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SOUTHERN RY. CO. V. REID, 222 U. S. 424 (1912)

U.S. Supreme Court

Southern Ry. Co. v. Reid, 222 U.S. 424 (1912)

Southern Railway Company v. Reid

No. 487

Argued December 6, 1911

Decided January 9, 1912

222 U.S. 424


There are three degrees to which the state exercises power over commerce. First exclusively; second, in the absence of legislation by Congress, until Congress does act; third, where, Congress having legislated, the power of the state cannot operate at all.

Although when Congress is silent, the state may legislate in aid of, or

Page 222 U. S. 425

without burdening, interstate commerce, there may at any time be federal exertion of authority which takes that power from the state.

Although where Congress and the state have concurrent powers, that of the state is superseded when the power of Congress is exercised, the action of Congress must be specific in order to be paramount. Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Larabee Mills, 211 U. S. 612.

By the specific provision of the Act to Regulate Commerce, as amended, Congress has taken control of ratemaking and charging for interstate shipments, and in that respect such provisions supersede state statutes on the same subject, and so held that a statute of North Carolina requiring common carriers to transport freight as soon as received to interstate points under penalties for failure, conflicts with the requirement of § 2 of the Hepburn Act of July 29, 1906, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, forbidding transportation until rates had been fixed and published, and is therefore unenforceable.

As between the federal government and the states, one authority must be paramount, and when it speaks, the other must be silent.

No essential power is taken from the states in preserving the balances of the Constitution and giving to Congress the power which belongs to it.

Any middle ground on which state authority might still be preserved after Congress has spoken in regard to interstate commerce is passed when the state regulation burdens such commerce, and the imposition of penalties for failure to receive and transport freight does impose a burden.

Quaere whether conceding that a state may impose a penalty does not concede the state to be competent to determine the amount.

153 N.C. 490 reversed.

The facts, which involve the validity of a statute of North Carolina affecting common carriers, are stated in the opinion.

Page 222 U. S. 431

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