William Stewart v. Lewis Griffith, No. 145

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHolmes
Citation54 L.Ed. 782,19 Ann.Cas. 639,217 U.S. 323,30 S.Ct. 528
Decision Date25 April 1910
Docket NumberNo. 145
PartiesWILLIAM W. STEWART, Appt., v. LEWIS A. GRIFFITH, Executor of Alfred W. Ball, Deceased

217 U.S. 323
30 S.Ct. 528
54 L.Ed. 782
WILLIAM W. STEWART, Appt.,

v.

LEWIS A. GRIFFITH, Executor of Alfred W. Ball, Deceased.

No. 145.
Argued April 8, 11, 1910.
Decided April 25, 1910.

Page 324

Messrs. James E. Padgett and Henry E. Davis for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 324-326 intentionally omitted]

Page 326

Messrs. Charles H. Merillat, George R. Gaither, and Charles J. Kappler for appellee.

Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

This is a bill in equity, brought by the executor of one Ball for the specific performance of a contract made by the appellant to purchase certain land. The plaintiff had a decree in the court of appeals for the District of Columbia, and the defendant appealed. 31 App. D. D. 29. defendant appealed. 31 App. D. C. 29. as follows: 'This agreement, made by and between L. A. Griffith, duly authorized agent and attorney, under a certain power of at-

Page 327

torney from Alfred W. Ball, both of Prince George's county, Maryland, parties of the first part, and Wm. W. Stewart of Washington, District of Columbia, of the second part. Witnesseth that the said W. W. Stewart has paid to the said L. A. Griffith, agent, the sum of five hundred dollars ($500) part purchase price of the total sum to be paid for a certain tract of land, owned by the said Alfred W. Ball,' in Maryland, as described, 'same being sold at the rate of $40 per acre.' 'And the said L. A. Griffith, as the agent and duly authorized attorney of said Alfred W. Ball, hereby grants, bargains, and sells, and agrees to convey by proper deed . . . duly executed by the said Ball to the said Stewart, the said 240 acres of land upon further payments and conditions hereinafter named, to wit: The balance of one half of the purchase price of the said 240 acres, more or less, at the rate of $40 per acre, is to be paid to the party of the first part on the 7th day of November, 1903, and the remaining one half of the total purchase price is to be divided into five equal payments, secured by five promissory mortgage notes, secured by purchase-money mortgage upon the said property, to be given by the said Stewart and wife,' with immaterial details. A burial lot of one acre is reserved, 'conditioned, however, that if the said Ball should desire to abandon the said burial tract. . . . he shall have paid to him therefor by the said party of the second part the sum of ($40) forty dollars,' etc. 'The said land is to be surveyed and a plat made thereof, and the total purchase price is to be at the rate of $40 per acre, as determined by the said survey; the cost of the said survey is to be borne equally by the said parties of the first part and the second parts; the said L. A. Griffith and W. W. Stewart each to pay one half of the total survey costs. Proper deed or deeds of conveyance and abstracts of title of the said land, based upon title search therefor, is to be made and by J. K. Roberts . . . showing clear and unencumbered fee-simple title, in the said land above mentioned and described, in the said Alfred W. Ball, and one half of the total costs for

Page 328

same, not exceeding $50, is to be borne equally by the parties hereto. In case the remainder of the first half of the purchase price be not paid on November 7, 1903, then the said $500 so paid to the said Griffith is to be forfeited and the contract of sale and conveyance veyance to be null and void, and of no effect in law, otherwise to be and remain in full force. . . . The possessory right to all of the said premises on the property mentioned herein is to remain in the said Ball, until the one half payment of the total purchase price herein provided for on November 7th, 1903, has been fully paid and satisfied, to the said L. A. Griffith, agent. Witness our hands and seals this 5th day of June, 1903. L. A. Griffith. Wm. W. Stewart.' With seals.

The first defense is based on this document itself. It is said that the defendant made no covenant, and therefore was free to withdraw if he chose to sacrifice the $500 that he had paid. This contention should be disposed of before we proceed to the other questions in the case. The argument is that the condition of forfeiture just stated and the consequence that the contract is to be void and of no effect in law disclose the only consequences of default on the purchaser's part, much as until well after Lord Coke's time the only consequence of breaking the condition of a bond was an obligation to pay the penalty. The obligor was held to have an election between performing the condition and payment. Bromage v. Genning, 1 Rolle Rep. 368; 1 Inst. 206b; Hulbert v. Hart (1682) 1 Vern. 133. Some circumstances were referred to in aid of this conclusion, but, as we think the meaning of...

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71 practice notes
  • Bennett v. National Fire Ins. Co., No. 19628.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 10 Junio 1940
    ...142; Oddfellows Savings Bank v. Brander, 124 Cal. 255, 56 Pac. 1109; Gaston v. White, 46 Mo. 486, 77 A.L.R. 270; Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U.S. 323, 54 L. Ed. 782; Burns Mortgage Co. v. Schwartz, 72 F. (2d) 991; Wilcoxen v. Sitt, 65 Cal. 596; Dana v. St. Paul Investment Co., 42 Minn. 194, 44......
  • C. C. Slaughter Cattle Co. v. Potter County, (No. 1820.)
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 9 Noviembre 1921
    ...made by agents or brokers. We cite the following cases as illustrating the effect of such provisions in contracts: Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U. S. 323, 30 Sup. Ct. 528, 54 L. Ed. 782, 19 Ann. Cas. 639; Mason v. Caldwell, 5 Gilman (Ill.) 196, 48 Am. Dec. 330; Cartwright v. Gardner, 5 Cush. (M......
  • Portner v. Tanner, 1060
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 17 Julio 1923
    ...(Sun Print & Sub. Ass'n. v. Moore, 183 U.S. 642, 46 L. ed. 366; Clyde Bank & E. S. Co. v. Castaneda, (1905) A. C. 6; Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U.S. 323, 54 L. ed. 782; Western Union Co. v. Brown, 253 U.S. 101, 64 L. ed. 804; Mead v. Wheeler, 13 N.H. 351; Gammon v. Howe, 14 Maine, 250; Maxwel......
  • Kelly v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 8 Julio 1935
    ...holders would have had a right to enjoin the loan transactions are not applicable to the present situation. Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U. S. 323, 30 S. Ct. 528, 54 L. Ed. 782, 19 Ann. Cas. 639 (1910) and Shannon v. Cavanaugh, 12 Cal. App. 434, 107 P. 574 (1910) are not authorities for the pro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
71 cases
  • Bennett v. National Fire Ins. Co., No. 19628.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • 10 Junio 1940
    ...142; Oddfellows Savings Bank v. Brander, 124 Cal. 255, 56 Pac. 1109; Gaston v. White, 46 Mo. 486, 77 A.L.R. 270; Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U.S. 323, 54 L. Ed. 782; Burns Mortgage Co. v. Schwartz, 72 F. (2d) 991; Wilcoxen v. Sitt, 65 Cal. 596; Dana v. St. Paul Investment Co., 42 Minn. 194, 44......
  • C. C. Slaughter Cattle Co. v. Potter County, (No. 1820.)
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • 9 Noviembre 1921
    ...made by agents or brokers. We cite the following cases as illustrating the effect of such provisions in contracts: Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U. S. 323, 30 Sup. Ct. 528, 54 L. Ed. 782, 19 Ann. Cas. 639; Mason v. Caldwell, 5 Gilman (Ill.) 196, 48 Am. Dec. 330; Cartwright v. Gardner, 5 Cush. (M......
  • Portner v. Tanner, 1060
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • 17 Julio 1923
    ...(Sun Print & Sub. Ass'n. v. Moore, 183 U.S. 642, 46 L. ed. 366; Clyde Bank & E. S. Co. v. Castaneda, (1905) A. C. 6; Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U.S. 323, 54 L. ed. 782; Western Union Co. v. Brown, 253 U.S. 101, 64 L. ed. 804; Mead v. Wheeler, 13 N.H. 351; Gammon v. Howe, 14 Maine, 250; Maxwel......
  • Kelly v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 8 Julio 1935
    ...holders would have had a right to enjoin the loan transactions are not applicable to the present situation. Stewart v. Griffith, 217 U. S. 323, 30 S. Ct. 528, 54 L. Ed. 782, 19 Ann. Cas. 639 (1910) and Shannon v. Cavanaugh, 12 Cal. App. 434, 107 P. 574 (1910) are not authorities for the pro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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