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The Sybil, [INSTANCE COURT.)
Sturges v. Crowninshield, [ConsTITUTIONAL Law.]
Somerville v. Hamilton, (Common Law.]
The General Smith, [Instance Court.]
Sexton, (Wheaton v.) (Common Law.]
Sergeant v. Biddle, [PRACTICE.]

230 438 503

508

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Williams v. Peyton's Lessee, (Common Law.]

77 Weightman v. Caldwell, [Common Law.]

85 Walker, (M'Iver v.) [Local Law.]

444 Wells, (Astor v.) [CHANCERY.]

466 Wheaton v. Sexton, [COMMON LAW.]

503 Woodward, (Dartmouth College v.) [CONSTITUTIONAL Law.] 518

REPORTS

OF

THE DECISIONS

OF THE

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.

FEBRUARY TERM, 1819.

(CHANCERY.)

THE TRUSTEES OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAPTIST

ASSOCIATION et al. v. Hart's EXECUTORS.

In the year 1790, S. H., a citizen of Virginia, made his last will, con

taining the following bequest : “ Item, wbat sball remain of my military certificates at the time of my decease, both principal and interest, I give and bequeath to The Baptist Association, that for ordinary meets at Philadelphia annually, which I allow to be a perpetual fund for the education of youths of the Baptist denomination, who shall appear promising for the ministry, always giving a preference to thg descendants of my father's family." In 1792 the legislature of Virginia passed an act repealing all English statutes. In 1795 the testator died. The Baptist Association in question had existed as a regularly organized body for many years before the date of his will; and in 1797 was incorporated by the legislature of Pennsylvania, by the name of “ The Trustees of the Philadel

phia Baptist Association.” Held, that the Association, not being incorporated at the testator's

decease, could not take this trust as a society. VOL. IV.

1

V.

1819. That the bequest could not be taken by the individuals who composed

the Association at the death of the testator. Baptist As- That there were no persons to whom this legacy, were it not a charity, sociation

could be decreed. Hart'sEx’rs. And, that it could not be sustained, in this Court, as a charity.

Charitable bequests, where no legal interest is vested, and which are

too vague to be claimed by those for whom the beneficial interest was intended, cannot be established by a Court of Equity, either exercising its ordinary jurisdiction, or enforcing the prerogative of

the king as parens patriæ, independent of the statúte 43 Eliz. If, in England, the prerogative of the king, as parens patriæ, would,

independent of the statute of Elizabeth, extend to charitable bequests of this description : Quære, How far this principle would

govern in the Courts of the United States ? Held, that it was unnecessary to enter into this inquiry, because it

could only arise where the Attorney General is made a party.

IN the year 1790, Silas Hart, a citizen and resident of Virginia, made his last will in writing, which contains the following bequest. “ Item, what shall remain of my military certificates at the time of my decease, both principal and interest, I give and bequeath to the Baptist Association that for ordinary, meets at Philadelphia annually, which I allow to be a perpetual fund for the education of youths of the Baptist denomination, who shall appear promising for the ministry, always giving a preference to the descendants of my father's family.” In 1792 the legislature of Virginia passed an act, repealing all English statutes, including that of the 43 Eliz. c. 4. In the year 1795 the testator died. The Baptist Association, which met annually at Philadelphia, had existed as a regularly organized body for many years before the date of this will, and was composed of the clergy of several Baptist churches of different States, and of an annual deputation of laymen from

1819.

v.

the same churches. It was not incorporated until the year 1797, when it received a charter from the legis

Baptist Aslature of Pennsylvania, incorporating it by the name sociation of “ The Trustees of the Philadelphia Baptist Asso- Hart'sEx’rs, , ciation.” The executors having resused to pay the legacy, this suit was instituted in the Circuit Court for the district of Virginia, by the corporation, and by those individuals who were members of the Association at the death of the testator. On the trial of the cause, the judges of that Court were divided in opinion on the question, whether the plaintiffs were capable of taking under this will? Which point was, therefore, certified to this Court.

25th,

1818.

The Attorney General, for the plaintiffs, argued, Feb. that the peculiar law of charitable bequests did not originate in the statute of the 43d Eliz., which was repealed in Virginia before the death of the testator. If lands had been conveyed in trust, previous to the statute, for such purposes as are expressed in this will, the devise would have been held good at law; and, consequently, the court of chancery would have enforced the trust, in virtue of its general equity powers, independent of that statute. The statute does not profess to give any validity to devises, or legacies, of any description, not before valid; but only furnishes a new and more convenient mode for discovering and enforcing them; but the case before the court is such as requires the interposition only of the ordinary powers of a court of equity. Devises equally vague and indefinite, have been sustained in courts of common law, before the statute of Eliza

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