United States v. Herron,
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87 U.S. 251 (1873)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Herron, 87 U.S. 20 Wall. 251 251 (1873)
United States v. Herron
87 U.S. (20 Wall.) 251
1. A debt due to the United States, though it be by one who owes it as a surety only, is not barred by the debtor's discharge with certificate under the Bankrupt Act of 1867, although the United States may prove its debt and has priority of other creditors, and though the act provides in general terms that the certificate shall release the bankrupt "from all debts, claims, liability, and demands, which were or might have been proved against his estate in bankruptcy," and that it may be pleaded "as a full and complete bar of any such debts, claims, liabilities, or demands."
2. No general words in a statute divest the government of its rights or remedies.
The Bankrupt Act of 1867 -- which in its general outlines, as in many of its details, follows (as did prior bankrupt acts of the United States passed in 1800 and 1841) the British Bankrupt Acts -- enacts that a discharge duly granted under the act shall, with the exceptions of debts created by the
fraud or embezzlement of the bankrupt or by his defalcation as a public officer, or while acting in any fiduciary character,
"release the bankrupt from all debts, claims, liabilities, and demands which were or might have been proved against his estate in bankruptcy, and may be pleaded . . . as a full and complete bar to all suits brought on any such debts, claims, liabilities, or demands. [Footnote 1]"
Under the act, the United States may prove its debt, and it has a priority given to it by the act. But it is not mentioned by name as among the creditors whose debts will be released by the certificate which the act authorizes.
This statute being in force, the United States brought suit on a bond executed by one Collins as principal and Herron and others as sureties. Herron pleaded a discharge under the said Bankrupt Act, and the question, of course, was whether a discharge under the act barred a debt due to the government.
The court below thought that it did, and gave judgment in favor of Herron, whereupon the government brought the case here.