South Carolina v. Georgia
Annotate this Case
93 U.S. 4 (1876)
U.S. Supreme Court
South Carolina v. Georgia, 93 U.S. 4 (1876)
South Carolina v. Georgia
93 U.S. 4
1. The compact between South Carolina and Georgia, made in 1787, by which it was agreed that the boundary between the two states should be the northern branch or stream of the Savannah River, and that the navigation of the river along a specified channel should forever be equally free to the citizens of both states and exempt from hindrance, interruption, or molestation attempted to be enforced by one state on the citizens of the other, has no effect upon the subsequent constitutional provision that Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.
2. Congress has the same power over the Savannah River that it has over the other navigable waters of the United States.
3. The right to regulate commerce includes the right to regulate navigation, and hence to regulate and improve navigable rivers and ports on such rivers.
4. Congress has power to close one of several channels in a navigable stream if in its judgment the navigation of the river will be thereby improved. It may declare that an actual obstruction is not, in the view of the law, an illegal one.
5. An appropriation for the improvement of a harbor on a navigable river, "to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of War," confers upon that officer the discretion to determine the mode of improvement, and
authorizes the diversion of the water from one channel into another if in his judgment such is the best mode. By such diversion preference is not given to tire ports of one state over those of another. Quaere whether a state suing for the prevention of a nuisance in a navigable river which is one of its boundaries must not aver and show that she sustains some special and peculiar injury thereby such as would enable a private person to maintain a similar action.
This is a bill in equity filed in this Court by the State of South Carolina, praying for an injunction restraining the State of Georgia, Alonzo Taft (Secretary of War), A. A. Humphries (Chief of the Corps of Engineers United States Army), Q. A. Gilmore (lieutenant-colonel of that corps), and their agents and subordinates, from "obstructing or interrupting" the navigation of the Savannah River in violation of the compact entered into between the States of South Carolina and Georgia on the twenty-fourth day of April, 1787. The first and second articles of that compact are as follows:
"ARTICLE 1. The most northern branch or stream of the River Savannah, from the sea or mouth of such stream to the fork or confluence of the Rivers now called Tugoloo and Keowee, and from thence, the most northern branch or stream of the said River Tugoloo till it intersects the northern boundary line of South Carolina, if the said branch or stream extends so far north, reserving all the islands in the said Rivers Tugoloo and Savannah to Georgia; but if the head spring or source of any branch or stream of the said River Tugoloo does not extend to the north boundary line of South Carolina, then a west line to the Mississippi, to be drawn from the head spring or source of the said branch or stream of Tugoloo River which extends to the highest northern latitude, shall forever hereafter form the separation, limit, and boundary between the States of South Carolina and Georgia."
"ART. 2. The navigation of the River Savannah, at and from the bar and mouth, along the northeast side of Cockspur Island, and up the direct course of the main northern channel, along the northern side of Hutchinson's Island, opposite the Town of Savannah, to the upper end of the said island, and from thence up the bed or principal stream of the said river to the confluence of the Rivers Tugoloo and Keowee, and from the confluence up the channel of the most northern stream of Tugoloo River to its source, and back again by the same channel to the Atlantic Ocean, is hereby declared to be henceforth equally free to the citizens of
both states and exempt from all duties, tolls, hindrance, interruption, or molestation whatsoever attempted to be enforced by one state on the citizens of the other, and all the rest of the River Savannah to the southward of the foregoing description is acknowledged to be the exclusive right of the State of Georgia."
Congress enacted June 23, 1874:
"That the following sums of money be, and are hereby, appropriated to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of War for the repair, preservation, and completion of the following public works hereinafter named."
"For continuing the improvement of the harbor at Savannah, $50,000."
18 Stat. 240.
The Act of March 3, 1875, 18 id. 459, contains the following appropriation: "For the improvement of the harbor at Savannah, Ga., $70,000."
The work which the bill seeks to arrest is doing pursuant to the authority conferred by these acts.
The Savannah River, where it flows past the City of Savannah, is divided into two channels by Hutchinson's Island, which extends above and below the city, with a length of about six miles and a width, where widest, of one mile or more. Of these channels, the more northerly is known as Back River, whilst that which passes immediately by the City of Savannah is called Front River.
The improvement consists in the construction of a crib dam at a point known as the "Cross Tides," for the purpose, by diverting a sufficient quantity of the water passing through the Back River into the Front River channel, of securing to the city a depth of fifteen feet at low water.
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