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Columbia Railway, Gas & Elec. Co. v. South Carolina, 261 U.S. 236 (1923)

Columbia Railway, Gas & Electric Company v. South Carolina

No. 297

Argued January 26, 1923

Decided February 19, 1923

261 U.S. 236


1. Article I, § 10 of the Constitution affords no protection against impairment of the obligation of a contract by judicial decision. P. 261 U. S. 244.

2. But where a state court, though placing its decision upon the construction of a contract, in substance and effect gives force to a statute complained of as impairing the contract obligation, jurisdiction of this Court attaches. P. 261 U. S. 245.

3. A clause in a grant will be construed as a covenant if reasonably possible, rather than as a condition subsequent. P. 261 U. S. 248.

Page 261 U. S. 237

4. The fact that a legislative grant, upon valuable consideration, was made to attain a particular end cannot, in itself, debase the estate granted. P. 249.

5. The fact that such a grant makes express provision for forfeiture in case of default in one of the obligations imposed on the grantee is a strong reason against construing other obligations not so fortified as conditions subsequent. P. 261 U. S. 250.

6. A state statute which seeks to convert a covenant in a prior legislative contract into a condition subsequent, and to impose as a penalty for its violation the forfeiture of valuable property, impairs the obligation of the contract, and is void. P. 261 U. S. 251.

112 S.C. 528 reversed.

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of South Carolina affirming a judgment for the state in a suit to enforce a forfeiture of a grant and recover possession of the property for breach of an alleged condition subsequent.

Page 261 U. S. 240

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