221 U.S. 559 (1911), 941, Coyle v. Smith

Docket Nº:No. 941
Citation:221 U.S. 559, 31 S.Ct. 688, 55 L.Ed. 853
Party Name:Coyle v. Smith
Case Date:May 29, 1911
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 559

221 U.S. 559 (1911)

31 S.Ct. 688, 55 L.Ed. 853




No. 941

United States Supreme Court

May 29, 1911

Argued April 15, 16, 1911



The power to locate its own seat of government, to change the same, and to appropriate its public money therefor, are essentially state powers beyond the control of Congress.

The power given to Congress by Art. IV, § 3, of the Constitution is to admit new States to this Union, and relates only to such States as are equal to each other in power and dignity and competency to exert the residuum of sovereignty not delegated to the Federal Government.

The constitutional duty of Congress of guaranteeing to each State a republican form of government does not import a power to impose upon a new State, as a condition to its admission to the Union, restrictions which render it unequal to the other States, such as limitations upon its power to locate or change its seat of government.

No prior decision of this court sanctions the claim that Congress, in admitting a new State, can impose conditions in the enabling act, the acceptance whereof will deprive the State when admitted of any attribute of power essential to its equality with the other States.

Congress may embrace in an enabling act conditions relating to matters wholly within its sphere of powers, such as regulations of interstate commerce, intercourse with Indian tribes, and disposition of public lands, but not conditions relating wholly to matters under state control such as the location and change of the seat of government of the State.

The Constitution not only looks to an indestructible union of indestructible States, Texas v. White, 7 Wall. 700, 725, but to a union of equal States as well.

The legislature of Oklahoma has power to locate its own seat of government, to change the same, and to appropriate money therefor, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary in the Enabling Act of June 16, 1906, 34 Stat. 267, c. 3335, and the ordinance irrevocable of the convention of the people of Oklahoma accepting the same.

113 P. 944, affirmed.

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The facts, which involve the constitutionality of a legislative act of Oklahoma, providing for the removal of the capital of the State from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, are stated in the opinion.

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LURTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a writ of error to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma to review the judgment of that court upholding a legislative act of the State providing for the removal of its capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, and making an appropriation from the funds of the State for the purpose of carrying out the act by the erection of the necessary state buildings. (Act of Oklahoma, December 29, 1910) not yet published.

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The opinion of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma may be found in 113 P. 944.

By an act passed December 7, 1910, the State gave to its Supreme Court "original jurisdiction" to entertain any proceeding brought in that court by resident taxpayers of the State to have determined "the legality of the removal or location or attempt to remove or locate the state capital" and certain other state institutions. This act was passed in advance of the removal act here involved, and for the express purpose of providing a speedy method for the determination of constitutional objections which might be urged against the proposed relocation of the seat of the state government. The Removal Act followed, and this proceeding was at once started in the Supreme Court of the State by the plaintiffs in error, who claimed not only to be citizens and taxpayers of the State, but also owners of large property interests in Guthrie which would be adversely affected by the removal of the seat of government as proposed by the act in question. The validity of the law locating the capital at Oklahoma City was [31 S.Ct. 689] attacked for many reasons which involved only the interpretation and application of the constitution of the State. These were all decided adversely to the petitioners. We shall pass them by as matters of state law, not subject to the reviewing power of this court under a writ of error to a state court.

The question reviewable under this writ of error, if any there be, arises under the claim set up by the petitioners, and decided against them, that the Oklahoma act of December 29, 1910, providing for the immediate location of the capital of the State at Oklahoma City was void as repugnant to the Enabling Act of Congress of June 16, 1906, under which the State was admitted to the Union. 34 Stat. 267, c. 3335. The act referred to is entitled "An act to enable the people of Oklahoma and the Indian Territory to form a constitution and state

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government and be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States," etc. The same act provides for the admission of Arizona and New Mexico. The first twenty-two sections relate only to Oklahoma. The second section is lengthy, and deals with the organization of a constitutional convention, and concludes in these words:

The capital of said State shall temporarily be at the city of Guthrie, and shall not be changed therefrom previous to Anno Domini Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen, but said capital shall after said year be located by the electors of said State at an election to be provided for by the legislature; provided, however, that the legislature of said State, except as shall be necessary for the convenient transaction of the public business of said State at said capital, shall not appropriate any public moneys of the State for the erection of buildings for capital purposes during said period.

Other sections of the act require that the constitution of the proposed new State shall include many specific provisions concerning the framework of the government, and some which impose limitations upon the State as regards the Indians therein, and their reservations, in respect of traffic in liquor among the Indians or upon their reservations. The twenty-second and last section applicable to Oklahoma reads thus: "That the constitutional convention provided for herein shall, by ordinance irrevocable, accept the terms and conditions of this act."

The constitution, as framed, contains nothing as to the location of the State capital; but the convention which framed it adopted a separate ordinance in these words:

SEC. 497. Enabling Act accepted by Ordinance Irrevocable. Be it ordained by the Constitutional Convention for the proposed State of Oklahoma, that said Constitutional Convention do, by this ordinance irrevocable, accept the terms and conditions of an Act of Congress of the United States, entitled "An Act to Enable the People

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of Oklahoma and the Indian Territory to form a Constitution and State Government and be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and to Enable the People of New Mexico and Arizona to form a Constitution and State Government and be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States," approved June the sixteenth, Anno Domini, Nineteen Hundred and Six.

This was submitted along with the constitution as a separate matter, and was ratified, as was the constitution proper.

The efficacy of this ordinance as a law of the State conflicting with the removal act of 1910 was, of course, a state question. The only question for review by us is whether the provision of the enabling act was a valid limitation upon the power of the State after its admission which overrides any subsequent state legislation repugnant thereto.

The power to locate its own seat of government and to determine when and how it shall be changed from one place to another, and to appropriate its own public funds for that purpose, are essentially and peculiarly state powers. That one of the original thirteen States could now be shorn of such powers by an act of Congress would not be for a moment entertained. The question then comes to this: can a State be placed upon a plane of inequality with its sister States in the Union if the Congress chooses to impose conditions which so operate at the time of its admission? The argument is, that, while Congress may not deprive a State of any power which it possesses, it may, as a condition to the admission of a new State, constitutionally restrict its authority to the extent, at least, of suspending its powers for a definite time in respect to the location of its seat of government. This contention is predicated upon the constitutional power of admitting new States to this Union, and the constitutional

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duty of guaranteeing to "every State in this Union a republican form of...

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