Item Description: Letter written by John Gilmer to William T. Sutherlin. He writes about the constitutionality of a change to the charter of Danville Bank in Danville, VA.
Item Citation: Folder 21, in the William Thomas Sutherlin Papers, #3327, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Ho of Del Feb 2nd 1865
Received your letter a day or two ago & have intended before answering it to examine some authorities in regard to the constitutional question involved in the legislation you propose, but not having an opportunity as yet to do so, I will delay answer no longer. The inclination of my mind at present is that the proposed change in the charter of the Danville Bank would be unconstitutional. The fact that the charter provides that it may be changed by the legislation, does not of course confer any of the constitutional powers on the legislature, but only enables it to make such changes as the constitution will permit. While it has been held by courts of high authority that laws only affectivly the remedy of a past to a obligation of the contract. Yet it has never been held so far as I know that any legislative body ? as this is, could in any way or to any extent impair the obligation of a contract. The present inclination of my mind is that the legislation you propose relates to the essence of the contract itself & not to the mere remedy of the note holder, one of the contrasting posting if so it would do no good to pass the bill, for it would be declared unconstitutional by the courts. When the holder of one of your notes gave a valuable consideration for it, the contract made with him by the bank was that a certain portion of the private estate of each stock-holder should be pledged to him for the payment of that note. For the legislature to say that the note-holders remedy against the bank should be delayed temporarily is a different thing as it seems to me from saying that remedy should never be enforced.
I have frankly suggested my first off hand impressions, on the subject without response to any authorities. Convinced as I am of the injustice of the peculiar restriction imposed on the Danville Bank and ? as I do the ? course pursued by that institution I shall be gratified to find as I may one further reflection, that my present view is incorrect
Very respectfully yours,
Mjr Wm T Sutherlin