New Hampshire v. Louisiana,
Annotate this Case
108 U.S. 76 (1883)
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U.S. Supreme Court
New Hampshire v. Louisiana, 108 U.S. 76 (1883)
New Hampshire v. Louisiana
Decided March 6, 1883
108 U.S. 76
1. The history of article XI of the amendment to the Constitution, which provides that the judicial power of the federal courts shall not extend to suits against a state by a citizen of another state, or by citizens or subjects of a foreign state, and the causes which led to its adoption, reviewed.
2. Unless the state prosecuted consents, that amendment prohibits the court from entertaining jurisdiction of a cause in which one state seeks relief against another state on behalf of its citizens in a matter in which the state prosecuting has no interest of its own. One state cannot create a controversy with another state, within the meaning of that term as used in the judicial clauses of the Constitution, by assuming the prosecution of debts owing by the other state to its citizens.
3. The relation of one of the United States to its citizens is not that of an independent sovereign state to its citizens. A sovereign state seeking redress of another sovereign state on behalf of its citizens can resort to war on refusal, which a state cannot do.
4. The qualifications of the duty of a sovereign state to assume the collection of the debts of its citizens from another sovereign state considered and stated.
The case on which the opinion is given is thus stated by the Court.
On the 18th of July, 1879, the General Court of New Hampshire passed an act of which the following is a copy:
"An act to protect the rights of citizens of this state"
"holding claims against other states"
"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives"
"in general court convened:"
"SECTION 1. Whenever any citizen of the state shall be the owner of any claim against any of the United States of America, arising upon a written obligation to pay money issued by such state, which obligation shall be past due and unpaid, such citizen holding such claim may assign the same to the State of New Hampshire and deposit the assignment thereof, duly
executed and acknowledged in the form and manner provided for the execution and acknowledgment of deeds of real estate by the laws of this state, together with all the evidence necessary to substantiate such claim, with the Attorney General of the state."
"SEC. 2. Upon each deposit's being made, it shall be the duty of the Attorney General to examine such claim and the evidence thereof, and if in his opinion there is a valid claim which shall be just and equitable to enforce, vested by such assignment in the State of New Hampshire, he, the Attorney General, shall, upon the assignor of such claim depositing with him such sum as he, the said Attorney General, shall deem necessary to cover the expenses and disbursements incident to, or which may become incident to, the collection of said claim, bring such suits, actions, or proceedings in the name of the State of New Hampshire in the Supreme Court of the United States, as he, the said Attorney General, shall deem necessary for the recovery of the money due upon such claim, and it shall be the duty of the said Attorney General to prosecute such action or actions to final judgment, and to take such other steps as may be necessary after judgment for the collection of said claim and to carry such judgment into effect, or, with the consent of the assignor, to compromise, adjust, and settle such claim before or after judgment."
"SEC. 3. Nothing in this act shall authorize the expenditure of any money belonging to this state, but the expenses of said proceedings shall be paid by the assignor of such claim, and the assignor of such claim may associate with the Attorney General in the prosecution thereof, in the name of the State of New Hampshire, such other counsel as the said assignor may deem necessary, but the state shall not be liable for the fees of such counsel or any part thereof."
"SEC. 4. The Attorney General shall keep all moneys collected upon such claim, or by reason of any compromise of any such claim, separate and apart from any other moneys of this state which may be in his hands, and shall deposit the same to his own credit, as special trustee under this act, in such bank or banks as he shall select, and the said Attorney General shall pay to the assignor of such claims all such sums of money as may be recovered by him in compromise or settlement of such claims, deducting therefrom all expenses incurred by said attorney not before that time paid by the assignor. "
"SEC. 5. This act shall take effect on its passage."
Under this act, six of the consolidated bonds of the State of Louisiana, particularly described in the cases of State ex Rel. Elliott v. Jumel and Elliott v. Wiltz, 107 U. S. 711. were assigned to the State of New Hampshire by one of its citizens. This assignment was made for the purposes contemplated in the act, and passed to the state no other or different title than it would acquire in that way. After the assignment was perfected, a bill in equity was filed in this Court in the name of the State of New Hampshire, as complainant, against the State of Louisiana and the several officers of that state who compose the board of liquidation provided for in the act authorizing the issue of the bonds. The averments in the bill are substantially the same as those in Elliott v. Jumel, save only that in this case the ownership of the bonds specially involved is stated to be in New Hampshire, while in that it was in Elliott and his associates. The prayer is in substance for a decree that the bonds and the act and constitutional amendment of 1874 constitute a valid contract between Louisiana and the holders of its bonds; that the defendants and each of them may be prohibited from diverting the proceeds of the taxes levied under the act from the payment of the interest, and that the provisions of the debt ordinance of 1879 may be adjudged void and of no effect, because they impair the obligation of the contract. The bill was signed in the name of New Hampshire by the Attorney General of that state, and also by the same counsel who appeared for Elliott, Gwynn & Walker in their suit in equity just decided.
On the 15th of May, 1880, the Legislature of New York passed the following act:
"An act to protect the rights of citizens of this state owning"
"and holding claims against other states"
"The people of the State of New York, represented in Senate"
"and assembly, do enact as follows:"
"SECTION 1. Any citizen of this state, being the owner and holder of any valid claim against any of the United States of
America arising upon a written obligation to pay money made, executed, and delivered by such state, which obligation shall be past due and unpaid, may assign the same to the State of New York and deliver the assignment thereof to the Attorney General of the state. Such assignment shall be in writing, and shall be duly acknowledged before an officer authorized to take the acknowledgment of deeds, and the certificate of such acknowledgment shall be duly endorsed upon such assignment before the delivery thereof. Every such assignment shall contain a guarantee on the part of the assignor, to be approved by the Attorney General, of the expenses of the collection of such claim, and it shall be the duty of the Attorney General, on receiving such assignment, to require on behalf of such assignor such security for said guarantee as he shall deem adequate."
"SEC. 2. Upon the execution and delivery of such assignment, in the manner provided for in section one of this act, and furnishing the security as in said section provided, and the delivery of such claim to him, the Attorney General shall bring and prosecute such action or proceeding, in the name of the State of New York as shall be necessary for the recovery of the money due on such claim, and the said Attorney General shall prosecute such action or proceeding to final judgment, and shall take such proceedings after judgment as may be necessary to effectuate the same."
"SEC. 3. The Attorney General shall forthwith deliver to the treasurer of the state, for the use of such assignor, all moneys collected upon such claim, first deducting therefrom all expenses incurred by him in the collection thereof, and said assignor, or his legal representatives, shall be paid said money by said treasurer upon producing the check or draft therefor of the Attorney General to his or their order, and proof to his or their identity."
"SEC. 4. This act shall take effect immediately."
On the 20th of April, 1881, E. K. Goodnow and Benjamin Graham, being the holders and owners of thirty coupons cut from ten of the consolidated bonds of Louisiana falling due January 1, 1880, July 1, 1880, and January 1, 1881, assigned them to the State of New York by an instrument in writing, of which the following is a copy:
"Know all men by these presents, that we, the undersigned, citizens of the State of New York, being the owners and holders of valid claims against the State of Louisiana, arising upon written obligations to pay money, made, executed, and delivered by the State of Louisiana, and now past due and unpaid, being the coupons hereto annexed, in consideration of one dollar to each of us paid by the State of New York, and for other good and valuable considerations, hereby assign and transfer the said claims and coupons to the State of New York."
"And we do hereby covenant with the said state that if an attempt is made by it to collect the said claim from the State of Louisiana we will pay all the expenses of the collection of the same."
"In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and affixed our seals this twentieth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one."
"E. K. GOODNOW [L.S.]"
"BENJ. GRAHAM [L.S.]"
"Sealed and delivered in presence of"
"FRANK M. CARSON"