Whether the proceeding in the enactment of a state statute
conform with the state constitution is to be determined by the
state court, and it judgment is final.
A state statute directing the state treasurer to write certain
bonds off the books in his office and no longer to carry them as a
debt of the state does not impair any existing obligation of the
state to pay the bond nor affect the remedy to recover upon them,
and where the state court has so construed the act, in refusing to
enjoin the treasurer from making the entries required thereby at
the suit of one claiming to own the bonds, no federal right of the
plaintiff is denied, obstructed, impaired or affected, and the writ
of error will be dismissed.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE MOODY delivered the opinion of the Court.
The plaintiff in error is the receiver of a state bank of South
Carolina which has been many years in liquidation. The defendant in
error is the Treasurer of the State of South Carolina. The receiver
brought in the supreme court of the state a petition for an
injunction to restrain the treasurer from obeying the requirements
of an act (presently to be stated) of the legislature of the state.
The supreme court of the state dismissed the petition, and the case
is here on writ of error.
Page 206 U. S. 277
The State of South Carolina issued, in 1859, bonds due in twenty
years in aid of the Blue Ridge Railroad Company. The bank came to
be the owner of one hundred of these bonds, each of the par value
of $1,000. In 1865, the assets of the bank, including the hundred
bonds, were seized and carried away by soldiers of the federal
Army. Sixty-three of the bonds have been recovered by the bank from
time to time and have been paid or funded by the state.
Thirty-seven of the bonds are still outstanding, and nothing is
known of them. In 1896, the general assembly of the state passed an
act directing that no coupon bond of the state payable to bearer
should be funded or paid by the state treasurer after the
expiration of twenty years from the date of maturity. In 1903, the
general assembly passed the following act:
"A Joint Resolution to Authorize and Require the state
Treasurer to Write off the Books in His Office Certain Bonds
Entered on Said Books as Old Bonds, Not Fundable (Act of 1896),
Blue Ridge Railroad Bonds,
"Be it resolved
by the General Assembly of the State of
"SECTION 1. That whereas, by the act of the Legislature of 1896,
the Treasurer of this state is forbidden to pay, consolidate, or
fund any coupon bond of the state after the expiration of twenty
years from the date of maturity of such bonds, and certain bonds
entered on the books of the state treasurer as 'Old bonds, not
fundable, act of 1896, Blue Ridge Railroad Bonds, $37,000,' are
still carried on the books of the state treasurer. Therefore, be it
resolved: That the state treasurer be, and he is hereby, authorized
and required to write said bonds off of the books in his office,
and no longer carry said bonds on the books as a debt of the
Thereupon the receiver brought this petition, alleging that the
act last stated, if valid, impaired the obligation of the contract
made by the bonds, and that the act was not passed in conformity
with the constitution of the state, and was therefore void. The
prayer of the petition was that the respondent
Page 206 U. S. 278
be restrained by injunction "from writing the said $37,000 of
the state bonds off the books in his office, and no longer carrying
said bonds on the books as a debt of the state." The supreme court
of the state decided against both these contentions, and they are
brought here as federal questions. But the conformity with the
state constitution of the proceedings in the enactment of the law
is a question for the determination of the state court, and its
judgment is final. Burt v. Smith, 203 U.
, 203 U. S. 135
Haire v. Rice, 204 U. S. 291
did the law complained of impair the obligation of the state to pay
the bonds therein mentioned, or the remedy to recover upon them.
The obligation and the remedy remained precisely the same after the
enactment of the law as before. Neither one was in the slightest
degree diminished or affected. The law merely directed a change of
entries in the books of the state treasurer, and could by no
possibility, in any respect whatever, deny, obstruct, impair, or
affect the rights of the plaintiff in error. This was the view
expressed by the court below, and the statute, thus interpreted,
raises no federal question.
Writ of error dismissed.