McLearn v. Wallace
Annotate this Case
35 U.S. 625 (1836)
U.S. Supreme Court
McLearn v. Wallace, 35 U.S. 10 Pet. 625 625 (1836)
McLearn v. Wallace
35 U.S. (10 Pet.) 625
A tract of land in the State of Georgia was purchased by A. McLearn, on which he established a rice plantation, put slaves upon it, paid part of the purchase money, gave a judgment for the balance, and died, leaving a son, James H. McLearn, his devisee, who, to obtain possession of the estate, mortgaged the land and slaves for the balance of the judgment. A judgment under the laws of Georgia binds personal as well as real property. The son died, part of the debt being unsatisfied, leaving as his nearest of kin aliens and also more remote kindred who were citizens of the United States. The real estate was sold to satisfy and did satisfy the mortgage. The personal estate was sold by the executor. The aliens, who were nearest of kin, claimed the proceeds of the personal estate. The kindred of the deceased, who were more remote but who were citizens of the United States, claimed that the personal estate should have been appropriated to pay the mortgage, and that, not having been so appropriated, they were entitled to the money arising from its sale to reimburse them for the value of the real estate taken by the mortgagor, the aliens nearest of kin not being entitled by the law of Georgia to take real estate by descent. The court held that as both the real and personal estate had been charged with the mortgage debt, both funds must be applied, in proportion to their respective amounts, to its payment, any debt not covered by the mortgage to be paid out of the personal estate, the nearest of kin to take the residue of the proceeds of the personal estate and the remoter kin, citizens of the United States, to take the residue of the proceeds of the real estate and the real estate unsold.
Archibald McLearn, a native of Scotland and afterwards a citizen of the United States, purchased a tract of land called Gowrie and a small island in Chatham County in the State of Georgia, on which he established a rice plantation, and having paid part of the purchase money, a judgment was obtained against him for the balance. He died, having devised the whole of his estate, real and personal, to his son, James H. McLearn. The property of the testator consisted chiefly of the plantation in Chatham County and the negroes by which it was cultivated. By the laws of Georgia, all the property of the testator, both real and personal, was bound by the judgment against Archibald McLearn.
James H. McLearn, holding under the will of his father, Archibald McLearn, the whole of his estate, thus encumbered by the judgment for the balance of the purchase money due for the land in order to obtain possession from the executors of the will, who insisted on keeping possession until the debts due by the testator were paid, gave to the creditor of his father his bond for the unpaid balance of the purchase money, and executed a mortgage to secure the payment of the bond on the land and on the negroes belonging to the estate. He paid a part of the debt and died without issue and intestate, leaving a balance of the original debt for the purchase money unpaid and secured by the bond and mortgage.
The mortgagee foreclosed the mortgage and sold the land for $19,739.13, thus satisfying the whole of the claims of the creditors of Archibald McLearn and James H. McLearn for the original purchase money of the real estate and for the interest on the same.
James Wallace administered to the estate of James H. McLearn, sold all the personal property, and after paying all the remaining debts of his intestate, there was a balance in his hands, in 1833, exceeding $21,000, which he invested, by agreement of all interested, for the benefit of whoever might be entitled to the same.
The nearest of kin to James H. McLearn were John McLearn and others, who were aliens, residing at the time of the decease of the said James H. McLearn in Great Britain, and were subjects of the king of that kingdom.
The wife of Archibald McLellan was more remotely related in blood to the intestate, and she and her husband were citizens of the State of South Carolina at the time of his decease, and she was the nearest of kin to him capable of inheriting his real estate according
to the laws of Georgia, which do not allow aliens to inherit land. As the next of kin capable of inheriting, they claimed the real estate of James H. McLearn.
John McLearn and wife, and the aliens nearest of kin to the intestate, filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Georgia, against James Wallace, administrator of James H. McLearn, and against Archibald McLellan and wife, the remoter kindred of the intestate, citizens of South Carolina. The bill prayed that the complainants should be declared entitled to the estate, real and personal, of James Hendley McLearn; that the same should be delivered to them and the cash in the hands of the administrator should be paid to them. The bill also prayed that Archibald McLellan and wife should be decreed to have no interest in the real estate, and for other and farther relief.
Archibald McLellan and wife filed a bill in the same court against John McLearn and others, the alien kindred of the intestate, and against James Wallace, his administrator. The bill prayed that the complainants may be declared entitled to so much of the real estate of James H. McLearn, as remained unsold, that the alien kindred of the said James should be decreed to have no interest in the lands, and that the administrator should be decreed to account to them for the whole of the personal estate remaining after the payment of the debts of his intestate, and to account to them for the amount of the sales of the land, and to pay to them the value of the said land sold, out of the proceeds of the personal estate remaining unadministered, and for other and further relief, &c.
James Wallace, the administrator of James H. McLearn, filed his bill of interpleader claiming the protection of the court, exhibiting an account, and offering to deliver the unadministered part of the estate to such party as the court may adjudge to be entitled to receive it.
The circuit court decreed that Archibald McLellan and wife, as the nearest of kin to James H. McLearn capable under the laws of the State of Georgia of inheriting real estate, they being citizens of the United States at the time of his decease, were entitled to the whole of the real estate of which James H. McLearn died seized and possessed, but the same having been sold, the court allowed them the money for the part sold and all the real estate unsold, and to John McLearn and the aliens the court allowed the remaining part of the estate, after the payment to Archibald McLellan and wife of the sum of $19,739.13, the amount the plantation sold for, less
the costs of suit, &c. The sum decreed to be paid to John McLearn and wife amounted to $1,557.35. The administrator, James Wallace, was decreed to pay those sums to the parties respectively and to deliver the title deeds, &c.
From these decrees, John McLearn and others, aliens, appealed to this Court.
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