The Act of March 4, 1913, c. 143, 37 Stat. 791, 797, authorizing
the Postmaster General to add, not exceeding 5 percent per annum,
to the compensation of railroads, under certain pending contracts
for transportation of mail, left the increases, within that limit,
to his discretion; the plain import of the words used must control.
P. 249 U. S. 454
52 Ct.Clms. 338 reversed.
The case is stated in the opinion.
Page 249 U. S. 452
Memorandum opinion by MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS.
During 1910 and 1911, the appellee railway company entered into
customary arrangements with the Post Office Department to carry
mail over a number of routes for quadrennial terms ending June 30,
1914, and 1915, compensation
Page 249 U. S. 453
to be based upon ascertained weights. While these were in force,
by Act or August 24, 1912, c. 389, 37 Stat. 557, Congress directed
establishment of the parcel post service without providing for any
additional compensation on account of the large increase in weights
which would surely follow.
The Postmaster General called attention to the matter January
20, 1913, and after much consideration, the following clause was
incorporated in the Act of March 4, 1913, c. 143, 37 Stat. 791,
"That, on account of the increased weight of mails resulting
from the enactment of section eight of the act of August
twenty-fourth, nineteen hundred and twelve, . . . the Postmaster
General is authorized to add to the compensation paid for
transportation on railroad routes on and after July first, nineteen
hundred and thirteen, for the remainder of the contract terms, not
exceeding five percentum thereof per annum, excepting upon routes
weighed since January first, nineteen hundred and thirteen, and to
be readjusted from July first, nineteen hundred and thirteen, until
otherwise provided by law."
Acting under this provision, the Postmaster General refused to
allow increased compensation of five percentum upon all routes, but
apportioned payments among them-never in excess of five percentum
-- according to a carefully worked out formula which he deemed
appropriate. Appellee sued for the difference between amount
actually received and what it would have received if five percentum
had been added. Considering history of the legislation and intent
of Congress supposed to be indicated thereby, the Court of Claims
held that the act
"required the Postmaster General to add five percent to the
compensation being paid on all of said routes, and, he having
failed to do so, that the plaintiff is entitled to recover the
difference sued for."
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United
52 Ct.Clms. 338, 361.
Page 249 U. S. 454
We are unable to agree with this conclusion. The language of the
enactment is clear and we think it vested in the Postmaster general
a discretion which, so far as shown General a discretion which, so
far as shown not unmindful of the burden imposed upon appellee nor
of the circumstances which lend color to a different conclusion;
but these are not sufficient to justify a disregard of the plain
import of the words which Congress deliberately adopted.
The judgment below must be reversed and the cause remanded with
direction to dismiss the petition.
Reversed and remanded.