In re Debs et al

Citation158 U.S. 564,39 L.Ed. 1092,15 S.Ct. 900
Decision Date27 May 1895
Docket NumberNo. 11,11
PartiesIn re DEBS et al
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

On July 2, 1894, the United States, by Thomas E. Milchrist, district attorney for the Northern district of Illinois, under the direction of Richard Olney, attorney general, filed their bill of complaint in the circuit court of the United States for the Northern district of Illinois against these petitioners and others. This bill set forth, among other things, the following facts: It named 22 railroad companies, and it alleged that they were engaged in the business of interstate commerce, and subjet to the provisions of the act of congress of February 4, 1887, known as the 'Interstate Commerce Act,' and all other laws of the United States relating to interstate transportation of passengers and freight; that the number of passengers annually carried by them into the city of Chicago from other states than Illinois, and out of Chicago into other states than Illinois, was more than 12,000,000, and in like manner that the freight so carried into and out of the city of Chicago, from and into other states than Illinois, amounted to many millions of tons; that each of the roads was under contract to carry, and in fact carrying, the mails of the United States; that all were by statute declared post roads of the government; that many were by special acts of congress required, at any and all times, to carry the troops and military forces of the United States, and provisions, munitions, and general supplies therefor; and that two of them were in the hands of receivers appointed by the courts of the United States. It stated at some length the necessity of the continued and uninterrupted running of such interstate railroads for the bringing into the city of Chicago supplies for its citizens and for the carrying on of the varied industries of that city.

The bill further averred that four of the defendants, naming them, were officers of an association known as the 'American Railway Union'; that in the month of May, 1894, there arose a difference or dispute between the Pullman Palace Car Company and its employees, as the result of which a considerable portion of the latter left the service of the car company; that thereafter the four officers of the railway union combined together, and with others, to compel an adjustment of such dispute, by creating a boycott against the cars of the car company; that, to make such boycott effective, the railroads running out of Chicago from operating qthe railroads running out of Chicago from operating their trains, and were combining to extend such boycott against Pullman sleeping cars by causing strikes among employees of all railroads attempting to haul the same. It charged knowledge on the part of the defendants of the necessity of the use of sleeping cars in the operation of the business of the railroads as common carriers, of the contracts for such use between the railroad companies and the car company, of the contracts, laws, and regulations binding the railway companies and the receivers to the carrying of the mails; also of the fact that sleeping cars were, and of necessity must be, carried upon the trains of said carriers with cars containing the mails; that with this knowledge they entered into a combination and conspiracy to prevent the railroad companies and the receivers, and each of them, from performing their duties as common carriers of interstate commerce, and in carrying into execution that conspiracy did induce various employees of the railway companies to leave the service of the companies, and prevent such companies and the receivers from securing other persons to take their places; that they issued orders, notifications, etc., to the members of the railway union to leave the service of the companies and receivers, and to prevent the companies and receivers from operating their trains; that they had asserted that they could and would tie up, paralyze, and break down any and every of said railway companies and receivers which did not accede to their demands; that, in pursuance of the instructions, commands, and requests of said officers, large numbers of the employees of the railway companies and receivers left their service.

Then followed these allegations:

'And your orator further charges that said defendants aimed and intended, and do now aim and intend, in and by the said conspiracy and combination, to secure unto themselves the entire control of the interstate, industrial, and commercial business in which the population of the city of Chicago and of the other communities along the lines of road of said railways are engaged with each othe, and to restrain any and all other persons from any independent control or management of such interstate, industrial, or commercial enterprises, save according to the will and with the consent of the defendants.

'Your orator further avers that in pursuance of said combination and conspiracy, and to accomplish the purpose thereof as hereinbefore set forth, the said defendants Debs, Howard, Rogers, Keliher, and others, officers of said American Railway Union, issued or caused to be issued the orders and directions as above set forth, and that in obedience of such orders, and in pursuance of said conspiracy and combination, numerous employees of said railroad companies and receivers unitedly refused to obey the orders of said employers or to perform the usual duties of such service, and many others of such employees quit such service with the common purpose and with the result of preventing said railroad companies and receivers from operating their said railroads and from transporting the United States mails, and from carrying on or conducting their duties as common carriers of interstate traffic.

'Your orator further avers that, pursuant to said combination and conspiracy, and under the direction as aforesaid of said officers and directors of said American Railway Union, said other defendants, and other persons whose names are to your orator unknown, proceeded, by collecting together in large numbers, by threats, intimidation, force, and violence, at the station grounds, yards, and right of way of said railroad companies, respectively, in the state of Illinois, to prevent said railroad companies from employing other persons to fill the vacancies aforesaid; to compel others, still employees of said railroad companies, to quit such employment, and to refuse to perform the duties of their service, and to prevent the persons remaining in such service, and ready and willing to perform the duties of the same, from doing so.

'Your orator further avers that said defendants, in pursuance of said combination and conspiracy, acting under the direction of said officers and directors of said American Railway Union, did with force and violence, at divers times and places, within said state of Illinois and elsewhere, stop, obstruct, and derail and wreck the engines and trains of said railroad companies, both passenger and freight, then and there engaged in interstate commerce and in transporting United States mails, by locking the switches of the railroad of said railroad companies, by removing the spikes and rails from the track thereof, by turning switches and displacing and destroying signals, by assaulting and interfering with and disabling the switchmen and other employees of said railroad companies having charge of the signals, switches, and tracks of said companies, and the movement of trains thereon, and in other manners, by force and violence, depriving the employees of said railroad companies in charge of such trains of the control and management of the same, and by these and other unlawful means attempted to obtain and exercise absolute control and domination over the entire operations of said railroads.'

The bill further set forth that there had become established in the city of Chicago a business conducted under the name of the Union Stock Yards, at which for many years immense numbers of live stock from states and territories beyond the state of Illinois had been received, slaughtered, and converted into food products, and distributed to all quarters of the globe, and that all the large centers of population in the United States were in a great degree dependent upon those stock yards for their food supply of that character; that for the purpose of handling such live stock and the product thereof, the company conducting such business operated certain railroad tracks, and that in pursuance of the combination and conspiracy aforesaid the four defendants, officers of the railway union, issued orders directing all the employees handling such railroad tracks to abandon such service.

To this was added the following:

'And your orator further alleges that, in pursuance of the like combination and unlawful conspiracy, the said defendants, and others combining and conspiring with them, for the purpose of still further restraining and preventing the conduct of such business, have by menaces, threats, and intimidation prevented the employment of other persons to take the place of the employees quitting the service of said company so operating said Union Stock Yards.

'And your orator further charges that by reason of said unlawful combination and conspiracy and the acts and doings aforesaid thereunder, the supply of coal and fuel for consump- tion throughout the different states of the Union, and of grain, breadstuffs, vegetables, fruits, meats, and other necessaries of life, has been cut off, interrupted, and interfered with, and the market therefor made largely unavailable, and dealers in all of said various products and the consumers thereof have been greatly injured, and trade and commerce therein among the states her been restrained, obstructed, and largely destroyed.'

The bill alleged that the defendants threatened and declared that they would continue to restrain, obstruct, and interfere with interstate commerce, as above set forth, and that they...

To continue reading

Request your trial
684 cases
  • In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litigation.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of California
    • July 24, 2007
    ...look elsewhere. One option for establishing a cause of action lies with an obscure line of cases culminating in In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 15 S.Ct. 900, 39 L.Ed. 1092 (1895), which permit the government to sue to vindicate its sovereign interests even when not authorized by statute. See also......
  • Maine Central R. Co. v. BMWE
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • March 31, 1987
    ...S.Ct. 2716, 65 L.Ed.2d 844 (1980); Watkins v. United States, 354 U.S. 178, 77 S.Ct. 1173, 1 L.Ed.2d 1273 (1957); In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 15 S.Ct. 900, 39 L.Ed. 1092 (1895); Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. (13 Otto) 168, 26 L.Ed. 377 (1880); United States v. Klein, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 128, 2......
  • State v. Local 1115 Joint Bd., Nursing Home and Hospital Emp. Division
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • March 14, 1977
    ...have thus ignored almost a century of the history of labor law. The only novel impression derived is that In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 15 S.Ct. 900, 39 L.Ed. 1092, although not cited, has been resurrected. In Debs we had government intervening in a labor dispute on the putative premise of a pa......
  • Henry v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • January 22, 1906
    ... ... lie; that this court has no jurisdiction, because no property ... rights are involved. In the case which is found in 180 U.S ... 236 (21 S.Ct. 331; 45 L.Ed. 497)--Missouri v ... Illinois--reannouncing what has been decided In re ... Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (15 S.Ct. 900; 39 L.Ed. 1092), it is ... expressly decided that in matters of public concern it is ... unnecessary that there should be involved any pecuniary ... interest of the state. Many cases are cited by counsel for ... the defense, all of them holding that the governor of ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 books & journal articles
  • Judicial restraints on illegal state violence: Israel and the United States.
    • United States
    • Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law Vol. 35 No. 1, January 2002
    • January 1, 2002
    ...Interestingly, if historical practice is the guide, the government's power to seek injunctions against public nuisances, as in In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895), or United States v. City of Philadelphia, 644 F.2d 187 (3d Cir. 1980), must also be good law. See United Steelworkers of America v.......
  • The Perils and Promise of Public Nuisance.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 132 No. 3, January 2023
    • January 1, 2023
    ...28 N.E. 514, 515 (N.Y. 1891) (holding that the use of premises for prostitution constituted a public nuisance). (11.) See In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 592-93, 599-600 (1895) (approving the use of public nuisance to shut down strikes by Eugene V. Debs and the American Railway Union (12.) See RE......
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 98 No. 2, December 2022
    • December 1, 2022
    ...Randy Kozel, Caleb Nelson, James Pfander, Jeff Pojanowski, Sai Prakash, Richard Re, Henry Smith, Jay Tidmarsh, and Stephen Yelderman. (1) 158 U.S. 564 (2) On the Pullman Strike, see ALMONT LIlNDSEY, THE PULLMAN STRIKE: THE STORY OF A UNIQUE EXPERIMENT AND OF A GREAT LABOR UPHEAVAL (1942). (......
  • The Antitrust Constitution
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review No. 99-1, November 2013
    • November 1, 2013
    ...just the same as if the legislation of some state had enacted the provisions contained in them?”). 128 . Id. at 230 (quoting In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 581 (1895)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also id. at 230 (“[T]he direct results of such contracts might be the regulation of comm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT