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A Constitutional Provision that Charters shall be revocable, binding
on the Legislature, and precludes an Absolute Grant. — The Effect of such a Declaration, when made legislatively, on Subsequent Charters. - Question in the Last-Named Case one of Intention. - Charter must not be repealed injuriously, or in a way to impair Rights acquired while it was in force. — A Legislative Grant cannot be annulled for Bribery, nor as against a bona fide Purchaser on the Ground of Fraud. - When the Language admits of two Interpretations, it should be construed favorably to the Public. - No Sovereign Right or Power will pass irrevocably, unless the Intention is clear. — The Right to act as a Body Corporate or to be exempt from Taxation, confined to the Original Grantees, and insusceptible of Transfer unless the Charter clearly expresses an Opposite Design. - The Franchise or Exemption may pass by a Judicial or Private Sale where the Right of Transfer is conferred by the Charter or where that operates as a Contract with the Purchaser.
The constitutional prohibition was intended as a check on retroactive legislation, and does not embrace future contracts; and hence when a statute or the Constitution of a State provides that charters shall be revocable, a subsequent act of incorporation will be subject to the condition, and may be repealed without impairing any obligation which it is incumbent on the State to observe. There is under these circumstances no contract, but simply a statutory grant, which may be repealed by the same or any succeeding legislature. In the Iron City Bank v. Pittsburgh, the charter under which the plaintiffs claimed, provided that the bank should only be taxed for State purposes, and the question was whether it could be taxed for city purposes. The court held that the
i The Monongahela Navigation Co. v. Coon, 6 Pa. 379; The Pennsylvania R. R. Co. v. Duncan, 111 Pa. 352; Bermingham v. Railroad Co., 79 Ala. 465.
2 37 Pa. 341.