No federal question is presented in this bill, on which the
circuit court could base the exercise of jurisdiction, and such
jurisdiction cannot be found in the character of the controversy as
one existing between citizens of different states.
A railroad company, owning and operating a line running through
several states, may receive and exercise powers granted by each,
but does not thereby become a citizen of every state it passes
through within the meaning of the jurisdiction clause of the
Constitution of the United States.
The St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad Company, describing
itself as a corporation created and subsisting under and by virtue
of the laws of Kansas and Nebraska, and as a common carrier
operating a railroad as a continuous line from the City of Grand
Island, in the State of Nebraska, to the City of St. Joseph, in the
State of Missouri, which railroad passes through Doniphan County,
in the State of Kansas, filed in the Circuit Court of the United
States for the District of Kansas a bill of complaint against R. M.
Steele, sheriff of said Doniphan County, and a citizen of the State
of Kansas, seeking to restrain the said Steele, as Sheriff of
Doniphan County, from levying upon and selling the complainant's
property situated in said county for taxes assessed and levied
against the same for the year 1892 by the assessing authorities of
Page 167 U. S. 660
The defendant answered, and agreed statement of facts was filed;
and, after argument, a decree was entered dismissing the bill at
plaintiff's costs. Thereupon an appeal was taken by the complainant
to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit, where the decree of the circuit court was affirmed. 63 F.
867. The case was then brought to this Court on appeal.
MR. JUSTICE SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing
language, delivered the opinion of the Court.
The St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad Company, in its
petition filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for the
District of Kansas against R. M. Steele, Sheriff of Doniphan
County, Kansas, alleged that the controversy in the case involved
the construction of an act of Congress approved July 14, 1870,
granting to the St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company the
right to build a bridge and maintain the same across the Missouri
River at or near St. Joseph, Missouri, and also of an act of
Congress approved March 5, 1872, authorizing and empowering the St.
Joseph Bridge Building Company to construct a bridge across the
Missouri River at or near St. Joseph. Missouri; that said bridge
was built under these acts, and that all of its revenue-producing
facilities were derived therefrom, and that the controversy was
over the right to tax this bridge.
But the other allegations of the bill disclose the case of a
dispute arising under the taxing laws of the State of Kansas.
One-half of said bridge is within Doniphan County. On May 16, 1892,
the railroad company returned to the auditor of the state a list
and schedule of its property and railroad, including that part of
said bridge. Thereupon the state board of railroad assessors for
the State of Kansas duly assessed, for the purposes of taxation for
the year 1892, all the property of
Page 167 U. S. 661
said railroad company; the County Commissioners of Doniphan
County, in pursuance of law, duly fixed and determined the amount
of the tax which the railroad company was to pay for the year 1892,
and the company duly paid the same to the Treasurer of Doniphan
County. Subsequently one George Manville, as Trustee and Assessor
of Washington Township in Doniphan County, made an assessment of
that part of said bridge lying within said township, claiming that
the same was subject to taxation in said township as an independent
structure and as a toll bridge. Thereupon the County Commissioners
of Doniphan County, at their regular meeting in the month of June,
1892, acted upon said assessment, and, against the protest of the
railroad company, levied upon said portion of the bridge lying
within Washington Township a tax for the year 1892.
The railroad company alleges in its bill that neither the county
nor township authorities of Doniphan County, have or had any
authority or jurisdiction to assess and levy any taxes whatever
upon the bridge property of the company in Doniphan County, but
that the said State Board of Railroad Assessors of Kansas had
exclusive jurisdiction for assessing the said property of the
company in said county, and asks for an injunction restraining the
sheriff of said county from selling or offering for sale the said
bridge property for the taxes so assessed against the same for the
year 1892 by the local authorities of Doniphan County.
It thus appears that the railroad company does not claim that,
by virtue of any provisions of the several acts of Congress under
which the bridge was built, the company is exonerated from paying
taxes on the same within the jurisdiction of the State of Kansas,
but its contention is that the bridge is to be regarded as a
component part of its railroad, and as such is only taxable by the
State Board of Railroad Assessors, and that the county and township
authorities cannot legally tax the bridge as a toll bridge for
local purposes. The question thus presented, as we understand it,
is one to be decided by and under the laws of the State of Kansas.
The power of that state to tax the bridge property is not denied,
but the argument is made that
Page 167 U. S. 662
the theory and true meaning of the state taxing laws is to
restrict the exercise of that power to the State Board of Railroad
Assessors. The contention on the other side is that, under the
taxing laws of the State of Kansas, it was proper for the state
board to assess the railroad as an entirety, and for the county
authorities to assess the bridge as an independent structure or
toll bridge. This position is based on the dual character of the
bridge, used, as it is, for both carrying the trains of the
railroad company and vehicles and passengers who pay tolls. To give
a federal aspect to this question, it is urged that the franchise
to exact tolls was conferred on the original builders of the bridge
by act of Congress. But this would not raise a federal question
unless it were claimed that, by reason of such grant, the bridge
was exempted from state taxation. But the bill and argument of the
railroad company, as we have seen, concede the right of the state
to tax the bridge, but find fault with the method by which the
taxing authorities, state and county, assessed the taxes for 1892
-- a question to be decided under the laws of Kansas.
We cannot accede to the proposition that, because the acts of
Congress which authorized the construction of the bridge in
question gave the right to build a railroad and toll bridge, the
conceded power of the state to tax did not extend to the bridge in
both aspects. Nor can we agree that the making of such a contention
raised a federal question of a character to confer original
jurisdiction in the circuit court of the United States. Not every
mere allegation of the existence of a federal question in a
controversy will suffice for that purpose. There must be a real
substantive question on which the case may be made to turn. Nor can
jurisdiction be inferred argumentatively from the averments in the
pleadings, but the averments should be positive. Hanford v.
Davies, 163 U. S. 273
163 U. S.
Finding no federal question actually presented in the bill on
which the circuit court could base the exercise of jurisdiction, we
are now to inquire whether such jurisdiction can be found in the
character of the controversy as one existing between citizens of
Page 167 U. S. 663
The allegations of the bill in that respect were as follows:
"The St. Joseph and Grand Island Railroad Company is a
corporation created and subsisting under and by virtue of the laws
of Kansas and Nebraska. . . . The defendant is the duly elected,
qualified, and acting Sheriff of Doniphan County, Kansas, and a
There is no allegation in the bill as to the nature of such
corporation -- whether it originated in special laws or under
general laws of those states. Nor does it appear in which state the
company was first incorporated. Our examination of the state
statutes has led us to suppose that this company was formed by
proceedings under general laws providing for consolidating railroad
companies in adjoining states.
However this may be, such an allegation as we have here does not
show that the railroad company complainant was a citizen of a
different state than that of which the defendant was a citizen.
Indeed, the allegation is, in effect, that the railroad company and
the defendants were citizens of the State of Kansas.
Such a state of the record brings the case directly within
Ohio & Mississippi
Railroad v. Wheeler,
1 Black 286, where it was held
that a corporation endowed with its capacities and facilities by
the cooperating legislation of two states cannot have one and the
same legal being in both states; that neither state can confer on
it a corporate existence in the other, nor add to or diminish the
powers to be there exercised, and that two corporations deriving
their powers from distinct sovereignties, and exercising them
within distinct limits, cannot unite as plaintiffs in a suit in a
court of the United States against a citizen of either of the
states which chartered them.
While a railroad company owning and operating a line running
through several states may receive and exercise powers granted by
each, and may, for many purposes, be regarded as a corporation of
each, such legislation does not avail to make the same corporation
a citizen of every state it passes through, within the meaning of
the jurisdiction clause of the Constitution of the United States.
Page 167 U. S. 664
Railroad v. Alabama, 107 U.S.
; St. Louis & San Francisco Railway v. James,
161 U. S. 545
The decree of the circuit court of appeals is reversed; the
decree of the Circuit Court for the District of Kansas is likewise
reversed, and the cause is remanded to that court, with directions
to dismiss bill of complaint for want of jurisdiction. The costs in
this Court to be paid by appellant.