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Opinion of the Court.
be good as against creditors, purchasers and mortgagees in good faith. The primary purpose of the act is to protect persons of these classes, who might otherwise sustain losses by relying upon the possession and apparent ownership of the chattels by the mortgagor. In the case of an ordinary pledge, there is no need of recording, since the pledgor at once parts with possession.
But what shall be said, when the transaction relates to personal property which is so situated that it is not within the power of the owner to deliver it to mortgagee or pledgee, and of which he has no such visible possession and apparent ownership as would probably be relied upon by creditors, purchasers, and mortgagees? Does § 8560, G. C., which declares that mortgages in such case shall be invalid against the designated third parties unless recorded, necessarily apply to transactions in the nature of a pledge, which are not mentioned in terms? The effect would be to greatly hamper, sometimes to prevent, transactions in the nature of a pledge, where only constructive possession of the property could be transferred. We cannot give to the section cited so extensive a meaning, in the absence of a decision by the state court adopting that construction. None such is referred to.
234 U. S.
It is contended that a different rule exists in Ohio as to the delivery of possession in the case of pledges from that which obtains in the case of sales. Section 8619, G. C. (Rev. Stat., § 4197) is cited:
"SEC. 8619. When goods and chattels remain for five years in the possession of a person, or those claiming under him, to whom a pretended loan thereof has been made, they shall be the property of such person, unless a reservation of a right to them is made to the lender in writing, and the instrument recorded within six months after the loan is made, in the recorder's office of the county where one or both of the parties reside, or unless such instrument is filed as provided by law with respect to chattel mort
Opinion of the Court.
gages. But if a loan of goods and chattels is made to an art museum association within this State, such reservation of a right to them may be so made and recorded at any time within five years from the date of the loan."
But in the Code, this section is made a part of Chapter 4, entitled "Statute of Frauds and Perjuries." It partakes also of the nature of a statute of limitations. We are unable to see anything in it to establish the asserted distinction between sales and pledges, and we are unable to find that any such force has been given to it by the courts of Ohio.
The cases to which particular reference is made are Gibson v. Chillicothe Bank, 11 Oh. St. 311; Thorne v. Bank, 37 Oh. St. 254; and Hunt v. Bode, Assignee, 66 Oh. St. 255. All are decisions by the Supreme Court of the State. In the Gibson Case, in an action of trespass for levying upon and detaining certain property by virtue of an execution against their bailees, plaintiffs, in order to prove their property and right of possession, gave in evidence certain warehouse receipts, reading in substance as follows: "Received, Chillicothe, November 13, 1852, of Messrs. Gibson, Stockwell & Co., and for their account, the following property, in good order, which we agree to hold irrevocably subject to their order, they having a lien thereon for the full cost of the same." (p. 312.) It was held that the legal effect of such a receipt was to pass the general property and right of possession to the holder, and that this effect was not impaired by the recital that the holder had a lien upon the property. The court, in its opinion, recognized that receipts of this kind, from long and general use in commerce and trade, had come to have a wellunderstood import among business men, which (as the court said) ought not to be confounded or perhaps even qualified by a strict construction of the literal and grammatical meaning of the words employed. And the court proceeded to say, (p. 317): "The receipts in this case are in
Opinion of the Court.
234 U. S.
some particulars variant from each other; and yet we have no doubt they would all be recognized by commercial men, as of like import and equal validity as warehouse receipts. And if so, they as absolutely transfer the general property of the goods and chattels therein expressed, as would a bill of sale. They are a kind of instrument extensively used by commercial men, as the most convenient mode of transfer and constructive delivery of property, and facilitating the ready realization of the price of products by the producer remote from market. Public policy, as well as respect to good faith, requires that those like other instruments of commerce, should be so regarded in courts, as not to unjustly impair confidence in them elsewhere. And this view of the legal effect of such instruments, we think fully sustained by the authorities cited by counsel; and especially by the case of Gibson v. Stevens, 8 How. Rep. 384." It was therefore held that in spite of the recital that Gibson, Stockwell & Company had a "lien thereon for the full cost of the same," the warehouse receipts tended to prove that the plaintiffs had a general ownership in the property, and that the trial court erred in ruling otherwise. The citation of Gibson v. Stevens is significant, because in that case this court, in an opinion by Mr. Chief Justice Taney, recognized that where personal property is from its character or situation not capable of actual delivery, the delivery of a warehouse receipt or other evidence of title is sufficient to transfer the property and right of possession to another; and also because this decision was based in large part upon the usages of trade and commerce.
In Thorne v. Bank, ubi supra, it was held that an instrument in the form of a warehouse receipt, executed by a debtor to his creditor, upon property owned by the debtor, who was not a warehouseman, and made for the sole purpose of securing the creditor, was void as against other creditors where the property remained in the possession of the debtor. The court cited and relied upon Rev.
Opinion of the Court.
Stat., § 4150, above quoted, and in effect held that the attempt by the warehouse receipts to establish a lien upon the personal property was in conflict with the policy of that section, and therefore invalid as to a creditor. Gibson v. Chillicothe Bank was distinguished upon the ground that in that case the warehouse receipts were offered to show ownership, and not a mere agreement for securing an indebtedness. It will, however, be observed that in the Thorne Case the property in question was in the possession of the borrowers, and there was nothing in its cha acter or situation to prevent an actual delivery of it to the lender.
In Hunt v. Bode, Assignee, ubi supra, which is the most recent case upon the subject to which our attention has been called, one Stothfang had delivered to a bank certain warehouse receipts for whiskey as collateral for a loan of money made to him by the bank, and thereafter undertook to make a second transfer or pledge to another party, subject to the claim of the Bank. A copy of this instrument was served upon the Bank, and it was notified to retain possession of the warehouse receipts pledged with it as collateral security for its claim against the pledgor, and after it was duly paid, the balance of the receipts were to be turned over to the second pledgee. The transaction was sustained, the court remarking, (p. 268): "Delivery of the property pledged is generally essential to a valid pledge, and it is equally true that to make a valid sale or transfer of any species or article of personal property, a delivery of the property sold or transferred is necesBut it does not follow that actual or physical delivery should always accompany the sale or transfer, and this is also true as to the pledging of choses in action or other kinds of personal property. The delivery in some cases may be symbolical, such as the handing over the writing which constitutes the title to the property, just as was done in this case, to secure the Atlas National Bank
Opinion of the Court.
for the money it had loaned to Stothfang. He delivered to the bank, not the one hundred and sixty-five barrels of whiskey, but the warehouse receipts for the same, which were its muniment of title and control of the property they represented. And when the pledgor desired to secure the payment of the note held against him by Dieckmann, he executed and delivered to him the transfer of all interest in the receipts which would remain, after the bank's claim should be satisfied. This transfer was not strictly a pledge, but an assignment and transfer of the stated interest in the warehouse receipts; but if it is desired that we call it a pledge, as has been done by counsel, we still observe, that constructive possession in the second pledgee would be sufficient, if the intent to deliver such possession is clearly apparent. It is the application of the familiar rule, that the transfer is complete and delivery made, when the owner has done all that he can do in the premises, and has given such possession to the pledgee or transferree as the nature of the property and its situation will permit.. In this case Stothfang owned a valuable equity in the warehouse receipts held by the bank, as their sale afterwards made manifest, and it was such interest in them that could be made the subject of sale and transfer, and even pledge, and certainly Stothfang gave to Dieckmann possession of all interest in and title to the receipts which would remain after the debt due the bank was satisfied. This was all the delivery that could then be made, and it was at least a constructive delivery, and this we think meets the demands of the law."
234 U. S.
We are unable to find in these decisions a recognition of the distinctions insisted upon by counsel for appellants. On the contrary, the Supreme Court of Ohio clearly recognizes the effectiveness of a symbolical delivery.
It is evident, also, that that court recognizes the force of a long continued commercial usage. And this lends peculiar significance to the conceded existence for more