Home Telegraph Co. v. Mayor, Etc., of Nashville

Citation101 S.W. 770
Decision Date23 March 1907
CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
101 S.W. 770
Supreme Court of Tennessee.
March 23, 1907.

Appeal from Chancery Court, Davidson County; John Allison, Chancellor.

Suit by the Home Telegraph Company against the mayor and city council of Nashville. From a decree of the Court of Chancery Appeals, reversing the decree dismissing complainant's bill, defendants appeal. Decree of Court of Chancery Appeals reversed, and complainant's bill dismissed.

J. C. Bradford and Smith & McAlister, for appellants. Baxters and Luke Lea, for appellee.


The complainant is a telegraph company, organized on the 26th January, 1906, under section 8, c. 142, p. 243, Acts 1875.

It sought to enter the city of Nashville with its lines and plant, and was denied the right to use the streets and alleys of the city for that purpose by the mayor and city council. This bill is to enjoin the mayor and city council, which will be hereafter referred to as the city, from preventing said entrance and occupying the streets, alleys, avenues, squares, and public thoroughfares, by placing thereon poles, wires, cross-arms, guides, braces, and other necessary fixtures, for the installation and operation of its system or plant in the city of Nashville.

An injunction was granted, which was afterwards dissolved. An answer was filed, proof was taken, and on final hearing the chancellor refused to grant the relief prayed for, and dismissed complainant's bill; and the complainant appealed. The Court of Chancery Appeals reversed the holding of the chancellor, and the city has appealed to this court.

The purpose of the company is stated in the bill and charter to be to construct a telegraph line from Franklin, in Williamson county, to Goodlettsville, in Davidson county, and in doing so it claims the right by law to erect all necessary fixtures along the line of any public highway, or the streets of any village or city, or any lands belonging to the state, free of charge; and such is the provision of its charter.

It proposes, not only to pass over the streets, alleys, and highways of the city, but to install not less than 30 instruments therein, with the latest improvements, appliances, and inventions, for the operation of a telephone system or business in the city, and between the city and other points beyond its limits.

Its purpose is thus expressed in section 4 of the bill: "Complainant purposes and intends to erect its poles and wires over and along the streets and alleys of the several cities hereinbefore mentioned, and the highways and public roads connecting them, for the purpose of establishing numerous terminals

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or stations, where it will receive and transmit messages over its own lines to any address within the city of the forwarder, or in any of the aforesaid cities, or to transmit said message by means of intertraffic arrangements with other telegraph companies, which are being negotiated successfully at present, to the cities throughout the country. * * * It will establish at its public and private stations both telegraph and telephone instruments, utilizing the latest improvements and inventions in the science of telegraphy, which permit the same wire to be used at the same time for the transmission of messages through both of said instruments."

The city in its answer says that it has not granted or given any permit or license to complainant to occupy the city, and that it is barred from doing so by an ordinance of the city, which is in these words:

"It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or company, or corporation, to erect and run wires along, over or through the streets or alleys of the city, or over the private property or grounds of any person in the city, for signalling or electrical purposes, without first obtaining the consent of the mayor and city council to do so; and any person, firm, etc., who shall violate the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and fined before the judge of the city court, not less than $25 nor more than $50 for each offense."

The contention of the city is, in brief, that no telegraph or telephone company can occupy its streets, without first obtaining its consent, and that under its charter, being chapter 204, p. 405, Acts 1899, it has the right to prescribe the mode and manner in which a franchise, or permit, shall be granted by the city.

Complainant claims the right to occupy the streets of the city, without its consent, and over its protest, under chapter 111, p. 303, Acts 1849-50, section 1316, Code 1858, section 8, c. 142, p. 243, Acts 1875, and chapter 66, p. 120, Acts 1885.

The Code of 1858, following the act of 1849-50, provided that any person or corporation may "construct a telegraph line along the public highways and streets of this state or other lands belonging to the state, free of charge, * * * and may erect the necessary fixtures therefor."

The act of 1875 provides that a telegraph corporation may construct a telegraph line and erect the necessary fixtures along the line of any public highway, the streets of any city or village, etc.

Acts 1885, p. 120, c. 66, provides that "any person or corporation, organized by virtue of the laws of this state, * * * for the purpose of transmitting intelligence by magnetic telegraph or telephone, or other system of transmitting intelligence, the equivalent thereof which may be hereafter invented or discovered, may construct, operate and maintain such telegraph, telephone, or other line necessary for the speedy transmission of intelligence, along and over the public highways or streets of the cities and towns of this state," etc.; "but the ordinary use of such public highways, streets," etc., "shall not be obstructed," etc.

It is said that this latter act is unconstitutional.

The objection is that it does not appear from any entry on the journal of the House of Representatives that it was ever signed by the speaker of the House in open session.

The constitutional provision brought in question is section 18 of article 2, and is in these words: "No bill shall become a law until it shall have been * * * signed by the respective speakers in open session, the fact of such signing to be noted on the journals," etc.

This provision has been before this court on several occasions; but we consider its proper construction as still an open question.

In Railroad v. Telegraph Company, 101 Tenn. 66, 46 S. W. 571, 41 L. R. A. 403, the constitutionality of this same act was challenged upon the same ground; but, it not being necessary to pass upon it, the court declined to do so, saying that it was a question of grave difficulty and doubt.

The facts are that the act as enrolled and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State is signed by both the speaker of the Senate and the House, and is approved by the Governor; and it so appears in the acts...

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