Sloan v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtLYON
Citation8 N.W. 393,51 Wis. 623
PartiesSLOAN and Others v. STATE of Wisconsin.
Decision Date24 March 1881

51 Wis. 623
8 N.W. 393

SLOAN and Others
v.
STATE of Wisconsin.
*

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

Filed March 24, 1881.


The plaintiffs, who constitute the law firm of Sloan, Stevens & Morris, bring their action in this court to recover compensation, quantum meruit, for legal services rendered by members of the firm to the state. The case comes before the court at the present time on a motion of the plaintiffs for judgment on the complaint and answer, and on a motion of the attorney general to dismiss the complaint. These motions were submitted ore tenus, at the last sitting of the court, and were argued together. The complaint alleges that under and by virtue of chapter 46, Laws 1869, entitled “An act to protect the lands and timber thereon granted to the St. Croix & Lake Superior Railroad Company,” General Samuel Harriman, who had theretofore been appointed by the governor an agent of the state, by virtue of said act, for the purposes therein mentioned, seized a large quantity of logs which had been cut by different persons upon lands granted to the state by congress to aid in the construction of railroads. The claimants of these logs brought actions of replevin in a court of the state of Minnesota against the agent, to recover the same, and such proceedings were had therein that the logs were delivered to such claimants. The replevin suits were removed to the circuit court of the United States for the district of Minnesota. By arrangement between the parties, two of these suits were selected as test cases and tried in the latter court. The principal contention of the plaintiffs in those suits was that the lands granted to the state for railroad purposes, upon which the logs in controversy were cut, had reverted to the United States by reason of the failure of the state to comply with the terms and conditions of the grants. The trials resulted in judgments for the agent, amounting to $22,000. The amount involved in all of the suits was about $70,000. The value of the lands granted, the title of the state to which was thus assailed, was several millions of dollars. It was stipulated by the parties that the other suits should abide the event of those which were tried.

The plaintiffs in the two suits thus tried sued out writs of error and removed the judgments to the supreme court of the United States for review. Because of the interest which the general government was supposed to have in the protection and preservation of the lands granted by it to the state, it was expected that the attorney general of the United States would argue the causes on behalf of the defendant, who represented the state. But that officer had given an official opinion to the secretary of the interior to the effect that those lands had already reverted to the United States because the conditions of the grants remained unperformed, and that the state of Wisconsin had ceased to have any interest in them. Of course this opinion disqualified him to argue the side of the state in the federal court. Thereupon the governor employed the plaintiff Stevens to prepare a brief in the cases in the interest of the state, and subsequently employed the plaintiff Sloan to argue the cases. Those gentlemen performed the services which they were respectively employed to perform. The results of the litigation were that the judgments of the circuit court of Minnesota were affirmed, and the claim that the lands had reverted to the United States was defeated. After the litigation was ended, the plaintiffs, Messrs. Sloan, Stevens, and Morris, presented their account for services to the secretary of state to be audited. The secretary declined to audit the account and draw his warrant on the treasurer for the amount allowed, on the ground that he had no authority to do so. They then presented the claim to the legislature, but that body refused to make an appropriation to pay it. They now bring suit therefor against the state. It is further alleged in the complaint that there remains in the treasury of the state over $100,000, collected on account of trespasses upon the lands thus granted to the state.

[8 N.W. 394]

I. C. Sloan, for plaintiffs.

H. W. Chynoweth, Ass't Att'y Gen., for defendant.


LYON, J.

The lands donated to the state by congress, to aid in the construction of certain railroads, when accepted by the state, were held by it in trust for the uses and purposes specified in the several acts of congress donating the same. Within the limits hereinafter stated, it was the clear duty of the state, thus acting as a trustee, not only to apply the lands and the proceeds thereof to the purposes of the trust, but also to protect the lands from spoliation while the title thereto remained in the state, and to compel persons who had unlawfully taken timber therefrom to re-imburse the trust fund to the extent of the damages they had committed upon the lands. In the execution of these duties the power of the legislature is plenary, with the single limitation that it cannot authorize expenditures beyond the amount of the trust funds in that behalf under the control of the state. To do so would be to create a state debt not authorized, and therefore prohibited, by the constitution. Const. art. 8, §§ 4, 10.

The constitution provides that “whenever grants of land or other property shall have been made to the state, especially dedicated by the grant to particular works of internal improvement, the state may carry on such particular works, and shall devote thereto the avails of such grants, and may pledge or appropriate the revenues derived from such works in aid of their completion.” But over this grant of power, controlling and inflexibly limiting it, is the prohibition, the state shall never contract any debt for works of internal improvement.” Section 10, supra.

Section 6 of art. 8 authorizes the state, under certain conditions and limitations, to contract public debts, not exceeding in the aggregate $100,000, “for the purpose of defraying extraordinary expenditures.” But manifestly the expenditures for which such indebtedness may be contracted must be made by the state in the performance of functions pertaining to its sovereignty. The execution of the trust assumed by the state, in respect to the lands granted to it in aid of the construction of railroads, is not one of those functions.

When our constitution was adopted, the subject of state indebtedness, particularly for works of internal improvement, was prominent in the public mind. Some of the states had theretofore contracted large debts in the prosecution of such works, and the weight thereof pressed heavily upon the people.

Moreover, the territory of Wisconsin had incurred liabilities, the amount of which was then unascertained, on account of lands theretofore granted by congress to the territory to aid in connecting by a canal the waters of lake Michigan and Rock river. These liabilities the future state would necessarily inherit, and the act of congress for the admission of the state of Wisconsin into the Union, approved May 29, 1848, provided expressly that such liabilities should be paid and discharged by the...

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10 practice notes
  • Chi., St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co. v. Douglas Cnty.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 8, 1908
    ...v. Hayes, 159 U. S. 332, 16 Sup. Ct. 37, 40 L. Ed. 171;State ex rel. Parsons v. Comm. School Lands, 9 Wis. 236;Sloan v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 8 N. W. 393; Bigelow on Estoppel (5th Ed.) 341; 11 Encyc. Law (2d Ed.) 396; 16 Cyc. 714; Bentley v. State, 73 Wis. 416, 41 N. W. 338;Mulcairns v. Janes......
  • Graham v. Worthington, No. 52330
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 1966
    ...Herring, 216 Iowa 728, 249 N.W. 430; McCullough v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 172 U.S. 102, 19 S.Ct. 134, 43 L.Ed. 382; and Sloan v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 8 N.W. 393. We have examined these authorities and find them either factually or legally Page 642 In State ex rel. Fletcher v. Executive Co......
  • Libertarian Party of Wisconsin v. State, No. 95-3114-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 9, 1996
    ...of land or other property has been made to it, specifically dedicated by the grant to such work. Sloan, Stevens & Morris v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 629-32, 8 N.W. 393 The questions that must be answered in any challenge to this provision are "(1) Is the object sought to be accomplished......
  • State v. Behnke, No. 88-2228-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 25, 1990
    ...was never polled, and we do not know what would have happened had it been polled. There is no way of now polling the jury. Smith, supra 51 Wis. at 623, 8 N.W. 410. Although the circuit court ruled that the jury did not behave in any manner to suggest that polling would have produced a juror......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Chi., St. P., M. & O. Ry. Co. v. Douglas Cnty.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 8, 1908
    ...v. Hayes, 159 U. S. 332, 16 Sup. Ct. 37, 40 L. Ed. 171;State ex rel. Parsons v. Comm. School Lands, 9 Wis. 236;Sloan v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 8 N. W. 393; Bigelow on Estoppel (5th Ed.) 341; 11 Encyc. Law (2d Ed.) 396; 16 Cyc. 714; Bentley v. State, 73 Wis. 416, 41 N. W. 338;Mulcairns v. Janes......
  • Graham v. Worthington, No. 52330
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 1966
    ...Herring, 216 Iowa 728, 249 N.W. 430; McCullough v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 172 U.S. 102, 19 S.Ct. 134, 43 L.Ed. 382; and Sloan v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 8 N.W. 393. We have examined these authorities and find them either factually or legally Page 642 In State ex rel. Fletcher v. Executive Co......
  • Libertarian Party of Wisconsin v. State, No. 95-3114-OA
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • April 9, 1996
    ...of land or other property has been made to it, specifically dedicated by the grant to such work. Sloan, Stevens & Morris v. State, 51 Wis. 623, 629-32, 8 N.W. 393 The questions that must be answered in any challenge to this provision are "(1) Is the object sought to be accomplished......
  • State v. Behnke, No. 88-2228-CR
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • June 25, 1990
    ...was never polled, and we do not know what would have happened had it been polled. There is no way of now polling the jury. Smith, supra 51 Wis. at 623, 8 N.W. 410. Although the circuit court ruled that the jury did not behave in any manner to suggest that polling would have produced a juror......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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