De Saussure v. Gaillard, Treasurer

Decision Date30 April 1888
Citation8 S.Ct. 1053,32 L.Ed. 125,127 U.S. 216
PartiesDE SAUSSURE v. GAILLARD, TREASURER
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The complaint in this case, filed in the court of common pleas in the county of Charleston, S. C., alleged that the plaintiff was the owner and holder of three bonds of the state of South Carolina, two designated by the numbers 850 and 851, for $500 each, and one by the number 2,290, for $1,000; that thereby the state of South Carolina promised to pay to the bearers the sums therein named on the 1st day of July, 1893, with interest at the rate of 6 per cent. per annum, payable semi-annually, on the 1st day of January and July of each year, on the presentation of the proper coupons thereto annexed, bearing the signature of the state treasurer, said coupons being receivable in payment of all taxes due the state during the year in which they mature, except for the tax levied for the public schools, the words following being indorsed on each of the said bonds, viz.: 'The payment of the interest and the redemption of the principal of this bond is secured by the levy of an annual tax of two mills upon the entire taxable property of the state. The faith, credit, and funds of the state are hereby solemnly pledged for the punctual payment of the interest and redemption of the principal of this bond by the act of general assembly, approved December 22, 1873.' And upon each of said coupons was indorsed the following: 'State of South Carolina. Receivable in payment of all taxes except school tax.' That the plaintiff became the holder for value of the three bonds mentioned, in the year 1878, and of all the coupons thereto annexed, including the coupon which matured on each, respectively, on the 1st day of January, 1882; that notwithstanding the contract of the state expressed in the act of December 22, 1873, recited in said consolidation bonds, the general assembly of South Carolina, by an act entitled 'An act to raise supplies and make appropriations for the fiscal year commencing November 1, 1881,' approved February 9, 1882, has prohibited the county treasurers of the state from receiving the coupons of said bonds in payment of the taxes levied by the said act, which last-mentioned act the plaintiff charges to be void as repugnant to article 1, § 10, Const. U. S., forbidding the states to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. The complaint further alleges that the defendant is the county treasurer for Charleston county, whose duty it is to collect and receive the taxes due to the state of South Carolina upn the property situate in that county; that the plaintiff is the owner of property in said county, upon which taxes were levied under the provisions of the act to raise supplies for the fiscal year commencing November 1, 1881, in the sum of $153.86, of which sum $29.34 were levied by the said act for the public schools; that on the 18th day of December, 1882, the plaintiff tendered to the defendant, as county treasurer, in payment of said taxes, $131.97 in cash, and the remainder, viz., $60, in the coupons of the said consolidated bonds Nos. 850, 851, and 2,290, which matured on the 1st day of January, 1882; that the defendant wrongfully and illegally refused to receive the said coupons, and assigned as a reason therefore that he was forbidden so to do by the provisions of the said act; whereupon the plaintiff paid to the defendant, under protest, the sum of $191.97 in legal-tender notes of the United States, in pursuance of the provisions of an act of the general assembly of said state, approved the 24th of December, 1878, entitled 'An act to facilitate the collection of taxes.' Plaintiff therefore demands judgment 'that it be adjudged that the amount of sixty dollars in United States currency, paid by the plaintiff to the defendant on the 18th day of December, 1882, was wrongfully and illegally collected, and ought to be refunded, and that a certificate of record thereof be issued accordingly to the plaintiff; that he have such further relief in the premises as the nature of the case may require, and to the court may seem meet and proper.'

The answer of the defendant sets forth the history of the legislation of the state of South Carolina on the subject subsequent to the passage of the act of December 22, 1873, known as the 'Consolidation Act,' as follows: 'Defendant, further answering, alleges that subsequent to the passage of said act the general assembly of the said state, by a 'joint resolution to raise a commission to investigate the indebtedness of the state,' approved June 8, 1877, provided a commission to make a complete and thorough investigation of the entire amount of consolidated bonds and certificates of stock which had been issued under the 'consolidation act' aforesaid, and of the bonds, coupons, and certificates of stock which had been surrendered to the state treasurer in exchange for the consolidated bonds and certificates of stock issued under said act, and to report to the general assembly any illegality or non-conformity to law in the issue of consolidated bonds and certificates of stock, and the grounds of the same, which commission is known as the 'Bond Commission;' that the said commission made a report to the general assembly of the result of the investigation made by them under the joint resolution aforesaid, with schedules annexed showing the different classes of bonds and certificates of stock which had been surrendered in exchange for consolidated bonds and certificates of stock; Schedule 6 showing the consolidated bonds and certificates of stock which, in the judgment of the said commission, were not issued in accordance with law, and were not authorized to be consolidated under the 'Consolidation Act.' And thereupon the general assembly, by a 'joint resolution, providing a mode of ascertaining the debt of the state, and of liquidating the same,' approved March 22, 1878, created a special court, known as the 'Court of Claims,' to hear and determine any case or cases made up or brought to test the validity of any of the consolidated bonds or certificates of stock, or of any of the various classes of bonds or certificates of stock, mentioned in the said report of the 'bond commission' as not issued in accordance with law. It was further provided by the joint resolution aforesaid that there should be the same right of appeal from the said 'court of claims' to the supreme court of South Carolina as from the circuit courts of the said state, and with a right of appeal, by writ of error or otherwise, as provided by law to the supreme court of the United States. That said special court shoul have the same right to enter judgment, issue execution, punish for contempt, and enforce its mandates as was then possessed by the circuit courts of the state of South Carolina.

That the state should be represented in said special court by the attorney general and two associate counsel to be selected by the joint vote of the general assembly. That the attorney general and his associates, with the consent of the creditors of the state, or so many of them as shall be necessary, might make up a case or cases to be heard and determined in said court, in which, if practicable, the state should be the defendant, to test the validity of the said consolidated bonds, coupons, and certificates of stock mentioned in Schedule 6 of the report of the 'bond commission,' bringing before the court the various classes of vouchers which it is stated in the said report impair the validity of the said consolidated bonds, coupons, or certificates of stock, or any of them. The said joint resolution further provided for the levy for the current year of a tax sufficient to pay the coupons and interest orders maturing on the outstanding consolidated bonds and certificates of stock during the said fiscal year, the interest on the consolidated bonds and certificates of stock mentioned in Schedule 5 of the report of the 'bond commission' as subject to no valid objection to be paid, and the payment of the interest on the several classes of consolidated bonds and certificates of stock mentioned in Schedule 6 of said report, whenever there should be a final adjudication as to the validity of the several classes of bonds and stocks in the manner therein provided, and none other. That in pursuance of the provision of the said joint resolution actions in which the state of South Carolina was the defendant, were, with the consent of the attorney general and his associates, brought in the said 'court of claims' on coupons of the bonds of the various classes mentioned in Schedule 6 of the report of the 'bond commission.' That after trial and hearing of the said causes the said 'court of claims' rendered judgment in favor of the state. From the judgments of the 'court of claims,' in these several cases, appeals were taken to the supreme court of the state of South Carolina, as privided in the joint resolution establishing the said 'court of claims.'

That upon the hearing of the said appeals the supreme court of the state of South Carolina, at the April term, 1879, in the cases entitled 'G. M. Walker, Cashier, Appellant, v. The State of South Carolina, Respondent,' and 'F. J. Pelzer, Appellant, v. The State of South Carolina, Respondent,' decreed and adjudged—First. That all the bonds issued under the 'consolidation act' are valid obligations of the state of South Carolina, except as follows: (1) Such as were issued in exchange for bonds issued under the act entitled 'An act to authorize a loan for the relief of the treasury,' approved February 17, 1869, or for the coupons of such bonds; the said act being repugnant to section 7, article 9, of the constitution of the state of South Carolina, in that it purports to create a debt which was not 'for the purpose of defraying extraordinary expenditues,' and the debt sought to be created not being 'for some single object,' and such object not being 'distinctly specified therein,' as...

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