« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
stand until it can be shown to be repealed; that the railroad assessment law does not repeal it in express terms, and cannot be construed to repeal it by implication, because the city charter is a special law, intended for a particular locality, and will not be repealed by implication by any general law containing contrary provisions, unless the latter be expressed in such universal terms as necessarily to include every particular case; that such universal terms are not used in the law, but, on the contrary, while other subordinate territorial divisions are included by name, corporate cities and municipalities are not mentioned nor alluded to. This is a summary of the defendants' argument. It is certainly plausible and entitled to careful consideration.
First. As to the relative character of the two statutes: is it true that the one is a special statute and the other a general one, in the sense contended for? The city charter is special as it relates to a single district or municipality, but the railroad assessment act is quite as special, as relating to a single subject of taxation. The one gives general powers of assessment and taxation to the city, but the other directs that railroad property shall be assessed and valued by the board of equalization in a particular way. Is not the last law even more special in character than the first? Suppose a law had been passed declaring that every horse in the territory should be assessed for the purpose of taxation at the value of $200. Would not such a particular direction be binding on the city of Cheyenne as well as on the country districts? Do not the object and reason of the railroad assessment law apply to a city like Cheyenne as well as to counties and townships? Ought not the policy of the state with regard to special objects of taxation to be extended to every portion of the state, unless some defect in the laws themselves prevent its being done?
Second. Is it true that the language of the railroad assessment act does not include cities in the fair construction of its terms? Does it not fairly include every territorial district or division of Wyoming-cities as well as counties and townships? Note the following passage: "Said board shall not assess the value of any machine-shop or repair-shop, or other buildings not situated on said right of way or grounds, or other real estate of any corporations or company within this territory; but it shall be the duty of the assessor of the county or district in which said machine or repair shops, or other buildings, or grounds, or other real estate is situated, to assess the same, and make return thereof in the manner now provided for the assessment and return of real estate." In using the words "county or district," in this clause, is not the latter word "district" used in its largest sense, to signify any subordinate territorial division whatever less than a county? It seems to us that the language used is intended to cover every case. In connection with this, read again the direction given to the county commissioners, after the state auditor has certified to them the assessment per mile made by the board of equalization. It is as follows: "The county commissioners shall thereupon divide and adjust the number of miles and the amounts falling within each precinct, township, or school-district in their respective counties, and cause such amounts to be entered and placed on the lists of taxable property returned by the several assessors." Does not this enumeration of subordinate tax-districts (for clearly tax-districts are meant) embrace every kind of tax-district within the county? "Precinct" is a general word and not a technical one in Wyoming, and indicates any district marked out and defined. In the connection in which it stands it signifies a district inferior to a county, for it is used to denote a portion of a county; and superior to a township, for the enumeration evidently proceeds from the greater to the less,-"precinct, township, school-district." What tax-districts are there in Wyoming inferior to a county and superior to a township, if incorporated cities and towns are not such?
As before suggested, the railroad assessment law, considering its purpose and object, ought to be extended to every tax-district in the state, if its lan
guage admits of such a construction. We think that it not only admits, but fairly requires, such a construction. * If, in addition to this, we take into con-* sideration the fifth section of the act, which expressly repeals "all acts and parts of acts providing for the assessment of the property of railroad and telegraph companies, and the equalization of assessments, inconsistent with the provisions of this act, * * * so far as they provide for the assessment and equalization of the property of said railroad and telegraph companies," we cannot doubt that the act was intended to reach every case of taxation of railroads in the territory when situated in more than one county. Surely the charter of the city of Cheyenne is embraced in this description of acts or parts of acts to be repealed; for, according to the appellees' own contention, that charter does provide for the assessment of the property of railroad and telegraph companies; and there can be no doubt that the mode of making such assessment under said charter is entirely inconsistent with that prescribed by the act in question. We are of opinion, therefore, that the assessment complained of was illegal and unauthorized.
But it is contended that the complainant should have sought a remedy at law, and not in equity. It cannot be denied that bills in equity to restrain the collection of taxes illegally imposed have frequently been sustained. But it is well settled that there ought to be some equitable ground for relief besides the mere illegality of the tax; for it must be presumed that the law furnishes a remedy for illegal taxation. It often happens, however, that the case is such that the person illegally taxed would suffer irremediable damage, or be subject to vexatious litigation, if he were compelled to resort to his legal remedy alone. For example, if the legal remedy consisted only of an action to recover back the money after it has been collected by distress and sale of the tax-payer's lands, the loss of his freehold by means of a tax sale would be a mischief hard to be remedied. Even the cloud cast upon his title by a tax under which such a sale could be made, would be a grievance which would entitle him to go into a court of equity for relief. Judge CoOLEY fairly sums up the law on this subject as follows: "To entitle a party to relief in equity, against an illegal tax, he must by his bill bring his case under some acknowledged head of equity jurisdiction. The illegality of the tax alone, or the threat to sell property for its satisfaction, cannot, of themselves, furnish any ground for equitable interposition. In ordinary cases a party must find his remedy in the courts of law, and it is not to be supposed he will fail to find one adequate to his proper relief. Cases of fraud, accident, or mistake, cases of cloud upon the title to one's property, and cases where one is threatened with irremediable mischief, may demand other remedies than those the cominon law can give, and these, in proper cases, may be afforded in courts of equity." This statement is in general accordance with the decisions of this court as well as of many state courts. Dows v. Chicago, 11 Wall. 109; Hannewinkle v. Georgetown, 15 Wall. 549; State Railroad Tax Cases, 92 U. S. 575, 612, 613, and cases there cited. In Cummings v. National Bank, 101 U. S. 153, 156, where the bank filed a bill to prevent the collection of a tax wrongfully assessed by the state against the shares of its stockholders, and which the bank was required to pay, we held that the fiduciary character in which the bank stood to its stockholders entitled it to come into a court of equity for relief. In the same case, the fact that a like remedy by injunction was given to parties in the state court was regarded as entitled to much weight; and it was further held that where a rule or system of valuation was adopted by the state board of assessment, calculated to operate unequally, and to violate the constitution of the state, and applicable to a large class of individuals or corporations, equity might properly interfere to restrain the operation of such unconstitutional exercise of power. And in Litchfield v. Webster Co. 101 U. S. 773, 779, we held that a court of equity might relieve against an excessive rate of interest on taxes in arrear, which was really in the nature
of a penalty, and which the state could not fairly and equitably demand, having itself claimed title to the property taxed.
These authorities are sufficient to illustrate the rules by which courts of equity should be governed in assuming jurisdiction of suits brought to arrest the collection of illegal taxes. We think that the allegations of the bill in this case bring it fairly within the jurisdiction of the court. It shows that it would involve the plaintiff in a multiplicity of suits as to title of lots laid out and being sold; would prevent their sale; and would cloud the title to all its real estate. We think that these results are sufficiently apparent, and render it unnecessary to look further. The allegation of fraud has not been proven, and cannot, therefore, have any effect in the case. It is unnecessary to inquire into the sufficiency of other grounds for equitable relief which are alleged in the bill.
Another point raised by the defendants, not affecting the jurisdiction of the court but the propriety of its taking jurisdiction, is that the complainant ought to have paid the taxes which are conceded to be due to the city for the year 1880. As we understand the facts stated by the bill, (which, of course, the demurrer admits to be true,) the complainant did pay to the city all the taxes which would be due upon the assessment and valuation made by the board of equalization, including taxes due on outside property of the company in the city.
The decree of the supreme court of Wyoming must be reversed, and the cause remanded, with instructions to enter a decree in favor of the complainant in conformity with this opinion; and it is so ordered.
(113 U. S. 618)
WINONA & ST. P. R. Co. v. BARNEY and others.1
1. LAND GRANTS-RAILROADS-ACT OF CONGRESS, 1857-INDEMNITY CLAUSE.
In the act of congress of March 3, 1857, granting lands to the territory of Minnesota for railroad purposes, the indemnity clause covers losses from the grant by reason of sales and the attachment of pre-emption rights between that date and the final determination of the route of the road.
2. SAME-ACT OF 1865-RESERVATION OF LAND PREVIOUSLY GRANTED.
In the act of 1865, the reservation of the lands previously granted to Minnesota from the additional four sections, that is, from the extension of the original grant of 1857, was only a legislative declaration of that which the law would have pronounced independently of it.
8. SAME PRIORITY OF HOLDERS Under Land GRANTS.
When the grant, previously made to Minnesota to aid in the construction of the Minnesota & Cedar Valley Railroad, interferes with the extension of the grant to the railroad company by the act of 1865, the extension must be abandoned. The earlier grant takes the land which would be otherwise added to the original six
Appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota.
*On the third of March, 1857, congress passed an act making a grant of lands to the territory of Minnesota to aid in the construction of certain railroads, with their branches, and, among others, a railroad from Winona, a town on the Mississippi river, via St. Peter, to a point on the Big Sioux river, south of the forty-fifth parallel of north latitude, which is in the present territory of Dakota. The language of the act is: "That there be, and is hereby, granted to the territory" "every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for six sections in width on each side of each of said roads and branches; but in case it shall appear that the United States have, when the lines or routes of said roads and branches are definitely fixed, sold any sec
1S. C. 6 Fed. Rep. 802.
tions, or any parts thereof, granted as aforesaid, or that the right of pre-emption has attached to the same, then it shall be lawful for any agent or agents, to be appointed by the governor of said territory or future state, to select, subject to the approval of the secretary of the interior, from the lands of the United States nearest to the tiers of sections above specified, so much land, in alternate sections or parts of sections, as shall be equal to such lands as the United States have sold or otherwise appropriated, or to which the rights of pre-emption have attached as aforesaid; which lands (thus selected in lieu of those sold and to which pre-emption rights have attached as aforesaid, together with the sections and parts of sections designated by odd numbers as aforesaid and appropriated as aforesaid) shall be held by the territory or future state of Minnesota for the use and purpose aforesaid: provided, that the land to be so located shall, in no case, be further than fifteen miles from the lines of said roads or branches, and selected for and on account of each of said roads or branches." 11 St. at Large, 195.
On the twenty-second of May, of the same year, the legislature of the territory of Minnesota passed an act to execute the trust created by the act of congress, and, among other things, authorized a corporation previously formed, known as the Transit Railroad Company, to construct and operate the railroad mentioned, with one or more tracks, from Winona to the Big Sioux river, south of the forty-fifth parallel of north latitude, on the most direct and feasible route, by way of St. Peter, and granted to the company, in order to aid in the construction of the road, the interest and estate, present and prospective, of the territory and future state in the lands ceded by the act of congress, together with the rights, privileges, and immunities conferred by it. This grant was made with a proviso that the land should be exclusively applied to the construction of the road, and to no other purpose. The Transit Railroad Company subsequently mortgaged to the state the lands it had thus received, together with its franchises, in order to obtain aid to construct the, road, and comply with the conditions on which the aid was given. It, however, made default, and the*mortgage was foreclosed, and the property and franchises of the company were sold and bought in by the state. These proceedings took place before March 10, 1862. The territory of Minnesota became a state and was admitted into the Union in 1857; and on the tenth of March, 1862, its legislature passed an act transferring to the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company, the defendant below, the lands, property, franchises, and privileges which the state had acquired from the Transit Railroad Company. Soon afterwards the defendant commenced the construction of the railroad, and before March, 1865, completed it from Winona to Rochester, a distance of 49 miles.
By an act passed on the third of March, 1865, congress increased the quantity of land, granted to Minnesota by the act of 1857, to 10 sections per mile for all of the roads and branches, subject to the same limitations attached to the original grant, and enlarged the limits within which indennity lands were to be selected to 20 miles from the line of the roads. The third section provided "that any lands which may have been granted to the territory or state of Minnesota for the purpose of aiding in the construction of any railroad, which lands may be located within the limits of this extension of said grant or grants, shall be deducted from the full quantity of lands hereby granted, and that any lands which may have been so granted shall be strictly applied in accordance with the terms and conditions of said act or acts, unless subsequently modified by law." 13 St. at Large, p. 526, § 3. The sixth section provided that lands granted by the act, or previously granted to the territory or state of Minnesota, "shall be disposed of by said state for the purposes aforesaid only, and in manner following, namely: When the governor of said state shall certify to the secretary of the interior that any section of 10 consecutive miles of said road is completed in a good, substantial, and
workmanlike manner, as a first-class railroad, and the said secretary shall be satisfied that said state has complied in good faith with this requirement, the said secretary of the interior shall issue to said state patents for all the lands granted and selected as aforesaid, not exceeding ten sections per mile, situated opposite to and within a limit of twenty miles of the line of said section of road thus completed, extending along the whole length of said completed section of ten miles of road, and no further. And when the governor of said state shall certify to the secretary of the interior, and the secretary shall be satisfied that another section of said road, ten consecutive miles in extent, connecting with the preceding section, or with some other first-class railroad which may be at the time in successful operation, is completed as aforesaid, the said secretary of the interior shall issue to the said state patents for all the lands granted and situated opposite to and within the limits of twenty miles of the line of the said completed section of road or roads, and extending the length of said section, and no further, not exceeding ten sections of land per mile for all that part of said road thus completed under the provisions of this act and the act to which this is an amendment; and so from time to time until said roads and branches are completed."
After the passage of this act the railroad company proceeded with the construction of the road westerly from Rochester, and before October 31, 1867, completed it to Waseca, 102 miles and 79-100 of a mile from Winona. Of this distance, as already stated, 49 miles were constructed before March, 1865, and the remainder, viz., 53 miles and 39-100 of a mile were constructed afterwards. Lands had previously been granted to Minnesota for the construction of the Minnesota & Cedar Valley Railroad, and that road intersected the road of the defendant below between Rochester and Waseca. Its lands at the intersection were located within the limits of the extension made by the act of 1865 to the original grant of 1857.
On the thirty-first of October, 1867, the railroad company agreed with the plaintiffs, upon sufficient consideration, to convey to them as many acres of land, previously granted by congress to Minnesota, as the company should receive from the state by reason of the construction already had of the portion of the Winona & St. Peter Railroad, estimated to be 105 miles, (but in fact only 102 miles and 79-100 of a mile,) extending westward from Winona, which amounted, as was supposed, to about 600,000 acres, and which were to be selected as follows:
"Beginning at Winona, and from thence proceeding on each side of said railroad on a course running parallel therewith, and embracing each of the six, ten, fifteen, and twenty mile limits of the congressional land grants, and in proceeding taking all lands within each and all of said limits which shall be received by said company under said acts of congress, or either of them; it being understood that on each side of said railroad a uniform line of advance westwardly, embracing all the lands in said limits, shall be maintained as nearly as may be until as many acres shall have been selected and taken as the said company shall have received for the construction of the portion of said railroad now completed, which is estimated to be one hundred and five miles thereof, extending northerly and westerly from Winona as aforesaid; it being understood that the said parties of the first part shall receive as many acres as shall be received by the party of the second part for the construction of said one hundred and five miles, or so much thereof as is now constructed, notwithstanding that under the acts of congress the said lands are certified only upon the completion of sections of not less than ten miles of railroad, but reserving, excepting, and deducting from the said numbers of acres all lands necessary for the track of such railroad, or the right of way, or depots or depot grounds, or other purposes incidental to the operation of said railroad. And the said party of the second part agrees to acquire the title of said lands as fast as it may be permitted to do under said acts of congress, and to release and con