James Madison Papers

Philip P. Barbour to James Madison, 28 March 1826

Frescati. March 28th. –26.

Dear Sir,

Upon my return home, I looked into the question which you mentioned yesterday, and I find two cases in Cranch’s reports, distinctly asserting the principle, that a trustee who is a citizen of a different state, may sue in the Circuit Federal Court, for the benefit of a Cestui qui trust, who is a citizen of the same state with the deft. The cases take a distinction, between the case of a trustee, of whom they say "That he is a real person, capable of being a citizen or alien, having the whole legal estate in himself, & competent to sue in his own right, and that therefore where he is a citizen of the same state with deft. he cannot sue in the Federal court, on the ground that the cestui que trust is a citizen of another state" and the case of a merely nominal plaintiff, who can sue tho’ he be a citizen of the same state with deft. if the persons really, & beneficially interested be not. An example of this kind is given in 5th. Cranch, in the case of the Stafford justices vs Strode; the ptiffs. were the magistrates of Stafford County, in Virginia to whom the deft as executor executed a bond for the faithful discharge of his executorial duties. The suit was brought in the Federal Court of Virginia in the names of the Justices citizens of Virginia against the deft. also a citizen. Here the Jurisdiction was sustained on the ground, that tho’ the nominal ptiffs were citizens, yet the real persons (the creditors) for whose benefit the suit was brought, were aliens. In this case the ptiffs were wholly nominal—In the case of trustee, the legal title is in him, tho’ equity holds him responsible to the cestui qui trust. Your’s resp’ly

P. P. Barbour

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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