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Opinion of the Court.
upon the vendor is that of the genuineness of the signatures to the paper sold.
In Pugh v. Moore, Hyams & Co., supra, the Supreme Court of Louisiana expressly held that the contract of sale there considered (which was similar to the one here involved) was governed and controlled by the provisions of the Civil Code of Louisiana, and like rulings were previously expressed in Sun Mutual Insurance Co. v. Board of Liquidation, 31 La. Ann. 176, and in State ex rel. Durant v. Board, 29 La. Ann. 77. A like rule is maintained in the jurisprudence of France, where, in addition to the Code Napoleon or Civil Code, there is a Commercial Code regulating mercantile contracts. This is shown by the decision in a case where the vendor transferred certain notes without recourse, and in consequence of the forgery of some of them was held liable to return the price. Laurent, vol. 24, p. 535 thus states the case:
"The Court of Cassation has applied the same principle to commercial matters. The case is worthy of citation. Exchange dealers sold a certain number of notes of the Austrian bank of one hundred florins each. These notes having been presented to the bank of Vienna, by the transferees, twentysix among them were declared to be forged. From this arose an action in warranty, which was defeated in the first instance by the tribunal of the Seine. The claim was recognized on appeal. When the case came before the Court of Cassation it was contended that the Paris court had made an erroneous application of article 1693, in declaring an exchange dealer, a guarantor of the value of false bank notes which he had delivered in good faith, to a particular person by way of sale or transfer. The guarantee, it was said, by those who transferred a forged bank note, is not different in fact from that which is incurred by a merchant, an exchange broker or banker, who has without intention and without knowledge negotiated in good faith commercial effects, such as bills of exchange or notes to order upon which there are false signatures, the guarantee in such cases is regulated by the commercial law. And it results from articles 140 and 187 of the Commercial Code that he who has not endorsed but
Opinion of the Court.
who has delivered from hand to hand, as he has received them, commercial paper is subject to no guarantee, because the absence of his signature indicates that he has no intention to become the guarantor of the sale, and that the buyer has dealt on the faith of the apparent title which he has accepted, and as a consequence he has a right to no guarantee. But the Court of Cassation rejected this contention, and decided that the guarantee is of the nature of the sale, and that it would be contrary to both law and equity to hold that the delivery of a forged bank bill, although made in good faith, did not give rise to recovery on the part of him who had paid the price."
None of the authorities referred to by counsel for defendant in error sustain the proposition heretofore stated with reference to the supposed existence and applicability of the law merchant, and the results which it is claimed flow therefrom. On the contrary, both in England and in the United States the doctrine is universally recognized that where commercial paper is sold without indorsement or without express assumption of liability on the paper itself, the contract of sale and the obligations which arise from. it, as between vendor and vendee, are governed by the common law, relating to the sale of goods and chattels. So, also, the undoubted rule is that in such a sale the obligation of the vendor is not restricted to the mere question of forgery vel non, but depends upon whether he has delivered that which he contracted to sell, this rule being designated, in England, as a condition of the principal contract, as to the essence and substance of the thing agreed to be sold, and in this country being generally termed an implied warranty of identity of the thing sold.
Benjamin on Sales, (4th Am. ed.) sec. 600, says: "When the vendor sells an article by a particular description, it is a condition precedent to his right of action" (to recover the price agreed to be paid by the vendee) "that the thing which he offers to deliver, or has delivered, should answer the description;" and, in sec. 607, the author says:
"Under this head may also properly be included the class of cases in which it has been held that the vendor who sells
Opinion of the Court.
bills of exchange, notes, shares, certificates and other securities, is bound, not by the collateral contract of warranty, but by the principal contract itself, to deliver as a condition precedent that which is genuine, not that which is false, counterfeit or not marketable by the name or denomination used in describing it."
It is upon this general principle of the common law, not upon any peculiar doctrine of commercial law, that the cases in the common law courts proceed. Thus, in Jones v. Ryde, 5 Taunt. 488, (1814,) where an action was brought to recover the damage sustained by a discount of an altered bill, Gibbs, C. J., said (p. 492):
"Both parties were mistaken in the view they had of this navy bill; the one in representing it to be a navy bill of this description; the other in taking it to be such. Upon its afterwards turning out that this bill was to a certain extent a forgery, we think he who took the money ought to refund it to the extent to which the bill is invalid. The ground of the defendant's resistance is, that the bill is not endorsed; and that whensoever instruments are transferred without indorsement, the negotiator professes not to be answerable for their validity. This question was much mooted in Fenn v. Harrison, 3 T. R. 757, and it is true to a certain extent, viz., that in the case of a bill, note or other instrument of the like nature, which passes by indorsement, if he who negotiates it does not endorse it, he does not subject himself to that responsibility which the indorsement would bring on him, viz., to an action to be brought against him as endorser, but his declining to endorse the bill does not rid him of that responsibility which attaches on him for putting off an instrument as of a certain description which turns out not to be such as he represents it. The defendant has in the present case put off this instrument as a navy bill of a certain description; it turns out not to be a navy bill of that amount, and, therefore, the money must be recovered back."
Chambre, J., said (p. 494):
"I really cannot entertain a doubt on the question; if the defendant's doctrine could prevail it would very materially
Opinion of the Court.
impair the credit of these instruments. They are not in practice endorsed, (or not beyond the first taker). A man takes this security looking to the persons who are to pay it; he takes it on the presumption that it is a navy bill; it was once a navy bill, but from the moment wherein it was altered it became of no value whatsoever. It is unnecessary to go into the authorities."
In Wilkinson v. Johnson, 3 B. & C. 428, (1824,) one who had taken up a bill for honor, subsequently discovered that the signatures were forgeries. He was held entitled to recover, upon the general doctrine of the common law relating to
In Young v. Cole, 3 Bing. N. C. 724, (1827,) recovery was sought for the amount of certain Guatemala bonds which had been sold for account of the defendant, and which after the sale were discovered not to be a marketable commodity on the stock exchange, because not stamped, as required by an advertised notice of the government of Guatemala, given prior to the sale, but subsequent to the time when the bonds had been issued and put into circulation. The claim of the plaintiff was adjudged to be well founded, although there was no question of forgery or alteration, upon the common law principle already stated.
Lamert v. Heath, 15 M. & W. 486, (1846,) was an action to recover from the defendant the amount paid him for certain Kentish Coast Railway scrip, which, after delivery to the plaintiff, turned out to have been issued without authority. The defendant was a stock broker, and was employed by the plaintiff to purchase the scrip. A verdict having been returned for the plaintiff a new trial was granted, on the ground that as the proof showed that the article purchased was the only article known in the market as Kentish Coast Railway scrip, the question for the jury was not whether the scrip was genuine scrip, but whether it was the identical thing which the plaintiff contracted to buy. This ruling, therefore, accords with the principles of the former cases and illustrates the distinction between an implied condition of the sale as the essence of the thing sold and the ascertainment of whether the con
Opinion of the Court.
tract of sale in the purview of the parties embraced a particular object, just as it appeared to be whether existing or not, whether valid or invalid. In this respect this case is entirely in harmony with the opinion of Martin, J., heretofore referred to. It, moreover, very pointedly refutes the contention that a particular state of the law of warranty applies to the transaction of a sale and purchase of negotiable paper without recourse, since the scrip in question was non-negotiable.
In Gompertz v. Bartlett, 2 El. & Bl. 849, (1853,) an unstamped bill of exchange endorsed in blank, purporting to be a foreign bill, was sold, without recourse, by the holder, who was not a party to the bill. It proved to have been drawn in England, and was, in consequence, invalid for want of a stamp, and could not be enforced against the parties. The vendor and purchaser at the time of sale were both alike ignorant of this defect. It was held that the purchaser was entitled to recover back the price from the vendor, on the ground that the article sold as a foreign bill, although not forged or altered, did not answer the description by which it was sold. Counsel for defendant contended that "as the bill was sold without recourse, nothing turned on the peculiar character of a bill of exchange, and the case was the same as if the sale had been of any other specific chattel, sold without a warranty, when the maxim caveat emptor applies." Lord Campbell, C. J., replied (p. 850):
"If the purchaser receives what answers the description of the article sold, he cannot, in the absence of a warranty, recover for a defect in its quality. In such case, caveat emptor. But it will be put against you here, that you sold a foreign bill, and that the thing delivered was not a foreign bill at all."
The counsel for plaintiff stated his case in the following words, which, in view of the language previously quoted from the defendant's counsel, makes clear the fact that it was not disputed that the transaction was governed by the common law applicable to sales:
"The plaintiff's proposition is, that if a thing was sold as being an article of a specific description, and if, from a latent defect unknown to both parties, it was in substance not an article of that specific description, but an article of no value,