Stone v. Mississippi

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In 1867, the State of Mississippi chartered a lottery company in 1867 for a period of twenty-five years. However, in 1868 the state constitution was amended to forbid lotteries. In Stone v. Mississippi (1880), Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite upheld the constitutional provision that nullified the charter, even though the charter constituted a contract. His reasoning was that the charter was nothing more than a license to enjoy a privilege conferred for the time and on the terms specified, and was subject to future legislative or constitutional control or withdrawal. The legislature cannot bargain away the police power of a state. The people themselves cannot do it, much less their servants. Waite felt that supervision of health and morals is continuing in nature, that government is organized with a view to their preservation, and that it cannot divest itself of the power to provide for them. He said that the largest legislative discretion is allowed, and the discretion cannot be parted with any more than the power itself.

Robert W. Langran

Last Updated: 2006

SEE ALSO: Contract Clause; Dartmouth College v. Woodward; Fletcher v. Peck; Home Building and Loan v. Blaisdell; United States Trust Company v. New Jersey