74 U.S. 1 (1869), Girard v. City Of Philadelphia

Citation:74 U.S. 1, 19 L.Ed. 53
Case Date:January 18, 1869
Court:United States Supreme Court

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74 U.S. 1 (1869)

19 L.Ed. 53




United States Supreme Court.

January 18, 1869


APPEAL from the Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; the case as presented by bill and answer being thus:

The city of Philadelphia, as originally laid out in 1683, and as incorporated in 1701, was situated upon a rectangular plot of ground, bounded in one direction by two streets called Vine and South, a mile apart, and in the other by two rivers (the Delaware and Schuylkill), two miles apart;--the corporate title of the city being 'the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia.' Upon the neck of land above described the corporate city continued to be contained until 1854; the inhabitants outside or adjoining it being incorporated at different times, and as their numbers extended, into bodies politic, under different names, by the State legislature, and with the city, forming the county of Philadelphia. In 1798, the Revolution having dissolved the old corporation, the legislature incorporated the city with larger powers; and prior to 1854, nearly twenty acts had been passed altering that law, and forming, the whole of them, what was popularly called the charter of the city; but as already said, from 1683 to 1854, the city limits were the same.

In this state of things Stephen Girard, in 1831, after sundry bequests to his relatives and friends, and to certain specified charities, and after announcing that his great and favorite object was the establishment of a college for the education of poor orphans, and that, together with the object adverted to, he had sincerely at heart the welfare of the city of Philadelphia, and as a part of it, was desirous to improve the neighborhood of the river Delaware, so that the eastern part

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of the city might be made better to correspond with the interior--left by will the real and personal residue of an estate of some millions of dollars, to 'the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Philadelphia,' that is to say, to the city corporation above described, in trust, so far as regarded his real estate in Pennsylvania (this being the important part of his realty), that no part of it should ever be alienated, but should be let on lease, and that after repairing and improving it, the net residue should be applied to the same purposes as the residue of his personal estate, and that as regarded that, it should be held in trust as to $2,000,000, to expend it, or as much as might be necessary, in constructing and furnishing a college and out-buildings for the education and maintenance of not less than three hundred orphans. A lot near Philadelphia, of forty-five acres, was devoted for these structures, and the orphans might come from any part of Pennsylvania (orphans from the city of Philadelphia having a preference over others outside), or from the cities of New York or New Orleans.

After many and very special directions as to the college, followed by a bequest of $500,000 for a city purpose, the will proceeded:

'If the income arising from that part of the said sum of $2,000,000 remaining after the construction and furnishing of the college and out-buildings shall, owing to the increase of the number of orphans applying for admission, or other cause, be inadequate to the construction of new buildings, or the maintenance and education of as many orphans as may apply for admission, then such further sum as may be necessary for the construction of new buildings, and the maintenance and education of such further number of orphans as can be maintained and instructed within such buildings, as the said square of ground shall be adequate to, shall be taken from the final residuary fund hereinafter expressly referred to for the purpose, comprehending the income of my real estate in the city and county of Philadelphia, and the dividends of my stock in the Schuylkill Navigation Company; my design and desire being that the benefits of said institution shall be extended to as great a number of orphans

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as the limits of the said square and buildings therein can accommodate.'

This final residuary fund was directed to be invested, and the income applied----

'1st. To the further improvement and maintenance of the aforesaid college [as directed in the last quoted paragraph].

'2d. To enable the city to improve its police.

'3d. To enable it to improve the city property, and the general appearance of the city itself, and in effect to diminish the burden of taxation, now most oppressive.'

'To all which objects,' the will proceeded, 'the prosperity of the city, and the health and comfort of its inhabitants, I devote the said fund as aforesaid, and direct the income thereof to be applied yearly and every year forever,after providing for the college as hereinbefore directed as my primary object.'

In conclusion, he directed that if the city should wilfully violate any of the conditions of his will, the remainder of his estate should go to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for certain purposes, excepting, however, the income from his real estate in the city and county of Philadelphia, which it was to hold for the college; and if the commonwealth failed so to apply it, the remainder should go in the same way to the United States.

The above described city corporation, 'the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia,' having accepted the trust, and built and furnished the college and out-buildings, administered the charity through its organs until 1854. By that time twenty-eight municipal corporations, making the residue of the county, had grown up around the old 'city;' some near, some far off, some populous, some occupied yet by farms. They comprised 'districts,' boroughs, townships, were of various territorial extent, and differed in the details of their respective organizations. In the year named, the legislature of Pennsylvania passed what is known in Philadelphia as the Consolidation Act.

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By this act the administration of all concerns of the twenty-nine corporations, including their debts, taxes, property, police, and whatever else pertained to municipal office, and also the government of the county itself, were consolidated into one. All the powers, rights, privileges, and immunities incident to a municipal corporation, and necessary for the proper government of the same, and those of 'the Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of Philadelphia,' and 'all the powers, rights, privileges, and immunities, possessed and enjoyed by the other twenty-eight corporate bodies, which, with the old city, made up the county of Philadelphia;' and also 'the board of police of the police district, the commissioners of the county of Philadelphia, the treasurer and auditor thereof, the county board, the commissioners of the sinking fund, and the supervisors of the township,' were, by virtue of the process of consolidation, vested in 'the city of Philadelphia, as established by this act.' A police board was to fix the whole number of policemen 'for the service of the whole city.' The 'right, title, and interest,' of the 'several municipal corporations mentioned in this act, of, in, and to all the lands, tenements, and hereditaments, goods, chattels, moneys, effects, and of, in, and to all other property and estate whatsoever and wheresoever, belonging to any or either of them,' were 'vested in the city of Philadelphia,' and all 'estates and incomes held in trust by the county, present city, and each of the townships, districts...

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