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The Supreme Court of the United States, in these cases, held that the various States of the Union had the power to pass laws limiting the amount of charges by railroad companies for fares and freights, and prescribing rules for the operation of the business of carriers, unless restrained by some contract in the charter of the corporation ; and it was further held that the States had such right, even though the income of the corporations may have been pledged as security for the payment of obligations incurred upon the faith of the charter.
In reply to the argument made, and forcibly pressed upon the Supreme Court, that these various statutes of the States of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin violated that part of the Constitution of the United States which confers upon Congress power to regulate commerce among the several States, the Court in substance answered, that until Congress acts in reference to the relations of common carriers to inter-State commerce, it was within the power of the different States to regulate the fares, etc., of such common carriers, so far as they are of domestic concern, even though such legislation might indirectly affect persons or things without the State.
The above cases would seem to have settled the question in favor of the rights of the States to prescribe the charges, fares, etc., of common carriers, operating or conducting their business within the States, even if the consequences were to affect persons or things outside of the State.
But such was not the fact ; for in October, 1886, the Supreme Court of the United States re-examined the whole subject in a controversy arising between the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway Company and the State of Illinois (118 U. S. Rep., 557). In that case it appeared that the Wabash Railway Company had violated a statute of Illinois, enacting that if any railroad
company shall, within that State, charge or receive for transporting passengers or freight of the same class, the same or a greater sum for any distance than it does for a longer distance, it shall be liable to a penalty for unjust discrimination. The Wabash Railway Company made such discrimination in regard to goods transported over the same road or roads, from Peoria in Illinois, and from Gilman in Illinois, to New York, charging more for the same class of goods carried from Gilman than from Peoria, the former being eightysix miles nearer to New York than the latter, this difference being in the length of the line within the State of Illinois. The Supreme Court of the United States decided, through Mr. Justice Miller, that this statute of Illinois was unconstitutional, as infringing the clause of the Constitution of the United States, giving to Congress power to regulate commerce between the States. The Court said :
“It cannot be too strongly insisted upon, that the right of continuous transportation, from one end of the country to the other, is essential, in modern times, to that freedom of commerce from the restraints which the State might choose to impose upon it, that the commerce clause was intended to secure. This clause, giving to Congress the power to regulate commerce among the States and with foreign nations, as this Court has said before, was. among the most important of the subjects which prompted the formation of the Constitution. (Cook v. Pennsylvania, 97 U. S., 556, 574; Brown v. Maryland, 12, Wheat., 419, 446.)
“ And it would be a very feeble and almost useless provision, but poorly adapted to secure the entire freedom of commerce among the
States, which was deemed essential to a more perfect union by the framers of the Constitution, if, at every stage of the transportation of goods and chattels through the country, the State, within whose limits a part of this transportation must be done, could impose regulations concerning the price, compensation, or taxation, or any other restrictive regulation interfering with and seriously embarrassing this commerce. stricted to a transportation which begins and ends within the limits of the State, it (the law of Illinois) may be very just and equitable, and it certainly is the province of the State Legislature to determine that question. But when it is attempted to apply to transportation through an entire series of States a principle of this kind, and each one of the States shall attempt to establish its own rates of transportation, its own methods to prevent discrimination in rates, or to permit it, the deleterious influence upon the freedom of commerce among the States, upon the transit of goods through those States, cannot be overestimated. That this species of regulation is one which must be, if established at all, of a general and national character, and cannot be safely and wisely re
mitted to local rules and local regulations, we think is clear, from what has already been said. And if it be a regulation of commerce, as we think we have demonstrated it is, and as the Illinois Court concedes it to be, it must be of that national character, and the regulation can only appropriately exist by general rules and principles, which demand that it should be done by the Congress of the United States under the commerce clause of the Constitution.
This last decision of the Supreme Court of the United States furnishes the “motive and the ·cue" for the Inter-State Commerce Act, which was approved on the 4th day of February, 1887, and which was the result of a compromise agreed on by Conference Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The power of Congress to pass a measure of this kind arises out of the third subdivision of Sec. 8, Art. I., of the Constitution of the United States, which provides that it shall have power“ to REGULATE commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.”
The Supreme Court of the United States, as we have shown by reference to the Wabash case, held, that the various States of the Union