Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    A law relating to bankrupts and the procedure against them in the courts. A law providing a remedy for the creditors of a bankrupt, and for the relief and restitution of the bankrupt himself. A bankrupt law is distinguished from the ordinary law between debtor and creditor, as involving these three general principles:
    (1) A summary and immediate seizure of all the debtor's property;
    (2) a distribution of it among the creditors in general, instead of merely applying a portion of it to the payment of the individual complainant; and
    (3) the discharge of the debtor from future liability for the debts then existing. The leading distinction between a bankrupt law and an insolvent law, in the proper technical sense of the words, consists in the character of the persons upon whom it is designed to operate,—the former contemplating as its objects bankrupts only, that is, traders of a certain description; the latter, insolvents in general, or persons unable in pay their debts. This has ied to a marked Separation between the two systems, in principle and in practice, which in England has always been carefully maintnined, although in the United Slates it has of late been effectually disregarded. In further illustration of this distinction, it may be observed that a bankrupt law, in its proper sense, is a remedy intended primarily for the benefit of creditors ; it is set in motion at their instance, and operates upon the debtor against his will, (in invitwm,) although in its result it effectually discharges him from his debts. An insolvent law, on the other hand, is chiefly intended for the benefit of the debtor, and is set in motion at his instance, though less effective as a discharge in its final result. Sturges v. Crowinshield, 4 Wheat. 194, 4 Ij. Ed. 529 ; Vanuxen v. Hazle-hursts, 4 N. J. Law, 192, 7 Am. Dec. 582; Adams v. Storey, 1 Paine, 79, 1 Fed. Cas. 142; Kunzler v. Kohaus, 5 Hill (N. Y.) 317. The only substantial difference between a strictly bankrupt law and an insolvent law lies in the circumstance that the former affords relief upon the application of the creditor, and the latter upon the application of the debtor. In the general character of the remedy, there is no difference, however much the modes by which the remedy may be administered may vary. Martin v. Berry, 37 Cal. 222.