— When si few years ago the spirit of improving the, internal navigation of the stale was excited, various were the calculations that were made as to the, consequences which would flow from it.
When the Legislature became actuated , by the sama spirit and passed many laws to facilitate its accomplishment,. there were those who believed that the public agents or companies thereby established, with the moans then in their power, could so far improve internal navigation, as to gire an additional value to property, far beyond that at which it was then estimated, others were Jess sanguine.
A knowledge of engineering and the amount of funds necessary to success- in such an important undertaking, was very limited. This state of things opened a grand doer for speculation.* and associations were formed for *42entering into them, and like the Defendants, purchased up favorite spots of ground for the erection of towns, and sold them out in lots, frequently for enormous pri-fai. beyond their value. And when the infatuation and delusion under which they were purchased subsided, the law could afford no redress to the purchasers, because tiie speculation was a fair one, and this remark is applicable to the present Complainant, if there was no fraud used in the sale, at which he purchased sufficient in equity to set the sale aside. Whether there was or not, it is next necessary to ascertain.
It must be kept in view, that tiie great object to be accomplished, was the removal of obstructions in Ihc River Roanoke, and malting it navigable, it was that only which could give value to towns or to lots — if iff .remained unnavigable, so as not to be the channel through which produce, could be sent to market, the lands upon it whether laid off into towns or not, acquired no additional value — that was the grand pivot on which speculation turned $ whether success attended the enter-prize or not, did not depend upon tiie proprietors of towns or the purchasers of lots. The means intended for that end, and tiie power of directing them were con» fided to the Roanoke Navigation Company, if the undertaking terminated successfully, towns and lots would be valuable, if otherwise, they would only retain their original value i in the latter case, the purchasers of lots would find themselves but illy compensated, by having bridges erected on the river, or in having coal mines or quarries of slate contiguous to it, or in having sites for manufactories upon it — no doubt if the river was navigable, these advantages would enhance the value of the lots, and taking it for granted that untrue representations were made of them at the sale, I cannot think that the contract for the purchase of the lots ought to be rescinded, because they would acquire their greatest value from the river being made navigable, and not from the *43coal mines ami oilier advantages before noticed j that the river is not navigable, is not the fault of the vendors.
If the case slopped here, i would say that the L«ora-plainant should be otherwise remedied, for the injury sustained by those misrepresentations, but that the sale on that account, ought not to he set aside.
There is another allegation in the bill of misrepresentation, that is that the town of Jackson was at the head of navigation. On this part of the case, the evidence is not satisfactory ; it has been proved that the river above the town has been navigated a considerable distance, but whether in a Sight canoe or in what else, has not been stated. I fit was sufficiently established, that the town was not at the head of navigation; and that the land on winch it was laid off, was of little more, or no more value than other lands on the hank of the river in case the river was rendered navigable, f would say that the purchasers did not get that which they contracted for, and that for that reason, the sale ought to be set aside.
Again, although Jackson lay below the head of navigation, yet if it possessed considerable commercial advantages. so that the lots bore some considerable proportion to (he price give» for them, the purchase, probably ought not to be .set aside. When a case turns on considerations of this sort,, all the circumstances attending it should be made out in evidence. It is useless to examine this part of the case any further, because there is another objection made to the sale of the lot, of more important concern to the vendors, which, I think, must decide the controversy, and that is, the employment of puffers to enhance the value of the lots at the sale.— This practice is forbidden by morality and fair dealing, and is condemned by the laws of the country, Cowp. 395, 6 Term, 642, and the apology cannot he alleged, that it was adopted as a-defensive measure, (if ouch apology is admissible) to prevent the lots from selling for less than *44jhey were worth. (3 Ves. 628.) They had made no experiment in selling any of them, when they employed Conner, to bid for the first lot that might be offered, to g1000, well knowing, that Hie price for which that would sell, would have a great effect in fixing a higher value upon others, in the estimation of those who might bid for them. It matters not, that it has not been proved that any puffer bid for those the Complainant purchased. The lots were as articles of the same kind, or as Complainant’s Counsel has better expressed it, they were as yards of cloth of the same web : other circumstances of puffing have been proved. I think, for this cause, the sale should be set aside.
: — I deem it unnecessary to examine the grounds of relief founded on the alleged fraudulent representations as to the peculiar advantages of. the Eagle Falls, as the scite for a town, for íbero are other grounds on which I am satisfied that this contract should be set aside. I mean the fraudulent employment of puffers at the sale. But I cannot forbear from observing, that the manner of making these representations lias very much the appearance of a fraudulent combination of individual", to give to their statements a credit, beyond what they knew to be commonly allowed to those of ordinary vendors, and by them, intended to stifle fair and full examination, and, as it were, by bold assertion, coming from four or five influential individuals, and, from their situation, supposed to possess, great knowledge of the navigation, to overcome the judgments of i the less confident, and less intelligent. I say, I think it has much the appearance of such premeditated design, but I pass it over, and come to the puffing, as a very plain ground of relief. I shall not discuss the question, whether puffing is a fraud per se, for it is agreed by all, (even by Ld. Rosiga,, wiio held some very strange opinions, to say the least of them, as to the inoffensiveness of *45puffing,) that it is allowable to prevent sacrifice, only, and not to procure an inflated price 3 and there is not the least pretence, that the object, in this case, was to present; sacrifice, bat the intent and effect was, to give this pro party a price far beyond its value, and this puffing- was of the most fraudulent kind, for I consider no*; only the employment of Conner as puffing-, bat all that was said about his being employed to buy for some merchants iu Lynchburg, the fraudulent oilers made by some of the ■Company, of üsi500 dollars for the lot; for asking him if he would take that sum, and saying that lie bad refused it, bad the same effect, (and was so designed,) of severally offering it, to which may be adduced a species of puffing, calculated to produce the greatest effect, that Oañmvmj bad refused ¡575,000 for bis land, on the opposite side of the river — nor can the Defendants protect themselves from the effects of their fraud, cinder the pre-tence, that at the time the lot in question was knocked off to the Complainants, that he was contending with real bidders, for the question was not as to the relative value of the lots, but the value of a lol, in the town ; having; fixed that, by their puffing, the cheated and deluded bidders might well be trusted to settle that matter, ihs relative value, among themselves, without the aid of bye-bidders. The rule laid down by the Complainant’s Comi-se], is certainly a wise one, that at the sale of a horse and an ox, puffing tisc sale of the horse, is not puffing the sale of the ox, because the bidding for the one, docs not, in the estimation of the bidders, enhance the value of the other — but this is like the bidding for a yard of dolí?. — it enhances the price of each yard in the whole piece. The law makes no distinctions without a differ’ enec. Marehead, threfore, stands in the same situation as if he had been contending with puffers, and the Iasi. hid but his own, had been made by one of them : for iu reality the bidders all became puffers, mere machines in the hands of these men, who. after baying set them go *46ing, might well retire from the work, and enjoy the spoils.
The contract must be set aside, and upon the Corn-plainant reconveying, by a conveyance approved by the master, and deposited in this office, for the benefit of the Defendants, a perpetual injunction wiil issue. The defendants will pay all costs both at Law and in Equity-
Taylor, Chief-Justice, concurring,