Perrine v. Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company
50 U.S. 172

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U.S. Supreme Court

Perrine v. Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company, 50 U.S. 9 How. 172 172 (1850)

Perrine v. Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company

50 U.S. (9 How.) 172

Syllabus

The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company have no right under their charter to demand toll from passengers who pass through the canal, or from vessels on account of the passengers on board.

The articles upon which the company is authorized to take toll are particularly enumerated and the amount specified. The toll is imposed on commodities on board of a vessel passing through the canal.

No toll is given on the vessels themselves, except only when they have no commodities on board or not sufficient to yield a toll of four dollars.

Passengers are not mentioned in the enumeration, nor is any toll given upon a vessel on account of the persons or passengers it may have on board.

A corporation created by statute is a mere creature of the law, and can exercise no powers except those which the law confers upon it. The canal company is not the absolute owner of the works, but holds the property only for the purposes for which it was created. It has not, therefore, the same unlimited control over it which an individual has over his property.

Nor has the company a right to refuse permission for passengers to pass through the canal. On the contrary, anyone has a right to navigate the canal for the transportation of passengers with passenger boats, without paying any toll on the passengers on board, upon his paying or offering to pay the toll prescribed by law upon the commodities on board or the toll prescribed by law on a vessel or boat when it is empty of commodities.

This cause involved the construction of the ninth and eleventh sections of the charter granted by Maryland, the provisions of which are similar to those of the charter granted by Delaware.

"SEC. 9. For and in consideration of the expenses the said stockholders will be at not only in cutting the said canal and other works for opening the said navigation, but in maintaining and keeping the same in repair, the said canal and works, with all their profits, under the limitations aforesaid, shall be, and the same are hereby, vested in the said corporation forever, and it shall and may be lawful for the said president and directors, after the said canal shall be made navigable, to demand and receive the following tolls . . . every pipe of wine or French brandy containing . . . 'one dollar and twenty-five cents,' . . . [&c., enumerating articles and specifying the tolls] and for all other commodities the same proportion, agreeable to the articles herein enumerated, and every boat or vessel which has not commodities on board to pay the sum of four dollars shall pay so much as, with the commodities on board, will yield the sum aforesaid, and every empty boat or vessel four dollars, except an empty boat or vessel returning, whose load has already paid the tolls affixed, in which case she shall pass toll-free. "

Page 50 U. S. 173

"SEC. 11. The said canal and works to be erected thereon by virtue of this act, when completed, shall forever thereafter be esteemed and taken to be navigable as a public highway, free for the transportation of all goods, commodities, or produce whatsoever, on payment of the toll imposed by this act, and no tax whatsoever for the use of the water of the said canal, or the works thereon erected, shall at any time hereafter be imposed by all or either of the said states."

The following correspondence explains the origin of the dispute.

"(Exhibit No. 1)"

"To the President and Directors of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Co., Philadelphia."

"Princeton, N.J., 24 March, 1847"

"GENTLEMEN -- As I propose to establish a canal passenger line of boats between Camden, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to pass through your canal, I think proper to give you notice of my intention so to do. My plan is to commence running on 1 May next, to be continued through the spring and summer. I have been informed that the company of which you constitute the board of president and directors claim the right to prevent the transit of passengers through the said canal if you deem it expedient so to do, and that if you permit it, you still maintain the right to charge a toll for each passenger whom you allow to pass through. Now being of opinion that neither by your charter nor by law are you authorized either to exclude passengers or to charge a toll on them, I beg to inquire whether any such right or authority is claimed or will be insisted on by you, so as to prevent future misunderstanding, and I shall be obliged by an answer at your earliest convenience."

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"

"[Signed] J. A. PERRINE"

"TO CALEB NEWBOLD, ESQ."

"Pres't Ches. & Del. Canal Co., Philadelphia"

"(Exhibit No. 2)"

"Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Office"

"Philadelphia, 30 March, 1847"

"At a meeting of the Board of President and Directors of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company held this day, the president laid before the board a letter dated 24th instant, from John A. Perrine, Esq., of New Jersey, stating his intention to

Page 50 U. S. 174

establish a canal passenger line between Camden, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and making inquiry as to the transportation of passengers through the canal, and a charge of tolls therefor."

"The said letter was read and considered, and it was resolved that the President reply to Mr. Perrine and inform him that the company claims the right to exclude passengers unless their transit is allowed by the special permission of the company, and if that is granted, then to receive a fair rate of toll for each passenger."

"Extracts from the minutes."

"PETER V. LESLEY, Sec."

"(Exhibit No. 3)"

TO JOHN A. PERRINE, ESQ., Princeton, New Jersey.

"Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Office"

"Philadelphia, 30 March, 1847"

"SIR: Your letter of the 24th instant, addressed to the President and Directors of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Co., has been received, and was laid before the board. A resolution was passed by them, of which I enclose you a copy. The company regard the canal as a 'public highway, free for the transportation of all goods, commodities, or produce whatsoever,' on payment of the tolls 'authorized by charter, and for boats or vessels which have not commodities on board,' on payment of the sum authorized in such case by charter, but they deny that it is a public highway for the transportation of passengers, and claim the right to exclude passengers, except by special permission of the company, and if that is granted, then to receive a fair rate of toll for each passenger. The canal was intended by the charter to be used by vessels engaged in commerce, not by passenger lines, which interfere with the trade and injure the canal. Any vessel you may send in the line you propose to establish will be permitted to pass through if they have goods, commodities, and produce on board, or, if empty, on payment of the regular tolls now imposed. If you carry passengers, or persons not engaged in the navigation or business of the vessel or cargo, you will be required to pay one dollar toll for each passenger on arriving at the first lock. If you refuse to make this payment or to land your passengers, the vessel will not be permitted to pass through the canal. I am directed also to say that if your vessels pass through the canal, they will be required to adhere strictly to all the existing rules and regulations as to speed and conduct. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"

"[Signed] C. NEWBOLD, JR., President"

Page 50 U. S. 175

"(Exhibit No. 4)"

"To the President and Directors of the Chesapeake& Delaware Canal Company."

"Princeton, New Jersey, April 1, 1847"

"GENTLEMEN: I have received the letter of your President dated 30 March. After due reflection, I have in reply to say that I do not consider the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company as being authorized by law either to exclude passengers from my vessels or to charge me any other toll than the sum they are authorized by the charter to receive for an empty vessel. This I will pay, but no more, unless I have commodities on board, and then no more than the regular tolls now imposed thereon. Not deeming it necessary to prolong this correspondence, I shall only further repeat my notice that I shall commence the canal passenger line mentioned in my letter of the 24th ultimo on the 1st day of May next, and I trust no obstacle will be presented by your officers or agents at the canal."

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"

"[Signed] JOHN A. PERRINE"

"(Exhibit No. 5)"

"Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Office"

"Philadelphia, April 6, 1847"

"At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company held this day, the President laid before the board a copy of a letter addressed by him on 30 March, 1847, to John A. Perrine, Esq., of Princeton, New Jersey, in compliance with the resolution of the board of 30 March, 1847, and also the answer of Mr. Perrine thereto, dated the 1st instant."

"The said letters were read and considered, and that of the President approved. It was then, on motion, resolved -- "

"That the President instruct the superintendent at the Delaware Tide Lock, on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, to permit any vessel of the canal passenger line established by John A. Perrine, Esq., to pass through the canal if it have goods, commodities, or produce on board, or if empty, on payment of the regular tolls now imposed, but if the said vessel carry passengers or persons not engaged in the navigation or business of the vessel or cargo, to require from the master of said vessel the payment of one dollar toll for each passenger before said vessel passes out of said lock, and if such payment be not made or the passengers be not landed from said vessel,

Page 50 U. S. 176

then not to permit it to pass through the canal. And further, to instruct the superintendent, and the officers and agents of the company to be diligent in requiring any such vessel, if it shall enter or pass through the canal, to adhere strictly to all the existing rules and regulations as to speed and conduct."

"Resolved, That the President transmit to Mr. Perrine a copy of the above resolution."

"Extract from the minutes."

"PETER V. LESLEY, Secretary"

"(Exhibit No. 6)"

"TO JOHN A. PERRINE, ESQ., Princeton, New Jersey."

"Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Office"

"Philadelphia, April 6, 1847"

"SIR: Your letter of the 1st inst. was received and laid before the board. Pursuant to their direction, I enclose a copy of a resolution adopted in relation thereto."

"It is proper for me to apprise you that the instructions therein mentioned have been given to the superintendent at the Delaware Tide Lock, and they will be strictly enforced."

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"

"[Signed] C. NEWBOLD, JR., President"

"(Exhibit No. 7)"

"TO MR. JOHN ASH, Superintendent of the Delaware Tide Lock on the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal."

"Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Office"

"Philadelphia, April 6, 1847"

"SIR: I enclose a copy of a resolution this day adopted by the Board of President and Directors, in relation to a canal passenger line established by John A. Perrine, Esq., of New Jersey; you will be particular in enforcing the decision of the board, as contained in this resolution."

"Very respectfully, yours,"

"[Signed] C. NEWBOLD, JR., President"

In consequence of this action, the complainant, on 12 April, 1847, filed his bill in the Circuit Court for the Delaware District, setting forth the preceding facts, and to the end that he might be protected against the acts and doings of the said corporation and that the right to transport passengers through the said canal in his said canal passenger line and in boats and vessels upon payment of the tolls authorized by law upon

Page 50 U. S. 177

the boats or vessels, or upon the goods, commodities, or produce on board thereof, and free from any charge in respect of the passengers transported in said canal passenger line, or on board of the said boats or vessels, might be established by the decree of the court, and the said corporation restrained from preventing the transit of passengers in his said canal passenger line, and from imposing any toll upon it in respect of the passengers on board of the same, or from hindering its free passage with passengers and persons, others than those engaged in the navigation or business of the vessel or cargo, until the said payment in respect of such passengers and persons on board; he prayed for an injunction to restrain the corporation and its superintendent at the Delaware Tide Lock, and its officers and agents, from executing and carrying into effect the resolution of the board, and the instructions issued in pursuance thereof.

The company, on 3 May, filed their answer, in which they admitted the facts and proceedings alleged in the complainant's bill, and that the instructions given to their officers would be enforced, in regard to the canal passenger line of the complainant, and any boat or vessel belonging to him, but they denied that either by any provision, terms, or conditions of their charters of incorporation, or by any law, they are or were forbidden, or ought not to have passed the resolution in question, or given such instructions, but, on the contrary, that they are advised that the same are within their franchises, authorities, rights, and privileges granted by or arising under their charters of incorporation, and the acts supplementary thereto, and that they ought not to be restrained from enforcing them, but allowed to do so.

"At May term, 1847, the cause coming on to be heard, the following questions occurred:"

"1st. Is the canal company entitled to charge the compensation or toll mentioned in the proceedings for passengers on board the complainant's boat passing through the canal?"

"2d. Has the complainant a right to navigate the canal for the transportation of passengers, with passenger boats, paying or offering to pay toll upon the boats as empty boats, or upon commodities on board, but without toll or compensation for passengers, as proposed in his correspondence contained in the exhibits?"

"And upon each of these questions the opinions of the judges were opposed."

"And thereupon, at this same term, at the request and upon motion of the complainant's counsel, the said points, on which

Page 50 U. S. 178

the disagreement has happened, are stated under the direction of the judges, and to be certified, under the seal of this court, to the Supreme Court of the United States, at their next session, to be finally decided. "

Page 50 U. S. 180

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