225 U.S. 640 (1912), 716, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 716
Citation:225 U.S. 640, 32 S.Ct. 702, 56 L.Ed. 1236
Party Name:Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States
Case Date:June 07, 1912
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 640

225 U.S. 640 (1912)

32 S.Ct. 702, 56 L.Ed. 1236

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co.


United States

No. 716

United States Supreme Court

June 7, 1912

Argued April 30, 1912




Public policy requires that the mail be carried subject to postal regulations, and that the department, and not the railroad, shall, in the absence of contract, determine what service is needed and the conditions under which it hall be performed.

A railroad company, not required so to do by its charter, is not bound to furnish postal cars of the kind demanded or to accept terms named by the Postmaster General, but if it does carry the mail, it does so as an agency of the government, and subject to the laws and the regulations of the Department.

A railroad company cannot, by using a larger railway postal car than that authorized by the department, recover the greater value of the car.

The Postmaster General can establish full railway postal lines, and, as the greater includes the less, he can also establish half-lines; he can abolish between two points a full line in one direction and a half line in the other.

The facts, which involve claims made by a railroad company for furnishing railway post office cars to the government, are stated in the opinion.

Page 646

LAMAR, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE LAMAR delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had a four-year contract with the Post Office Department to carry

Page 647

the mail between Chicago and Kansas City. Payment was made on the basis of weight hauled and the speed with which the service was performed. The company also furnished sufficient "railway post office cars," sixty feet in length, to make three round trips each twenty-four hours. This constituted three "car lines," for which the plaintiff received the maximum additional compensation then allowed by Rev.Stat. § 4004, under which the pay varied in proportion to the length of the car.

This contract was to expire June 30, 1907, by limitation, and, with a view of obtaining data and proposing terms for a new arrangement to begin July 1st, 1907, the postal authorities, in February, mailed to the company a "Distance Circular," which, among other things, stated that the company was "to accept and perform...

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