Perkins v. Fourniquet,
55 U.S. 313 (1852)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Perkins v. Fourniquet, 55 U.S. 14 How. 313 313 (1852)

Perkins v. Fourniquet

55 U.S. (14 How.) 313


Releases given by the complainants in the present case decided to cover the matters in controversy, and therefore to put an end to all claim by them, inasmuch as there is no proof that they were obtained by fraud or circumvention.

The case, in some of its branches, had been before the Court three times before. A motion to dismiss a case between the

Page 55 U. S. 314

same parties at January term, 1848, is reported in 47 U. S. 6 How. 206. It came up again at January term, 1849, and is reported in 48 U. S. 7 How. 160. Again, at December term, 1851, a dispute, growing out of the same matters was before this Court, and the judgment of the court below affirmed by a divided Court. Consequently it was not reported, but the mandate, which was issued therein gave rise to a difficulty which will be the subject of the succeeding case in this volume. Ewing and wife were parties, together with Fourniquet and wife, to the present suit, but the controversy cannot be distinctly understood without a reference to the case in 48 U. S. 7 How. 160. The family connection of the parties is there explained.

The present claim of Fourniquet and wife and Ewing and wife against Perkins was founded on the alleged rights of the marital community of Mrs. Perkins, the mother of Harriet and Anne with Mr. Perkins, according to the laws of Louisiana.

The bill alleges the marriage was consummated in Louisiana, where both the widow Bynum and the defendant Perkins were then citizens, and that the defendant always retained his legal and political domicil in Louisiana, though sometime after the marriage, for the ostensible purpose of health, established a family residence near Natchez in the State of Mississippi. The bill charges that defendant, during the marriage, expended of community funds in the State of Mississippi in permanent investments of real estate an amount of about $39,600, which remained in kind at the dissolution of the marriage by the death of his wife in 1824, but which he has since sold and disposed of to his own use. That defendant had no revenues or resources in Mississippi from which these investments were made, but it was all derived from the revenues of his and his wife's property and cotton estates in Louisiana, and were partnership funds in which complainants, as heirs of their mother's community, had rights of partnership, and now have right to hold defendant to account therefor. They charge that if defendant intended and expected to get an advantage to himself by investing the community funds in the State of Mississippi, rather than in Louisiana, then it was a fraud on his part for which he is liable, or if intended in good faith, yet such investment charged defendant with a trust for which they pray he may be held responsible.

But complainants aver that as defendant has heretofore kept back and concealed from settlement this investment and never accounted for the same, but in settlement with them obtained their receipts and release in full in which this matter was not included, that said releases, so far as they may be invoked to

Page 55 U. S. 315

bar this claim, were obtained by fraud and circumvention. And they declare the matters of this bill were kept back by defendant and never accounted for. And they call on defendant to produce the account and items rendered by him when he obtained these releases and show for what they were given.

They aver too that Harriet's release was given while she was yet a minor.

They pray for an account of proceeds, or amount of said investment, with eight percent interest, and for general relief.


Defendant, in his answer, admits the marriage in Louisiana, admits the parties, and admits substantially the investments made in the State of Mississippi. But qualifying and explaining, says that same year of the marriage, he and his wife removed to the State of Mississippi and continued their domicil there during all the time of their married life, which terminated by the death of his wife on the 12th August, 1824. That this removal was in pursuance of an understanding had between them before marriage with a view to health and facilities of educating the children. Admits he retained some political rights in Louisiana after his removal till 8th of June, 1821, but says his civil domicil was changed as aforesaid, and on this allegation predicates his first and principal ground of defense -- viz., that by reason of this domicil,

"respondent has always acted under the belief that there was no community of acquets and gains of property lying in Louisiana between respondent and his said wife under the laws of Louisiana."

As a second ground of defense, he submits also that if, as alleged in said bill, the domicil was not changed, yet, as head of the community, he was entitled to the absolute disposal of the acquets and gains without accountability to his wife or her legal representatives.

As a third ground of defense, denies that the investments in Mississippi were made with money to which his wife had any legal or equitable title whatever. And denies they were made to gain any unjust advantage over his wife or her heirs.

Fourth point of defense is matter in abatement, in which defendant assumes that if liable to the demand made in said bill, it is only to an administrator of his wife's estate, and not to the complainants.

Fifth ground of defense is that he has obtained the releases of complainants for all claims on account of the estate of their father and mother, and relies upon them as if formally plead in bar, denying they were obtained by fraud or concealment

Page 55 U. S. 316

Sixth ground of defense submits that if said investments were made with money in which his wife had an interest, yet that defendant is entitled to the property as tenant by curtesy during his natural life, and he interposes this right as if plead in bar.

Upon the final hearing, the circuit court passed the following decree:

"In chancery. Final Decree."

"The report of William H. Brown, master in chancery made in the above-stated case and filed herein on the 3d day of April A.D. 1850, having been confirmed on a former day of this term, and the report of said master made herein and filed on the first day of October, A.D. 1850, having also been confirmed on a former day of this term, except as to the said sum of five hundred dollars therein stated as having been paid by defendant subsequent to the death of Mrs. Perkins, wife of said defendant:"

"It is now thereupon further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the said complainants, the said Harriet J. Fourniquet, together with the said Edward P. Fourniquet, in right of his said wife, but to her sole and separate use; and the said Ann S. Ewing, together with the said Martin W. Ewing, in right of his said wife, but to her sole and separate use, do have and recover of the said defendant, John Perkins, the amount stated in said first named report, to-wit, the sum of sixteen thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight dollars and seventy-six cents $16,968.76, to be paid to the said complainants by the said defendant within thirty days hereafter, together with interest thereon at the rate of eight percent per annum from the first day of April, 1850, or in default thereof that said complainants have execution therefor. It is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that said complainants do recover of the defendant all their costs hereby in this suit incurred and herein taxed."

"November 20, 1850 S. J. GHOLSON"

From this decree Perkins appealed to this Court.

Page 55 U. S. 322

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