118 U.S. 557 (1886), Wabash, St. L. & P. Ry. Co. v. State of Illinois

Citation:118 U.S. 557, 7 S.Ct. 4, 30 L.Ed. 244
Case Date:October 25, 1886
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 557

118 U.S. 557 (1886)

7 S.Ct. 4, 30 L.Ed. 244

WABASH, ST. L. &. P. RY. CO.



United States Supreme Court.

October 25, 1886

In Error to the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois.


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[7 S.Ct. 4] H. S. Greene and W. C. Goudy, for plaintiff in error.

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Geo. Hunt, Atty. Gen. of Illinois, for defendant in error.


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This is a writ of error to the supreme court of Illinois. It was argued here at the last term of this court. The case was tried in the court of original jurisdiction on an agreed statement of facts. This agreement is short, and is here inserted in full: 'For the purposes of the trial of said cause, and to save the making of proof therein, it is hereby agreed on the part of the defendant that the allegations in the first count of the declaration are true, except that part of said count which avers that the same proportionate [7 S.Ct. 5] discrimination was made in the transportation of said property--oil-cake and corn--in the state of Illinois that was made between Peoria and the city of New York, and Gilman and New York city, which averment is not admitted, because defendant claims that it is an inference from the fact that the rates charged in each case of said transportation

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of oil-cake and corn were through rates, but it is admitted that said averment is a proper one.'

The first count in the declaration which is referred to in this memorandum of agreement charged that the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway Company had, in violation of a statute of the state of Illinois, been guilty of an unjust discrimination in its rates or charges of toll and compensation for the transportation of freight. The specific allegation is that the railroad company charged Elder & McKinney for transporting 26,000 pounds of goods and chattels from Peoria, in the state of Illinois, to New York city, the sum of $39, being at the rate of 15 cents per hundred pounds for said car-load; and that on the same day they agreed to carry and transport for Isaac Bailey and F. O. Swannell another car-load of goods and chattels from Gilman, in the state of Illinois, to said city of New York, for which they charged the sum of $65, being at the rate of 25 cents per hundred pounds. And it is alleged that the car-load transported for Elder & McKinney was carried 86 miles further in the state of Illinois than the other car-load of the same weight. This freight being of the same class in both instances, and carried over the same road, except as to the difference in the distance, it is obvious that a discrimination against Bailey & Swannell was made in the charges against them, as compared with those against Elder & McKinney; and this is true whether we regard the charge for the whole distance from the terminal points in Illinois to New York city, or the proportionate charge for the haul within the state of Illinois.

The language of the statute which is supposed to be violated by this transaction is to be found in chapter 114 of the Revised Statutes of Illinois, § 112. It is there enacted that if any railroad corporation shall charge, collect, or receive, for the transportation of any passenger or freight of any description upon its railroad, for any distance within the state, the same or a greater amount of toll or compensation than is at the same time charged, collected, or received for the transportation in the same direction of any passenger or like quantity of freight of

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the same class over a greater distance of the same road, all such discriminating rates, charges, collections, or receipts, whether made directly or by means of rebate, drawback, or other shift or evasion, shall be deemed and taken against any such railroad corporation as prima facie evidence of unjust discrimination prohibited by the provisions of this act. The statute further provides a penalty of not over $5,000 for that offense, and also that the party aggrieved shall have a right to recover three times the amount of damages sustained, with costs and attorney's fees.

To this declaration the railroad company demurred. The demurrer was sustained by the lower court in Illinois, and judgment rendered for the defendant. This, however, was reversed by the supreme court of that state; and, on the case being remanded, the demurrer was overruled, and the defendant pleaded, among other things, that the rates of toll charged in the declaration were charged and collected for services rendered under an agreement and undertaking to transport freight from Gilman, in the state of Illinois, to New York city, in the state of New York, and that in such undertaking and agreement the portion of the services rendered or to be rendered within the state of Illinois was not apportioned separate from such entire service; that the action is founded solely upon the supposed authority of an act of the legislature of the state of Illinois, approved April 7, 1871; and that said act does not control or affect or relate to undertakings to transport freight from the state of Illinois to the state of New York, which falls within the operation, and is wholly controlled by the terms of the third clause of section [7 S.Ct. 6] 8 of article 1 of the constitution of the United States, which the defendant sets up and relies upon as a complete defense and protection in said action.

This question of whether the statute of Illinois, as applied to the case in hand, is in violation of the constitution of the United States, as set forth in the plea, was also raised on the trial by a request of the defendant, the railroad company, that the court should hold certain propositions of law on the same subject, which propositions are as follows: 'The court holds as law that, as the tolls or rates of compensation

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charged and collected by the defendant in the instance in question were for transportation service rendered in transporting freight from a point in the state of Illinois to a point in the state of New York, under an entire contract or undertaking to transport such freight the whole distance between such points, that the act of the general assembly of the state of Illinois, approved May 2, 1873, entitled 'An act to prevent extortion and unjust discrimination in the rates charged for the transportation of passengers and freight on railroads in this state, and to punish the same, and prescribe a mode of procedure and rules of evidence in relation thereto, and to repeal an act entitled 'An act to prevent unjust discrimination and extortion in the rates to be charged by the different railroads in the state for the transportation of freight on said roads.' approved April 7, 1871,' does not apply to or control such tolls and charges, nor can the defendant be held liable in this action for the penalties prescribed by said act. The court further holds as law that said act in relation to extortion and unjust discrimination cannot apply to transportation service rendered partly without the state, and consisting of the transportation of freight from within the state of Illinois to the state of New York, and that said act cannot operate beyond the limits of the state of Illinois. The court further holds as matter of law that the transportation in question falls within the proper description of 'commerce among the states,' and as such can only be regulated by the congress of the United States under the terms of the third clause of section 8 of article 1 of the constitution of the United States.'

All of these propositions were denied by the court, and judgment rendered against the defendant, which judgment was affirmed by the supreme court on appeal.

The matter thus presented as to the controlling influence of the constitution of the United States over this ligislation of the state of Illinois raises the question which confers jurisdiction on this court. Although the precise point presented by this case may not have been heretofore decided by this court, the general subject of the power of the state legislatures to

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regulate taxes, fares, and tolls for passengers and transportation of freight over railroads within their limits has been very much considered recently, (State Freight Tax Case, 15 Wall. 232; Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 133; Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co. v. Iowa, Id. 155; Peik v. Chicago & N.W. R. Co., Id. 164; Stone v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 116 U.S. 307; S. C. 6 S.Ct. 334, 388, 1191; Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U.S. 204; S. C. 5 S.Ct. 826; Pickard v. Pullman Southern Car Co., 117 U.S. 34; S. C. 6 S.Ct. 635;) and the question how far such regulations, made by the states and under state authority, are valid or void, as they may affect the transportation of goods through more than one state, in one voyage, is not entirely new here. The supreme court of illinois in the case now before us, conceding that each of these contracts was in itself a unit, and that the pay received by the Illinois railroad company was the compensation for the entire transportation from the point of departure in the state of Illinois to the city of New York, holds that, while the statute of Illinois is inoperative upon that part of the contract which has reference to the transportation outside of the state, it is binding and effectual as to so much of the transportation as was within the limits of the state of Illinois, (People v. Wabash, St. L. & P. R. Co., 104 Ill. 476;) and, undertaking for itself to apportion the rates charged over the [7 S.Ct. 7] whole route, decides that the contract and the receipt of the money for so much of it as was performed within the state of Illinois violate the statute of the state on that subject.

It the Illinois statute could be construed to apply exclusively to contracts for a carriage which begins and ends within the state, disconnected from a continuous transportation through or into other states, there does not seem...

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