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Baxter v. Wales

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Jul 1, 1815
12 Mass. 365 (Mass. 1815)


July Term, 1815.

Where, on the hiring of a cow for a year, a promise was given in writing' by the borrower to return the cow, in a year, with six dollars in cash, and, if not then delivered, to pay six dollars a year until delivered; it was holden that the promissee was entitled to the six dollars for one year only, and legal interest afterwards on that sum and on the value of the cow until the delivery, and on the sum so due until payment.

ASSUMPSIT on three several promises in writing, made by the defendant 10 the testator of the plaintiffs, Thomas Baxter, deceased.

At the trial, which was had before the late Judge. Dewey, at the sittings here after the last October term, no question arose on the" first of The three promises, which was for a small sum of money on demand with interest.

The other two promises were each for the delivery of a milch cow-and calf, at the end of one year from the dates respectively, with six dollars in cash, and, if not then delivered", six dollars a year yearly until delivered. It appeared, by indorse-meats on the notes, that a cow and a calf bad been received on one of them in fifteen months, and on the other in four years, from the respective dates.

The plaintiffs claimed interest, at the rate, of six dollars a year, from the date of his notes until the delivery of the cows and calves, and interest at six per cent on the sum so due from the delivery.

But the jury, under the direction of the judge, gave their verdict for six dollars on each note for one year, interest at six per cent, on the value of the cow and calf and on the said six dollars, from the end of the year until the delivery of the cow and calf, and interest at the same rate on the sum so due at the delivery, from that time until the returning of the verdict, and the sum due upon the first-mentioned note.

The verdict was to be altered conformably to the opinion of the Court, and judgment accordingly.

The statute, prohibiting usurious contracts, has a proviso which exempts from the operation of it "the letting of cattle, or other usages of the like nature in practice among farmers, maritime contracts,"c The notes in question, in this case, come within the exception of the statute, and are not usurious.

Stat. 1783, c. 55.

There have been different usages respecting the letting of cattle. Some contracts are, to return double the value in a certain number of years, and others to pay a certain sum for the use of them. There is, perhaps, no settled and uniform usage, to which the statute may be supposed to refer ; but contracts for Jetting cattle generally are to be considered within the exception, unless they manifestly appear to bare been intended as a cover for a usurious loan. If they are unreasonable and oppressive, the principles of the common law will give relief against them, as in other cases of that description.

Cowp. 112, 783.

Whether an agreement for the letting of cattle is usurious or nor. does not depend on the exorbitancy of the sum to be paid for the use of them. Three dollars per annum for the use a cow of ordinary value would probably be more than at the rate of six per cent, on the worth of the property let; and, if contracts of this nature were within the statute, must be as clearly usurious as where the agreement is to pay six dollars per annum.

By the notes in this case, the contracts were for letting the cattle for one year only. The defendant was to return them within one year from the date of each note respectively; and the promissee had a right, at the expiration of the year, to demand them. As the cattle have been received, the plaintiffs are now entitled to recover for the use of them six dollars on each note, which the jury have not thought unreasonable, and legal interest to ibis time on that sum, and on the value of the cows from the expiration of the year until they were delivered. The agreement to pay at the rate of six dollars per annum for the use of the cattle, as stipulated in each note, in case the defendant should fail to perform his contract at the end of the year, was unconscionable, and cannot alter the general rule of damages which is adopted and settled by the Court.

The verdict, having been given, under the direction of the judge who sat at the trial, agreeably to these rules, is to stand, and judgment be entered upon it accordingly.

Vide note to Perkins vs. Lyman, 11 Mass. Rep. 83, 2d ed.

Summaries of

Baxter v. Wales

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Jul 1, 1815
12 Mass. 365 (Mass. 1815)
Case details for

Baxter v. Wales

Case Details


Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

Date published: Jul 1, 1815


12 Mass. 365 (Mass. 1815)

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