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own objection, and upon the great principles of moral obligation, except, in skort, by the moral law. What course did the legislature in that instance pursue ?
Where was the remedy which the Harrisburg water.company had, if the legislature had chosen to step in, and as a judicial body, had taken away their charter and their property ? Where, I ask, was their reinedy ? They lad none ; but, by their charter, they had agreed to submit themselves to the magnanimity and justice of the legislature of their country. They had no remedy, sir, because, with the faith, and honor, and justice of Pennsylvanians, they had said in the charter, that for them and their state, it was not necessary that the constitution of the United States should be held as a rod over their representatives, because, with a confidence of a generous people, which had never yet been denied, and which had led to the grant of almost innumerable charters—they had relied on the magnanimity and the justice of their country.
What, I ask, did the legislature do? A joint committee was appointed ; and that committee reported, that upon an investigation of the facts, they were satisfied not only that the company had abused their charter-that they had perverted it to improper and illegal purposes, but that they had not complied with the conditions, and had, therefore, never in fact obtained their charter--that is to say, that the charter had been granted unduly -that the conditions which the legislature had imposed, had not been complied with, and that, therefore, having authority under the express provision of the act of assembly, they recommended the repeal of the whole charter. Well, sir, what followed? On reference to the journal of the senate of Pennsylvania, of the sersion of 1825-6, page 527, you will find the following opinion expressed :
“On the question of subsequent forfeiture by misuser, your committee will offer a few remarks: By the 4th section of the act of assembly which has been already referred to, the president and managers of the company to be incorporated under that act, are authorized to cause a navi: gable canal, with such locks and other works as shall be necessary, to be made, “commencing at the east side of the river Susquehanna, between the house of the late John Carson, Esq, and the end of the second Kittatiny mountain, from thence along or through the east side of the borough of Harrisburg to the said river, at the mouth of Paxion creek, or at some point between the same and Mulberry street, in the town of Harrisburg. It is in evidence, from the minutes of the company and the testimony of their engineer, that the president and managers have instructed their engineer to make the necessary surveys and levels for locating a canal from the mouth of Stony creek in Middle Paxton, to the borough of Harrisburg; that ihe engineer has accordingly surveyed and placed a line for a canal from the mouth of Stony ereek, that the upper point of the canal is not yet precisely determined, but that it is intended by the company to be fixed as soon as the state of the river will permit, and between the mouth of Stony creek and the house of James Armstrong, about 100 perches farther down the river. In the opinion of your committee, this
assumption of an authority to make a canal to the mouth of Stony creek, which is believed to be at a considerable distance above the end of the second Kittatiny mountain, and the actual commencement of their operations
for this purpose by the company, afford evidence of an assumption and misuser on the part of the company, of a violation of the spirit and letter of their charter, and that they have thereby subjected themselves to a forfeiture of their corporate franchises, if they ever were legally vested with them.
Your committee regret to observe in the acts and resolutions of the company, a disposition to occupy the ground for their canal in such a mode as to preclude the canal commissioners from exercising the right to the priority of location, which the state should certainly not relinquish.
* Extracts of the material parts of the minutes of the board of managers are submitted with this report, and the senate will find in them,
especially in the resolutions of the board of managers of the 8th and 11th of March, evidences of feelings and intentions which the committee have no disposition to comment on, or to characterise.
" Your committee are entirely satisfied that if the company should be permitted to persist in their present course, the result must be an increase of delay, expense and embarrassment to the state, in the prosecution of the great system of improvement, on which she has now at length happily entered, and the execution of which is already begun.
“ Under these circumstances, it behooves the legislature to take immediate measures for protecting the rights and interest of the common. wealth. They should act prudently, temperately and constitutionally, with no unnecessary harshness, but at the same time firmly and promptly. By the 25th section of the act of assembly already referred to, the right is reserved to the legislature of resuming the franchises of the company, in case they should at any time misuse or abuse their chartered privileges. Your committee believe that such misuser has already taken place. But they are not disposed to recommend to the senate an immediate and unqualified exercise of the power reserved to the legislature in such circumstances; they prefer leaving the rights of the company to be adjusted in the forms of law, and by the ordinary tribunals of the country. A bill is herewith submitted for effecting these objects :
"1. By authorizing the supreme court to entertain proceedings to be instituted by the attorney general, for testing the original validity of the letters patent granted by the gevernor, and ascertaining whether the char. ter of the company has been forfeited by misuser or otherwise.
** 2. By suspending, revoking and annuling for the time being, all the corporate rights, powers, liberties and franchises of the company whatsoever, until the proceedings thus to be instituted shall have been brought to a determination.
"3. By providing for the indemnification of the company, for any damages which they shall have sustained by the construction of the Pennsylvania canal, in case the legal proceedings should result in a decision that their charter was not invalid in its inception, and has not been subjected to forfeiture by subsequent misuser.
"4. Providing however, That no proceedings against the company shall be instituted by virtue of this act, if an agreement should be made between the canal commissioners and the company, under the 11th sec
tion of the Pennsylvania canal law, before the first day of June next, but in that case the company shall have full power to carry such agreement into effect.”
This, continued Mr. M. was the opinion of the legislature in a case where they had the power, and where, being a case of such extreme grossness, they might have resolved themselves into a judicical tribunal, and wrested from ihe company their rights and properly, by the strong arm of power. I say of power, and not of right, because, although the clause io which I have adverted, removes the obligation of a positive law in the constitution of the United States, it does noi, it cannot, remove the obligation of the public faith, which is the life and soul of all such instruments. This must always remain. It holds good as well in public corporations as in private ; and although, in technical terms, it may be asserted, that the right to do this does not exist, yet it may be affirmed, in any government whose example is worthy of respect, that they have not the moral right, except there be a case which justifies it—that you cannot do it through mere caprice, and then ask the party aggrieved, to point you to a law which gives a remedy in a court of justice for the violation of a contract.
In conformity with the recommendation of this committee, an act was passed, which, while it established the right of the public, at the same time left the right of the company, and the amount of compensation, to be decided upon by a court of justice. It was an act of magnanimiy
Leaving this part of the subject, I will say a word on the only remaining branch on which I have to speak; and I am admonished that my remarks must be brief, because, although I may not conclude all I might wish to say, within the hour prescribed, still, I will not condescend to ask per. mission to extend my observations beyond that period of time.
The other point is that, admitting this to be a contract, a right beyond the reach of the legislature, still, that under the clause of the constitution which authorizes the taking of private property for public use, the legislature have a right to resume the whole, whenever they may please. I maintain that the rights of all holders of contracts, under the state, are all based upon the same foundatiol, and must all be shaken, if this be removed.
Although in this very charter, there is a clause authorizing the repeal, in certain cases, still, the gentleman from Luzerne, (Mr. Woodward) contends that they have still a right to take it for public purposes.
Now, he had been considered, ever since he was in public life, until very recently, an anti-corporation man, and he had never been in favor of conferring very extensive powers upon corporations, and he was never opposed to reasonable restrictions upon them, where they were necessary; therefore, he was in favor of treating the Harrisburg water company, as he would have treated individuals. He was in favor of taking their property, and paying them a compensation for it.
He did not now, however, wish to be pushed into the situation that he, or any one who acted with him, held to the doctrine that chartered privia
leges were so sacred that the commonweath could not take their land from them, for public use, the same as they could take the land of individuals. He did not wish to be placed in the position of claiming for these corporations, that you could not run a street, a canal, or a rail road, through their properly. He held no such doctrine at all, and he held that their property could be taken for public use, just in the same manner as any other property.
But what a strange confusion of terms it was, for gentlemen to hold that, because you could take private property for public use, that you could take the rights of corporations, which was no property, for no use at all.
What possible use could be made of the rights of a corporation for banking purposes, by the public? An individual has a right to his credit, and if persons will deposit money with him, and entrust him with it, because of his credit, he as a right to ma of it what he can.
Well, would you go to this man, and say that he must deliver up his credit, when it can be of no use to any one ? You have a right to take his land for pube
you have no right 10 take from him his credit, which would be of no use at all to the public.
Well, you pass an act of assembly, declaring that a merchant shall not issue notes, and have a credit. lle had that right by a law, and not ly a contract. If we pass this law, depriving him of these rights, where is his remedy.?-for we all know that there can be no law, without its remedy.
You tell Mr. A. that you not only claim the right of taking his property for public use, but that you also claim the right of taking from him his credit; you will deprive him of holding, receiving and lending the money of others—and why do you do this? Do you take this from him for public use ? Certainly not. Can
make any use of it ? Not at all. Why, if it was not that he knew the gentleman to be incapable of it, he would say that this argument was the greatest piece of sophistry, which he had ever heard.
We all know that it is a settled principle, that private property may be taken for public use. You may enter upon the lands of an individual, in making a public road; or, in time of war and public emergency, you may take his grain and cattle for the use of the army--and the same pring.. ciple applies to the property of corporations; but there was a great distinction between this and the taking away the privileges of a corporation, or the credit of an individual.
If he possessed property, the commonwealth might take it whenever they chose, for public use ; but they had no right to take his credit, or any thing else, which they could make no rise of whatever. What excuse could you make, when you resume a bank charter? Could you
you wanted it for public use, or that you could make any use of it?. Sir, you would not even have the tyrant's plea, necessity, to support you.
Then, again, let us come round to the question, whether there is, or is nol, a public faith. This was a question which was not to be lightly treated. We must ask ourselves whether there is not at stake a publie
faith, and whether that was to be lightly violated. Whatever might be the power, even with the repealing clause in the charter, and with the clause in the constitution of the United States, in relation to the violation of contracts, stricken out, we must not advance a step in the matter, beyond the public feeling. You might have more power by such provisions, but the question would still rise, whether you had more right; and he considered that it would be entirely improper for the legislature to act in matters of this kind in a legal capacity. He believed the time never had been in this state, when the legislature of this state considered it safe to take upon itself, in a legal capacity, or exercise the proper functions of a judicia, tribunal of the country, to decide questions between individuals. The people of this country would stand upon their rights, whatever the power of your government may be.
We come from a stock who stood upon their rights whenever they were encroached upon by power even as far back as before the revolution of 1688. The people even at that early day stood upon their rights. There were then to be sure political oppressions, political injuries, and wrongs done against general principles; but in a question of private right the people resisted all power.
As long ago as the time of James I, when judges held their places at the pleasure of the crown, a circumstance occurred which showed the spirit of these people. At that time the king granted to one of the barons of the exchequer, a commission not in the ordinary manner at that time, but to be held during good behaviour. He supposed the monarch thought that his power was sufficient to make him yield up his commission at any time, and it was little inatter what kind of commission the baron held. The king afterward, for some reason, required of him to surrender up his place ; but the baron stood upon his private rights, and challenged the power of the monarch to deprive him of his place. He did not take his seat afterwards on the bench, but he held his place until his death, and the king never attempted to deprive him of it, because he knew there was a matter of private right involved in it which never could have been touched without raising a flame in his kingdom that would not easily have been extinguished.
It is on this great principle that all your rights ultimately rest. It is on that principle that your inferior corporations and all your institutions rest secure; and destroy this and there will be nothing but oppression and wrong. It is this great principle which secures confidence to your government, and keeps it on its onward course.
Your government is continually changing hands, but the public faith is always kept in view by all who come into it
. In the course of five years, perhaps, there is not a single member remaining on the floor of your legislature ; but the foreigner or the native, the stranger or the citizen, knows that when he deals with the government, knows that he deals with those who never violate their public faith. If this was not the case, individuals would have no chance to contend with the multiplied power of the government.
If, however, this question of private right is yielded up and the governpent have powor to violate it at will, no man is safe, no man is secure,