Francois Fenelon Vidal, John Girard, and Others, Citizens and Subjects of the Monarchy of France, and Henry Stump, Complainants and Appellants v. the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Philadelphia, the Executors of Stephen Girard, and Others, Defendants

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation11 L.Ed. 205,43 U.S. 127,2 How. 127
Decision Date01 January 1844

43 U.S. 127
2 How. 127
11 L.Ed. 205
January Term, 1844

Page 128

THIS case came up by appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States, sitting as a court of equity, for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.

The object of the bill filed in the court below was to set aside a part of the will of the late Stephen Girard, under the following circumstances:——

Girard, a native of France, was born about the middle of the last century. Shortly before the declaration of independence he came to the United States, and before the peace of 1783 was a resident of the city of Philadelphia, where he died in December, 1831, a widower and without issue. Besides some real estate of small value near Bordeaux, he was, at his death, the owner of real estate in this country which had cost him upwards of $1,700,000, and of personal property worth not less than $5,000,000. His nearest collateral relations were, a brother, one of the original complainants, a niece, the other complainant, who was the only issue of a deceased sister, and three nieces who were defendants, the daughters of a deceased brother.

The will of Mr. Girard, with two codicils, was proved at Philadelphia on 31st of December, 1831.

Page 129

After sundry legacies and devises of real property to various persons and corporations, the will proceeds thus:——

XX. And, whereas, I have been for a long time impressed with the importance of educating the poor, and of placing them, by the early cultivation of their minds and the developments of their moral principles, above the many temptations, to which, through poverty and ignorance, they are exposed; and I am particularly desirous to provide for such a number of poor male white orphan children, as can be trained in one institution, a better education, as well as a more comfortable maintenance, than they usually receive from the application of the public funds: and whereas, together with the object just adverted to, I have sincerely at heart the welfare of the city of Philadelphia, and as a part of it, am desirous to improve the neighborhood of the river Delaware, so that the health of the citizens may be promoted and preserved, and that the eastern part of the city may be made to correspond better with the interior. Now, I do give, devise and bequeath all the residue and remainder of my real and personal estate of every sort and kind wheresoever situate, (the real estate in Pennsylvania charged aforesaid,) unto 'the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia,' their successors and assigns, in trust, to and for the several uses, intents, and purposes herein after mentioned and declared of and concerning the same, that is to say: so far as regards my real estate in Pennsylvania, in trust, that no part thereof shall ever be sold or alienated by the said mayor, aldermen, and citizens of Philadelphia, or their successors, but the same shall for ever thereafter be let form time to time, to good tenants, at yearly, or other rents, and upon leases in possession not exceeding five years from the commencement thereof, and that the rents, issues, and profits arising therefrom shall be applied towards keeping that part of the said real estate situate in the city and liberties of Philadelphia constantly in good repair, (parts elsewhere situate to be kept in repair by the tenants thereof respectively,) and towards improving the same, whenever necessary, by erecting new buildings, and that the net residue (after paying the several annuities herein-before provided for) be applied to the same uses and purposes as are herein declared of and concerning the residue of my personal estate: and so far as regards my real estate in Kentucky, now under the care of Messrs. Triplett and Brumley, in trust, to sell and dispose of the same, whenever it may be expedient to do so, and to apply the proceeds of such sale to the same uses and purposes as are

Page 130

herein declared of and concerning the residue of my personal estate.

XXI. And so far as regards the residue of my personal estate, in trust, as to two millions of dollars, part thereof, to apply and expend so much of that sum as may be necessary, in erecting, as soon as practicably may be, in the center of my square of ground between High and Chestnut streets, and Eleventh and Twelfth streets, in the city of Philadelphia, (which square of ground I hereby devote for the purposes hereinafter stated, and for no other, for ever,) a permanent college, with suitable outbuildings, sufficiently spacious for the residence and accommodation of at least three hundred scholars, and the requisite teachers and other persons necessary in such an institution as I direct to be established, and in supplying the said college and out-buildings with decent and suitable furniture, as well as books and all things needful to carry into effect my general design.

The said college shall be constructed with the most durable materials, and in the most permanent manner, avoiding needless ornament, and attending chiefly to the strength, convenience, and neatness of the whole: It shall be at least one hundred and ten feet east and west, and one hundred and sixty feet north and south, and shall be built on lines parallel with High and Chestnut streets and Eleventh and Twelfth streets, provided those lines shall constitute at their junction right angles. It shall be three stories in height, each story at least fifteen feet high in the clear from the floor to the cornice. It shall be fire-proof inside and outside. The floors and the roof to be formed of solid materials, on arches turned on proper centres, so that no wood may be used, except for doors, windows, and shutters. Cellars shall be made under the whole building, solely for the purposes of the institution, &c., &c., &c., (and then follows a long and exceedingly minute description of the manner in which the building shall be erected.)

When the college and appurtenances shall have been constructed, and supplied with plain and suitable furniture and books, philosophical and experimental instruments and apparatus, and all other matters needful to carry my general design into execution, the income, issues, and profits of so much of the said sum of two million of dollars as shall remain unexpended, shall be applied to maintain the said college according to my directions.

1. The institution shall be organized as soon as practicable, and to accomplish that purpose more effectually, due public notice of the

Page 131

intended opening of the college shall be given, so that there may be an opportunity to make selections of competent instructors and other agents, and those who may have the charge of orphans may be aware of the provisions intended for them.

2. A competent number of instructors, teachers, assistants, and other necessary agents, shall be selected, and when needful, their places from time to time supplied. They shall receive adequate compensation for their services; but no person shall be employed who shall not be of tried skill in his or her proper department, of established moral character, and in all cases persons shall be chosen on account of their merit, and not through favor or intrigue.

3. As many poor white male orphans, between the ages of six and ten years, as the said income shall be adequate to maintain, shall be introduced into the college as soon as possible; and from time to time as there may be vacancies, or as increased ability from income may warrant, others shall be introduced.

4. On the application for admission, an accurate statement should be taken in a book prepared for the purpose, of the name, birthplace, age, health, condition as to relatives, and other particulars useful to be known of each orphan.

5. No orphan should be admitted until the guardians or directors of the poor, or a proper guardian or other competent authority shall have given, by indenture, relinquishment, or otherwise, adequate power to the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of Philadelphia, or to directors, or others by them appointed, to enforce, in relation to each orphan, every proper restraint, and to prevent relatives or others from interfering with, or withdrawing such orphan from the institution.

6. Those orphans, for whose admission application shall first be made, shall be first introduced, all other things concurring and at all future times, priority of application shall entitle the applicant to preference in admission, all other things concurring; but if there shall be, at any time, more applicants than vacancies, and the applying orphans shall have been born in different places, a preference shall be given—first, to orphans born in the city of Philadelphia; secondly, to those born in any other part of Pennsylvania; thirdly, to those born in the city of New York, (that being the first port on the continent of North America at which I arrived;) and lastly, to those born in the city of New Orleans, being the first port on the said continent at which I first traded, in the first instance as first officer, and subsequently as master and part-owner of a vessel and cargo.

Page 132

7. The orphans admitted into the college shall be there fed with plain but wholesome food, clothed with plain but decent apparel, (no distinctive dress ever to be worn,) and lodged in a plain but safe manner: due regard shall he paid to their health, and to this end their persons and clothes shall be kept clean, and they shall have suitable and rational exercise and recreation. They shall be instructed in the various branches of a sound education, comprehending reading, writing, grammer, arithmetic, geography, navigation, surveying, practical mathematics, astronomy, natural, chemical and...

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