empowered in his capacity of agent to make such declaration.

This was an appeal from the decree of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia in a suit in chancery brought by Lee against Thomas Munroe, Superintendent of the City of Washington, and William Thornton, the survivor of the late board of commissioners for that city. The object of the bill was to obtain a discount of $3,000 upon a judgment which Munroe, as superintendent, had obtained against Lee upon his bond. The ground upon which this setoff was claimed was this. Morris & Nicholson were indebted to Lee in that sum by promissory notes, and offered payment in certain city lots, the title whereof was in the commissioners of the city. Morris & Nicholson having paid money in advance to the commissioners, were, as they supposed, entitled to demand from them the conveyance of the lots in question under existing contracts between the commissioners and themselves. Whereupon Lee applied to the commissioners to know of them whether they would convey the lots to him upon the order of Morris & Nicholson. This they promised to do, and made an entry of it in their journal. Lee then agreed with Morris & Nicholson to receive the lots in payment, and upon receiving their order to the commissioners to convey them to him, gave up to Morris & Nicholson their notes for $3,000, which were the

Page 11 U. S. 367

evidence of the debt. On presenting this order to the commissioners, they refused to convey the lots unless he would pay them the purchase money due thereon to them from Morris & Nicholson, alleging that the balance was against Morris & Nicholson in its account with the commissioners. Morris & Nicholson shortly afterwards became insolvent.

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