Reports of cases argued and decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas during a part of December term, 1849. Volume 4. Page: 240
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479-480 SUPREME COURT.
DeCordova v. City of Galveston.
rule that a law should have no retrospect. But there are cases il which the
laws may justly, and for the benefit of the cominmnity and also of individluals,
relate to a time antecedent to the time of their commencement; as statutes
of oblivion or of pardon. Every law that is to have an operation 'before
the making thereof, as to commence at an antecedent time, or to save title
from the statute of limitations, or to excuse acts which were unlawful and before
committed, or the like, is retrospective; but such laws may be proper or
necessary, as the case may be.
It was decided by the Supreme Court of the Republic that a law which infringes
a vested right by retrospective action, is void under the Constitution.
In tile case of MIerrill v. Sherburne et al., (1 N. H. R., 213,) to which we
have previously referred, it was maintained that legislative acts are not within
the prohibition against retrospective laws unless they operate on the interests
of individuals or private corporations; nor are they within-them when in an
implied or express manlier the parties affected have consented to their passage;
and instances are cited in which such consent is actually given or may be presumedl.
Nor can acts of the Legislature be opposed to those fundamental
axioms of legislation unless they impair rights which are vested, because most
civil rights are derived from public laws; and if, before tile rights become
vested in particular individuals, tile convenience of the State produces amendments
or repeals of those laws, those individuals have no cause of complaint.
The power that authorizes or proposes to give may always revoke before an
interest is perfected in thle donee.
The cases to which reference has been made, and the opinions of the courts
in expounding this constitutional inhibition, will serve to illustrate tie intenion
of the convention il imposing the restriction. Laws are deemed retrospeclive
and witllin the constitutional prohibition which by retrospective operation
(destroy or impair vested rights or rights to ' do certain actions or possess certain
tiling-, according to the  laws of the land," (3 Dall. R., 349.) built laws
wllicl affect the remedy merely are not within the scope of the inhibition
nlless thle remedy be taken away altogether or incumbered with conditions
tlhat would render it useless or impracticable to pursue it. (Bronsonv. McKinzie,
1 How. R., 315.) Or, if the provisions regulating the remedy be so unreasonable
as to amount to a denial of right, as, for instance, if a statute of
limitations applied, to existing causes barred all remedy or did not afford a
reasonable period for their prosecution, or if an attempt were made by law,
either by implication or expressly, to revive causes of action already barred,
sulch legislation would be retrospective within the intent of the prohibition,
andi would therefore be wholly inoperative.
There cannot, inl the nature of things, be a vested right to the remedy which
existed at thle (late of a contract; or, ill other words, the mode, times, and
manner of prosecuting suits must be left to tile regulation of the legislative autllority.
If a remedy formed a1 part of the contract, it should follow it into a
foreign country, and be prosecuted in the form of action prescribed by the lex
loci constructus at its date; and thlis although a different form may be allowed
where the suit is instituted, or there be no forms of action permitted or recognized
That statutes of limitations are remedial in their character has been decided
in the cases of Gantier v. Franklin (1 Tex. R., 736) and Hays v. Cage, (2 Tex.
R.,) and this cannot be considered an open question. As forming a part of tile
reme(ly, they may be modified or changed, but under the restrictions expressed
ill a former part of this opinion; and statutes abolishing the times of linlitatioms
or establishing new terms of prescription are not in violation of the Constitution,
and it is only on tile inadmissible principle that a remedy forms a part
of tlhe contract that its modification would be retrospective within the intent
of tlie inhibition.
I proceed to examine whether the first section of the statute [4S1' of lim240
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Texas. Supreme Court. Reports of cases argued and decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas during a part of December term, 1849. Volume 4., book, 1876; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28570/m1/248/: accessed September 23, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .