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United States Supreme Court


No. 559

Decided: May 03, 1909

Hudson Co 213 U.S. 366 (1909) ]

[213 U.S. 366, 370]   Attorney General Bonaparte, Solicitor General Hoyt, and Messrs. L. Allison Wilmer and Thomas C. Spelling for plaintiff in error and appellant.

[213 U.S. 366, 381]   Messrs. John C. Johnson and Robert W. de Forest for defendants in error and appellees.

[213 U.S. 366, 387]   Messrs. Walker D. Hines, James M. Beck, and William S. Opdyke for the Delaware & Hudson Company.

[213 U.S. 366, 389]   Messrs. George F. Brownell and Adelbert Moot for the Erie Railroad company.

[213 U.S. 366, 392]  

Mr. Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

We dismiss for the present a contention made by one of the corporations, that it is not a railroad company within the meaning of that term as used in the statute, which we shall have occasion to consider, because it is merely a coal company, whose transporting operations are but incidental to its mining operations. With this contention put aside, it is true to say, speaking in a general sense, that the corporations, parties to this record, by means of railroads owned and operated by them, were engaged in transporating coal from the anthracite coal fields in Pennsylvania to points of market for ultimate delivery in other states. With much of the coal so transported the corporations had been or were connected by some relation distinct from the association which was necessarily engendered by the transportation of the commodity by the corporations as common carriers in interstate commerce. While the business of the corporations, generally speaking, had these characteristics, there were differences between them. Some of the corporations owned and worked mines, and transporated over their own rails in interstate commerce the coal so mined, either for their own account or for the account of those who had acquired title to the coal prior to the beginning of the transportation. Others, while operating railroads, not only owned but also leased and operated coal mines, and carried the coal produced from such mines in the same way. Again, others of the railroad companies, although not operating mines, were the owners of stock in corporations engaged in mining coal, the coal so produced by such corporations being carried in interstate commerce by the railroad companies holding the stock in the producing coal companies, either for account of the producing corporations or for persons to whom the coal had been

In announcing the decision on May 3, 1909, Mr. Justice White read a memorandum giving the gist of the opinion now published. [213 U.S. 366, 393]   sold at the point of production prior to the beginning of interstate commerce. This, moreover, was, additionally, the case as to some of the railroad companies who, as we have previously stated, were engaged both in the production of coal from mines owned by them and in interstate transportation of such product. All the attributes thus enjoyed by the corporations had been possessed by them for a long time, and were expressly conferred by the laws of Pennsylvania, and, in some instances, also by the laws of other states, in which the companies likewise, in part, carried on their business. We insert in the margin a summary which the court below made concerning the situation of the respective corporations, taken from the answer or return made by each corporation.

It is admitted, generally by the defendants, that the allegations in the bills and petitions, as their corporate existence, are true, and that they own or operate railroads engaged in the interstate transportation of coal from the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. They also admit that this transportation has been carried on by the several defendants long prior to the 8th day of May, 1906, and, in the case of some of them, for a period varying from a quarter to more than half a century prior thereto. In addition to these general admissions, detailed statements are made by the defendants, respectively, of the character and extent of the ownership or other interests possessed by them in the coal so transported, or in the lands or mines from which it is produced. It is only necessary to briefly summarize these statements:

(1) The Delaware & Hudson Company alleges that it directly owns its coal lands as it does its railroad; that it was incorporated by an act of the legislature of the state of New York, April 23, 1823 . . . and was 'authorized to construct a canal or water navigation from the anthracite coal district in Pennsylvania to the Hudson river in New York; to purchase lands in Pennsylvania containing stone or anthracite coal; and to employ its capital in the business of transporting to market coal mined from such lands.' That this authority was also expressly conferred by acts of the legislature of the state of Pennsylvania, between the years 1823 and 1871, and that these acts of the state of Pennsylvania resulted from the desire and policy of said state to create and foster the industry of mining such coal and developing the transportation thereof; that, under the authority of these statutes of Pennsylvania and of New York, the said defendant, beginning as early as the year 1825, invested its capital [213 U.S. 366, 394]   After the first day of May, 1908, the government of the United States commenced these proceedings by bill in equity against each of the corporations, to enjoin each from carrying [213 U.S. 366, 395]   in interstate commerce any coal produced under the circumstances which we have stated. At the same time a petition in mandamus was filed against each corporation, seeking to ac- [213 U.S. 366, 396]   complish the same result. Both the equity causes and the mandamus proceedings were based upon the assumption that the 1st section of the act to regulate commerce, as amended [213 U.S. 366, 397]   and re-enacted by the law usually referred to as the Hepburn act, approved June 29, 1906 (34 State. at L. 584, CHAP. 3591, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 892), contained a provision, generally known as the commodities clause, which

___ to exceed $2,043,300 per annum; that its gross earnings from the transportation of coal amounted, for the year ending June 7th, 1907, to $9, 312,268.04, being 48 per cent of its entire freight receipts; and that a large part of its earnings from freight and miscellaneous passenger traffic is incident to and dependent upon the operation of the mines and collieries of said coal companies; and that the greater part of its earnings from transportation of coal comes from its carriage of the coal mined by the Lehigh & Wilkesbarre Coal Company; and that large sums of money have been expended by it in extending its lines and in constructions to enable it to transport said coal in interstate commerce.

(4) The Delaware, Lackawanna, & Western Railroad Company, like the Delaware & Hudson Company, admits that it is the owner of coal lands and mines coal which it sells; that it was organized under an act of the legislature of Pennsylvania in 1849 . . . that all the lines of railroad owned by it are wholly within the state of Pennsylvania, extending from the Delaware river, at the boundary line of the state of New Jersey, in a northwesterly direction across the state of Pennsylvania to the boundary line between the state of Pennsylvania and the state of New York, with a branch line extending from Scranton, in the state of Pennsylvania, to Northumberland, in said state. Said defendant also admits and alleges that, under express authority of acts of the legislature of the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, it, as lessee, now operates, and, long prior to May 1st 1908, has operated, various lines of railroad in the two last-mentioned states, by which it has direct traffic connection with the city of Buffalo and other cities in the said states. Defendant also admits that for many years it has owned in fee extensive tracts of coal land in the state of Pennsylvania; that it has also leased large tracts of coal land in the said state, and is now engaged, and for many years last past has been engaged, in mining coal from the lands so owned and leased by it; that the holding of said lands, whether in fee or by lease, and the mining, manufacture, and interstate transportation of the coal therefrom, has been, and continues to be, under and by virtue of the authority of the laws of the state of Pennsylvania.

That, in addition to the foregoing, certain coal companies, organized from time to time under acts of assembly of the said state of Pennsylvania, have been merged into said defendant corporation; that, by an act of the general assembly of the state of Pennsylvania, approved April 15th, 1869, entitled, 'An Act to Authorize Railroad and Canal Companies [213 U.S. 366, 398]   caused it to be Illegal for the corporations after May 1, 1908, to transport in interstate commerce coal with which the railroad companies were or had been connected or associated in any of


to Aid in the Development of the Coal, Iron, Lumber, and Other Material Interests of This Commonwealth,' the defendant was authorized to aid corporations authorized by law to develop coal, iron, lumber, and other material interests of Pennsylvania, by the purchase of their capital stock or bonds, or either of them. The answer of said defendant also alleges that, by reason of its ownership of said coal lands and coal, and the revenues derived from the transportation of the same to market, it has been enabled to expend millions in the betterment of its general transportation facilities for both goods and passengers, and give to the public the benefits of a well constructed and equipped modern railroad.

That, by virtue of leases of railroads, to enable it to transport coal in interstate commerce, it has become bound to pay yearly, in interest charges, the sum of $5,155,697, and for taxes, $1,163,916. That out of a total of about 8,700,000 tons of coal produced by it in the year 1907 from its lands owned in fee and leased, upwards of 6,700,000 tons were transported over its lines of railroad in interstate commerce; that from 40 per cent to 60 per cent of its annual transportation earnings, from the operation of leased lines, has been derived from the carriage of its own coal thereover.

That it uses, in the conduct of its business as a common carrier, approximately 1,700,000 tons of anthracite coal, of pea size or smaller, annually, and will require more for such use in the future; that to obtain this coal in these economic sizes it is necessary to break up coal, leaving the larger sizes, which must be disposed of otherwise; that great waste would result if it were forbidden to transport to market in interstate commerce these larger sizes thus resulting.

That defendant's rights to acquire its holding of coal land, its rights to own and mine coal and to transport the same to market in other states as well as in Pennsylvania, and its leases of other railroads, were acquired many years prior to the enactment of the socalled 'interstate commerce act,' and of the said amendment thereto known as the 'commodities clause.'

(5) The answer of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company avers that it was incorporated under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania April 13th, 1846 . . . that, as early as 1871, under authority of two general statutes of the state of Pennsylvania, it became the owner of all the shares of the Susquehanna Coal Company, of all the shares of the Summit Branch Mining Company, and of one third of the shares of the Mineral Railroad [213 U.S. 366, 399]   the modes above stated. Except as we have said, in the particular that one of the corporations claimed that it was not a railroad company within the meaning of the commodities [213 U.S. 366, 400]   clause, they all defended substantially upon the ground, that, when corrected interpreted, the commodities clause did not forbid the interstate commerce traffic in coal by them carried on. If it did, the clause was assailed as inherently repugnant to the Constitution, because the right to enact it was not embraced within the authority conferred upon Congress to regulate commerce. In addition it was contended that even if, abstractly considered, the clause might be embraced within the grant of power to regulate commerce, nevertheless its provisions were in conflict with the due process clause of the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, because of the destructive effect which the enforcement of its provisions would produce on the rights of property which the corporations possessed and had long enjoyed under the sanction of valid state laws. It was besides insisted that, in any event, the clause was repugnant to the Constitution because of the discrimination caused by the exception as to timber and the manufactured products thereof. The cases were submitted on the pleadings, and were heard and decided at one and the same time. Treating the clause as having the meaning which the government contended for, the court came to consider the alleged repugnancy of the enactment to the Constitution. In the principal opinion the subject [213 U.S. 366, 401]   was at least formally approached, but for the purpose of deciding whether inherently the commodities clause was within the competency of Congress to enact as a regulation of commerce, but whether the provisions of that clause were repugnant to the Constitution because of the destructive effect of its prohibitions upon the vast sum of property rights which the corporations were found to enjoy as a result of valid state laws. In this aspect the issue which the court deemed it was called upon to determine was thus by it epitomized:

    'The fundamental and underlying question, however, which presents itself at the threshold of all the cases for our consideration, is whether the so-called 'commodities clause' amendatory of the act to regulate commerce, passed June 29, 1906, so far as its scope applies by the universality of its language to the cases here presented, is in excess of the legislative authority granted to Congress by the Constitution. This question must be considered with reference to the Constitution as a whole, and in relation to the concrete facts of the several cases. It is therefore necessary to keep in mind the situation as presented by these defendants, the facts set forth in their individual answers as above briefly summarized, and the relevant industrial condi- [213 U.S. 366, 402]   tions, which, being matters of common knowledge, may be judicially noticed.'

The situation which it was considered should be kept in mind for the purpose of passing upon the constitutional question was thus stated:

    'The general situation is that for half a century or more it has been the policy of the state of Pennsylvania, as evidenced by her legislative acts, to promote the development of her natural resources, especially as regards coal, by encouraging railroad companies and canal companies to invest their funds in coal lands, so that the product of her mines might be conveniently and profitably conveyed to market in Pennsylvania and other states. Two of the defendant corporations, as appears from their answers, were created by the legislature of Pennsylvania, one of them three quarters of a century ago and the other half a century ago, for the expressed purpose that its coal lands might be developed and that coal might be transported to the people of Pennsylvania and of other states. It is not questioned that, pursuant to this general policy, investments were made by all the defendant companies in coal lands and mines and in the stock of coal-producing companies, and that coal production was enormously increased and its economies promoted by the facilities of transportation thus brought about. As appears from the answers filed, the entire distribution of anthracite coal in and into the different states of the Union and Canada for the year 1905 (the last year for which there are authoritative statistics) was 61,410,201 tons; that approximately four fifths of this entire production of anthracite coal was transported in interstate commerce over the defendant railroads, from Pennsylvania to markets and other states and Canada, and of this four fifths, from 70 to 75 per cent was produced either directly by the defendant companies or through the agency of their subsidiary coal companies.
    'It also appears from the answers filed that enormous sums of money have been expended by these defendants to enable them to mine and prepare their coal and to transport it to any [213 U.S. 366, 403]   point where there may be a market for it. It is not denied that the situation thus generally described is not a new one, created since the passage of the act in question, but has existed for a long period of years prior thereto, and that the rights and property interests acquired by the said defendants in the premises have been acquired in conformity to the Constitution and laws of the state of Pennsylvania, and that their right to the enjoyment of the same has never been doubted or questioned by the courts or people of that commonwealth, but has been fully recognized and protected by both.'

It was decided that, as applied to the defendants, the commodities clause was not within the power of Congress to enact as a regulation of commerce. 164 Fed. 215. A member of the court dissented and expressed his reasons in a written opinion. Without adverting to all the reasoning expounded in that opinion, we think it accurate to say that, in a large and ultimate sense, it proceeded upon the assumption that, as the commodities clause provided, to quote the summing up of the opinion, for 'the divorce of the dual relation of public carrier and private transporter,' it was a regulation of commerce, and as such was within the power of Congress to enact, and when enacted was operative upon the defendants, and therefore required them to comform to the regulation, even although to do so might in some way indirectly affect valid rights derived from prior state legislation.

Judgments and decrees were entered denying the applications for mandamus and dismissing the bills of complaint.

The text of the commodities clause upon which the cases depend is as follows:

    'From and after May first, nineteen hundred and eight, it shall be unlawful for any railroad company to transport from any state, territory, or the District of Columbia to any other state, territory, or the District of Columbia, or to any foreign countr, any article or commodity, other than timber and the manufactured products thereof, manufactured, mined, or produced by it, or under its authority, or which it may own in [213 U.S. 366, 404]   whole or in part, or in which it may have any interest, direct or indirect, except such articles or commodities as may be necessary and intended for its use in the conduct of its business as a common carrier.'

The government insists that this provision prohibits railroad companies from transporting in interstate commerce articles or commodities other than the excepted class, which have been manufactured, mined, or produced by them or under their authority, or which they own or may have owned, in whole or in part, or in which they have or may have had any interest, direct or indirect. These prohibitions, it is further insisted, apply to the transportation by a railroad company in interstate commerce of a commodity which has been manufactured, mined, or produced by a corporation in which the transporting railroad company is a stockholder, irrespective of the extent of such stock ownership. This construction of the provision rests not only upon the meaning which the government insists should be given to its text, but on the significance of the text as illumined by what it is insisted was the result intended to be accomplished by the enactment of the clause. The purpose, it is contended, was not merely to compel railroad companies to dissociate themselves before transportation from articles or commodities manufactured, mined, produced, or owned by them, etc., but moreover to divorce the business of transporting commodities in interstate commerce from their manufacture, mining, production, ownership, etc., and thus to avoid the tendency to discrimination, forbidden by the act to regulate commerce, which, it is insisted, necessarily inheres in the carrying on by a railroad company of the business of manufacturing, mining, producing, or owning, in whole or in part, etc., commodities which are by it transported in interstate commerce.

The construction relied on is thus summed up in the argument of the government: 'It (the clause) forbids the carrier who owns the mines and sells coal, to transport that coal in interstate commerce. . . . This is not trifling with the question. It states the exact fact and the reality.' And, in [213 U.S. 366, 405]   accordance with this principle, the insistence in argument is that it was the duty of the carriers who owned and worked coal mines, or who had stock in such mines, or who owned coal, in order to bring themselves within the law, to dispose absolutely of all their interest in coal-producing property, in whatever form enjoyed, and to cease absolutely from acquiring like rights in the future. It was, doubtless, because of the farreaching effect of this construction upon the enormous property interests involved which caused the result of the provision to be thus stated in the argument for the government: 'This is undoubtedly a searching and radical law, and was meant to be so.' True, the government, in argument, suggests that the radical result of the statute may be assuaged, without violating its spirit, by limiting its prohibitions so as to cause them to applty only so long as the commodities to which it applies are in the hands of a carrier or its first vendee. But no such limitation is expressed in the statute, and to engraft it would be an act of pure judicial legislation. Besides, to do so would be repugnant to the asserted spirit and purpose of the statute which lies at the foundation of the construction upon which the government relies.

Let us, as a prelude to an analysis of the clause, for the purpose of fixing its true construction, and determining the constitutional power to enact it when its significance shall have been rightly defined, point out the questions of constitutional power which will require to be decided if the construction relied upon by the government is a correct one.

We at once summarily dismiss all the elaborate suggestions made in argument as to the alleged wrong to result from the enforcement of the clause, if it be susceptible of the construction which the government has placed upon it. We do this because, obviously, mere suggestions of inconvenience or harm are wholly irrelevant, as they cannot be allowed to influence us in determining the question of the constitutional power of Congress to enact the clause.

Let it be conceded at once that the power to regulate com- [213 U.S. 366, 406]   merce possessed by Congress is, in the nature of things, ever-enduring, and therefore the right to exert it to-day, tomorrow, and at all times in its plenitude must remain free from restrictions and limitations arising or asserted to arise by state laws. whether enacted before or after Congress has chosen to exert and apply its lawful power to refulate. For our present purposes, moreover, although we may have occasion to examine the subject hereafter, we entirely put out of view all the contentions based upon the assumption that even, although the provisions of the clause be, in and of themselves, lawful regulations of commerce, if prospectively applied, nevertheless they cannot be so considered, because of their retroactive effect upon the rights of the defendants, alleged to have been secured by valid state laws. We further concede, for the purpose of the inquiry we are at present making, although we may also have occasion to examine the subject hereafter, that the power of Congress to regulate commerce can be constitutionally so exerted as to compel a railroad company engaged in interstate commerce to dissociate itself in interest from the commodities which it transports in interstate commerce, even although, by existing state laws, the railroad company may have a lawful right of ownership or association with the commodity upon which the regulation operates.

With these concessions in mind, and despite their far-reaching effect, if the contentions of the government as to the meaning of the commodity clause be well founded, at least a majority of the court are of the opinion that we may not avoid determining the following grave constitutional questions: 1. Whether the power of Congress to regulate commerce embraces the authority to control or prohibit the mining, manufactureing, production, or ownership of an article or commodity, not because of some inherent quality of the commodity, but simply because it may become the subject of interstate commerce. 2. If the right to regulate commerce does not thus extend, can it be impliedly made to embrace subjects which it does not control, by forbidding a railroad company engaged in [213 U.S. 366, 407]   interstate commerce from carrying lawful articles or commodities because, at some time prior to the transportation, it had manufactured, mined, produced, or owned them, etc.? And involved in the determination of the foregoing questions we shall necessarily be called upon to decide: (a) Did the adoption of the Constitution and the grant of power to Congress to regulate commerce have the effect of depriving the states of the authority to endow a carrier with the attribute of producing as well as transporting particular commodities,-a power which the states from the beginning have freely exercised, and by the exertion of which governmental power the resources of the several states have been developed, their enterprises fostered, and vast investments of capital have been made possible? (b) Although the government of the United States, both within its spheres of national and local legislative power, has in the past, for public purposes, either expressly or impliedly, authorized the manufacture, mining, production, and carriage of commodities by one and the same railway corporation, was the exertion of such power beyond the scope of the authority of Congress, or, what is equivalent thereto, was its exercise but a mere license, subject at any time to be revoked and completely destroyed by means of a regulation of commerce?

While the grave questions thus stated must necessarily, as we have said, arise for decision if the contention of the government, as to the meaning of the commodity clause be correct, we do not intend, by stating them, to decide them, or even in the slightest degree to presently intimate, in any respect whatever, an opinion upon them. It will be time enough to approach their consideration if we are compelled to do so hereafter, as the result of the further analysis which we propose to make in order to ascertain the meaning of the commodities clause.

It is elementary when the constitutionality of a statute is assailed, if the statute be reasonably susceptible of two interpretations, by one of which it would be unconstitutional and by the other valid, it is our plain duty to adopt that construction which will save the statute from constitutional infirmity. [213 U.S. 366, 408]   Knights Templars' & M. Life Indemnity Co. v. Jarman, 187 U.S. 197, 205 , 47 S. L. ed. 139, 145, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 108. And unless this rule be considered as meaning that our duty is to first decide that a statute is unconstitutional, and then proceed to hold that such ruling was unnecessary because the statute is susceptible of a meaning which causes it not to be repugnant to the Constitution, the rule plainly must mean that where a statute is susceptible of two constructions, by one of which grave and doubtful constitutional questions arise and by the other of which such questions are avoided, our duty is to adopt the latter. Harriman v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 211 U.S. 407 , 53 L. ed. --, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 115.

Recurring to the text of the commodities clause, it is apparent that it disjunctively applies four generic prohibitions; that is, it forbids a railroad carrier from transporting in interstate commerce articles or commodities, 1, which it has manufactured, mined, or produced; 2, which have been so mined, manufactured, or produced under its authority; 3, which it owns in whole or in part; and, 4, in which it has an interest, direct or indirect.

It is clear that the two prohibitions which relate to manufacturing, mining, etc., and the ownership resulting therefrom, are, if literally construed, not confined to the time when a carrier transports the commodities with which the prohibitions are concerned, and hence the prohibitions attach and operate upon the right to transport the commodity because of the antecedent acts of manufacture, mining, or production. Certain also is it that the two prohibitions concerning ownership, in whole or in part, and interest, direct or indirect, speak in the present, and not in the past; that is, they refer to the time of the transportation of the commodities. These last prohibitions, therefore, differing from the first two, do not control the commodities if, at the time of the transportation, they are not owned in whole or in part by the transporting carrier, or if it then has no interest, direct or indirect, in them. From this it follows that the construction which the government places upon the clause as a whole is in direct conflict with the literal meaning [213 U.S. 366, 409]   of the prohibitions as to ownership and interest, direct or indirect. If the first two classes of prohibitions as to manufacturing, mining, or production be given their literal meaning, and therefore be held to prohibit, irrespective of the relation of the carrier to the commodity at the time of transportation, and a literal interpretation be applied to the remaining prohibitions as to ownership and interest, thus causing them only to apply if such ownership and interest exist at the time of transportation, the result would be to give to the statute a self- annihilative meaning. This is the case, since, in practical execution, it would come to pass that where a carrier had manufactured, mined, and produced commodities, and had sold them in good faith, it could not transport them; but, on the other hand, if the carrier had owned commodities and sold them it could carry them without violating the law. The consequence, therefore, would be that the statute, because of an immaterial distinction between the sources from which ownership arose, would prohibit transportation in one case and would permit it in another like case. An illustration will make this deduction quite clear: A carrier mines and produces and owns coal as a result thereof. It sells the coal to A. The carrier is impotent to move it for account of A in interstate commerce because of the prohibition of the statute. The same carrier at the same time becomes a dealer in coal, and buys and sells the coal thus bought to the same person, A. This coal the carrier would be competent to carry in interstate commerce. And this illustration not only serves to show the incongruity and conflict which would result from the statute if the rule of literal interpretation be applied to all its provisions, but also serves to point out that, as thus construed, it would lead to the conclusion that it was the intention, in the enactment of the statute, to prohibit manufacturing and production by a carrier, and, at the same time, to offer an incentive to a carrier to become the buyer and seller of commodities which it transported.

But it is said, on behalf of the government, in view of the purpose of Congress to prohibit railroad companies engaged in [213 U.S. 366, 410]   interstate commerce from being, at the same time, manufacturers, producers, owners, etc., of commodities which they carry, despite the literal sense of some of the prohibitions, they should all be construed so as to accomplish the result intended; and therefore their apparent divergence and conflict should be removed by construing them all as prohibiting the transportation because of the causes stated, irrespective of the particular relation of the railroad company to the commodities at the time of transportation. This suggestion, however, simply invites us, under the assumption that Congress had a particular intention in enacting the clause, to so construe the clause as to cause it to be essential to decide the grave constitutional questions which we have hitherto pointed out. On the contrary, as the prohibitions concerning ownership in whole or in part, and interest, direct or indirect, are susceptible only of the construction that the dissociation of the carrier with the products which it transports was contemplated, our duty is, if possible, to treat the other and apparently conflicting prohibitions as embracing a like purpose, and thus harmonize the provisions of the clause and prevent the necessity of approaching and passing upon the grave constitutional questions which would necessarily arise from pursuing the contrary course. This, it is urged, cannot be done, since to do so would be in effect to expunge the prohibitions against manufacturing, mining, and production from the clause, as ownership in whole or in part or interest, direct or indirect, would embrace everything which could possibly have been intended to be expressed by the terms manufacturing, mining, and production, if the proposed reconciliation of the conflict between the prohibitions be brought about. We think, however, that a brief reference to a ruling of this court concerning the effect of the interstate commerce law prior to its amendment by the Hepburn act, will serve to make clear the unsoundness of the proposition. The case referred to is that of New York, N. H. & H. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 200 U.S. 361 , 50 L. ed. 515, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 272. In that case, after much consideration, it was held that the prohibitions of the interstate commerce [213 U.S. 366, 411]   act as to uniformity of rates and against rebates operated to prevent a carrier engaged in interstate commerce from buying and selling a commodity which it carried in such a way as to frustrate the provisions of the act, even if the effect of applying the act would be substantially to render buying and selling by an interstate carrier of a commodity which it transported practically impossible. In thus deciding, however, it became necessary (pp. 399, 400) to refer to rulings of the Interstate Commerce Commission construing the act to regulate commerce, made not long after the enactment of the statute, in which it was held that where interstate commerce carriers were engaged in manufacturing, mining, producing, and carrying commodities in virtue of state charters authorizing them so to do, granted prior to the enactment of the act to regulate commerce, that act could not be applied without confiscation, except in so far as the requirement of reasonableness of rates was concerned. While referring to those administrative rulings, and declaring that, in view of their long standing, the construction which had been thus given to the act should not be departed from, 'at least, until Congress has legislated on the subject' ( p. 401), it was nevertheless plainly intimated that legislation which compelled a carrier, even although authorized by its charter before the passage of the act to regulate commerce to engage in the production as well as transportation of commodities, to dissociate itself before transportation from the products which it manufactured, mined, or produced, would not, when enforced by proper rules and regulations, amount to confiscation. When, therefore, the subject of ownership, in whole or in part, or the interest of a carrier, direct or indirect, in the product which it transported, came to be considered, and the duty to dissociate before transportation came to be legislatively imposed, it is quite natural, in view of the prior administrative rulings and the intimations of this court, conveyed in the opinion in the New York, N. H. & H. R. Co. Case, to assume that the provisions as to manufacturing, mining, and production, while they may be somewhat redundant, were nevertheless expressed [213 U.S. 366, 412]   for the purpose of leaving no possible room for the implication that it was not the intention to include ownership resulting from manufacture, mining, production, etc., even although the right to manufacture, mine, and produce was sanctioned by state charters prior to the enactment of the act to regulate commerce. Looking at the statute from another point of view the same result is compelled. Certain it is that we could not construe the statute literally without bringing about the irreconcilable conflict between its provisions which we had previously pointed out, and therefore some rule of construction is essential to be adopted in order that the statute may have a harmonious operation. Under these circumstances, in view of the far-reaching effect to arise from giving to the first two prohibitions a meaning wholly antagonistic to the remaining ones, we think our duty requires that we should treat the prohibitions as having a common purpose; that is, the dissociation of railroad companies, prior to transportation, from articles or commodities, whether the association resulted from manufacture, mining, production, or ownership, or interest, direct or indirect. In other words, in view of the ambiguity and confusion in the statute, we think the duty of interpreting should not be so exerted as to cause one portion of the statute which, as conceded by the government, is radical and far-reaching in its operation if literally construed, to extend and enlarge another portion of the statute which seems reasonable and free from doubt if also literally interpreted. Rather it seems to us our duty is to restrain the wider, and, as we think, doubtful prohibitions, so as make them accord with the narrow and more reasonable provisions, and thus harmonize the statute.

Nor is there force in the contention that because the going into effect of the clause was postponed for a period of nearly two years, therefore the far-reaching and radical effects which the government attributes to the clause must have been contemplated by Congress. We think, on the contrary, it is reasonable to infer, in view of the facts disclosed in the statement which we have previously excerpted, that the delay accorded [213 U.S. 366, 413]   is entirely consistent with the assumption that it was so granted to afford the time essential to make the changes which would be required to conform to the commands of the clause as we have interpreted it, such as providing the facilities for dissociation by sale at the point of production before transportation or segregation by means of the organization of bona fide manufacturing, mining, or producing corporations.

It remains to determine the nature and character of the interest embraced in the words 'in which it is interested, directly or indirectly.' The contention of the government that the clause forbids a railroad company to transport any commodity manufactured, mined, or produced, or owned in whole or in part, etc., by a bona fide corporation in which the transporting carrier holds a stock interest, however small, is based upon the assumption that such prohibition is embraced in the words we are considering. The opposing contention, however, is that interest, direct or indirect, includes only commodities in which a carrier has a legal interest, and therefore does not exclude the right to carry commodities which have been manufactured, mined, produced or owned by a separate and distinct corporation, simply because the transporting carrier may be interested in the producing, etc., corporation as an owner of stock therein. If the words in question are to be taken as embracing only a legal or equitable interest in the commodities to which they refer, they cannot be held to include commodities manufactured, mined, produced, or owned, etc., by a distinct corporation merely because of a stock ownership of the carrier. Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Missouri P. R. Co. 115 U.S. 588 , 29 L. ed. 499, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 194; Conley v. Mathieson Alkali Works, 190 U.S. 406 , 47 L. ed. 1113, 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 728. And that this is well settled also in the law of Pennsylvania is not questioned. It is unnecessary to pursue the subject in more detail, since it is conceded in the argument for the government that, if the clause embraces only a legal interest in an article or commodity, it cannot be held to include a prohibition against carrying a commodity simply because it had been manufactured, mined, or produced, or is owned by a corporation in [213 U.S. 366, 414]   which the carrier is a stockholder. The contention of the government substantially rests upon the assumption that, unless the words be given the meaning contended for, they are without significance. That this is clearly not the case is well illustrated by the New York, N. H. & H. R. Co. Case, supra. In that case the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company it was shown at one time not only directly engaged in buying, selling, and transporting coal, but subsequently, when a statute was passed in West Virginia prohibiting such dealings, it resorted to indirect methods for the continuance of its previous practice. It may well be that the very object of the provision was to reach and render impossible the successful employment of methods of the character referred to. Certain it is, however, that, in the legislative progress of the clause in the Senate, where the clause originated, an amendment in specific terms, causing the clause to embrace stock ownership, was rejected, and immediately upon such rejection an amendment, expressly declaring that interest, direct or indirect, was intended, among other things, to embrace the prohibition of carrying a commodity manufactured, mined, produced, or owned by a corporation in which a railroad company was interested as a stockholder, was also rejected. 40 Cong. Rec. pt. 7, pp. 7012-7014. And the considerations just stated, we think, completely dispose of the contention that stock ownership must have been in the mind of Congress, and therefore must be treated as though embraced within the evil intended to be remedied, since it cannot in reason be assumed that there is a duty to extend the meaning of a statute beyond its legal sense, upon the theory that a provision which was expressly excluded was intended to be included. If it be that the mind of Congress was fixed on the transportation by a carrier of any commodity produced by a corporation in which the carrier held stock, then we think the failure to provide for such a contingency in express language gives rise to the implication that it was not the purpose to include it. At all events, in view of the far-reaching consequences of giving the statute such a construction as that contended for, as indicated by the [213 U.S. 366, 415]   statement taken from the answers and returns which we have previously inserted in the margin, and of the questions of constitutional power which would arise if that construction was adopted, we hold the contention of the government not well founded.

We then construe the statute as prohibiting a railroad company engaged in interstate commerce from transporting in such commerce articles or commodities under the following circumstances and conditions: (a) When the article or commodity has been manufactured, mined, or produced by a carrier or under its authority, and, at the time of transportation, the carrier has not, in good faith, before the act of transportation, dissociated itself from such article or commodity; (b) When the carrier owns the article or commodity to be transported, in whole or in part; (c) When the carrier, at the time of transportation, has an interest, direct or indirect, in a legal or equitable sense, in the article or commodity, not including, therefore, articles or commodities manufactured, mined, produced, or owned, etc., by a bona fide corporation in which the railroad company is a stockholder.

The question then arises whether, as thus construed, the statute was inherently within the power of Congress to enact as a regulation of commerce. That it was, we think is apparent; and if reference to authority to so demonstrate is necessary, it is afforded by a consideration of the ruling in the New York, N. H. & H. R. Co. Case, to which we have previously referred. We do not say this upon the assumption that, by the grant of power to regulate commerce, the authority of the government of the United States has been unduly limited, on the one hand, and inordinately extended, on the other, nor do we rest it upon the hypothesis that the power conferred embraces the right to absolutely prohibit the movement between the states of lawful commodities, or to destroy the governmental power of the states as to subjects within their jurisdiction, however remotely and indirectly the exercise of such powers may touch interstate commerce. On the contrary, putting these considerations en- [213 U.S. 366, 416]   tirely out of mind, the conclusion just previously stated rests upon what we deem to be the obvious result of the statute as we have interpreted it; that it merely and unequivocally is confined to a regulation which Congress had the power to adopt and to which all pre-existing rights of the railroad companies were subordinated. Armour Packing Co. v. United States, 209 U.S. 56 , 52 L. ed. 681, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 428.

We think it unnecessary to consider at length the contentions based upon the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. In form of statement those contentions apparently rest upon the ruinous consequences which it is assumed would be operated upon the property rights of the carriers by the enforcement of the clause, interpreted as the government construed it. For the purpose of our consideration of the subject it may be conceded, as insisted on behalf of the United States, that these contentions proceed upon the mistaken and baleful conception that inconvenience, not power, is the criterion by which to test the constitutionality of legislation. When, however, mere forms of statement are put aside and the real scope of the argument at bar is grasped, we think it becomes clear that, in substance and effect, the argument really asserts that the clause, as construed by the government, is not a regulation of commerce, since it transcends the limits of regulation and embraces absolute prohibitions, which, it is insisted, could not be exerted in virtue of the authority to regulate. The whole support upon which the propositions and the arguments rest hence disappears as a result of the construction which we have given the statute. Through abundance of caution we repeat that our ruling here made is confined to the question before us. Because, therefore, in pointing out and applying to the statute the true rule of construction, we have indicated the grave constitutional questions which would be presented if we departed from that rule, we must not be considered as having decided those questions. We have not entered into their consideration, as it was unnecessary for us to do so.

Without elaborating, we hold the contention that the clause [213 U.S. 366, 417]   under consideration is void because of the exception as to timber, and the manufactured products thereof, is without merit. Deciding, as we do, that the clause, as construed, was a lawful exercise by Congress of the power to regulate commerce, we know of no constitutional limitation requiring that such a regulation, when adopted, should be applied to all commodities alike. It follows that even if we gave heed to the many reasons of expedience which have been suggested in argument against the exception, and the injustice and favoritism which it is asserted will be operated thereby, that fact can have no weight in passing upon the question of power. And the same reasons also dispose of the contention that the clause is void as a discrimination between carriers.

With reference to the contention that the commodities clause is void because of the nature and character of the penalties which it imposes for violations of its provisions, within the ruling in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 , 52 L. ed. 714, 13 L.R.A. (N.S.) 932, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 441, we think it also suffices to say that even if the delay which the clause provided should elapse between its enactment and the going into effect of the same does not absolutely exclude the clause from the ruling in Ex parte Young,-a question which we do not feel called upon to decide,- nevertheless the proposition is without merit, because (a) no penalties are sought to be recovered in these cases, and (b) the question of the constitutionality of the clause relating to penalties is wholly separable from the remainder of the clause, and, therefore, may be left to be determined should an effort to enforce such penalties be made.

There is a contention as to one of the defendants, the Delaware & Hudson Company, to which we, at the outset, referred. which requires to be particularly noticed. Under the charters granted to the company by the states of New York and Pennsylvania, it was authorized to secure coal lands and mine coal, and, without going into detail, was originally authorized to construct a canal, and, ultimately, a railroad for the purpose of transporting, for its own account, the products of its mines; and, undoubtedly, vast sums of money have been in- [213 U.S. 366, 418]   vested in carrying out these purposes. It is true also that the company is the owner of stock in various coal corporations. The claim now to be disposed of is that, by the true construction of its charters, the Delaware & Hudson Company is not a railroad company within the meaning of the term as used in the commodities clause, but is really a coal company. The contention, we think, is without merit. The facts stated in the excerpts from the answer and returns of the company, which we have previously placed in the margin, leave no doubt that the corporation was engaged as a common carrier by rail in the transportation of coal in the channels of interstate commerce, and as such we think it was a railroad company within the purview of the clause, and subject to the regulations which are embodied therein, as we have interpreted them.

As the court below held the statute wholly void for repugnancy to the Constitution, it follows from the views which we have expressed that the judgments and the decrees entered below must be reversed. As, however, it was conceded in the discussion at bar that, in view of the public and private interests which were concerned, the United States did not seek to enforce the penalties of the statute, but commenced these proceedings with the object and purpose of settling the differences between it and the defendants, concerning the meaning of the commodities clause and the power of Congress to enact it, as correctly interpreted, and upon this view the proceedings were heard below by submission upon the pleadings, we are of opinion that the ends of justice will be subserved not by reversing and remanding with particular directions as to each of the defendants, but by reversing and remanding with directions for such further proceedings as may be necessary to apply and enforce the statute as we have interpreted it.

And it is so ordered.

Mr. Justice Harlan, dissenting:

As these cases have been determined wholly on the construction of those parts of the Hepburn act [34 Stat. at L. 584, chap. 3591, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 892] which are here in ques- [213 U.S. 366, 419]   tion, and as Congress if it sees fit, may meet that construction by additional legislation, I deem it unnecessary to enter upon an extended discussion of the various questions arising upon the record, and will content myself simply with an expression of my nonconcurrence in the view taken by the court as to the meaning and scope of certain provisions of the act. In my judgment the act, reasonably and properly construed, according to its language, includes within its prohibitions a railroad company transporting coal, if, at the time, it is the owner, legally or equitably, of stock-certainly, if it owns a majority or all the stock-in the company which mined, manufactured, or produced, and then owns, the coal which is being transported by such railroad company. Any other view of the act will enable the transporting railroad company, by one device or another, to defeat altogether the purpose which Congress had in view, which was to divorce, in a real, substantial sense, production and transportation, and thereby to prevent the transporting company from doing injustice to other owners of coal.


in the purchase of a large quantity of coal lands in the state of Pennsylvania and in the construction of canal navigation in Pennsylvania from the Delaware river to the Hudson river; that later, under statutes of both states, it invested additional capital in the construction of railroads in the state of Pennsylvania, and in the construction and acquisition of railroads and leasehold estates in the state of New York, for the same general purpose of transporting coal from the coal lands owned by it; that it has invested large sums of money, not only in the acquisition of coal property, but in the erection of structures for mining and terminal facilities; that some of its coal properties were acquired under leases upon royalties payable to the lessors for each ton of coal mined, the leases fixing large minimum amounts by way of rent; that large fixed rentals are required to be paid, not only for those mining lands, but for railroads acquired for the purpose of transporting coal; that there are three coal companies whose shares are practically all owned by it; viz., the Northern Coal & Iron Company, the Jackson Coal Company, and the Hudson Coal Company; that its mining lands thus owned and acquired are located upon or contiguous to the railroads of defendant; that said railroads are the only reasonable, practical, and conveniently available avenues of transportation whereby the coal by it produced can be transported in interstate commerce, and the coal mined by the defendant and by said coal companies upon its lines of railroad amounts approximately to 70 per cent of the entire transportation by it, or to about 4,300,000 gross tons, its daily shipments averaging about 12 trains of 37 coal cars each; that the coal lands so acquired by the defendant and by said three coal companies would have little, if any, value, except for the mining of coal therefrom and its sale as a commercial commodity, and that if it is deprived, by virtue of the said act of Congress, of the right to transport said coal, it will be deprived of the only possible enjoyment of its property. It further avers that it is not a 'railroad company' within the meaning of the act of Congress, but that it is a coal company; and that since the year 1870 it has become, incidentally to its business as a coal mining company, a common carrier by railroad of passengers and property.

It is further averred, as a special ground of defense by the said Delaware & Hudson Company, that this said 'commodities clause' does not apply to it, because all the coal mined by it upon its own lands, and upon the lands of the said three coal companies (except as to steam sizes,

as thereafter stated), 'is sold, before transportation thereof begins, by said company to third persons at the mines in Pennsylvania from which such coal has been produced, and that said company does not, at the time when the same is so transported by it in interstate commerce, own the same nor any interest therein, direct or indirect, apart from its obligation and rights as a common carrier in the transportation thereof, and that it carries said coal for the account of the purchaser thereof, who is the consignor and owner of said coal.' (2) The answer of the Erie Railroad Company states that it was originally organized under the laws of the state of New York in 1832 . . . that it has been reorganized from time to time under mortgage foreclosure; and finally, in November, 1895, under a foreclosure sale, it was reorganized under the statutes of New York, whereby it 'became the lawful owner of the property, rights, privileges, immunities, and franchises of all its predecessors aforesaid, including the shares of capital stock of coal companies and of railroad companies, as well as the railroads theretofore held and possessed by said predecessor companies, the railroads so owned by it and its said subsidiary companies having an aggregate mileage of over 2,100 miles in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois;' that the Pennsylvania Coal Company was created a corporation by the laws of Pennsylvania in 1838 . . . its charter giving it the right of 'transacting the usual business of companies engaged in mining, transporting to market, and selling coal and the other products of coal mined;' and for that purpose it was given the power to purchase or lease coal lands in Pennsylvania; also the power to construct railroads with one or more tracks. In 1853 . . . the said Pennsylvania Coal Company was authorized to extend its railroad to connect with the New York & Erie Railroad. The right of said Pennsylvania Coal Company to buy coal lands and build railroad connections was continued by acts of the legislature of Pennsylvania in 1857 . . . 1864 . . . 1867 . . . and 1868 . . . ; that in pursuance of these various acts of the legislature, the Pennsylvania Coal Company obtained capital, issued stock therefor, acquired coal lands, developed coal mines, produced, transported to markets, and sold coal; built and operated railroads, made railway connections as authorized, and did other like acts to promote the business of supplying all persons needing the same with anthracite coal. The Hillside Coal & Iron Company was organized by an act of the legislature of the state of Pennsylvania in 1869 . . . for the purposes and with powers similar to those

of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. Under authority of acts of the legislature of Pennsylvania the said Erie Railroad Company, long prior to the passage of the said amendment to the interstate commerce act, acquired substantially all the capital stock of said Pennsylvania Coal Company, the Hillside Coal & Iron Company, the Jefferson Railroad Company, and Erie & Wyoming Railroad Company, and a small minority of the stock of the Temple Iron Company; and has pledged the same under various mortgages, pursuant to which have been issued and are now outstanding bonds for large sums, aggregating many millions of dollars, which bonds are held by purchasers in good faith and for value throughout the world; that, for many years prior to May 1, 1908, it has been engaged in transporting the coal of said corporations to markets outside the state of Pennsylvania, many of which can only be reached from the railroad lines of this defendant; that the coal so transported amounts annually to several millions of tons and constitutes 22 per cent of the entire freight tonnage of this defendant, the Erie Company. It also denies that it is, by reason of the ownership of said stock in said companies, the owner in whole or in part of the coal transported by it in interstate commerce, or that it has or had any interest, direct or indirect, therein, and therefore has not violated or failed to complay with the so-called 'commodities clause' of the interstate commerce act.

(3) The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey avers that it was organized under the laws of the state of New Jersey, and by these laws was authorized to purchase and hold the stock or securities of any other corporation, of New Jersey or elsewhere, and that it was also so suthorized by two acts of assembly of the state of Pennsylvania, one of which, approved April 15th, 1869 . . . was entitled 'An Act to Authorize Railroad and Canal Companies to Aid in the Development of Coal, Iron, Lumber, and Other Material Interests of This Commonwealth;' that, pursuant to the authority of these several acts, it had, long prior to the said act of Congress, become the owner of a majority of the shares of the capital stock of the Honeybrook Coal Company and of the Wilkesbarre Coal & Iron Company, both companies now being merged into the Lehigh & Wilkesbarre Coal Company, a large majority of whose shares are owned by it; that it also owns a minority of the shares of the Temple Iron Company; that in 1871 it became the lessee of the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad, a Pennsylvania corporation, which it has ever since operated under an obligation to pay a yearly rental of not less than $1,414,400, and not

Mining Company, corporations of the state of Pennsylvania; that since the lastmentioned year, and up to the present time, it has carried the coal produced from the mines of the said coal companies, at lawfully established schedule rates, over its lines of railroad; that approximately 65 per cent of the coal so mined has been carried to destinations outside the state of Pennsylvania; that it mines no coal, but that the coal it carries is mined by the said coal companies, and that it has no interest therein within the meaning of the said act of Congress, either direct or indirect; that the most largely producting of the properties belonging to these coal companies are located either directly upon or so contiguous to the system of railroads operated by said defendant as to render transportation by any other railroads not reasonably practicable.

(6) The answer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company states that it was originally incorporated September 20th, 1847, under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania. Under the authority of various acts of assembly of the said state, other railroad and coal companies, prior to the year 1874, have been merged into it, some of which railroads were expressly authorized to construct railroads and to carry on the business of mining, transporting, and vending coal. It is also the lessee of railroads in Pennsylvania; that, by means of its own and of said leased lines of railroad, it conducts, and for many years had conducted, an interstate transportation of coal; that since 1872, pursuant to authority conferred by the laws of Pennsylvania, it has also owned the majority of the capital stock of the New York & Middle Coal Field Railroad & Coal Company, a corporation of the state of Pennsylvania; also the entire capital stock of Coxe Bros. & Company a corporation of said state; a minority interest in the capital stock of the Highland Coal Company; a majority of the stock of the Locust Mountain Coal & Iron Company; a minority interest of the capital stock of the Packer Coal Company and of the Temple Iron Company, all corporations of the state of Pennsylvania, organized for the purpose of mining coal, some of them more than a half century ago; that it has constructed lines of railroad and branch railroads and terminal facilities for the purpose of transporting to market, in interstate commerce, the coal of the company whose shares it owns, and this business has been conducted by it for many years; that practically said coal can be transported to market only by its railroads; that the capital stock of two of the coal companies owned by said defendant has been transferred to a trustee, to hold under a general mortgage executed by

defendant, under which mortgage bonds to the amount of $23,539,000 have been issued by said defendant and are now outstanding in the hands of the public; that the capital stock of Coxe Bros. & Company, Incorporated, owned by this defendant as aforesaid, has been transferred and assigned to, and is now held by, a trustee under a collateral trust agreement executed by said defendant, dated November 1, 1905, for the purpose and upon the terms expressed in said agreement, a copy of which is annexed to said answer, and that bonds to the amount of $18,000,000 have been issued under said agreement and are now outstanding in the hands of the public; that said defendant transports annually, in interstate commerce, upwards of 7, 600,000 tons of anthracite coal, shipped by the said coal companies whose stock is owned by said defendant, in whole or in part as aforesaid, and transports annually for said coal companies, wholly within the state of Pennsylvania, upwards of 1,500,000 tons; that nearly 42 per cent of its gross annual earnings of $36,068,431 for the last fiscal

year, or $15,110,899, were derived from coal freights, which represented over 51 per cent of its entire freight tonnage; that the greater part of its gross earnings from coal transportation was received from the coal companies whose shares are by it owned; that the mines and collieries of said coal companies are all so located in the portions of the coal fields tributary to its lines of railroad that no means of transporting their product can be made available, except by defendant's railroads; that the railroad lines of this defendant have been from time to time extended, the control of other railroads acquired, and its facilities and equipment increased at enormous expense, in reliance upon the rights and franchises conferred by the statutes of Pennsylvania aforesaid; that a very large part of defendant's earnings is derived from the freight and passenger traffic incidental to and dependent upon the operation of the mines and collieries of said coal companies, and that, if said defendant were deprived of the earnings derived from the transportation of the coal of said coal companies, its business could not be continued, except at a net loss of many millions of dollars per annum.

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Citation: 213 U.S. 366

Docket No: No. 559

Decided: May 03, 1909

Court: United States Supreme Court

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