United States v. Stanford
161 U.S. 412 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Stanford, 161 U.S. 412 (1896)

United States v. Stanford

No. 783

Argued January 28-29, 1896

Decided March 2, 1896

161 U.S. 412


An examination of the statutes of the United States relating to the construction of a railroad from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, especially the Acts of July 1, 1862, c. 120, 12 Stat. 489, and July 2, 1864, c. 216, 13 Stat. 356, shows that every subscriber to the Union Pacific Railroad Company must be deemed to have become such upon the condition, implied by law, that he should not be personally liable for the debts of the corporation.

It is equally clear that Congress intended to grant national aid to all the corporations constructing that connecting line of railroad upon terms and conditions applicable alike to all, with no purpose to make discriminations against any one part of the line, and that the imposition of a liability upon the stockholders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company for the debt of that corporation, arising out of the bonds which it received from the United States, when no such liability was imposed upon

Page 161 U. S. 413

the Union Pacific Railroad Company on account of like bonds received by it, is entirely inconsistent with that equality.

The United States has no claim against the stockholders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company on account of the bonds issued to that company by the United States to aid in the construction of its road.

This adjudication is not to be taken as deciding that the stockholders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company either can or cannot be made liable for its debts to the United States in some other way than under the Pacific Railroad Acts and by the acceptance of the United States bonds to aid in the construction of the road, nor whether the adoption of the California corporation as an instrument of the national government in accomplishing a national object, exempted its stockholders from liability, under the Constitution and laws of California, to ordinary creditors.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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