13 U.S. 456 (1815), Pratt v. Law

Citation:13 U.S. 456, 3 L.Ed. 791
Party Name:PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Complainants, v. THOMAS LAW, AND WILLIAM CAMPBELL, Original Defendants. THOMAS LAW, Original Complainanl, v. PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Defendants. PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Complainants, v. WM. M. DUNCANSON, AND SAMUEL WARD, Original Defendants. AND WILLIAM CAMPBELL, Original Complainant, v. PRATT, AND OTHERS; AND DU
Case Date:March 11, 1815
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 456

13 U.S. 456 (1815)

3 L.Ed. 791

PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Complainants,

v.

THOMAS LAW, AND WILLIAM CAMPBELL, Original Defendants.

THOMAS LAW, Original Complainanl,

v.

PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Defendants.

PRATT, AND OTHERS, Original Complainants,

v.

WM. M. DUNCANSON, AND SAMUEL WARD, Original Defendants. AND

WILLIAM CAMPBELL, Original Complainant,

v.

PRATT, AND OTHERS; AND DUNCANSON AND WARD, Original Defendants.

United States Supreme Court.

March 11, 1815

THESE several suits in chancery in the Circuit Court for the county of Washington, in the district of Columbia, being involved in each other and relating to the same property, were heard and argued as one cause.

The first of these suits, in the order of time, was that of Pratt and others v. Duncanson and Ward, which was instituted on the 24th of March, 1801. The bill prayed that Duncanson and Ward might be enjoined from selling certain squares in the city of Washington, which had been mortgaged by Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, to Duncanson, to indemnify him against the return of certain bills of exchange which he had drawn for their accommodation, to the amount of l12,000 sterling, a part whereof, viz: l7,600, it was alleged, had been taken up by Ward, who claimed payment from Duncanson, and persuaded him to advertize the mortgaged property for sale. The bill alleged that although the bills had been taken up by Ward, he had done it as the agent of Greenleaf, one of the mortgagors, and with his funds; and

Page 457

prayed for general relief. The squares which were thus mortgaged to Duncanson, were included in a previous mortgage to Thomas Law.

The next suit in order of time, was that of Pratt and others v. Thomas Law and William Campbell. The bill was filed on the 14th of December, 1804.

Its objects were to compel Law to release to the Complainants, who were assignees of Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, certain squares in the city of Washington which had been mortgaged by them to secure to him the conveyance of certain lots and squares, in the same city, which they had contracted to convey to him, and which he was to select from a larger number which they had purchased of the commissioners of the city; to compel Law to complete his selection; and to vacate certain releases made by him, at the solicitation of Campbell, who had attached the equity of redemption of some of the squares, which were included in the mortgage to Law.

The third suit, in the order of time, was that of Thomas Law v. Pratt and others. The bill was filed on the 4th of October, 1805, and its object was to foreclose the mortgage given to secure to Law the conveyance of 2,400,000 square feet of land in the city of Washington, agreeably to a certain contract between him and Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf; because about 400,000 square feet, which Law contended he had selected agreeably to his contract, had not been conveyed to him.

The last of these suits, in the order of time, was that of William Campbell v. Prutt and others, (assignees of Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf,) and W. M. Duncanson and Samuel Ward. The bill was filed in June, 1806, and was in the nature of a bill of interpleader. Its object was to obtain a release, from Duncanson, of the mortgage given to him by Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, to indemnify him against the return of certain bills of exchange drawn by him for their accommodation, and which Campbell alleged had been taken up by them, or some of them; which release, if made, would enure to the benefit of Campbell, in as much as he had attached, and under the proceedings upon the attachment, had

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purchased Morris and Nicholson's equity of redemption.

In order to understand the argument of counsel, and the opinion of the Court, it may be necessary to state more minutely the allegations of the parties.

The bill of Pratt and others against Law and Campbell, stated that Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, on the 3d of December, 1794, gave to the Defendant, Thomas Law, their bond with condition to convey to him in fee simple within 90 days from that date, '2,400,000 square feet of land in the city of Washington, the said Law having paid them the sum of five pence Pennsylvania currency per square foot, for the same.'

That on the 4th of December, 1794, (the day after the date of the bond) a written agreement was executed between the same parties, by which, (after reciting the bond) Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, covenanted that if Law should, within 18 months, be displeased with his purchase, they would return him the purchase money, with interest, at the expiration of that term. And Law covenanted that if, within the same term he should finally determine to keep the land, he would, within 4 years from the time of such determination, cause to be built on every third lot, or in that proportion, one brick dwelling house, or other brick building, at least two stories high; the lots were supposed to average 5,265 square feet each. The bill further charges that Law did, within the limited time, elect to keep the land, and thereby became liable to build the houses mentioned in the agreement of the 4th of December, 1794, but had not built them. That on the 10th of March, 1795, the parties entered into another agreement, by which Law was 'to have his selection under his contract of the 4th of December last, in all squares in which the said Morris and Greenleaf have a right of selection, excepting water property, and excepting such squares as are now appropriated, or respecting which the said Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf have made arrangements, a list of which squares is hereunto annexed.' By the same agreement Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf covenanted to mertgage to Law other squares and lots which were then in their possession, until they could give him

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a good title to such property as he might select; Law agreed to give up his right to return the property, and thereby made the purchase absolute. He also agreed to select by squares and not by lots, and to close his selection within 90 days from the date of the agreement, and stipulated that the houses which he was to build should be such houses as Morris and Greenleaf were obliged to build by contract with the commissioners.

The bill further states that Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, agreeably to that contract, on the 4th of September, 1795, mortgaged to Law 857 lots, and 3,333 square feet of land, the condition of which mortgage was, the Morris Nicholson and Greenleaf should pay the penalty of the bond, or, agreeably to its condition and to the contract of the 10th of March, 1795, convey to Law, in fee simple, with general warranty, 2,400,000 square feet in the city of Washington.

That Law selected about 2,000,000 square feet, but in making his selections violated his agreement of the 10th of March, 1795, by selecting lots in squares from which he was excluded by that agreement, to the injury of Greenleaf who never assented to such selection.

That Law had obtained titles to about 2,000,000 of square feet, and that there remain to be conveyed to him about 400,000 square feet, when he shall have complied with his contract of selection, and when he shall have built the stipulated number of houses.

That on the 13th of May, 1796, Greenleaf conveyed to Robert Morris and John Nicholson, all his interest in the city of Washington, excepting three squares, 'and excepting all such lots, lands or tenements as were either conveyed or sold, or agreed to be conveyed by all or either of them, the said Greenleaf, Morris and Nicholson, or any of their agents or attornies to any person prior to the 10th of July, 1795.'

That on the 26th of June, 1797, Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf conveyed all their interest in the city of Washington to Pratt and others, the present Complainants.

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That Law, knowing the Complainant's interest in the property, and with intent to injure the Complainants, and to benefit the Defendant, Campbell, on the 4th of September, and 5th of October, 1797, executed two deeds releasing to Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, part of the mortgaged property, which had been attached by Campbell; which releases were executed by Law with a full knowledge of the interest of the Complainants in the mortgaged property; in defiance of their express prohibition; and with a fraudulent intent to vest the legal estate in Morris and Nicholson so as to give effect to the attachment of Campbell. That Campbell had engaged to indemnify Law for that act. That the releases were executed without the knowledge or consent of Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, or either of them, and were never delivered to them or either of them, but were put on record by Law. The Complainants pray that those deeds of release may be vacated and annulled. They state that they are ready, able, and willing, to carry into effect the contracts between Law and Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf, and to do every thing that in justice and equity ought to be done on their part; but that Law has refused and neglected to build the houses, and to make his selection within the time limited, and out of the squares prescribed; has violated his contract in setting up a claim and keeping the property mortgaged as a collateral security for making him titles to property, which titles he has prevented by refusing to select the property, &c.

The bill requires Campbell to state when, from whom, and at what price he obtained the notes of Morris and Nicholson, upon which his attachment was issued; and prays for general relief.

The answer of Law admits that he had received conveyances for 'about 2,000,000 of square feet of ground under the contract, but not within the time stipulated;' it states the...

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