Anthony v. County of Jasper

In Anthony v. County of Jasper, 101 U.S. 693 (1879), municipal bonds were signed and issued in October, 1872, on a subscription made in March, 1872, to the stock of a railroad company, and bore date the day of the subscription. The presiding justice who signed the bonds did not become such until October, 1872. Thus the person who was in office when the bonds were actually signed, signed them, but they were antedated to a day when he was not in office. In the Jasper County case there was a false date inserted in the bonds in order to avoid the effect of a registration act which took effect between the antedated date and the actual date of signing. It was there said by Chief Justice Waite, delivering the judgment of the court, (p. 698:) "The public can act only through its authorized agents, and it is not bound until all who are to participate in what is to be done have performed their respective duties. The authority of a public agent depends on the law as it is when he acts. He has only such powers as are specifically granted; and he cannot bind his principal under powers that have been taken away, by simply antedating his contracts. Under such circumstances, a false date is equivalent to a false signature; and the public, in the absence of any ratification of its own, is no more estopped by the one than it would be by the other. After the power of an agent of a private person has been revoked, he cannot bind his principal by simply dating back what he does. A retiring partner, after due notice of dissolution, cannot charge his firm for the payment of a negotiable promissory note, even in the hands of an innocent holder, by giving it a date within the period of the existence of the partnership. Antedating, under such circumstances, partakes of the character of a forgery, and is always open to inquiry, no matter who relies on it. The question is one of the authority of him who attempts to bind another. Every person who deals with or through an agent assumes all the risks of a lack of authority in the agent to do what he does. Negotiable paper is no more protected against this inquiry than any other. In Bayley v. Taber, 5 Mass. 286, it was held that when a statute provided that promissory notes of a certain kind, made or issued after a certain day, should be utterly void, evidence was admissible on behalf of the makers to prove that the notes were issued after that day, although they bore a previous date. . . . Purchasers of municipal securities must always take the risk of the genuineness of the official signatures of those who execute the paper they buy. This includes, not only the genuineness of the signature itself but the official character of him who makes it."