35 N.Y. 657, Guillander v. Howell

Citation:35 N.Y. 657
Case Date:September 01, 1866
Court:New York Court of Appeals

Page 657

35 N.Y. 657




New York Court of Appeal

September 1, 1866


I. T. Williams, for the appellant.

E. R. Robinson, for the respondents.


The point is here distinctly presented, and it is the only point in the case, whether a sale in New York, legal there, of chattels situate in New Jersey is valid in the latter State as against creditors of the assignors residing there, when it is void by the laws thereof.

Page 658

It is a general rule in regard to personal property, that it has nositus, but follows the person of the owner. It is, therefore, governed in its transfer and disposition by the law of the domicile of its owner, that is, by the law of the place where the sale is made, without regard to the law of the locality where it may be actually situated, so that if a sale be valid where made, it is valid everywhere. (Story's Confl. of Laws, § § 379, 383, 384, &c.; Warren v. Van Buskirk, 13 Abbott's Pr. R., affirmed in this court in December, 1865; opinion by Justice POTTER). If that be the universal rule, the plaintiff in this case is of course entitled to recover.

But certain exceptions are stated in the books, which seem to be as well sustained as the rule itself. One exception is that such sale is not valid in another state, where the property is in fact situate, if it conflict with the interests of that state or its citizens.

Huberus lays down three maxims in reference to the transfer of property, and the effect of such transfer under different governments. 1. 'The laws of every empire have force within the limits of that government, and are obligatory upon all within its bounds. 2. All persons within the limits of a government are considered as subjects, whether their residence is permanent or temporary. 3. By the courtesy of nations, whatever laws are carried into execution, within the limits of any government, are considered as having the same effect everywhere, so far as they do not occasion a prejudice to the rights of the other government or their citizens.'Quoted in a note to 3 Dallas, 370.

Justice COWEN, when reporter, regarded the rule settled by the cases to be, 'that the law of a place, where the contract is made or to be performed, is to govern as to the nature, validity, construction and effect of such contract, and, being valid in such place, it is to be considered valid and enforced everywhere, with the exception of cases in which the contract is immoral or unjust, or in which the enforcing it in a State would be injurious to the rights, the interest or or convenience of such State or its citizens,' and cites many cases. (Andrews v. Herriot, 4 Cow., 510, in note at 511.)

Page 659

Judge STORY, after stating that personal property, by the law of England, has no locality, but must be governed by the law of the domicile of its owner (Story's Confl. Laws, § § 330, 331), and that foreign jurists, whom he cites, affirm the same doctrine, states the exception to the rule substantially as before expressed, as adjudged in different States in this country, and adds: 'No one can seriously doubt that it is competent for any state to adopt such a rule in its own legislation, since it has perfect jurisdiction over all property, personal as well as real, within its own territorial limits; nor can such a rule, made for the benefit of innocent purchasers and creditors, be deemed justly open to the reproach of being founded in a narrow or a selfish policy.' (Id., § 390.)

What is injurious to the rights of the citizens where the property is situate, should be the subject of positive legislation, and not left to the discretion of the courts (Id., § 390), and so are the authorities generally, in the several states, although the rule is sometimes more broadly expressed. (Zipsey v. Thompson, 1 Gray [Mass.], 243; Varnum v. Camp, 1 Green [N. J.], 326; Ingraham v. Geyer, 13 Mass., 145; Le Roy v. Crowninshield, 2 Mason, 157; Fox v. Adams, 5 Greenl. [Me.], 245; Oliver v. Townes, 14 Martin [La.], 97; 2 Cond. R. S. C. [ La.], 606.) A well considered case. So in Virginia and Kentucky (says Chancellor KENT), under their statute laws, all real and personal property within the State are held to be bound by the attachment laws of the State, though the owner should execute an instrument in control of it at his domicile abroad. The rule of courtesy is held to be overruled by positive law.' (2 Kent., 407; Bishop v. Holcomb, 10 Conn., 444.) Such, I believe, is the rule of law in all of the states where the point has been adjudicated, except, perhaps, South Carolina. The case referred to, as an authority in South Carolina, of Green v. Mowry (2 Bailey, 163), I have not been able to find, except a statement of its decision, in a note in 2 Kent., 408. Whether it applied to movables or to a chose in action is not stated.

The exception is fully recognized by Lord LOUGHBOROUGH,...

To continue reading