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possess “ a right to have one's controversies determined by existing rules of evidence.”] These rules are always subject to change and modification by the legislature, and a new rule can be made to apply to existing rights of action, without interfering with vested rights or impairing the obligation of a contract. Thus, a law could appay to existing rights of action, which permitted parties in interest to testify. In the same way may a statute apply to existing rights of action, which changed the burden of proof from the plaintiff to defendant, as, for example, where a tax title is made by statute prima facie evidence of a compliance with the regulations for the sale of land. But a statute cannot preclude the right to a judicial examination into the facts of a case, by making a certain set of circumstances conclusive evidence of the existence of the right of the plaintiff to recover or to be nonsuited. Except in the case of estoppel, where a man is denied the right to question the truth of his representations which he has made falsely to another's hurt, there can be no prejudgment of one's rights by the creation of conclusive presumptions."
i Cooley Const. Lim. 452.
2 Rich v. Flanders, 39 N. H. 304; Southwick v. Southwick, 49 N. Y. 510. So, also, a statute which admits parol evidence to contradict a written instrument. Gibbs v. Gale, 7 Md. 76. See, generally, Ogden o. Saun. ders, 12 Wheat. 213; Webb o. Den, 17 How. 576; Fales v. Wadsworth, 23 Me. 553; Pratt v. Jones, 25 Vt. 303; Neass o. Mercer, 15 Barb. 318; Howard v. Moot, 64 N. Y. 262; Commonwealth v. Williams, 6 Gray, 1; Karney o. Paisley, 13 Iowa, 89.
* Hand o. Ballou, 12 N. Y. 541; Forbes o. Halsey, 26 N. Y. 53; Lacey 0. Davis, 4 Mich. 140; Wright v. Dunham, 13 Mich. 414; Dela plaine o. Cook, 7 Wis. 44; Lumsden v. Cross, 10 Wis. 282; Adams v. Beale, 19 Iowa, 61; Abbott o. Lindenbower, 42 Mo. 162; 3. c. 46 Mo. 291.
4 Tift v. Grifin, 5 Ga. 185; Little Rock, etc., R. R. Co. v. Payne, 33 Ark. 816 (34 Am. Rep. 55); Abbott v. Lindenbower, 42 Mo. 162; 8. C. 46 Mo. 291; Young v. Beardsley, 11 Paige, 93; East Kingston v. Towle, 48 N. H. 57 (2 Am. Rep. 174); Allen v. Armstrong, 16 Iowa, 508; Conway v. Cable, 37 Ill. 82; White v. Flynn, 23 Ind. 46; Groesbeck v. Seeley, 13 Mich. 329; Lenz v. Charlton, 23 Wis. 478; Taylor o. Miles, 5 Kan. 498 (7 Am. Rep. 558); Wright o. Cradlebaugh, 3 Nev. 341. In the case last cited
It has also been very generally held to be no impairment of the substantive rights of action, if a law should be enacted exempting certain property of the debtor from execution, to an extent not permitted when the contract was executed or the judgment was obtained. “Regulations of this description have always been considered, in every civilized community, as properly belonging to the remedy to be exercised or not, by every sovereignty, according to its own views of policy or humanity. It must reside in every State to enable it to secure its citizens from unjust and harassing litigation, and to protect them in those pursuits which are necessary to the existence and well being of every community.”! But an act, which exempted all the property of the debtor from execution, would, like the law which deprived the creditor of all reinedies, be void because it impaired the obligation of a contract. It has been held, on the other hand, that homestead laws cannot be made to restrict the right of execution on existing contracts, where there had previously been no homestead iaw. But a homestead can be claimed against judgments procured on existing rights of action arising out of torts, since these claims do not become debts until they are reduced to judgment.
the court say: “We apprehend that it is beyond the power of the legislature to restrain a defendant in any suit from setting up a good defense to an action against him. The legislature could not directly take the property of A. to pay the taxes of B. Neither can it indirectly do so by depriving A. of the right of setting up in his answer that his separate property has been jointly assessed with that of B., and asserting his right to pay his own taxes without being incumbered with those of B. * * Due process of law not only requires that a party shall be properly brought into court, but that he shall have the opportunity when in court to establish any fact which, according to the usages of the common law, or the provisions of the constitution, would be a protection to him or his property."
1 Taney, C. J., in Bronson v. Kinzie, 1 How. 311, 315; Quackenbash o. Danks, 1 Denis, 128; 8. C. 3 Denio, 594; 8. c. 1 N. Y. 129; Morse o. Goold, 11 N. Y. 281; Hill v. Kessler, 63 N. C. 437; Martin v. Hughes, 67 N. C. 293; In re Kennedy, 2 S. C. 216; Hardeman v. Downer, 39 Ga. 425; Maull 0. Vaughn, 45 Ala. 134; Sneider v. Heidelberger, 45 Ala. 126; Farley 1. Dowe, 45 Ala. 324; Breitung v. Lindauer, 37 Mich. 217; Sprecker o. Wakeley, 11 Wis. 432; Coleman o. Ballandi, 22 Minn. 144; Casic o. Doug. lass 3 Kan. 123. But, of late, there has been a change in the current of judicial authority, and the tendency now is to deny the constitutionality of the changes in the exemption laws in their application to existing contracts. See, to that effect, Duncan v. Burnett, 11 S. C. 333 (32 Am. Rep. 476); Wilson v. Brown, 58 Ala. 62 (29 Am. Rep. 727); Johnson o. Fletcher, 54 Miss. 628 (28 Am. Rep. 388).
Another interesting phase of the regulation of rights of action is involved in the enactment of bankruptcy and insolvency laws. The power of the United States, by the enactment of bankrupt laws, to provide for the release of the debtor from his contractual obligations on the surrender of his assets to his creditors, cannot be questioned, because the power is expressly given by the Federal constitution. And it has been settled by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court that the several States may provide similar legislation, subject to the paramount control of Congress. When there is a federal bankrupt law, it supersedes the State law of insolvency ; but the latter come into operation again upon the repeal of the national bankrupt law. But the State insolvent law, not being authorized by an express constitutional provision, cannot be made to apply to existing contracts, since they cannot be considered as having been made in contemplation of such a law. State insolvent laws can only apply to future contracts.
State o. Bank of South Carolina, 1 S. C. 63.
Gunn v. Barry, 15 Wall. 610; Edwards v. Kearzey, 96 U. S. 595; Homestead Cases, 22 Gratt. 266 (12 Am. Rep. 507); Garrett v. Cheshira, 69 N. C. 396 (12 Am. Rep. 647); Lessley v. Phipps, 49 Miss. 790.
8 Parker v. Savage, 6 Lea, 406. 4 U. S. Const., art. I., $ 8.
5 See Sturgis o. Crowninshield, 4 Wheat. 122; Farmers' and Mechanics' Bk. v. Smith, 6 Wheat. 131; Ogden o. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213, Baldwin o. Hale, 1 Wall. 223. But the State insolvent laws can have no application to contracts made without the State, or to those made between citizens of different States, unless all the parties to the contract come into court and voluntarily submit to the operation of the State laws. McMillan v. McNeil, 4 Wheat. 209; Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213; Clay v. Smith, 3 Pet. 411; Boyle v. Zacharie, 6 Pet. 348; Suydam v. Broadnax, 14 Pet. 67; Cook v. Moffat, 5 How. 295; Baldwin 0. Hale, 1 Wall. 223; Baldwin 0. Bank of Newbury, 1 Wall. 234; Gilman v Lockwood, 4 Wall. 409.
While a law would be invalid which denied to one all remedy for the redress of his wrongs; and while resort to the courts for a vindication of one's rights may be considered as an absolute right, which cannot be arbitrarily taken away; it is nevertheless true that it is not the duty of the State to keep its courts open indefinitely for the institution of private suits. It has performed fully its duty to the citizen, when it has opened its courts to him for a reasonable time after the right of action has accrued. It is also injurious to the public welfare to permit suits upon stale claims; for the permission of them gives an opportunity for the perpetration of fraud and the infliction of injustice, in consequence of the intermediate loss of evidence and death of witnesses, which prevent the defendant from meeting and disproving the claim of the plaintiff. For these reasons it has for time immemorial, and in all systems of jurisprudence, been considered wise and proper, by the enactment of statutes of limitation, to compel all rights of action to be prosecuted within a reasonable length of time after the action has accrued. And it is also the settled rule of American constitutional law that the amendments to the statutes of limitation can be made to apply to existing contracts without impairing their obligation in a constitutional sense, provided after the enactment a reasonable time is given for the institution of the suit.'
1 Ogden o. Saunders, 12 Wheat. 213.
? See Terry v. Anderson, 95 U. S. 628; Proprietors, etc., o. Laboree, 2 Me. 294; Call 0. Hagger, 8 Mass. 423; Smith o. Morrison, 22 Pick, 430; Davidson v. Lawrence, 49 Ga. 335; Kimbro 0. Bk. of Fulton, 49 Ga. 419; Hart 0. Bostwick, 14 Fla. 162; Barry v. Ransdell, 4 Met. (Ky.) 292; O'Bannon o. Louisville, 8 Bush, 348; Blackford o. Pettier, 1 Blackf. 36; DeMoss o. Newton, 31 Ind. 219; Price v. Hopkin, 13 Mich.318; Osborne o. Jaines, 17 Wis. 573; State 0. Messenger, 27 Minn, 119; Adamson o. Davis, 47 Mo.
§ 143. Regulation of ships and shipping. - In consequence of the exposure to the dangers of the sea, there would be more or less danger of accident and damage to others, in the use of ships, if there were not some legal regulation of their construction and management. All police regulations are therefore lawful, which are designed, and tend, to diminish the dangers of sea voyaging. They are not subject to any constitutional objections.
In the first place, it is lawful to prohibit the use of unseaworthy vessels, and to provide for the inspection of all vessels and the condemnation of those that are defective.1 The United States government under the Federal statutes have appointed officers, whose duty it is to perform this service to the traveling public. It is also common to limit by law the number of passengers and the amount of freight which a vessel may be permitted to carry ; ? and it is not unreasonable to require the master or purser of a vessel to furnish to some public officer a statement of the amount of freight or the number of passengers he may have on board.3 The overloading of a boat with freight or passengers may be considered an actual trespass upon the right of personal security of all those who may be on board of the vessel.
The skill or ignorance of the master or captain, and other officers in charge of the vessel, is of the utmost importance to those who entrust their person or property to their care; and it is consequently permissible to require all those who are applicants for such positions to submit to examinations into their qualifications, and receive a certificate of qualification, without which they cannot assume the
268; Keith v. Keith, 26 Kan. 27. See a fuller discussion of the subject in Cooley Cunst. Lim. 448-451.
1 Thus, it was held to be a reasonable regulation, which provided for the inspection of boilers of vessels. Bradley 0. Northern, etc., Co., 15 Ohio St. 553.
2 St. Louis v. McCoy, 18 Mo. 238; St. Louis v. Boffinger, 19 Mo. 13. 3 Canal Commissioners o. Willamette Transp. Co., 6 Ore. 219.