Illinois Cent Co v. State of Illinois City of Chicago v. Illinois Cent Co State of Illinois v. Illinois Cent

Decision Date05 December 1892
Docket Number609,Nos. 419,608,s. 419
Citation13 S.Ct. 110,36 L.Ed. 1018,146 U.S. 387
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

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B. F. Ayers for the Illinois Central Railroad Company.

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John S. Miller for the City of Chicago.

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S. S. Gregory, for the City of Chicago.

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George Hunt, for the State of Illinois.

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John N. Jewett, for Illinois Cent. R. co.

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Mr. Justice FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

This suit was commenced on the 1st of March, 1883, in a circuit court of Illinois, by an information or bill in equity filed by the attorney general of the state, in the name of its people, against the Illinois Central Railroad Company, a corporation created under its laws, and against the city of Chicago. The United States were also named as a party defendant, but they never appeared in the suit, and it was impossible to bring them in as a party without their consent. The alleged grievances arose solely from the acts and claims of the railroad company, but the city of Chicago was made a defendant because of its interest in the subject of the litigation. The railroad company filed its answer in the state court at the first term after the commencement of the suit, and upon its petition the case was removed to the circuit court of the United States for the northern district of Illinois. In May following the city appeared to the suit and filed its answer, admitting all the allegations of fact in the bill. A subsequent motion by the complainant to remand the case to the state court was denied. 16 Fed. Rep. 881. The pleadings were afterwards altered in various particulars. An amended information or bill was filed by the attorney general, and the city filed a cross bill for affirmative relief against the state and the company. The latter appeared to the cross bill, and answered it, as did the attorney general for the state. Each party has prosecuted a separate appeal.

The object of the suit is to obtain a judicial determination of the title of certain lands on the east or lake front of the city of Chicago, situated between the Chicago river and Sixteenth street, which have been reclaimed from the waters of the lake, and are occupied by the tracks, depots, warehouses, piers, and other structures used by the railroad company in its business, and also of the title claimed by the company to the submerged lands, constituting the bed of the lake, lying east of its tracks, within the corporate limits of the city, for the distance of a mile, and between the south line of the south pier near Chicago river, extended eastwardly, and a line

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extended in the same direction from the south line of lot 21 near the company's roundhouse and machine shops. The determination of the title of the company will involve a consideration of its right to construct, for its own business, as well as for public convenience, wharves, piers, and docks in the harbor.

We agree with the court below that, to a clear understanding of the numerous questions presented in this case, it was necessary to trace the history of the title to the several parcels of land claimed by the company; and the court, in its elaborate opinion, (33 Fed. Rep. 730,) for that purpose referred to the legislation of the United States and of the state, and to ordinances of the city and proceedings thereunder, and stated, with great minuteness of detail, every material provision of law and every step taken. We have with great care gone over the history detailed, and are satisfied with its entire accuracy. It would therefore serve no useful purpose to repeat what is, in our opinion, clearly and fully narrated. In what we may say of the rights of the railroad company, of the state, and of the city, remaining after the legislation and proceedings taken, we shall assume the correctness of that history.

The state of Illinois was admitted into the Union in 1818 on an equal footing with the original states, in all respects. Such was one of the conditions of the cession from Virginia of the territory notrhwest of the Ohio river, out of which the state was formed. But the equality prescribed would have existed if it had not been thus stipulated. There can be no distinction between the several states of the Union in the character of th jurisdiction, sovereignty, and dominion which they may possess and exercise over persons and subjects within their respective limits. The boundaries of the state were prescribed by congress and accepted by the state in its original constitution. They are given in the bill. It is sufficient for our purpose to observe that they include within their eastern line all that portion of Lake Michigan lying east of the mainland of the state and the middle of the lake, south of latitude 42 degrees and 30 minutes.

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It is the settled law of this country that the ownership of and dominion and sovereignty over lands covered by tide waters, 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 be necessary for the regulation of commerce with foreign nations and among the states. This doctrine has been often announced by this court, and is not questioned by counsel of any of the parties. Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan, 3 How. 212; Weber v. Commissioners, 18 Wall. 57.

The same doctrine is in this country held to be applicable to lands covered by fresh water in the Great Lakes, over which is conducted an extended commerce with different states and foreign nations. These laker possess all the general characteristics of open seas, except in the freshness of their waters, and in the absence of the ebb and flow of the tide. In other respects they are inland seas, and there is no reason or principle for the assertion of dominion and sovereignty over and ownership by the state of lands covered by tide waters that is not equally applicable to its ownership of and dominion and sovereignty over lands covered by the fresh waters of these lakes. At one time the existence of tide waters was deemed essential in determining the admiralty jurisdiction of courts in England. That doctrine is now repudiated in this country as wholly inapplicable to our condition. In England the ebb and flow of the tide constitute the legal test of the navigability of waters. There no waters are navigable in fact, at least to any great extent, which are not subject to the tide. There, as said in the case of The Genesee Chief, 12 How. 443, 455, "tide water,' and 'navigable water' are synonymous terms, and 'tide water,' with a few small and unimportant exceptions, meant nothing more than public rivers, as contradistinguished from private ones;' and writers on the subject of admiralty jurisdiction 'took the ebb and flow of the tide as the test, because it was a convenient one, and more easily determined

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the character of the river. Hence the establishes doctrine in England, that the admiralty jurisdiction is confined to the ebb and flow of the tide. In other words, it is confined to public navigable waters.'

But in this country the case is different. Some of our rivers are navigable for great distances above the flow of the tide, indeed, for hundreds of miles,—by the largest vessels used in commerce. As said in the case cited: 'There is certainly nothing in the ebb and flow of the tide that makes the waters peculiarly suitable for admiralty jurisdiction, nor anything in the absence of a tide that renders it unfit. If it is a public, navigable water, on which commerce is carried on between different states or nations, the reason for the jurisdiction is precisely the same, and, if a distinction is made on that account, it is merely arbitrary, without any foundation in reason, and, indeed, would seem to be inconsistent with it.'

The Great Lakes are not in any appreciable respect affected by the tide, and yet on their waters, as said above, a large commerce is carried on, exceeding in many instances the entire commerce of states on th borders of the sea. When the reason of the limitation of admiralty jurisdiction in England was found inapplicable to the condition of navigable waters in this country, the limitation and all its incidents were discarded. So also, by the common law, the doctrine of the dominion over and ownership by the crown of lands within the realm under tide waters is not founded upon the existence of the tide over the lands, but upon the fact that the waters are navigable; 'tide waters' and 'navigable waters,' as already said, being used as synonymous terms in England. The public being interested in the use of such waters, the possession by private individuals of lands under them could not be permitted except by license of the crown, which could alone exercise such dominion over the waters as would insure freedom in their use so far as consistent with the public interest. The doctrine is founded upon the necessity of preserving to the public the use of navigable waters from private interruption and encroachment,—a reason as applicable to navigable fresh waters as to waters moved by the tide. We hold, there-

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fore, that the same doctrine as to the dominion and sovereignty over and ownership of lands under the navigable waters of the Great Lakes applies which obtains at the common law as to the dominion and...

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