A state may not make commercial intercourse with another state
or a foreign country a matter of local privilege and require that
it cannot be carried on without its consent, and to exact a license
fee as the price of that consent.
Page 234 U. S. 334
Transportation between states and foreign countries is within
the protection of the constitutional grant to Congress, and this
includes transportation by ferry. Gloucester Ferry Co. v.
Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 196
One otherwise enjoying full capacity for the purpose of carrying
on interstate or foreign commerce cannot be compelled to take out a
local license for the mere privilege of carrying it on.
An ordinance enacted by the City of Sault Ste. Marie under state
authority, requiring a license fee for the operation of ferries to
the Canadian shore opposite, held
applied to the owner of a ferry boat plying from the Canadian shore
as a burden on interstate commerce.
whether such an ordinance is void as violative
of Article I of the Treaty of 1909 with Great Britain.
194 F. 522 reversed.
The facts, which involve the right of the state, or a
municipality acting under its authority, to establish ordinances
regulating maintenance of ferries between its ports and one of a
foreign government and the construction of the Treaty of 1909 with
Great Britain, are stated in the opinion.
Page 234 U. S. 337
MR. JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
This suit was brought by the International Transit Company, a
Canadian corporation, to restrain the enforcement
Page 234 U. S. 338
of an ordinance adopted in the year 1911 by the City of Sault
Ste. Marie, Michigan. The ordinance related to the maintaining of
ferries from that city across the St. Mary's River to the opposite
shore in the Province of Ontario, and the complainant contended
that, as applied to it, the ordinance was a violation of the
commerce clause of the federal Constitution and of Article I of the
Treaty of January 11, 1909, 36 Stat. 2449, between the United
States and Great Britain. The district court granted the relief as
prayed (194 F. 522), and this appeal is brought.
The transit company holds a license from the dominion government
to operate a ferry between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault
Ste. Marie, Michigan. It owns and uses in this business two steam
ferry boats of British registry; it leases a private wharf in the
City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and there maintains an office
where fares are received. The Canadian license prescribes the
frequency of the service and fixes the maximum fares to be charged;
it also provides that the licensee shall not "infringe any of the
laws or bylaws or of the regulations" of the United States or of
the State of Michigan or "of the Town of Sault Ste. Marie, U.S.A."
in reference to ferriage, "which may be applicable to the said
ferry or such portion thereof as may be within the jurisdiction of
any of them."
The City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was authorized by its
charter to "establish, license, and regulate ferries to and from
the city," and to prescribe rates. The charter also provided:
"The council may regulate and license ferries from the city or
any place or landing therein to the opposite shore . . . and may
require the payment of such reasonable sum for such license as the
council shall deem proper, and may impose such reasonable terms and
restrictions in relation to the keeping and management of such
ferries, and the time, manner, and rates of carriage and
transportation of persons and property, as may be
Page 234 U. S. 339
proper, and provide for the revocation of any such license, and
for the punishment, by proper fines and penalties, for the
violation of any ordinance prohibiting unlicensed ferries and
regulating those established and licensed."
Under this authority, the city adopted the ordinance in
question. Section one is as follows:
"No person, persons, or company shall operate a ferry boat, or
engage in the business of carrying or transporting persons or
property thereon from the City of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and
across the St. Mary's River to the opposite shore, without first
obtaining a license therefor from the Mayor, and by otherwise
complying with the provisions of this ordinance."
The Mayor was empowered to grant a license upon the payment of
fifty dollars annually for each ferry boat engaged in such
transportation, and it was further provided that, before any
license should be issued, the person or company desiring the same
should make application setting forth a schedule of the rates
proposed to be charged within the prescribed territory. Additional
provisions fixed the period and frequency of service and the rates
to be charged from the licensee's dock within the city to the
opposite shore. The Mayor was authorized to revoke the license if
he was satisfied that any of the provisions of the ordinance were
violated. After the passage of this ordinance, one Pocock,
operating a ferry boat belonging to the transit company without a
license having been obtained therefor, was arrested and fined.
Alleging the purpose of the city to enforce the ordinance, and its
invalidity, the transit company then brought this suit.
It will be observed that the question is not simply as to the
power of the state to prevent extortion and to fix reasonable ferry
rates from the Michigan shore; it is not as to the validity of a
mere police regulation governing the manner of conducting the
business in order to secure safety and the public convenience.
See Port Richmond, &c.
Page 234 U. S. 340
Ferry Co. v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, ante,
234 U. S. 317
ordinance goes beyond this. The ordinance requires a municipal
license, and the fundamental question is whether, in the
circumstances shown, the state, or the city acting under its
authority, may make its consent a condition precedent to the
prosecution of the business. If the state or the city may make its
consent necessary, it may withhold it. The appellee, having its
domicil in Canada, is engaged in commerce between Canada and the
United States. At the wharf which it leases for the purpose on the
American shore, it receives and lands persons and property. Has the
State of Michigan the right to make this commercial intercourse a
matter of local privilege, to demand that it shall not be carried
on without its permission, and to exact as the price of its consent
-- if it chooses to give it -- the payment of a license fee?
This question must be answered in the negative. It is urged, on
behalf of the city that the state, either directly or through its
municipalities, may establish and license ferries -- may grant
ferry franchises (Fanning v.
16 How. 524; Conway v.
1 Black 603; Wiggins Ferry Co. v. East
St. Louis, 107 U. S. 365
But, since the decision in Gloucester Ferry Co. v.
Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 196
has been clear that, whatever authority the state may have for this
purpose, it does not go so far as to enable the state to interdict
one in the position of the appellee from conducting the commerce in
which it is engaged, or justify the state in imposing exactions
upon that commerce in the view that business of this character may
be carried on only by virtue of its consent, express or implied. In
that case, the ferry company was a New Jersey corporation,
receiving and landing its passengers and property at its wharf in
Philadelphia in substantially the same manner as the appellee
transacts its business at its wharf in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The Court held that it was
Page 234 U. S. 341
not within the power of the state to prevent the ferry company
from so doing; that this was an essential part of the interstate
transportation which the state could not forbid, or burden by a
privilege tax. See Philadelphia & S. Mail Steamship Co. v.
Pennsylvania, 122 U. S. 326
122 U. S. 343
Referring to foreign commerce, the court said in Crutcher v.
Kentucky, 141 U. S. 47
141 U. S.
"Would anyone pretend that a state legislature could prohibit a
foreign corporation -- an English or a French transportation
company, for example -- from coming into its borders and landing
goods and passengers at its wharves, and soliciting goods and
passengers for a return voyage without first obtaining a license
from some state officer, and filing a sworn statement as to the
amount of its capital stock paid in? And why not? Evidently because
the matter is not within the province of state legislation, but
within that of national legislation."
Ferry transportation is placed upon the same footing in this
respect by the holding in the Gloucester
pp. 114 U. S.
-205), the point of the decision being that the
transportation was within the protection of the constitutional
grant to Congress. "It matters not," said the Court, "that the
transportation is made in ferry boats, which pass between the
states every hour of the day."
The fundamental principle involved has been applied by this
Court in recent decisions in a great variety of circumstances, and
it must be taken to be firmly established that one otherwise
enjoying full capacity for the purpose cannot be compelled to take
out a local license for the mere privilege of carrying on
interstate or foreign commerce. Robbins v. Shelby County Taxing
District, 120 U. S. 489
120 U. S. 496
Leloup v. Mobile, 127 U. S. 640
127 U. S. 645
Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U.S.
, 129 U. S. 148
McCall v. California, 126 U. S. 104
126 U. S. 109
Norfolk &c. R. Co. v. Pennsylvania, 136 U.
; Crutcher v. Kentucky, supra,
141 U. S. 58
Rearick v. Pennsylvania, 203 U. S. 507
Western Union Tel. Co. v. Kansas, 216 U. S.
; Pullman Co. v. Kansas, 216 U. S.
Page 234 U. S. 342
International Textbook Co. v. Pigg, 217 U. S.
, 217 U. S. 109
West v. Kansas Natural Gas Co., 221 U.
, 221 U. S. 260
Bucks Stove & Range Co. v. Vickers, 226 U.
, 226 U. S. 215
Crenshaw v. Arkansas, 227 U. S. 389
Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U. S. 352
230 U. S. 400
Barrett v. New York, 232 U. S. 14
232 U. S.
Assuming that, by reason of the local considerations pertinent
to the operation of ferries, there exists, in the absence of
federal action, a local protective power to prevent extortion in
the rates charged for ferriage from the shore of the state, and to
prescribe reasonable regulations necessary to secure good order and
convenience, we think that the action of the city in the present
case in requiring the appellee to take out a license and to pay a
license fee for the privilege of transacting the business conducted
at its wharf was beyond the power which the state could exercise
either directly or by delegation. In this view, it is unnecessary
to consider the question raised with respect to the treaty with
The decree restraining the enforcement of the ordinance in
question as against the appellee is affirmed.