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Bronson v. Kinzie (1843)

Last Updated: 2006

Bronson v. Kinzie (1843) involved an 1825 Illinois law under which property owners could redeem land they sold within twelve months by repaying the purchase price plus interest. In 1841 the legislature made the law retroactively applicable to foreclosed mortgages. The U.S. Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, invalidated the retroactive provisions of the two 1841 changes. According to Taney, the first of the new laws placed new conditions on the contract injurious and unjust to the mortgage holder. The second one deprived the mortgage holder of the preexisting right to foreclose by a sale of the premises and imposed conditions that would frequently render any sale impossible. Thus the retroactive features of the 1841 laws constituted an impairment of the obligation of contracts in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Future contracts, however, were bound by the new laws.

SEE ALSO: Charles River Bridge Company v. Warren Bridge CompanyContract ClauseDartmouth College v. WoodwardFletcher v. PeckHome Building and Loan v. BlaisdellUnited States Trust Company v. New Jersey


David P. Currie, “The Constitution in the Supreme Court: Contracts and Commerce, 1836-1864,” Duke Law Journal 1983, no. 3 (1983): 471–513; James W. Ely Jr., “3. The Taney Era,” in The Contract Clause: A Constitutional History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016), 59–105; and Paul Finkelman and Melvin I. Urofsky, “Bronson v. Kinzie,” in Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008), 68–69.