167 U.S. 479 (1897), 733, Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati,

Docket Nº:No. 733
Citation:167 U.S. 479, 17 S.Ct. 896, 42 L.Ed. 243
Party Name:Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati,
Case Date:May 24, 1897
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 479

167 U.S. 479 (1897)

17 S.Ct. 896, 42 L.Ed. 243

Interstate Commerce Commission

v.

Cincinnati,

No. 733

United States Supreme Court

May 24, 1897

New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Company

Argued March 22-23, 1897

CERTIFICATE FROM THE COURT OF

APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Congress has not conferred upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the legislative power of prescribing rates either maximum or minimum or absolute; and, as it did not give the express power to the commission, it did not intend to secure the same result indirectly by empowering that tribunal to determine what in reference to the past was reasonable and just, whether as maximum, minimum or absolute, and then enable it to obtain from the courts a peremptory order that in the future the railroad companies should follow the rates thus determined to have been in the past reasonable and just.

New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U.S. 184, affirmed and followed.

[17 S.Ct. 896] This case is before us on a question certified by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On May 29, 1894, the Interstate Commerce Commission entered an order, of which the following is a copy:

At a general session of the Interstate Commerce Commission held at its office in Washington, D.C., on the 29th day of May, A.D. 1894.

Present: Hon. William R. Morrison, chairman; Hon. Wheelock G. Veazey, Hon. Martin A. Knapp, Hon. Judson C. Clements, and Hon. James D. Yeomans, commissioners.

The Freight Bureau of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce v. The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Company, lessee of the Cincinnati Southern Railway; The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway Company; The Western and Atlantic Railroad Company; The Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company; The Atlanta and West Point Railroad Company; The Central Railroad

Page 480

and Banking Company of Georgia; The Georgia Railroad Company; The Georgia Pacific Railway Company; The Norfolk and Western Railroad Company; The Port Royal and Augusta Railway Company; The Richmond and Danville Railroad Company; The Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company; The Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad Company; The South Carolina Railway Company; The Western Railway of Alabama; The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company; The Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad Company; The Baltimore, Chesapeake and Richmond Steamboat Company; The Clyde Steamship Company; The Merchants' and Miners' Transportation Company; The Ocean Steamship Company; The Old Dominion Steamship Company.

The Chicago Freight Bureau v. The Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railway Company; The Chicago and Alton Railroad Company; The Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad Company; The Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad Company; The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Company; The Evansville and Terre Haute Railroad Company; The Illinois Central Railroad Company; The Louisville, Evansville and St. Louis Consolidated Railroad Company; The Peoria, Decatur and Evansville Railway Company; The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Company; The Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad Company; The Wabash Railroad Company; The Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway Company, Lessee of the Cincinnati Southern Railway; The Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway Company; The Western and Atlantic Railroad Company; The Alabama Great Southern Railroad Company; The Atlanta and West Point Railroad Company; The Central Railroad and Banking Company

Page 481

of Georgia; The Georgia Railroad Company; The Georgia Pacific Railway Company; The Norfolk and Western Railroad Company; The Port Royal and Augusta Railway Company; The Richmond and Danville Railroad Company; The Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company; The Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad Company; The South Carolina Railway Company; The Western Railway of Alabama; The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Company; The Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad Company; The Baltimore, Chesapeake and Richmond Steamboat Company; The Clyde Steamship Company; The Merchants' and Miners' Transportation Company; The Ocean Steamship Company; The Old Dominion Steamship Company.

These cases being at issue upon complaints and answers on file, and having been duly heard and submitted by the parties, and full investigation of the matters and things involved herein having been had, and the commission having on the date hereof made and filed a report and opinion containing its finding of fact and conclusions thereon, which said report and opinion is hereby referred to and made a part of this order, and the commission having, as appears by said report and opinion, found and decided, among other things, that the rates complained of and set forth in said report and opinion as in force over roads operated by carriers defendant herein, and forming routes or connecting lines leading southerly from Chicago or Cincinnati to Knoxville, Tenn., Chattanooga, Tenn., Rome, Ga., Atlanta, Ga., Meridian, Miss., Birmingham, Ala., Anniston, Ala., and Selma, Ala., are unreasonable and unjust, and in violation of the provisions of the Act to Regulate Commerce:

It is ordered and adjudged that the above-named defendants, and each of them, engaged or participating in the transportation of freight articles enumerated in the Southern Railway and Steamship Association classification as articles of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth class, do from and after the tenth day of July, 1894, wholly cease and desist and

Page 482

thenceforth abstain from charging, demanding, collecting, or receiving any greater aggregate rate or compensation per hundred pounds for the transportation of freight in any such class from Cincinnati, in the State of Ohio, or from Chicago, in the State of Illinois, to Knoxville, Tenn., Chattanooga, Tenn., Rome, Ga., Atlanta, Ga., Meridian, Miss., Birmingham, Ala.. Anniston, Ala., or Selma, Ala., than is below specified in cents per hundred pounds under said numbered classes, respectively, and set opposite to said points of destination; that is to say:

Page 483

And said defendants, and each of them, are also hereby notified and required to further readjust their tariffs of rates and charges so that from and after said 10th day of July, 1894, rates for the transportation of freight articles from Cincinnati and Chicago to Southern points other than those hereinabove specified shall be in due and proper relation to [17 S.Ct. 898] rates put into effect by said defendants in compliance with the provisions of this order.

And it is further ordered that a notice embodying this order be forthwith sent to each of the defendant corporations, together with a copy of the report and opinion of the commission herein, in conformity with the provisions of the fifteenth section of the Act to Regulate Commerce.

The railroad companies having failed to comply with the order, the Interstate Commerce Commission instituted this suit in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio to compel obedience thereto. The court, upon a hearing, entered a decree dismissing the bill (76 F. 183), from which decree an appeal was taken to the court of appeals, and that court, reciting the order, submits to us the following question:

Had the Interstate Commerce Commission jurisdictional power to make the order hereinbefore set forth; all proceedings preceding said order being due and regular, so far as procedure is concerned?

Page 493

BREWER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

A similar question was before us at the last term, in Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific Railway v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U.S. 184, and in the opinion, on pages 196 and 197, we said:

Whether Congress intended to confer upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to itself fix rates was mooted in the courts below, and is discussed in the briefs of counsel.

We do not find any provision of the act that expressly, or by necessary implication, confers such a power.

It is argued on behalf of the commission that the power to pass upon the reasonableness of existing rates implies a right to prescribe rates. This is not necessarily so. The reasonableness of the rate in a given case depends on the facts, and the function of the commission is to consider these facts and give them their proper weight. If the commission, instead of withholding judgment in such a matter until an issue shall be made and the facts found, itself fixes a rate, that rate is prejudged by the commission to be reasonable.

We prefer to adopt the view expressed by the late Justice Jackson, when circuit judge, in the case of Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co., 43 F. 37, and whose judgment was affirmed by this Court. 145 U.S. 263:

Subject to the two leading prohibitions, that their charges shall not be unjust or unreasonable and that they shall not unjustly discriminate so as to give undue preference or disadvantage to persons or traffic similarly circumstanced, the Act to Regulate Commerce leaves common carriers as they were at the common law -- free to make special contracts looking to the increase of their business, to classify their traffic, to adjust and apportion their rates so as to meet the necessities of commerce, and generally to manage their important interests upon the same principles which are regarded as sound, and adopted, in other trades and pursuits.

Page 494

The views thus expressed have been vigorously and earnestly challenged in this and in other cases argued at the present term. In view of its importance and the full arguments...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP