61 Mo. 24 (Mo. 1875), Sloan v. The Pacific Railroad

Citation:61 Mo. 24
Opinion Judge:NAPTON, Judge.
Party Name:WILLIAM S. SLOAN, et al., Appellants, v. THE PACIFIC RAILROAD, Respondent.
Attorney:Rogers & White, for Appellants. James Baker, with J. N. Litton, for Respondent.
Court:Supreme Court of Missouri

Page 24

61 Mo. 24 (Mo. 1875)

WILLIAM S. SLOAN, et al., Appellants,

v.

THE PACIFIC RAILROAD, Respondent.

Supreme Court of Missouri.

October Term, 1875

Appeal from Johnson County Circuit Court.

Rogers & White, for Appellants.

I. The law impairs no provision of the contract. The word " rates" in § 12 of the Act of 1849 (Sess. Acts 1849, p. 219,) gives only the right to charge proportionate amounts. The word " toll" has the same meaning. ( N. E. Express Co. vs. Me. C. R. R. Co., 57 Me. 188.) This contract confers no right upon the company with which this law comes in conflict.

1. The claim of defendant, that it is specially exempt from legislation in respect to its regulation of rates, is not in terms stated in the charter, and does not exist. ( Providence Bank vs. Billings, 4 Pet. 514; C. & N. W. R. R. Co. vs. Attorney General of Iowa U. S. Circuit Court, May, 1875 [not reported]. See exemptions from Taxes, Cool. Const. Lim., 127, 200, 281 and cases cited.)

2. Defendant, as a corporation, is a person and like a natural person, subject to general legislation. (1 Bouv. L. Dic., 318; Prov. B'k vs. Billings, 4 Pet. 514; Thorp vs. R. B. R. R., 27 Vt. 140; West Riv. Bridge vs. Dix, 6 How. 507; 2 Kent. Com., 291, 7 Ed.)

3. The common law obligations of common carriers is to make no unjust discriminations or unreasonable charges which this statute enforces. ( N. E. Ex. Co. vs. Me. Cent. Railroad Co., 57 Me. 188; McDuffee vs. P. R. R. Co., 52 N. H., 430; C. & A. R. R. Co. vs. People, -- Ill., --; Harris vs. Packwood, 3 Taunt. 264.)

4. Franchises are property, and, as such, subject to all such rules and regulations as the good of the community may require. ( West Riv. Bridge vs. Dix, 6 How. 507; Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518; Charles River Bridge vs. Warren Bridge, 11 Pet. 420; R. F. & P. R. v. vs. Louiza, 13 How. 71; Turnpike Co. vs. State, 3 Wall. 210; The Binghampton Bridge Case, 3 Wall. 51 [three Judges dissented]; Peters vs. St. L. & I. M. R. R., 23 Mo. 107.)

II. This law impairs no valid contract of the charter within the meaning of the Constitution.

1. Franchises are a branch of the king's prerogative, which belong to the State like other property, as a corporate body; and are granted by the legislature as agents of the State. As State agents the legislature cannot make a contract conveying away legislative power. (2 Blackst. Com., ch. 27; Cool. Const. Lim., 282, 525; Greenl. Cr., 67.)

2. The franchises of defendant belong directly to the members, or are held in trust for them as property. The fundamental obligation of every member of the community as the organic principle of civilized society, is that each person holds his rights of person and property subject to all needful regulations for the common good. There is, therefore, no power in the government to release any person or property from this obligation.

3. The clause of the Constitution as to laws impairing the obligation of contracts applies entirely to legislation concerning private rights depending upon contracts, and has no reference to legislation that has for its object the general good. (Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518, 6 How. 511, 27 Vt. 140, cited above; Peters vs. St. L. & I. M. R. R., 23 Mo. 107; Gorman vs. Pacific R. R., 26 Mo. 441.) This law belongs to the class of general legislation known as a police regulation. (C. & N. W. R. R. vs. Fuller, 17 Wall. 560; C., B. & Q. R. R. Co. vs. Attorney General, before cited; 2 Bill of Rights., § 1, Const. 1820; Phalen vs. Comm. Va., 8 How. 163.)

4. A railway franchise is an agency in the company to exercise a State function in operating a public highway. Defendant cannot make any discriminations in the beneficial use of the function. (Olcott vs. Board of Supervisors, 16 Wall. 678, Id., 673; Piqua Bank vs. Knoup, 1 Ohio St. 602, Id., 622; Cool. Const. Lim., 533.)

5. Defendant has, by its grant, the equivalent to the assessments and contributions to make and operate a highway belonging to the State as its tolls. These tolls must therefore be levied...

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