Lane County v. Oregon
74 U.S. 71 (1868)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lane County v. Oregon, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 71 71 (1868)

Lane County v. Oregon

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 71

Syllabus

1. An enactment in a state statute that "the sheriff shall pay over to the county treasurer the full amount of the state and school taxes, in gold and silver coin," and that "the several county treasurers shall pay over to the state treasurer the state tax, in gold and silver coin" requires by legitimate, if not necessary consequence, that the taxes named be collected in coin. But if, in the judgment of this Court, this were otherwise, yet the supreme court of the state having held this construction to be correct, this Court will follow their adjudication.

2. The clauses in the several acts of Congress of 1862 and 1863 making United States notes a legal tender for debts have no reference to taxes imposed by state authority.

Congress, February, 1862, authorized the issue of $150,000,000

Page 74 U. S. 72

in notes of the United States, and enacted that they should

"be receivable in payment of all taxes, internal duties, levies, debts, and demands due to the United States except duties on imports, and of all claims and demands of any kind whatever against the United States except interest on bonds and notes, which shall be paid in coin; and shall also be lawful money and legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private, within the United States, except duties on imports."

A subsequent act authorizing a further issue contained an enactment very similar as to the legal characteristics of the notes when issued. A third act authorizing a yet further issue enacted simply that they should be lawful money or a legal tender. Under these three acts, a large amount of notes of the United States which circulated as money were issued.

Subsequently to this, the Legislature of Oregon passed a statute enacting that "the sheriff shall pay over to the county treasurer, the full amount of the state and school taxes, in gold and silver coin," [Footnote 1] and that "the several county treasurers shall pay over to the state treasurer the state tax in gold and silver coin." [Footnote 2]

In this condition of statute law, federal and state, the State of Oregon, in April, 1865, filed a complaint against the County of Lane in the circuit court of the state for that county to recover $5,460.96, in gold and silver coin, which sum was alleged to have become due as state revenue from the county to the state on the first Monday of February, 1864.

To this complaint an answer was put in by the county alleging a tender of the amount claimed by the state, made on the 23d day of January, 1864, to the state treasurer at his office in United States notes, and averring that the lawful money so tendered and offered was in truth and fact part of the first moneys collected and paid into the county treasury after the assessment of taxes for the year 1862.

To this answer there was a demurrer, which was sustained

Page 74 U. S. 73

by the circuit court, and judgment was given that the plaintiff recover of the defendant the sum claimed, in gold and silver coin, with costs of suit. This judgment was affirmed upon writ of error by the supreme court of the state.

The case was now brought here by writ of error to that court.

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