Antoni v. Greenhow

Decision Date05 March 1883
Citation107 U.S. 769,2 S.Ct. 91,27 L.Ed. 468
PartiesANTONI v. GREENHOW, Treasurer, etc
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Wm. L. Royall, John F. Dillon, and Wager Swayne, for plaintiff in error.

F. S. Blair, Atty. Gen. of Va., for defendant in error.


On the thirtieth of March, 1971, the general assembly of Virginia passed an act to provide for the funding and payment of the public debt, by which two-thirds of the amount due on old bonds might be funded in new bonds, with interest coupons attached, 'receivable at and after maturity for all taxes, debts, dues, and demands due the state.' Under this act many bonds were put out with coupons which expressed on their face that they were receivable for taxes. On the seventh of March, 1872, however, the general assembly passed another act prohibiting the officers charged by law with the collection of taxes from receiving in payment anything else than gold and silver coin, United States treasury notes, and notes of the national banks, and repealing all other acts inconsistent therewith.

The supreme court of appeals of Virginia decided, at its November term, 1872, in the case of Antoni v. Wright, 22 Grat. 833, that in issuing these bonds the state entered into a valid contract with all persons taking the coupons to receive them in payment of taxes and state dues, and that the act of 1872, so far as it conflicted with this contract, was void. The authority of this case was recognized in Wise v. Rogers, 24 Grat. 169; and in Clarke v. Tyler, 30 Grat. 137, decided in 1878, it was said: 'This decision of Antoni v. Wright * * * must be held to be the settled law of this state.' The same questions were decided in the same way here at the October term, 1880, in Greenhow v. Hartman, 102 U. S. 672, and are no longer open in this court. Any act of the state which forbids the receipt of these coupons for taxes is a violation of the contract, and void as against coupon holders.

At the time the act of 1871 was passed, and when the bonds and coupons were issued, the supreme court of appeals of the state had jurisdiction to grant writs of mandamus in all cases where mandamus would lie according to the principles of the common law, if necessary to prevent a failure of justice; and in Antoni v. Wright, ubi supra, it was decided that the writ of mandamus was the proper remedy to compel a collector to accept the coupons in question when offered in payment of taxes. The case of Wise v. Rogers presented the same question, and we understand it to have been the settled practice of that court to entertain suits for similar relief. The form and mode of proceeding were regulated by statute, which provided (Code Va. 1873, p. 1023, c. 151, § 1) that when the return was made to a writ of mandamus it should state plainly and concisely the matter of law or fact relied on in opposition to the complaint; that the complainant might thereupon demur to the return, or plead thereto, or both, and that the defendant might reply, take issue on, or demur to the pleas of the complainant. The case was to be tried at the place where writs of error to the court were to be tried, (Code, p. 1051,) and after a verdict was found, or judgment rendered on demurrer or otherwise, for the person suing out the writ, he could recover his costs, with such damages as the jury might assess, and have forthwith a peremptory writ.

On the fourteenth of January, 1882, the general assembly passed another act, of which the following is a copy:

'Chapter 7. An act to prevent frauds upon the commonwealth and the holders of her securities in the collection and disbursement of revenues.

'Whereas, bonds purporting to be the bonds of this commonwealth, issued by authority of the act of March 30, 1871, entitled 'An act to provide for the funding and payment of the pbulic debt,' and under the act of March 28, 1879, entitled 'An act to provide a plan of settlement of the public debt,' are in existence without authority of law;

'And whereas, other such bonds are in existence which are spurious, stolen, or forged, which bonds bear coupons in the similitude of genuine coupons, receivable for all taxes, debts, and demands due the commonwealth;

'And whereas, the coupons from such spurious, stolen, or forged bonds are received in payment of taxes, debts, and demands;

'And whereas, genuine coupons from genuine bonds, after having been received in payment of taxes, debts, and demands, are fraudulently reissued and received more than once in such payments;

'And whereas, such frauds on the rights of the holders of the aforesaid bonds impair the contract made by the commonwealth with them, that the coupons thereon should be received in payment of all taxes, debts, and demands due the said commonwealth, and at the same time defraud her out of her revenues:

'Therefore, for the purpose of protecting the rights of said bondholders, and of enforcing the said contract between them and the commonwealth, preventing frauds in the revenue of the same——

'(1) Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, that whenever any tax-payer or his agent shall tender to any person whose duty it is to collect or receive taxes, debts, or demands due the commonwealth, any papers or instruments in print, writing, or engraving, purporting to be coupons detached from bonds of the commonwealth issued under the act of 1871, entitled 'An act to fund the public debt,' in payment of any such taxes, debts, and demands, the person to whom such papers are tendered shall receive the same, giving the party tendering a receipt stating that he has received the same for the purpose of identification and vertification.

'(2) He shall at the same time require such tax-payer to pay his taxes in coin, legal-tender notes, or national-bank bills, and upon payment give him a receipt for the same. In case of refusal to pay, the taxes due shall be collected as all other delinquent taxes are collected.

'(3) He shall make each paper as coupons so received, with the initials of the tax-payer from whom received, and the date of receipt, and shall deliver the same, securely sealed up, to the judge of the county court of the county, or hustings court of the city, in which such taxes, debts, or demands are payable. The tax-payer shall thereupon be at liberty to file his petition in said county court against the commonwealth; a summons to answer which petition shall be served on the commonwealth's attorney, who shall appear and defend the same. The petition shall allege that he has tendered certain coupons in payment of his taxes, debts, and demands, and pray that a jury be impaneled to try whether they are genuine, legal coupons, which are legally receivable for taxes, debts, and demands. Upon this petition an issue shall be made in behalf of the commonwealth which shall be tried by a jury, and either party shall have a right to exceptions on the trial, and of appeal to the circuit court and court of appeals. If it be finally decided in favor of the petitioner that the coupons tendered by him are genuine, legal coupons, which are legally receivable for taxes and so forth, then the judgment of the court shall be certified to the treasurer, who, upon the receipt thereof, shall receive said coupons for taxes, and shall refund the money before then paid for his taxes by the tax-payer out of the first money in the treasury, in preference to all other claims.

'(4) Whenever any tax-payer shall apply to any court in this commonwealth for a mandamus to compel any person authorized to receive or collect taxes, debts, or demands due the commonwealth to receive coupons for taxes, it shall be the duty of such person to make returns to said mandamus that he is ready to receive said coupons in payment of such taxes, debts, and demands as soon as they have been legally ascertained to be genuine, and the coupons which by law are actually receivable. Upon such return, the court before whom the application is made shall require the petitioner to pay his taxes to the tax-collector of his county or city, or to the treasurer of the commonwealth, and upon filing the receipt for such taxes in such court the said court shall direct the petitioner to file his coupons in such court, which shall then forward the same to the county court of the county or hustings court of the city where such taxes are payable, and direct such court to frame an issue between the petitioner as plaintiff and the commonwealth as defendant as to whether the coupons so tendered are genuine coupons, legally receivable FOR TAXES. ON THE TRIAL OF THE CAUSE the attorney fOr the commonwealth in the lower courts and the attorney general in the supreme court of appeals shall appear for the commonwealth and require proof of the genuineness and legality of the coupons in issue. Either party shall be entitled to exceptions, and an appeal to the circuit court and supreme court of appeals on the trial of this issue. If the decision be finally in favor of the petitioner, the mandamus shall issue requiring the coupons to be received for said taxes and so forth, and they shall be so received; and on the certificate of such judgment the treasurer of the commonwealth shall forthwith refund to the tax-payer the amount of currency or money before then paid by him out of the first money in the treasury, in preference to all other claims.

'(5) This act shall be in force from its passage.'

On the twentieth of March, 1882, Andrew Antoni, who owed the state taxes to the amount of $3.15, tendered the treasurer of the city of Richmond, the lawful tax-collector, a coupon, of the issue of 1871, for $3,15, lawful money, in payment. This tender was refused, and Antoni, on the twenty-eighth of March, petitioned the supreme court of appeals for a mandamus to require its acceptance. The treasurer, on the thirtieth of March, for a return to an order to show cause, said he was ready to receive the coupon as soon as it had been legally ascertained to be genuine, and such as by law was...

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