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BEREA COLLEGE V. KENTUCKY, 211 U. S. 45 (1908)

U.S. Supreme Court

Berea College v. Kentucky, 211 U.S. 45 (1908)

Berea College v. Kentucky

No. 12

Argued April 10, 13, 1908

Decided November 9, 1908

211 U.S. 45


This Court will not disturb the judgment of a state court resting on federal and nonfederal grounds if the latter are sufficient to sustain the decision.

The state court determines the extent and limitations of powers conferred by the state on its corporations.

A corporation is not entitled to all the immunities to which individuals are entitled, and a state may withhold from its corporations privileges and powers of which it cannot constitutionally deprive individuals.

A state statute limiting the powers of corporations and individuals may be constitutional as to the former although unconstitutional as to the latter, and, if separable, it will not be held unconstitutional at the instance of a corporation unless it clearly appears that the legislature would not have enacted it as to corporations separately.

The same rule that permits separable sections of a statute to be declared unconstitutional without rendering the entire statute void applies to separable provisions of a section of a statute.

The prohibition in § 1 of the Kentucky statute of 1904 against persons and corporations maintaining schools for both white persons and negroes is separable, and even if an unconstitutional restraint as to individuals, it is not unconstitutional as to corporations, it being within the power of the state to determine the powers conferred upon its corporations.

While the reserved power to alter or amend charters is subject to reasonable limitations, it includes any alteration or amendment which does not defeat or substantially impair the object of the grant or vested rights.

A general statute which in effect alters or amends a charter is to be construed as an amendment thereof, even if not in terms so designated.

A state statute which permits education of both white persons and negroes by the same corporation in different localities, although prohibiting their attendance in the same place, does not defeat the object of a grant to maintain a college for all persons, and is not violative

Page 211 U. S. 46

of the contract clause of the federal Constitution, the state law having reserved the right to repeal, alter and amend charters.

123 Ky. 209 affirmed.

On October 8, 1904, the grand jury of Madison County, Kentucky, presented in the circuit court of that county an indictment charging:

"The said Berea College, being a corporation duly incorporated under the laws of the State of Kentucky and owning, maintaining, and operating a college, school, and institution of learning, known as 'Berea College,' located in the Town of Berea, Madison County, Kentucky, did unlawfully and willfully permit and receive both the white and negro races as pupils for instruction in said college, school, and institution of learning."

This indictment was found under an Act of March 22, 1904 (Acts of Kentucky, 1904, c. 85, p. 181), whose first section reads:

"SEC. 1. That it shall be unlawful for any person, corporation, or association of persons to maintain or operate any college, school, or institution where persons of the white and negro races are both received as pupils for instruction, and any person or corporation who shall operate or maintain any such college, school, or institution shall be fined $1,000, and any person or corporation who may be convicted of violating the provisions of this act shall be fined $100 for each day they may operate said school, college, or institution after such conviction."

On a trial, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000. This judgment was, on June 12, 1906, affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the state (123 Ky. 209), and from that court brought here on writ of error.

Page 211 U. S. 53

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