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Opinion of the Court.
necessary to protect the public interest; and no such contract can be implied from the law, nor can this court inquire whether the law operated hardly or unjustly upon the parties whose suits were then pending. That was a question for the consideration of the legislature. They might have repealed
. the prior law altogether, and put an end to the jurisdiction of their courts in suits against the State, if they had thought proper to do so, or prescribe new conditions upon which the suits might still be allowed to proceed. In exercising this power the State violated no contract with the parties.” The same doctrine was held in Railroad Company v. Tennessee, 101 U. S. 337, 339; Railroad Company v. Alabama, 101 U. S. 832; and In re Ayers, 123 U. S. 443, 505.
But besides the presumption that no anomalous and unheardof proceedings or suits were intended to be raised up by the Constitution - anomalous and unheard of when the Constitution was adopted -- an additional reason why the jurisdiction claimed for the Circuit Court does not exist, is the language of the act of Congress by which its jurisdiction is conferred. The words are these: “The circuit courts of the United States shall have original cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several States, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity,
arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or treaties,” etc..-“Concurrent with the courts of the several States.” Does not this qualification, show that Congress, in legislating to carry the Constitution into effect, did not intend to invest its courts with any new and strange jurisdictions ? The state courts have no power to entertain suits by individuals against a State without its consent. Then how does the Circuit Court, having only concurrent jurisdiction, acquire any such power? It is true that the same qualification existed in the judiciary act of 1789, which was before the court in Chisholm v. Georgia, and the majority of the court did not think that it was sufficient to limit the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. Justice Iredell thought differently. In view of the manner in which that decision was received by the country, the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment, the light of history and the reason of the thing, we
Opinion of the Court.
think we are at liberty to prefer Justice Iredell's views in this regard.
Some reliance is placed by the plaintiff upon the observations of Chief Justice Marshall, in Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 410. The Chief Justice was there considering the power of review exercisable by this court over the judgments of a state court, wherein it might be necessary to make the State itself a defendant in error. He showed that this power was absolutely necessary in order to enable the judiciary of the United States to take cognizance of all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. He also showed that making a State a defendant in error was entirely different from suing a State in an original action in prosecution of a demand against it, and was not within the meaning of the Eleventh Amendment; that the prosecution of a writ of error against a State was not the prosecution of a suit in the sense of that amendment, which had reference to the prosecution, by suit, of claims against a State. “Where," said the Chief Justice,“ a State obtains a judgment against an individual, and the court rendering such judgment overrules a defence set up under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the transfer of this record into the Supreme Court for the sole purpose of inquiring whether the judgment violates the Constitution of the United States, can, with no propriety, we think, be denominated a suit commenced or prosecuted against the State whose judgment is so far reëxamined. Nothing is demanded from the State. No claim against it of any description is asserted or prosecuted. · The party is not to be restored to the possession of any thing. asserts the constitutional right to have his defence examined by that tribunal whose province it is to construe the Constitution and laws of the Union.
The point of view in which this writ of error, with its citation, has been considered uniformly in the courts of the Union, has been well illustrated by a reference to the course of this court in suits instituted by the United States. The universally received opinion is that no suit can be commenced or prosecuted against the United States ; that the judiciary act does not authorize such suits.
Opinion of the Court.
Yet writs of error, accompanied with citations, have uniformly issued for the removal of judgments in favor of the United States into a superior court.
It has never been suggested that such writ of error was a suit against the United States, and, therefore, not within the jurisdiction of the appellate court.”
After thus showing by incontestable argument that a writ of error to a judgment recovered by a State, in which the State is necessarily the defendant in error, is not a suit commenced or prosecuted against a State in the sense of the amendment, he added, that if the court were mistaken in this, its error did not affect that case, because the writ of error therein was not prosecuted by “a citizen of another State” or “of any foreign state,” and so was not affected by the amendment; but was governed by the general grant of judicial power, as extending “to all cases arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, without respect to parties.” p. 412.
It must be conceded that the last observation of the Chief Justice does favor the argument of the plaintiff. But the cbservation was unnecessary to the decision, and in that sense extra judicial, and though made by one who seldom used words without due reflection, ought not to outweigh the important considerations referred to which lead to a different conclusion. With regard to the question then before the court, it may be observed, that writs of error to judgments in favor of the crown, or of the State, had been known to the law from time immemorial; and had never been considered as exceptions to the rule, that an action does not lie against the sovereign.
To avoid misapprehension it may be proper to add that, although the obligations of a State rest for their performance upon its honor and good faith, and cannot be made the subjects of judicial cognizance unless the State consents to be sued, or comes itself into court; yet where property or rights are enjoyed under a grant or contract made by a State, they cannot wantonly be invaded. Whilst the State cannot be compelled by suit to perform its contracts, any attempt on its part to violate property or rights acquired under its con
Opinion of the Court.
tracts, may be judicially resisted; and any law impairing the obligation of contracts under which such property or rights are held is void and powerless to affect their enjoyment.
It is not necessary that we should enter upon an examination of the reason or expediency of the rule which exempts a sovereign State from prosecution in a court of justice at the suit of individuals. This is fully discussed by writers on public law. It is enough for us to declare its existence. The legislative department of a State represents its polity and its will; and is called upon by the highest demands of natural and political law to preserve justice and judgment, and to hold inviolate the public obligations. Any departure from this rule, except for reasons most cogent, (of which the legislature, and not the courts, is the judge,) never fails in the end to incur the odium of the world, and to bring lasting injury upon the State itself. But to deprive the legislature of the power of judging what the honor and safety of the Staťe may require, even at the expense of a temporary failure to discharge the public debts, would be attended with greater evils than such failure can cause. The judgment of the Circuit Court is
Affirmed. MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurring.
I concur with the court in holding that a suit directly against a State by one of its own citizens is not one to which the judicial power of the United States extends, unless the State itself consents to be sued. Upon this ground alone I assent to the judgment. But I cannot give my assent to many things said in the opinion. The comments made upon the decision in Chisholm v. Georgia do not meet my approval. They are not necessary to the determination of the present case. Besides, I am of opinion that the decision in that case was based upon a sound interpretation of the Constitution as that instrument then was.
This suit was commenced against the State of North Carolina and against
the auditor of that State, as defendants, to compel the levying of a special tax for the benefit of certain holders of its bonds; Held, (1) That the suit against the auditor was, under the circumstances, vir
tually a suit against the State; (2) That, on the authority of Hans v. Louisiana, ante, 1, the suit could
not be maintained against the State.
This suit was commenced in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of North Carolina by bill in equity filed by Alfred H. Temple, a citizen of North Carolina, on behalf of himself and other bondholders in like interest, against the State of North Carolina and William P. Roberts, the auditor of said state. The object of the bill was to compel said state and its officials, including the auditor, to execute and carry into effect a certain statute of the State, passed January 29, 1869, which provided for raising taxes to pay the interest on certain bonds of the state, called "special tax bonds of the state of North Carolina," Laws of 1868-1869, 67, c. 21, issued under the provisions of said act, and held by the plaintiff and others. In other words, it was a suit, in the nature of a bill for a specific performance of a contract, brought to compel the State of North Carolina to raise a tax for the payment of the arrears of interest due on the state bonds held by the plaintiff and others.
The act referred to authorized a subscription on the part of the State of $4,000,000 of the capital stock of The Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railroad Company, and the issue of state bonds for the payment thereof, payable thirty years after date, with interest at six per cent per annum, payable semi-annually, to be represented by coupons. The subscription was made and 3000 of the bonds, for $1000 each,