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the same argument which shows this shows also that the men who made the constitutions and statutes which you refer to could not rightfully otherwise declare, and that they could not in any manner effectually suspend or alienate that power of regulation; hence the men who, as you say, assumed in the name of the government to declare differently, exceeded their authority (as did that Louisiana legislature which attempted by contract to shave down the State’s sovereign power to make laws for the protection of the public health[1]), and you cannot have acquired any rights even as against the government by relying on their representations.” If it be said, “George was not born when I bought this land, and nobody had thought of that reasoning then or knew the natural law was so; it is not fair that I should be made the victim of a discovery as to what the law is, made after I paid my well-earned money for the land,” the answer is almost too obvious to be written: “If the law is not declared in your case, nobody will believe the law is so; other men will buy land and base their calculations on it as you have done; and when the question comes up again they will say not only all that you say now, but they will point to the decision in your case, and maybe those who have to pass judgment then will feel bound by that decision, and so the error will become fixed past remedy except by bloody revolution; it often happens, when the law is found out to be different from what before it was understood to be, that somebody who had relied on the wrong understanding, suffers; the reports of the decisions of the courts contain many such cases; the judges are tormented by the hardship to the individual before them, but they must lay down the law as they see it to be, for their decision will affect the whole community for a long time; when a new mechanical invention, such as the steam-engine, is introduced, much capital that had been theretofore invested shrinks greatly in value, and skilled artisans in the trades displaced by such invention can no longer find employment save as ordinary laborers; yet nobody is so foolish as to say that the invention ought not to be introduced unless the capitalists and artisans who will suffer by it are first compensated; what reason is there for any different rule when a discovery is made as to what the law is? Remember, there are others than the landholders to be considered, — those other men who now have no land, but who, you admit, have as good a title as you have; how is justice to be


  1. Slaughter-House Cases, supra.