Bank of Columbia v. Lawrence,
26 U.S. 578 (1828)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bank of Columbia v. Lawrence, 26 U.S. 1 Pet. 578 578 (1828)

Bank of Columbia v. Lawrence

26 U.S. (1 Pet.) 578


A promissory, note was made at Georgetown, payable at the Bank of Columbia in that town, the defendant, the endorser of the note living in the County of Alexandria within the District of Columbia, and having what was alleged to be a place of business in the City of Washington, and the notice of the nonpayment of the note, enclosed in a letter and superscribed with his name, was put into the post office at Georgetown addressed to him at that place. Held that this notice was sufficient.

In cases where the party entitled to notice resides in the country, unless notice sent by the mail is sufficient, a special messenger must be employed for the purpose of sending it; but this case is not one which required such a duty.

If the defendant had a place of business in the City of Washington, and the notice served there would be good, yet it by no means follows that service at his place of residence in another place would not be equally good. Parties may be and frequently are so situate that notice may well be given at either of several places.

That is not properly a place of business in the commercial understanding of the terms which has no public notoriety as such, no open or public business carried on at it by the party, but only occasional employment by him there two or three times a week in a house occupied by another person, the party only engaged in settling up his old business.

The general rule is that the party whose duty it is to give notice of the dishonor of a bill or note is bound to use due diligence in communicating the same. But it is not required of him to see that the notice is brought home to the party. He may employ the usual and ordinary modes of conveyance, and whether the notice reaches the party or not, the holder has done all that the law requires of him.

It seems to be well settled that when the facts are ascertained and undisputed, what shall constitute due diligence is a question of law.

The rules relative to diligence ought to be reasonable and founded in general convenience, and with a view to clog as little as possible, consistently with the safety of the parties, the circulation of paper of this description.

When a person has a dwelling house, and a counting room in the same city or town, a notice sent to either place is sufficient; if parties live in different post towns, notice through the post office is sufficient. Notice, to a party living at another place than the holder, sent by mail to the nearest post office, is good under common circumstances, and in such cases where notice is sent by mail, it is distance alone, or the usual course of receiving letters, which must determine the sufficiency of the notice.

Some countenance has lately been given in England to the practice of sending a notice by a special messenger in extraordinary cases by allowing the holder to recover of the endorser the expenses of serving the notice in this manner. The holder is not bound to use the mail for the purpose of sending the notice. He may employ a special messenger if he pleases, but it has not been decided that he must. To compel the holder to the expense of a special messenger would be unreasonable.

Page 26 U. S. 579

The plaintiffs in error instituted a suit on a promissory note against the defendant in error, who was the endorser thereon, and which was discounted at the Bank of Columbia and protested for nonpayment. The note was dated at Georgetown, where the banking house of the plaintiff at that time was located, and was payable at the Bank of Columbia. The evidence on the part of the plaintiffs established all the facts relative to the note which were proper to be proved except the notice of nonpayment to the defendant, the endorser, and the bill of exceptions tendered by the plaintiffs presented the evidence at length, upon which the question arose whether due notice of the dishonor of the note had been given and due diligence had been used by the plaintiffs to convey such notice to the defendants.

The opinion of the Court as delivered by MR. JUSTICE THOMPSON contains a full exhibition of all the evidence from which the conclusions of the County were drawn.

Page 26 U. S. 580

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