1. Findings of the Interstate Commerce Commission may not be
assailed in a suit to set its order aside in the absence of the
evidence on which they were made. This settled rule cannot be
avoided by the submission of additional evidence in the form of
affidavits. P. 292 U. S.
2. It is not for a court to substitute its judgment for that of
the Interstate Commerce Commission in the adjustment of a rate
schedule; the judicial function is exhausted when there is found a
rational basis for the Commission's conclusion. P. 292 U. S.
3. Order of the Commission permitting lower rail rates on sugar,
to meet water competition on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers,
supported by the facts set forth in its report.
Page 292 U. S. 283
4. The policy of Congress with respect to rail and water
transportation, as evinced by the Transportation and the Inland
Waterways Transportation Acts, does not mean that carriers by rail
shall be required to maintain a rate that is too high for fear
that, through a change, they may cut into the profits of carriers
by water. The most that it can mean, unless, conceivably, in
circumstances of wanton or malicious injury, is that, where
carriers by land an water are brought within the range of the
regulatory powers of the Commission, as, e.g.,
establishing through routes or joint rates, there shall be
impartial recognition and promotion of the interests of all. P.
292 U. S.
5. The permissive minimum rail rate in this case, fixed high
enough to more than pay the cost of service, involves no
discrimination against the complaining water competitor. P.
292 U. S.
4 F. Supp.
Appeal from a decree of the District Court, constituted of three
judges, dismissing a bill to set aside an order of the Interstate
MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellant, Mississippi Valley Barge Line Company, is a
common carrier by water, operating towboats and barges on the
Mississippi and Ohio rivers. It derives a large part of its
earnings from the transportation
Page 292 U. S. 284
of sugar, which it carries from New Orleans to Cincinnati and
St. Louis and intermediate ports. It is in active competition with
rail carriers serving the same ports and inland points beyond.
In 1932, the Illinois Central Railroad Company and other
carriers by rail filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission
proposed schedules of reduced rates on sugar from New Orleans to
northern points, the rates to become effective October 1 of that
year. The aim of the reduction was to meet the competition of the
appellant and other carriers by water who had been able, by reason
of low and unregulated rates, to divert to themselves a large part
of the traffic in sugar that, till then, had moved by rail. The
railway companies perceived that they were threatened with still
heavier losses in the future unless something was done by a
reduction of their own charges to recover the business that was
slipping from their grasp. Indeed, the change had gone so far that
already they were hauling practically no sugar within the field of
competition. In 1932, the barge movement amounted to over 500,000
tons, about ten times as much as moved all-rail from Louisiana to
the north. Of the water-borne traffic, by far the greater part was
carried by the Federal Barge Line, which has acquiesced in the new
schedules, preferring to let the rail carriers fix the rate level.
The residue has been carried part of it by this appellant, part by
the American Barge Company, and part by tramp or contract
operators. During the year 1932, one railway company, the Illinois
Central, lost about half a million dollars by traffic thus
diverted. The new schedules that were filed in the attempt to
retrieve these losses proposed two different sets of rates, one
based upon a minimum weight of 60,000 pounds per car and the other
upon a minimum weight of 80,000 pounds per car. To illustrate their
effect, the old rate between New Orleans and Chicago had
Page 292 U. S. 285
been 56� per 100 pounds; the new one was 30� per 100 pounds for
the 80,000 minimum and 39� per 100 pounds for the 60,000 minimum.
Between New Orleans and St. Louis, the old rate of 52� became 28�
Protests against these changes having been filed by the
appellant and others, the Interstate Commerce Commission proceeded
to an investigation under § 15(7) of the Interstate Commerce Act,
and, in the meantime, ordered that the schedules be suspended.
There were full hearings of the parties in interest, with testimony
and argument. On July 3, 1933, the Commission found by its report
that the respondents (the interveners in the court below) had
justified the proposed rates with the 60,000 pound minimum. It
found that they had not justified the proposed rates with the
80,000 pound minimum, but that they had justified rates 4� higher.
"So far as the 80,000 pound minimum is concerned," the Commission
said, "this means all-rail rates from New Orleans of 34� to Chicago
and 32� to St. Louis." Sugar cases of 1933, 195 I.C.C. 127. The
rail carriers accepted this proposal, and an amended order of the
Commission gave approval to the schedules so revised.
Under the Urgent Deficiencies Act (October 22, 1913, c. 32, 38
Stat. 208, 220, 28 U.S.C. §§ 47, 48), the Mississippi Valley Barge
Line Company filed a bill to enjoin and set aside the order of the
Commission, joining the United States and the Commission as
defendants. A number of rail carriers who had been respondents in
the proceeding were allowed to intervene. After the filing of
answers, the suit was heard by a District Court of three judges in
accordance with the statute. 28 U.S.C. § 47. None of the evidence
received by the Commission was placed before the court. All that
the court had, aside from the report and orders, was a group of
affidavits by the complainant's officers which were in substance to
Page 292 U. S. 286
effect that the water carriers would be unable to compete with
the carriers by rail if the schedules were to stand approved. These
affidavits were received without objection as to their form, but
subject to the objection that they were inadmissible insofar as
they were inconsistent with what had been found in the report. The
court dismissed the bill, holding that the findings of the report
were conclusive as to the facts, and that they were sufficient on
their face to uphold the lowered rates. 4 F. Supp.
. An appeal to this Court followed. Judicial Code, § 210, 28
U.S.C. § 47a.
The settled rule is that the findings of the Commission may not
be assailed upon appeal in the absence of the evidence upon which
they were made. Spiller v. A. T. & S.F. Ry. Co.,
253 U. S. 117
253 U. S. 125
Louisiana & Pine Bluff Ry. Co. v. United States,
257 U. S. 114
257 U. S. 116
Nashville, C. & St.L. Ry. Co. v. Tennessee,
262 U. S. 318
262 U. S. 324
Edward Hines Trustees v. United States, 263 U.
, 263 U. S. 148
Chicago, I. & L. Ry. Co. v. United States,
270 U. S. 287
270 U. S. 295
appellant did not free itself of this restriction by submitting
additional evidence in the form of affidavits by its officers. For
all that we can know, the evidence received by the Commission
overbore these affidavits or stripped them of significance. The
findings in the report being thus accepted as true, there is left
only the inquiry whether they give support to the conclusion. Quite
manifestly, they do. The structure of a rate schedule calls in
peculiar measure for the use of that enlightened judgment which the
commission by training and experience is qualified to form.
Florida v. United States, ante,
p. 292 U.
It is not the province of a court to absorb this
function to itself. I.C.C. v. Louisville & Nashville R.
Co., 227 U. S. 88
227 U. S. 100
Western Paper Makers' Chemical Co. v. United States,
271 U. S. 268
271 U. S. 271
Virginian Ry. Co. v. United States, 272 U.
, 272 U. S. 663
The judicial function
Page 292 U. S. 287
is exhausted when there is found to be a rational basis for the
conclusions approved by the administrative body. In this instance,
the care and patience with which the Commission fulfilled its
appointed task are plain, even to the casual reader, upon the face
of its report. The rates were not approved as the respondents had
submitted them. For the 80,000 pound minimum, they were found to be
too low. Not till there had been an increase of 4� per 100 pounds
did the schedule win approval. There was a sedulous endeavor to
guard against a rate war that would end in mere oppression.
We are told for the appellant that, upon the face of the report,
the Commission has been heedless of the mandate of a statute. By §
500 of Transportation Act 1920 (Feb. 28, 1920, c. 91, 41 Stat. 499,
49 U.S.C. § 142),
"it is declared to be the policy of Congress to promote,
encourage, and develop water transportation, service, and
facilities in connection with the commerce of the United States,
and to foster and preserve in full vigor both rail and water
Following this declaration, which is in the last title of the
act, a duty is imposed upon the Secretary of War to do certain acts
with the object of developing facilities for inland waterway
transportation, and in particular to investigate the subject of
water terminals both for inland waterway traffic and for through
traffic by water and rail; to advise and cooperate with
communities, cities, and towns, and to ascertain whether the inland
waterways "are being utilized to the extent of their capacity" and
are meeting the demands of traffic. By earlier sections of the act,
§ 418; 49 U.S.C. § 15(1-4), the regulatory powers of the Commission
had been broadened in respect of through or joint rates for
carriers by rail and water, Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. Co. v.
United States, 274 U. S. 29
274 U. S. 36
and by the Inland Waterways Transportation Act as amended in 1928,
Page 292 U. S. 288
had a new extension. Act of May 29, 1928, c. 891, § 2, 45 Stat.
978; 49 U.S.C. § 153(e); United States v. Illinois Central R.
Co., 291 U. S. 457
For the determination of this case, there is no need to go into
the question whether the declaration of the policy of Congress to
foster rail and water transportation creates a new standard of duty
for the Commission in the ordering of rates, or is a source of
private rights if the duty is ignored. That question does not
become important until the policy of the lawmakers appears to have
been flouted, and here it was obeyed. The admonition does not mean
that carriers by rail shall be required to maintain a rate that is
too high for fear that, through the change, they may cut into the
profits of carriers by water. The most that it can mean, unless,
conceivably, in circumstances of wanton or malicious injury, is
that, where carriers by land and water are brought within the range
of the regulatory powers of the Commission, as, e.g.,
establishing through routes or joint rates, there shall be
impartial recognition and promotion of the interests of all.
No discrimination of that kind is proved, or even charged. The
rates affected by this schedule do not involve the division of
joint earnings between land and water carriers. The appellant makes
its own rates from port to port, and may increase or lower them at
will. What has been done by the Commission affects the carriers by
rail alone, at least in its immediate consequences. Transportation
by water may feel the repercussions of regulation elsewhere. It has
not been regulated directly. Even for transportation by land, the
Commission has done no more than establish a permissive minimum,
and this a minimum sufficient to give assurance that the carriage
of the sugar will not involve a loss. "There is no reasonable
doubt," we are told in the report, "that the proposed rates are
high enough to pay more than the cost of service."
Page 292 U. S. 289
The appellant insists that it is fighting for its life, and that
the effect of the new competition will be to drive it out of
business. Nothing in the findings gives substance to the fear.
There is significance in the fact that the Federal Barge Line, the
leading carrier by water, submitted without protest. We do not
overlook a sentence that the appellant has lifted from its setting
and put before us as a finding. "If respondents succeed, the barge
lines will be dealt a staggering blow." Taken by themselves, the
words suggest a finding that the new schedules will affect the
barge lines to the point of destruction, or something very near it.
Read in the light of the context, they are not a finding at all,
but a summary of the grounds of protest, an outline of the
pleadings, or of what amounts to the pleadings before an
administrative body. This being so, we do not now consider whether
the destruction of a rival through the mere force of competition is
legally a wrong, unless "disinterested malevolence" (American
Bank & Trust Co. v. Federal Reserve Bank, 256 U.
, 256 U. S.
), or something akin thereto, has supplied the motive
power. M. Steinert & Sons Co. v. Tagen,
207 Mass. 394,
397, 93 N.E. 584; Nann v. Raimist,
255 N.Y. 307, 319, 174
There is no substance to the contention that the effect of the
report is to give the sanction of the Commission to an illegal
combination in restraint of trade and commerce.
Nor is there substance to the contention that discretion was
abused by denying a rehearing. United States v. Northern
Pacific R. Co., 288 U. S. 490
288 U. S.
For the purposes of this appeal, we have assumed, as it was
assumed in the court below, that the appellant has a standing
sufficient to maintain the suit. See, however, Sprunt &
Son, Inc. v. United States, 281 U. S. 249
have made a like assumption in answer to the argument of counsel
for the railways that the order of the Commission
Page 292 U. S. 290
is negative in form and substance, and hence not subject to
review. Alton R. Co. v. United States, 287 U.
. These objections to the suit coalesce to such an
extent with the merits of the appellant's grievance under § 500 of
the statute (Transportation Act 1920) as to make it unnecessary to
The decree is