Achison v. Huddleson - 53 U.S. 293 (1851)
U.S. Supreme Court
Achison v. Huddleson, 53 U.S. 12 How. 293 293 (1851)
Achison v. Huddleson
53 U.S. (12 How.) 293
Under an act passed by the State of Maryland and an assent given to it by Congress, no toll could be levied, for passing over the Cumberland Road upon coaches which carried the United States mail.
In 1843, the Legislature of Maryland passed an act imposing a toll upon all passengers in mail coaches, and if it were not paid, a toll of one dollar for each coach for every time that it passed over the road.
The toll upon passengers in mail coaches was inconsistent with the compact made between Maryland and Congress, and therefore void.
And the toll, per coach, of one dollar is more properly a commutation of tolls than a penalty, and therefore void also.
This was originally a suit brought in the County Court of Alleghany County in Maryland by Jonathan Huddleson, superintendent of that part of the United States Road within the limits of the State of Maryland, against Stockton, Falls, Moore and Achison, trading under the firm and style of Stockton, Falls & Co., who were the contractors for carrying the mail across the Alleghany Mountains.
In 1832, the State of Maryland passed an act relative to the Cumberland Road, proposing to collect certain tolls upon it for the purpose of keeping it in repair. This act contained the following:
"And provided further that no tolls shall be received or collected for the passage of any wagon or carriage laden with the property of the United States, or any cannon or military stores belonging to the United States or to any of the states composing this Union."
The Congress of the United States, by an Act approved July 3, 1832, entitled "An act making appropriations for certain internal improvements for the year 1832," gave the assent of Congress to the provisions of the aforesaid act of the Legislature of Maryland in the words following, to-wit:
"And of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Maryland entitled 'An act for the preservation and repair of that part of the United States road within the limits of the State of Maryland, passed the twenty-third day of January, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two,' to which said acts the assent of the United States is hereby given, to remain in force during the pleasure of Congress."
It was admitted by agreement of counsel that Stockton, Falls & Co., during the whole time for which the charge for the transit of stages upon the said United States road was made, were the carriers of the United States mails, in four-horse post coaches under a contract with the Postmaster General of the United States, two articles of which looked to the transportation of passengers with the mail.
On 10 March, 1843, the Legislature of Maryland passed an act, the first three sections of which were as follows:
"SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Maryland that from and after the passage of this act there shall be demanded and received by the toll collectors on that part of the United States road within the limits of the State of Maryland from the owner or owners of every passenger or mail coach or stage passing the gates on said road, the sum of four cents for every passenger carried in the same, for every space of ten miles on said road, and so in proportion for every greater or less distance, which shall be taken and received in lieu of the tolls now established by law on all coaches or stages with four horses passing over said road, and which shall be collected, paid out, and expended as other tolls on said road are collected, paid out and expended, under existing laws."
"SEC. 2. And be [it] enacted that it shall be the duty of the proprietor or proprietors, his, her, or their agent, to furnish under oath, on the first Monday of every month, to the gate-keeper at number one, a list showing the number of passengers transported over said road in their respective coaches for the month next preceding the time when said list is so returned."
"SEC. 3. And be it enacted that in the event of said proprietors'
or agents' failing or refusing to comply with the provisions of the second section of this act, then and in that case it shall be the duty of the gate-keeper at gate number one to demand of and receive from such proprietor or proprietors so failing the sum of one dollar for each and every stage coach passing over said road its entire length."
In the agreed statement of facts in the county court, the counsel further agreed as follows:
"It is agreed that the stage coaches, for which the sum of one dollar each is sought to be recovered in this action, were four-horse stage coaches, used and employed by the defendants in the transportation of the United States mails under the contract in that behalf before mentioned, and that the passengers for the failure of the defendants to furnish the lists of whom, under the act of Legislature of Maryland last above mentioned, the said sum of one dollar per stage coach is charged and demanded in this action were passengers transported in the said coaches, carrying the said United States mails as aforesaid."
"It is further admitted that the number of coaches in which the said mails were carried were necessary for the said carriage of the said mails, and that there was no unfairness nor fraud on the part of the defendants in dividing the said mails so as to use a greater number of coaches for the carriage of said mails than were actually necessary for such purpose."
"It is further admitted that the defendants did carry passengers daily in the said four-horse coaches, and that the said defendants did not comply with the provisions of the second section of the Act of the General Assembly of Maryland aforesaid passed on 10 March, 1843, as aforesaid by returning a list on the first Monday of every month or at any other time showing the number of passengers thus transported over the said road in the said coaches. It is admitted that the said acts of assembly of Maryland did not increase the tolls above a sum necessary to defray the expenses incident to the preservation and repair of said road."
"If, upon this statement of facts, the court shall be of opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to recover, either upon the present declaration or upon an amended declaration, for the four cents per passenger for every ten miles, the judgment to be entered for the plaintiff for seven hundred and sixteen dollars. If the court shall be of opinion that the plaintiff is not entitled to recover in either case, then judgment to be given for the defendants; either party will be at liberty to appeal to the Court of Appeals or sue out a writ of error."
Upon this statement of facts, the county court gave judgment for the plaintiff, for the amount mentioned in the statement.
Achison, who was the representative of Stockton, Falls & Co., carried the case to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, where the judgment was affirmed, and he then brought it up to this Court.