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U.S. Supreme Court

National Bank v. County of Yanktown, 101 U.S. 129 (1879)

National Bank v. County of Yanktown

101 U.S. 129


1. The statute of Congress organizing a territory within the jurisdiction of the United States is the fundamental law of such territory, and as such binding upon the territorial authorities.

2. Subject to the limitations expressly or by implication imposed by the Constitution, Congress have full and complete authority over a territory, and may directly legislate for the government thereof. It may declare a valid enactment of the territorial legislature void or a void enactment valid, although it reserved in the organic act no such power.

3. Under the statutes of Congress, 12 Stat. 239 and 16 id. 300, the Legislative Assembly of Dakota meets biennially, and no one session thereof can exceed forty days. That assembly met Dec. 6, 1870, and after continuing in session every day, Sundays excepted, until Jan. 13, 1871, adjourned without day. The acting governor convened it April 6, 1871, when, after organizing, it passed, among other laws, one entitled "An Act to enable organized chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 101 U. S. 130

counties and townships to vote aid to any railroad, and to provide for payment of the same." In strict conformity to its provisions, the electors of a county voted to donate a specific sum to a certain railroad company. Congress, by an Act approved May 27, 1872, 17 id. 162, disapproved and annulled said territorial act, but provided that the vote of aid for the construction of the main stem of the road of the company should not be impaired, and that the company was a valid corporation. The company complied with the requirements of Congress by giving for the aid so voted an equal amount of stock to the county, and the latter issued its bonds therefor. In an action brought by a bona fide holder of them to recover certain installments of interest, held that, independently of the question of authority to convene that extra session or of the validity of the laws enacted thereat, the bonds are binding on the county inasmuch as the act of Congress is equivalent to a direct grant of power to issue them.

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