THIS case was brought up, by writ of error, from the Circuit Court of the United States, for the District of Maryland.
It was a complicated case, the decision of which involved numerous points of law, as will be seen by the syllabus prefixed to this statement.
There were six exceptions to the admissibility of evidence taken during the progress of the trial in the Circuit Court. The plaintiff below then offered eleven prayers to the court, and the defendant, thirteen. The court laid aside all the prayers and embodied its instructions to the jury in thirteen propositions.
The facts of the case, out of which all these points of law arose were the following:Prior to 1836, there existed in Maryland a company called the Delaware and Maryland Railroad Company, which, by an act of the legislature, passed on the 14th of March, 1836, was united with the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company; the two united taking the name of the latter.
It will be perceived that this company is not eo nomine, one of the parties to the present suit, and it may as well be now mentioned that afterwards a further union of companies took place by virtue of a law of Maryland, passed on 20th of January, 1838. The following companies were united, viz.: The Baltimore and Port Deposit Railroad Company; The Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company; The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Company;–the three, thus united, taking the name of the latter company, which was the plaintiff in error.
On the 12th of July, 1836, whilst the Washington and Susquehannah Railroad Company had a separate existence, a contract was entered into between them and Howard for the prosecution of the work in Cecil county, in the State of Maryland. Two copies of this paper were extant. They were substantially alike except in this; that one of them (the one referred to as marked B) was sealed by Sebre Howard, and was signed by James Canby, President, with his private seal affixed. It was not sealed by the Railroad Company. The other (referred to as marked A) was signed and sealed by Howard, and signed also by Canby, as president. It also bore an impression which purported to be seal of the company.
This latter paper was the basis of the present suit, which was an action of covenant. Some of the points of law decided in the case refer to the paper, which makes it necessary to insert it, viz.:
Agreement between Sebre Howard and Hiram Howard, of the first part, and the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, of the second part.
The party of the first part, in consideration of the matters hereinafter referred to and set out, covenants and agrees, to and with the party of the second part, to furnish and deliver, at the proper cost of the said party of the first part, the building materials which are described in the annexed schedule, to the said party of the second part, together with the necessary Workmanship and labor on said railroad, and at such times, and in such quantities, as the party of the second part shall designate; and faithfully, diligently, and in a good and workmanlike manner, to do, execute and perform the office, work, and labor in the said schedule mentioned.
And the party of the second part, in consideration of the premises, covenants and agrees to pay the party of the first part the sums and prices in the said schedule mentioned, on or before the first day of November next, or at such other times and in such manner as therein declared.
Provided, however, that in case the party of the second part shall at any time be of opinion that this contract is not duly complied with by the said party of the first part, or that it is not in due progress of execution, or that the said party of the first part is irregular, or negligent; then, and in such case, he shall be authorized to declare this contract forfeited, and thereupon the same shall become null; and the party of the first part shall have no appeal from the opinion and decision aforesaid, and he hereby releases all right to except to, or question the same, in any place or under any circumstances whatever; but the party of the first part shall still remain liable to the party of he second part, for the damages occasioned to him by the said noncompliance, irregularity, or negligence.
And provided, also, that in order to secure the faithful and punctual performance of the covenants above made by the party of the first part, and to indemnify and protect the party of the second part from loss in case of default and forfeiture of this contract, the said party of the second part shall, notwithstanding the provision in the annexed schedule, be authorized to retain in their hands, until the completion of the contract, fifteen per cent. of the moneys at any time due to the said party of the first part. Thus covenanted and agreed by the said parties, this twelfth day of July, 1836, as witness their seals.
JAMES CANBY, President. [SEAL.]
Sealed and delivered in the presence of––
WILLIAM P. BROBSON. [SEAL.]
Schedule referred to above.
The above-named Sebre Howard and Hiram Howard contract to do all the grading of that part of section No. 9, in the State of Maryland, of the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad, which extends from station No. 191, to the end of the piers and wharf in the River Susquehannah, opposite Havre de Grace, according to the directions of the engineer, and according to the specification hitherto annexed, for the sum of twenty-six cents per cubic yard, for every cubic yard excavated; the said section to be completed in a workmanlike manner, viz., one mile from station No. 191, by October 15, 1836, and the residue by November 1, ensuing.
They also contract to make the embankment at the river from the excavation of the road, provided the haul shall not exceed a distance of eight hundred feet from the eastern termination of the said embankment; all other portions of the hauling together not to exceed an average of eight hundred feet; and for any distance exceeding the said average the price is to be one and a half cents per cubic yard for each hundred feet.
The party of the second part contracts to pay to the said Sebre and Hiram Howard, the said sum of twenty-six cents per cubic yard in monthly payments, according to the measurement and valuation of the engineer, retaining from each payment fifteen per cent. until the final completion of the work. If any additional work, in consequence of water, grubbing, or hard material, is required on the side ditch or ditches, or through Cowden's woods, the same is to be decided by the engineer, as in case of rock, &c.
Specification of the manner of grading the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad.
Before commencing any excavation or embankment, the natural sod must be removed to a depth of three inches from the whole surface occupied by the same, for the purpose of afterwards sodding the slopes thereof, and all stumps, trees, bushes, &c., entirely removed from the line of road as directed by the engineer. In cases of embankment a grip must be cut about one foot deep for footing the slopes, and preventing them from slipping. The embankments must be very carefully carried up in layers of about one foot in thickness, laid in hollow form, and in so doing, all hauling or wheeling, whether loaded or empty, must be done over the same. The slopes of excavations and embankments will be one and a half horizontal to one perpendicular, except where otherwise ordered by the engineer, and are to be sodded with the sods removed from the original surface.
Side ditches and back drains must be cut wherever ordered by the engineer, at the same price as the common excavation. The side ditches will on an average be about nine feet wide on top, and about two feet deep, and will extend along a great portion of the road. In most places where embankments are to be made, the cutting of the adjacent parts is about sufficient for their formation, and as the contractor is supposed to have examined the ground and profiles, and to have formed his estimates accordingly, no allowance will be made for extra hauling. Where more earth is required than is procured from the excavations, the contractor shall take it from such places as the engineer may direct, the cost per cubic yard being the same as the other parts. Where there is any earth from the excavations, more than is required for the embankments, it shall be placed where ordered by the engineer.
All the estimates will be made by measuring the excavations only.
Loose rocks, boulders, ironstone, or other pebbles, of a less weight than one fourth of a ton, are to be removed by the contractor at the same price as the common excavation; but in cases of larger size, or for blasting, the price shall be a matter of special agreement between the contractors and engineer, and if the former should not be willing to execute it for what appears to the engineer a fair price, the latter may put the same into other hands.
No extra allowance will be made for cutting down trees, grubbing, bailing, or other accidental expenses.
Measurements and estimates will be taken about once a month, and full payment will be made by the directors, after deducting 15 per cent., which deduction on each estimate will be retained until the entire contract is completed, which must be on or before the.
It is distinctly understood by the contractors that the use of ardent spirits among the workmen is strictly forbidden.
WILLIAM STRICKLAND, Chief Eng. of the Wil. & Sus. R. R.
(Indorsed.)–S. and H. Howard's Contract.
Sebre Howard went to work alone, Hiram Howard never having signed or participated in the contract.
On the 17th of September, 1836, he was served with an injunction issued by the High Court of Chancery of Maryland, against the Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company, its agents and servants, commanding them to desist from the prosecution of a particular part of the work.
On the 30th of October, 1836, the injunction was dissolved.
On the 18th of January, 1837, the directors of the company passed the following resolution:
A communication was received from the chief engineer, representing that the contract of S. & H. Howard for section No. 9, was not in due progress of execution, and recommending that it should be forfeited, which was read, and on motion of Mr. Gilpin, the following resolution was adopted, viz.:
'Whereas, a contract was duly executed between S. Howard (acting for himself and H. Howard,) and the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, bearing date the 12th day of July last, whereby the said S. & H. Howard contracted, for the consideration therein mentioned, to do all the grading of that part of section No. 9, of the said railroad which extends from station No. 191, to the end of the piers and wharf in the River Susquehannah, opposite Havre De Grace, according to the directions of the engineer of the said railroad, and to the specification thereto annexed, and to complete the same by the time therein mentioned; and whereas, the times appointed for the completion of said contract have elapsed, and the work is not yet completed, and the party of the second part is of the opinion that the contract is not duly complied with by the party of the first part, and that the said contract is not in due progress of execution:–Therefore, resolved, that the said contract be, and the same is hereby declared to be forfeited.'
A suit was then brought in Cecil County Court, by Sebre and Hiram Howard, against the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, which was finally disposed of at October term, 1847. The result of the suit is shown in the following copy of the docket-entries, which were admitted in evidence by the Circuit Court, but the admissibility of which constituted the subject of the first bill of exceptions.
In Cecil County Court, October Term, 1847.
S. & H. HOWARD, use of Charles Howard, use of Hinson H. Cole, $5,000, use of Daniel B. Banks, $1,000, }
THE WILMINGTON AND SUSQUEHANNAH RAILROAD COMPANY. }
Procedendo and record for the court of appeals; leave to amend pleadings; nar. filed; pleas filed; similiter; replication and demurrer; leave to defendant to amend pleadings; amended pleas; replication and demurrer; rejoinder; agreement; leave to defendants to issue commission to Wilmington, Delaware; agreement filed; jury sworn; jury find their verdict for the defendants, under instructions from the court, without leaving their box; December 3d, 1847, judgment on the verdict.
In testimony that the above is a true copy of the docket-entries taken from the record of Cecil County Court, for October term, 1847, I hereunto set my hand, and the seal of said court affix, this 12th of November, A. D. 1849.
R. C. HOLLYDAY, [SEAL.] Clerk of Cecil County Court.
This suit having thus failed, Sebre Howard, a citizen of the VOL. XIII. State of Illinois, brought an action of covenant in his own name, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Maryland. The declaration set out the following breaches which were filed short by agreement of counsel.
1st breach. In not paying the estimate of the first of January.
2d breach. Damages resulting from the injunction sued out by John Stump.
3d breach. For not building the bridge over Mill creek, and the culvert in Cowden's woods, whereby the plaintiff was damaged by the necessity of making circuitous hauls.
4th breach. For omission seasonably to build the wharf and cribs on the Susquehannah, whereby the plaintiff was prevented from hauling the earth from the excavations made by him upon said road.
5th breach. For refusal to point out a place or places to permit plaintiff to waste or deposit the earth from the excavations of the road.
6th breach. For refusal to pay for the overhaul.
7th breach. For fraudulently declaring contract forfeited, and thereby depriving plaintiff of gains which would otherwise have accrued to him on the completion of the contract, and refusal to pay the amount of the 15 per cent. retained by the defendants under the several estimates.
8th breach. For not paying said fifteen per cent. so retained upon the several estimates.
The defendants put in the following pleas:
Pleas. And the said defendant, by William Schley, its attorney, comes and defends the wrong and injury, when, &c., and says, that the said supposed agreement in writing, in the said declaration mentioned, is not the deed of this defendant. And of this the said defendant puts itself upon the country, & c.
And the said defendant, by leave of the court here, for this purpose first had and obtained, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, for a further plea in this behalf, says, that the said supposed agreement in writing, in the said declaration mentioned, is not the deed of the Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, in the said declaration mentioned. And of this the said defendant puts itself upon the country, &c.
And the said defendant, by leave of the court here for this purpose first had and obtained, according to the form of the statute in such case made and provided, for a further plea in this behalf to the said declaration, says, that the said Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, in the said declaration mentioned, did not make, or enter into, an agreement in writing with the said plaintiff, sealed with the corporate seal of the said Wilmington and Susquehannah Railroad Company, in manner and form as the said plaintiff hath above in his said pleading alleged. And of this the said defendant put itself upon the country, &c.
WILLIAM SCHLEY, Attorney for Defendant.
It was agreed that leave was given to the defendants to give in evidence any matter of defence which could be specially pleaded.
Upon this issue the cause went to trial, when the jury, under the instructions of the court, which will be hereafter set forth, found a verdict for the plaintiff for twenty-four thousand four hundred and twenty-five dollars and twenty-four cents damages, with costs.
It has been already mentioned that the defendants took six exceptions, during the progress of the trial, to the admission of evidence. They were as follows:
First Exception. At the trial of this cause, the plaintiff, to maintain the issue on his part joined, proved by Richard T. Hollyday, a competent witness, that he is the present clerk of Cecil County Court, and that the following is a true copy of the docket-entries under the ...