Open main menu

Township of Rock Creek v. Strong/Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

96 U.S. 271

Township of Rock Creek  v.  Strong

The act of the Kansas legislature approved March 2, 1872, expressly authorized the issue of township bonds 'to aid in the construction of railroads or water-power, by donation thereto, or the taking of stock therein, or for other works of internal improvement.' Like all expressions of legislative will, this provision of the act must receive a reasonable construction, and we cannot doubt that in the grant of power to aid in the construction of railroads or other works of internal improvement is included authority to assist in the construction of depots and side-tracks of a railroad. Such constructions are constituents, essential parts of every railroad, without which it would be incomplete and incapable of serving the uses for which it is intended. The cost of building them is always, and properly, charged to construction account, and not to repairs or expenses of operation; and a mortgage of a railroad, without further description than such as is necessary to identify it, covers its side-tracks and depots.

We do not see any force in the argument pressed upon us by the plaintiff in error, that, because it was the duty of the railroad company to furnish suitable side-tracks and depots, the act of 1872 cannot be construed as authorizing the issue of township bonds to aid in building such structures. It was equally the duty of the company to build the main line, and it is not questioned that the township was empowered to aid in doing that work. Nor is there any thing in the proviso to the act that tends in the least degree to the conclusion that the legislature did not mean to authorize aid to the building of depots.

The first question certified to us was, therefore, correctly answered by the Circuit Court in the affirmative, and the first assignment of error is overruled.

The second question certified is, 'Are the bonds mentioned in the plaintiff's petition void, for the reason that they are made payable thirty years and thirty-five days from their date of execution therein written, but only drawing interest for the last thirty years of said time?'

The second section of the act authorizing their issue enacted that the bonds should be payable in not less than five nor more than thirty years from the date thereof, with interest not to exceed ten per cent per annum, all in the discretion of the officers issuing the same. These provisions were obviously directory, and not of the essence of the power. The bonds issued were dated Sept. 10, 1872, made payable thirty years from the fifteenth day of October, 1872, with interest thereon from that time at the rate of seven per cent. When they were delivered to the railroad company does not appear, though they were not registered by the auditor of the State until Oct. 17, 1872. They were thus practically thirty-year bonds, bearing a less rate of interest than the rate authorized. Their legal effect is precisely what it would have been had the date inserted been Oct. 15, instead of Sept. 10, 1872. Substantially, therefore, the legislative direction was followed. The doctrine of Commissioners of Marion County v. Clark (94 U.S. 278) is applicable to the present case.

The third assignment of error is that the court erred in not holding the township was not estopped by the recitals in the bonds from introducing the testimony offered. The bonds were executed by the township trustee, and attested by the township clerk. These were the officers designated by the statute to execute such bonds. The recitals were that the bonds were made and issued in pursuance of the provisions of the act of the legislature of March 2, 1872. But whether the recitals were an estoppel against showing what the defendant proposed to show, or whether they were not, is quite immaterial in this case. The proof offered was, that, in the records of the county commissioners of the county of which Rock Creek township is a part, it appeared the board had canvassed the vote at the election held to determine whether the township should issue the bonds, and had determined the result to be, for the issue, fifty-two votes, against the issue, fifty-one votes, making one hundred and three votes in all cast; but that in fact no canvass was made, and that only one hundred and two votes were cast, fifty-one of which only were in favor of issuing the bonds, and that one person who voted in favor was not a qualified elector.

Now, if the town clerk and treasurer were not the persons authorized by law to determine the result of the election, the board of county commissioners were, and their action, according to all our rulings, was conclusive A bona fide purchaser of the bonds was under no obligation to look beyond it. It was not his duty to canvass the vote, much less to ascertain whether those who had voted were qualified electors. The law cast the duty upon the board, and in such a case the action of the board must be found in their records. If it be admitted that the purchaser of the bonds was under obligation to inquire whether an election had been held, and what its result was, the only place to which he could resort for the information sought was the records of the board; and, had he sought there, he would have found that the township clerk and treasurer could rightfully issue the bonds. It follows that the evidence offered by the defendant was quite immaterial, or, if not, that it was destructive to his defence.

The defendant further offered to show that no registration of the bonds exists, or ever has been in the office of the auditor of the State, though the auditor's certificate of registration does appear upon the bonds. We cannot think this evidence, if admitted, could in any degree avail the defendant.

The certificate of that officer indorsed on the bonds was all that was required for the holder of them. If the State auditor failed to make in his office an entry of his action, we do not perceive how his failure in this respect can invalidate bonds upon which he has certified a registration.

Judgment affirmed.


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).