Wilson v. Shaw
204 U.S. 24 (1907)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wilson v. Shaw, 204 U.S. 24 (1907)

Wilson v. Shaw

No. 43

Argued October 19, 1906

Decided January 7, 1907

204 U.S. 24

Syllabus

Where the bill is solely to restrain the Secretary of the Treasury from paying specific sums to a specific party, this Court may take judicial notice of the fact that such payments have actually been made, and in that event, whether rightfully made or not is a moot question.

While the courts may protect a citizen against wrongful acts of the government affecting him or his property, the remedy is not necessarily by injunction, suit for which is an equitable proceeding, in which the interests of the defendant as well as those of the plaintiff will be considered.

Subsequent ratification is equivalent to original authority, and where Congress authorizes the acquisition of territory in a specific manner from a specific party, and it is otherwise acquired, the subsequent action of Congress in enacting laws for the acquired territory amounts to a full ratification of the acquisition and the action of the Executive in regard thereto, and the concurrent action of Congress and the Executive in this respect is conclusive upon the courts.

The courts have no supervising control over the political branch of the government in its action within the limits of the Constitution.

The title of the United States to the Canal Zone in Panama is not imperfect either because the treaty with Panama does not contain technical terms used in ordinary conveyances of real estate or because the boundaries are not sufficient for identification, the ceded territory having been practically identified by the concurrent action of the two interested nations.

Under the commerce clause of the Constitution, Congress has power to create interstate highways, including canals, and also those wholly within the territories and outside of state lines.

The previous declarations of this Court upholding the power of Congress to construct interstate or territorial highways are not obiter dicta, and to announce a different doctrine would amount to overruling decisions on which rest a vast volume of rights and in reliance on which Congress has acted in many ways.

25 App.D.C. 510 affirmed.

In a general way, it way be said that this is a suit brought in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia by the appellant, alleging himself to be a citizen of Illinois and the owner or property subject to taxation by the United States,

Page 204 U. S. 25

to restrain the Secretary of the Treasury from paying out money in the purchase of property for the construction of a canal at Panama, from borrowing money on the credit of the United States, from issuing bonds or making any payments under the Act of Congress, June 28, 1902, 32 Stat. 481, providing for the acquisition of property and rights from Colombia and the canal company, and the construction and operation of the canal and the Panama Railroad. The Republic of Panama and the New Panama Canal Company of France were named parties defendant, but they were not served with process, and made no appearance. A demurrer to the bill was sustained, and the bill dismissed. This decree was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, from whose decision this appeal was taken.

Page 204 U. S. 30

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