Butler v. Horwitz
Annotate this Case
74 U.S. 258 (1868)
U.S. Supreme Court
Butler v. Horwitz, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 258 258 (1868)
Butler v. Horwitz
74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 258
1. A contract to pay a certain sum in gold and silver coin is in substance and legal effect a, contract to deliver a certain weight of gold and silver of a certain fineness to be ascertained by count.
2. Whether the contract be for the delivery or payment of coin or bullion or other property, damages for nonperformance must be assessed in lawful money -- that is to say, in money declared to be legal tender in payment, by a law made in pursuance of the Constitution of the United States.
3. There are, at this time, two descriptions of lawful money in use under acts of Congress, in either of which (assuming these acts, in respect to legal tender, to be constitutional) damages for nonperformance of contracts, whether made before or since the passage of these acts, may be assessed in the absence of any different understanding or agreement between the parties.
4. When the intent of the parties as to the medium of payment is clearly expressed in a contract, damages for the breach of it, whether made before or since the enactment of these laws, may be properly assessed so as to give effect to that intent.
5. When, therefore, it appears to be the clear intent of a contract that payment or satisfaction shall be made in gold and silver, damages should be assessed in coin, and judgment rendered accordingly.
Daniel Bowly, on the 18th of February, 1791, leased to Conrad Orendorf a lot of ground in the City of Baltimore,
for ninety-nine years, renewable forever, reserving rent in the following words:
"Yielding and paying therefor to the said Daniel Bowly, his heirs and assigns, the yearly rent or sum of 15, current money of Maryland, payable in English golden guineas, weighing five pennyweights and six grains, at thirty-five shillings each, and other gold and silver at their present established weight and rate according to act of Assembly, on the 1st day of January in each and every year during the continuance of the present demise."
On the 1st of January, 1866, one Horwitz was the owner of the rent and reversion, and a certain Butler of the leasehold interest in the lot. It being agreed that the 15 was equal to $40 in gold and silver, Butler tendered to Horwitz the amount of the annual rent, that is to say $40, then due, in currency, which Horwitz refused to receive, and brought suit to recover the value of the gold in currency, which being on the 1st of January, 1866, at a premium of $1.45, was $58. The court below gave judgment in favor of Horwitz for that amount with interest, $59.71. The case was thereupon brought here by Butler for review.
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