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Township of Elmwood v. Marcy, 92 U.S. 289 (1875)

Township of Elmwood v. Marcy

92 U.S. 289


1. When the construction of the constitution or the statutes of a state has been fixed by an unbroken series of decisions of its highest court, the courts of the United States accept and apply it in cases before them.

2. Hence this Court, conformably to the opinion of the Supreme Court of Illinois, holds that the bonds issued April 27, 1869, by the supervisor and town clerk of the Township of Elmwood in that state, by way of payment for an additional subscription of $40,000 of stock of the Dixon, Peoria & Hannibal Railroad Company, over and above the amount authorized by the original charter of said company, are not binding on the township.

The judges of the circuit court were divided in opinion, whether, under the facts of this case and the legislation of Illinois applicable to them, there existed power and lawful authority to issue the bonds and coupons in controversy, so as to render them valid and collectible in the hands of the plaintiff below, who is defendant here. Judgment was rendered in his favor, and the cause is brought here for review. From the certificate of division, it appears that the Dixon, Peoria & Hannibal Railroad Company was incorporated March 5, 1867; that prior to Feb. 11, 1869, the road of said company was located in the Township of Elmwood; that at the date last named, an election was called under the provisions of the charter of said company, to be held on March 16, 1869, to determine whether said township would subscribe to the stock of said company, and give its bonds for $35,000, the maximum amount permitted by law; that five days afterwards -- to-wit, on the 16th of February, 1869 -- notice was given of another election, not purporting to be in pursuance of said charter, to be held at the same time and place with that aforesaid, to determine whether said township would subscribe to the stock of said company, and issue the bonds for a further sum, over and above the amount authorized by law as aforesaid; that said first-named election resulted in favor of subscribing said $35,000, and the second-named election resulted in favor of an additional subscription of $40,000; that after both said elections were notified, and seven days before they were held --

Page 92 U. S. 290

viz., on the 9th of March, 1869 -- the charter of said company was amended so as to authorize towns in which said road might be thereafter located to vote and subscribe $100,000 to its capital stock; also that, thirty-two days after said election -- viz., on the seventeenth day of April, 1869 -- the legislature passed a validating act, and that ten days thereafter, on the 27th of that month, the supervisor and town clerk issued the bonds and coupons contemplated by both elections. That act legalized and confirmed the subscription for $40,000 to the capital stock of the company over and above that for $35,000, which was confessedly made in accordance with the provisions of the original charter. The bonds in suit are part of those issued for the greater sum, and the question is whether they are binding on the town.

Page 92 U. S. 292

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