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United States Supreme Court

74 U.S. 71

Lane County  v.  Oregon

ERROR to the Supreme Court of Oregon. The case was this:

Congress, February, 1862, authorized the issue of $150,000,000 in notes of the United States, and enacted that they should 'be receivable in payment of all taxes, internal duties, levies, debts, and demands due to the United States, except duties on imports; and of all claims and demands of any kind whatever against the United States, except interest on bonds and notes, which shall be paid in coin; and shall also be lawful money and legal tender in payment of all debts, public and private, within the United States, except duties on imports.' A subsequent act, authorizing a further issue, contained an enactment very similar, as to the legal characteristics of the notes, when issued. A third act, authorizing a yet further issue, enacted simply that they should be lawful money or a legal tender. Under these three acts, a large amount of notes of the United States, which circulated as money, were issued.

Subsequently to this, the legislature of Oregon passed a statute, enacting that 'the sheriff shall pay over to the county treasurer, the full amount of the State and school taxes, in gold and silver coin;' [1] and that 'the several county treasurers shall pay over to the State treasurer the State tax in gold and silver coin.' [2]

In this condition of statute law, Federal and State, the State of Oregon, in April, 1865, filed a complaint against the County of Lane, in the Circuit Court of the State for that county, to recover $5460.96, in gold and silver coin, which sum was alleged to have become due, as State revenue, from the county to the State, on the first Monday of February, 1864.

To this complaint an answer was put in by the county, alleging a tender of the amount claimed by the State, made on the 23d day of January, 1864, to the State treasurer, at his office, in United States notes, and averring that the lawful money, so tendered and offered, was, in truth and fact, part of the first moneys collected and paid into the county treasury, after the assessment of taxes for the year 1862.

To this answer there was a demurrer, which was sustained by the Circuit Court, and judgment was given that the plaintiff recover of the defendant the sum claimed, in gold and silver coin, with costs of suit. This judgment was affirmed, upon writ of error, by the Supreme Court of the State.

The case was now brought here by writ of error to that court.

Mr. Williams, for Lane County, plaintiff in error, laid down and pressed upon the attention of the court, seeking to maintain them by argument and authority, these two propositions: [3]

1st. That the laws of Oregon did not require the collection, in coin, of the taxes in question, and that the treasurer of the county could not be required to pay the treasurer of the State any other money than that in which the taxes were actually collected.

2d. That the tender of the amount of taxes made to the treasurer of the State, by the treasurer of the county, in United States notes, was warranted by the acts of Congress authorizing the issue of these notes, and that the law of the State, if it required collection and payment in coin, was repugnant to these acts, and therefore void.

Mr. Johnson (a brief of Mr. Mallory being filed), contra.

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

^1  Statutes of Oregon, 438, § 32.

^2  Ib. 441, § 46.

^3  He cited Bouvier's Law Dictionary, title 'Debt;' Multnomah County v. The State, 1 Oregon, 358; Rhodes v. Farrell, 2 Nevada, 60; Ohio v. Hibbard, 3 Ohio, 63; Same v. Gazlay, 5 Id. 14; Appleton v. Hopkins, 5 Gray, 530; Blackstone's Commentaries, 160.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).