Black's Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition, p. 829

Public grant. A grant from the public; a grant of a power, license, privilege, or property, from the state or government to one or more individuals, contained in or shown by a record, conveyance, patent, charter, etc.

[Black's Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition, p. 829]

Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, pp. 1397-1398

“special law. One relating to particular persons or things; one made for individual cases or for particular places or districts; one operating upon a selected class, rather than upon the public generally.  A private law.  A law is "special" when it is different from others of the same general kind or designed for a particular purpose, or limited in range or confined to a prescribed field of action or operation.  A "special law" relates to either particular persons, places, or things or to persons, places, or things which, though not particularized, are separated by any method of selection from the whole class to which the law might, but not such legislation, be applied.  Utah Farm Bureau Ins. Co. v. Utah Ins. Guaranty Ass'n, Utah, 564 P.2d. 751, 754.  A special law applies only to an individual or a number of individuals out of a single class similarly situated and affected, or to a special locality.  Board of County Com'rs of Lemhi County v. Swensen, Idaho, 80 Idaho 198, 327 P.2d. 361, 362.  See also Private bill; Private law.  Compare General law; Public law.” 

[Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, pp. 1397-1398]

U.S. Constitution Annotated, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002, pp. 164-167

Conditional Grants-in-Aid.—It was not until 1947 that the right of Congress to impose conditions upon grants-in-aid over the objection of a State was squarely presented. 601 The Court upheld Congress’s power to do so in Oklahoma v. Civil Service Commission. 602 The State objected to the enforcement of a provision of the Hatch Act that reduced its allotment of federal highway funds because of its failure to remove from office a member of the State Highway Commission found to have taken an active part in party politics while in office. The Court denied relief on the ground that, ‘‘[w]hile the United States is not concerned with, and has no power to regulate local political activities as such of State officials, it does have power to fix the terms upon which its money allotments to states shall be disbursed. . . . The end sought by Congress through the Hatch Act is better public service by requiring those who administer funds for national needs to abstain from active political partisanship. So even though the action taken by Congress does have effect upon certain activities within the State, it has never been thought that such effect made the federal act invalid.’’ 603

The general principle is firmly established. ‘‘Congress has frequently employed the Spending Power to further broad policy objectives by conditioning receipt of federal moneys upon compliance by the recipient with federal statutory and administrative directives. This Court has repeatedly upheld against constitutional challenge the use of this technique to induce governments and private parties to cooperate voluntarily with federal policy.’’ 604

The Court has set forth several standards purporting to channel Congress’s discretion in attaching grant conditions. 605 To date no statutes have been struck down as violating these standards, although several statutes have been interpreted so as to conform to the guiding principles. First, the conditions, like the spending itself, must advance the general welfare, but the determination of what constitutes the general welfare rests largely if not wholly with Congress. 606 Second, because a grant is ‘‘much in the nature of a contract’’ offer that the States may accept or reject, 607 Congress must set out the conditions unambiguously, so that the States may make an informed decision. 608 Third, the Court continues to state that the conditions must be related to the federal interest for which the funds are expended, 609 but it has never found a spending condition deficient under this part of the test. 610 Fourth, the power to condition funds may not be used to induce the States to engage in activities that would themselves be unconstitutional. 611 Fifth, the Court has suggested that in some circumstances the financial inducement offered by Congress might be so coercive as to pass the point at which ‘‘pressure turns into compulsion,’’ 612 but again the Court has never found a congressional condition to be coercive in this sense. 613 Certain federalism restraints on other federal powers seem not to be relevant to spending conditions. 614

If a State accepts federal funds on conditions and then fails to follow the requirements, the usual remedy is federal administrative action to terminate the funding and to recoup funds the State has already received. 615 While the Court has allowed beneficiaries of conditional grant programs to sue to compel states to comply with the federal conditions, 616 more recently the Court has required that any such susceptibility to suit be clearly spelled out so that states will be informed of potential consequences of accepting aid. Finally, it should be noted that Congress has enacted a range of laws forbidding discrimination in federal assistance programs, 617 and some of these laws are enforceable against the states. 618

[U.S. Constitution Annotated, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002, pp. 164-167;



601 In the Steward Machine Company case, it was a taxpayer who complained of the invasion of state sovereignty, and the Court put great emphasis on the fact that the State was a willing partner in the plan of cooperation embodied in the Social Security Act. 301 U.S. 548, 589, 590 (1937).

602 330 U.S. 127 (1947).

603 330 U.S. 127, 143 (1947).

604 Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U.S. 448, 474 (1980) (Chief Justice Burger announcing judgment of the Court). The Chief Justice cited five cases to document the assertion: California Bankers Ass’n v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21 (1974); Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974); Oklahoma v. Civil Service Comm’n, 330 U.S. 127 (1947); Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619 (1937); and Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548 (1937).

605 See South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 207–12 (1987).

606 483 U.S. at 207 (1987). See discussion under Scope of the Power, supra.

607 Barnes v. Gorman, 122 S. Ct. 2097, 2100 (2002) (holding that neither the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 nor section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 subjected states to punitive damages in private actions).

608 South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. at 207 (1987). The requirement appeared in Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 451 U.S. 1, 17 (1981). See also Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 246-47 (1985) (Rehabilitation Act does not clearly signal states that participation in programs funded by Act constitutes waiver of immunity from suit in federal court); Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 122 S. Ct. 2268 (2002) (no private right of action was created by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). 609South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 207–208 (1987). See Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 590 (1937); Ivanhoe Irrigation Dist. v. McCracken, 357 U.S. 275, 295 (1958). 610The relationship in South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 208–09 (1987), in which Congress conditioned access to certain highway funds on establishing a 21– years-of-age drinking qualification was that the purpose of both funds and condition was safe interstate travel. The federal interest in Oklahoma v. Civil Service Comm’n, 330 U.S. 127, 143 (1947), as we have noted, was assuring proper administration of federal highway funds. 611South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 210–11 (1987). 612Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 589–590 (1937); South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 211–212 (1987). 613See North Carolina ex rel. Morrow v. Califano, 445 F. Supp. 532 (E.D.N.C. 1977) (three-judge court), aff’d 435 U.S. 962 (1978). 614South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 210 (1987) (referring to the Tenth Amendment: ‘‘the ‘independent constitutional bar’ limitation on the spending power is not . . . a prohibition on the indirect achievement of objectives which Congress is not empowered to achieve directly’’). 615 Bell v. New Jersey, 461 U.S. 773 (1983); Bennett v. New Jersey, 470 U.S. 632 (1985); Bennett v. Kentucky Dep’t of Education, 470 U.S. 656 (1985).

616 E.g., King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397 (1970); Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974); Miller v. Youakim, 440 U.S. 125 (1979). Suits may be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, see Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1 (1980), although in some instances the statutory conferral of rights may be too imprecise or vague for judicial enforcement. Compare Suter v. Artist M., 503 U.S. 347 (1992), with Wright v. Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Auth., 479 U.S. 418 (1987).

617 E.g., Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681; Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794.

618 Here the principal constraint is the Eleventh Amendment. See, e.g., Board of Trustees of Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356 (2001) (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 exceeds congressional power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment, and violates the Eleventh Amendment, by subjecting states to suits brought by state employees in federal courts to collect money damages).

U.S. Constitution Annotated, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002, pp. 391-393

Public Grants That Are Not ‘‘Contracts’’.—Not all grants by a State constitute ‘‘contracts’’ within the sense of Article I, § 10. In his Dartmouth College decision, Chief Justice Marshall conceded that ‘‘if the act of incorporation be a grant of political power, if it creates a civil institution, to be employed in the administration of the government . . . the subject is one in which the legislature of the State may act according to its own judgment,’’ unrestrained by the Constitution 1965 —thereby drawing a line between ‘‘public’’ and ‘‘private’’ corporations that remained undisturbed for more than half a century. 1966

It has been subsequently held many times that municipal corporations are mere instrumentalities of the State for the more convenient administration of local governments, whose powers may be enlarged, abridged, or entirely withdrawn at the pleasure of the legislature. 1967 The same principle applies, moreover, to the property rights which the municipality derives either directly or indirectly from the State. This was first held as to the grant of a franchise to a municipality to operate a ferry and has since then been recognized as the universal rule. 1968 It was stated in a case decided in 1923 that the distinction between the municipality as an agent of the State for governmental purposes and as an organization to care for local needs in a private or proprietary capacity, while it limited the legal liability of municipalities for the negligent acts or omissions of its officers or agents, did not, on the other hand, furnish ground for the application of constitutional restraints against the State in favor of its own municipalities. 1969 Thus, no contract rights were impaired by a statute relocating a county seat, even though the former location was by law to be ‘‘permanent’’ and the citizens of the community had donated land and furnished bonds for the erection of public buildings. 1970 Similarly, a statute changing the boundaries of a school district, giving to the new district the property within its limits that had belonged to the former district, and requiring the new district to assume the debts of the old district, did not impair the obligation of contracts. 1971 Nor was the contracts clause violated by state legislation authorizing state control over insolvent communities through a Municipal Finance Commission. 1972

On the same ground of public agency, neither appointment nor election to public office creates a contract in the sense of Article I, § 10, whether as to tenure, or salary, or duties, all of which remain, so far as the Constitution of the United States is concerned, subject to legislative modification or outright repeal. 1973 Indeed, there can be no such thing in this country as property in office, although the common law sustained a different view sometimes reflected in early cases. 1974 When, however, services have once been rendered, there arises an implied contract that they shall be compensated at the rate in force at the time they were rendered. 1975 Also, an express contract between the State and an individual for the performance of specific services falls within the protection of the Constitution. Thus, a contract made by the governor pursuant to a statute authorizing the appointment of a commissioner to conduct, over a period of years, a geological, mineralogical, and agricultural survey of the State, for which a definite sum had been authorized, was held to have been impaired by repeal of the statute. 1976 But a resolution of a local board of education reducing teachers’ salaries for the school year 1933–1934, pursuant to an act of the legislature authorizing such action, was held not to impair the contract of a teacher who, having served three years, was by earlier legislation exempt from having his salary reduced except for inefficiency or misconduct. 1977 Similarly, it was held that an Illinois statute that reduced the annuity payable to retired teachers under an earlier act did not violate the contracts clause, since it had not been the intention of the earlier act to propose a contract but only to put into effect a general policy. 1978 On the other hand, the right of one, who had become a ‘‘permanent teacher’’ under the Indiana Teachers Tenure Act of 1927, to continued employment was held to be contractual and to have been impaired by the repeal in 1933 of the earlier act. 1979

[U.S. Constitution Annotated, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002, pp. 391-393;



1965 Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518, 629 (1819).

1966 In Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113 (1877), a category of ‘‘business affected with a public interest’’ and whose property is ‘‘impressed with a public use’’ was recognized. A corporation engaged in such a business becomes a ‘‘quasi-public’’ corporation, and the power of the State to regulate it is larger than in the case of a purely private corporation. Inasmuch as most corporations receiving public franchises are of this character, the final result of Munn was to enlarge the police power of the State in the case of the most important beneficiaries of the Dartmouth College decision.

1967 Meriwether v. Garrett, 102 U.S. 472 (1880); Covington v. Kentucky, 173 U.S. 231 (1899); Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161 (1907).

1968 East Hartford v. Hartford Bridge Co., 51 U.S. (10 How.) 511 (1851); Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161 (1907).

1969 City of Trenton v. New Jersey, 262 U.S. 182, 191 (1923).

1970 Newton v. Commissioners, 100 U.S. 548 (1880).

1971 Michigan ex rel. Kies v. Lowrey, 199 U.S. 233 (1905).

1972 Faitoute Co. v. City of Asbury Park, 316 U.S. 502 (1942).

1973 Butler v. Pennsylvania, 51 U.S. (10 How.) 402 (1850); Fisk v. Jefferson Police Jury, 116 U.S. 131 (1885); Dodge v. Board of Education, 302 U.S. 74 (1937); Mississippi ex rel. Robertson v. Miller, 276 U.S. 174 (1928).

1974 Butler v. Pennsylvania, 51 U.S. (10 How.) 420 (1850). Cf. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cr.) 137 (1803); Hoke v. Henderson, 154 N.C. (4 Dev.) 1 (1833). See also United States v. Fisher, 109 U.S. 143 (1883); United States v. Mitchell, 109 U.S. 146 (1883); Crenshaw v. United States, 134 U.S. 99 (1890).

1975 Fisk v. Jefferson Police Jury, 116 U.S. 131 (1885); Mississippi ex rel. Robertson v. Miller, 276 U.S. 174 (1928).

1976 Hall v. Wisconsin, 103 U.S. 5 (1880). Cf. Higginbotham v. City of Baton Rouge, 306 U.S. 535 (1930).

1977 Phelps v. Board of Education, 300 U.S. 319 (1937).

1978 Dodge v. Board of Education, 302 U.S. 74 (1937). 1979 Indiana ex rel. Anderson v. Brand, 303 U.S. 95 (1938).

People v. Ridgley, 21 Ill. 65, 1859 WL 6687, 11 Peck 65 (Ill. 1859)

“Is it a franchise? A franchise is said to be a right reserved to the people by the constitution, as the elective franchise. Again, it is said to be a privilege conferred by grant from government, and vested in one or more individuals, as a public office. Corporations, or bodies politic are the most usual franchises known to our laws. In England they are very numerous, and are defined to be royal privileges in the hands of a subject. An information will lie in many cases growing out of these grants, especially where corporations are concerned, as by the statute of 9 Anne, ch. 20, and in which the public have an interest. In 1 Strange R. ( The King v. Sir William Louther,) it was held that an information of this kind did not lie in the case of private rights, where no franchise of the crown has been invaded.

If this is so--if in England a privilege existing in a subject, which the king alone could grant, constitutes it a franchise--in this country, under our institutions, a privilege or immunity of a public nature, which could not be exercised without a legislative grant, would also be a franchise.

[People v. Ridgley, 21 Ill. 65, 1859 WL 6687, 11 Peck 65 (Ill. 1859)]

American Jurisprudence 2d, Franchises §4: Generally (1999)

As a rule, franchises spring from contracts between the sovereign power and private citizens, made upon valuable considerations, for purposes of individual advantage as well as public benefit, [1]  and thus a franchise partakes of a double nature and character.  So far as it affects or concerns the public, it is publici juris and is subject to governmental control.  The legislature may prescribe the manner of granting it, to whom it may be granted, the conditions and terms upon which it may be held, and the duty of the grantee to the public in exercising it, and may also provide for its forfeiture upon the failure of the grantee to perform that duty.  But when granted, it becomes the property of the grantee, and is a private right, subject only to the governmental control growing out of its other nature as publici juris. [2]



[1] Georgia R. & Power Co. v. Atlanta, 154 Ga. 731, 115 S.E. 263; Lippencott v. Allander, 27 Iowa 460; State ex rel. Hutton v. Baton Rouge, 217 La. 857, 47 So.2d. 665; Tower v. Tower & S. Street R. Co. 68 Minn 500, 71 N.W. 691.

[2] Georgia R. & Power Co. v. Atlanta, 154 Ga. 731, 115 S.E. 263; Lippencott v. Allander, 27 Iowa 460; State ex rel. Hutton v. Baton Rouge, 217 La. 857, 47 So.2d. 665; Tower v. Tower & S. Street R. Co. 68 Minn 500, 71 N.W. 691.

[American Jurisprudence 2d, Franchises §4: Generally (1999)]

Prov. 22:7, Bible, NKJV

“The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant [SUBJECT] to the lender.
[Prov. 22:7, Bible, NKJV]