Railroad Company v. Georgia - 98 U.S. 359 (1878)
U.S. Supreme Court
Railroad Company v. Georgia, 98 U.S. 359 (1878)
Railroad Company v. Georgia
98 U.S. 359
1. A provision of the statutory code of Georgia which took effect Jan. 1, 1863, enacts that private corporations are subject to be changed, modified, or destroyed at the will of the creator, except so far as the law forbids it, and that in all cases of private charters thereafter granted, the state reserves the right to withdraw the franchise, unless such right is expressly negatived in the charter. Two railroad companies created prior to that date, each of which enjoyed by its charter a limited exemption from taxation, were consolidated by virtue of an act of the legislature passed April 18, 1863, which authorized a consolidation of their stocks, conferred upon the consolidated company full corporate powers, and continued to it the franchises, privileges, and immunities which the companies had held by their original charters. Held: 1. that by the consolidation, the original companies were dissolved and a new corporation was created, which became subject to that provision of the code; 2. that a subsequent legislative act taxing the property of such new corporation as other property in the state is taxed was not prohibited by that provision of the Constitution of the United states which declares that no state shall pass a law impairing the obligation of contracts.
2. The judgment of the highest court of a state that a statute has been enacted in accordance with the requirements of the state constitution is conclusive upon this court, and it will not be reviewed.
This case came before the Superior Court for Fulton County, Georgia, on an "affidavit of illegality" filed by the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company in regard to an execution for taxes which had been issued by the comptroller general of the state in pursuance of an Act of the General Assembly approved Feb. 28, 1874, entitled
"An Act to amend the tax laws of this state so far as the same relate to railroad companies and to define the liabilities of such companies to taxation, and to repeal so much of the charters of such companies, respectively, as may conflict with the provisions of this act."
The affidavit averred that the company, by the original charters granted to the Savannah, Albany, and Gulf Railroad Company, and to the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad Company, or by the act consolidating them under the name of the last company, was not liable to be taxed more than one-half of one percent on its annual net income, and that said Act of Feb. 28, insofar as it authorized the levy and collection of a higher tax on its property, was in violation of the
tenth section of the First Article of the Constitution of the United states, and therefore void.
The court overruled the affidavit, and gave judgment "that the execution proceed." That judgment having been affirmed by the supreme court of the state, the company sued out this writ of error.
The remaining facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.