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United States v. Bryan & Woodcock, 13 U.S. 9 Cranch 374 374 (1815)

United States v. Bryan & Woodcock

13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 374




The fifth section of the Act of 3 March, 1797, giving a priority of payment to the United States out of the acts of their debtors, did not apply to a debt due before the passing of that act, although the balance was not adjusted at the Treasury until after the act was passed.

This was an attachment of the effects of Hendrickson, a bankrupt, in the hands of his assignees, Bryan & Woodcock.

Hendrickson was surety for George Bush, late collector of the customs at Wilmington, in an official bond dated in 1791. Bush died on 2 February, 1797. By an adjustment of his accounts at the Treasury in 1801, it appeared that the balance against him was $3,453.06.

In the court below it was agreed that the case should depend on the question

"Whether, under the 5th section of the Act of Congress of March 3, 1797, the United States is entitled to satisfaction of its demand

Page 13 U. S. 375

out of the effects of the bankrupt Hendrickson in the hands of the garnishees, as assignees of the bankrupt, prior to the claims, or any part of them, of other creditors of the said bankrupt being satisfied?"

The judgment in the court below was against the United States, and it brought their writ of error.

Page 13 U. S. 386

LIVINGSTON, J. delivered the opinion of the Court as follows:

The United States claimed a priority in payment out of the estate of Hendrickson in the hands of the defendants. Hendrickson, it appears, was one of the sureties of George Bush, late collector at Wilmington, who died on 2 February, 1797, in debt to the United

Page 13 U. S. 387

states, as appears by a subsequent adjustment of his accounts at the Treasury in the sum of $3,453.06. By the 5th section of the Act of 3 March, 1797, under which this priority is claimed, it is declared that where any revenue officer or other person hereafter becoming indebted to the United States by bond or otherwise shall become insolvent, &c., the debt due to the United States shall be first satisfied.

The Court is of opinion that Hendrickson was indebted to the United States before this act passed -- that is, at the time of the death of the collector, although the accounts of the latter were not settled until after its passage -- and that therefore the law which secures a priority against the estates of persons who shall thereafter become indebted does not apply to this case.

The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

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