1. Under the Federal Control Act and the Transportation Act of
1920, changes in the classification of a commodity and in the rules
determining its acceptance for shipment are as fully within the
jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission when proposed by
the Director General of Railroads as if proposed by a carrier
subject to the Interstate Commerce Act. P. 254 U. S.
2. An amendment or supplement to a freight tariff schedule,
filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission, cancelling the
published classification and rates on artificial and natural silk
and amending a rule so as to include such silk among the articles
not accepted for shipment attempts both a classification and a
change of regulation within the meaning of the Interstate Commerce
Act, the reasonableness of which, when challenged by a shipper,
presents a question within the exclusive initial jurisdiction of
the Commission. P. 254 U. S.
that a shipper, complaining of such changes,
should apply for relief to the Interstate Commerce Commission, and
that the district court was without jurisdiction in the first
instance to annul the changes and enjoin carriers from complying
The case is stated in the opinion.
MR. JUSTICE CLARKE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Silk, artificial and natural, had been accepted by the railway
carriers of the country for transportation as
Page 254 U. S. 499
freight for many years prior to the action which gave rise to
the question which the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has certified herein to this Court, and it had been
classified in tariffs as first class. On January 21, 1920, Walker
D. Hines, as Director General of Railroads, authorized an amendment
or supplement to the appropriate freight tariff schedule so as to
cancel the published classification and rates on such silk and to
so amend Rule 3 of "Consolidated Freight Classification No. 1" as
to include it among the articles "that will not be accepted for
On the 28th of January, 1920, the supplement thus authorized was
filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission, to become effective
on the 29th day of February following, and if no other action had
been taken, the result would have been to have excluded such silks
for shipment as freight after the effective date, for after that
date, there would not have been any published rate applicable to
The appellee, the Viscose Company, is an extensive manufacturer
of artificial silk, eighty percent of which "it maintains" must be
shipped as freight, and, claiming that it would suffer great and
irreparable damage if the supplement to the tariff proposed by the
appellants were allowed to become effective, on February 26th,
three days before it would have taken effect, the company applied
for and obtained a temporary, and later on a permanent, injunction
from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania, restraining the Director General of
Railroads and the other appellants:
"(1) From putting into effect and enforcing the provisions of
the said supplement No. 2 to 'Consolidated Freight Classification
No. 1, designed to cancel the existing classification of artificial
silk as a commodity of freight,' and "
Page 254 U. S. 500
"(2) From refusing to accept from the Viscose Company artificial
or fibre silk for transportation under classifications which
existed prior to the effective date of said supplement, or under
such other classification as may be put into effect
An appeal from the district court carried the case to the
circuit court of appeals, which certifies to this Court the
"Did the district court have jurisdiction to decide the matter
raised by the complainant's bill and thereupon to annul the said
action of the Director General of Railroads and enjoin the carriers
from complying therewith?"
Appellants contend that exclusive initial jurisdiction over the
controversy here involved is in the Interstate Commerce Commission
and that the appellees should have applied to that tribunal for
relief. It is argued that the proposed supplement, striking silks
from the first class in the tariffs filed was a change in
classification, and that the change in Rule 3, adding them to the
list of commodities which would not be accepted for shipment as
freight, was a change of regulation, and that over the
reasonableness of both of these the Interstate Commerce Commission
is given exclusive initial jurisdiction by §§ 1, 3, 6, 13 and 15 of
the Interstate Commerce Act (34 Stat. 584, as amended 36 Stat.
On the other hand, it is argued by the appellees that for a
common carrier to exclude a commodity from the tariffs and to
refuse to accept it for shipment is neither classification nor
regulation, and that an attempt to do such a thing presents a
question of law for the courts -- that exclusion is not
classification nor regulation.
Section 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act makes it the duty of
all carriers subject to its provisions to provide and furnish
transportation upon reasonable request therefor,
". . . to establish, observe and enforce just and reasonable
classifications of property for transportation
Page 254 U. S. 501
. . . and just and reasonable regulations and practices
affecting classification, rates or tariffs . . . and all other
matters relating to or connected with the receiving, handling,
transporting, storing and delivery of property."
36 Stat. 539, 545, 546.
Section 3 of the act makes it unlawful for any carrier to
subject "any particular description of traffic to any undue or
unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect whatsoever."
24 Stat. 379, 380.
Section 6 requires every carrier to print and file with the
Commission schedules in form prescribed, showing the classification
of freight in force and any rules or regulations which in any wise
change, affect, or determine the value of the service rendered to
the shipper. 34 Stat. 584, 586 (§ 8569).
Section 13 gives to any person or corporation the right to apply
to the Commission for relief on account of "anything done or
omitted to be done" by any common carrier subject to the provisions
of this act "in contravention of the provisions thereof." 36 Stat.
And § 15 declares that, whenever there is filed "a new
individual or joint classification or any new individual or joint
regulation or practice," the Commission shall have power to suspend
the operation of such schedule, classification, regulation, or
practice until, upon complaint or upon its own initiative, an
investigation shall be made, and if the proposed classification or
regulation is found to be unreasonable or otherwise in violation of
the act, the Commission may find what will be just and reasonable
in the premises, and may require the carrier thereafter to conform
to its finding. 36 Stat. 539, 552.
The power to suspend classifications or regulations when issued
by the President was taken away from the Interstate Commerce
Commission by the "Act to Provide for the Operation of
Transportation Systems While under Federal Control," etc. (40 Stat.
451, 456), but the
Page 254 U. S. 502
power over them after hearing remained, and the power to suspend
was restored when "the Transportation Act 1920," approved February
28, 1920, became effective (41 Stat. 456, 487). The action of the
Director General of Railroads under consideration in this case may
therefore be treated as if it had been taken by a carrier subject
to the act.
Without more, these references to the Interstate Commerce Act
are sufficient to show that, if the proposed change in the tariffs
and in the rule which we are considering constituted a change of
classification or of regulation within the meaning of the Commerce
Act, there was ample and specific provision made therein for
dealing with the situation through the Commission -- for suspending
the supplement or rule or annulling either or both if investigation
proved the change to be unreasonable, and for providing for just
treatment of shippers in the future. Strangely enough, it is a
shipper, not a carrier, which here seeks to exclude the latter
The certificate does not state what the purpose of the Director
General of Railroads was in attempting to make the proposed change,
but whether it was to permanently refuse to carry artificial silk
as freight because of its value or of the risk involved, or for any
other reason, or whether the action was taken to clear the way for
putting into effect a commodity rate higher than the first-class
rate (as might be done under appropriate conditions, Chamber of
Commerce, Houston, Texas v. International and Great Northern Ry.
Co., 32 I.C.C. 247, 255; Wheeling Corrugating Co. v. Baltimore
& Ohio Railroad Co., 18 I.C.C. 125, 126), in either case, it
was necessary that the published classification of rates should be
withdrawn by change of the tariffs on file, and that notice should
be given, through rule or regulation, that the silk would not be
accepted for shipment in the future. Thus, the supplement
Page 254 U. S. 503
involved a change in the contents of previously filed
classification lists and in a rule or regulation of the
That "exclusion is not classification" is an arresting, but
illusory, expression. Classification in carrier ratemaking practice
is grouping -- the associating in a designated list, commodities,
which, because of their inherent quality or value, or of the risks
involved in shipment, or because of the manner or volume in which
they are shipped or loaded, and the like, may justly and
conveniently be given similar rates. To exclude a commodity from
all classes is classification of it in as real a sense and with as
definite an effect as to include it in any one of the usual
classes. To strike artificial silk from the first class and to
include it in the "prohibited list" which, for any cause, the
carrier refuses to accept as freight classifies it and sets it
apart in a group subject to special treatment as much as if it had
been changed to the second class. We cannot doubt that the
"exclusion" in this case was an attempted "classification," and
that the proposed change in Rule 3 was an attempted change of
regulation, applicable to artificial silks, and that, when
challenged by the shipper, the reasonableness of both presented a
question for decision within the exclusive initial jurisdiction of
the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Confirmation of this conclusion may be found in Lake and Rail
Butter and Egg Rates, 29 I.C.C. 45. There carriers on the Great
Lakes issued a supplement to their tariffs (as was done here)
adding to the list of commodities which would not be accepted for
shipment, among other articles, butter, poultry, and eggs. This was
defended on the ground that such traffic required refrigeration at
a cost greater than it would bear. Upon complaint by shippers to
the Interstate Commerce Commission that the proposed action was
unreasonable, the supplement was promptly suspended, and, upon full
hearing, it was held
Page 254 U. S. 504
that the refusal to carry such commodities in the past and the
attempt to fortify such refusal for the future by filing tariffs
declining in terms to receive them were unduly prejudicial to the
traffic involved, and, the request of shippers for such
transportation being held reasonable, an order that it be furnished
The contention of the carriers, faintly made, that the common
law, and not the Interstate Commerce Act, furnished the measure of
their obligation to the public was promptly overruled by the
Commission, informed, as it was, by wide experience in traffic
affairs and in the administration of the act.
The importance to the commerce of the country of the exclusive,
initial jurisdiction which Congress has committed to the Interstate
Commerce Commission need not be repeated, and cannot be overstated
(Texas & Pacific R. Co. v. Abilene Cotton Oil Co.,
204 U. S. 426
Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. United States, 215 U.
; Morrisdale Coal Co. v. Pennsylvania R.
Co., 230 U. S. 304
Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U. S. 352
Texas & Pacific Ry. Co. v. American Tie Co.,
234 U. S. 138
234 U. S. 146
Pennsylvania R. Co. v. Clark Coal Co., 238 U.
, 238 U. S. 469
and Loomis v. Lehigh Valley R. Co., 240 U. S.
, 240 U. S. 49
and, concluding, as we do, that this case falls plainly within that
jurisdiction, the question asked by the circuit court of appeals
must be answered in the negative.
Question answered, No.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA, MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER, MR. JUSTICE
PITNEY, and MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS dissent.