Scudder v. Union National Bank,
91 U.S. 406 (1875)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Scudder v. Union National Bank, 91 U.S. 406 (1875)

Scudder v. Union National Bank

91 U.S. 406


1. Where a bill of exchange was drawn by a party in Chicago upon a firm in St. Louis, and verbally accepted by a member of the firm then present in Chicago, held that the validity of such acceptance was to be determined by the law of Illinois.

2. In Illinois, a parol acceptance of a bill of exchange is valid, and a parol promise to accept it is an acceptance thereof.

3. Matters bearing upon the execution, interpretation, and validity of a contract are determined by the law of the place where it is made. Matters connected with its performance are regulated by the law prevailing at the place of performance. Matters respecting the remedy depend upon the law of the place where the suit is brought.

This was an action of assumpsit against William H. Scudder and others, constituting the firm of Henry Ames & Co., to recover the amount of a bill of exchange. Process was served only upon Scudder, who pleaded non-assumpsit and several special pleas.

The statute of Illinois on which one of the pleas is based provides that no action shall be brought whereby to charge the defendant upon any special promise to answer for the debt, default, or miscarriage of another person

"unless the promise or agreement upon which such action shall be brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, shall be in writing, and signed by the party to be charged therewith, or some other person thereunto by him specially authorized."

The Missouri statute provides:

"SECTION 1. No person within this state shall be charged as an acceptor of a bill of exchange unless his acceptance shall be in writing, signed by himself or his lawful agent."

"SEC. 2. If such acceptance be written on a paper other than the bill, it shall not bind the acceptor except in favor of a person to whom such acceptance shall have been shown and who, upon the faith thereof, shall have received the bill for a valuable consideration."

"SEC. 3. An unconditional promise in writing to accept a bill before drawn shall be deemed an actual acceptance in favor of every person to whom such written promise shall have been shown and who, upon the faith thereof, shall have received the bill for a valuable consideration. "

Page 91 U. S. 407

"SEC. 4. Every holder of a bill presenting the same for acceptance may require that the acceptance be written on the bill, and a refusal to comply with such request shall be deemed a refusal to accept, and the bill may be protested for nonacceptance."

"SEC. 5. The preceding sections shall not be construed to impair the right of any person to whom a promise to accept a bill may have been made and who, on the faith of such promise, shall have drawn or negotiated the bill, to recover damages of the party making such promise, on his refusal to accept such bill."

The parties went to trial and the bank offered evidence tending to establish that for over a year prior to the seventh day of July, 1871, the firm of Henry Ames & Co. were engaged in business at St. Louis, Mo., and that Leland & Harbach, commission merchants in Chicago, had from time to time bought lots of pork for said firm, on commission; that on the seventh day of July, 1871, the defendant Scudder, a member of said firm, came to Chicago at the request of Leland & Harbach, who were then in an embarrassed condition owing to speculations in grain; that on the same day, John L. Hancock delivered to Leland & Harbach 500 barrels of pork, which they had bought of him for Ames & Co., by their request and direction, at $16.25 per barrel, in May, to be delivered in July, of which purchase said Ames & Co. had been duly advised; that in payment of said pork, Leland & Harbach gave Hancock their check on the Union national Bank of Chicago for $8,031; and that the charges for inspection and commissions made the total cost of the pork $8,125.

That Leland & Harbach on the same day shipped the pork to Ames & Co. at St. Louis, Mo., who received and sold it, and that at the time the bill was drawn, Scudder, who was then present in the office of Leland & Harbach, consented to the receipt of said pork and verbally authorized them to draw on Ames & Co. for the amount due therefor.

That a bill of exchange in words and figures following:

"$8,125.00 CHICAGO, July 7, 1871"

"Pay to the order of Union national Bank eight thousand one hundred and twenty-five dollars, value received, and charge to account of"


"To Messrs. Henry Ames & Co., St. Louis, Mo. "

Page 91 U. S. 408

-- was on said seventh day of July, 1871, presented for discount at the Union national Bank by Leland & Harbach's clerk, and the vice-president of the bank declined to give Leland & Harbach credit for the bill without a bill of lading or other security. That the clerk then returned to Leland & Harbach's office and stated the bank's objections, Scudder being present, and, in the presence and hearing of said defendant, Scudder, the clerk was told by Leland or Harbach to return to the bank and tell the vice-president that Scudder, one of the firm of Ames & Co., was then in Chicago and had authorized the drawing of said draft, and that it was drawn against 500 barrels of pork that day bought by Leland & Harbach for Henry Ames & Co. and duly shipped to them. That the clerk returned and made the statement as directed, and the vice-president, upon the faith of such statement that the bill was authorized by defendants, discounted said bill, the proceeds were passed to Leland & Harbach's credit, and the check given by them to Hancock in payment of said pork was paid out of the proceeds of said draft.

The bank then offered in evidence the said bill of exchange with a notarial certificate of protest, showing that the bill was presented to Henry Ames & Co. for payment July 8, 1871, and duly protested for nonpayment.

It was admitted that said Ames & Co. had never paid said bill.

The court charged the jury. To the following parts thereof Scudder excepted:

"If you find from the evidence that Mr. Scudder, one of the defendants, authorized the drawing of the draft in question and authorized the clerk, George H. Harbach, to so state to the vice-president of the bank, and that the said draft was discounted by the bank upon the faith of such statement, such conduct on the part of Mr. Scudder may be considered by you as evidence of an implied promise by the defendants to pay the draft, and it is not necessary for that purpose that Mr. Scudder should have expressly sent word to the bank if such statements were made in his hearing and presence, and no objections made to them by him -- that is to say if he stood by and allowed either Leland or Harbach to send such word to the bank without dissenting therefrom. If you find by a fair preponderance of the testimony that Mr. Scudder knew the pork had been delivered to Leland & Harbach at the time the draft was

Page 91 U. S. 409

drawn, and acquiesced in the drawing of the draft, and acquiesced in the word sent to the bank that he had authorized it, you may from such facts find an implied promise by the defendants to pay the draft. It was not necessary that Scudder should go to the bank and state that he had authorized the draft if you are satisfied that he allowed such statements to be made by the messenger."

"It being an admitted fact that the defendants have the proceeds of the pork against which this draft was drawn, such fact may also be considered by you as an additional circumstance tending to show a promise on the part of the defendants to pay the draft."

"The real issue in this case is whether Mr. Scudder authorized the drawing of the draft in question and expressly or impliedly promised to pay it."

The jury found a verdict in favor of the bank, and the court, overruling a motion for a new trial, rendered judgment. Scudder sued out this writ of error.

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