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U.S. Supreme Court

Raleigh & Gaston Railroad Co. v. Reid, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 269 269 (1871)

Raleigh & Gaston Railroad Co. v. Reid

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 269




The principle of the preceding case affirmed in a case where the exemption from taxation was limited to a term of years, and where the dividends did not exceed a certain sum.

In the case just above adjudged and reported, the property of the railroad company could not by its charter be taxed under any circumstances. In the case of the charter of the railroad company now under consideration, the exemption was limited to a term of fifteen years. After this limitation expired, the legislature was at liberty to tax the individual shares of the stockholders whenever their annual profits exceeded 8 percent, provided that the tax did not exceed twenty-five cents a share per annum. The pleadings in the case showed that the annual profits on the shares never reached 8 percent.

Page 80 U. S. 270

MR. JUSTICE DAVIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The only way in which the property of this company could be reached for taxation at all was after the limitation of the fifteen years had expired. The legislature was then at liberty to tax the individual shares of the stockholders, whenever their annual profits exceeded 8 percent. When a statute limits a thing to be done in a particular mode, it includes a negative of any other mode. It was the manifest object of the legislation which incorporated this company to invite the investment of capital in the enterprise of building this road, and no means better adapted for the purpose could have been devised, short of total immunity from taxation. As long as the capital was unproductive, it contributed nothing to the support of the government, and even after it became remunerative, its contribution was fixed by the terms of the charter, and could not, in any event, exceed twenty-five cents on the share of stock. The impolicy of this legislation is apparent, but there is no relief to the state, for the rights secured by the contract are protected from invasion by the Constitution of the United States.

As the pleadings show that the annual profits on the shares of stock have never reached 8 percent, it follows that they were not subject to any public charge or tax.

Judgment reversed and the cause remanded for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.

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