146 U.S. 387 (1892), Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Illinois

Citation:146 U.S. 387, 13 S.Ct. 110, 36 L.Ed. 1018
Party Name:Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Illinois
Case Date:December 05, 1892
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 387

146 U.S. 387 (1892)

13 S.Ct. 110, 36 L.Ed. 1018

Illinois Central Railroad Company



United States Supreme Court

December 5, 1892




The ownership of and dominion and sovereignty over lands covered by tidewaters, within the limits of the several states, belong to the respective states within which they are found, with the consequent right to use or dispose of any portion thereof when that can be done without substantial impairment of the interest of the public in the waters, and subject always to the paramount right of Congress to control their navigation so far as may he necessary for the regulation of commerce with foreign nations and among the states.

The same doctrine as to the dominion and sovereignty over and ownership of lands under the navigable waters of the Great Lakes applies which

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obtains at the common law as to the dominion and sovereignty over and ownership of lands under tidewaters on the borders of the sea, and the lauds are held by the same right in the one case as in the other, and subject to the same trusts and limitations.

The roadway of the Illinois Central Railroad at Chicago as constructed, two hundred feet in width, for the whole distance allowed for its entry within the city, with the tracks thereon, and with all the guards against danger in its approach and crossings, and the breakwater beyond its tracks on the east, and the necessary works for the protection of the shore on the west, in no respect interfere with any useful freedom in the use of the waters of the lake for commerce, foreign, interstate or domestic, and, as they were constructed under the authority of the law, Stat. of February 17, 1851, Laws Ill. 1851, 192, by the requirement of the city as a condition of its consent that the company might locate its road within its limits, Ordinance of June 14, 1852, they cannot be regarded as such an encroachment upon the domain of the state as to require the interposition of the Court for their removal or for any restraint in their use.

The Illinois Central Railroad Company never acquired by the reclamation from the waters of the lake of the land upon which its tracks are laid, or by the construction of the road and works connected therewith, an absolute fee in the tract reclaimed, with a consequent right to dispose of the same to other parties or to use it for any other purpose than the one designated -- the construction and operation of a railroad thereon, with one or more tracks and works, in connection with the road or in aid thereof.

That company acquired by the construction of its road and other works no right as a riparian owner to reclaim still further lands from the waters of the lake for its use, or for the construction of piers, docks and wharves in the furtherance of its business; but the extent to which it could reclaim the land under water was limited by the conditions of the ordinance of June 14, 1852, which was simply for the construction of a railroad on a tract not to exceed a specified width, and of works connected therewith.

The construction of a pier or the extension of any land into navigable waters for a railroad or other purposes, by one not the owner of lands on the shore, does not give the builder of such pier or extension, whether an individual or corporation, any riparian rights.

The railroad company owns and has the right to use in its business the reclaimed land and the slips and piers in front of the lots on the lake north of Randolph Street which were acquired by it, and in front of Michigan Avenue between the lines of Twelfth and Sixteenth Streets, extended, unless it shall be found by the circuit court on further examination, that the piers as constructed extend beyond the point of navigability in the waters of the lake, about which this Court is not fully satisfied from the evidence in this case.

The railroad company further has the right to continue to use, as an additional

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means of approaching and using its station grounds, the spaces and the rights granted to it by the ordinances of the City of Chicago of September 10, 1855, and of September 15, 1856.

The Act of the Legislature of Illinois of April 16, 1869, granting to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, its successors and assigns

all the right and title of the State of Illinois in and to the submerged lands constituting the bed of Lake Michigan and lying east of the tracks and breakwater of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, for the distance of one mile, and between the south line of the south pier extended eastwardly and a line extended eastward from the south line of lot twenty-one, south of and near to the roundhouse and machine shops of said company, in the south division of the said City of Chicago,

cannot be invoked so as to extend riparian rights which the company possessed from its ownership of lands in sections ten and fifteen on the lake, and as to the remaining submerged lands, it was not competent for the legislature to thus deprive the its ownership of the submerged lands in the harbor of Chicago, and of the consequent control of its waters, and the attempted cession by the Act of April 16, 1869, was inoperative to affect, modify, or in any respect to control the sovereignty and dominion of the state over the lands or its ownership thereof, and any such attempted operation of the act was annulled by the repealing act of April 15, 1813, which, to that extent, was valid and effective.

There can be no irrepealable contract in a conveyance of property by a grantor in disregard of a public trust, under which he was bound to hold and manage it.

The fee of the made or reclaimed ground between Randolph Street and Park Row, embracing the ground upon which rest the tracks and the breakwater of the railroad company south of Randolph Street, is in the city, and subject to the right of the railroad company to its use of the tracks on ground reclaimed by it and the continuance of the breakwater, the city possesses the right of riparian ownership, and is at full liberty to exercise it.

The City of Chicago, as riparian owner of the grounds on its east or lakefront of the city, between the north line of Randolph Street and the north line of block twenty-three, each of the lines being produced to Lake Michigan, and in virtue of authority conferred by its charter, has the power to construct and keep in repair on the lakefront east of said premises within the lines mentioned, public landing places, wharves, docks and levees, subject, however, in the execution of that power, to the authority of the state to prescribe the lines beyond which piers, docks, wharves and other structures other than those erected by the general government, may not he extended into the navigable waters of the harbor, and to such supervision and control as the United States may rightfully exercise.

In equity. These appeals were taken from a decree in a bill or information filed by the State of Illinois against the

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Illinois Central Railroad Company, the City of Chicago, and the United States, and a cross-bill therein filed by the city against the Railroad Company, the United States and the State. 33 F. 730. The object of the litigation was to determine the rights, respectively, of the State, of the city, and of the Railroad Company in land, submerged or reclaimed, in front of the waterline of the city on Lake Michigan.

As the record came to this Court, the cause was further entitled "The United States, Appellant v. The People of the State of Illinois et al., No. 610." On the suggestion of the Solicitor General that the United States had never been a party to these suits in the court below and had never taken an appeal from the decree, that title was dropped from the opinion of the court.

The facts were stated by MR. JUSTICE HARLAN in his opinion in the court below, as follows1:

It is necessary to a clear understanding of the numerous questions presented for determination, that we should first trace the history of the title to these several bodies of lands up to the time when the Illinois Central Railroad was located Within the limits of Chicago.

First. As to the lands embraced in the Foot Dearborn Reservation.

In the year 1804, the United States established the military

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post of Fort Dearborn, immediately south of Chicago River, and near its mouth, upon the southwest fractional quarter of section 10. It was occupied by troops as well when Illinois, in 1818, was admitted into the Union as when Congress passed the Act of March 3, 1819, authorizing the sale of certain military sites. By that act it was provided:

That the Secretary of War be, and he is hereby, authorized, under the direction of the President of the United States, to cause to be sold such military sites belonging to the United States as may have been found or become useless for military purposes. And the Secretary of War is hereby authorized on the payment of the consideration agreed for into the Treasury of the United States to make, execute, and deliver all needful instruments conveying and transferring the same in fee, and the jurisdiction, which had been specially ceded for military purposes to the United States by a state over such site or sites shall thereafter cease.

3 Stat. 520, c. 88.

In 1824, upon the written request of the Secretary of War, the southwest quarter of fractional section 10, containing about 57 acres, and within which Fort Dearborn was situated, was formally reserved by the Commissioner of the General Land Office from sale and for military purposes. Wilcox v. Jackson, 13 Pet. 498, 502. The United States admit, and it is also proved, that the lands so reserved were subdivided in 1837 by authority of the Secretary -- he being represented by one Matthew Birchard, as special agent and attorney for that purpose...

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