McBlair v. Gibbes,
58 U.S. 232 (1854)

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U.S. Supreme Court

McBlair v. Gibbes, 58 U.S. 17 How. 232 232 (1854)

McBlair v. Gibbes

58 U.S. (17 How.) 232


In 1816 an association, called the Baltimore Company, was organized in Baltimore for the purpose of furnishing advances and supplies in fitting out a military expedition under General Mina, against Mexico, then a part of the dominions of the King of Spain. See 52 U. S. 11 How. 529, and 53 U. S. 12 How. 111; 55 U. S. 14 How. 610.

An assignment of a share in this company, made in 1829 to a bona fide purchaser for a valuable consideration, was valid.

Although the transaction was illegal in 1816 and had not changed its character in 1829, yet the assignment was not tainted with any illegality. The claim against Mexico, as being one of the efforts to establish her independence of Spain, rested entirely upon her sense of honor in acknowledging the obligation after her independence was achieved; but after the debt was admitted, the bona fide assignee became substituted to all the rights of the original shareholder.

The cases examined, showing how far a bona fide assignee of an illegal contract can claim and enforce his contract of assignment.

An assignment of "all my undivided ninth part, right, title, and interest, of every kind whatever in the claim" carried with it an assignment of a claim to commissions as well as the share itself.

Moreover, the original holder or his representatives would be estopped from claiming the proceeds after they had been received by his bona fide assignee.

The controversy related to a share in the Mexican Company, which was held by Goodwin, and also to a claim on his behalf to a commission of five percentum upon the proceeds in virtue of his agency and under an agreement with the company.

The nature of this case has already been explained in the preceding volumes of these reports, and is again touched upon in the opinion of the Court in the present case. The reader is referred to 52 U. S. 11 How. 529; 53 U. S. 12 How. 111; and 55 U. S. 14 How. 610.

The bill was originally filed by McBlair in a state court, but was removed into the circuit court of the United States by Gibbes and Oliver, who stated themselves to be citizens of the State of New York.

On the 13th of March, 1852, McBlair took out letters of administration upon the estate of Lyde Goodwin, from the Orphans' Court of Baltimore City, and filed his bill to recover from the executors of Oliver the proceeds of Goodwin's share in the company and also his commission of five percentum. The claim rested upon the allegation that all the assignments which Goodwin had made to Oliver were void, as was also the purchase by Oliver of Goodwin's interest from his trustee in insolvency. If these were void, the proceeds of the share would, of course, belong to Goodwin's personal representatives.

On the 3d of December, 1853, the circuit court dismissed the

Page 58 U. S. 233

bill with costs, whereupon the complainant appealed to this Court.

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