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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 1


This foot note contained in document ADMS-05-01-02-0005-0003-0004
4. Moses v. Macferlan, 2 Burr. 1005, 97 Eng. Rep. 676 (K.B. 1760). In this famous case the defendant had recovered against the plaintiff in the Court of Conscience upon notes indorsed by the plaintiff under an agreement that the defendant would not hold him liable on them. The latter court refused to hear evidence of the agreement, and the plaintiff brought an action at law in assumpsit for money had and received to recover the sums thereby awarded. While Lord Mansfield's decision that the action lies on the implied promise is the point for which the case is best known, the defendant had also argued that there could be no recovery of money awarded by the judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction. Mansfield held that the action was not inconsistent with the prior judgment because the Court of Conscience had properly concluded that the agreement was not before it. In the process he enlarged upon the theme that a new action could always be brought to attack a judgment on a ground that was not available as a defense against that judgment. The phrase noted by JA , which is from that portion of the opinion, appears in the following passage: “Suppose a Man recovers upon a Policy for a Ship presumed to be lost, which afterwards comes Home;—Or upon the Life of a Man presumed to be dead, who afterwards appears;—Or upon a Representation of a Risque deemed to be fair, which comes out afterwards to be grossly fraudulent.” 2 Burr. 1009–1010. As to the case, see C. H. S. Fifoot, Lord Mansfield 141–157 (Oxford, 1936).