Logan v. Simmons
|18 N.C. 13
|United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
|31 December 1834
|BENJAMIN LOGAN v. SQUIRE SIMMONS.
1. A conveyance by a woman before marriage is not, at law. under any circumstances, a fraud upon the marital rights of her husband.
2. Slaves loaned to a woman before marriage will be held by her husband as bailee, and the statutes of limitation will not operate upon his possession until the contract of bailment is at an end.
DETINUE for several slaves. Plea non-detinet, and on the issue made thereon, the cause was tried before Martin, J., at RUTHERFORD, on the last circuit.
The plaintiff made title under his late wife, Phebe Simmons, and having proved her possession before theirintermarriage, and his own after that event for more than three years, rested his case. The defendant put in and proved a deed executed by Phebe Simmons, the late wife of the plaintiff, whereby, the day before her marriage, she conveyed the slaves in dispute to him, the defendant, he being her son by a former marriage; and to repel the presumption arising from the possession of the plaintiff, he proved that after the execution of the deed he had lent the slaves to his mother for her life, or until he should think proper to resume the possession of them. The plaintiff contended that the deed under which the defendant claimed was a fraud upon his marital rights, and he offered much testimony on this point, which, as well as the opinion of his Honor thereon, it is unnecessary to state.
Upon the possession of the plaintiff and the presumption of title arising therefrom, his Honor instructed the jury that the plaintiff succeeded to the rights of his wife; that if the slaves were loaned to her, he held them in the same manner, and that as the act of limitation would not bar the action of the defendant until the contract of bailment was ended, so neither would the possession of the plaintiff during the continuance of that contract, under the Act of 1820, give him a title.
A verdict was returned for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
It seems to this Court that the question made cannot arise in a court of law. It is deemed, therefore, unnecessary to advert either to the facts tending to establish the covenous interest alleged by the plaintiff or to the principles laid down by his Honor for the government of the jury in reference to that question.
The cases upon this subject have all been in the Court of Chancery, and the elementary books treat this as a doctrine and head of equity. There is no judgment at law in favor of the husband, and we think cannot be. The action could only be supported by viewing the husband as a purchaser for a valuable consideration, of his wife's chattels; and, therefore as a person upon whom on legal principlesa fraud can be committed. But the husband cannot be regarded as such a purchaser. Marriage, it is true, is a valuable consideration, when we speak of a consideration as necessary or adequate to raise an issue, or to support an antenuptial settlement or contract. But independent of any contract specially touching the wife's estate, the rights which the husband gains in that estate by the act of marriage solely, are not purchased by him in a legal sense, but conferred by the mere act and operation of law. The marriage is the only contract entered into by the parties. As a part of the policy of the law, and as an incidental consequence of the relation contracted between the parties, the law gives to the husband, in his own right, certain interests in his wife's property. But he does not purchase any part of it, not even that to which she is entitled at the instant of the marriage, much less does he contract for the purchase of that which is not hers then, but had been sold or given away by her before her marriage. ''The marriage is an absolute gift of all chattels personal, in the wife's possession, in her own right." Co. Lift, 351, b. Omnia qua sunt uxoris, sunt ipsius viri. But no more; he cannot get by the marriage what was not hers at or during the coverture. Indeed, he does not get the whole of what legally belongs to her, that is, so as to divest her title and vest it in him in his own right. For things held by her en autre droit, and as Lord Coke expressly says, things in which she has not a property but a bare possession, as goods bailed to the feme, are not given to the husband. This is to be...
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