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Argument for Appellant.
session has been disturbed, or that its right has been established. The fact is that the defendants have done nothing except submit the question at issue to the courts for settlement, and this is now pending, and complainant's right has never been established otherwise than in this proceeding. There is, therefore, no equity here.
Equity will not permit its remedies to be used to turn out one who is in possession. People v. Simonson, 10 Michigan, 335; nor to prevent one, who is in possession and claiming title, from reaping the legitimate fruits of possession. Bell v. Chadwick, 71 No. Car. 329; Baldwin v. York, 71 No. Car. 463. Even if neither party be in possession, the court will not interfere by injunction. St. Louis, Kansas City &c. Railway v. Dewees, 23 Fed. Rep. 691.
The appellees have a plain, adequate and complete remedy at law : (1) By action to determine and establish the disputed right to the property : (2) Under the general statutes of South Carolina: and it follows that the court below was without jurisdiction.
II. The statute of 1876, properly construed, conferred upon the Coosaw Mining Company, after its acceptance of it, an exclusive right for an indefinite period, so long as it complied with the terms of the act.
The general rule for construing statutes is, that where the meaning of the statute is plain, it is the duty of courts to construe it according to its obvious terms. In such a case there is no necessity for construction. United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76; United States v. Reese, 92 U. S. 214, 244; United States v. Central Pacific Railroad, 118 U. S. 235, 240; Louisville Gas Company v. Citizens' Gas Company, 115 U. S. 683, 697.
Statutes, which are binding on States as contracts, are to be construed as contracts between natural persons, and no advantage is to be given to the State in such construction. Bac. Abr. Tit. Prerogative; Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, 7 Pick. 344, 469 ; Richards v. Dagget, 4 Mass. 534, 537; McMullen v. McCullough, 2 Bailey (S. C.) 346; Morton v. Comptroller General, 4 So. Car. 430, 448; Curran v. Arkan
Argument for Appellant.
sas, 15 How. 304, 308; Murray v. Charleston, 96 U. S. 442. 445 ; Tennessee v. Whitworth, 117 U. S. 139.
The Coosaw Mining Company was not a corporation. It was a mining partnership, and, as such, not subject to legislative control. It was already in possession and actual occupation of the entire Coosaw River, and further had the right to mine in all the other waters of the State in which it was mining, which contract the State could not alter without its consent. Differences had arisen between the company and the State as to the construction of that contract which it was desirable to settle.
The act in its title sets out, that it is to “settle” — not prescribe — that is, to amicably arrange existing differences, — and to define the period of making returns, and also to fix the terms on which it might be accepted.
The act then lays down the terms desired on the part of the State as new terms, to be suggested to the company, and as constituting a new contract between the company and the State.
The act admits that unless consented to by the company, the terms of the act would not be binding upon them, and that it was desirable on the part of the State that the company should accept, and make themselves liable to the terms of the act.
And the act further admits that the company had already expended large sums of money in the purchase of sufficient plant, to mine certain portions of the Coosaw River.
It proposed, therefore, to the company, that, in consideration of their accepting the terms stated in the act, and in consideration of the expenditures which they had made, and for the further condition, implied in the act, that they were to continue to maintain such plant and continue such operations theretofore conducted, it should have the exclusive right to mine in that part of the Coosaw River only so long as, and no longer than, they should make true and faithful returns and pay the royalty prescribed in the act.
Assuming this to be a contract between individuals, would any question be made as to the right of the company to con
Argument for Appellant.
tinue their mining operations, so long as they fulfilled the conditions contained in the contract.
The legislature itself recognizes the fact that a consideration has been asked and paid ; that both sides have given and taken, and that the terms and conditions of the contract as expressed in the act are therefore binding on both sides.
Is not this, therefore, a contract, based upon valuable consideration, paid to the State by the company? If so, then, under the cases cited, it must be construed as though the contract was made between the individuals.
And if it is, then it must be construed in favor of the company, for the only ground upon which the court below rested its decision in favor of the State, was that it must be construed liberally to the State, and all doubts resolved in her favor.
In construing the act of 1876 no reference can be made to the act of 1870. The established principle is, that while recourse may be had to the doctrine of in pari materia to resolve a doubt, it can never be called into action to create a doubt ; that when the wording of a statute is clear in itself and leads to no absurd conclusions, it is not allowable to go elsewhere in search of conjectural constructions; and that when there is a difference between an older and a junior statute, especially where the latter has a repealing clause, it is presumed that the legislature intended that there should be a difference, and the prior act must be considered repealed.
The rule of construction “in pari materia” is resorted to for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of a statute, when explanation is necessary, either because of seeming conflict in its own provisions, or incompleteness of detail in its subject matter, or a doubt as to the sense in which uncertain words or phrases are used. In such cases, and to preserve harmony and consistency, the rule is resorted to.
But the rule carries the limitation, that where the statute is itself plain, the rule cannot be resorted to, nor can its clear language be controlled by the supposed policy of a former
Therefore where the words of a statute, as in this case,
Opinion of the Court.
are not doubtful, these words are the best guide to legislative intention, and if they differ from former acts, it must be held that the legislature in using them, intended that there should be a difference. The act of 1876, set out expressly to make alterations and changes in the existing law, and in order that there might be no question or doubt as to this purpose, adds the clause repealing all acts or parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this act. It seems impossible to add by way of argument anything which would make more clear, or more plain, the declaration in the act sustaining the claim of the defendants to the continuing right to mine, in Coosaw River, than the words: “That upon accepting the terms of the act they should have exclusive right to occupy and mine in said river, .so long as and no longer than they should make true and faithful returns of the number of tons, and punctually pay the royalty thereon.” Upon this the defendants stand. They have made true and faithful returns, and have punctually paid the royalty on the rock mined, as provided in the section of the act, and having so done, they claim the right to continue to dig, and to mine in said territory, “ 80 long as and no longer than" said conditions shall be fulfilled. Market Co. v. Hoffman, 101 U. S. 112, 115.
Mr. Henry A. M. Smith and Mr. George S. Mower for appellees.
MR. JUSTICE Harlan, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The Coosaw Mining Company undoubtedly acquired by the act of 1870, and upon the conditions therein prescribed, the right, for the full term of twenty-one years, to dig, mine and remove phosphate rocks and phosphatic deposits in the navigable waters of South Carolina. But the right thus acquired was not made an exclusive one. The State was at liberty, so far as that act was concerned, to grant similar rights to other associations, corporations or persons. This is not disputed.
Did the appellant, by its acceptance of the act of 1876, ac
Opinion of the Court.
quire an exclusive right with respect to that part of Coosaw River then occupied for the purposes of its business? If this question be answered in the affirmative - as, in view of the express language of the act, it must be -- the State is, nevertheless, entitled to a decree, upon the issue as to the impairment of the obligation of the alleged contract, unless it be held that that act gave an exclusive right to the Coosaw Mining Company, in perpetuity, conditioned only upon its meeting the terms prescribed by the third section, namely, that it would make true and faithful returns of the number of tons of phosphate rock and phosphatic deposits dug, mined, removed, shipped or otherwise sent to market, and pay the royalty as provided for in the first section of that act. It cannot be denied that the third section, if it be construed literally and without reference to other sections or to the act of 1870, will bear this interpretation. But the act of 1876, if interpreted, as it ought to be, in connection with that of 1870, will, to say the least, bear equally another construction, namely, that the right granted by the original act for the term of twenty-one years, was made, by the act of 1876, exclusive, only during the remainder of that term, as to the part of Coosaw River occupied by the appellant's works, “so long as and no longer than ” it made the returns and paid the royalty prescribed by the latter act. Under the latter construction, the right of the appellant, by the acts of 1870 and 1876, to dig, mine and remove phosphate rocks and phosphatic deposits in the navigable waters of the State, ceased altogether after the expiration of twenty-one years from March 1, 1870. If the act of 1876 materially altered that of 1870, in respect to the times and manner of making returns, or the royalty to be paid, the Coosaw Mining Company received in consideration therefor what it did not previously have, that is, an exclusive right, for a limited period, in the particular part of Coosaw River which it occupied when the act of 1876 was passed.
If the act of 1876 is fairly susceptible of either of the constructions we have indicated, as we think it is, the interpretation must be adopted which is most favorable to the State.