Railroad Company v. Fuller
Annotate this Case
84 U.S. 560 (1873)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Railroad Company v. Fuller, 84 U.S. 17 Wall. 560 560 (1873)
Railroad Company v. Fuller
84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 560
A state legislature passed in 1862 an act "in relation to the duties of railroad companies," enacting:
1st. That each railroad company should annually, in a month named by the act, fix its rates for the transportation of passengers and of freights of different kinds;
2d. That it should, on the first day of the next month, cause a printed copy of such rates to be put up at all its stations and depots, and cause a copy to remain posted during the year;
3d. That a failure to fulfill these requirements, or the charging of a higher rate than was posted, should subject the offending company to the payment of certain penalties prescribed.
Congress, afterwards (in 1866), by an act whose title was "An act to facilitate commercial, postal, and military communication between the several states," and which recited that "the Constitution of the United States confers upon Congress, in express terms, the power to regulate commerce among the several states," and goes on "Therefore, be it enacted," &c., enacted
"That every railroad company in the united states, whose road is operated by steam . . . be, and hereby is authorized to carry upon and over its road, boats, bridges, ferries, all passengers, troops, government supplies, mails, freights, and other property on their way from any state to another state, and to receive compensation therefor."
And enacted further, "That Congress may at any time, alter, amend, or repeal this act." Held, in the case of a railroad running through several states, including that where the state enactment above mentioned had been made, that the state enactment was but a police law, and therefore constitutional.
A statute of Iowa "in relation to the duties of railroad companies," passed in 1862, [Footnote 1] thus enacts:
"In the month of September annually, each railroad company shall fix its rates of fare for passengers, and freights for transportation of timber, wood, and coal, per ton, cord, or thousand feet, per mile, also, its fare and freight per mile, for transporting merchandise and articles of the first, second, third, and fourth grades of freight."
"And on the 1st day of October following, shall put up at
all the stations and depots on its road, a printed copy of such fare and freight, and cause a copy to remain posted during the year."
"For willfully neglecting so to do, or for receiving higher rates of fares or freight than those posted, the company shall forfeit not less than $100 nor more than $200 to any person injured thereby and suing therefor."
On the 15th of June, 1866, [Footnote 2] Congress passed an act thus:
"An Act to facilitate Commercial, Postal, and Military"
"Communication among the several states"
"Whereas, the Constitution of the United States confers upon Congress, in express terms, the power to regulate commerce among the several states, to establish post-roads and to raise and support armies, therefore:"
"SECTION 1. Be it enacted that every railroad company in the United States whose road is operated by steam, its successors and assigns, be and is hereby authorized to carry upon and over its road, boats, bridges, and ferries, all passengers, troops, government supplies, mails, freight, and property on their way from any state to another state, and to receive compensation therefor, . . . provided &c."
"SECTION 2. Be it further enacted that Congress may at any time, alter, amend, or repeal this act."
These two enactments, of the state and of the United States, being on the statute books, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company, a corporation chartered by Illinois and having its principal place of business at Chicago in that state and working a continuous line of railway from the said Chicago through Illinois, Iowa, and other states (by the legislatures of which, of course, the different parts of its road were authorized), having posted their rates of freight and put up a schedule of them in their office, in the station, was transporting, in pursuance of the request of one Fuller, certain goods of his from the said Chicago in Illinois to a place called Marshalltown, in Iowa. Having charged and received from Fuller, as he alleged, a higher
rate of freight than that posted, Fuller sued them in one of the district courts of Iowa to recover the penalty which the Iowa enactment purported to give in such a case. The company set up, among other defenses, that the said enactment was in violation of that clause of the Constitution [Footnote 3] which ordains that:
"Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states."
The court in which the suit was brought and the supreme court of the state on appeal from it held that the enactment of Iowa was but a "police regulation," and accordingly that it was valid. Judgment going accordingly the case was now brought here.