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Argument for Plaintiff in Error.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana assumed, that, although the Constitution of the United States prohibited the State from passing any law impairing the validity of a contract, the State by the adoption of a constitution could avoid that prohibition. The court overlooked the numerous decisions of this court declaring that provision of the Constitution to be directed as well against impairing the obligation of a contract by constitutional amendment as by legislative authority; that in the meaning of the prohibition a constitution is a law. Dodge v. Woolsey, 18 How. 331; Railroad Co. v. McClure, 10 Wall. 511; New Orleans Gas Co. v. Louisiana Light Co., 115 U. S. 650, 672; Fisk v. Jefferson Police Jury, 116 U. S. 131; White v. Hart, 13 Wall. 646; Gunn v. Barry, 15 Wall. 610; New Jersey v. Wilson, 7 Cranch, 164; Providence Bank v. Billings, 4 Pet. 514; Green v. Biddle, 8.Wheat. 1; Woodruff v. Trapnall, 10 How. 190; Wolff v. New Orleans, 103 U. S. 358; Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 270, 297; Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch, 87.
VI. The Supreme Court of Louisiana holds that the Constitution of 1879 deprived the courts of the State of jurisdiction to enforce the contracts of the State in relation to these bonds. To take away all remedy for the enforcement of a right is to take away the right itself. But that is not in the power of the State. Poindexter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 270, 303; Brown v. Kinzie, 1 How. 311, 317; McCracken v. Hayward, 2 How..608; Louisiana v. New Orleans, 102 U. S. 203, 206; Seibert v. Lewis, 122 U. S. 284, 295. The constitutional protection of contracts is judicially enforced in suits growing out of them. In re Ayers, sup., 504; Carter v. Greenhow, 114 U. S. 317, 322.
The State, having consented to be sued, and having made such consent a matter of contract, upon which it had obtained a loan of money, cannot withdraw its consent to the injury of the party with whom it contracted. Such withdrawal would impair its contract in violation of the Constitution of the United States. Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat.
Opinion of the Court.
Mr. Walter H. Rogers, Attorney General of the State of Louisiana, Mr. M. J. Cunningham, Mr. B. J. Sage and Mr. Alexander Porter Morse, for defendant in error, submitted on their briefs.
MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court.
The question is presented, whether a State can be sued in a Circuit Court of the United States by one of its own citizens upon a suggestion that the case is one that arises under the Constitution or laws of the United States.
The ground taken is, that under the Constitution, as well as under the act of Congress passed to carry it into effect, a case is within the jurisdiction of the federal courts, without regard to the character of the parties, if it arises under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or, which is the same thing, if it necessarily involves a question under said Constitution or laws. The language relied on is that clause of the 3d article of the Constitution, which declares that "the judicial power of the United States shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;" and the corresponding clause of the act conferring jurisdiction upon the Circuit Court, which, as found in the act of March 3, 1875, 18 Stat. 470, c. 137, § 1, is as follows, to wit: "That 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 made, or which shall be made, under their authority." It is said that these jurisdictional *clauses make no exception arising from the character of the parties, and, therefore, that a State can claim no exemption from suit, if the case is really one arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States. It is conceded that where the jurisdiction depends alone upon the character of the parties, a controversy between a State and its own
Opinion of the Court.
citizens is not embraced within it; but it is contended that though jurisdiction does not exist on that ground, it nevertheless does exist if the case itself is one which necessarily involves a federal question; and with regard to ordinary parties this is undoubtedly true. The question now to be decided is, whether it is true where one of the parties is a State, and is sued as a defendant by one of its own citizens.
That a State cannot be sued by a citizen of another State, or of a foreign state, on the mere ground that the case is one arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, is clearly established by the decisions of this court in several recent cases. Louisiana v. Jumel, 107 U. S. 711; Hagood v. Southern, 117 U. S. 52; In re Ayers, 123 U. S. 443. Those were cases arising under the Constitution of the United States, upon laws complained of as impairing the obligation of contracts, one of which was the constitutional amendment of Louisiana complained. of in the present case. Relief was sought against state officers who professed to act in obedience to those laws. This court held that the suits were virtually against the States themselves and were consequently violative of the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution, and could not be maintained. It was not denied that they presented cases arising under the Constitution; but, notwithstanding that, they were held to be prohibited by the amendment referred to.
In the present case the plaintiff in error contends that he, being a citizen of Louisiana, is not embarrassed by the obstacle of the Eleventh Amendment, inasmuch as that amendment only prohibits suits against a State which are brought by the citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of a foreign State. It is true, the amendment does so read: and if there were no other reason or ground for abating his suit, it might be maintainable; and then we should have this anomalous result, that in cases arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, a State may be sued in the federal courts by its own citizens, though it cannot be sued for a like cause of action by the citizens of other States, or of a foreign state; and may be thus sued in the federal courts, although not allowing itself to be sued in its own courts. If this is the necessary
Opinion of the Court.
consequence of the language of the Constitution and the law, the result is no less startling and unexpected than was the . original decision of this court, that under the language of the Constitution and of the judiciary act of 1789, a State was liable to be sued by a citizen of another State, or of a foreign country. That decision was made in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419, and created such a shock of surprise throughout the country that, at the first meeting of Congress thereafter, the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution was almost unanimously proposed, and was in due course adopted by the legis latures of the States. This amendment, expressing the will of the ultimate sovereignty of the whole country, superior to all legislatures and all courts, actually reversed the decision of the Supreme Court. It did not in terms prohibit suits by individuals against the States, but declared that the Constitution should not be construed to import any power to authorize the bringing of such suits. The language of the amendment is that "the judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state." The Supreme Court had construed the judicial power as extending to such a suit, and its decision was thus overruled. The court itself so understood the effect of the amendment, for, after its adoption, Attorney General Lee, in the case of Hollingsworth v. Virginia, 3 Dall. 378, submitted this question. to the court, "whether the amendment did, or did not, supersede all suits depending, as well as prevent the institution of new suits, against any one of the United States, by citizens of another State?" Tilghman and Rawle argued in the negative, contending that the jurisdiction of the court was unimpaired in relation to all suits instituted previously to the adoption of the amendment. But, on the succeeding day, the court delivered a unanimous opinion, "that the amendment being constitutionally adopted, there could not be exercised any jurisdiction, in any case, past or future, in which a State was sued by the citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state."
Opinion of the Court.
This view of the force and meaning of the amendment is important. It shows that, on this question of the suability of the States by individuals, the highest authority of this country was in accord rather with the minority than with the majority of the court in the decision of the case of Chisholm v. Georgia; and this fact lends additional interest to the able opinion of Mr. Justice Iredell on that occasion. The other justices were more swayed by a close observance of the letter of the Constitution, without regard to former experience and usage; and because the letter said that the judicial power shall extend to controversies "between a State and citizens of another State;" and "between a State and foreign states, citizens or subjects," they felt constrained to see in this language a power to enable the individual citizens of one State, or of a foreign state, to sue another State of the Union in the federal courts. Justice Iredell, on the contrary, contended that it was not the intention to create new and unheard of remedies, by subjecting sovereign States to actions at the suit of individuals, (which he conclusively showed was never done before,) but only, by proper legislation, to invest the federal courts with jurisdiction to hear and determine controversies and cases, between the parties designated, that were properly susceptible of litigation in courts.
Looking back from our present standpoint at the decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, we do not greatly wonder at the effect which it had upon the country. Any such power as that of authorizing the federal judiciary to entertain suits by individuals against the States, had been expressly disclaimed, and even resented, by the great defenders of the Constitution whilst it was on its trial before the American people. As some of their utterances are directly pertinent to the question now under consideration, we deem it proper to quote them.
The eighty-first number of the Federalist, written by Hamilton, has the following profound remarks:
"It has been suggested that an assignment of the public securities of one State to the citizens of another, would enable them to prosecute that State in the federal courts for the amount of those securities; a suggestion which the following considerations prove to be without foundation: