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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/642

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

United States, although, absolutely necessary for the support of the sovereign power, there is no liability; and if the claim is on contract, it must be shown to have been made with an officer authorized by statute to enter into the particular agreement. Although the claimant has been wrongfully kept out of his own for years, and finally recovers a judgment, the United States calmly tells him that it never pays interest on its debts (United States vs. Bayard, 127 United States Reports, 251); yet if it has a claim against a citizen who is insolvent it demands every dollar of it, with interest, before any other creditor can be allowed a cent (Brent vs. Baule, 10 Peters, 596). An action of ejectment for land taken by the Government will not lie. The officers who committed the act may be liable, but a judgment against them does not bind their principal (Carr vs. United States, 98 United States Reports, 433). The States are prohibited from passing any laws impairing the obligations of contracts, but the United States still reserves the power to itself of doing such wrongs (Evans vs. Eaton, Peters C. C, 323). The contracts with the Indian tribes are sad examples of this fact. Treaty after treaty of the most solemn kind, founded upon considerations of money and the deepest morals, has been violated with as much indifference as a man would brush a fly from his body. So the Supreme Court of the United States has declared that, notwithstanding the prohibition on the States, they may violate those contracts at will that they have made with the citizen, or by laws framed to protect his health, morals, education, good order, or the public safety. The elasticity of these words, as stretched by the judges, is greater than any lexicographer could have supposed them capable of. The injustice is not so much in the decisions on this point, however, as in the results—not so much in the wrongs done to the individual, that are often necessary—but in the failure of the state to provide any compensation for the injuries.

For example, the various prohibitory or high license laws have had the direct effect, in countless instances, of taking the property of the individual and wrecking his life and business, yet leave him without redress. It has happened innumerable times that men who have spent enormous sums in enterprises connected with the manufacture and sale of liquor, in States which by their laws encouraged them, have been deprived of every dollar by subsequent legislation. In Pennsylvania, under the recent license act, property to the value of millions of dollars was destroyed, the future of many good citizens was ruined, and some were driven insane and committed suicide. These were engaged in a traffic made lawful by the State laws, and in many instances there was not a word of complaint as to the moral character of the applicants. The Supreme Court of the United States has sustained