Vidal v. Girard’s Executors (1844) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

In Vidal v. Girard's Executors (1844) 43 U.S. 127, the Supreme Court of the United States held that there is no objection in point of law to a corporation taking property upon a trust not strictly within the scope of the expressed purposes of its institution, but collateral to them.

The opinion of Justice Story said: "Not only are charities for the maintenance and relief of the poor, sick, and impotent, charities in the sense of the common law, but also donations given for the establishment of colleges, schools, and seminaries of learning, and especially such as are for the education of orphans and poor scholars".

The case of Vidal v. Girard's Ex'rs, was decided under the law of Pennsylvania.

The court said, "It has been decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, that the conservative principles of the statute of Elizabeth have been in force in Pennsylvania by common usage and constitutional recognition."

In Vidal v. Girard's Executors, where certain conditions which had been attached by a testator to a devise for the establishment of a college were challenged as being violative of the public policy of Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court held:

"In considering this objection, the court are not at liberty to travel out of the record to consider whether the scheme of education by him prescribed, is such as we ourselves should approve, or as is best adapted to accomplish the great aims and ends of education. Nor are we at liberty to look at general considerations of the supposed public interests and policy of Pennsylvania upon this subject, beyond what its constitution and laws and judicial decisions make known to us. The question, what is the public policy of a state, and what is contrary to it, if inquired into beyond these limits, will be found to be one of great vagueness and uncertainty, and to involve discussions which scarcely come within the range of judicial duty and functions . We disclaim any right to enter upon such examinations, beyond what the state constitutions, and laws, and decisions necessarily bring before us."