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U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago & Alton Railroad v. Wiggins Ferry Company, 119 U.S. 615 (1887)

Chicago and Alton Railroad v. Wiggins Ferry Company

Argued October 22, 25, 1886

Decided January 10, 1887

119 U.S. 615


The constitutional requirement that "full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state" implies that the public acts of every state shall be given the same effect by the courts of another state that they have by law and usage at home.

Page 119 U. S. 616

Whenever it becomes necessary under Article IV, § 1 of the Constitution for a court of one state, in order to give faith and effect to a public act of another state, to ascertain what effect it has in that state, the law of the other state must be proved as a fact.

The courts of the United States, when exercising their original jurisdiction, take notice without proof of the laws of the several states of the United States, but in this Court, when acting under its appellate jurisdiction, whatever was matter of fact in the state court whose judgment or decree is under review is matter of fact here.

When the decision of a state court holding a contract valid or void is made upon the general principles by which courts determine whether a consideration is good or bad on principles of public policy, no question arises under the provision of the Constitution respecting the faith and credit to be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of another state, and this Court cannot review the decision.

In order to give this Court jurisdiction to review a decision of a state court respecting the power of a corporation of another state to make contracts, it is not sufficient to aver in the pleadings that whatever force might be given to it in the court of the forum, it was beyond the powers of the corporation under its act of incorporation as construed by the courts of the state incorporating it; it must appear affirmatively in the record that the facts as presented for adjudication made it necessary for the court to consider and give effect to the act of incorporation in view of the peculiar jurisprudence of the state enacting it, rather than the general law of the land.

This was a motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction. It was submitted on the 19th April, 1886, at the last term of Court, and was ordered to be argued at the hearing on the merits. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

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