Montclair v. Ramsdell,
107 U.S. 147 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Montclair v. Ramsdell, 107 U.S. 147 (1883)

Montclair v. Ramsdell

Decided March 5, 1883

107 U.S. 147


1. The Township of Montclair in the County of Essex, New Jersey, had authority to issue bonds to be exchanged for bonds of the Montclair Railway Company.

2. The Constitution of New Jersey provides:

"To avoid improper influences which may result from intermixing in one and the same act such things as have no proper relation to each other, every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title."


1. That this provision does not require the title of an act to set forth a detailed statement, or an index or abstract, of its contents; nor does it prevent uniting in the same act numerous provisions having one general object fairly indicated by its title.

2. That the powers, however varied and extended, which a township may exercise constitute but one object, which is fairly expressed in a title showing nothing more than the legislative purpose to establish such township.

3. The conflict between the constitution and a statute must be palpable to justify the judiciary in disregarding the latter upon the sole ground that it

Page 107 U. S. 148

embraces more than one object or that, if there be but one, it is not sufficiently expressed in the title.

4. The holder of the bonds is presumed to have acquired them in good faith and for value. But if, in a suit upon them, the defense be such as to require him to show that value was paid, it is not in every case essential to prove that he paid it, for his title will be sustained if any previous holder gave value.

The judgment below was in accordance with the verdict in an action brought by the defendant in error on certain bonds, payable to Samuel Holmes or bearer, and coupons thereof payable to the holder, all dated March 17, 1870, and alleged to have been issued by the Township of Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey. They are negotiable in form and purport to have been executed in pursuance of an act approved April 9, 1868, entitled "An act to authorize certain townships, towns, and cities to issue bonds, and to take the bonds of the Montclair Railway Company" -- a corporation created with authority to construct a railway from the Village of Montclair to the Hudson River at Pavonia or Hoboken ferries or between those points. On the margin of each bond is the certificate of the County Clerk of Essex County that it is registered in his office.

The first section of the foregoing act -- which was declared to be a public act to take effect immediately upon its passage -- provides:

"SEC 1. That on the application in writing of twelve or more freeholders, residents of any township, town, or city along the route of the Montclair Railway Company or at the terminus thereof (except the township of Bloomfield, in the County of Essex, which township is hereby excepted from the operation of all the provisions of this act), it shall be the duty of the judge of the circuit court of the county wherein such freeholders shall reside, within ten days after receiving such application, to appoint under his hand and seal not more than three freeholders, residents of such township, town, or city, to be commissioners thereof, to carry into effect the purposes and provisions of this act; said commissioners shall hold their offices respectively for the term of five years, and until others shall have been appointed. "

Page 107 U. S. 149

The second and third sections are as follows:

"SEC. 2. That it shall be lawful for said commissioners to borrow, on the faith and credit of their respective township, towns, or cities such sums of money, not exceeding twenty percent of the valuation of the real estate and landed property of such township, town, or city, to be ascertained by the assessment rolls thereof, respectively, for the year 1867, for a term not exceeding twenty-five years at the rate of interest not exceeding seven percent per annum, payable semiannually, and to execute bonds therefor under their hands and seals respectively. The bonds so to be executed may be in such sums and payable at such times and places as the said commissioners and their successors may deem expedient, but no such debt shall be contracted or bonds issued by said commissioners of or for either of said townships, towns, or cities until the written consent of the persons owning or representing as agent or president at least two-thirds of the real estate and landed property of such township, town, or city, borne on the last assessment roll thereof at the valuation thereon appearing, shall have been obtained."

"Such consent shall state the amount of money authorized to be raised in such township, town, or city, and that the same is to be invested in the bonds of said railway company, and the signatures shall be proved by one or more of said commissioners. The fact that the persons signing such consent own or represent as aforesaid at least two-thirds of the taxable, real, and landed property of such township, town, or city shall be proved by the affidavit of the assessor of such township, town, or city, endorsed upon or annexed to such written consent, and the assessor of such township, town, or city is hereby required to perform such service. Such consent and affidavit shall be filed in the office of the clerk of the county in which such township, town, or city is situated, and a certified copy thereof in the office of the clerk of such township, town, or city, and the same, or a certified copy thereof, shall be evidence of the facts therein contained and shall be received as evidence in any court of this state and before any judge or justice thereof."

"SEC. 3. And be it enacted that the said commissioners authorized by this act may, in their discretion, dispose of such bonds, or any part thereof, to such persons or corporations and upon such terms as they shall deem most advantageous for their said townships, towns, or cities, but not for less than par, and the money that shall be raised by any loan or sale of bonds shall be invested in the

Page 107 U. S. 150

bonds of the said railway company for the purpose of building the railway thereof, and said money shall be applied and used in the construction of said railway, its buildings, equipments, and necessary appurtenances, and for no other purpose. The commissioners, respectively, in the corporate name of each of their said townships, towns, or cities shall subscribe for and purchase bonds of said railway company to the amount that they severally may have borrowed as aforesaid."

After providing that the commissioners shall execute their official bonds, with security to be approved by the judge (all of which was done in this case), and that they shall be a board to act for their respective townships, towns, and cities, with power, by a majority, to do any business authorized by the act, the twelfth and fourteenth sections declare:

"SEC. 12. That all bonds issued in accordance with the provisions of this act shall be registered in the office of the county in which the township, town, or city so issuing is situated, and the words 'registered in the county clerk's office' shall be printed or written across the face of each bond, attested by the signature of the county clerk when so registered, and no bonds shall be valid unless so registered."

"SEC. 14. That in case any new township, town, or city shall have been created, or the boundaries of any township, town, or city shall have been enlarged on the routes of the said railway, or at the termini thereof, so that there is no assessment roll for the year 1867 for such township, town, or city so created or enlarged, the said commissioner for such new or enlarged township, town, or city shall cause to be prepared an assessment roll for the purposes of this act, by extracting from any assessment roll or rolls for said year all that relates to any assessment of persons or property in the territory embraced in the said new township, town, or city so enlarged or created, or in said enlargement."

On the 15th day of April, 1868, the Legislature of New Jersey passed another act, the provisions of which are important. It is entitled "An act to set off from the township of Bloomfield, in the County of Essex, a new township, to be called the township of Montclair." The first section defines the boundary of the new township, and the second constitutes its inhabitants a body politic and corporate in law by the name of

Page 107 U. S. 151

"The inhabitants of the Township of Montclair," with all the rights, powers, privileges, and advantages, and subject to all the regulations, government, and liabilities to which the inhabitants of the other townships in said County of Essex are or may be entitled or subject by the laws of the state.

The third section, after prescribing the time and place at which the first town meeting of Montclair should be held, and that the voting thereat should be by ballot until otherwise determined by law, declares:

"That all the provisions and restrictions of an act entitled 'An act to authorize the inhabitants of the several townships of this state to vote by ballot at their town meetings,' approved March 22, 1860, and of the supplements thereto, shall apply to the inhabitants of the said Township of Montclair, and all acts and parts of acts in force in the said Township of Bloomfield at the time of the passage of this act are hereby extended to and shall be in force in the said Township of Montclair, but the provisions of any act or acts from the operation of which the Township of Bloomfield has, by any proviso or exception contained therein been specially excepted, shall apply to and be in force in said Township of Montclair from and after the time this act shall go into effect, the same as if the Township of Bloomfield had not been specially excepted therein."

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