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U.S. Supreme Court

Fairfield v. County of Gallatin, 100 U.S. 47 (1879)

Fairfield v. County of Gallatin

100 U.S. 47


1. Where no federal question is involved, this Court will follow the construction which has been uniformly given to the constitution or the laws of a state by its highest court.

2. Cases affirming this principle cited and examined.

3. This Court accepts as binding the decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois in Chicago v. Iowa Railroad Co. v. Pinckney, 74 Ill. 277, and subsequent cases, construing the section of the constitution of that state in force July 2, 1870, which provides that:

"No county, city, town, township, or other municipality shall ever become subscriber to the capital stock of any railroad or private corporation, or make donation to, or loan its credit in aid of, such corporation, provided, however, that the adoption of this article shall not be construed as affecting the right of any such municipality to make such subscriptions where the same have been authorized, under existing laws, by a vote of the people of such municipalities prior to such adoption,"

and holding that such previous donations, if sanctioned by a popular vote under pr-existing laws, were not forbidden, but were, in like manner as subscriptions, excepted by the proviso from the general prohibitory terms of the section.

4. Where therefore, pursuant to the authority conferred by a legislative enactment, such a donation was voted by a county in Illinois before the adoption of that constitution, the donation may be thereafter completed by the issue of the requisite bonds.

Page 100 U. S. 48

5. Chicago v. Iowa Railroad Co. v. Pinckney, supra, was decided before, but not reported until after, the ruling in Town of Concord v. Portsmouth Savings Bank, 92 U. S. 625, involving the construction of that section, and the attention of this Court was not called to it; but as it established in Illinois a rule of property which has been since maintained, the latter case, so far as it conflicts therewith, is overruled.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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