Imágenes de páginas

vision in terrorem, and not for the purpose of further security and indemnity against loss on account of the loan, but as security for an extra diligent user of the franchises, and indemnity for a non-extra diligent use.

The forfeiture being for a non-extra diligent use, and no special remedy or mode of taking advantage of it provided, the State was left to the common-law remedy of judicial process and judgment. It could be enforced in no other way. Davis v. Gray, 16 Wall. 232; Curran v. Arkansas, supra; Mumma v. Potomac Co., 8 Pet. 281.

Conceding that this provision for forfeiture was of the nature of a condition in deed, and could be taken advantage of without judicial action, it still remains true that the State lost the right to it, and barred even the judicial remedy, by her own illegal acts, and first and continued breach of the contract which created the condition.

The act of March 8, 1861, with its acceptance by the company, was a mutual rescission, and an agreed abandonment of all prior contracts, engagements, and obligations; a waiver and release of all previous defaults and forfeitures, if any there were; and a new contract in the premises, taking the place of the constitutional amendment.

The court erred in holding that the act of March 10, 1862, was intended as an enforcement or taking advantage of the condition of forfeiture in the constitutional amendment, because the State wished and intended to take under the act of 1861 “ without merger or extinguishment.”

This act of 1862 cannot stand as an equivalent for re-entry for a breach of condition in a deed, because the constitutional amendment was not such an instrument. It is not competent for the legislature, by its own act, to seize property for a breach of conditions which are imposed by a statute. While a legislative declaration may be equivalent to re-entry, a re-entry will not avoid a grant from strangers; nor an estate from the grantor, except it be conveyed by his deed containing the condition.

The only ground upon which the act of 1862 can be upheld is, that it was taking advantage of the forfeiture provided in the act of 1861, which took effect of itself, upon the happening

of the event. This forfeiture, it is conceded, would not affect the rights of bondholders secured by the prior deed of 1858.

The court erred in holding that the act of March 10, 1862, created a new corporation; and that the St. Paul and Pacific Company is not the same corporate entity as the Minnesota and Pacific Company, and so liable for its debts. The State, by the act of March, 1861, evidently intended, if she should take by forfeiture at all, to take under the provisions of that act. A change in the succession of corporators does not change the corporation in its existence or liabilities, no matter how such change is brought about; and because the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company and its successors have succeeded to and hold the franchise to be a corporation, created by the charter of May 22, 1857, they are in law the same being; the same invisible, incorporeal, personal entity; and so liable for its debts. 2 Kent Com., Lect. 33; 2 Bl. Com. c. 18; id. c. 3, p. 37. Story, J., in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, supra.

Two things should be presumed by this court: first, that the legislature did not intend a violation of the provision of the Constitution which prohibited the formation of corporations of this character by special act (Const. of Minn., art. 10, sect. 2); second, that it intended that the grantees of said act of 1862, and their successors, perpetually, should have and enjoy all the rights and franchises conferred on the stockholders of the Minnesota and Pacific Company by the act of 1857. These premises necessitate the conclusion, that the grantees and their successors of the act of 1862 stand in the shoes of the corporators of the act of 1857.

If this is not the logical, legal conclusion from the premises, where and how do the stockholders and their successors of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company get their corporate entity?

The State authorized the trust in question, and took the property charged with it. If the supplement and foreclosure were valid as between the State and the company, the lien of other bondholders was unaffected thereby, that is, all that the State did or could acquire were the rights and interests of the mortgagor, the company; because she paid nothing, but took

or attempted to take the whole trust-fund for the interest due upon her own bonds, without payment, or provision for payment, or pro rata payment, of the interest due to other bondholders, “ It would be against the principles of equity to allow a single creditor to destroy a fund to which other creditors had a right to look for payment." Gue v. Tide - Water Canal Co., 24 How. 263.

Mr. H. R. Bigelow and Mr. William H. Scott for the appellees.

No part of the lands embraced by the congressional grant vested in the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company, inasmuch as the road was not constructed. Schulenberg v. Harriman, 21 Wall. 44.

But conceding that, at the date of the trust-deed, the company possessed a mortgageable interest in the lands and in her franchises and present and future property, they all became forfeited to the State under the constitutional amendment of April 15, 1858, by reason of the non-completion of the road within the specified time.

This forfeiture is a complete bar and defence to the present action.

The constitutional amendment, the acceptance thereof by the company, and her receipt of State bonds thereunder, amounted together to an amendment, with her consent, of her charter, whereby the provision of forfeiture was incorporated in that instrument. The rule in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518, and other decided cases, that no alteration impairing the obligations of the charter of a corporation can be made by the legislature of a State, is laid down with the express qualification that such alteration must be “ without the consent of the corporation.” The consent was, in this case, founded upon a valuable consideration, — the issue of State bonds to the amount of $600,000.

If the ancient rule of the common law — that, as to things executed, a condition must be created and annexed to the estate at the time of the making of it, and not at any time thereafter — is still in force, this case, even viewed as between individuals, is still within the distinction laid down by Coke (Inst. 236). The grant was entirely conditional upon the re

quired completion of the road. The estate of the company was, therefore, a purely "executory inheritance.” Even if the rule could be held to apply to a grant by a State, its application is entirely superseded by the provisions of the constitutional amendment. They were designed to secure the completion of the road, or specified portions, within the time prescribed, by enabling the State, in case of default, to resume the franchises and lands pertaining to the uncompleted portion, or the whole if twenty miles had not been completed, and to seek other agencies or means for accomplishing the end in view. The reversion to the general government, provided for in the act of Congress making the grant, might be thus prevented.

The forfeiture is, moreover, maintainable upon strictly equitable grounds. It was the express contract of the parties, based upon a good, valuable, and adequate consideration. Respecting the State, the company was a mere donee. It received a most liberal grant of franchises and lands, and a loan of the credit of the State, upon the sole condition that it should proceed with the construction and completion of the road with the despatch required by the Territorial and State grants. This it undertook to do. Such completion within the time prescribed was not a collateral or incidental, but the exclusive, purpose of the amendment. Any default in this respect admitted neither compensation nor restoration of the status in quo. 2 Story's Eq. Jur., sects. 1314, 1316, 1324; Peachy v. The Duke of Somerset, 1 Str. 447, 453.

The forfeiture will be sustained (1.) because it was imposed by statute. 2 Story's Eq. Jur., sect. 1326; Peachy v. The Duke of Somerset, supra; Keating v. Sparrow, 1 Ball & B. 373. (2.) Upon considerations of public policy. Upon the same principle, courts of equity have refused relief against forfeitures incurred under the by-laws of corporations for the non-payment of stock-subscriptions. 2 Story's Eq. Jur., sect. 1325; Sparks v. Liverpool Waterworks Company, 13 Ves. 428. (3.) Because the case was one where time was emphatically of the essence of the contract. Dunklee v. Adams, 20 Vt. 415; Baldwin v. Van Vorst, 2 Stock. Ch. 517; 3 Lead. Cas. in Eq. 672. (4.) On account of the insolvency of the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company at the time the forfeiture was asserted

and declared by an act of the legislature of the State of Minnesota of the 10th of March, 1862, and of its conceded inability to complete the road as required. Dunklee v. Adams, supra.

In so far as the present action seeks to establish a lien in favor of the complainants, as trustees, upon the railroad constructed, and the property and appurtenances acquired by the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company, it must wholly fail. There is no privity whatever between that company and the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company in respect to the railroad, property, or acquisitions of the former company.

Although it must now be regarded as the settled doctrine of this court, that a mortgage executed by a railroad company, conveying and covering its subsequently acquired property, will render such property subject to the mortgage, pari passu, with its acquisition, yet it is equally well settled that this is so only “as against the company and its privies," and only as fast as the property covered by the terms of the mortgage

comes into existence as property of the company.” Galveston Railroad v. Cowdrey, 11 Wall. 459.

Even this doctrine is somewhat of an innovation upon the established maxim of the common law, that “a person cannot grant a thing which he has not.” It has been allowed, in regard to railroad mortgages, upon considerations compounded both of equity and of public policy; and is, therefore, not to be extended.

The St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company is in no privity whatever with the Minnesota and Pacific Railroad Company. It derives its title to all its property and franchises by a grant from the State of Minnesota in hostility to and in forfeiture of the title of the latter company.

The two companies are not, under different names, the same company. This has been expressly determined by the highest court of the State of Minnesota ; and that adjudication, involving as it does a direct construction of the object and effect of an act of the legislature of that State, will be adopted and followed by this court.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after making the foregoing statement of the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

« AnteriorContinuar »