Imagens das páginas

riously to the municipalities or to individuals, the remedy is not with the courts. The courts have no power to interfere, and the people must be looked to, to right through the ballot-box all these wrongs. This is the general rule; and the exceptions to it are not numerous, and will be indicated hereafter.

portionment of debts between an old town and one created from it was in the nature of a contract; and it was not in the power of the legislature afterwards to release the new township from payment of its share as thus determined. But the case of Layton v. New Orleans, 12 La. Ann. 515, is contra. See also Borough of Dunmore's Appeal, 52 Penn. St.,374, which in principle seems to accord with the Louisiana case. In Burns v. Clarion County, 62 Penn. St. 422, it was held the legislature had the power to open a settlement made by county auditors with the county treasurer, and to compel them to settle with him on principles of equity. See further, Cambridge v. Lexington, 17 Pick. 222; Attorney-General v. Cambridge, 16 Gray, 247; Clark v. Cambridge, &c. Bridge Proprietors, 104 Mass. 236. The legislature has power to lay out a road through several towns, and apportion the expense between them. Waterville v. Kennebeck County, 59 Me. 80; Commonwealth v. Newburyport, 103 Mass.


And it may change the law and redistribute the burden afterwards, if from a change of circumstances or other reasons it is deemed just and proper to do so. Scituate v. Weymouth, 108 Mass. 131, and cases cited. A statute abolishing school districts is not void on grounds like the following: that it takes the property of the districts without compensation; that the taxes imposed will not be proportional and reasonable, or that contracts will be effected. Rawson v. Spencer, 113 Mass. 40. See Weymouth, &c. Fire District v. County Commissioners, 108 Mass. 142.

1 The correction of these abuses is as readily attained at the ballot-box as it would be by subjecting it to judicial revision. A citizen or a number of citizens may be subtracted from a county free from debt, having no taxation for county purposes, and added to an adjacent one, whose debts are heavy, and whose taxing powers are exercised to the utmost extent allowed by law, and this, too, without consulting their wishes. It is done every day. Perhaps a majority of the people, thus annexed to an adjacent or thrown into a new county by the division of an old one, may have petitioned the legislature for this change; but this is no relief to the outvoted minority, or the individual who deems himself oppressed and vexed by the change. Must we, then, to prevent such occasional hardships, deny the power entirely?

"It must be borne in mind that these corporations, whether established over cities, counties, or townships (where such incorporated subdivisions exist), are never intrusted and can never be intrusted with any legislative power inconsistent or conflicting with the general laws of the land, or derogatory to those rights either of person or property which the constitution and the general laws guarantee. They are strictly subordinate to the general laws, and merely created to carry out the purposes of those laws with more certainty and efficiency. They may be and sometimes are intrusted with powers which properly appertain to private corporations, and in such matters their power as mere municipal corporations ceases." City of St. Louis v. Allen, 13 Mo. 414.

*Powers of Public Corporations.

[* 194]

The powers of these corporations are either express or implied. The former are those which the legislative act under which they exist confers in express terms; the latter are such as are necessary in order to carry into effect those expressly granted, and which must, therefore, be presumed to have been within the intention of the legislative grant.1 Certain powers are also incidental to corporations, and will be possessed unless expressly or by implication prohibited. Of these an English writer has said: "A municipal corporation has at common law few powers beyond those of electing, governing, and removing its members, and regulating its franchises and property. The power of its governing officers can only extend to the administration of the by-laws and other ordinances by which the body is regulated."2 But without being expressly empowered so to do, they may sue and be sued; may have a common seal; may purchase and hold lands and other * property for corporate purposes, [* 195] and convey the same; may make by-laws whenever necessary to accomplish the design of the incorporation, and enforce the same by penalties; and may enter into contracts to effectuate the corporate purposes. Except as to these incidental powers, and which need not be, though they usually are, mentioned in the charter, the charter itself, or the general law under which they exist, is the measure of the authority to be exercised. And the general disposition of the courts in this country has been to confine municipalities within the limits that a strict construction of the grants of powers in their charters will assign to them; thus applying substantially the same rule that is applied

12 Kent, 278, note; Halstead v. Mayor, &c. of New York, 3 N. Y. 433; Hodges v. Buffalo, 2 Denio, 112; New London v. Brainerd, 22 Conn. 552; State v. Ferguson, 33 N. H. 424; McMillan v. Lee County, 3 Iowa, 311; La Fayette v. Cox, 5 Ind. 38; Clark v. Des Moines, 19 Iowa, 212; State v. Morristown, 33 N. J. 63; Beaty v. Knowler. 4 Pet. 162; Mills v. Gleason, 11 Wis. 470. In this last case, it was held that these corporations had im


plied power to borrow money for
corporate purposes. And see also
Ketcham v. Buffalo, 14 N. Y. 356.
2 Willcock on Municipal Corpora-
tions, tit. 769.

8 Angell & Ames on Corp. §§ 111, 239; 2 Kyd on Corp. 102; State v. Ferguson, 33 N. H. 430. See Dillon, Mun. Corp., for an examination, in the light of the authorities, of the several powers here mentioned.

to charters of private incorporation.

The reasonable presump

tion is that the State has granted in clear and unmistakable terms all it has designed to grant at all.


1 Under a city charter which au- 424. In Dunham v. Rochester, 5 thorized the common council to appoint assessors for the purpose of awarding damages to those through whose property a street might be opened, and to assess such damages on the property benefited, it was decided that the council were not empowered to levy a tax to pay for the other expenses of opening the street. Reed v. Toledo, 18 Ohio, 161. So a power to enact by-laws and ordinances to abate and remove nuisances will not authorize the passing of an ordinance to prevent nuisances, or to impose penalties for the creation thereof. Rochester v. Collins, 12 Barb. 559. A power to impose penalties for obstructions to streets would not authorize the like penalties for encroachments upon streets, where, under the general laws of the State, the offences are recognized as different and distinct. Grand Rapids v. Hughes, 15 Mich. 54. Authority to levy a tax on real and personal estate would not warrant an income tax, especially when such a tax is unusual in the State. Mayor of Savannah v. Hartridge, 8 Geo. 23. It will appear, therefore, that powers near akin to those expressly conferred are not, for that reason, to be taken by implication. And see Commonwealth v. Erie and N. E. Railroad Co., 27 Penn. St. 339. This rule has often been applied where authority has been asserted on behalf of a municipal corporation to loan its credit to corporations formed to construct works of internal improvement. See La Fayette v. Cox, 5 Ind. 38. Α power to pass ordinances to prohibit the sale or giving away of intoxicating liquors in certain special cases is an implied exclusion of the power to prohibit the sale or giving away in other cases. State v. Ferguson, 33 N. H.

Cow. 465, it is said: "For all the
purposes of jurisdiction, corporations
are like the inferior courts, and must
show the power given them in every
case. If this be wanting, their pro-
ceedings must be holden void whenever
they come in question, even collater-
ally; for they are not judicial and
subject to direct review on certiorari.
2 Kyd on Corp. 104-107." The power
to create indebtedness does not by
implication carry with it a power to
tax for its payment. Jeffries v. Law-
rence, 42 Iowa, 498. The approving
vote of the citizens cannot give au
authority the law has not conferred.
McPherson v. Foster, 43 Iowa, 48.
See Hackettstown v. Swackhamer, 37
N. J. 191. The power to enact
ordinances necessary for government"
does not authorize the grant of the
franchise of a toll-bridge. Williams v.
Davidson, 43 Tex. 1. In Nashville
v. Ray, 19 Wall. 468, four of the
eight justices of the Supreme Court
denied the power of municipal corpo-
rations to borrow money or issue secu-
rities unless expressly authorized. Says
Bradley, J.: "Such a power does not
belong to a municipal corporation as
an incident of its creation. To be
possessed it must be conferred by
legislation, either express or implied.
It does not belong, as a mere matter
of course, to local government to raise
loans. Such governments are not
created for any such purpose. Their
powers are prescribed by their char-
ters, and those charters provide the
means for exercising the powers; and
the creation of specific means excludes
others." Compare Bank of Chilli-
cothe v. Chillicothe, 7 Ohio, 353; Clark
v. School District, 3 R. I. 199; State
v. Common Council of Madison, 7
Wis. 688; Mills v. Gleason, 11 Wis.

*It must follow that, if in any case a party assumes to [* 196] deal with a corporation on the supposition that it possesses powers which it does not, or to contract in any other manner than is permitted by the charter, he will not be allowed, notwithstanding he may have complied with the undertaking on his part, to maintain a suit against the corporation based upon its unauthorized action. Even where a party is induced to enter upon work for a corporation by the false representations of corporate officers, in regard to the existence of facts on which by law the power of the corporation to enter upon the work depends, these false representations cannot have the effect to give a power which in the particular case was wanting, or to validate a contract otherwise void, and therefore can afford no ground of action against the corporation; but every party contracting with it must take notice of any want of authority which the public records would show. This is the general rule, and the cases of unau

470; Hamlin v. Meadville (Sup. Ct. Nebraska), 2 Western Jurist, 596. See also Nashville v. Ray, 19 Wall. 468; Milhau v. Sharp, 17 Barb. 435, 28 Barb. 228, and 27 N. Y. 611; Douglass v. Placerville, 18 Cal. 643; Mount Pleasant v. Breeze, 11 Iowa, 399; Hooper v. Emery, 14 Me. 375; Mayor, &c. of Macon v. Macon and Western R. R. Co., 7 Geo. 224; Hopple v. Brown, 13 Ohio, N. s. 311; Lackland Northern Missouri Railroad Co., 31 Mo. 180; Smith v. Morse, 2 Cal. 524; Bennett v. Borough of Birmingham, 31 Penn. St. 15; Tucker v. Virginia City, 4 Nev. 20; Leavenworth v. Norton, 1 Kan. 432; Kyle . Malin, 8 Ind. 34; Johnson v. Philadelphia, 60 Penn. St. 451; Kniper v. Louisville, 7 Bush, 599; Johnston v. Louisville, 11 Bush, 527; Williams v. Davidson, 43 Tex. 1; Burrit v. New Haven, 42 Conn. 174; Logan v. Payne, 43 Iowa, 524; Field v. Des Moines, 39 Iowa, 575; Vance v. Little Rock, 30 Ark. 435; English v. Chicot County, 26 Ark. 454; Pullen v. Raleigh, 68 N. C. 451; Chisholm v. Montgomery, 2 Woods, 584.

1 The common council of Williams

burg had power to open, regulate, grade, and pave streets, but only upon petition signed by one-third of the persons owning lands within the assessment limits. A party entered into a contract with the corporation for improving a street upon the false representations of the council that such a petition had been presented. Held, that the provision of the law being public, and all the proceedings leading to a determination by the council to make a particular improvement being matters of record, all persons were chargeable with notice of the law and such proceedings; and that, notwithstanding the false representations, no action would lie against the city for work done under the contract. Swift v. Williamsburg, 24 Barb. 427. "If the plaintiff can recover on the state of facts he has stated in his complaint, the restrictions and limitations which the legislature sought to impose upon the powers of the common council will go for nothing. And yet these provisions are matters of substance, and were designed to be of some ser

vice to the constituents of the common council. They were intended to

thorized action which may bind the corporation are exceptional, and will be referred to further on.

protect the owners of lands and the tax-payers of the city, as well against the frauds and impositions of the contractors who might be employed to make local improvements, as against the illegal acts of the common council themselves in employing the contractors. But if the plaintiff can recover in this action, of what value or effect are all these safeguards? If the common council desire to make a local improvement, which the persons to be benefited thereby, and to be assessed therefor, are unwilling to have made, the consent of the owners may be wholly dispensed with, according to the plaintiff's theory. The common council have only to represent that the proper petition has been presented and the proper proceedings have been taken, to warrant the improvement. They then enter into the contract. The improvement is made. Those other safeguards for an assessment of the expenses and for reviewing the proceedings may or may not be taken. But when the work is completed and is to be paid for, it is found that the common council have no authority to lay any assessment or collect a dollar from the property benefited by the improvement. The contractor then brings his action, and recovers from the city the damages he has sustained by the failure of the city to pay him the contract price. The ground of his action is the falsity of the representations made to him. But the truth or falsity of such representations might have been ascertained by the party with the use of the most ordinary care and diligence. The existence of the proper petition, and the taking of the necessary initiatory steps to warrant the improvement, were doubtless referred to and recited in the contract made with the plaintiff. And he thus became again directly charge

able with notice of the contents of all these papers. It is obvious that the restrictions and limitations imposed by the law cannot be thus evaded. The consent of the parties interested in such improvements cannot be dispensed with; the responsibility, which the conditions precedent created by the statute impose, cannot be thrown off in this manner. For the effect of doing so is to shift entirely the burden of making these local improvements, to relieve those on whom the law sought to impose the expense, and to throw it on others who are not liable either in law or morals."

So where the charter of Detroit provided that no public work should be contracted for or commenced until an assessment had been levied to defray the expense, and that no such work should be paid or contracted to be paid for, except out of the proceeds of the tax thus levied, it was held, that the city corporation had no power to make itself responsible for the price of any public work, and that such work could only be paid for by funds actually in the hands of the city treasurer, provided for the specific purpose.


Goodrich v. Detroit, 12 Mich. But if the city receives the fund and misappropriates it, it will be liable. Lansing v. Van Gorder, 24 Mich. 456.

Parties dealing with the agents or officers of municipal corporations must, at their own peril, take notice of the limits of the powers both of the municipal corporation, and of those assuming to act on its behalf. State v. Kirkley, 29 Md. 85; Gould v. Sterling, 23 N. Y. 464; Clark v. Des Moines, 19 Iowa, 209; Veeder v. Lima, 19 Wis. 280; East Oakland v. Skinner, 94 U. S. Rep. 255; Dillon, Mun. Corp. § 381.

« AnteriorContinuar »