The bonds of the Town of Lansing, in the State of New York,
issued to aid in the construction of the New York and Oswego
Midland Railroad, having been put out without a previous
designation by the company of all the counties through which the
extension authorized by the New York Act of 1871, c. 298, would
pass, were issued without authority of law, and are invalid.
This was an action at law against the Town of Lansing to recover
on bonds issued by it in aid of the New York and Oswego Midland
Railroad. Judgment for defendant; plaintiff sued out this writ of
error. The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 128 U. S. 558
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an action upon certain bonds, with interest coupons
attached, issued in the name of the Town of Lansing, in the County
of Tompkins, New York, to the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad
Company, a corporation created by the laws of that state. The
parties consenting thereto in writing, the case was tried by the
court without a jury, and upon the special facts found there was a
judgment for the town.
The correctness of that judgment depends upon the construction
to be given to the Act of the Legislature of New York approved
April 5, 1871, entitled "An act to authorize the New York and
Oswego Midland Railroad Company to extend its road, and to
facilitate the construction thereof."
1 Laws N.Y. 1871, p. 586, c. 298. By the first section of that
act, it is provided:
"The New York and Oswego Midland Railroad Company are hereby
authorized and empowered to extend and construct their railroad
from the City of Auburn, or from any point on said road easterly or
southerly from said city, upon such route and location, and through
such counties, as the board of directors of said company shall deem
most feasible and favorable for the construction of said railroad,
to any point on Lake Erie or the Niagara River."
After giving authority to the company to locate, extend, and
construct certain branch roads, the section continues:
"And any town, village, or city in any county through or near
which said railroad or its branches may be located, except such
counties, towns, or cities as are excepted from the provisions of
the general bonding law, may aid or facilitate the construction of
the said New York and Oswego Midland Railroad and its branches and
extensions by the issue and sale of its bonds in the manner
provided for in the act entitled 'An act to facilitate the
construction of the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad, and to
authorize towns to subscribe to the capital stock thereof,' passed
April 5, 1866, and the acts amendatory of and supplementary
In Mellen v. Lansing,
11 F. 829, involving
Page 128 U. S. 559
substantially the same questions as are here presented, and in
which case it became necessary to interpret the above statute, it
"Moreover there is an inherent defect in the fact that the
company never, by any action of its directors or otherwise,
designated all the counties through which the road was to pass.
Under the act of 1871, the whole extension or branch must be
located before the bonds of any town can be issued. It is not
enough that a location be made through a particular county. So that
even though the maps filed could be regarded as a location of so
much of the western extension as was to pass through Tompkins
County, there would be no authority for issuing the bonds until the
whole extension or branch should be located. The board of directors
must in some way adopt an entire route as feasible and favorable
before the town bonds can be issued. This seems to have been the
view of the Court of Appeals of New York in People v.
55 N.Y. 587."
These views were in accordance with the previous decision by the
same court in Mellen v. Lansing,
11 F. 820, and were
reaffirmed in Thomas v. Lansing,
14 F. 618.
We are of opinion that this construction of the statute is the
proper one. The reasons therefor are fully stated in the cases
above cited, and, as they are entirely satisfactory, no good
purpose would be subserved by enlarging upon them in this opinion.
As the bonds in suit were issued without any previous action of the
company designating all the counties through which would pass the
road authorized by the act of 1871 to be constructed, they must be
held to have been issued without authority of law, and cannot
therefore be the foundation of a judgment against the town.
The judgment below is affirmed.