Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

sory note. So a law which shortens the time for redemption from a mortgage, after a foreclosure sale has taken place, is void; the rights of the party being fixed by the foreclosure and the law then in force, and the mortgagor being entitled, under the law, to possession of the land until the time of redemption expires.? And where by statute a purchaser of lands from the State had the right, upon the forfeiture of his contract of purchase for the non-payment of the sum due upon it, to revive it at any time before a public sale of the lands, by the payment of all sums due upon the contract, with a penalty of five per cent, it was held that this right could not be taken away by a subsequent change in the law which subjected the forfeited lands to private entry and sale.3 And a statute which * authorizes stay of exe- [* 292] cution, for an unreasonable or indefinite period, on judgments rendered on pre-existing contracts, is void, as postponing payment, and taking away all remedy during the continuance of the stay. And a law is void on this ground which declares a for

1 Robinson o. Howe, 13 Wis. 341; tract." And see Smith v. Packard, Dikeman v. Dikeman, 11 Paige, 484 ; 12 Wis. 371, to the same effect. Goenen 0. Schroeder, 8 Minn. 387. 3 State v. Cominissioners of School But see Stone v. Basset, 4 Minn. and University lands, 4 Wis. 414. 298 ; Heyward v. Judd, 4 Minn. 483; 4 Chadwick v. Moore, 8 W. & S. Freeborn v. Pettibone, 5 Minn. 277. 49 ; Bunn v. Gorgas, 41 Penn. St.

2 Cargill v. Power, 1 Mich. 369. 441 ; Stevens 0. Andrews, 31 Mo. The contrary ruling was made in 205 ; Hasbrouck v. Shipman, 16 Wis. Butler v. Palmer, 1 Hill, 324, by 296. In Breitenbach v. Bush, 44 analogy to the Statute of Limitations. Penn. St. 313, and Cose v. Martin, The statute, it was said, was no more 44 Penn. St. 322, it was held that an in effect than saying : “ Unless you act staying all civil process against redeem within the shorter time pre- volunteers who had enlisted in the scribed, you shall have no action for national service for three years or a recovery of the land, nor shall your during the war was valid, during defence against an action be allowed, the war " being construed to mean provided you get possession.” And unless the war should sooner termiin Robinson v. Howe, 13 Wis. 346, nate. See also State v. Carew, 13 the court, speaking of a similar right Rich. 498. A general law that all in a party, say: “ So far as his right suits pending should be continued of redemption was concerned, it was until peace between the Confederate not derived from any contract, but States and the United States, was was given by the law only; and the held void in Burt v. ;

Williams, 24 time within which he might exercise Ark. 94. See also Taylor v. Stearns, it might be shortened by the legisla 18 Grat. 244 ; Hudspeth v. Davis, 41 ture, provided a reasonable time was Ala. 389; Aycock v. Martin, 37 Geo. left in which to exercise it, without 124; Coffman v. Bank of Kentucky, impairing the obligation of any con- 40 Miss. 29; Jacobs v. Smallwood,

feiture of the charter of a corporation for acts or omissions which constituted no cause of forfeiture at the time they occurred.) And it has been held that where a statute authorized a municipal corporation to issue bonds, and to exercise the power of local taxation in order to pay them, and persons bought and paid value for bonds issued accordingly, this power of taxation is part of the contract, and cannot be withdrawn until the bonds are satisfied ; that an attempt to repeal or restrict it by statute is void ; and that unless the corporation imposes and collects the tax in all respects as if the subsequent statute had not been passed, it will be compelled to do so by mandamus. And it has also been held that a statute repealing a former statute, which made the stock of stockholders in a corporation liable for its debts, was, in respect to creditors existing at the time of the repeal, a law impairing the

obligation of contracts. In each of these cases it is evi[* 293] dent that substantial rights *were affected ; and so far as

the laws which were held void operated upon the remedy, they either had an effect equivalent to importing some new stipulation into the contract, or they failed to leave the party a substantial remedy such as was assured to him by the law in force 63 N. C. 112 ; Cutts v. Hardee, 38 empting soldiers from civil process Geo. 350; Sequestration Cases, 30 Tex. until thirty days after their discharge 688. A law permitting a year's stay from military service was held valid upon judgments where security is as to all contracts subsequently engiven was held valid in Farnsworth tered into, in Bruns o. Crawford, 34 v. Vance, 2 Cold. 108 ; but this de- Mo. 330. And see McCormick v. cision was overruled in Webster 0. Rusch, 15 Iowa, 127. A statute susRose, 6 Heisk. 93 ; s. c. 19 Am. pending limitation laws during the Rep. 583.

A statute was held void existence of civil war, and until the which stayed all proceedings against State was restored to her proper revolunteers who had enlisted “ during lations to the Union, was sustained the war,” this period being indefinite. in Bender v. Crawford, 33 Tex. 745. Clark v. Martin, 3 Grant's Cas. 393. Compare Bradford v. Shine, 13 Fla. In Johnson v. Higgins, 3 Met. (Ky.) 393. 566, it was held that the act of the 1 People v. Jackson and Michigan Kentucky legislature of May 24, 1861, Plank Road Co., 9 Mich. 285, per which forbade the rendition in all Christiancy, J. ; State Tombeckbee the courts of the State, of any judg- Bank, 2 Stew. 30. See Ireland v. ment from date till January 1st, 1862, Turnpike Co., 19 Ohio, n. s. 373. was valid. It related, it was said, 2 Van Hoffman o. Quincy, 4 Wall. not to the remedy for enforcing a 535. See also Soutter v. Madison, 15 contract, but to the courts which Wis. 30; Smith v. Appleton, 19 Wis. administer the remedy; and those 468. courts, in legal sense, constitute 3 Hawthorne v. Calef, 2 Wall. 10. no part of the remedy. A law ex

when the contract was made. In Pennsylvania it has been held that a statute authorizing a stay of execution on contracts in which the debtor had waived the right was unconstitutional ; but it seems to us that an agreement to waive a legal privilege which the law gives as a matter of State policy cannot be binding upon a party, unless the law itself provides for the waiver.2

Where, however, by the operation of existing laws, a contract cannot be enforced without some new action of a party to fix his liability, it is as competent to prescribe by statute the requisites to the legal validity of such act as it would be in any case to prescribe the legal requisites of a contract to be thereafter made. Thus, though a verbal promise is sufficient to revive a debt barred by the Statute of Limitations or by bankruptcy, yet this rule may be changed by a statute making all such future promises void unless in writing. It is also equally true that where a legal impediment exists to the enforcement of a contract which parties have entered into, the constitutional provision in question will not preclude the legislature from removing such impediment and validating the contract. A statute of that description would not impair the obligation of contracts, but would perfect and enforce it. And for similar reasons the obligation of contracts is not impaired by continuing the charter of a corporation for a certain period, in order to the proper closing its business.

State Insolvent Laws. In this connection some notice may seem requisite of the power of the States to pass insolvent laws, and the classes of contracts to which they may be made to apply. As this whole subject has been gone over very often and very fully by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the important questions seem at last to be finally set at rest, and moreover as it is comparatively unimportant while a federal bankrupt law exists, we shall * content ourselves with giving (* 294] what we understand to be the conclusions of the court.

1 Billmeyer v. Evans, 40 Penn. St. 4 As where the defence of usury to 324; Lewis v. Lewis, 44 Penn. St. a contract is taken away by statute. 127. See Laucks' Appeal, 24 Penn. Welsh v. Wadsworth, 30 Conn. 149 ; 426 ; Case v. Dunmore, 23 Penn. 93; Curtis v. Leavitt, 15 N. Y. 9. And Bowman v. Smiley, 31 Penn. 225. see Wood v. Kennedy, 19 Ind. 68,

2 See Conkey v. Hart, 14 N. Y. and the cases cited, post, pp. *375, 30; Handy v. Chatfield, 23 Wend. 35. *376.

3 Joy 0. Thompson, 1 Doug. 5 Foster v. Essex Bank, 16 Mass. (Mich.) 373; Kingsley 1. Cousins, 245. 47 Me. 91.

1

8

[ocr errors]

1. The several States have power to legislate on the subject of bankrupt and insolvent laws, subject, however, to the authority conferred upon Congress by the Constitution to adopt a uniform system of bankruptcy, which authority, when exercised, is paramount, and State enactments in conflict with those in Cougress upon the subject must give way.1

2. Such State laws, however, discharging the person or the property of the debtor, and thereby terminating the legal obligation of the debts, cannot constitutionally be made to apply to contracts entered into before they were passed, but they may be made applicable to such future contracts as can be considered as having been made in reference to them.

3. Contracts made within a State where an insolvent law exists, between citizens of that State, are to be considered as made in reference to the law, and are subject to its provisions. But the law cannot apply to a contract made in one State between a citizen thereof and a citizen of another State, nor to contracts not made within the State, even though made between citizens of the same State,4 except, perhaps, where they are citizens of the State passing the law. And where the contract is made between a citizen of one State and a citizen of another, the circumstance that the contract is made payable in the State where the insolvent law exists will not render such contract subject to be discharged under the law. If, however, the creditor in any of these cases makes himself a party to proceedings under the insolvent law, he will be bound thereby like any other party to judicial proceedings, and is not to be heard afterwards to object that his debt was excluded by the Constitution from being affected by the la w.7

New provisions for personal liberty, and for the protection of

V.

i Sturges

Crowninshield, 4 v. Moffat, 5 How. 310; Baldwin ». Wheat. 122 ; Farmers' and Mechan. Hale, 1 Wall. 231. ics' Bank v. Smith, 6 Wheat. 131 ; • McMillan v. McNeill, 4 Wheat. Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213; 209. Baldwin v. Hale, 1 Wall. 229.

6 Marsh v. Putnam, 3 Gray, 551. 2 Ogden v. Saunders, 1: Wheat. 6 Baldwin v. Hale, 1 Wall. 223 ; 213.

Baldwin v. Bank of Newberry, 1 Wall. 3 Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 231; Gilman v. Lockwood, 4 Wall. 213; Springer v. Foster, 2 Story, 387; 409. Boyle v Zacharie, 6 Pet. 348; Wood- ? Clay v. Smith, 3 Pet. 411; Baldhull v. Wagner, Baldw. 300; Suyd- win v. Hale, 1 Wall. 223 ; Gilman o. ham v. Broadnax, 14 Pet. 75; Cook Lockwood, 4 Wall. 409.

the right to life, liberty, and property, are made by the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States; and these will be referred to in the two succeeding chapters. The most important clause in the fourteenth amendment is that part of section 1 which declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. This provision very properly puts an end to any question of the title of the freedmen and others of their race to the rights of citizenship; but it may be doubtful whether the further provisions of the same section surround the citizen with any protections additional to those before possessed under the State constitutions; though, as a principle of State constitutional law has now been made a part of the Constitution of the United States, the effect will be to make the Supreme Court of the United States the final arbiter of cases in which a violation of this principle by State laws is complained of, inasmuch as the decisions of the State courts upon laws which are supposed to violate it will be subject to review in that court on appeal.3

1 See ante, p. *11; post, pp. *299, This amendment of the Constitution *397.

does not concentrate power in the 2 The complete text of this section general government for any purpose of is as follows : “ Section 1. All per- police government within the States; sons born or naturalized in the United its object is to preclude legislation by States, and subject to the jurisdiction any State which shall “ abridge the thereof, are citizens of the United privileges or immunities of citizens of States, and of the State wherein they the United States," or deprive any reside. No State shall make or en- person of life, liberty, or property force any law which shall abridge the without due process of law,” or privileges and immunities of citizens “ deny to any person within its jurisof the United States; nor shall any diction the equal protection of the State deprive any person of life, lib- laws;” and Congress is empowered to erty, or property, without due process pass all laws necessary to render such of law, nor deny to any person within unconstitutional State legislation inits jurisdiction the equal protection of effectual. This amendment has rethe laws."

ceived a very full examination at the 8 See ante, pp. *12–*14. Notwith- hands of the Supreme Court of the standing this section, the protection United States in the Slaughter-House of all citizens in their privileges and Case, 16 Wall. 36, and in United immunities, and in their right to an States v. Cruikshanks, 92 U. S. Rep. impartial administration of the laws, 542, with the conclusion above stated. is just as much the business of the See Story on Const. (4th ed.) App. to individual States as it was before. Vol. II.

« AnteriorContinuar »