County of Jasper v. Ballou

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation103 U.S. 745,26 L.Ed. 422
Decision Date01 October 1880

103 U.S. 745
103 U.S. 745
26 L.Ed. 422
October Term, 1880

ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Illinois.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr. John M. Palmer for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. D. T. Littler, contra.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.

The Constitution of Illinois, which went into effect April 1, 1848, contained the following:——

Page 746

'ART. VII., SECT. 6. The General Assembly shall provide by a general law, for township organization, under which any county may organize whenever a majority of the voters of such county, at any general election, shall so determine, and whenever anyco unty shall adopt a township organization, so much of this constitution as provides for the management of the fiscal concerns of the said county by the county court may be dispensed with, and the affairs of the said county may be transacted in such manner as the General Assembly may provide.'

Accordingly, in February, 1849, a law was passed authorizing the township organization of counties, and directing that, when such an organization was adopted, the affairs of the county should be conducted by a board of supervisors. Counties not under township organization were managed by county courts.

The Grayville and Mattoon Railroad Company was incorporated Feb. 6, 1857, and on the 1st of March, 1867, its charter was amended so as to allow counties to subscribe to the stock and issue bonds in payment, if a majority of the voters of the county, at an election called by the county court, should vote in favor of such a subscription. The county of Jasper, through which the road of the company ran, was under township organization, and its board of supervisors called upon the voters of the county to vote at an election to be held on the 7th of April, 1868, whether a subscription of $100,000 should be made to the stock of the company by the county, payable in bonds of the county, to be issued as the work progressed, one-sixth of which were to fall due annually from the time they were put out. The election was held, and resulted in a majority in favor of the subscription. At a meeting of the board of supervisors, Jan. 23, 1863, the chairman was authorized to subscribe the stock as soon as it might legally be done. An act of the General Assembly of the State, approved March 27, 1869 (Acts of 1869, vol. iii. p. 360), relating to this company, and to votes which had been taken for subscriptions to its stock, contained the following as sect. 3:——

'That all elections held for the purpose of voting said stock, and the manner in which said stock was voted, are hereby legalized in all respects, and the stock to be subscribed in the manner the same was voted.'

Page 747

On the authority of these several acts and this election the board of supervisors issued one hundred bonds of $1,000 each, in the following form:——

'Know all men by these presents, that the county of Jasper, State of Illinois, acknowledges itself to be indebted in the sum of one thousand dollars lawful money of the United States of America, which said sum of money the said county promises to pay the Grayville and Mattoon Railroad Company or bearer, at the office of the county treasurer of said county, on the first day of ___ in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ___ with interest at the rate of ten per centum per annum, which interest shall be payable on the first day of each year, at the office of the treasurer of said county, on the presentation and delivery of the coupons severally hereto annexed.

'This bond is issued under and by virtue of a law of the State of Illinois, entitled an act to incorporate the Grayville and Mattoon Railroad Company, passed February 6, 1857, and amendatory acts thereto in force March 1st, 1867, and March 27, 1869, in compliance with a vote of the electors of said county at an election held April 7, 1868, in accordance with said acts.

'This bond is one of a series limited to one hundred thousand dollars, one-sixth of the amount made payable annually, at ten per centum per annum, issued for stock in the Grayville and Mattoon Railroad Company by the county of Jasper, and placed in trust for delivery only by the trustee herein named, to wit, ___ of the county of Jasper, which shall not become obligatory unless the certificate indorsed hereon be signed by said trustee.

'The faith of the county of Jasper is hereby pledged for the payment of the principal sum and interest aforesaid.

'In testimony whereof, the county of Jasper by its chairman of the board of supervisors of said county and the clerk of the county court as ex-officio clerk of said board of supervisors have subscribed this bon t his ___ day of _____ A.D. 187 _.

'County Clerk.

'Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

'I hereby certify that this bond is one of a series of bonds held by me as trustee of the county of Jasper to be delivered to the Grayville and Matton Railroad Company as per order of the board as stated therein.


Page 748

The bonds fell due, some in 1877 and others in each year thereafter, until and including the year 1883. It nowhere appears when the bonds were put in the hands of the trustee, but none of them bore date prior to Oct. 19, 1876.

At all the times when these several things were done there was in the county of Jasper a county court as well as a board of supervisors.

On the 14th of April, 1875, the General Assembly passed an act, the material part of which is as follows:——

'SECT. 1. That in all cases where any county, city, town, township,...

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