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U.S. Supreme Court

Hagar v. Reclamation District, 111 U.S. 701 (1884)

Hagar v. Reclamation District

Argued March 21, 1884

Decided May 5, 1884

111 U.S. 701


It is within the discretion of the Legislature of California to prescribe a system for reclaiming swamp lands, when essential to the health and prosperity of the community, and to lay the burden of doing it upon the districts and persons benefited.

Lands in California derived by grant from the Mexican government are subject to state legislation respecting swamp and overflowed lands.

The acts of Congress making the notes of the United States a legal tender do not apply to involuntary contributions in the nature of taxes or assessments exacted under state laws, but only to debts in the strict sense of the term; that is, to obligations founded on contracts, express or implied, for the payment of money.

The distinction between a tax which calls for no inquiry into the weight of evidence, nor for anything in the nature of judicial examination before collection, and a tax imposed upon property according to its value to be ascertained by assessors upon evidence, pointed out and commented on. In the former, no notice to the owner is required. In the latter, the officers, in estimating the value, act judicially.

A law authorizing the imposition of a tax or assessment upon property according to its value does not infringe that provision of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which declares that no state shall deprive any person of property without due process of law if the owner has an opportunity to question the validity or the amount of it either before that amount is determined or in subsequent proceedings for its collection.

It is not competent for the owner of land which is part of a grant to a state under the Swamp Land Act, 9 Stat. 519, to set up in proceedings begun to enforce a tax on the land assessed under a state law for the purpose of draining and improving it that the state law impairs the obligation of the contract between the state and the United States, and so violates the Constitution, because (1) if the Swamp Land Act constituted a contract between the state and the United States, he was no party to it, and (2) the appropriation of the proceeds of the granted swamp lands rests solely in the good faith of the state. Mills County v. Railroad Companies, 107 U. S. 557, affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. chanrobles.com-redchanrobles.com-red

Page 111 U. S. 702


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