This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
This clause is more generally invoked to protect executory contracts,1 but it. may apply as well to executed contracts.2
12 Ewell v. Daggs, 108 U. S. 143; Petterson v. Berry, 125 Fed. 902; 60 C. C. A. 610; Montgomery, etc., Association v. Robinson, 69 Ala. 413; Bibb County Loan Association v. Richards, 21 Ga. 592; Edworthy v. Loan Association, 114 la. 220; 86 N. W. 315; Iowa, etc., Association v. Heidt, 107 la. 297; 70 Am. St.. Rep. 197; 43 L. R. A. 689; 77 N. W. 1050; Hardaway v. Lilly (Tenn. Ch. App.), 48 S. W. 712; Smoot v. Building Association, 95 Va. 686; 41 L. R. A. 589; 29 S. E. 746.
13 State v. Norwood, 12 Md. 195. (The mere repeal of the stamp act is held to make such contracts valid.)
14 Berry v. Clary, 77 Me. 482; 1 Atl. 360.
15 Edworthy v. Loan Association, 114 la. 220; 86 N. W. 315.
16 Felix v. Board, 62 Kan. 832; 84 Am. St. Rep. 424; 62 Pac. 667.
1 Stephens v. R. B.., 109 Cal. 86; 50 Am. St. Rep. 17; 29 L. R. A. 751; 41 Pac. 783; McMurray v. Sidwell, 155 Ind. 560; 80 Am. St. Rep. 255; 58 N. E. 722.
2 Houston, etc., Ry. v. Texas, 177 U. S. 66; Hamilton v. Brown, 161 U. S. 256; Houston, etc., Ry. v. Ry., 70 Tex. 649; 8 S. W. 498. " Neither party could undo what had been fully executed and completed, nnd the law therefore implies a contract
Thus if lands have been granted by the state,3 or dedicated to a public use, such as a park so as to confer easements upon the abutting property owners,4 or bought at a tax sale,5 or acquired otherwise,6 such conveyances are held to be executed contracts, and therefore statutes which take away such rights are held to be invalid as impairing the obligation of contracts. This principle was applied by the Supreme Court of the United States at an early date,7 before there was a provision in the Constitution of the United States restraining a state from depriving persons of private property without due process of law. Accordingly, at that time, private property could be protected against state action only by an extension of the clause protecting the obligation of contracts. The precedent thus set has been followed in the later cases, and has resulted in protecting conveyances which were not properly speaking the result of contract. Executed conveyances are thus protected even if without consideration.8 So a husband's right to reduce his wife's choses in action to possession cannot be taken away by a subsequent statute.9 While executed conveyances are thus protected, the legislature may change the laws of descent so as to make property pass by descent to a child previously illegitimate but thereby made legitimate,10 or may that neither party will attempt to do so, or in other words the law implies a contract that the payments made shall not be thereafter repudiated or denied." make additional provisions for escheat,11 or restrict the power to devise realty.12 So the exercise of the right of eminent domain is not an unconstitutional impairment of the obligation of contracts.13 A contingent claim to a reversion expectant on the dissolution of a corporation is not such a vested right that it cannot be taken away by a statute authorizing the sale of such realty under a judicial sale.14 Houston, etc., Ry. v. Texas, 177 U. S. 66, 98.
3 Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch (U. S.) 87; Minnesota v. R. R., 97 Fed. 353.
4 Chicago v. Ward. 169 111. 392; 61 Am. St. Rep. 185; 38 L. R. A. 849; 48 N. E. 927.
5 Tracy v. Reed, 38 Fed. 69; 2 L. R. A. 773; St. Louis, etc., Ry. Co. v. Alexander, 49 Ark. 190; 4 S. W. 753; Hull v. State, 29 Fla. 79; 30 Am. St. Rep. 95; 16 L. R. A. 308; 11 So. 97; State v. Bradshaw,
39 Fla. 137; 22 So. 296; Morgan v. Miami County, 27 Kan. 89; Merrill v. Dearing, 32 Minn. 479; 21 N. W. 721; Roberts v. Bank. 8 N. D. 504; 79 N. W. 1049; State v. Flypaa, 3 S. D. 586; 54 N. W. 599; Robinson v. Howe, 13 Wis. 341.
6 Burt v. Busch, 82 Mich. 506; 46 N. W. 790.
7 Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch (U. S.) 87.
8 Franklin County Grammar School v. Bailey. 62 Vt. 467; 10 L. R. A. 405; 20 Atl. 820.
9 Leete v. Bank, 141 Mo. 574; 42 S. W. 1074.
10 Hughes v. Murdock, 45 La. Ann. 935; 13 So. 182.