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cases where it has been held that licenses to make use of property in certain modes may be revoked by the State, notwithstanding they may be connected with grants and based upon a consideration. But this subject we shall recur to hereafter.

It would seem, therefore, to be the prevailing opinion, and one based upon sound reason, that the State could not barter away, or in any manner abridge or weaken, any of those essential powers which are inherent in all governments, and the existence of which in full vigor is important to the well-being of organized society; and that any contracts to that end, being without authority, cannot be enforced under the provision of the national Constitution now under consideration. If the tax cases are to be regarded as an exception to this statement, the exception is perhaps to be considered a nominal rather than a real one, since taxation is for the purpose of providing the State a revenue, and the State laws which have been enforced as contracts in these

case have been supposed to be based upon consideration, [* 284] * by which the State receives the benefit which would have

accrued from an exercise of the relinquished power in the ordinary mode.

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responsibility which legislatures cannot, divest themselves of, if they would.” Thorpe v. R. & B. R.R. Co., 27 Vt. 149, per Redfield, Ch. J. See also Indianapolis, &c., R.R. Co. v. Kercheval, 16 Ind. 81; Ohio, &c., R.R. Co. v. M'Clelland, 25 Ill. 140. See State v. Noyes, 47 Me. 189, on the same subject. In Bradley v. McAtee, 7 Bush, 367; s. c. 3 Am. Rep. 309, it was decided that a provision in a city charter that, after the first improvement of a street, repairs should be made at the expense of the city, was not a contract; and on its repeal a lot owner, who had paid for the improvement, might have his lot assessed for the repairs. Compare Hammett v. Philadelphia, 65 Penn. St. 146; 8. C. 3 Am. Rep. 615.

See, upon this subject, Brick Presbyterian Church v. Mayor, &c., of New York, 5 Cow. 538; Vanderbilt v. Adams, 7 Cow. 349; State v. Sterling, 8 Mo. 697; Hirn v. State, 1 Ohio, N. s. 15; Calder v. Kurby, 5 Gray, 597; Brimmer v. Boston, 102 Mass. 19. Whether a State, after granting licenses to sell liquors for which a fee is received, can revoke them by a general law forbidding sales, is in dispute upon the authorities. See Freleigh v. State, 8 Mo. 606; State v. Sterling, ib. 697; Calder v. Kurby, 5 Gray, 597; Metropolitan Board of Excise v. Barrie, 34 N. Y. 657; and Commonwealth v. Brennan, 103 Mass. 70, which hold that it may: and State v. Phalen, 3 Harr. 441; Adams v. Hackett, 7 Fost. 294; and Boyd v. State, 46 Ala., which are contra. See also State v. Hawthorn, 9 Mo. 389. If it has the power, it would seem an act of bad faith to exercise it, without refunding the money received for the license. Hirn v. State, 1 Ohio, n. s. 21.

We have said in another place that citizens have no vested right in the existing general laws of the State which can preclude their amendment or repeal, and that there is no implied promise on the part of the State to protect its citizens against incidental injury occasioned by changes in the law. Nevertheless there may be laws which amount to propositions on the part of the State, which, if accepted by individuals, will become binding contracts. Of this class are perhaps to be considered bounty laws, by which the State promises the payment of a gratuity to any one who will do any particular act supposed to be for the State interest. Unquestionably the State may repeal such an act at any time;but when the proposition has been accepted by the performance of the act before the law is repealed, the contract would seem to be complete, and the promised gratuity becomes a legal debt. And where a State was owner of the stock of a bank, and by the law its bills and notes were to be received in payment of all debts due to the State, it was properly held that this law constituted a contract with those who should receive the bills before its repeal, and that a repeal of the law could not deprive these holders of the right which it assured. Such a law, with the acceptance of the bills under it, “ comes within the definition of a contract. It is a contract founded upon a good and valuable consideration, — a consideration beneficial to the State, as its profits are increased by sustaining the credit, and consequently extending the circulation of the paper of the bank.”3

That laws permitting the dissolution of the contract of marriage are not within the intention of the clause of the Constitution under discussion seems to be the prevailing opinion. It has been intimated, however, that, so far as property rights are concerned, the contract must stand on the same footing as any other, and that a law passed after the marriage, vesting the property in the wife for

Christ Church v. Philadelphia, 24 How. 300; East Saginaw Salt Manuf. Co. v. East Saginaw, 19 Mich. 259; s. C. 2 Am. Rep. 82, and 13 Wall. 373.

? People v. Auditor-General, 9 Mich. 327. See Montgomery v. Kasson, 16 Cal. 189; Adams v. Palmer, 51 Me. 480.

3 Woodruff v. Trapnall, 10 How. 190. See Winter v. Jones, 10 Geo. 190; Furman v. Nichol, 8 Wall. 44; Antoni v. Wright, 22 Grat. 833.

* Per Marshall, Ch. J., Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 629; Maguire v. Maguire, 7 Dana, 183; Clark v. Clark, 10 N. H. 385; Cronise v. Cronise, 54 Penn. St. 255; Carson v. Carson, 40 Miss. 349; Adams v. Palmer, 51 Me. 480.

her sole use, would be void, as impairing the obligation of [* 285] contracts. 1 * But certainly there is no such contract em

braced in the marriage as would prevent the legislature changing the law, and vesting in the wife solely all property which she should acquire thereafter; and if the property had already become vested in the husband, it would be protected in him, against legislative transfer to the wife, on other grounds than the one here indicated.

The obligation of a contract," it is said, “ consists in its binding force on the party who makes it. This depends upon the laws in existence when it is made; these are necessarily referred to in all contracts, and forming a part of them as the measure of the obligation to perform them by the one party, and the right acquired by the other. There can be no other standard by which to ascertain the extent of either, than that which the terms of the contract indicate, according to their settled legal meaning ; when it becomes consummated, the law defines the duty and the right, compels one party to perform the thing contracted for, and gives the other a right to enforce the performance by the remedies then in force. If any subsequent law affect to diminish the duty, or to impair the right, it necessarily bears on the obligation of the contract, in favor of one party, to the injury of the other; hence any law which, in its operations, amounts to a denial or obstruction of the rights accruing by a contract, though professing to act only on the remedy, is directly obnoxious to the prohibition of the Constitution.” 2 “ It is the civil obligation of contracts which (the Con

| Holmes v. Holmes, 4 Barb. 295.

2 McCracken v. Hayward, 2 How. 612. “ The obligation of a contract ... is the law which binds the parties to perform their agreement. The law, then, which has this binding obligation, must govern and control the contract, in every shape in which it is intended to bear upon it, whether it affects its validity, construction, or discharge. It is, then, the municipal law of the State, whether that be written or unwritten, which is emphatically the law of the contract made within the State, and must govern it throughout, whenever its performance is sought to be enforced.” Washington, J., in Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 259. “ As I understand it, the law of the contract forms its obligation.” Thompson, J., ib. 302. The obligation of the contract consists in the power and efficacy of the law which applies to, and enforces performance of, the contract, or the payment of an equivalent for non-performance. The obligation does not inhere and subsist in the contract itself, proprio vigore, but in the law applicable to the contract. This is the sense, I think, in which the Constitution uses the term obligation.'” Trimble, J., ib. 318.

. Trimble, J., ib. 318. And see Van Baumbach o. Bade, 9 Wis.

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stitution] is designed to reach; that is, the obligation which is recognized * by, and results from, the law of the [* 286]

, State in which it is made. If, therefore, a contract when made is by the law of the place declared to be illegal, or deemed to be a nullity, or a nude pact, it has no civil obligation, because the law, in such cases, forbids its having any binding efficacy or force. It confers no legal right on the one party and no correspondent legal duty on the other. There is no means allowed or recognized to enforce it; for the maxim is ex nudo pacto non oritur actio. But when it does not fall within the predicament of being either illegal or void, its obligatory force is coextensive with its stipulations.” 1

Such being the obligation of a contract, it is obvious that the rights of the parties in respect to it are liable to be affected in many ways by changes in the laws, which it could not have been the intention of the constitutional provision to preclude. “ There are few laws which concern the general police of a State, or the government of its citizens, in their intercourse with each other or with strangers, which may not in some way or other affect the contracts which they have entered into or may thereafter form. For what are laws of evidence, or which concern remedies, frauds, and perjuries, laws of registration, and those which affect landlord and tenant, sales at auction, acts of limitation, and those which limit the fees of professional men, and the charges of tavernkeepers, and a multitude of others which crowd the codes of every State, but laws which affect the validity, construction, or duration, or discharge of contracts ? ” 2 But the changes in these laws are

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577; Johnson v. Higgins, 3 Met. (Ky.) 566. A law giving interest on debts which bore none when contracted, was held void in Goggans v. Turnispeed, 1 S. C. n. 8. 40; s. c. 7 Am. Rep. 273. The legislature cannot authorize the compulsory extinction of ground rents on payment of a sum in gross. Palairet's Appeal, 67 Penn. St. 479; 8. c. 5 Am. Rep. 450.

Story on Const. § 1380. Slave contracts which were legal when made, are not rendered invalid by the abolition of slavery, nor can the States make them void by their constitutions, or deny remedies for their enforcement. White v. Hart, 13 Wall. 649; Osborn v. Nicholson, ib. 653. An act of indemnity held not to relieve a Sheriff from his obligation on his official bond to account for moneys which had been paid away under military compulsion. State v. Gatzweiler, 89 Mo. 17; 8. c. 8 Am. Rep. 119.

? Washington, J., in Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 259. As to the indirect modification of contracts by the operation of police laws, see post, 574-584. not regarded as necessarily affecting the obligation of contracts, Whatever belongs merely to the remedy may be altered according to the will of the State, provided the alteration does not impair the obligation of the contract;1 and it does not impair it, provided it leaves the parties a substantial remedy, according to the course of justice as it existed at the time the contract was

made.? [* 287] * It has accordingly been held that laws changing

remedies for the enforcement of legal contracts will be valid, even though the new remedy be less convenient than the old, or less prompt and speedy. 3

“ Without impairing the obligation of the contract, the remedy may certainly be modified as the wisdom of the nation shall direct.”4 To take a strong instance; although the law at the

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The taxing power conferred upon a municipal corporation is not a contract between it and the State. Richmond v. Richmond, &c., R. R. Co., 21 Grat. 611. | Bronson v. Kinzie, 1 How, 316, per Taney, Ch. J.

Stocking v. Hunt, 3 Denio, 274; Van Baumbach v. Bade, 9 Wis. 578; Bronson v. Kinzie, 1 How. 316; McCracken v. Hayward, 2 How. 608; Butler v'. Palmer, 1 Hill, 324; Van Renselaer v. Snyder, 9 Barb. 302, and 13 N. Y. 299; Conkey v. Hart, 14 N. Y. 22; Guild v. Rogers, 8 Barb. 502 ; Story v. Furman, 25 N. Y. 214; Coriell v. Ham, 4 Greene (Iowa), 455; Heyward t. Judd, 4 Minn. 483; Swift v. Fletcher, 6 Minn. 550 ; Maynes v. Moor, 16 Ind. 116; Smith t. Packard, 12 Wis. 371 ; Grosvenor v. Chesley, 48 Me. 369; Van Renselaer v. Ball, 19 N. Y. 100; Van Renselaer v. Hays, ib. 68; Litchfield v. McComber, 42 Barb. 288; Paschal v. Perez, 7 Texas, 365; Auld v. Butcher, 2 Kansas, 155; Kenyon v. Stewart, 44 Penn. St. 179; Clark v. Martin, 49 Penn. St. 299; Rison v. Farr, 24 Ark., 161; Sanders v. Hillsborough Insurance Co., 44 N. H. 238; Huntzinger v. Brock, 3 Grant's Cases, 243; Mechanics, &c., Bank Appeal, 31 Conn. 63.

Odgen v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 270; Beers v. Haughton, 9 Pet. 359; Bumgardner v. Circuit Court, 4 Mo. 50 ; Trapley v. Hamer, 17 Miss. 310; Quackenbush v. Danks, i Denio, 128, 3 Denio 594, and 1 N. Y. 129; Bronson v. Newberry, 2 Doug. Mich. 38; Rockwell v. Hubbell's Adm’rs, ib. 197 ; Evans v. Montgomery, 4 W. & S. 218; Holloway v. Sherman, 12 Iowa, 282; Sprecker v. Wakeley, 11 Wis. 432; Smith v. Packard, 12 Wis. 371; Porter v. Mariner, 50 Mo. 364; Morse v. Goold, 11 N. Y. 281; Penrose v. Erie Canal Co., 56 Penn. St. 46; Smith v. Van Gilder, 26 Ark. 527.

• Sturges v. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. 122, per Marshall, Ch. J. A statute allowing the defence of want of consideration in a sealed instrument previously given does not violate the obligation of contracts. Williams v. Haines, 27 Iowa, 251. See, further, Parsons v. Casey, 28 Iowa, 436; Curtis v. Whitney, 13 Wall. 68; Cook v. Gregg, 46 N. Y. 439. A statutory judgment lien may be taken away. Watson v. N. Y. Central R.R. Co., 47 N. Y. 157; Woodbury v. Grimes,

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