McCLURE v. TOWNSHIP OF OXFORD


94 U.S. 429 (1876)

McCLURE v. TOWNSHIP OF OXFORD.

Supreme Court of United States.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Alfred Ennis for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. A.L. Williams, contra.


MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.

A municipality must have legislative authority to subscribe to the capital stock of a bridge company before its officers can bind the body politic to the payment of bonds purporting to be issued on that account. Municipal officers cannot rightfully dispense with any of the essential forms of proceeding which the legislature has prescribed for the purpose of investing them with power to act in the matter of such a subscription. If they do, the bonds they issue will be invalid in the hands of all that cannot claim protection as bona fide holders.

To be a bona fide holder, one must be himself a purchaser for value without notice, or the successor of one who was. Every man is chargeable with notice of that which the law requires him to know, and of that which, after being put upon inquiry, he might have ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence. Every dealer in municipal bonds, which upon their face refer to the statute under which they were issued, is bound to take notice of the statute and of all its requirements.

The statute under which the bonds now in question were issued, and which is referred to in the bonds, though passed and approved March 1, 1872, was not by its terms to go into effect until after its publication in the "Kansas Weekly Commonwealth." Of this every purchaser of the bonds had notice, because it was part of the statute he was bound to take notice of. A purchaser would, therefore, be put upon inquiry as to the time of the publication, and by reasonable diligence could have ascertained that this did not take place until March 21. This being the case, the law charges him with knowledge that the statute did not go into effect until that date.

The statute further provided that no bonds could be issued under its authority, until the question of their issue had been submitted to the legal voters of the town at an election, of which thirty days' notice had been given, and at which a majority of the votes should be in favor of the measure. These bonds bore date April 15, 1872, and, pursuant to the express requirements of the act, contained a statement of the purpose for which they were issued, a reference to the act under which they were issued, and the result of the vote of the inhabitants on the question of their issuance, which is stated to have been taken April 8, 1872. No valid notice of an election could be given until the act went into effect, because until then no officer of the township had authority to designate the time or place of holding it. These bonds, therefore, carried upon their face unmistakable evidence that the forms of the law under which they purported to have been issued had not been complied with, because thirty days had not elapsed between the time the law took effect and the date of the election. If a purchaser may be, as he sometimes is, protected by false recitals in municipal bonds, the municipality ought to have the benefit of those that are true.

This suit was brought upon coupons detached from the bonds purchased by the plaintiff in error before maturity, but upon their face they refer to the bonds, and purport to be for the semiannual interest accruing thereon. This puts the purchaser upon inquiry for the bonds, and charges him with notice of all they contain.

This disposes of the case. As the declaration sets out a copy of the bonds with all the recitals, and the recitals show that the bonds were irregularly issued and not binding upon the township, it follows that the declaration does not set forth a good cause of action against the defendant, and that the demurrer was properly sustained. This is in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court of Kansas, in George v. Oxford Township, 16 Kan. 72. Under these circumstances it is unnecessary to consider any other of the questions which have been certified here.

Judgment affirmed.


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