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WHITE V. HART, 80 U. S. 646 (1871)

U.S. Supreme Court

White v. Hart, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 646 646 (1871)

White v. Hart

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 646


1. The Constitution adopted by Georgia, A.D. 1868, by which it was provided that

"No court or officer shall have, nor shall the General Assembly give, jurisdiction to try, or give judgment on, or enforce any debt, the consideration of which was a slave or the hire thereof"

is to be regarded by the court as voluntarily adopted by the state named, and not as adopted under any dictation and coercion of Congress. Congress having received and recognized the said Constitution as the voluntary and valid offering of the State of Georgia, this Court is concluded by such action of the political department of the government.

At no time during the rebellion were the rebellious states out of the pale of the Union. Their constitutional duties and obligations remained unaffected by the rebellion. They could not then pass a law impairing the obligation of a contract more than before the rebellion, or now, since.

Page 80 U. S. 647

3. The ideas of the validity of a contract and of the remedy to enforce it are inseparable, and both are parts of the obligation which is guaranteed by the Constitution against invasion. Accordingly, whenever a state, in modifying any remedies to enforce a contract, does so in a way to impair substantial rights, the attempted modification is within the prohibition of the Constitution, and to that extent void.

4. Held, therefore, that the clause of the Constitution of Georgia, quoted in the first paragraph above, had no effect on a contract made previous to it, though the consideration of the contract was a slave.

5. A note of which the consideration is a slave, slavery being at the time lawful by the law of the place where the note was given, is valid.

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