Search Supreme Court Cases
NORTHERN SECURITIES CO. V. UNITED STATES, 193 U. S. 197 (1904)
U.S. Supreme Court
Northern Securities Co. v. United States, 193 U.S. 197 (1904)
Northern Securities Co. v. United States
Argued December 14, 15, 1903
Decided March 14, 1904
193 U.S. 197
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE
UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Stockholders of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies -- corporations having competing and substantially parallel lines from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean at Puget Sound -- combined and conceived the scheme of organizing a corporation, under the laws of New Jersey which should hold the shares of the stock of the constituent companies, such shareholders, in lieu of their shares in those companies, to receive, upon an agreed basis of value, shares in the holding corporation. Pursuant to such combination, the Northern Securities Company was organized as the holding corporation through which that scheme should be executed, and, under that scheme, such holding corporation became the holder -- more properly speaking, the custodian -- of more than nine-tenths of the stock of the Northern Pacific, and more than three-fourths of the stock of the Great Northern, the stockholders of the companies, who delivered their stock, receiving, upon the agreed basis, shares of stock in the holding corporation.
Held, that, necessarily, the constituent companies ceased, under this arrangement, to be in active competition for trade and commerce along their respective lines, and became, practically, one powerful consolidated corporation, by the name of a holding corporation, the principal, if not the sole, object for the formation of which was to carry out the purpose of the original combination under which competition between the constituent companies would cease.
Held, that the arrangement was an illegal combination in restraint of interstate commerce, and fell within the prohibitions and provisions of the act of July 2, 1890, and it was within the power of the Circuit Court, in an action brought by the Attorney General of the United States after the completion of the transfer of such stock to it, to enjoin the holding company from voting such stock and from exercising any control whatever over the acts and doings of the railroad companies, and also to enjoin the railroad companies from paying any dividends to the holding corporation on any of their stock held by it.
Held, that, although cases should not be brought within a statute containing criminal provisions that are not clearly embraced by it, the court should not, by narrow, technical, or forced construction of words, exclude cases from it that are obviously within its provisions, and, while the act of July 2, 1890, contains criminal provisions, the Federal court has power under § 4 of the act in a suit in equity to prevent and restrain violations
of the act, and may mould its decree so as to accomplish practical results such as law and justice demand.
HARLAN, BROWN, McKENNA and DAY, JJ. *
The combination is, within the meaning of the act of Congress of July 2, 1890, known as the Anti-Trust Act, a "trust"; but if not, it is a combination in restraint of interstate and international commerce, and that is enough to bring it under the condemnation of the act.
From prior cases in this court, the following propositions are deducible, and embrace this case:
Although the act of Congress known as the Anti-Trust Act has no reference to the mere manufacture or production of articles or commodities within the limits of the several States, it embraces and declares to be illegal every contract, combination or conspiracy, in whatever form, of whatever nature, and whoever may be parties to it, which directly or necessarily operates in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations.
The act is not limited to restraints of interstate and international trade or commerce that are unreasonable in their nature, but embraces all direct restraints, reasonable or unreasonable, imposed by any combination, conspiracy or monopoly upon such trade or commerce.
Railroad carriers engaged in interstate or international trade or commerce are embraced by the act.
Combinations, even among private manufacturers or dealers, whereby interstate or international commerce is restrained are equally embraced by the act
Congress has the power to establish rules by which interstate and international commerce shall be governed, and, by the Anti-Trust Act, has prescribed the rule of free competition among those engaged in such commerce.
Every combination or conspiracy which would extinguish competition between otherwise competing railroads, engaged in interstate trade or commerce, and which would in that way restrain such trade or commerce, is made illegal by the act.
The natural effect of competition is to increase commerce, and an agreement whose direct effect is to prevent this play of competition restrains, instead of promotes, trade and commerce.
To vitiate a combination such as the act of Congress condemns, it need not
be shown that such combination, in fact, results, or will result, in a total suppression of trade or in a complete monopoly, but it is only essential to show that, by its necessary operation, it tends to restrain interstate or international trade or commerce, or tends to create a monopoly in such trade or commerce, and to deprive the public of the advantages that flow from free competition.
The constitutional guarantee of liberty of contract does not prevent Congress from prescribing the rule of free competition for those engaged in interstate and international commerce.
Under its power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, Congress had authority to enact the statute in question. United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1; United States v Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290; United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505; Hopkins v United States, 171 U. S. 578; Anderson v. United States, 171 U. S. 604; Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v United States, 175 U. S. 211; Montague & Co. v. Lowrey, 193 U. S. 38.
Congress may protect the freedom of interstate commerce by any means that are appropriate and that are lawful and not prohibited by the Constitution.
If, in the judgment of Congress, the public convenience or the general welfare will be best subserved when the natural laws of competition are left undisturbed by those engaged in interstate commerce, that must be, for all, the end of the matter if this is to remain a government of laws, and not of men.
When Congress declared contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade or commerce to be illegal, it did nothing more than apply to interstate commerce a rule that had been long applied by the several States when dealing with combinations that were in restraint of their domestic commerce.
Subject to such restrictions as are imposed by the Constitution upon the exercise of all power, the power of Congress over interstate and international commerce is as full and complete as is the power of any State over its domestic commerce.
No State can, by merely creating a corporation, or in any other mode, project its authority into other States so as to prevent Congress from exerting the power it possesses under the Constitution over interstate and international commerce, or so as to exempt its corporation engaged in interstate commerce from obedience to any rule lawfully established by Congress for such commerce; nor can any State give a corporation created under its laws authority to restrain interstate or international commerce against the will of the nation as lawfully expressed by Congress. Every corporation created by a State is necessarily subject to the supreme law of the land.
Whilst every instrumentality of domestic commerce is subject to state control, every instrumentality of interstate commerce may be reached and controlled by national authority, so far as to compel it to respect the rules for such commerce lawfully established by Congress.
By MR. JUSTICE BREWER
The act of July 2, 1890, was leveled, as appears by its title, at only unlawful restraints and monopolies. Congress did not intend to reach and destroy those minor contracts in partial restraint of trade which the long course of decisions at common law had affirmed were reasonable, and ought to be upheld.
The general language of the act is limited by the power which each individual has to manage his own property and determine the place and manner of its investment. Freedom of action in these respects is among the inalienable rights of every citizen.
A corporation, while by fiction of law recognized for some purposes as a person and for purposes of jurisdiction as a citizen, is not endowed with the inalienable rights of a natural person, but it is an artificial person, created and existing only for the convenient transaction of business.
Where, however, no individual investment is involved, but there is a combination by several individuals separately owning stock in two competing railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce, to place the control of both in a single corporation, which is organized for that purpose expressly, and as a mere instrumentality by which the competing railroads can be combined, the resulting combination is a direct restraint of trade by destroying competition, and is illegal within the meaning of the act of July 2, 1890.
A suit brought by the Attorney General of the United States to declare this combination illegal under the act of July 2, 1890, is not an interference with the control of the States under which the railroad companies and the holding company were, respectively, organized.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN announced the affirmance of the decree of the Circuit Court, and delivered the following opinion:
This suit was brought by the United States against the Northern Securities Company, a corporation of New Jersey; the Great Northern Railway Company, a corporation of Minnesota; the Northern Pacific Railway Company, a corporation of Wisconsin; James J. Hill, a citizen of Minnesota; and William P. Clough, D. Willis James, John S. Kennedy, J. Pierpont Morgan, Robert Bacon, George F. Baker, and Daniel S. Lamont, citizens of New York.
Its general object was to enforce, as against the defendants, the provisions of the statute of July 2, 1890, commonly known as the Anti-Trust Act, and entitled "An act to protect trade
and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies." 26 Stat. 209. By the decree below, the United States was given substantially the relief asked by it in the bill.
As the act is not very long, and as the determination of the particular questions arising in this case may require a consideration of the scope and meaning of most of its provisions, it is here given in full:
"SEC. 1. Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court."
"SEC. 2. Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court."
"SEC. 3. Every contract, combination in form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce in any Territory of the United States or of the District of Columbia, or in restraint of trade or commerce between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory or Territories and any State or States or the District of Columbia, or with foreign nations, or between the District of Columbia and any State or States or foreign nations, is hereby declared illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars,
or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court."
"SEC. 4. The several Circuit Courts of the United States are hereby invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of this act, and it shall be the duty of the several district attorneys of the United States, in their respective districts, under the direction of the Attorney-General, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations. Such proceedings may be by way of petition setting forth the case and praying that such violation shall be enjoined or otherwise prohibited. When the parties complained of shall have been duly notified of such petition the court shall proceed, as soon as may be, to the hearing and determination of the case; and, pending such petition and before final decree, the court may at any time make such temporary restraining order or prohibition as shall be deemed just in the premises."
"SEC.5. Whenever it shall appear to the court before which .my proceeding under section four of this act may be pending that the ends of justice require that other parties should be brought before the court, the court may cause them to be summoned, whether they reside in the district in which the court is held or not, and subpoenas to that end may be served in any district by the marshal thereof."
"SEC. 6. Any property owned under any contract or by any combination, or pursuant to any conspiracy (and being the subject thereof) mentioned in section one of this act, and being in the course of transportation from one State to another, or to a foreign country, shall be forfeited to the United States, and may be seized and condemned by like proceedings as those provided by law for the forfeiture, seizure, and condemnation of property imported into the United States contrary to law."
"SEC. 7. Any person who shall be injured in his business or property by any other person or corporation by reason of anything forbidden or declared to be unlawful by this act may sue therefor in any Circuit Court of the United States in the district
in which the defendant resides or is found, without respect to the amount in controversy, and shall recover threefold the damages by him sustained, and the costs of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee."
"SEC. 8. That the word 'person' or 'persons,' wherever used in this act shall, be deemed to include corporations and associations existing under or authorized by the laws of either the United States, the laws of any of the Territories, the laws of any State, or the laws of any foreign country."
Is the case as presented by the pleadings and the evidence one of a combination or a conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the States, or with foreign states? Is it one in which the defendants are properly chargeable with monopolizing or attempting to monopolize any part of such trade or commerce? Let us see what are the facts disclosed by the record.
The Great Northern Railway Company and the Northern Pacific Railway Company owned, controlled and operated separate lines of railway -- the former road extending from Superior, and from Duluth and St. Paul, to Everett, Seattle, and Portland, with a branch line to Helena; the latter, extending from Ashland, and from Duluth and St. Paul, to Helena, Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland. The two lines, main and branches, about 9,000 miles in length, were and are parallel and competing lines across the continent through the northern tier of States between the Great Lakes and the Pacific, and the two companies were engaged in active competition for freight and passenger traffic, each road connecting at its respective terminals with lines of railway, or with lake and river steamers, or with seagoing vessels.
Prior to 1893, the Northern Pacific system was owned or controlled and operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, a corporation organized under certain acts and resolutions of Congress. That company becoming insolvent, its road and property passed into the hands of receivers appointed by courts of the United States. In advance of foreclosure and
sale, a majority of its bondholders made an arrangement with the Great Northern Railway Company for a virtual consolidation of the two systems, and for giving the practical control of the Northern Pacific to the Great Northern. That was the arrangement declared in Pearsall v. Great Northern Railway Company, 161 U. S. 646, to be illegal under the statutes of Minnesota which forbade any railroad corporation or the purchasers or managers of any corporation to consolidate the stock, property or franchises of such corporation, or to lease or purchase the works or franchises of, or in any way control other railroad corporations owning or having under their control parallel or competing lines. Gen.Laws, Minn. 1874, c. 29; ch. 1881.
Early in 1901, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, having in view the ultimate placing of their two systems under a common control, united in the purchase of the capital stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway Company, giving in payment, upon an agreed basis of exchange, the joint bonds of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, payable in twenty years from date, with interest at 4 percent per annum. In this manner, the two purchasing companies became the owners of $107,000,000 of the $112,000,000 total capital stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway Company, whose lines aggregated about 8,000 miles, and extended from St. Paul to Chicago and from St. Paul and Chicago to Quincy, Burlington, Des Moines, St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Cheyenne and Billings, where it connected with the Northern Pacific railroad. By this purchase of stock, the Great Northern and Northern Pacific acquired full control of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy main line and branches.
Prior to November 13, 1901, defendant Hill and associate stockholders of the Great Northern Railway Company, and defendant Morgan and associate stockholders of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, entered into a combination to form,
under the laws of New Jersey, a holding corporation, to be called the Northern Securities Company, with a capital stock of $400,000,000, and to which company, in exchange for its own capital stock upon a certain basis and at a certain rate, was to be turned over the capital stock, or a controlling interest in the capital stock, of each of the constituent railway companies, with power in the holding corporation to vote such stock and in all respects to act as the owner thereof, and to do whatever it might deem necessary in aid of such railway companies or to enhance the value of their stocks. In this manner, the interests of individual stockholders in the property and franchises of the two independent and competing railway companies were to be converted into an interest in the property and franchises of the holding corporation. Thus, as stated in Article VI of the bill,
"by making the stockholders of each system jointly interested in both systems, and by practically pooling the earnings of both for the benefit of the former stockholders of each, and by vesting the selection of the directors and officers of each system in a common body, to-wit, the holding corporation, with not only the power but the duty to pursue a policy which would promote the interests not of one system at the expense of the other, but of both at the expense of the public, all inducement for competition between the two systems was to be removed, a virtual consolidation effected, and a monopoly of the interstate and foreign commerce formerly carried on by the two systems as independent competitors established."
In pursuance of this combination and to effect its objects, the defendant, the Northern Securities Company, was organized November 13, 1901, under the laws of New Jersey.
Its certificate of incorporation stated that the objects for which the company was formed were:
"1. To acquire by purchase, subscription or otherwise, and to hold as investment, any bonds or other securities or evidences of indebtedness, or any shares of capital stock created or issued by any other corporation or corporations, association or associations, of the
State of New Jersey, or of any other State, Territory or country. 2. To purchase, hold, sell, assign, transfer, mortgage, pledge, or otherwise dispose of any bonds or other securities or evidences of indebtedness created or issued by any other corporation or corporations, association or associations, of the State of New Jersey, or of any other State, Territory or country, and while owner thereof to exercise all the rights, powers and privileges of ownership. 3. To purchase, hold, sell, assign, transfer, mortgage, pledge or otherwise dispose of shares of the capital stock of any other corporation or corporations, association or associations, of the State of New Jersey, or of any other State, Territory or country, and while owner of such stock to exercise all the rights, powers and privileges of ownership, including the right to vote thereon. 4. To aid in any manner any corporation or association of which any bonds or other securities or evidences of indebtedness or stock are held by the corporation, and to do any acts or things designed to protect, preserve, improve or enhance the value of any such bonds or other securities or evidences of indebtedness or stock. 5. To acquire, own and hold such real and personal property as may be necessary or convenient for the transaction of its business."
It was declared in the certificate that the business or purpose of the corporation was from time to time to do any one or more of such acts and things, and that the corporation should have power to conduct its business in other States and in foreign countries, and to have one or more offices, and hold, purchase, mortgage and convey real and personal property, out of New Jersey.
The total authorized capital stock of the corporation was fixed at $400,000,000, divided into 4,000,000 shares of the par value of $100 each. The amount of the capital stock with which the corporation should commence business was fixed at $30,000. The duration of the corporation was to be perpetual.
This charter having been obtained, Hill and his associate stockholders of the Great Northern Railway Company, and
Morgan and associate stockholders of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, assigned to the Securities Company a controlling amount of the capital stock of the respective constituent companies upon an agreed basis of exchange of the capital stock of the Securities Company for each share of the capital stock of the other companies.
In further pursuance of the combination, the Securities Company acquired additional stock of the defendant railway companies, issuing in lieu thereof its own stock upon the above basis, and, at the time of the bringing of this suit, held, as owner and proprietor, substantially all the capital stock of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, and, it is alleged, a controlling interest in the stock of the Great Northern Railway Company,
"and is voting the same and is collecting the dividends thereon, and in all respects is acting as the owner thereof, in the organization, management and operation of said railway companies and in the receipt and control of their earnings."
No consideration whatever, the bill alleges, has existed or will exist for the transfer of the stock of the defendant railway companies to the Northern Securities Company other than the issue of the stock of the latter company for the purpose, after the manner, and upon the basis stated.
The Securities Company, the bill also alleges, was not organized in good faith to purchase and pay for the stocks of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, but solely "to incorporate the pooling of the stocks of said companies," and carry into effect the above combination; that it is a mere depository, custodian, holder or trustee of the stocks of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies; that its shares of stock are but beneficial certificates against said railroad stocks to designate the interest of the holders in the pool; that it does not have and never had any capital to warrant such an operation; that its subscribed capital was but $30,000, and its authorized capital stock of $400,000,000 was just sufficient, when all issued, to represent
and cover the exchange value of substantially the entire stock of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, upon the basis and at the rate agreed upon, which was about $122,000,000 in excess of the combined capital stock of the two railway companies taken at par, and that, unless prevented, the Securities Company would acquire as owner and proprietor substantially all the capital stock of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, issuing in lieu thereof its own capital stock to the full extent of its authorized issue, of which, upon the agreed basis of exchange, the former stockholders of the Great Northern Railway Company have received or would receive and hold about fifty-five percent, the balance going to the former stockholders of the Northern Pacific Railway Company.
The Government charges that, if the combination was held not to be in violation of the act of Congress, then all efforts of the National Government to preserve to the people the benefits of free competition among carriers engaged in interstate commerce will be wholly unavailing, and all transcontinental lines, indeed the entire railway systems of the country, may be absorbed, merged and consolidated, thus placing the public at the absolute mercy of the holding corporation.
The several defendants denied all the allegations of the bill imputing to them a purpose to evade the provisions of the act of Congress, or to form a combination or conspiracy having for its object either to restrain or to monopolize commerce or trade among the States or with foreign nations. They denied that any combination or conspiracy was formed in violation of the act.
In our judgment, the evidence fully sustains the material allegations of the bill, and shows a violation of the act of Congress insofar as it declares illegal every combination or conspiracy in restraint of commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, and forbids attempts to monopolize such commerce or any part of it.
Summarizing the principal facts, it is indisputable upon this
record that, under the leadership of the defendants Hill and Morgan, the stockholders of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway corporations, having competing and substantially parallel lines from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean at Puget Sound, combined and conceived the scheme of organizing a corporation under the laws of New Jersey which should hold the shares of the stock of the constituent companies, such shareholders, in lieu of their shares in those companies, to receive, upon an agreed basis of value, shares in the holding corporation; that, pursuant to such combination, the Northern Securities Company was organized as the holding corporation through which the scheme should be executed, and under that scheme such holding corporation has become the holder -- more properly speaking, the custodian -- of more than nine-tenths of the stock of the Northern Pacific, and more than three-fourths of the stock of the Great Northern, the stockholders of the companies who delivered their stock receiving upon the agreed basis shares of stock in the holding corporation. The stockholders of these two competing companies disappeared as such for the moment, but immediately reappeared as stockholders of the holding company, which was thereafter to guard the interests of both sets of stockholders as a unit, and to manage, or cause to be managed, both lines of railroad as if held in one ownership. Necessarily, by this combination or arrangement, the holding company in the fullest sense dominates the situation in the interest of those who were stockholders of the constituent companies, as much so, for every practical purpose, as if it had been itself a railroad corporation which had built, owned, and operated both lines for the exclusive benefit of its stockholders. Necessarily, also, the constituent companies ceased, under such a combination, to be in active competition for trade and commerce along their respective lines, and have become, practically, one powerful consolidated corporation, by the name of a holding corporation the principal, if not the sole, object for the formation of which was to carry out the purpose of the original
combination under which competition between the constituent companies would cease. Those who were stockholders of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific and became stockholders in the holding company are now interested in preventing all competition between the two lines, and, as owners of stock or of certificates of stock in the holding company, they will see to it that no competition is tolerated. They will take care that no persons are chosen directors of the holding company who will permit competition between the constituent companies. The result of the combination is that all the earnings of the constituent companies make a common fund in the hands of the Northern Securities Company to be distributed not upon the basis of the earnings of the respective constituent companies, each acting exclusively in its own interest, but upon the basis of the certificates of stock issued by the holding company. No scheme or device could more certainly come within the words of the act -- "combination in the form of a trust or otherwise . . . in restraint of commerce among the several States or with foreign nations" -- or could more effectively and certainly suppress free competition between the constituent companies. This combination is, within the meaning of the act, a "trust;" but if not, it is a combination in restraint of interstate and international commerce, and that is enough to bring it under the condemnation of the act. The mere existence of such a combination and the power acquired by the holding company as its trustee constitute a menace to, and a restraint upon, that freedom of commerce which Congress intended to recognize and protect, and which the public is entitled to have protected. If such combination be not destroyed, all the advantages that would naturally come to the public under the operation of the general laws of competition, as between the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, will be lost, and the entire commerce of the immense territory in the northern part of the United States between the Great Lakes and the Pacific at Puget Sound will be at the mercy of a single holding corporation,
organized in a State distant from the people of that territory.
The Circuit Court was undoubtedly right when it said -- all the Judges of that court concurring -- that the combination referred to
"led inevitably to the following results: first, it placed the control of the two roads in the hands of a single person, to-wit, the Securities Company, by virtue of its ownership of a large majority of the stock of both companies; second, it destroyed every motive for competition between two roads engaged in interstate traffic, which were natural competitors for business, by pooling the earnings of the two roads for the common benefit of the stockholders of both companies."
120 Fed.Rep. 721, 724.
Such being the case made by the record, what are the principles that must control the decision of the present case? Do former adjudications determine the controlling questions raised by the pleadings and proofs?
The contention of the Government is that, if regard be had to former adjudications, the present case must be determined in its favor. That view is contested, and the defendants insist that a decision in their favor will not be inconsistent with anything heretofore decided and would be in harmony with the act of Congress.
Is the act to be construed as forbidding every combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the States or with foreign nations? Or does it embrace only such restraints as are unreasonable in their nature? Is the motive with which a forbidden combination or conspiracy was formed at all material when it appears that the necessary tendency of the particular combination or conspiracy in question is to restrict or suppress free competition between competing railroads engaged in commerce among the States? Does the act of Congress prescribe, as a rule for interstate or international commerce, that the operation of the natural laws of competition between those engaged in such commerce shall not be restricted or interfered with by any contract, combination or
conspiracy? How far may Congress go in regulating the affairs or conduct of state corporations engaged as carriers in commerce among the States or of state corporations which, although not directly engaged themselves in such commerce, yet have control of the business of interstate carriers? If state corporations, or their stockholders, are found to be parties to a combination, in the form of a trust or otherwise, which restrains interstate or international commerce, may they not be compelled to respect any rule for such commerce that may be lawfully prescribed by Congress?
These questions were earnestly discussed at the bar by able counsel, and have received the full consideration which their importance demands.
The first case in this court arising under the Anti-Trust Act was United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1. The next case was that of United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290. That was followed by United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505, Hopkins v. United States, 171 U. S. 578, Anderson v. United States, 171 U. S. 604, Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States, 175 U. S. 211, and Montague & Co. v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38. To these may be added Pearsall v. Great Northern Railway, 161 U. S. 646, which, although not arising under the Anti-Trust Act, involved an agreement under which the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies should be consolidated and by which competition between those companies was to cease. In United States v. E. C. Knight Co., it was held that the agreement or arrangement there involved had reference only to the manufacture or production of sugar by those engaged in the alleged combination, but if it had directly embraced interstate or international commerce, it would then have been covered by the Anti-Trust Act and would have been illegal; in United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, that an agreement between certain railroad companies providing for establishing and maintaining, for their mutual protection, reasonable rates, rules and regulations in respect
of freight traffic, through and local, and by which free competition among those companies was restricted, was, by reason of such restriction, illegal under the Anti-Trust Act; in United States v. Joint Traffic Association, that an arrangement between certain railroad companies in reference to railroad traffic among the States by which the railroads involved were not subject to competition among themselves, was also forbidden by the act; in Hopkins v. United States and Anderson v. United States, that the act embraced only agreements that had direct connection with interstate commerce, and that such commerce comprehended intercourse for all the purposes of trade, in any and all its forms, including the transportation, purchase, sale and exchange of commodities between citizens of different States, and the power to regulate it embraced all the instrumentalities by which such commerce is conducted; in Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States, all the members of the court concurring, that the act of Congress made illegal an agreement between certain private companies or corporations engaged in different States in the manufacture, sale and transportation of iron pipe whereby competition among them was avoided, was covered by the Anti-Trust Act, and in Montague v. Lowry, all the members of the court again concurring, that a combination created by an agreement between certain private manufacturers and dealers in tiles, grates and mantels in different States whereby they controlled or sought to control the price of such articles in those States was condemned by the act of Congress. In Pearsall v. Great Northern Railway, which, as already stated, involved the consolidation of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, the court said:
"The consolidation of these two great corporations will unavoidably result in giving to the defendant [the Great Northern] a monopoly of all traffic in the northern half of the State of Minnesota, as well as of all transcontinental traffic north of the line of the Union Pacific, against which public regulations will be but a feeble protection. The acts of the Minnesota Legislature of 1874 and 1881 undoubtedly
reflected the general sentiment of the public that their best security is in competition."
We will not incumber this opinion by extended extracts from the former opinions of this court. It is sufficient to say that from the decisions in the above cases certain propositions are plainly deducible and embrace the present case. Those propositions are:
That, although the act of Congress known as the Anti-Trust Act has no reference to the mere manufacture or production of articles or commodities within the limits of the several States, it does embrace and declare to be illegal every contract, combination or conspiracy, in whatever form, of whatever nature, and whoever may be parties to it, which directly or necessarily operates in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations;
That the act is not limited to restraints of interstate and international trade or commerce that are unreasonable in their nature, but embraces all direct restraints imposed by any combination, conspiracy or monopoly upon such trade or commerce;
That railroad carriers engaged in interstate or international trade or commerce are embraced by the act;
That combinations even among private manufacturers or dealers whereby interstate or international commerce is restrained are equally embraced by the act;
That Congress has the power to establish rules by which interstate and international commerce shall be governed, and, by the Anti-Trust Act, has prescribed the rule of free competition among those engaged in such commerce;
That every combination or conspiracy which would extinguish competition between otherwise competing railroads engaged in interstate trade or commerce, and which would in that way restrain such trade or commerce, is made illegal by the act;
That the natural effect of competition is to increase commerce, and an agreement whose direct effect is to prevent this play of competition restrains, instead of promotes, trade and commerce;
That to vitiate a combination, such as the act of Congress condemns, it need not be shown that the combination, in fact, results or will result in a total suppression of trade or in a complete monopoly, but it is only essential to show that, by its necessary operation, it tends to restrain interstate or international trade or commerce or tends to create a monopoly in such trade or commerce and to deprive the public of the advantages that flow from free competition;
That the constitutional guarantee of liberty of contract does not prevent Congress from prescribing the rule of free competition for those engaged in interstate and international commerce; and,
That, under its power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, Congress had authority to enact the statute in question.
No one, we assume, will deny that these propositions were distinctly announced in the former decisions of this court. They cannot be ignored or their effect avoided by the intimation that the court indulged in obiter dicta. What was said in those cases was within the limits of the issues made by the parties. In our opinion, the recognition of the principles announced in former cases must, under the conceded facts, lead to an affirmance of the decree below, unless the special objections, or some of them, which have been made to the application of the act of Congress to the present case are of a substantial character. We will now consider those objections.
Underlying the argument in behalf of the defendants is the idea that, as the Northern Securities Company is a state corporation, and as its acquisition of the stock of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies is not inconsistent with the powers conferred by its charter, the enforcement of the act of Congress, as against those corporations, will be an unauthorized interference by the national government with the internal commerce of the States creating those corporations. This suggestion does not at all impress us. There is no reason to suppose that Congress had any purpose
to interfere with the internal affairs of the States, nor, in our opinion, is there any ground whatever for the contention that the Anti-Trust Act regulates their domestic commerce. By its very terms, the act regulates only commerce among the States and with foreign states. Viewed in that light, the act, if within the powers of Congress, must be respected; for, by the explicit words of the Constitution, that instrument and the laws enacted by Congress in pursuance of its provisions are the supreme law of the land, "anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding" -- supreme over the States, over the courts, and even over the people of the United States, the source of all power under our governmental system in respect of the objects for which the National Government was ordained. An act of Congress constitutionally passed under its power to regulate commerce among the States and with foreign nations is binding upon all; as much so as if it were embodied, in terms, in the Constitution itself. Every judicial officer, whether of a national or a state court, is under the obligation of an oath so to regard a lawful enactment of Congress. Not even a State, still less one of its artificial creatures, can stand in the way of its enforcement. If it were otherwise, the Government and its laws might be prostrated at the feet of local authority. Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 19 U. S. 385, 19 U. S. 414. These views have been often expressed by this court.
It is said that, whatever may be the power of a State over such subjects, Congress cannot forbid single individuals from disposing of their stock in a state corporation, even if such corporation be engaged in interstate and international commerce; that the holding or purchase by a state corporation, or the purchase by individuals, of the stock of another corporation, for whatever purpose, are matters in respect of which Congress has no authority under the Constitution; that, so far as the power of Congress is concerned, citizens or state corporations may dispose of their property and invest their money in any way they choose, and that, in regard to all
such matters, citizens and state corporations are subject, if to any authority, only to the lawful authority of the State in which such citizens reside, or under whose laws such corporations are organized. It is unnecessary in this case to consider such abstract general questions. The court need not now concern itself with them. They are not here to be examined and determined, and may well be left for consideration in some case necessarily involving their determination.
In this connection, it is suggested that the contention of the Government is that the acquisition and ownership of stock in a state railroad corporation is itself interstate commerce, if that corporation be engaged in interstate commerce. This suggestion is made in different ways, sometimes in express words, at other times by implication. For instance, it is said that the question here is whether the power of Congress over interstate commerce extends to the regulation of the ownership of the stock in state railroad companies, by reason of their being engaged in such commerce. Again, it is said that the only issue in this case is whether the Northern Securities Company can acquire and hold stock in other state corporations. Still further, is it asked, generally, whether the organization or ownership of railroads is not under the control of the States under whose laws they came into existence? Such statements as to the issues in this case are, we think, wholly unwarranted, and are very wide of the mark; it is the setting up of mere men of straw to be easily stricken down. We do not understand that the Government makes any such contentions or takes any such positions as those statements imply. It does not contend that Congress may control the mere acquisition or the mere ownership of stock in a state corporation engaged in interstate commerce. Nor does it contend that Congress can control the organization of state corporations authorized by their charters to engage in interstate and international commerce. But it does contend that Congress may protect the freedom of interstate commerce by any means that are appropriate and that are lawful and not prohibited
by the Constitution. It does contend that no state corporation can stand in the way of the enforcement of the national will, legally expressed. What the Government particularly complains of, indeed, all that it complains of here, is the existence of a combination among the stockholders of competing railroad companies which, in violation of the act of Congress, restrains interstate and international commerce through the agency of a common corporate trustee designated to act for both companies in repressing free competition between them. Independently of any question of the mere ownership of stock or of the organization of a state corporation, can it in reason be said that such a combination is not embraced by the very terms of the Anti-Trust Act? May not Congress declare that combination to be illegal? If Congress legislates for the protection of the public, may it not proceed on the ground that wrongs, when effected by a powerful combination, are more dangerous and require more stringent supervision than when they are to be effected by a single person? Callan v. Wilson, 127 U. S. 540, 127 U. S. 556. How far may the courts go in order to give effect to the act of Congress, and remedy the evils it was designed by that act to suppress? These are confessedly questions of great moment, and they will now be considered.
By the express words of the Constitution, Congress has power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." In view of the numerous decisions of this court, there ought not, at this day, to be any doubt as to the general scope of such power. In some circumstances, regulation may properly take the form and have the effect of prohibition. In re Rahrer, 140 U. S. 545; Lottery Case, 188 U. S. 321, 188 U. S. 355, and authorities there cited. Again and again, this court has reaffirmed the doctrine announced in the great judgment rendered by Chief Justice Marshall for the court in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 196, 22 U. S. 197, that the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the States and with foreign nations is the power "to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed;" that such power
in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution;"
"if, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations and among the several States is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the Constitution of the United States;"
that a sound construction of the Constitution allows to Congress a large discretion,
"with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution, which enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in the manner most beneficial to the people;"
and that, if the end to be accomplished is within the scope of the Constitution, "all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, and which are not prohibited, are constitutional." Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419; Sinnot v. Davenport, 22 How. 227, 63 U. S. 238; Henderson v. The Mayor, 92 U. S. 259; Railroad Company v. Husen, 95 U. S. 465, 95 U. S. 472; County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U. S. 691; M., K. & Texas Ky. Co. v. Haber, 169 U. S. 613, 169 U. S. 626; The Lottery Case, 188 U. S. 321, 188 U. S. 348. In Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 19 U. S. 413, this court said that the United States were, for many important purposes, "a single nation," and that, "in all commercial regulations, we are one and the same people;" and it has since frequently declared that commerce among the several States was a unit, and subject to national control. Previously, in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 17 U. S. 405, the court had said that the Government ordained and established by the Constitution was, within the limits of the powers granted to it, "the Government of all; its powers are delegated by all; it represents all, and acts for all," and was "supreme within its sphere of action." As late as the case of In re Debs, 158 U. S. 564, 158 U. S. 582, this court, every member of it concurring, said:
"The entire strength of the Nation may be used to enforce in any part of the land the
full and free exercise of all National powers and the security of all rights entrusted by the Constitution to its care. The strong arm of the National Government may be put forth to brush away all obstructions to the freedom of interstate commerce or the transportation of the mails. If the emergency arises, the army of the Nation, and all its militia, are at the service of the Nation to compel obedience to its laws."
The means employed in respect of the combinations forbidden by the Anti-Trust Act, and which Congress deemed germane to the end to be accomplished, was to prescribe as a rule for interstate and international commerce (not for domestic commerce) that it should not be vexed by combinations, conspiracies or monopolies which restrain commerce by destroying or restricting competition. We say that Congress has prescribed such a rule because, in all the prior cases in this court, the Anti-Trust Act has been construed as forbidding any combination which, by its necessary operation, destroys or restricts free competition among those engaged in interstate commerce; in other words, that to destroy or restrict free competition in interstate commerce was to restrain such commerce. Now, can this court say that such a rule is prohibited by the Constitution or is not one that Congress could appropriately prescribe when exerting its power under the commerce clause of the Constitution? Whether the free operation of the normal laws of competition is a wise and wholesome rule for trade and commerce is an economic question which this court need not consider or determine. Undoubtedly, there are those who think that the general business interests and prosperity of the country will be best promoted if the rule of competition is not applied. But there are others who believe that such a rule is more necessary in these days of enormous wealth than it ever was in any former period of our history. Be all this as it may, Congress has, in effect, recognized the rule of free competition by declaring illegal every combination or conspiracy in restraint of interstate and international commerce. As in the judgment of Congress the public convenience and the general welfare
will be best subserved when the natural laws of competition are left undisturbed by those engaged in interstate commerce, and as Congress has embodied that rule in a statute, that must be, for all, the end of the matter if this is to remain a government of laws, and not of men.
It is said that railroad corporations created under the laws of a State can only be consolidated with the authority of the State. Why that suggestion is made in this case we cannot understand, for there is no pretense that the combination here in question was under the authority of the States under whose laws these railroad corporations were created. But even if the State allowed consolidation, it would not follow that the stockholders of two or more state railroad corporations, having competing lines and engaged in interstate commerce, could lawfully combine and form a distinct corporation to hold the stock of the constituent corporations, and, by destroying competition between them, in violation of the act of Congress, restrain commerce among the States and with foreign nations.
The rule of competition, prescribed by Congress, was not at all new in trade and commerce. And we cannot be in any doubt as to the reason that moved Congress to the incorporation of that rule into a statute. That reason was thus stated in United States v. Joint Traffic Association:
"Has not Congress with regard to interstate commerce and in the course of regulating it, in the case of railroad corporations, the power to say that no contract or combination shall be legal which shall restrain trade and commerce by shutting out the operation of the general law of competition? We think it has. It is the combination of these large and powerful corporations, covering vast sections of territory and influencing trade throughout the whole extent thereof, and acting as one body in all the matters over which the combination extends, that constitutes the alleged evil, and in regard to which, so far as the combination operates upon and restrains interstate commerce, Congress has power to legislate and to prohibit."
should not have surprised anyone. Indeed, when Congress declared contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade or commerce to be illegal, it did nothing more than apply to interstate commerce a rule that had been long applied by the several States when dealing with combinations that were in restraint of their domestic commerce. The decisions in state courts upon this general subject are not only numerous and instructive, but they show the circumstances under which the Anti-Trust Act was passed. It may well be assumed that Congress, when enacting that statute, shared the general apprehension that a few powerful corporations or combinations sought to obtain, and, unless restrained, would obtain such absolute control of the entire trade and commerce of the country as would be detrimental to the general welfare.
In Morris Run Coal Co. v. Barclay Coal Co., 68 Pa.St. 173, 186, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dealt with a combination of coal companies seeking the control within a large territory of the entire market for bituminous coal. The court, observing that the combination was wide in its scope, general in its influence, and injurious in its effects, said:
"When competition is left free, individual error or folly will generally find a correction in the conduct of others. But here is a combination of all the companies operating in the Blossburg and Barclay mining regions, and controlling their entire productions. They have combined together to govern the supply a the price of coal in all the markets from the Hudson to the Mississippi rivers, and from Pennsylvania to the Lakes. This combination has a power in its confederated form which no individual action can confer. The public interest must succumb to it, for it has left no competition free to correct its baleful influence. When the supply of coal is suspended, the demand for it becomes importunate, and prices must rise, or if the supply goes forward, the prices fixed by the confederates must accompany it. The domestic hearth, the furnaces of the iron master and the fires of the manufacturer all feel the restraint, while many dependent hands are
paralyzed and hungry mouths are stinted. The influence of a lack of supply or a rise in the price of an article of such prime necessity cannot be measured. It permeates the entire mass of the community, and leaves few of its members untouched by its withering blight. Such a combination is more than a contract; it is an offense. . . . In all such combinations where the purpose is injurious or unlawful, the gist of the offense is the conspiracy. Men can often do by the combination of many what severally no one could accomplish, and even what when done by one would be innocent. . . . There is a potency in numbers when combined which the law cannot overlook, where injury is the consequence."
The same principles were applied in Arnot v. Pittston & Elmira Coal Co., 68 N.Y. 558, 565, which was the case of a combination of two coal companies in order to give one of them a monopoly of coal in a particular region, the Court of Appeals of New York holding that
"a combination to effect such a purpose is inimical to the interests of the public, and that all contracts designed to effect such an end are contrary to public policy, and therefore illegal."
They were also applied by the Supreme Court of Ohio in Central Ohio Salt Co. v. Guthrie, 35 Ohio St. 666, 672, which was the case of a combination among manufacturers of salt in a large salt-producing territory, the court saying:
"It is no answer to say that competition in the salt trade was not, in fact, destroyed, or that the price of the commodity was not unreasonably advanced. Courts will not stop to enquire as to the degree of injury inflicted upon the public; it is enough to know that the inevitable tendency of such contracts is injurious to the public."
So, in Craft v. McConoughy, 79 Illinois 346, 350, which was the case of a combination among grain dealers by which competition was stifled, the court saying:
"So long as competition was free, the interest of the public was safe. The laws of trade, in connection with the rigor of competition, was all the guaranty the public required, but the secret combination created by the contract destroyed all competition and created a monopoly
against which the public interest had no protection."
Again, in People v. Chicago Gas Trust Co., 130 Illinois 268, 297, which involved the validity of the organization of a gas corporation which obtained a monopoly in the business of furnishing illuminating gas in the city of Chicago by buying the stock of four other gas companies, it was said:
"Of what avail is it that any number of gas companies may be formed under the general incorporation law if a giant trust company can be clothed with the power of buying up and holding the stock and property of such companies, and, through the control thereby attained, can direct all their operations and weld them into one huge combination?"
To the same effect are cases almost too numerous to be cited. But among them we refer to Richardson v. Buhl, 77 Michigan 632, which was the case of the organization of a corporation in Connecticut to unite in one corporation all the match manufacturers in the United States, and thus to obtain control of the business of manufacturing matches; Santa Clara Mill & Lumber Co. v. Hayes, 76 California 387, 390, which was the case of a combination among manufacturers of lumber by which it could control the business in certain localities, and India Bagging Association v. Kock, 14 La.Ann. 168, which was the case of a combination among various commercial firms to control the prices of bagging used by cotton planters.
The cases, just cited, it is true, relate to the domestic commerce of the States. But they serve to show the authority which the States possess to guard the public against combinations that repress individual enterprise and interfere with the operation of the natural laws of competition among those engaged in trade within their limits. They serve also to give point to the declaration of this court in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 22 U. S. 197 -- a principle never modified by any subsequent decision -- that, subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution upon the exercise of the powers granted by that instrument,
"the power over commerce with foreign nations and among the several States is vested in Congress as absolutely
as it would be in a single government having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of power as are found in the Constitution of the United States."
Is there, then, any escape from the conclusion that, subject only to such restrictions, the power of Congress over interstate and international commerce is as full and complete as is the power of any State over its domestic commerce? If a State may strike down combinations that restrain its domestic commerce by destroying free competition among those engaged in such commerce, what power, except that of Congress, is competent to protect the freedom of interstate and international commerce when assailed by a combination that restrains such commerce by stifling competition among those engaged in it?
Now, the court is asked to adjudge that, if held to embrace the case before us, the Anti-Trust Act is repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. In this view we are unable to concur. The contention of the defendants could not be sustained without, in effect, overruling the prior decisions of this court as to the scope and validity of the Anti-Trust Act. If, as the court has held, Congress can strike down a combination between private persons or private corporations that restrains trade among the States in iron pipe (as in Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States), or in tiles, grates and mantels (as in Montague v. Lowry), surely it ought not to be doubted that Congress has power to declare illegal a combination that restrains commerce among the States, and with foreign nations, as carried on over the lines of competing railroad companies exercising public franchises, and engaged in such commerce. We cannot agree that Congress may strike down combinations among manufacturers and dealers in iron pipe, tiles, grates and mantels that restrain commerce among the States in such articles, but may not strike down combinations among stockholders of competing railroad carriers, which restrain commerce as involved in the transportation of passengers and property among the several States. If private parties may not, by combination among themselves, restrain interstate
and international commerce in violation of an act of Congress, much less can such restraint be tolerated when imposed or attempted to be imposed upon commerce as carried on over public highways. Indeed, if the contentions of the defendants are sound, why may not all the railway companies in the United States that are engaged, under state charters, in interstate and international commerce enter into a combination such as the one here in question, and by the device of a holding corporation obtain the absolute control throughout the entire country of rates for passengers and freight, beyond the power of Congress to protect the public against their exactions? The argument in behalf of the defendants necessarily leads to such results, and places Congress, although invested by the people of the United States with full authority to regulate interstate and international commerce, in a condition of utter helplessness so far as the protection of the public against such combinations is concerned.
Will it be said that Congress can meet such emergencies by prescribing the rates by which interstate carriers shall be governed in the transportation of freight and passengers? If Congress has the power to fix such rates -- and upon that question we express no opinion -- it does not choose to exercise its power in that way or to that extent. It has, all will agree, a large discretion as to the means to be employed in the exercise of any power granted to it. For the present, it has determined to go no farther than to protect the freedom of commerce among the States and with foreign states by declaring illegal all contracts, combinations, conspiracies or monopolies in restraint of such commerce, and make it a public offence to violate the rule thus prescribed. How much further it may go we do not now say. We need only at this time consider whether it has exceeded its powers in enacting the statute here in question.
Assuming, without further discussion, that the case before us is within the terms of the act, and that the act is not in excess of the powers of Congress, we recur to the question how far may the courts go in reaching and suppressing the combination
described in the bill? All will agree that, if the Anti-Trust Act be constitutional, and if the combination in question be in violation of its provisions, the courts may enforce the provisions of the statute by such orders and decrees as are necessary or appropriate to that end and as may be consistent with the fundamental rules of legal procedure . And all, we take it, will agree, as established firmly by the decisions of this court, that the power of Congress over commerce extends to all the instrumentalities of such commerce, and to every device that may be employed to interfere with the freedom of commerce among the States and with foreign nations. Equally, we assume, all will agree that the Constitution and the legal enactments of Congress are, by express words of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution and laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. Nevertheless, the defendants, strangely enough, invoke in their behalf the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, which declares that
"the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the People;"
and we are confronted with the suggestion that any order or decree of the Federal court which will prevent the Northern Securities Company from exercising the power it acquired in becoming the holder of the stocks of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies will be an invasion of the rights of the State under which the Securities Company was chartered, as well as of the rights of the States creating the other companies. In other words, if the State of New Jersey gives a charter to a corporation, and even if the obtaining of such charter is, in fact, pursuant to a combination under which it becomes the holder of the stocks of shareholders in two competing, parallel railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce in other States, whereby competition between the respective roads of those companies is to be destroyed and the enormous commerce carried on over them restrained by suppressing competition, Congress must stay its hands and allow
such restraint to continue to the detriment of the public because, forsooth, the corporations concerned, or some of them, are state corporations. We cannot conceive how it is possible for anyone to seriously contend for such a proposition. It means nothing less than that Congress, in regulating interstate commerce, must act in subordination to the will of the States when exerting their power to create corporations. No such view can be entertained for a moment.
It is proper to say in passing that nothing in the record tends to show that the State of New Jersey had any reason to suspect that those who took advantage of its liberal incorporation laws had in view, when organizing the Securities Company, to destroy competition between two great railway carriers engaged in interstate commerce in distant States of the Union. The purpose of the combination was concealed under very general words that gave no clue whatever to the real purposes of those who brought about the organization of the Securities Company. If the certificate of the incorporation of that company had expressly stated that the object of the company Was to destroy competition between competing, parallel lines of interstate carriers, all would have seen, at the outset, that the scheme was in hostility to the national authority, and that there was a purpose to violate or evade the act of Congress.
We reject any such view of the relations of the National Government and the States composing the Union as that for which the defendants contend. Such a view cannot be maintained without destroying the just authority of the United States. It is inconsistent with all the decisions of this court as to the powers of the National Government over matters committed to it. No State can, by merely creating a corporation, or in any other mode, project its authority into other States, and across the continent, so as to prevent Congress from exerting the power it possesses under the Constitution over interstate and international commerce, or so as to exempt its corporation engaged in interstate commerce from obedience to any rule lawfully established by Congress for such commerce.
It cannot be said that any State may give a corporation, created under its laws, authority to restrain interstate or international commerce against the will of the nation as lawfully expressed by Congress. Every corporation created by a State is necessarily subject to the supreme law of the land. And yet the suggestion is made that to restrain a state corporation from interfering with the free course of trade and commerce among the States, in violation of an act of Congress, is hostile to the reserved rights of the States. The Federal court may not have power to forfeit the charter of the Securities Company; it may not declare how its shares of stock may be transferred on its books, nor prohibit it from acquiring real estate, nor diminish or increase its capital stock. All these and like matters are to be regulated by the State which created the company. But to the end that effect be given to the national will, lawfully expressed, Congress may prevent that company, in its capacity as a holding corporation and trustee, from carrying out the purposes of a combination formed in restraint of interstate commerce. The Securities Company is itself a part of the present combination; its head and front; its trustee. It would be extraordinary if the court, in executing the act of Congress, could not lay hands upon that company and prevent it from doing that which, if done, will defeat the act of Congress. Upon like grounds, the court can, by appropriate orders, prevent the two competing railroad companies here involved from cooperating with the Securities Company in restraining commerce among the States. In short, the court may make any order necessary to bring about the dissolution or suppression of an illegal combination that restrains interstate commerce. All this can be done without infringing in any degree upon the just authority of the States. The affirmance of the judgment below will only mean that no combination, however powerful, is stronger than the law or will be permitted to avail itself of the pretext that to prevent it doing that which, if done, would defeat a legal enactment of Congress is to attack the reserved rights of the States. It
would mean that the Government which represents all can, when acting within the limits of its powers, compel obedience to its authority. It would mean that no device in evasion of its provisions, however skillfully such device may have been contrived, and no combination, by whomsoever formed, is beyond the reach of the supreme law of the land if such device or combination by its operation directly restrains commerce among the States or with foreign nations in violation of the act of Congress.
The defendants rely with some confidence upon the case of Railroad Company v. Maryland, 21 Wall. 456, 88 U. S. 473. But nothing we have said is inconsistent with any principle announced in that case. The court there recognized the principle that a State has plenary powers "over its own territory, its highways, its franchises, and its corporations," and observed that
"we are bound to sustain the constitutional powers and prerogatives of the States, as well as those of the United States, whenever they are brought before us for adjudication, no matter what may be the consequences."
Of course, every State has, in a general sense, plenary power over its corporations. But is it conceivable that a State, when exerting power over a corporation of its creation, may prevent or embarrass the exercise by Congress of any power with which it is invested by the Constitution? In the case just referred to, the court does not say, and it is not to be supposed that it will ever say, that any power exists in a State to prevent the enforcement of a lawful enactment of Congress, or to invest any of its corporations, in whatever business engaged, with authority to disregard such enactment or defeat its legitimate operation. On the contrary, the court has steadily held to the doctrine, vital to the United States as well as to the States, that a state enactment, even if passed in the exercise of its acknowledged powers, must yield, in case of conflict, to the supremacy of the Constitution of the United States and the acts of Congress enacted in pursuance of its provisions. This results, the court has said, as well from the nature of the Government
as from the words of the Constitution. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 22 U. S. 210; Sinnot v. Davenport, 22 How. 227, 63 U. S. 243; In re Debs, 158 U. S. 564; Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway v. Haber, 169 U. S. 613, 169 U. S. 626, 627. In Texas v. White, 7 Wall. 700, 74 U. S. 725, the court remarked
"that 'the people of each State compose a State, having its own government, and endowed with all the functions essential to separate and independent existence,' and that, 'without the States in union, there could be no such political body as the United States.' County of Lane v. Oregon, 7 Wall. 76. Not only, therefore, can there be no loss of separate and independent autonomy to the States through their union under the Constitution, but it may be not unreasonably said that the preservation of the States, and the maintenance of their governments, are as much within the design and care of the Constitution as the preservation of the Union and the maintenance of the National Government."
These doctrines are at the basis of our Constitutional Government, and cannot be disregarded with safety.
The defendants also rely on Louisville & Nashville Railroad v. Kentucky, 161 U. S. 677, 161 U. S. 702. In that case, it was contended by the railroad company that the assumption of the State to forbid the consolidation of parallel and competing lines was an interference with the power of Congress over interstate commerce. The court observed that but little need be said in answer to such a proposition, for
"it has never been supposed that the dominant power of Congress over interstate commerce took from the States the power of legislation with respect to the instruments of such commerce, so far as the legislation was within its ordinary police powers."
But that case distinctly recognized that there was a division of power between Congress and the States in respect to interstate railways, and that Congress had the superior right to control that commerce and forbid interference therewith, while to the States remained the power to create and to regulate the instruments of such commerce, so far as necessary to the conservation of the public interests. If there is anything in that case which
even intimates that a State or a state corporation may in any way directly restrain interstate commerce, over which Congress has, by the Constitution, complete control, we have been unable to find it.
The question of the relations of the General Government with the States is again presented by the specific contention of each defendant that Congress did not intend
"to limit the power of the several States to create corporations, define their purposes, fix the amount of their capital, and determine who may buy, own and sell their stock."
All that is true, generally speaking, but the contention falls far short of meeting the controlling questions in this case. To meet this contention, we must repeat some things already said in this opinion. But if what we have said be sound, repetition will do no harm. So far as the Constitution of the United States is concerned, a State may, indeed, create a corporation, define its powers, prescribe the amount of its stock and the mode in which it may be transferred. It may even authorize one of its corporations to engage in commerce of every kind -- domestic, interstate and international. The regulation or control of purely domestic commerce of a State is, of course, with the State, and Congress has no direct power over it so long as what is done by the State does not interfere with the operations of the General Government, or any legal enactment of Congress. A State, if it chooses so to do, may even submit to the existence of combinations within its limits that restrain its internal trade. But neither a state corporation nor its stockholders can, by reason of the nonaction of the State or by means of any combination among such stockholders, interfere with the complete enforcement of any rule lawfully devised by Congress for the conduct of commerce among the States or with foreign nations; for, as we have seen, interstate and international commerce is, by the Constitution, under the control of Congress, and it belongs to the legislative department of the Government to prescribe rules for the conduct of that commerce. If it were otherwise, the declaration in the Constitution
of its supremacy, and of the supremacy as well of the laws made in pursuance of its provisions, was a waste of words Whilst every instrumentality of domestic commerce is subject to state control, every instrumentality of interstate commerce may be reached and controlled by national authority, so far as to compel it to respect the rules for such commerce lawfully established by Congress. No corporate person can excuse a departure from or violation of that rule under the plea that that which it has done or omitted to do is permitted or not forbidden by the State under whose authority it came into existence. We repeat that no State can endow any of its corporations, or any combination of its citizens, with authority to restrain interstate or international commerce, or to disobey the national will as manifested in legal enactments of Congress. So long as Congress keeps within the limits of its authority as defined by the Constitution, infringing no rights recognized or secured by that instrument, its regulations of interstate and international commerce, whether founded in wisdom or not, must be submitted to by all. Harm and only harm can come from the failure of the courts to recognize this fundamental principle of constitutional construction. To depart from it because of the circumstances of special cases, or because the rule, in its operation, may possibly affect the interests of business, is to endanger the safety and integrity of our institutions and make the Constitution mean not what it says, but what interested parties wish it to mean at a particular time and under particular circumstances. The supremacy of the law is the foundation rock upon which our institutions rest. The law, this court said in United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196, 106 U. S. 220, is the only supreme power in our system of government. And no higher duty rests upon this court than to enforce, by its decrees, the will of the legislative department of the Government, as expressed in a statute, unless such statute be plainly and unmistakably in violation of the Constitution. If the statute is beyond the constitutional power of Congress, the court would fail in the performance of a solemn duty if it
did not so declare. But if nothing more can be said than that Congress has erred -- and the court must not be understood as saying that it has or has not erred -- the remedy for the error and the attendant mischief is the selection of new Senators and Representatives, who, by legislation, will make such changes in existing statutes, or adopt such new statutes, as may be demanded by their constituents and be consistent with law.
Many suggestions were made in argument based upon the thought that the Anti-Trust Act would, in the end, prove to be mischievous in its consequences. Disaster to business and wide-spread financial ruin, it has been intimated, will follow the execution of its provisions. Such predictions were made in all the cases heretofore arising under that act. But they have not been verified. It is the history of monopolies in this country and in England that predictions of ruin are habitually made by them when it is attempted, by legislation, to restrain their operations and to protect the public against their exactions. In this as in former cases, they seek shelter behind the reserved rights of the States and even behind the constitutional guarantee of liberty of contract. But this court has heretofore adjudged that the act of Congress did not touch the rights of the States, and that liberty of contract did not involve a right to deprive the public of the advantages of free competition in trade and commerce. Liberty of contract does not imply liberty in a corporation or individuals to defy the national will, when legally expressed. Nor does the enforcement of a legal enactment of Congress infringe, in any proper sense, the general inherent right of everyone to acquire and hold property. That right, like all other rights, must be exercised in subordination to the law.
But even if the court shared the gloomy forebodings in which the defendants indulge, it could not refuse to respect the action of the legislative branch of the Government if what it has done is within the limits of its constitutional power. The suggestions of disaster to business have, we apprehend, their origin
in the zeal of parties who are opposed to the policy underlying the act of Congress or are interested in the result of this particular case; at any rate, the suggestions imply that the court may and ought to refuse the enforcement of the provisions of the act if, in its judgment, Congress was not wise in prescribing as a rule by which the conduct of interstate and international commerce is to be governed, that every combination, whatever its form, in restraint of such commerce and the monopolizing or attempting to monopolize such commerce shall be illegal. These, plainly, are questions as to the policy of legislation which belong to another department, and this court has no function to supervise such legislation from the standpoint of wisdom or policy. We need only say that Congress has authority to declare, and, by the language of its act, as interpreted in prior cases, has, in effect declared, that the freedom of interstate and international commerce shall not be obstructed or disturbed by any combination, conspiracy or monopoly that will restrain such commerce, by preventing the free operation of competition among interstate carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers and freight. This court cannot disregard that declaration unless Congress, in passing the statute in question, be held to have transgressed the limits prescribed for its action by the Constitution. But, as already indicated, it cannot be so held consistently with the provisions of that instrument.
The combination here in question may have been for the pecuniary benefit of those who formed or caused it to be formed. But the interests of private persons and corporations cannot be made paramount to the interests of the general public. Under the Articles of Confederation, commerce among the original States was subject to vexatious and local regulations that took no account of the general welfare. But it was for the protection of the general interests, as involved in interstate and international commerce, that Congress, representing the whole country, was given by the Constitution full power to regulate commerce among the States and with foreign
"Those who felt the injury arising from this state of things, and those who were capable of estimating the influence of commerce on the prosperity of nations, perceived the necessity of giving the control over this important subject to a single government. It may be doubted whether any of the evils proceeding from the feebleness of the Federal Government contributed more to that great revolution which introduced the present system than the deep and general conviction that commerce ought to be regulated by Congress."
Railroad companies, we said in the Trans-Missouri Freight Association case, "are instruments of commerce, and their business is commerce itself." And such companies, it must be remembered, operate "public highways, established primarily for the convenience of the people, and therefore are subject to governmental control and regulation." Cherokee Nation v. Kansas Railway Co., 135 U. S. 641 657; Chicago &c. R.R. Co. v. Pullman Car Co., 139 U. S. 79, 139 U. S. 90; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson, 154 U. S. 447, 154 U. S. 475; United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290, 166 U. S. 332; Smyth v. Ames, 169 U. S. 466, 169 U. S. 544; Lake Shore &c. Ry. Co. v. Ohio, 173 U. S. 285, 173 U. S. 301. When such carriers, in the exercise of public franchises, engage in the transportation of passengers and freight among the States, they become -- even if they be state corporations -- subject to such rules as Congress may lawfully establish for the conduct of interstate commerce.
It was said in argument that the circumstances under which the Northern Securities Company obtained the stock of the constituent companies imported simply an investment in the stock of other corporations, a purchase of that stock, which investment or purchase, it is contended, was not forbidden by the charter of the company and could not be made illegal by any act of Congress. This view is wholly fallacious, and does not comport with the actual transaction. There was no actual investment, in any substantial sense, by the Northern Securities Company in the stock of the two constituent companies.
If it was, in form, such a transaction, it was not, in fact, one of that kind. However that company may have acquired for itself any stock in the Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railway companies, no matter how it obtained the means to do so, all the stock it held or acquired in the constituent companies was acquired and held to be used in suppressing competition between those companies. It came into existence only for that purpose. If anyone had full knowledge of what was designed to be accomplished, and as to what was actually accomplished, by the combination in question, it was the defendant Morgan. In his testimony, he was asked, "Why put the stocks of both these [constituent companies] into one holding company?" He frankly answered: "In the first place, this holding company was simply a question of custodian, because it had no other alliances." That disclosed the actual nature of the transaction, which was only to organize the Northern Securities Company as a holding company, in whose hands, not as a real purchaser or absolute owner, but simply as custodian, were to be placed the stocks of the constituent companies -- such custodian to represent the combination formed between the shareholders of the constituent companies, the direct and necessary effect of such combination being, as already indicated, to restrain and monopolize interstate commerce by suppressing or (to use the words of this court in United States v. Joint Traffic Association) "smothering" competition between the lines of two railway carriers.
We will now inquire as to the nature and extent of the relief granted to the Government by the decree below.
By the decree in the Circuit Court, it was found and adjudged that the defendants had entered into a combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States such as the act of Congress denounced as illegal, and that all of the stocks of the Northern Pacific Railway Company and all the stock of the Great Northern Railway Company, claimed to be owned and held by the Northern Securities Company, was acquired, and is by it held, in virtue of such combination
or conspiracy, in restraint of trade and commerce among the several States. It was therefore decreed as follows:
"That the Northern Securities Company, its officers, agents, servants and employees, be and they are hereby enjoined from acquiring, or attempting to acquire, further stock of either of the aforesaid railway companies; that the Northern Securities Company be enjoined from voting the aforesaid stock which it now holds or may acquire, and from attempting to vote it, at any meeting of the stockholders of either of the aforesaid railway companies and from exercising or attempting to exercise any control, direction, supervision or influence whatsoever over the acts and doings of said railway companies, or either of them, by virtue of its holding such stock therein; that the Northern Pacific Railway Company and the Great Northern Railway Company, their officers, directors, servants and agents, be and they are hereby respectively and collectively enjoined from permitting the stock aforesaid to be voted by the Northern Securities Company, or in its behalf, by its attorneys or agents, at any corporate election for directors or officers of either of the aforesaid railway companies; that they, together with their officers, directors, servants and agents, be likewise enjoined and respectively restrained from paying any dividends to the Northern Securities Company on account of stock in either of the aforesaid railway companies which it now claims to own and hold, and that the aforesaid railway companies, their officers, directors, servants and agents be enjoined from permitting or suffering the Northern Securities Company or any of its officers or agents, as such officers or agents, to exercise any control whatsoever over the corporate acts of either of the aforesaid railway companies. But nothing herein contained shall be construed as prohibiting the Northern Securities Company from returning and transferring to the Northern Pacific Railway Company and the Great Northern Railway Company, respectively, any and all shares of stock in either of said railway companies which said, The Northern Securities Company, may have heretofore received from such stockholders
in exchange for its own stock, and nothing herein contained shall be construed as prohibiting the Northern Securities Company from making such transfer and assignments of the stock aforesaid to such person or persons as may now be the holders and owners of its own stock originally issued in exchange or in payment for the stock claimed to have been acquired by it in the aforesaid railway companies."
Subsequently, and before the appeal to this court was perfected, an order was made in the Circuit Court to this effect:
"That, upon the giving of an approved bond to the United States by or on behalf of the defendants in the sum of fifty thousand dollars conditioned to prosecute their appeal with effect and to pay all damages which may result to the United States from this order, that portion of the injunction contained in the final decree herein which forbids the Northern Pacific Railway Company and the Great Northern Railway Company, their officers, directors, servants and agents, from paying dividends to the Northern Securities Company on account of stock in either of the railway companies which the Securities Company claims to own and hold is suspended during the pendency of the appeal allowed herein this day. All other portions of the decree and of the injunction it contains remain in force and are unaffected by this order."
No valid objection can be made to the decree below, in form or in substance. If there was a combination or conspiracy in violation of the act of Congress, between the stockholders of the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific Railway companies, whereby the Northern Securities Company was formed as a holding corporation, and whereby interstate commerce over the lines of the constituent companies was restrained, it must follow that the court, in execution of that act, and to defeat the efforts to evade it, could prohibit the parties to the combination from doing the specific things which, being done, would affect the result denounced by the act. To say that the court could not go so far is to say that it is powerless to enforce the act or to suppress the illegal combination, and powerless
to protect the rights of the public as against that combination.
It is here suggested that the alleged combination had accomplished its object before the commencement of this suit, in that the Securities Company had then organized, and had actually received a majority of the stock of the two constituent companies; therefore, it is argued, no effective relief can now be granted to the Government. This same view was pressed upon the Circuit Court, and was rejected. It was completely answered by that court when it said:
"Concerning the second contention, we observe that it would be a novel, not to say absurd, interpretation of the Anti-Trust Act to hold that, after an unlawful combination is formed and has acquired the power which it had no right to acquire, namely, to restrain commerce by suppressing competition, and is proceeding to use it and execute the purpose for which the combination was formed, it must be left in possession of the power that it has acquired, with full freedom to exercise it. Obviously the act, when fairly interpreted, will bear no such construction. Congress aimed to destroy the power to place any direct restraint on interstate trade or commerce when, by any combination or conspiracy, formed by either natural or artificial persons, such a power had been acquired, and the Government may intervene and demand relief as well after the combination is fully organized as while it is in process of formation. In this instance, as we have already said, the Securities Company made itself a party to a combination in restraint of interstate commerce that antedated its organization, as soon as it came into existence, doing so, of course, under the direction of the very individuals who promoted it."
The Circuit Court has done only what the actual situation demanded. Its decree has done nothing more than to meet the requirements of the statute. It could not have done less without declaring its impotency in dealing with those who have violated the law. The decree, if executed, will destroy not the property interests of the original stockholders of the constituent companies, but
the power of the holding corporation as the instrument of an illegal combination of which it was the master spirit to do that which, if done, would restrain interstate and international commerce. The exercise of that power being restrained, the object of Congress will be accomplished; left undisturbed, the act in question will be valueless for any practical purpose.
It is said that this statute contains criminal provisions, and must therefore be strictly construed. The rule upon that subject is a very ancient and salutary one. It means only that we must not bring cases within the provisions of such a statute that are not clearly embraced by it, nor, by narrow, technical or forced construction of words, exclude cases from it that are obviously within its provisions. What must be sought for always is the intention of the legislature, and the duty of the court is to give effect to that intention as disclosed by the words used.
As early as the case of King v. Inhabitants of Hodnett, 1 T.R. 96, 101, Mr. Justice Buller said: "It is not true that the courts, in the exposition of penal statutes, are to narrow the construction." In United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76, 18 U. S. 95, Chief Justice Marshall, delivering the judgment of this court and referring to the rule that penal statutes are to be construed strictly, said:
"It is a modification of the ancient maxim, and amounts to this, that though penal laws are to be construed strictly, they are not to be construed so strictly as to defeat the obvious intention of the legislature. The maxim is not to be so applied as to narrow the words of the statute to the exclusion of cases which those words, in their ordinary acceptation, or in that sense in which the legislature has obviously used them, would comprehend. The intention of the legislature is to be collected from the words they employ. Where there is no ambiguity in the words, there is no room for construction."
"In expounding a penal statute, the court certainly will not extend it beyond
the plain meaning of its words, for it has been long and well settled that such statutes must be construed strictly. Yet the evident intention of the legislature ought not to be defeated by a forced and overstrict construction. 5 Wheat. 18 U. S. 95."
So, in The Schooner Industry, 1 Gall. 114, 117, Mr. Justice Story said:
"We are undoubtedly bound to construe penal statutes strictly, and not to extend them beyond their obvious meaning by strained inferences. On the other hand, we are bound to interpret them according to the manifest import of the words, and to hold all cases which are within the words and the mischiefs to be within the remedial influence of the statute."
In another case, the same eminent jurist said:
"I agree to that rule in its true use and sober sense, and that is that penal statutes are not to be enlarged by implication or extended to cases not obviously within their words and purport. . . . In short, it appears to me that the proper course in all these cases is to search out and follow the true intent of the legislature, and to adopt that sense of the words which harmonizes the best with the context, and promotes in the fullest manner the apparent policy and objects of the legislature."
United States v. Winn, 3 Sumner 209, 11, 212. In People v. Bartow, 6 Cowen 290, the highest court of New York said:
"Although a penal statute is to be construed strictly, the court are not to disregard the plain intent of the legislature. Among other things, it is well settled that a statute which is made for the good of the public ought, although it be penal, to receive an equitable construction."
So, in Commonwealth v. Martin, 17 Massachusetts 359, 362, the highest court of Massachusetts said:
"If a statute, creating or increasing a penalty, be capable of two constructions, undoubtedly that construction which operates in favor of life or liberty is to be adopted; but it is not justifiable in this, any more than in any other case, to imagine ambiguities, merely that a lenient construction may be adopted. If such were the privilege of a court, it would be easy to obstruct the public will in almost every statute enacted; for it rarely happens that one is so precise and exact in its terms, as to
preclude the exercise of ingenuity in raising doubts about its construction."
There are cases almost without number in this country and in England to the same effect.
Guided by these long-established rules of construction, it is manifest that, if the Anti-Trust Act is held not to embrace a case such as is now before us, the plain intention of the legislative branch of the Government will be defeated. If Congress has not, by the words used in the act, described this and like cases, it would, we apprehend, be impossible to find words that would describe them. This, it must be remembered, is a suit in equity, instituted by authority of Congress " to prevent and restrain violations of the act," § 4, and the court, in virtue of a well settled rule governing proceedings in equity, may mould its decree so as to accomplish practical results -- such results as law and justice demand. The defendants have no just cause to complain of the decree, in matter of law, and it should be affirmed.
The judgment of the court is that the decree below be and hereby is affirmed, with liberty to the Circuit Court to proceed in the execution of its decree as the circumstances may require.
* Mr. Justice HARLAN announced the affirmance of the decree of the Circuit Court and delivered an opinion in which BROWN, McKENNA and DAY, JJ., concurred. Mr. Justice BREWER delivered a separate opinion in which he concurred in affirming the decree of the Circuit Court.
Mr. Justice WHITE delivered a dissenting opinion in which the CHIEF JUSTICE and PECKHAM and HOLMES, JJ., concurred; Mr. Justice HOLMES delivered a dissenting opinion in which the CHIEF JUSTICE and WHITE and PECKHAM, JJ., concurred.
MR. JUSTICE BREWER, concurring.
I cannot assent to all that is said in the opinion just announced, and believe that the importance of the case and the questions involved justify a brief statement of my views.
First, let me say that, while I was with the majority of the court in the decision in United States v. Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290, followed by the cases of United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505, Addyston Pipe & Steel Company v. United States, 175 U. S. 211, and Montague & Co. v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38, decided at the present term, and while a further examination (which has been induced by the able and exhaustive arguments of counsel in the present case) has not disturbed the conviction that those cases were rightly decided,
I think that, in some respects, the reasons given for the judgments cannot be sustained. Instead of holding that the Anti-Trust Act included all contracts, reasonable or unreasonable, in restraint of interstate trade, the ruling should have been that the contracts there presented were unreasonable restraints of interstate trade, and as such within the scope of the act. That act, as appears from its title, was leveled at only "unlawful restraints and monopolies." Congress did not intend to reach and destroy those minor contracts in partial restraint of trade which the long course of decisions at common law had affirmed were reasonable, and ought to be upheld. The purpose, rather, was to place a statutory prohibition with prescribed penalties and remedies upon those contracts which were in direct restraint of trade, unreasonable and against public policy. Whenever a departure from common law rules and definitions is claimed, the purpose to make the departure should be clearly shown. Such a purpose does not appear, and such a departure was not intended.
Further, the general language of the act is also limited by the power which each individual has to manage his own property and determine the place and manner of its investment. Freedom of action in these respects is among the inalienable rights of every citizen. If, applying this thought to the present case, it appeared that Mr. Hill was the owner of a majority of the stock in the Great Northern Railway Company, he could not, by any act of Congress, be deprived of the right of investing his surplus means in the purchase of stock of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, although such purchase might tend to vest in him through that ownership a control over both companies. In other words, the right, which all other citizens had, of purchasing Northern Pacific stock could not be denied to him by Congress because of his ownership of stock in the Great Northern Company. Such was the ruling in Pearsall v. Great Northern Railway, 161 U. S. 646, in which this court said (p. 161 U. S. 671), in reference to the right of the stockholders of the Great Northern Company to purchase the stock of the
Northern Pacific Railway Company:
"Doubtless these stockholders could lawfully acquire by individual purchases a majority, or even the whole of the stock of the reorganized company, and thus possibly obtain its ultimate control; but the companies would still remain separate corporations with no interests, as such, in common."
But no such investment by a single individual of his means is here presented. There was a combination by several individuals separately owning stock in two competing railroad companies to place the control of both in a single corporation. The purpose to combine, and by combination destroy competition, existed before the organization of the corporation, the Securities Company. That corporation, though nominally having a capital stock of $400,000,000, had no means of its own; $30,000 in cash was put into its treasury, but simply for the expenses of organization. The organizers might just as well have made the nominal stock a thousand millions as four hundred, and the corporation would have been no richer or poorer. A corporation, while by fiction of law recognized for some purposes as a person and for purposes of jurisdiction as a citizen, is not endowed with the inalienable rights of a natural person. It is an artificial person, created and existing only for the convenient transaction of business. In this case, it was a mere instrumentality by which separate railroad properties were combined under one control. That combination is as direct a restraint of trade by destroying competition as the appointment of a committee to regulate rates. The prohibition of such a combination is not at all inconsistent with the right of an individual to purchase stock. The transfer of stock to the Securities Company was a mere incident, the manner in which the combination to destroy competition and thus unlawfully restrain trade was carried out.
If the parties interested in these two railroad companies can, through the instrumentality of a holding corporation, place both under one control, then in like manner, as was conceded on the argument by one of the counsel for the appellants, could
the control of all the railroad companies in the country be placed in a single corporation. Nor need this arrangement for control stop with what has already been done. The holders of $201,000,000 of stock in the Northern Securities Company might organize another corporation to hold their stock in that company, and the new corporation, holding the majority of the stock in the Northern Securities Company and acting in obedience to the wishes of a majority of its stockholders, would control the action of the Securities Company and through it the action of the two railroad companies, and this process might be extended until a single corporation whose stock was owned by three or four parties would be in practical control of both roads, or, having before us the possibilities of combination, the control of the whole transportation system of the country. I cannot believe that to be a reasonable or lawful restraint of trade.
Again, there is by this suit no interference with state control. It is a recognition, rather than a disregard, of its action. This merging of control and destruction of competition was not authorized, but specifically prohibited, by the State which created one of the railroad companies, and within whose boundaries the lines of both were largely located and much of their business transacted. The purpose and policy of the State are therefore enforced by the decree. So far as the work of the two railroad companies was interstate commerce, it was subject to the control of Congress, and its purpose and policy were expressed in the act under which this suit was brought.
It must also be remembered that, under present conditions, a single railroad is, if not a legal, largely a practical, monopoly, and the arrangement by which the control of these two competing roads was merged in a single corporation broadens and extends such monopoly. I cannot look upon it as other than in unreasonable combination in restraint of interstate commerce -- one in conflict with state law and within the letter and spirit of the statute and the power of Congress. Therefore I concur in the judgment of affirmance.
I have felt constrained to make these observations for fear that the broad and sweeping language of the opinion of the court might tend to unsettle legitimate business enterprises, stifle or retard wholesome business activities, encourage improper disregard of reasonable contracts and invite unnecessary litigation.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE, with whom concurred MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, and MR. JUSTICE HOLMES, dissenting.
The Northern Securities Company is a New Jersey corporation; the Great Northern Railway Company, a Minnesota one, and the Northern Pacific Railway Company, a Wisconsin corporation. Whilst, in the argument at bar, the Government referred to the subject, nevertheless it expressly disclaimed predicating any claim for relief upon the fact that the predecessor in title of the Northern Pacific Railway Company was a corporation created by act of Congress. That fact, therefore, may be eliminated.
The facts essential to be borne in mind to understand my point of view, without going into details, are as follows: the lines of the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern Railway companies are both transcontinental, that is, trunk lines to the Pacific Ocean, and in some aspects are conceded to be competing. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Hill and a few persons immediately associated with them separately acquired and owned capital stock of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, aggregating a majority thereof. Mr. Hill and others associated with him owned, in the same manner, about one-third of the capital stock of the Great Northern Railway Company, the balance of the stock being distributed among about eighteen hundred stockholders. Although Mr. Hill and his immediate associates owned only one-third of the stock, the confidence reposed in Mr. Hill was such that, through proxies, his influence was dominant in the affairs of that company.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Hill organized under the laws of New Jersey the Northern Securities Company. The purpose was that the company should become the holder of the stock of the two railroads. This was to be effected by having the Northern Securities Company give its stock in exchange for that of the two railroad companies. Whilst the purpose of the promoters was mainly to exchange the stock held by them in the two railroads for the Northern Securities Company stock, nevertheless the right of stockholders generally in the two railroads to make a similar exchange or to sell their stock to the Securities Company was provided for. Under the arrangement, the Northern Securities Company came to be the registered holder of a majority of the stock of both the railroads. It is not denied that the charter, and the acts done under it, of the Northern Securities Company, were authorized by the laws of New Jersey, and, therefore, insofar as those laws were competent to sanction the transaction, the corporation held the stock in the two railroads secured by the law of the State of its domicil.
The government, by its bill, challenges the right of the Northern Securities Company to hold and own the stock in the two railroads. The grounds upon which the relief sought was based were, generally speaking, as follows: that, as the two railroads were competing lines engaged in part in interstate commerce, the creation of the Northern Securities Company and the acquisition by it of a majority of the stock of both roads was contrary to the act of Congress known as the Anti-Trust Act. 26 Stat. 209. The clauses of the act which it was charged were violated were the first section, declaring illegal
"every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations"
and the provisions of the second section making it a misdemeanor for any person to
"monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several
States or with foreign nations."
The court below sustained the contentions of the government. It therefore enjoined the two railroad companies from allowing the Northern Securities Company to vote the stock standing in its name or to pay to that company any dividends upon the stock by it held. On the giving, however, of a bond fixed by the court below, the decree relating to the payment of dividends was suspended pending the appeal to this court.
The court recognized, however, the right of the Northern Securities Company to retransfer the stock in both railroads to the persons from whom it had been acquired. The correctness of the decree below is the question presented for decision.
Two questions arise. Does the Anti-Trust Act, when rightly interpreted, apply to the acquisition and ownership by the Northern Securities Company of the stock in the two railroads, and, second, if it does, had Congress the power to regulate or control such acquisition and ownership? As the question of power lies at the root of the case, I come at once to consider that subject. Before doing so, however, in order to avoid being misled by false or irrelevant issues, it is essential to briefly consider two questions of fact. It is said, first, that the mere exchange by the Northern Securities Company of its stock for stock in the railroads did not make the Northern Securities Company the real owner of the stock in the railroads, since the effect of the transaction was to cause the Securities Company to become merely the custodian or trustee of the stock in the railroads; second, that as the two railroads were both overcapitalized, stock in them furnished no sufficient consideration for the issue of the stock of the Northern Securities Company. It would suffice to point out, a, that the proof shows that nearly nine million dollars were paid by the Securities Company for a portion of the stock acquired by it, and that, moreover, nearly thirty-five million dollars were expended by the Securities Company in the purchase of bonds of the Northern Pacific Company, which have been converted by the Securities Company into the stock of that railroad,
which the Securities Company now holds; and, b, that the market value of the railroad stocks is, moreover, indisputably shown by the proof to have been equal to the value fixed on them for the purpose of the exchange or purchase of such stock by the Northern Securities Company. Be this as it may, it is manifest that these considerations can have no possible influence on the question of the power of Congress in the premises, and therefore the suggestions can serve only to obscure the controversy. If the power was in Congress to legislate on the subject, it becomes wholly immaterial what was the nature of the consideration paid by the company for the stock by it acquired and held if such acquisition and ownership, even if real, violated the act of Congress. If on the contrary the authority of Congress could not embrace the right of the Northern Securities Company to acquire and own the stock, the question of what consideration the Northern Securities Company paid for the stock or the method by which it was transferred must necessarily be beyond the scope of the act of Congress.
In testing the power of Congress, I shall proceed upon the assumption that the act of Congress forbids the acquisition of a majority of the stock of two competing railroads engaged in part in interstate commerce by a corporation or any combination of persons.
The authority of Congress, it is conceded by all, must rest upon the power delegated by the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States and with the Indian tribes." The proposition upon which the case for the government depends, then, is that the ownership of stock in railroad corporations created by a State is interstate commerce, wherever the railroads engage in interstate commerce
At the outset, the absolute correctness is admitted of the declaration of Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden that the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the
States and with foreign nations
"is complete, in itself, and may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution;"
and that, if the end to be accomplished is within the scope of the Constitution, "all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, and which are not prohibited are constitutional."
The plenary authority of Congress over interstate commerce, its right to regulate it to the fullest extent, to fix the rates to be charged for the movement of interstate commerce, to legislate concerning the ways and vehicles actually engaged in such traffic, and to exert any and every other power over such commerce which flows from the authority conferred by the Constitution, is thus conceded. But the concessions thus made do not concern the question in this case, which is not the scope of the power of Congress to regulate commerce, but whether the power extends to regulate the ownership of stock in railroads, which is not commerce at all. The confusion which results from failing to observe this distinction will appear from an accurate analysis of Gibbons v. Ogden, for, in that case, the great Chief Justice was careful to define the commerce, the power to regulate which was conferred upon Congress, and, in the passages which I have previously quoted, simply pointed out the rule by which it was to be determined in any case whether Congress, in acting upon the subject, had gone beyond the limits of the power to regulate commerce as it was defined in the opinion. Accepting the test announced in Gibbons v. Ogden for determining whether a given exercise of the power to regulate commerce has, in effect, transcended the limits of regulation, it is essential to accept also the luminous definition of commerce announced in that case and approved so many times since, and hence to test the question for decision by that definition. The definition is this:
"Commerce undoubtedly is traffic, but it is something more, it is intercourse. It describes the commercial intercourse between nations and parts of nations in all its branches, and is regulated
by prescribing rules for carrying on that intercourse."
Does the delegation of authority to Congress to regulate commerce among the States embrace the power to regulate the ownership of stock in state corporations because such corporations may be in part engaged in interstate commerce? Certainly not, if such question is to be governed by the definition of commerce just quoted from Gibbons v. Ogden. Let me analyze the definition. "Commerce undoubtedly is traffic, but it is something more, it is intercourse;" that is, traffic between the States and intercourse between the States. I think the ownership of stock in a state corporation cannot be said to be in any sense traffic between the States or intercourse between them. The definition continues: "It describes the commercial intercourse between nations and parts of nations." Can the ownership of stock in a state corporation, by the most latitudinarian construction, be embraced by the words "commercial intercourse between nations and parts of nations?" And to remove all doubt, the definition points out the meaning of the delegation of power to regulate, since it says that it is to be "regulated by prescribing rules for carrying on that intercourse." Can it in reason be maintained that to prescribe rules governing the ownership of stock within a State in a corporation created by it is within the power to prescribe rules for the regulation of intercourse between citizens of different States?
But if the question be looked at with reference to the powers of the Federal and state governments, the general nature of the one and the local character of the other, which it was the purpose of the Constitution to create and perpetuate, it seems to me evident that the contention that the authority of the National Government under the commerce clause gives the right to Congress to regulate the ownership of stock in railroads chartered by state authority is absolutely destructive of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which provides that
"the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people."
This must follow since the authority of Congress to regulate on the subject can, in reason, alone rest upon the proposition that its power over commerce embraces the right to control the ownership of railroads doing in part an interstate commerce business. But power to control the ownership of all such railroads would necessarily embrace their organization. Hence, it would result that it would be in the power of Congress to abrogate every such railroad charter granted by the States from the beginning if Congress deemed that the rights conferred by such state charters tended to restrain commerce between the States or to create a monopoly concerning the same.
Besides, if the principle be acceded to, it must in reason be held to embrace every consolidation of state railroads which may do in part an interstate commerce business, even although such consolidation may have been expressly authorized by the laws of the States creating the corporations.
It would likewise overthrow every state law forbidding such consolidations, for if the ownership of stock in state corporations be within the regulating power of Congress under the commerce clause and can be prohibited by Congress, it would be within the power of that body to permit that which it had the right to prohibit.
But the principle that the ownership of property is embraced within the power of Congress to regulate commerce, whenever that body deems that a particular character of ownership, if allowed to continue, may restrain commerce between the States or create a monopoly thereof, is, in my opinion, in conflict with the most elementary conceptions of rights of property. For it would follow if Congress deemed that the acquisition by one or more individuals engaged in interstate commerce of more than a certain amount of property would be prejudicial to interstate commerce, the amount of property held or the amount which could be employed in interstate commerce could be regulated.
In the argument at bar, many of the consequences above indicated as necessarily resulting from the contention made were frankly admitted, since it was conceded that, even although the holding of the stock in the two railroads by the Northern Securities Company which is here assailed was expressly authorized by the laws of both the States by which the railroad corporations were created, as it was by the law of the State of New Jersey, nevertheless as such authority, if exerted by the States, would be a regulation of interstate commerce, it would be repugnant to the Constitution as an attempt on the part of the States to interfere with the paramount authority of Congress on that subject. True, this assertion, made in the oral argument, in the printed argument is qualified by an intimation that the rule would not apply to state action taken before the adoption of the Anti-Trust Act, since up to that time, in consequence of the inaction of Congress on the subject, the States were free to legislate as they pleased regarding the matter. But this suggestion is without foundation to rest on. It has long since been determined by this court that, where a particular subject matter is national in its character and requires uniform regulation, the absence of legislation by Congress on the subject indicates the will of Congress that the subject should be free from state control. County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U. S. 691; Robbins v. Shelby Taxing District, 123 U. S. 489, 123 U. S. 493; United States v. E. C. Knight Company, 156 U. S. 1.
It is said, moreover, that the decision of this case does not involve the consequences above pointed out, since the only issue in this case is the right of the Northern Securities Company to acquire and own the stock. The right of that company to do so, it is argued, is one thing; the power of individuals or corporations, when not merely organized to hold stock, an entirely different thing. My mind fails to seize the distinction. The only premise by which the power of Congress can be extended to the subject matter of the right of the Securities Company to own the stock must be the proposition that such
ownership is within the legislative power of Congress, and if that proposition be admitted, it is not perceived by what process of reasoning the power of Congress over the subject matter of ownership is to be limited to ownership by particular classes of corporations or persons. If the power embraces ownership, then the authority of Congress over all ownership which in its judgment may affect interstate commerce necessarily exists. In other words, the logical result of the asserted distinction amounts to one of two things. Either that nothing is decided or that a decree is to be entered having no foundation upon which to rest. This is said because if the control of the ownership of stock in competing roads by one and the same corporation is within the power of Congress, and creates a restraint of traffic or monopoly forbidden by Congress, it is not conceivable to me how exactly similar ownership by one or more individuals would not create the same restraint or monopoly, and be equally within the prohibition which it is decided Congress has imposed. Besides the incongruity of the conclusion resulting from the alleged distinction, to admit it would do violence to both the letter and spirit of the Constitution, since it would, in effect, hold that, although a particular act was a burden upon interstate commerce or a monopoly thereof, individuals could lawfully do the act provided only they did not use the instrumentality of a corporation. But this court long since declared that the power to regulate commerce, conferred upon Congress, was "general, and includes alike commerce by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations." Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, 75 U. S. 183.
Indeed, the natural reluctance of the mind to follow an erroneous principle to its necessary conclusion, and thus to give effect to a grievous wrong arising from the erroneous principle, is an admonition that the principle itself is wrong. That admonition, I submit, is conclusively afforded by the decree which is now affirmed. Without stopping to point out what seems to me to be the confusion, contradiction and denial of rights of property which the decree exemplifies, let me see
if, in effect, it is not at war with itself and in conflict with the principle upon which it is assumed to be based.
Fundamentally considered, the evil sought to be remedied is the restraint of interstate commerce and the monopoly thereof alleged to have been brought about through the acquisition by Mr. Morgan and Mr. Hill and their friends and associates of a controlling interest in the stock of both the roads. And yet the decree, whilst forbidding the use of the stock by the Northern Securities Company, authorizes its return to the alleged conspirators, and does not restrain them from exercising the control resulting from the ownership. If the conspiracy and combination existed and was illegal, my mind fails to perceive why it should be left to produce its full force and effect in the hands of the individuals by whom it was charged the conspiracy was entered into.
It may, however, be said that, even if the results which I have indicated be held necessarily to arise from the principles contended for by the government, it does not follow that such power would ever be exerted by Congress, or, if exerted, would be enforced to the detriment of charters granted by the States to railroads or consolidations thereof, effected under state authority, or the ownership of stock in such railroads by individuals, or the rights of individuals to acquire property by purchase, lease or otherwise, and to make any and all contracts concerning property which may thereafter become the subject matter of interstate commerce. The first suggestion is at once met by the consideration that it has been decided by this court that, as the Anti-Trust Act forbids any restraint, it therefore embraces even reasonable contracts or agreements. If, then, the ownership of the stock of the two railroads by the Northern Securities Company is repugnant to the act, it follows that ownership, whether by the individual or another corporation, would be equally within the prohibitions of the act. As to the second, true it is that, by the terms of the Anti-Trust Act, the power to put its provisions in motion is, as to many particulars, confided to the highest law officer of the government,
and if that officer did not invoke the aid of the courts to restrain the rights of the railroads previously chartered by the States to enjoy the benefits conferred upon them by state legislation, or to prevent individuals from exercising their right of ownership and contract, the law in these respects would remain a dead letter. But to indulge in this assumption would be but to say that the law would not be enforced by the highest law officer of the government, a conclusion which, of course, could not be indulged in for a moment. In any view, such suggestion but involves the proposition that vast rights of property, instead of resting upon constitutional and legal sanction, must alone depend upon whether an executive officer might elect to enforce the law -- a conclusion repugnant to every principle of liberty and justice.
Having thus by the light of reason sought to show the unsoundness of the proposition that the power of Congress to regulate commerce extends to controlling the acquisition and ownership of stock in state corporations, railroad or otherwise, because they may be doing an interstate commerce business, or to the consolidation of such companies under the sanction of state legislation, or to the right of the citizen to enjoy his freedom of contract and ownership, let me now endeavor to show, by a review of the practices of the governments, both state and national, from the beginning and the adjudications of this court, how wanting in merit is the proposition contended for. It may not be doubted that, from the foundation of the government, at all events to the time of the adoption of the Anti-Trust Act of 1890, there was an entire absence of any legislation by Congress even suggesting that it was deemed by anyone that power was possessed by Congress to control the ownership of stock in railroad or other corporations, because such corporations engaged in interstate commerce. On the contrary, when Congress came to exert its authority to regulate interstate commerce as carried on by railroads, manifested by the adoption of the interstate commerce act, 24 Stat. 379, it sedulously confined the provisions of that act to the
carrying on of interstate commerce itself, including the reasonableness of the rates to be charged for carrying on such commerce and other matters undeniably concerning the fact of interstate commerce. The same conception was manifested subsequently in legislation concerning safety appliances to be used by railroads, since the provisions of the act were confined to such appliances when actually employed in the business of interstate commerce. 27 Stat. 531. It also may not be doubted that, from the beginning, the various States of the Union have treated the incorporation and organization of railroad companies and the ownership of stock therein as matters within their exclusive authority. Under this conception of power in the States, universally prevailing and always acted upon, the entire railroad system of the United States has been built up. Charters, leases and consolidations under the sanction of state laws lie at the basis of that enormous sum of property and those vast interests represented by the railroads of the United States. Extracts from the reports of the Interstate Commerce Commission and from a standard authority on the subject, which were received in evidence, demonstrate that, in effect, nearly every great railroad system in the United States is the result of the consolidation and unification of various roads, often competitive, such consolidation or unification of management having been brought about in every conceivable form, sometimes by lease under state authority, sometimes by such leases made where there was no prohibition against them, and by stock acquisitions made by persons or corporations in order to acquire a controlling interest in both roads. Without stopping to recite details on the subject, I content myself with merely mentioning a few of the instances where great systems of railroad have been formed by the unification of the management of competitive roads, by consolidation or otherwise, often by statutory authority. These instances embrace the Boston and Maine system, the New York, New Haven and Hartford, the New York Central, the Reading, and the Pennsylvania systems.
One of the illustrations -- as to the New York Central system -- is the case of the Hudson River Railroad on one side of the Hudson River and the West Shore Railroad on the other, both parallel roads and directly competitive, and both united in one management by authority of a legislative act. It is indeed remarkable, if the whole subject was within the paramount power of Congress, and not within the authority of the States, that there should have been a universal understanding to the contrary from the beginning. When it is borne in mind that such universal action related to interests of the most vital character, involving property of enormous amount concerning the welfare of the whole people, it is impossible in reason to deny the soundness of the assumption that it was the universal conviction that the States, and not Congress, had control of the subject matter of the organization and ownership of railroads created by the States. And the same inference is applicable to the condition of things which has existed since the adoption of the Anti-Trust Act in 1890. Who can deny that, from that date to this, consolidations and unification of management, by means of leases, stock ownership by individuals or corporations, have been carried on, when not prohibited by state laws, to a vast extent, and that, during all this time, despite the energy of the government in invoking the Anti-Trust Law, that no assertion of power in Congress under that act to control the ownership of stock was ever knowingly made until first asserted in this cause. Quite recently, Congress has amended the interstate commerce act by provisions deemed essential to make its prohibitions more practically operative, and yet no one of such provisions lends itself even to the inference that it was deemed by anyone that the power of Congress extended to the control of stock ownership. Certainly the States have not so considered it. As a matter of public history, it is to be observed that not long since, by authority of the legislature of the State of Massachusetts, a controlling interest by lease of the Boston and Albany road passed to the New York Central system.
The decisions of this court, to my mind, leave no room for doubt on the subject. As I have already shown, the very definition of the power to regulate commerce, as announced in Gibbons v. Ogden, excludes the conception that it extends to stock ownership. I shall not stop to review a multitude of decisions of this court concerning interstate commerce, which, whilst upholding the paramount authority of Congress over that subject, at the same time treated it as elementary that the effect of the power over commerce between the States was not to deprive the States of their right to legislate concerning the ownership of property of every character or to create railroad corporations and to endow them with such powers as were deemed appropriate, or to deprive the individual of his freedom to acquire, own and enjoy property by descent, contract or otherwise, because railroads or other property might become the subject of interstate commerce.
In Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168, the question was as to the power of the State of Virginia to license a foreign insurance company, and one of the contentions considered was whether the contract of insurance, since it was related to commerce, was within the regulating power of Congress, and not of the State of Virginia. The proposition was disposed of in the following language (p. 75 U. S. 183):
"Issuing a policy of insurance is not a transaction of commerce. The policies are simply contracts of indemnity against loss by fire, entered into between the corporations and the assured, for a consideration paid by the latter. These contracts are not articles of commerce in any proper meaning of the word. They are not subjects of trade and barter offered in the market as something having an existence and value independent of the parties to them. They are not commodities to be shipped or forwarded from one State to another, and then put up for sale. They are like other personal contracts between parties which are completed by their signature and the transfer of the consideration. Such contracts are not interstate transactions, though the parties may be domiciled
in different States. The policies do not take effect -- are not executed contracts -- until delivered by the agent in Virginia. They are, then, local transactions, and are governed by the local law. T hey do not constitute a part of the commerce between the States any more than a contract for the purchase and sale of goods in Virginia by a citizen of New York whilst in Virginia would constitute a portion of such commerce."
In other words, the court plainly pointed out the distinction between interstate commerce as such and the contracts concerning, or the ownership of property which might become the subjects of, interstate commerce. And the authority of Paul v. Virginia has been repeatedly approved in subsequent cases, which are so familiar as not to require citation.
In Railroad Co. v. Maryland, 21 Wall. 456, the question was this: the State of Maryland had chartered the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, and in the charter had imposed upon it the duty of paying to the State a certain proportion of all its receipts from freight, which applied as well to interstate as domestic freight. The argument was that these provisions were repugnant to the commerce clause because they necessarily increased the sum which the railroad would have to charge, and thereby constituted a regulation of commerce. The court held the law not to be repugnant to the Constitution, and, in the course of the opinion, said (p. 88 U. S. 473):
"In view, however, of the very plenary powers which a State has always been conceded to have over its own territory, its highways, its franchises and its corporations, we cannot regard the stipulation in question as amounting to either of these unconstitutional acts."
True it is that some of the expressions used in the opinion in the case just cited, giving rise to the inference that there was power in the State to regulate the rates of freight on interstate commerce, may be considered as having been overruled by Wabash Railroad Company v. Illinois, 118 U. S. 557. But that case also in the fullest manner pointed out the fact that the power to regulate commerce, conferred on Congress by the
Constitution, related not to the mere ownership of property or to contracts concerning property, because such property might subsequently be used in interstate commerce or become the subject of it. For instance, the definition given of interstate commerce in Gibbons v. Ogden, previously referred to, was reiterated and, in addition, the definition expounded in County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U. S. 691, was approvingly quoted. That definition was as follows (p. 118 U. S. 574):
"'Commerce with foreign countries and among the States, strictly construed, consists in intercourse and traffic, including in these terms navigation and the transportation and transit of persons and property, as well as the purchase, sale and exchange of commodities. For the regulation of commerce, as thus defined, there can be only one system of rules, applicable alike to the whole country, and the authority which can act for the whole country can alone adopt such a system. Action upon it by separate States is not, therefore, permissible. Language affirming the exclusiveness of the grant of power over commerce as thus defined may not be inaccurate, when it would be so if applied to legislation upon subjects which are merely auxiliary to commerce.'"
In Ashley v. Ryan, 153 U. S. 436, this was the question: the property of various railroad corporations operating in the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri had been sold under decrees of foreclosure. The purchasers of the respective lines availed themselves of the Ohio statutes, and consolidated all the corporations into one so as to form a single system, the Wabash. On presenting the articles of consolidation to the Secretary of State of Ohio, that officer demanded a fee imposed by the Ohio statutes, predicated upon the sum total of the capital stock of the consolidated company. This was refused on the ground that the State of Ohio had no right to make the charge, and that its doing so was repugnant to the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States and to the Fourteenth Amendment. This court decided against this contention. It held that, as the right to consolidate could
alone arise from the Ohio law, the corporation could not avail of that law and avoid the condition which the law imposed. Speaking of the consolidation, the court said (p. 153 U. S. 440):
"The rights thus sought could only be acquired by the grant of the State of Ohio, and depended for their existence upon the provisions of its laws. Without that State's consent, they could not have been procured."
And, after a copious review of the authorities concerning the power of the State over the consolidation, the case was summed up by the court in the following passage (p. 153 U. S. 446):
"Considering, as we do, that the payment of the charge was a condition imposed by the State of Ohio upon the taking of corporate being or the exercise of corporate franchises, the right to which depended solely on the will of that State"
"and hence that liability for the charge was entirely optional, we conclude that the exaction constituted no tax upon interstate commerce, or the right to carry on the same, or the instruments thereof, and that its enforcement involved no attempt on the part of the State to extend its taxing power beyond its territorial limits."
How a right which was thus decided to depend solely upon the authority of the States can now be said to depend solely upon the will of Congress I do not perceive.
"By the purchase of the stock of the four Philadelphia refineries, with shares of its own stock, the American Sugar Refining Company acquired nearly complete control of the manufacture of refined sugar within the United States. The bill charged that the contracts under which these purchases were made constituted combinations in restraint of trade, and that, in entering into them, the defendants combined and conspired to restrain the trade and commerce in refined sugar among the several States and with foreign nations, contrary to the act of Congress of July 2, 1890. "
After referring in a general way to what constituted a monopoly or restraint of trade at common law, the question for decision was thus stated (p. 156 U. S. 11):
"The fundamental question is whether, conceding that the existence of a monopoly in manufacture is established by the evidence, that monopoly can be directly suppressed under the act of Congress in the mode attempted by this bill."
Examining this question as to the power of Congress, it was observed (p. 156 U. S. 11):
"It cannot be denied that the power of a State to protect the lives, health and property of its citizens, and to preserve good order and the public morals, 'the power to govern men and things within the limits of its dominion' is a power originally and always belonging to the States, not surrendered by them to the general government nor directly restrained by the Constitution of the United States, and essentially exclusive."
Next, pointing out that the power of Congress over interstate commerce and the fact that its failure to legislate over subjects requiring uniform legislation expressed the will of Congress that the State should be without power to act on that subject, the court came to consider whether the power of Congress to regulate commerce embraced the authority to regulate and control the ownership of stock in the state sugar refining companies, because the products of such companies, when manufactured, might become the subject of interstate commerce. Elaborately passing upon that question and reaffirming the definition of Chief Justice Marshall of commerce, in the constitutional sense, it was held that, whilst the power of Congress extended to commerce as thus defined, it did not embrace the ownership of stock in state corporations, because the products of such manufacture might subsequently become the subject of interstate commerce.
The parallel between the two cases is complete. The one corporation acquired the stock of other and competing corporations by exchange for its own. It was conceded, for the
purposes of the case, that, in doing so, monopoly had been brought about in the refining of sugar, that the sugar to be produced was likely to become the subject of interstate commerce, and indeed that part of it would certainly become so. But the power of Congress was decided not to extend to the subject, because the ownership of the stock in the corporations was not itself commerce.
In Pearsall v. The Great Northern Railway Company, 161 U. S. 646, the question was whether the acquisition by the Great Northern road of a controlling interest in the stock of the Northern Pacific Railway Company was a violation of a Minnesota statute prohibiting the consolidation of competing lines. It is at once evident that, if the subject of consolidation was within the authority of Congress, as Congress had not expressed its will upon the subject, the act of the legislature of Minnesota was void because repugnant to the Constitution of the United States. But the possibility of such a contention was not thought of by either party to the cause or by the court itself . Treating the power of the State as undoubted, the court, speaking through Mr. Justice Brown, decided that the Minnesota law should be enforced. It was pointed out in the opinion that, as the charter was one granted by the State, the railroad company and the ownership of stock therein was subject to the state law, and this was made the basis of the decision. Whilst, however, resting its conclusion upon the power of the State over the corporation by it created, the court was careful to recognize that the authority in the State was so complete, as the company was a state corporation, that the State had the right, if it chose to do so, to authorize the consolidation even although the lines were competing.
In Louisville & Nashville Railroad v. Kentucky, 161 U. S. 677, the power of the State to pass a law forbidding the consolidation of competing state railroad corporations doing in part an interstate commerce business was again considered, and a state statute in which the power was exercised was upheld. Here, again, it is to be observed that, if the consolidation of
state railroad corporations, because they did in part an interstate commerce business, was within the paramount authority of Congress, that authority was exclusive, and the state regulation which the court upheld was void. And this question, vital to the consideration of the case and without passing upon which it could not have been decided, did not escape observation, since it was explicitly pressed upon the court and was directly determined. The court, speaking through Mr. Justice Brown, said (pp. 161 U. S. 701, 161 U. S. 702):
"But little need be said in answer to the final contention of the plaintiff in error that the assumption of a right to forbid the consolidation of parallel and competing lines is an interference with the power of Congress over interstate commerce. The same remark may be made with respect to all police regulations of interstate railways."
"* * * *"
"It has never been supposed that the dominant power of Congress over interstate commerce took from the States the power of legislation with respect to the instruments of such commerce, so far as the legislation was within its ordinary police powers. Nearly all the railways in the country have been constructed under state authority, and it cannot be supposed that they intended to abandon their power over them as soon as they were finished. The power to construct them involves necessarily the power to impose such regulations upon their operation as a sound regard for the interests of the public may seem to render desirable. In the division of authority with respect to interstate railways, Congress reserves to itself the superior right to control their commerce and forbid interference therewith, while to the States remains the power to create and to regulate the instruments of such commerce so far as necessary to the conservation of the public interests."
How one case could be more completely decisive of another than the ruling in the case just quoted is of this I am unable to perceive.
The subject was considered at circuit in In re Greene, 52 Fed.Rep. 104. The case was this: a person was indicted in one State for creating a monopoly in violation of the Anti-Trust Act of Congress and was held in another State for extradition. The writ of habeas corpus was invoked upon the contention that the face of the indictment did not state an offense against the United States, since the matters charged did not involve interstate commerce. The case is referred to, although it arose at circuit and was determined before the decisions of this court in the Pearsall and Louisville and Nashville cases, because it was decided by Mr. Justice Jackson, then a Circuit Judge, who subsequently, became a member of this court. The opinion manifests that the case was considered by Judge Jackson with that care which was his conceded characteristic, and was stated by him with that lucidity which was his wont. In discharging the accused on the grounds stated in the application for the writ, Judge Jackson said (p. 112):
"Congress may place restrictions and limitations upon the right of corporations created and organized under its authority to acquire, use and dispose of property. It may also impose such restrictions and limitations upon the citizen in respect to the exercise of a public privilege or franchise conferred by the United States. But Congress certainly has not the power or authority under the commerce clause, or any other provision of the Constitution, to limit and restrict the right of corporations created by the States, or the citizens of the States, in the acquisition, control and disposition of property. Neither can Congress regulate or prescribe the price or prices at which such property, or products thereof, shall be sold by the owner or owners, whether corporations or individuals. It is equally clear that Congress has no jurisdiction over, and cannot make criminal, the aims, purposes and intentions of persons in the acquisition and control of property, which the States of their residence or creation sanction and permit. It is not material that such property, or the products thereof, may become the
subject of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations. Commerce among the States, within the exclusive regulating power of Congress,"
"consists of intercourse and traffic between their citizens, and includes the transportation of persons and property, as well as the purchase, sale and exchange of commodities."
"County of Mobile v. Kimball, 102 U. S. 691, 102 U. S. 702; Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 203. In the application of this comprehensive definition, it is settled by the decision of the Supreme Court that such commerce includes not only the actual transportation of commodities and persons between the States, but also the instrumentalities and processes of such transportation."
"* * * *"
"That neither the production or manufacture of articles or commodities which constitute subjects of commerce, and which are intended for trade and traffic with citizens of other States, nor the preparation for their transportation from the State where produced or manufactured, prior to the commencement of the actual transfer, or transmission thereof to another State, constitutes that interstate commerce which comes within the regulating power of Congress; and further, that, after the termination of the transportation of commodities or articles of traffic from one State to another, and the mingling or merging thereof in the general mass of property in the State of destination, the sale, distribution and consumption thereof in the latter State forms no part of interstate commerce."
If this opinion had been written in the case now considered, it could not more completely than its reasoning does have disposed of the contention that the ownership of stock by a corporation in competing railroads was commerce.
United States v. Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290, was this: a large number of railway companies, who were made defendants in the cause, had formed themselves into an association, known as the Trans-Missouri Freight Association, and the companies had bound themselves by the provisions contained in the articles of agreement. Many stipulations relating to
the carrying on of interstate commerce over the roads which were parties to the agreement were contained in it, and section provided as follows:
"A committee shall be appointed to establish rates, rules and regulations on the traffic subject to this association, and to consider changes therein, and make rules for meeting the competition of outside lines. Their conclusions, when unanimous, shall be made effective when they so order, but if they differ the question at issue shall be referred to the managers of the lines parties hereto, and if they disagree it shall be arbitrated in the manner provided in article VII."
The government sought to dissolve the association on the ground that the agreement restrained commerce between the States, and therefore was in violation of the Anti-Trust Act. On the hearing in this court, as the agreement directly related in many particulars to interstate transportation and the charge to be made therefor, it was conceded on hands that it embraced subjects which came within the power of Congress to regulate commerce. The contentions on behalf of the association were these: First. That the movement of interstate commerce by railroads was not within the Anti-Trust Act, since Congress had regulated that subject by the interstate commerce act, and did not intend to amplify its provisions in any respect by the subsequent enactment of the Anti-Trust Law. Second. That even if this were not the case, and the movement of interstate commerce by railroads was affected by the Anti-Trust Statute, the particular agreement in question did not violate the act because the agreement did not unreasonably restrain interstate commerce. Both these contentions were decided against the association, the court holding that the Anti-Trust Act did embrace interstate carriage by railroad corporations, and as that act prohibited any contract in restraint of interstate commerce, it hence embraced all contracts of that character, whether they were reasonable or unreasonable.
The same subject was considered in a subsequent case,
United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505. In that case also there was no question that the agreement between the railroads related to the movement of interstate commerce, but it was insisted that the particular agreement there involved did not seek to fix rates, but only to secure the continuation of just rates which had already been fixed, and hence was not within the Anti-Trust Law. If this were held not to be true, a reconsideration of the questions decided in the Freight Association case was invoked. The court reviewed and reiterated the rulings made in the Freight Association case, and held that the particular agreement in question came within them.
I mention these two last cases not because they are apposite to the case in hand, for they are not, since the contracts which were involved in them confessedly concerned interstate commerce, whilst, in this case, the sole question is whether the ownership of stock in competing railroads does involve interstate commerce. The cases are referred to in connection with the decisions previously cited, because, taken together, they illustrate the distinction which this court has always maintained between the power of Congress over interstate commerce and its want of authority to regulate subjects not embraced within that grant. The same distinction is aptly shown in subsequent cases.
Hopkins v. United States, 171 U. S. 578, involved whether a particular agreement entered into between persons carrying on the business of selling cattle on commission, exclusively at the Kansas City stockyards was valid. At those yards, cattle were received in vast numbers through the channels of interstate commerce, and from thence were distributed through such channels. For these reasons, the business of those engaged exclusively in the sale of cattle on the stockyards was asserted to be interstate commerce, and within the power of Congress to regulate. In the opinion of the court, delivered by Mr. Justice Peckham, it was at the outset said (p. 171 U. S. 586):
"The relief sought in this case is based exclusively on the
act of Congress approved July 2, 1890, c. 647, entitled 'An act to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies,' commonly spoken of as the Anti-Trust Act. 26 Stat. 209."
"The act has reference only to that trade or commerce which exists, or may exist, among the several States or with foreign nations, and has no application whatever to any other trade or commerce."
"The question meeting us at the threshold, therefore, in this case is, what is the nature of the business of the defendants, and are the bylaws, or any subdivision of them above referred to, in their direct effect, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations; or does the case made by the bill and answer show that anyone of the above defendants has monopolized, or attempted to monopolize, or combined or conspired with other persons to monopolize, any part of the trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations?"
Proceeding, then, to consider the agreement, it was pointed out that the contention that the sale of cattle on the stockyards constituted interstate commerce was without merit. The distinction between interstate commerce as such and the power to make contracts and to buy and sell property was clearly stated, and, because of that distinction, the agreement was held not to be within the act of Congress, because that act could and did only relate to interstate commerce.
And, on the day the decision just referred to was announced, another case under the Anti-Trust Act was decided. Anderson v. United States, 171 U. S. 604. The difference between that case and the Hopkins case was thus stated by Mr. Justice Peckham, in delivering the opinion of the court (p. 171 U. S. 612):
"This case differs from that of Hopkins v. United States, supra, in the fact that these defendants are themselves purchasers of cattle on the market, while the defendants in the Hopkins case were only commission merchants who sold the cattle upon commission as a compensation for their services. "
"Counsel for the Government assert that any agreement or combination among buyers of cattle coming from other States, of the nature of the by laws in question, is an agreement or combination in restraint of interstate trade or commerce."
The court, however, said it did not deem it necessary to decide whether the fact that the merchants who entered into the agreement bought cattle in other States and shipped them to other States caused their business to be interstate commerce, because, in any event, the court was of opinion that the agreement which was assailed, even if it involved interstate commerce, was not in violation of any of the provisions of the Anti-Trust Act.
The Anderson case was followed by Addyston Pipe & Steel Co. v. United States, 175 U. S. 211. The case involved deciding whether a particular combination of pipe manufacturers, looking to the control of the sale and transportational of such pipe over a large territory, embracing many States and a division of the territory between the members of the combination, was within the prohibitions of the Anti-Trust Act. Coming to consider the subject, the court, through Mr. Justice Peckham, analyzed the contract and pointed out its monopolistic features. In answer to the argument that the matter complained of was not commerce, because it related only to a sale of pipe, and therefore was within the rule announced in the Knight and Hopkins cases, the Knight case was approvingly reviewed, and its doctrine, in effect, was reaffirmed, the court observing (p. 175 U. S. 240):
"The direct purpose of the combination in the Knight case was the control of the manufacture of sugar. There was no combination or agreement, in terms, regarding the future disposition of the manufactured articles; nothing looking to a transaction in the nature of interstate commerce."
"* * * *"
"We think the case now before us involves contracts of the nature last before mentioned, not incidentally or collaterally,
but as a direct and immediate result of the combination engaged in by defendants. . . . The defendants by reason of this combination and agreement could only send their goods out of the State in which they were manufactured for sale and delivery in another State, upon the terms and pursuant to the provisions of such combination. As pertinently asked by the court below, was not this a direct restraint upon interstate commerce in those goods?"
Having thus found that the agreement concerned interstate commerce because it directly purported to control the movement of goods from one State to the other, and besides sought to prohibit that movement or restrict the same to particular individuals, it was held that the contract was, for these reasons, within the prohibitions of the act of Congress, and was therefore void. I do not pause to consider the case of Montague Co. v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38, decided at this term, since, on the face of the opinion, it is patent that the contract directly concerned the shipment of goods from one State to another, and this was the sole and exclusive basis of the decision.
Now it is submitted that the decided cases just reviewed demonstrate that the acquisition and ownership of stock in competing railroads, organized under state law, by several persons or by corporations, is not interstate commerce, and therefore not subject to the control of Congress. It is, indeed, suggested that the cases establish a contrary doctrine. This is sought to be demonstrated by quoting passages from the opinions separated from their context apart from the questions which the cases involved. But as the issues which were decided in the Knight, in the Pearsall, in the Louisville and Nashville case, and in the Hopkins case directly exclude the significance attributed to the passages from the opinions in those cases relied upon, it must follow that, if such passages could, when separated from their context, have the meaning attributed to them, the expressions would be mere obiter. And this consideration renders it unnecessary for me to analyze the passages to show that, when they are read in connection with their context,
they have not the meaning now sought to be attached to them. But other considerations equally render it unnecessary to particularly review the sentences relied upon. There can be no doubt that it was expressly decided in the Knight case that the acquisition of stock by one corporation in other corporations so as to control them all was not interstate commerce, although the goods of the manufacturing companies whose stock was acquired might become the subject of interstate commerce. If then the passage from the Knight case could be given the meaning sought to be affixed to it, the result would be but to say that that case overruled itself. And this would be the result in the Pearsall case, since, in that case, it was decided that the States had the power to forbid the consolidation of competing railroads, even by means of the acquisition of stock. Besides, as in the Louisville and Nashville case, immediately following the Pearsall, it was expressly decided that the interstate commerce power of Congress did not embrace such consolidation, and Congress, therefore, could not restrain a State from either forbidding or permitting it to take place, it would follow that, if the sentences in the Pearsall case had the import now applied to them, that that case not only overruled itself, but was besides overruled by the Louisville and Nashville case, and this although the two cases were decided on the same day, the opinions in both cases having been delivered by the same Justice.
The same confusion and contradiction arises from separating from their context and citing as applicable to this case passages from the opinions in the Freight Association and Joint Traffic cases. Those cases, as I have previously stated, related exclusively to a contract admittedly involving interstate commerce, and it was decided that any restraint of such commerce was forbidden by the Anti-Trust Act. Now in the Hopkins case, decided subsequent to the Freight Association and Joint Traffic cases, the contract considered unquestionably involved a restraint, but, as such restraint did not concern interstate commerce, it was held not to come within the power of Congress.
It would follow then, if the sentences quoted from the opinions in the Freight Association and Joint Traffic cases, which cases concerned only that which was completely interstate commerce, applied to that which was not such commerce, that the Hopkins case overruled both these cases, although the opinions in all of the cases were delivered by the same Justice, and no intimation was suggested of such overruling. It would also result that, after having overruled those cases in the Hopkins case, the court, in expressing its opinion through the same Justice, proceeded in the Addyston Pipe case, which related only to interstate commerce, to overrule the Hopkins case and reaffirm the prior cases.
Of course, in my opinion, there is no ground for holding that the decided cases embody such extreme contradictions or produce such utter confusion. The cases are all consistent if only the elementary distinction upon which they proceeded be not obscured, that is, the difference which arises from the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, on the one hand, and its want of authority on the other, to regulate that which is not interstate commerce. Indeed, the confounding and treating as one things which are wholly different is the error permeating all the contentions for the Government.
What has been previously said suffices to show the reasons which control my judgment, and I might well say nothing more. There were, however, three propositions so earnestly pressed by the Government at bar upon the theory that they demonstrate that common ownership of a majority of the stock of competing railroads is subject to the regulating power of Congress that I propose to briefly give the reasons which cause me to conclude that the contentions relied upon are without merit.
1. This court, it is urged, has frequently declared that the power of Congress over interstate commerce includes the authority to regulate the instrumentalities of such commerce, and the following cases are cited: Railroad Co. v. Fuller, 17 Wall. 56; Welton v. Missouri, 91 U. S. 275; Pensacola Telegraph
Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co., 96 U. S. 1; Gloucester Ferry Co. v. Pennsylvania, 114 U. S. 196. To these cases might be added many others, including some of those which have been previously referred to by me. The argument now made is, as the power extends to instrumentalities, and railroads are such instrumentalities, therefore the acquisition and ownership of railroads by persons or corporations is commerce, and subject to the power of Congress to regulate. But this involves a non sequitur, and a confusion of thought arising from again confounding as one things which are wholly different. True, the instrumentalities of interstate commerce are subject to the power to regulate commerce, and therefore such instrumentalities, when employed in interstate commerce, may be regulated by Congress as to their use in such commerce. But this is entirely distinct from the power to regulate the acquisition and ownership of such instrumentalities, and the many forms of contracts from which such ownership may arise. The same distinction exists between the two which obtains between the power of Congress to regulate the movement of property in the channels of interstate commerce and its want of authority to regulate the acquisition and ownership of the same property. This difference was pointed out in the cases which have been referred to, and the distinction between the two has been, from the beginning, the dividing line, demarking the power of the national government, on the one hand, and of the States, on the other. All the rights of ownership in railroads belonging to corporations organized under state law, the power to acquire the same, to mortgage, to foreclose mortgages, to lease, and the contract relations concerning them, have from the foundation had their sanction in the legislation of the several States. One may search in vain in the acts of Congress for any legislation even suggesting that the power over these subjects was deemed to be in Congress. On the contrary, the legislation of Congress concerning the instrumentalities of railroads under the interstate commerce power clearly refutes the contention, since that legislation relates only to such instrumentalities
during their actual use in interstate commerce, and not otherwise. How, consistently with the proposition, can the great number of cases be explained which, in both the Federal and state courts, have dealt with the ownership of railroads and their instrumentalities by foreclosure and otherwise, under the assumption that the rights of the parties were controlled by state laws governing the subject? And, here again, it would follow, if the proposition was adopted, that all the vast body of state legislation on the subject would be void from the beginning, and the enormous sum of property rights depending upon such legislation would be impaired and lost, since, if the subject were within the power of Congress, it was one requiring a uniform regulation, and therefore the inaction of Congress would signify an entire want of power in the States over the subjects.
2. The court, it is urged, has in a number of cases declared that the several States were without power to directly burden interstate commerce. The acquiring and ownership by one person or corporation of a majority of the stock in competing railroads engaged in interstate commerce, it is argued, being a direct burden, therefore power to regulate the subject is in Congress, and not in the States. Undoubtedly, not only in the decisions referred to, but in many others, including most af those which have been by me quoted, the absolute want of power in the States to legislate concerning interstate commerce or to burden it directly has been declared, and the doctrine in its fullest scope is too elementary to require citation of authority. But to decide this case upon the assumption that the acquisition and ownership of stock in competing railroads engaged in interstate commerce is a regulation of commerce, or, what is the same thing, a direct burden on it, would be but to assume the question arising for decision.
Where an authority is exerted by a State which is within its power, and that authority, as exercised, does not touch interstate commerce or its instrumentalities, and can only have an effect upon such commerce by reason of the reflex and remote results
of the exertion of the lawful power, it cannot be said, without a contradiction in terms, that the power exercised is a regulation, because a direct burden upon commerce. To say to the contrary would be to declare that no power on any subject, however local in its character, could be exercised by the States if it was deemed by Congress or the courts that there would be produced some effect upon interstate commerce. The question whether a burden is direct, and therefore constitutes a regulation of interstate commerce, is to be determined by ascertaining whether the power exerted is lawful, generally speaking, and then by finding whether its exercise in the particular case was such as to cause it to be illegal, because directly burdening interstate commerce. If, in a given case, the power be lawful and the mode in which it is exercised be not such as to directly burden, there is no regulation of commerce, although as an indirect result of the exertion of the lawful power some effect may be produced upon commerce. In other words, where the power is lawful but it is asserted that it has been so exerted as to amount to a direct burden, there must be, so to speak, a privity between the manifestation of the power and the resulting burden. The distinction is well illustrated by the cases which have been referred to, and was very lucidly pointed out by Judge Jackson in the Greene case. Take the Knight case. There, as the contract merely concerned the purchase of stock in the refineries, and contained no condition relating to the movement in interstate commerce of the goods to be manufactured by the refining companies, the court held, as the right to acquire was not within the commerce clause, the fact that the owners of the manufactured product might thereafter so act concerning the product as to burden commerce, there was no direct burden resulting from the mere acquisition and ownership. On the contrary, in the Addyston Pipe case, after stating in the fullest way the paramount authority of Congress concerning commerce, the court approached the terms of the contract in order to determine whether it related to interstate commerce, and if it did, whether it created a direct burden. In doing so, as it
found that the contract both related to interstate commerce and directly burdened the same, the contract was held to be void. This case comes within the Knight case. It concerns the acquisition and ownership of stock. No contract is in question made by the owners of the stock controlling the railroads in the performance of their duties as carriers of interstate commerce. The sole contention is that as the result of the ownership of the stock there may arise, in the operation of the roads, a burden on interstate commerce. That is, that such burden may indirectly result from the acquisition and ownership. To maintain the contention, therefore, it must be decided that, because ownership of property, if acquired, may be so used as to burden commerce, therefore to acquire and own is to burden. This, however, would be but to declare that that which was in its very nature and essence indirect is direct.
3. But, it is said, it may not be denied that the common ownership of stock in competing railroads endows the holders of the majority of the stock with a common interest in both railroads and with the authority, if they choose to exert it, to so unify the management of the roads as to suppress competition between them. This power, it is insisted, is within the regulating authority of Congress over interstate commerce. In other words, the contention broadly is that Congress has not only the authority to regulate the exercise of interstate commerce, but, under that power, has the right to regulate the ownership and possession of property if the enjoyment of such rights would enable those who possessed them, if they engaged in interstate commerce, to exert a power over the same. But this proposition only asserts in another form that the right to acquire the stock was interstate commerce, and therefore was within the authority of Congress, and is refuted by the reasons and authorities already advanced. That the proposition, if adopted, would extend the power of Congress to all subjects essentially local, as already stated in considering the previous proposition, is, to my mind, manifest. So clearly is this the result of the particular proposition now being considered that,
at the risk of repetition, I again illustrate the subject. Under this doctrine, the sum of property to be acquired by individuals or by corporations, the contracts which they may make, would be within the regulating power of Congress. If it were judged by Congress that the farmer, in sowing his crops, should be limited to a certain production because overproduction would give power to affect commerce, Congress could regulate that subject. If the acquisition of a large amount of property by an individual was deemed by Congress to confer upon him the power to affect interstate commerce if he engaged in it, Congress could regulate that subject. If the wage-earner organized to better his condition and Congress believed that the existence of such organization would give power, if it were exerted, to affect interstate commerce, Congress could forbid the organization of all labor associations. Indeed, the doctrine must, in reason, lead to a concession of the right in Congress to regulate concerning the aptitude, the character, and capacity of persons. If individuals were deemed by Congress to be possessed of such ability that participation in the management of two great competing railroad enterprises would endow them with the power to injuriously affect interstate commerce, Congress could forbid such participation. If the principle were adopted, and the power which would arise from so doing were exercised, the result would be not only to destroy the state and Federal governments, but ,by the implication of authority, from which the destruction would be brought about, there would be erected upon the ruins of both a government endowed with the arbitrary power to disregard the great guaranty of life, liberty and property and every other safeguard upon which organized civil society depends. I say the guaranty because, in my opinion, the three are indissolubly united, and one cannot be destroyed without the other. Of course, to push propositions to the extreme to which they naturally lead is often an unsafe guide. But, at the same time, the conviction cannot be escaped by me that principles and conduct bear a relation one to the other, especially in matters of public concern. The fathers
founded our government upon an enduring basis of right, principle and of limitation of power. Destroy the principles and the limitations which they impose, and I am unable to say that conduct may not, when unrestrained, give rise to action doing violence to the great truths which the destroyed principles embodied.
The fallacy of all the contentions of the Government is, to my mind, illustrated by the summing up of the case for the Government made in the argument at bar. The right to acquire and own the stock of competing railroads involves, says that summing up, the power of an individual "to do" (italics mine) absolutely as he pleases with his own, whilst the claim of the Government is that the right of the owner of property "to do" (italics mine) as he pleases with his own may be controlled in the public interest by legitimate legislation. But the case involves the right to acquire and own, not the right "to do" (italics mine). Confusing the two gives rise to the errors which it has been my endeavor to point out. Undoubtedly the States possess power over corporations, created by them, to permit or forbid consolidation, whether accomplished by stock ownership or otherwise, to forbid one corporation from holding stock in another, and to impose on this or other subjects such regulations as may be deemed best. Generally speaking, however, the right to do these things springs alone from the fact that the corporation is created by the States, and holds its rights subject to the conditions attached to the grant, or to such regulations as the creator, the State, may lawfully impose upon its creature, the corporation. Moreover, irrespective of the relation of creator and creature, it is, of course, true in a general sense that government possesses the authority to regulate, within certain just limits, what an owner may do with his property. But the first power which arises from the authority of a grantor to exact conditions in making a grant or to regulate the conduct of the grantee gives no sanction to the proposition that a government, irrespective of its power to grant, has the general authority to
limit the character and quantity of property which may be acquired and owned. And the second power, the general governmental one, to reasonably control the use of property, affords no foundation for the proposition that there exists in government a power to limit the quantity and character of property which may be acquired and owned. The difference between the two is that which exists between a free and constitutional government restrained by law and an absolute government unrestrained by any of the principles which are necessary for the perpetuation of society and the protection of life, liberty and property.
It cannot be denied that the sum of all just governmental power was enjoyed by the States and the people before the Constitution of the United States was formed. None of that power was abridged by that instrument except as restrained by constitutional safeguards, and hence none was lost by the adoption of the Constitution. The Constitution, whilst distributing the preexisting authority, preserved it all. With the full power of the States over corporations created by them and with their authority in respect to local legislation, and with power in Congress over interstate commerce carried to its fullest degree, I cannot conceive that, if these powers, admittedly possessed by both, be fully exerted, a remedy cannot be provided fully adequate to suppress evils which may arise from combinations deemed to be injurious. This must be true unless it be concluded that, by the effect of the mere distribution of power made by the Constitution, partial impotency of governmental authority has resulted. But if this be conceded, arguendo, the Constitution itself has pointed out the method by which, if changes are needed, they may be brought about. No remedy, in my opinion, for any supposed or real infirmity can be afforded by disregarding the Constitution, by destroying the lines which separate state and Federal authority, and by implying the existence of a power which is repugnant to all those fundamental rights of life, liberty and property upon which just government must rest.
If, however, the question of the power of Congress be conceded, and the assumption as to the meaning of the Anti-Trust Act which has been indulged in for the purpose of considering that power be put out of view, it would yet remain to be determined whether the Anti-Trust Act embraced the acquisition and ownership of the stock in question by the Northern Securities Company. It is unnecessary for me, however, to state the reasons which have led me to the conclusion that the act, when properly interpreted, does not embrace the acquisition and ownership of such stock, since that subject is considered in an opinion of Mr. Justice Holmes, which explains the true interpretation of the statute, as it is understood by me, more clearly that I would be able to do.
Being of the opinion, for the reasons heretofore given, that Congress was without power to regulate the acquisition and ownership of the stock in question by the Northern Securities Company, and because I think, even if there were such power in Congress, it has not been exercised by the Anti-Trust Act, as is shown in the opinion of Mr. Justice Holmes, I dissent.
I am authorized to say that the CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM and MR. JUSTICE HOLMES concur in this dissent.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES, with whom concurred the CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE WHITE, and MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, dissenting.
I am unable to agree with the judgment of the majority of the court, and although I think it useless and undesirable, as a rule, to express dissent, I feel bound to do so in this case, and to give my reasons for it.
Great cases, like hard cases, make bad law. For great cases are called great not by reason of their real importance in shaping the law of the future, but because of some accident of immediate overwhelming interest which appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgment. These immediate interests
exercise a kind of hydraulic pressure which makes what previously was clear seem doubtful, and before which even well settled principles of law will bend. What we have to do in this case is to find the meaning of some not very difficult words. We must try, I have tried, to do it with the same freedom of natural and spontaneous interpretation that one would be sure of if the same question arose upon an indictment for a similar act which excited no public attention, and was of importance only to a prisoner before the court. Furthermore, while at times judges need for their work the training of economists or statesmen, and must act in view of their foresight of consequences, yet when their task is to interpret and apply the words of a statute, their function is merely academic to begin with -- to read English intelligently -- and a consideration of consequences comes into play, if at all, only when the meaning of the words used is open to reasonable doubt.
The question to be decided is whether, under the act of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209, it is unlawful, at any stage of the process, if several men unite to form a corporation for the purpose of buying more than half the stock of each of two competing interstate railroad companies, if they form the corporation, and the corporation buys the stock. I will suppose further that every step is taken, from the beginning, with the single intent of ending competition between the companies. I make this addition not because it may not be and is not disputed, but because, as I shall try to show, it is totally unimportant under any part of the statute with which we have to deal.
The statute of which we have to find the meaning is a criminal statute. The two sections on which the Government relies both make certain acts crimes. That is their immediate purpose, and that is what they say. It is vain to insist that this is not a criminal proceeding. The words cannot be read one way in a suit which is to end in fine and imprisonment and another way in one which seeks an injunction. The construction which is adopted in this case must be adopted in one
of the other sort. I am no friend of artificial interpretations because a statute is of one kind, rather than another, but all agree that, before a statute is to be taken to punish that which always has been lawful, it must express its intent in clear words. So I say we must read the words before us as if the question were whether two small exporting grocers should go to jail.
Again, the statute is of a very sweeping and general character. It hits "every" contract or combination of the prohibited sort, great or small, and "every" person who shall monopolize or attempt to monopolize, in the sense of the act, "any part" of the trade or commerce among the several States. There is a natural inclination to assume that it was directed against certain great combinations, and to read it in that light. It does not say so. On the contrary, it says "every," and "any part." Still less was it directed specially against railroads. There even was a reasonable doubt whether it included railroads until the point was decided by this court.
Finally, the statute must be construed in such a way as not merely to save its constitutionality but, so far as is consistent with a fair interpretation, not to raise grave doubts on that score. I assume, for the purposes of discussion, although it would be a great and serious step to take, that, in some case that seemed to it to need heroic measures, Congress might regulate not only commerce but instruments of commerce or contracts the bearing of which upon commerce would be only indirect. But it is clear that the mere fact of an indirect effect upon commerce not shown to be certain and very great would not justify such a law. The point decided in United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1, 156 U. S. 17, was that "the fact that trade or commerce might be indirectly affected was not enough to entitle complainants to a decree." Commerce depends upon population, but Congress could not, on that ground, undertake to regulate marriage and divorce. If the act before us is to be carried out according to what seems to me the logic of the argument for the Government, which I do
not believe that it will be, I can see no part of the conduct of life with which on similar principles Congress might not interfere.
This act is construed by the Government to affect the purchasers of shares in two railroad companies because of the effect it may have, or, if you like, is certain to have, upon the competition of these roads. If such a remote result of the exercise of an ordinary incident of property and personal freedom is enough to make that exercise unlawful, there is hardly any transaction concerning commerce between the States that may not be made a crime by the finding of a jury or a court. The personal ascendency of one man may be such that it would give to his advice the effect of a command, if he owned but a single share in each road. The tendency of his presence in the stockholders' meetings might be certain to prevent competition, and thus his advice, if not his mere existence, become a crime.
I state these general considerations as matters which I should have to take into account before I could agree to affirm the decree appealed from, but I do not need them for my own opinion, because, when I read the act, I cannot feel sufficient doubt as to the meaning of the words to need to fortify my conclusion by any generalities. Their meaning seems to me plain on their face.
The first section makes
"Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations"
a misdemeanor, punishable by fine, imprisonment or both. Much trouble is made by substituting other phrases assumed to be equivalent, which then are reasoned from as if they were in the act. The court below argued as if maintaining competition were the expressed object of the act. The act says nothing about competition. I stick to the exact words used. The words hit two classes of cases, and only two -- Contracts in restraint of trade and combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, and we have to consider what
these respectively are. Contracts in restraint of trade are dealt with and defined by the common law. They are contracts with a stranger to the contractor's business (although in some cases carrying on a similar one) which wholly or partially restrict the freedom of the contractor in carrying on that business as otherwise he would. The objection of the common law to them was primarily on the contractor's own account. The notion of monopoly did not come in unless the contract covered the whole of England. Mitchel v. Reynolds, 1 P.Wms. 181. Of course, this objection did not apply to partnerships or other forms, if there were any, of substituting a community of interest where there had been competition. There was no objection to such combinations merely as in restraint of trade, or otherwise unless they amounted to a monopoly. Contracts in restraint of trade, I repeat, were contracts with strangers to the contractor's business, and the trade restrained was the contractor's own.
Combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, on the other hand, were combinations to keep strangers to the agreement out of the business. The objection to them was not an objection to their effect upon the parties making the contract, the members of the combination or firm, but an objection to their intended effect upon strangers to the firm and their supposed consequent effect upon the public at large. In other words, they were regarded as contrary to public policy because they monopolized or attempted to monopolize some portion of the trade or commerce of the realm. See United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1. All that is added to the first section by § 2 is that like penalties are imposed upon every single person who, without combination, monopolizes or attempts to monopolize commerce among the States, and that the liability is extended to attempting to monopolize any part of such trade or commerce. It is more important as an aid to the construction of § 1 than it is on its own account. It shows that whatever is criminal when done by way of combination is equally criminal if done by a single man. That I am right in my interpretation
of the words of § 1 is shown by the words "in the form of trust or otherwise." The prohibition was suggested by the trusts, the objection to which, as every one knows, was not the union of former competitors, but the sinister power exercised or supposed to be exercised by the combination in keeping rivals out of the business and ruining those who already were in. It was the ferocious extreme of competition with others, not the cessation of competition among the partners, that was the evil feared. Further proof is to be found in § 7, giving an action to any person injured in his business or property by the forbidden conduct. This cannot refer to the parties to the agreement, and plainly means that outsiders who are injured in their attempt to compete with a trust or other similar combination may recover for it. Montague & Co. v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38. How effective the section may be or how far it goes is not material to my point. My general summary of the two classes of cases which the act affects is confirmed by the title, which is "An Act to protect Trade and Commerce against unlawful Restraints and Monopolies."
What I now ask is under which of the foregoing classes this case is supposed to come, and that question must be answered as definitely and precisely as if we were dealing with the indictments which logically ought to follow this decision. The provision of the statute against contracts in restraint of trade has been held to apply to contracts between railroads, otherwise remaining independent, by which they restricted their respective freedom as to rates. This restriction by contract with a stranger to the contractor's business is the ground of the decision in United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505, following and affirming United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290. I accept those decisions absolutely, not only as binding upon me, but as decisions which I have no desire to criticise or abridge. But the provision has not been decided, and, it seems to me, could not be decided without perversion of plain language, to apply to an arrangement by which competition is ended through community
of interest -- an arrangement which leaves the parties without external restriction. That provision, taken alone, does not require that all existing competitions shall be maintained. It does not look primarily, if at all, to competition. It simply requires that a party's freedom in trade between the States shall not be cut down by contract with a stranger. So far as that phrase goes, it is lawful to abolish competition by any form of union. It would seem to me impossible to say that the words "every contract in restraint of trade is a crime punishable with imprisonment" would send the members of a partnership between, or a consolidation of, two trading corporations to prison -- still more impossible to say that it forbade one man or corporation to purchase as much stock as he liked in both. Yet those words would have that effect if this clause of § 1 applies to the defendants here. For it cannot be too carefully remembered that that clause applies to "every" contract of the forbidden kind -- a consideration which was the turning point of the Trans-Missouri Freight Association's case.
If the statute applies to this case, it must be because the parties, or some of them, have formed, or because the Northern Securities Company is, a combination in restraint of trade among the States, or, what comes to the same thing, in my opinion, because the defendants, or some or one of them, are monopolizing or attempting to monopolize some part of the commerce between the States. But the mere reading of those words shows that they are used in a limited and accurate sense. According to popular speech, every concern monopolizes whatever business it does, and if that business is trade between two States, it monopolizes a part of the trade among the States. Of course, the statute does not forbid that. It does not mean that all business must cease. A single railroad down a narrow valley or through a mountain gorge monopolizes all the railroad transportation through that valley or gorge. Indeed, every railroad monopolizes, in a popular sense, the trade of some area. Yet I suppose no one would say that
the statute forbids a combination of men into a corporation to build and run such a railroad between the States.
I assume that the Minnesota charter of the Great Northern and the Wisconsin charter of the Northern Pacific both are valid. Suppose that, before either road was built, Minnesota, as part of a system of transportation between the States, had created a railroad company authorized singly to build all the lines in the States now actually built, owned or controlled by either of the two existing companies. I take it that that charter would have been just as good as the present one, even if the statutes which we are considering had been in force. In whatever sense it would have created a monopoly, the present charter does. It would have been a large one, but the act of Congress makes no discrimination according to size. Size has nothing to do with the matter. A monopoly of "any part" of commerce among the States is unlawful. The supposed company would have owned lines that might have been competing -- probably the present one does. But the act of Congress will not be construed to mean the universal disintegration of society into single men, each at war with all the rest, or even the prevention of all further combinations for a common end.
There is a natural feeling that somehow or other the statute meant to strike at combinations great enough to cause just anxiety on the part of those who love their country more than money, while it viewed such little ones as I have supposed with just indifference. This notion, it may be said, somehow breathes from the pores of the act, although it seems to be contradicted in every way by the words in detail. And it has occurred to me that it might be that, when a combination reached a certain size it might have attributed to it more of the character of a monopoly merely by virtue of its size than would be attributed to a smaller one. I am quite clear that it is only in connection with monopolies that size could play any part. But my answer has been indicated already. In the first place, size in the case of railroads is an inevitable incident, and, if it were an
objection under the act, the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific already were too great and encountered the law. In the next place, in the case of railroads, it is evident that the size of the combination is reached for other ends than those which would make them monopolies. The combinations are not formed for the purpose of excluding others from the field. Finally, even a small railroad will have the same tendency to exclude others from its narrow area that great ones have to exclude others from a greater one, and the statute attacks the small monopolies as well as the great. The very words of the act make such a distinction impossible in this case, and it has not been attempted in express terms.
If the charter which I have imagined above would have been good notwithstanding the monopoly, in a popular sense, which it created, one next is led to ask whether and why a combination or consolidation of existing roads, although in actual competition, into one company of exactly the same powers and extent would be any more obnoxious to the law. Although it was decided in Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Kentucky, 161 U. S. 677, 161 U. S. 701, that, since the statute, as before, the States have the power to regulate the matter, it was said, in the argument, that such a consolidation would be unlawful, and it seems to me that the Attorney General was compelled to say so in order to maintain his case. But I think that logic would not let him stop there, or short of denying the power of a State at the present time to authorize one company to construct and own two parallel lines that might compete. The monopoly would be the same as if the roads were consolidated after they had begun to compete -- and it is on the footing of monopoly that I now am supposing the objection made. But to meet the objection to the prevention of competition at the same time, I will suppose that three parties apply to a State for charters, one for each of two new and possibly competing lines respectively, and one for both of these lines, and that the charter is granted to the last. I think that charter would be good, and I think the whole argument to the contrary rests
on a popular, instead of an accurate and legal, conception of what the word "monopolize" in the statute means. I repeat that, in my opinion, there is no attempt to monopolize, and what, as I have said, in my judgment, amounts to the same thing, that there is no combination in restraint of trade, until something is done with the intent to exclude strangers to the combination from competing with it in some part of the business which it carries on.
Unless I am entirely wrong in my understanding of what a "combination in restraint of trade" means, then the same monopoly may be attempted and effected by an individual, and is made equally illegal in that case by § 2. But I do not expect to hear it maintained that Mr. Morgan could be sent to prison for buying as many shares as he liked of the Great Northern and the Northern Pacific, even if he bought them both at the same time and got more than half the stock of each road.
There is much that was mentioned in argument which I pass by. But in view of the great importance attached by both sides to the supposed attempt to suppress competition, I must say a word more about that. I said at the outset that I should assume, and I do assume, that one purpose of the purchase was to suppress competition between the two roads. I appreciate the force of the argument that there are independent stockholders in each; that it cannot be presumed that the respective boards of directors will propose any illegal act; that, if they should, they could be restrained, and that all that has been done as yet is too remote from the illegal result to be classed even as an attempt. Not every act done in furtherance of an unlawful end is an attempt or contrary to the law. There must be a certain nearness to the result. It is a question of proximity and decree. Commonwealth v. Peaslee, 177 Massachusetts 267, 272. So, as I have said, is the amenability of acts in furtherance of interference with commerce among the States to legislation by Congress. So, according to the intimation of this court, is the question of liability under the present statute.
Hopkins v. United States, 171 U. S. 578; Anderson v. United States, 171 U. S. 604. But I assume further, for the purposes of discussion, that what has been done is near enough to the result to fall under the law, if the law prohibits that result, although that assumption very nearly, if not quite, contradicts the decision in United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1. But I say that the law does not prohibit the result. If it does, it must be because there is some further meaning than I have yet discovered in the words "combinations in restraint of trade." I think that I have exhausted the meaning of those words in what I already have said. But they certainly do not require all existing competitions to be kept on foot, and, on the principle of the Trans-Missouri Freight Association's case, invalidate the continuance of old contracts by which former competitors united in the past.
A partnership is not a contract or combination in restraint of trade between the partners unless the well known words are to be given a new meaning invented for the purposes of this act. It is true that the suppression of competition was referred to in United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U. S. 290, but, as I have said, that was in connection with a contract with a stranger to the defendant's business -- a true contract in restraint of trade. To suppress competition in that way is one thing, to suppress it by fusion is another. The law, I repeat, says nothing about competition, and only prevents its suppression by contracts or combinations in restraint of trade, and such contracts or combinations derive their character as restraining trade from other features than the suppression of competition alone. To see whether I am wrong, the illustrations put in the argument are of use. If I am, then a partnership between two stage drivers who had been competitors in driving across a state line, or two merchants once engaged in rival commerce among the States whether made after or before the act, if now continued, is a crime. For, again I repeat, if the restraint on the freedom of the members of a combination caused by their entering into partnership is a restraint of
trade, every such combination, as well the small as the great, is within the act.
In view of my interpretation of the statute, I do not go further into the question of the power of Congress. That has been dealt with by my brother White, and I concur in the main with his views. I am happy to know that only a minority of my brethren adopt an interpretation of the law which in my opinion would make eternal the bellum omnium contra omnes and disintegrate society so far as it could into individual atoms. If that were its intent, I should regard calling such a law a regulation of commerce as a mere pretense. It would be an attempt to reconstruct society. I am not concerned with the wisdom of such an attempt, but I believe that Congress was not entrusted by the Constitution with the power to make it, and I am deeply persuaded that it has not tried.
I am authorized to say that the CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE WHITE and MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM concur in this dissent.
Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.