32 U.S. 348 (1833), Magniac v. Thomson

Citation:32 U.S. 348, 8 L.Ed. 709
Party Name:HOLLINGWORTH MAGNIAC and others, Plaintiffs in error, v. JOHN R. THOMSON.
Case Date:January 28, 1833
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 348

32 U.S. 348 (1833)

8 L.Ed. 709

HOLLINGWORTH MAGNIAC and others, Plaintiffs in error,

v.

JOHN R. THOMSON.

United States Supreme Court.

January 28, 1833

Bill of exceptions.--Marriage-settlement.--Fraud.--Preferences in assignment.

The whole charge of the circuit court was brought up with the record. This is a practice which this court have uniformly discountenanced, and which the court trusts a rule made at last term will effectually suppress.

This court have nothing to do with comments of the judge of the circuit court upon the evidence. Carver v. Astor, 4 Pet. 80-1, cited upon this point.

The question now before the court is, whether the charge to the jury in the circuit court contains any erroneous statement of the law; in examining it, for the purpose of ascertaining its correctness, the whole scope and bearing of it must be taken together; it is wholly inadmissible, to take up single and detached passages, and to decide upon them, without attending to the context, or without incorporating such qualifications and explanations as naturally flow from the language of other parts of the charge; the whole is to be construed as it must have been understood, both by the court and the jury, at the time it was delivered. 1

Upon principle and authority, to make an ante-nuptial settlement void, as a fraud upon creditors, it is necessary that both parties should concur in, or have cognisance of, the intended fraud; if the settler alone intend a fraud, and the other party have no notice of it, but is innocent of it, she is not, and cannot be, affected by it. Marriage, in contemplation of the law, is not only a valuable consideration to support such a settlement, but is a consideration of the highest value, and from motives of the soundest policy, is upheld with a strong resolution; the husband and wife, parties to such a contract, are therefore deemed, in the highest sense, purchasers for a valuable consideration; and so that it is bonæ fide, and without notice of fraud, brought home to both sides, it becomes unimpeachable by creditors.

Fraud may be imputed to the parties, either by direct co-operation in the original design, at the time of its concoction, or by constructive co-operation, from notice of it, and carrying the design upon such notice, into operation.

Among creditors equally meritorious, a debtor may conscientiously prefer one to another; and it can make no difference, that the preferred creditor is his own wife.

Marriage articles or settlements are not required, by the laws of New Jersey, to be recorded, but only conveyances of real estate; and as to conveyances of real estate, the omission to record them, avoids them only as to purchasers and creditors, leaving them in full force between the parties. 2

Page 349

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the circuit court, at October sessions 1826, a feigned issue was made up between the plaintiffs and the defendant, to try the question of the ability of the defendant to pay a debt acknowledged to be due to the plaintiffs, and for which judgments had been obtained in their favor. The competency of the defendant to satisfy the debt, depended on the validity of a certain marriage-settlement, made in contemplation of marriage between the defendant and Miss Annis Stockton, daughter of Richard Stockton, Esq., late of New Jersey, to which instrument Mr. Stockton was a party, he being, by its provisions, the trustee of his daughter. The marriage-settlement was as follows:

'Articles of agreement and covenant made and executed this 19th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1825, by and between John R. Thomson, Esq., late of the city of Philadelphia, of the first part, Annis Stockton, daughter of Richard Stockton, Esq., of the second part, and Richard Stockton, of the county of Somerset and state of New Jersey, father and trustee of the said Annis Stockton, of the third part.

'Whereas, a marriage is intended to be shortly had and solemnized between the said John R. Thomson and the said Annis Stockton; and whereas, the said Richard Stockton has promised to give unto his said daughter a certain lot or tract of land, belonging to him, situate in the county of Middlesex and state of New Jersey; directly opposite the mansion-house of the said Richard Stockton, between the old road to Trenton and the turnpike road, which consists of between four and five acres of land, be the same more or less, and is bounded on the north and south by the said roads, on the west by lands of Dr. John Vanclave, and the east by a line to be run from the north-east corner of the garden, now in the possession of Mrs. Abigail Field, to the said turnpike road, upon which said lot the said John R. Thomson has begun to build a house. Now, it is hereby agreed between the parties aforesaid, and the said Richard Stockton, for himself and his heirs, doth hereby covenant and agree to and with the parties of the first and second

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parts, their heirs, executors and administrators, in consideration of the said marriage, and of the love and natural affection he hath for his said daughter, that from the time of, and immediately after, the said marriage shall be solemnized, he, the said Richard Stockton, shall and will stand seised of the said lot and premises, and of all and singular the buildings and improvements which shall be erected and made thereon by the said party of the first part, to the uses, trusts and purposes hereinafter mentioned, and to none other, that is to say: in trust to permit the said John R. Thomson, and Annis his wife, during the time of their joint lives, to possess, live in, and occupy the said lot, house and premises, with the appurtenances, free and clear of all demands; and in case the said parties of the first and second parts do not think proper to inhabit and reside in the said premises, that he, the said Richard Stockton, will let out, upon lease, the said premises, and receive the rents, issues and profits thereof, and pay over the same to the said Annis, party of the second part, during the joint lives of the parties of the first and second parts. And if the said John R. Thomson should survive the said Annis Stockton, and have issue by her, then in trust to permit the said John R. Thomson, during his life, to inhabit and occupy the said premises, if he elect so to do, free and clear as aforesaid, and pay over the said rents and profits, as he shall receive the same, to the said John R. Thomson, for the maintenance and support of him and his family, without he, the said John R. Thomson, being at any time thereafter accountable to any person or persons for the said rents and profits. And after the death of the said John R. Thomson, in trust for the child or children of the said marriage, in equal shares, as tenants in common, in fee-simple; and if there shall be no child or children of the said marriage, then, upon the death of either of the said parties of the first and second parts, in trust to convey the said premises to the survivor in fee-simple.

'And the said John R. Thomson, for himself, his heirs, executors and administrators, doth covenant and agree to and with the parties of the second and third parts, that if the said marriage shall take effect, and in consideration thereof, he will, with all convenient speed, build and furnish the said house, in a suitable manner, as he shall judge fit and

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proper; and that the said erections, improvements and furniture, together with the changes and additions which shall be, from time to time, made, shall be subject to and included in the said trusts, as far as the same are applicable to each species of property. And further, that he will, in the space of one year from the time the said marriage shall take effect, place out on good security, in stock or otherwise, the sum of $40,000, and hand over and assign the evidences thereof to the said party of the third part, who shall hold the same, in trust to receive the interest, profits or dividends thereon, as they shall, from time to time, arise, to the said party of the second part, during the joint lives of the parties of the first and second parts, and that her receipts for the same, and also for what may be produced under the before-mentioned trusts, shall be good and valid, notwithstanding her coverture. If the said party of the second part should die before the said party of the first part, and there should be issue of the said marriage, then in trust to receive the said interest, profits and dividends, and pay the same over, from time to time, to the said party of the first part, during his life, for the support of himself, and the maintenance and education of his children, without his being subject to any account as aforesaid; and after his death, in trust for any child or children of the said marriage, in equal shares; and if the said Annis should survive the said John, and there be issue of the said marriage, then to pay over the same to the said Annis, during her life, for her maintenance, and the support and education of the said children, and without her being liable to any account for the same; and after her death, in trust for the child or children of the said marriage, in equal shares; and if there shall be no child or children of the said marriage, then, upon the death of the said John R. Thomson, or Annis his wife, in trust, to assign and deliver the said securities, and all moneys remaining due to the one who shall survive, to his or her own uses.

'And it is further agreed and covenanted by and between the parties aforesaid, that it may be lawful for the said John R. Thomson to act as the agent of the parties aforesaid, in all the matters aforesaid, by the permission and under the control, if need be, of the said trustee, and to change,...

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