« ForrigeFortsett »
than six feet in thickness may be substituted for the foundation piles."
Light is thrown upon the plain meaning of the contract by the conduct of the parties in the execution of the work. It is not pretended that when the character of the subsoil
was discovered that the slightest claim was preferred that this fact gave rise to an extra allowance. The fact is that the contractors proceeded with the work, obtained delay for its completion, made their final settlements and received their last payment without ever asserting that any of the rights which they now claim were vested in them. Without deciding that such conduct would be decisive if the claim was supported by the contract, it is nevertheless clear that it affords a just means of adding forceful significance to the unambiguous letter of the contract and the self-evident intention of the parties in entering into it.
HOME FOR INCURABLES, Appt.,
MARY SPENCER NOBLE et al.
EMELINE COLVILLE, Appt.,
AMERICAN SECURITY & TRUST COM-
(See S. C. Reporter's ed. 383-400.)
with directions to affirm the decree of the Supreme Court of the District.
See same case below, 10 App. D. C. 56.
Statement by Mr. Justice White:
Mary E. Ruth died on the 16th of June, 1892, having on the first day of the same month and year executed both a will *and a codicil. After revoking all previous wills and codicils, and directing the payment of debts and funeral expenses, the will bequeathed all the real, personal, or mixed property to the American Security & Trust Company for the benefit of a granddaughter, ural life. On the death of the granddaughtSophia Yuengling Huston, during her nater the will provided that the trust should end, and that it should be the duty of the trus tee to pay over to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania the sum of five thousand dollars for purposes stated, and to deliver all the "residue and remainder of the estate of whatever kind" to the Home for Incurables, to which corporation such residue was bestowed for a stated object. The codicil unquestionably gave to Emeline Colville a bequest of five thousand dollars. The will and codicil are printed in full in the margin.t
†I, Mary Eleanor Ruth, residing in the city of Washington and the District of Columbia, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make and publish and declare this to be my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making null and void any and all former wills and codicils by me at any time made.
First. I direct my executor hereinafter named
Codicil, when effective-construction of codi- to first pay out of my estate my funeral ex
cil and will.
A codicil which makes the testator's intent
reasonably clear may be given effect, though
[Nos. 57, 61.]
penses and all just debts.
Second. I give, devise, and bequeath all of my estate, real, personal, or mixed, whether in quired or hereafter to be acquired, and wherepossession, reversion, or remainder, now soever situate, to the "American Security & Columbia, its successors and assigns, in trust Trust Company" of Washington City, District of nevertheless for the following uses and purposes only, that is to say
To invest and to reinvest the proceeds of my said estate in its discretion from time to time in any of the following classes of securities; that is, either in United States bonds, or in
municipal or state bonds, or in first-mortgage bonds of dividend-paying railroads, or in loans secured by first trusts upon real estate in the District of Columbia, said loans not to exceed three-fourths market value of said real estate; and to pay over so much of the annual income from said investments and reinvestments to the
Argucd and Submitted November 9 & 10, guardian or guardians of my granddaughter 1898. Decided January 3, 1899.
Sophia Yuengling Huston as may be sufficient to provide for her maintenance, education, and PPEALS from a decree of the Court of support until she becomes of the full age of Appeals of the District of Columbia twenty-one years after which period the entire income so annually received from said investholding that the effect of the codicil to a will ments and reinvestments shall be paid over by was to revoke the bequest and devise of the said trustee to my said granddaughter for her residue of the estate, and that after paying sole use and benefit for and during the period of the legacies, such residue should be distrib- her natural life. Provided, however, that the uted among the heirs at law, and reversing income thus provided for my said granddaugh. a decree of the Supreme Court of that Dis- ter for and during the term of her natural life trict holding that the codicil substituted the shall sooner cease and determine at any time legatec to a bequest made in favor of the hoswhen it is ascertained by my said trustee that pital of the University of Pennsylvania. De-given by said granddaughter, or in anywise exany part of my said income shall have been cree of the Court of Appeals of said District pended by or through her for the use or benefit reversed, and cause remanded to that court, of Robert J. Huston, from whom her mother,
 *In October, 1895, the American Security | settled rules of construction. She averred
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Home for Incurables, Emeline Colville, and the heirs at law of the decedent, were made parties to the bill. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania by its answer denied that there was any ambiguity in the will in regard to the bequest made to it, and averred that such bequest was in no wise impaired by the codicil. The Home for Incurables, although conceding by its answer that there was an ambiguity arising from the will and codicil considered in juxtaposition, yet alleged that the codicil did not in any respect diminish the bequest and devise of the residuum made to it by the will, or, if it did, operated to do so only to the amount of five thousand dollars. Emeline Colville, by her answer, while admitting that there was ambiguity in the will and codicil considered together, averred that such ambiguity was patent and was resolvable by my daughter. obtained a divorce with custody of said Sophia Yuengling Huston given absolutely to her said mother. In case the income shall so cease and determine before the death of my said granddaughter, then said income, and ail accumulations thereof, and the entire principal of said trust estate, shall be disposed of as provided in the next succeeding item of this my last will and testament.
I further authorize my aforesaid trustee to sell any portion of the estate herein conveyed to it in trust as aforesaid, and to invest and reInvest the proceeds as herein before provided, giving to purchasers good and sufficient deeds or other evidences of title. without obligation upon the part of said purchasers to see to the application of the purchase money.
Third. In the event of the death of my said granddaughter Sophia Yuengling Huston, or of the occurrence of the prior contingency for the determination of said trust hereinbefore provided in item two, then the trust herein before created and vested in the American Security & Trust Company shall cease and be determined, and so much of my said estate shall thereupon be conveyed and delivered over by said American Security & Trust Company to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as amounts to five thousand dollars, said five thousand dollars to be used by said hospital to endow and forever maintain a first-class perpetual bed in said hospital in the city of Philadelphia, sald bed to be in the name and memory of my beloved son Malancthon Love Ruth.
All the residue and remainder of my said estate, of whatever kind, after the payment of said five thousand dollars for the establishment of said perpetual bed in said hospital, I give, devise. and bequeath to the "Home for Incur
The trial court found that the codicil gave Emeline Colville five thousand dollars, and substituted her to the bequest made in favor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; hence, it decreed Mrs. Čolville entitled to the five thousand dollars, and that the Pennsylvania corporation took nothing. It further decreed that the other provision of the will-that is, the disposition of the residuary estate in favor of the Home for Incurables-was unaffected by the codicil.
The court of appeals, to which the controversy was taken, while agreeing that the codicil gave Mrs. Colville five thousand dollars, and that she was entitled to this sum, held (the Chief Justice dissenting) that the ables" at Fordham, New York city, in the state of New York, its successors and assigns, forever to be used by said Home for Incurables to endow and forever maintain one or more beds in said home, in the name and memory of my beloved son Malancthon Love Ruth.
Fourth. I nominate and appoint Mary Robinson Wright, wife of J. Hood Wright, of New York city, and Mary Robinson Markle, wife of John Markle, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and the survivors of them, to be the guardians or guardian of the property and the person of my said granddaughter Sophia Yuengling Huston, they and each of them being my valued friends and having consented to act in that behalf.
Fifth. I hereby nominate and appoint the American Security & Trust Company of Washington city, District of Columbia, to be the sole executor of my estate.
I, Mary Eleanor Ruth, being of sound and disposing mind and memory and understanding, do make and publish this codicil to my last will and testament-I hereby revoke and annul the bequest therein made by me to the Home for Incurables at Fordham, New York city, in the state of New York, and I hereby give and bequeath the five thousand dollars (heretofore in my will bequeathed to sald Home for Incurables) to my friend Emeline Colville, the widow of Samuel Colville, now living in New York city, said bequest being on account of her kindness to my son and myself during his and my illness and my distress.
In witness whereof I have hereto affixed my name this first day of June, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety-two, and I in all other things ratify and affirm my sald will.
effect of the codicil was to revoke the be-give the sum intended, but the entire re-
Messrs. George H. Yeaman, J. Spalding Flannery, and George C. Kobbe for the Home for Incurables.
Mr. Henry P. Blair for the Hospital of
Messrs. Henry Tompson and Edwin
Messrs. Henry Randall Webb and
Mr. William A. McKenney for American Security & Trust Company.
Before approaching the text of the will and codicil we will notice an erroneous statement of the rule of law by which it is claimed the assertion that the codicil is uncertain is to be tested, and will also state the general scope of the power which courts of equity will exert to correct mistakes in wills, and the cardinal rule of construction which they adopt in so doing.
It is strenuously argued that, unless it be found that the codicil takes away from one of the beneficiaries named in the will the whole or a portion of what the will gives, by language as clear and as free from ambiguity as that contained in the will, the codicil is void for uncertainty and the provisions of the will remain unaffected. This broad proposition is unsound, and the authority by which it is apparently supported has been explained or qualified. Thus in Randfield v.
(p. 235) stated the rule as follows:
 *Mr. Justice White, after making the Randfield, 8 H. L. Cas. 225, Lord Campbell foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:
It will subserve clearness of understanding to accurately define at the outset the real contentions which underlie the issues presented.
It is not gainsaid by either of the beneficiaries under the will that the plain intention of the testatrix expressed in the codicil was to give Mrs. Colville the sum of five thousand dollars. Indeed, assertion that there was
page 238, said:
"The ratio decidendi, upon which it is said that the vice chancellor held that no operation is to be given to the limitation over on the death of the son without issue, ‘If you have a clear gift it shall not be cut down by anything subsequent, unless it is equally there be a clear gift, it is not to be cut down clear,' appears to me to be insufficient. If by anything subsequent which does not with reasonable certainty indicate the intention doubt on this subject could not reasonably be of the testator to cut it down, but the maxim made in view of the explicit terms of the codi- cannot mean that you are to institute a comcil. The uncertainty which, it is alleged, ex-parison between the two clauses as to luists in the codicil, is solely as to which one cidity." of the beneficiaries named in the will is to And in the same case, Lord Wensleydale, be affected by the payment of the sum given by the codicil. Each of those benefited by the will in substance asserts that the codicil is certain in so far as it manifests the intention of the testatrix to give, and that it is equally certain as to the fund from which the payment is to be made, provided such fund is found to be the provision made by the will in favor of the other. The arguments hence at once resolve themselves into the single assertion that, although the gift made by the codicil is certain, its enforcement may or may not be possible, depending on the particular fountain from which it may be concluded the testatrix intended the stream of her benefaction should flow. And, although differing in form of statement, the contentions upon which the legal heirs and Mrs. Colville base their claim of right to the residuary estate substantially conduce to a like, although more aggravated, result. The first (the legal heirs) concede the certainty of the intention of the testatrix as expressed in the codicil to give a specific sum to Mrs. Colville, but claim that in the execution of this defined purpose the testatrix *brought about uncertainty as to the entire residuum of her estate, since intestacy, it is claimed, was created in that regard. The second (Mrs. Colville) while equally granting the clear purpose of the testatrix, by the codicil. to give her only the sum of five thousand dollars, yet argues that this purpose has been sc expressed as not only to
"The gift, being in terms absolute, cannot be cut down unless there is a sufficiently clear indication of an interest (intent?) to defeat it by the subsequent clause. I quite agree with the Lord Chancellor in the con struction of those words to which he referred. that you need not have a clause equally clear but it must be reasonably clear, and the clause to which that effect is attributed by the respondents is capable of a construction confining its effect to the real estates only."
And this rule of reasonableness is applicable, with peculiar potency, to a case like the one now before us, where the effect of defeating the codicil for uncertainty will confessedly frustrate the clear intention of the testatrix. In this connection the language of Lord Brougham, concurred in by the House of Lords in Doe, Winter, v. Perratt, 6 Mann. & G. 314, 359, is pertinent:
"We ought not, without absolute necessity, to let ourselves embrace the alternative of holding a devise void for uncertainty. Where it is possible to give a meaning, we should give it, that the will of the testator may be operative; and where two or more meanings are presented for consideration, we must be well assured that there is no sort of argument in favor of one view rather than another, before we reject the whole. It is true the heir at law shall only be disinherited by clear intention; but if there be ever so
little reason in favor of one construction of a | his will shall prevail, provided it be consisdevise rather than any other, we are, at tent with the rules of law.' This principle least, sure that this is nearer the intention is generally asserted in the construction of of the testator than that the whole should be every testamentary disposition. It is em void and the heir let in. The cases where phatically the will of the person who makes courts have refused to give a devise any ef- it, and is *defined to be ‘the legal declaration fect, on the ground of uncertainty, are those of a man's intentions, which he wills to be where it was quite impossible to say what performed after his death.' These intentions was intended, or where no intention at all are to be collected from his words, and ought had been expressed, rather than cases where to be carried into effect if they be consistent several meanings were suggested, and seemed with law." See also Colton v. Colton, 127 equally entitled to the preference. U. S. 300 [32: 138]. On this head, it may further be observed that the difficulty of arriving at a conclusion, even the grave doubt which may hang around it, certainly the diversity and the conflict of opinions respecting it, and the circumstances of different persons having attached different meanings to the same words, form no ground whatever of holding a devise void for uncertainty. The difficulty must be so great that it amounts to an impossibility; the doubt so great that there is not even an inclination of the scales one way, before we are entitled to adopt the conclusion. Nor have 391]we any right to regard the discrepancy of opinions as any evidence of the uncertainty, while there remains any reasonable ground of preferring one solution to all the rest. The books are full of cases, where every shift, if I may so speak, has been resorted to, rather than hold the gift void for uncertainty."
No less clearly marked out is the conceded authority of a court of equity to correct mistakes in wills and to enforce the real intention of the testator by giving that construction which accomplishes such purpose. Story (1 Eq. Jur. 12th ed. p. 174) says:
"Sec. 179. In regard to mistakes in wills, there is no doubt that courts of equity have jurisdiction to correct them when they are apparent upon the face of the will, or may be made out by a due construction of its terms; for in cases of wills the intention will prevail over the words. But then, the mistake must be apparent on the face of the will, otherwise there can be no relief; for, at least since the statute of frauds, which requires wills to be in writing (whatever may have been the case before the statute), parol evidence, or evidence dehors the will, is not admissible to vary or control the terms of the will, although it is admissible to remove a latent ambiguity.
"Sec. 180. But the mistake, in order to lead to relief, must be a clear mistake, or a clear omission, demonstrable from the structure and scope of the will. Thus, if in a will there is a mistake in the computation of a legacy, it will be rectified in equity. So, if there is a mistake in a name, or description, or number of the legatees intended to take, or in the property intended to be bequeathed, equity will correct it."
In Hardenbergh v. Ray, 151 U. S. 112, at page 126 [38: 93, 97], the court, through Mr. Justice Jackson, thus stated the doctrine:
"The cardinal rule for the construction of wills, to which all other rules must bend, as stated by Chief Justice Marshall in Smith v. Bell, 6 Pet. 68, 75 [8: 322, 325], is, that 'the intention of the testator expressed in
We come, then, to the text of the will and codicil, in order to consider, first, whether the bequest and devise of the remainder, which the will makes, is in whole or in part affected by the codicil; and, second, if not, whether the codicil substitutes Mrs. Colville to the bequest in favor of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, thereby revoking the gift of five thousand dollars made to the said hospital and conferring that sum upon Mrs. Colville.
The language of that portion of the will with which we are now concerned is as follows:
"Third. In the event of the death of my said granddaughter Sophia Yuengling Huston, or of the occurrence of the prior contingency for the determination of said trust hereinbefore provided in item two, then the trust hereinbefore created and vested in the American Security & Trust Company shall cease and be determined, and so much of my said estate shall thereupon be conveyed and delivered over by said American Security & Trust Company to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as amounts to five thousand dollars, said five thousand dollars to be used by said hospital to endow and forever maintain a first-class perpetual bed in said hospital, in the city of Philadelphia, said bed to be in the name and memory of my beloved son Malancthon Love Ruth.
"All the residue and remainder of my said estate of whatever kind, after the payment of said five thousand dollars for the establishment of said perpetual bed in said hospital, I give, devise, and bequeath to the Home for Incurables at Fordham, New York city, in the state of New York, its successors and assigns forever, to be used by said Home for Incurables, to endow and forever maintain one or more beds in said home in the name and memory of my beloved son Malancthon Love Ruth."
The codicil says:
*"I, Mary Eleanor Ruth, being of sound and disposing mind and memory and understanding, do make and publish this codicil to my last will and testament-I hereby revoke and annul the bequest therein made by me to the Home for Incurables at Fordham, New York city, in the state of New York and I hereby give and bequeath the five thousand dollars (heretofore in my will bequeathed to said Home for Incurables) to my friend Emeline Colville, the widow of Samuel Colville, now living in New York city, said bequest being on account of her kindness to my son and myself during his and my illness and my distress.
"In witness whereof I have hereto affixed my name this first day of June, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and ninety-two, and I in all other things ratify and affirm my said will."
It is apparent that the portions of the will which are in question contain but two provisions. First, a bequest of five thousand dollars to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and, second, a bequest and devise of the entire remainder of the estate to the Home for Incurables. This is so self-evident as to require nothing but statement. The codicil, it is obvious, makes one bequest only, that is, five thousand dollars to Mrs. Colville. It points out the source whence this sum is to be taken, by designating the particular fund created by the will from which the same is to be obtained. This designation is made in a twofold way: First, by naming the person in whose favor the will gives a right, thereby pointing out that it is the fund given to such person which is to be drawn on in order to execute the gift in favor of Mrs. Colville. Second, it also designates the source whence the five thousand dollars is to be taken, by describing the character of the bequest in the will which is to be used to pay the legacy created by the codicil. As a result the codicil revokes the.bequest in the will upon which it operates, and substitutes the beneficiary named in the codicil for the beneficiary under the will. The controversy arises from the fact that there is conflict between the two designations made by the codicil, the name on the one hand and the character of the thing given on the other. *This conflict plainly appears from a consideration of the text of the codicil: "I hereby revoke and annul the bequest therein" (that is, in the will) "made by me to the Home for Incurables at Fordham, New York city, in the state of New York, and I hereby give and bequeath the five thousand dollars (heretofore in my will bequeathed to said Home for Incurables) to my friend Emeline Colville." That these words show a change of purpose as to a gift of five thousand dollars found in the will, and a substitution of the new beneficiary for the one mentioned in the will, is beyond reasonable doubt demonstrated by the text. The revocation made by the codicil is but consequent on the gift to the new legatee of "the" sum "heretofore in my will bequeathed," and thus makes it patent that the revocation and the gift are truly one and the same act of volition, and that they arise from and depend one on the other. Which, then, of the two designations in the codicil contained is the controlling one, or, otherwise stated, which was mistakenly used by the testatrix?
The language revoking and annulling in the codicil is "the bequest therein (that is in the will) made by me." The gift by the codicil is a bequest of "the five thousand dollars heretofore in my will bequeathed." Now the only clause in the will to which this description can possibly apply is the single and only specific bequest found in the will, that is, the five thousand dollars given by the will to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. It follows that the only pos
sible subject to which the codicil can apply is the only one found in the will to which the description can possibly relate, and which it defines with certainty and clearness. To adopt the designation which the codicil gives when it states the name of the beneficiary of the provision in the will would absolutely destroy the description of the character of the thing stated in the codicil, since there is nothing given by the will to the Home for Incurables which comes under or can possibly be embraced within the specific description contained in the codicil of the object of gift to be affected. Now, as it is manifest from the codicil that the purpose of the testatrix was but, in making the codicil, to change the benefit by her *conferred under the will only to the extent of the bequest found in the will of five thousand dollars, and that her sole intent was to confer this gift on a new person, it would follow, if the mention by the codicil of the name of the supposed recipient of the gift were allowed to control, that the thing revoked would be dominated by the mere name, the representative would be greater than the thing it stood for, and the plain intent and purpose of the testatrix, apparer.t on the face of the codicil, would be frustrated. Moreover, a yet more serious departure from the words and intention of the testatrix would result. It is plain from the will that the fixed design of the testatrix was to provide for the disposition of her entire estate; that is, that she assiduously sought to avoid intestacy as to any portion thereof. But if the name mentioned in the codicil be allowed to destroy the accurate description of the nature of the thing upon which the codicil operates, intestacy as to the remainder of the estate would arise, since such result must flow from the assumption that the revocation made by the codicil relates to the devise of the remainder of the estate made by the will. To hold that the name in the codicil controlled the description would be tantamount to saying that, although the testatrix intended, and had stated such intention in clear language, to dispose of all her estate, yet by writing the codicil she had become intestate to the full limit of all the remainder. Besides, to thus construe the will would be to declare that the greater portion of the codicil was wholly unnecessary and meaningless, for if the intention had been that the sum given should be paid by diminishing the remainder, then all reference to the particular gift which was to be operated upon was superfluous.
The intention of the testatrix as shown by the entire codicil is greatly fortified by considering that the context of the will and codi. cil establish, beyond cavil, that they were written by one familiar with the technical legal terms, and hence that the provisions found in both instruments were carefully made to conform to legal phraseology. Now, the thing revoked is called in the codicil "the bequest" made in the will, which contradistinguishes it from the bequest and devise of "all the residue and remainder" of the es- tate of the testatrix "of whatever kind," which the will contains.
The reasoning by which it is contended