HOGE V. RAILROAD COMPANY, 99 U. S. 348 (1878)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hoge v. Railroad Company, 99 U.S. 348 (1878)

Hoge v. Railroad Company

99 U.S. 348


1. In 1856, the Legislature of South Carolina incorporated the Air Line Railroad Company, with power to construct a road between certain points and to equip, use, and enjoy the same, with all the rights, privileges, and immunities granted to a certain other company which had been incorporated in 1845 by an act exempting it from taxation for the period of thirty-six years, and from the operation of the provisions of the act of Dec. 17, 1841. The latter act declares

"that it shall become part of the charter of every corporation which shall, at the present or any succeeding session of the General Assembly, receive a grant of a charter, or any renewal, amendment, or modification thereof (unless the act granting such charter, renewal, amendment, or modification shall, in express terms, except it), that every charter of incorporation granted, renewed, or modified as aforesaid shall at all times remain subject to amendment, alteration, or repeal Ly the legislative authority."

The act of 1856 also empowered the company to unite with any other, and consolidate their management, but contained no clause excepting, in express terms, the charter from tire operation of the act of 1841. An amendment, passed in 1868, authorized it to adopt another corporate name, and it was consolidated with a corporation of Georgia under the name of the Atlanta and Richmond Air Line Railway Company. The Constitution of South Carolina of 1888 having required that the property of corporations then existing or thereafter created should be subject to taxation, the legislature imposed a tax on such property. A stockholder of the latter company alleging that it had acquired immunity from taxation for the same period as the company chartered in 1845, and that such immunity was beyond legislative control, brought suit to enjoin the collection of the tax. Held 1. that as the act of 1856, granting the charter, did not expressly exempt it from the provisions of the act of 1841, they are applicable to it; 2. that the charter must be read as if it declared that the capital stock of the company and its real estate should be exempt from taxation for thirty-six years, unless the legislature should in the mean time withdraw the exemption; 3. that if an exemption from future legislative control had been originally acquired by the company, it ceased when the amendment to the charter was obtained in 1888.

Page 99 U. S. 349

2. The intention of the legislature to exempt the property of corporations from taxation must be clear beyond a reasonable doubt. It cannot be inferred from uncertain phrases or ambiguous terms. If a doubt arise, it must be solved in favor of the state.

3. Tomlinson v. Jessup, 15 Wall. 454, referred to and qualified.

The Richmond and Danville Railroad Company, a stockholder in the Atlanta and Richmond Air Line Railway Company, filed its bill against the taxing officers of South Carolina to enjoin them from levying any state, county, or municipal taxes upon the property of the last-named company within that state. The court below granted the prayer of the bill, and the taxing officers brought this appeal. The remaining facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 99 U. S. 351

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