MANIGAULT V. SPRINGS, 199 U. S. 473 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Manigault v. Springs, 199 U.S. 473 (1905)

Manigault v. Springs

No. 46

Submitted November 2, 1905

Decided December 4, 1905

199 U.S. 473


In the absence of legislation by Congress, a state has full power to improve its lands and promote the general health by authorizing dams across interior streams, although previously navigable to the sea.

Nothing in the existing Constitution of South Carolina interferes with the common law powers of the state over its navigable waters.

The interdiction of statutes impairing the obligation of contracts does not prevent a state from properly exercising its police powers for the public good notwithstanding contracts previously entered into between individuals may be affected.

While the police power of a state is subject to limitations, there is a wide discretion as to its exercise in the legislature, with whose determination as to what is and what is not necessary the courts ordinarily will not interfere.

Except where property is taken for which compensation must be made, private interests are subservient to the exercise of the police power, and must give way to general schemes for the public health.

Courts may take judicial notice that the public health is greatly affected by the existence of swamp lands and the reclamation of such lands is a proper exercise of the police powers.

Where there is a practical destruction or material impairment of value of lands by overflowing them as the result of construction of dams, there is a taking within the meaning of the federal Constitution which demands compensation, but otherwise when the owner is merely put, as in this case, to additional expense in warding off the consequences of the overflow.

A court of equity is not bound to enjoin a public work authorized by statute until compensation is paid where no property is directly appropriated, especially where it is difficult to ascertain the damage, if any, and the statute contains reasonable provisions for compensation.

Although a river may, for purposes of transit and travel, be a highway, in the prohibition in the Constitution of South Carolina against special legislation in regard to highways, that word is used in its ordinary sense, and the prohibition is inapplicable to water highways.

A general law enacted by a legislature may be repealed, amended, or disregarded by a subsequent legislature, and a special act is not necessarily invalid because the legislature dispensed with certain formalities required by a general law in regard to the passage of such act.

This was a bill in equity filed March 4, 1903, by Manigault

Page 199 U. S. 474

to enjoin the damming or otherwise obstructing Kinloch Creek in the County of Georgetown, South Carolina. A demurrer to the bill was sustained, and the bill subsequently dismissed. See 123 F.7d 7.

It seems that, in 1898, the plaintiff and the two defendants, Springs and Lachicotte, together with one Ford, were adjoining riparian owners on the Santee River at the mouth of Kinloch Creek. The creek furnished access as a highway to all the proprietors on its banks. At that time, the defendants constructed a dam across the creek for their own purposes. Objection was made to this by plaintiff and by Ford as an interference with their rights of passage and irrigation. Plaintiff also complained that the effect was to compel him to raise the dikes around his lands. As a result of long negotiations, a compromise was effected and a contract entered into in August, 1898, between defendants under the name of S. M. Ward & Company, of the first part, and plaintiff and Ford, of the second part, whereby it was agreed that the obstructions should continue until December 31 of that year, when they should be removed, so as to give the parties complaining a clear passage through the creek.

This removal was effected, and matters allowed to remain as they were until 1903, when the general assembly of the state passed an act reciting the necessity of draining the lowlands on the Santee River, whereby their taxable value would be greatly enhanced. Authority was given to the defendants by name to erect and maintain a dam across Kinloch Creek, with a proviso that they should be liable for all such damages as might be established in any court of competent jurisdiction by any landowner claiming that his land had been damaged by reason of the erection of the dam.

Page 199 U. S. 477

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