32 Ala. 99 (Ala. 1858), Thompson v. Drake

Citation32 Ala. 99
Opinion JudgeWALKER, J.
Judge PanelSTONE, J., not sitting.
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

Page 99

32 Ala. 99 (Ala. 1858)




Supreme Court of Alabama

January Term, 1858


APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison.

Tried before the Hon. THOS. A. WALKER.



It is proper that we confine our attention in this case to the exclusion of evidence offered by the appellant, for the assignments of error present no other matter for our consideration.

The plaintiff was seeking to recover slaves which he had conveyed to the defendant, in trust for the separate use of his wife, during her natural life. One of the issues in the case was, whether that deed was procured by duress. The plaintiff proved, that an agreement was made, before the date of the deed, between his wife and defendant, to the effect that the latter "should pursue the plaintiff, and if he succeeded in obtaining the negroes, he should have one half of them for his trouble;" and that, in pursuance to that agreement, the defendant followed the plaintiff into Mississippi, and brought back with him the negroes in controversy. It was shown that the agreement above stated was made on the 1st of April, 1854; and that defendant returned from Mississippi, with the negroes, about the 10th April, 1854; and that Drake, the defendant, was present when the deed was executed.

The attitude of the case being such as is above described, the plaintiff offered to prove, that, soon after the negroes were brought from Mississippi, and after the date of the deed, a division of them was had between the plaintiff's wife and the defendant, by which "defendant got two of said negroes for his trouble, kept two to pay expenses, and purchased the remaining one from Mrs. Thompson, on one, two, three and four years, without interest." This evidence is stated in the bill of exceptions to have been offered "to show that the defendant, Drake, had a beneficial interest in said negroes; and for the further purpose of showing a combination between said Francis Thompson and said defendant to defraud the plaintiff; and for the further purpose of introducing the declarations of said defendant, after the execution and delivery of the deed of 10th April, 1854, that he obtained the possession of said negroes by force, by threats, and through the fear of plaintiff of mayhem and wounding by defendant." The offered evidence was rejected, and plaintiff excepted.

The plaintiff, by offering the evidence for three specified purposes, must be regarded as having admitted its incompetency for any other purpose; and he will not be permitted to allege its competency in any point of view not embraced in the special grounds presented to the court below.--King v. Pope, 28 Ala. 601; Creagh & Forward v. Savage, 9 Ala. 959. A different decision would open the door for the misleading of the circuit judges, by the presentation of feigned grounds of objection; and would impose upon this court the duty of reversing judgments, where the court below had correctly decided the points presented to it.

The first purpose for which the evidence was offered, was to show that the defendant had a beneficial interest in the property. A beneficial interest in the property has a different meaning from beneficial interest in the suit. One might be interested in the suit, and yet have no interest in the property which is the subject of the suit. By beneficial interest in the property is meant a right, either partial or entire, in or to the property. If Drake possessed or claimed the property by an invalid title, he did not have a ""beneficial interest in the property;" on the contrary, he had no interest in it. A bill of exceptions is to be construed more strongly against the party excepting; consequently, we cannot apply to the words above noticed a meaning different from their natural import, for the purpose of finding error in the ruling of the court below. Looking, then, to the natural import of "beneficial interest," as above pointed out, it is not conceivable that it could have benefited the plaintiff to have shown that...

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