Town of Venice v. Murdock - 92 U.S. 494 (1875)
U.S. Supreme Court
Town of Venice v. Murdock, 92 U.S. 494 (1875)
Town of Venice v. Murdock
92 U.S. 494
1. An act of the legislature of New York authorized the supervisor of any town in the county of Cayuga, and the assessors of such town, who were thereby appointed to act with the supervisor as commissioners, to borrow money to the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars to aid in the construction of a railroad passing through the town, and execute the bonds of the town therefor. The act, however, provided that the supervisor and commissioners should have no power to issue the bonds until the written assent of two-thirds of the resident taxpayers, as appearing on the assessment roll of such town next previous to the time when such money may be borrowed, should have been obtained by such supervisor and commissioners, or some one or more of them, and filed in the clerk's office of said county, together with the affidavit of such supervisor or commissioners, or any two of them, attached to such statement, to the effect that the persons whose written assents are thereto attached and filed comprise two-thirds of all the resident taxpayers of said town on the assessment roll of such town next previous thereto. Subsequently a written assent to the effect required was filed in that office, the persons who signed it representing themselves to be such resident taxpayers. Upon this instrument was endorsed the affidavit of the supervisor and one of the commissioners that the persons whose names were subscribed to the assent composed two-thirds of all the resident taxpayers of said town. The bonds were issued, signed by the supervisor and commissioners, reciting that in pursuance of said act of the legislature, "and the written assent of two-thirds of the resident taxpayers of said town obtained and filed in the office of the clerk of the county of Cayuga," said town promised to pay the sum of money therein named to bearer. Held, 1. that it was the appointed province of the supervisor and commissioners to decide the question, whether the condition precedent to the exercise of their authority had been fulfilled; that they did decide it by issuing the bonds; and that the recital in the bonds was a declaration of their decision; 2. that the supervisor and commissioners, who procured what purported to be the written assent of the taxpayers, had means of knowledge touching the genuineness of the signatures to the paper, which, from the nature of the case, the purchaser could not have; and that, in a suit by a bona fide holder of the bonds, the town was estopped from disputing their validity, and that he was not bound to prove the genuineness of the signatures to the written assent.
2. The decisions of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York on cases arising upon the same statute and a similar state of facts are not conclusive on this Court, as such decisions do not present a case of statutory construction.
This suit was brought upon certain bonds, each of which is as follows:
"STATE OF NEW YORK, County of Cayuga:"
"Seven percent loan, not exceeding $25,000"
"Be it known that the Town of Venice, in the County of Cayuga, and State of New York, in pursuance of an act of the legislature of the said state, entitled"
"An Act to authorize any town in the County of Cayuga to borrow money for aiding in the construction of a railroad or railroads from Lake Ontario to the New York & Erie or Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad,"
"passed April 16, 1852, and for the purpose of aiding the construction of the Lake Ontario, Auburn & New York Railroad, owes, and promises to pay, to _____ _____, or bearer, $1,000, with interest at the rate of seven percent, payable semiannually, on the first days of January and July in each year, on surrender of the coupons hereto attached, at the Bank of the State of New York, in the City of New York, the principal to be reimbursable at the same place at the expiration of twenty years from the first day of January, 1853."
"In testimony whereof, the Supervisor and Commissioners of the Town of Venice have, pursuant to the provisions of the act aforesaid, and the written assent of two-thirds of the resident taxpayers of said town, obtained and filed in the office of the Clerk of the County of Cayuga, hereunto subscribed their names, this second day of March, A.D. 1853."
"CALVIN KING, Supervisor"
"ISAAC SMITH Commissioners"
The following certificate was endorsed thereon:
"CAYUGA COUNTY CLERK'S OFFICE"
"I, Edwin B. Marvine, Clerk of the County of Cayuga, hereby certify that a paper purporting to be the written assent of two-thirds of the resident taxpayers of the Town of Venice, with the affidavit required by sec. 1 of the act referred to by its title in the foregoing bond, has been filed in this office."
"Dated Auburn, May 16, 1853."
"(Signed) E. B. MARVINE"
"Clerk of Cayuga County"