ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Georgia.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Hunt delivered the opinion of the court.
Mr. Harvey Terry for the plaintiff in error.
Mr. William H. Hull, contra.
The plaintiff, a citizen of Georgia, brings his action to recover from Mrs. Tubman the sum of $5,400. He alleges that he holds the circulating notes of the Bank of Augusta, Ga., to that amount; and that the defendant was, in June, 1862, and thenceforth, a holder of three hundred and seven shares of the stock of that bank, of the nominal value of $100 per share.
The Bank of Augusta was chartered Dec. 27, 1845, and its charter contained the following provision:––
'SECT. 3. That the individual property of the stockholders in said bank shall be bound for the ultimate redemption of the bills issued by said bank in proportion to the number of shares held by them respectively; and, in case of a failure of said bank, all transfers of stock made within six months prior to a failure of refusal on the part of said bank to redeem its liabilities in specie when required shall be void, and the private property of the individual or individuals transferring said stock shall be liable for the redemption of the bills of said bank, as above stated.'
The defendant pleaded the Statute of Limitations, alleging that all of the bank-notes sued on were issued by the Augusta bank prior to June 1, 1865; and that, before that date, the bank had become insolvent, unable to meet its liabilities, had voluntarily stopped payment and ceased to do business, and so continued down to the time of the plea. To this plea the plaintiff demurred. The Circuit Court rendered judgment for the defendant on this plea, from which the plaintiff brings his writ of error to this court.
The Statute of Limitations of the State of Georgia was passed on the 16th March, 1869, and is as follows, so far as this action is concerned; viz.:––
'SECT. 3. And be it further enacted, That all actions on bonds or other instruments under seal, and all suits for the enforcement of rights accruing to individuals or corporations under the statutes or acts of incorporation, or in any way by operation of law, which accrued prior to 1st June, 1865, not now barred, shall be brought by 1st January, 1870, or the right of the party, plaintiff or claimant, and all right of action for its enforcement, shall be for ever barred.
'SECT. 6. That all other actions on contracts, express or implied, or upon any debt or liability whatsoever due the public, or a corporation, or a private individual or individuals, which accrued prior to the 1st June, 1865, and are not now barred, shall be brought by 1st January, 1870, or both the right and the right of action to enforce it shall be for ever barred. All limitations hereinbefore expressed shall apply as well to courts of equity as courts of law; and the limitations shall take effect in all cases mentioned in this act, whether the right of action had actually accrued prior to the 1st June, 1865, or was then only inchoate and imperfect, if the contract or liability was then in existence.'
The plea demurred to alleges, and it is to be here assumed to be true, that the bank-notes held by the plaintiff had been issued by the bank prior to June 1, 1865,–the time specified in the limitation act just quoted. It is further alleged, and to be taken as true, that, prior to that time, the bank had become notoriously insolvent, unable to meet its liabilities, and had ceased to do business.
The question is, whether the right of action now sought to be enforced had, on or before June 1, 1865, by means of these facts, accrued to the plaintiff. If it had, the present action is barred by the statute; for it can hardly be contended that this is not one of the actions embraced within the terms of the statute.
The plaintiff insists that no cause of action against the stockholder existed on the 1st of June, 1865, and not until the bank had made its assignment in 1866, its affairs had been administered, and a demand of payment of the bills had been made upon the bank, and had been refused. His fourth point is this:––
'4th, That the liability of said defendant stockholder (had not attached, and did not attach, under said charter) to pay said bank bills before the assignment of said bank and the assets of said bank had been administered and applied to payment of its debts, and did not attach until demand for payment was made on said bank bills; and, therefore, said action did not accrue before the first day of June, 1865, but accrued since the assignment of said bank, and the administration of the assets, establishing the ultimate ...