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ENACTED JULY 2, 1898
JAMES ANGELL MacLACHLAN
FEDERAL bankruptcy legislation is authorized by Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to pass "uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States".
In the absence of a National Bankruptcy Act, state laws on the subject of bankruptcy may have local operation, although held to be inoperative against non-resident creditors or “foreign" contracts. Such laws (commonly styled insolvency laws to avoid the suggestion of encroachment upon a federal field) are in any case restricted by the declaration of the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 10, that "no State shall
pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts" and are suspended during the operation of a national law, at least to the extent of the provisions conflicting with the national law and all other provisions inseparable therefrom. State laws regulating assignments for the benefit of creditors, receiverships and the dissolution of corporations are likely to raise difficult questions in this regard. National laws are not restricted by the clause relating to the obligation of contracts, but are subject to the amendments to the Constitution, including the due process of law clause of the fifth amendment.
Bankruptcy acts were in force from 1800 to 1803, from 1841 to 1843 and from 1867 to 1878. The present bankruptcy law is a composite of the Act of July 1, 1898, and 60 amendatory acts 1. The Act of 1898 dealt chiefly with bankruptcy liquidation, although provisions for composition were included. Substantial amendments were made in 1903, 1910 and 1926, and minor ones in 1917 and 1922. The depression brought on extensive legislation in the 1930's, enlarging the scope of bankruptcy to deal with secured claims and introducing a variety of proceedings for debtor
1 The text of this pamphlet reproduces only the result of the acts on the subject of bankruptcy, the provisions of the Criminal Code superseding section 29 of the Bankruptcy Act, section 20(b) of the Interstate Commerce Act relating to railroad reorganization, and a brief statute on taxes upon the estate (following section 64), other related legislation being referred to in the annotations. An unconsolidated edition of the Bankruptcy Laws of the United States, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1951, contains also extracts from several statutes dealing with appeals and with government agencies, which apply to bankruptcy cases, but do not purport to be acts on the subject of bankruptcy.