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RAILROAD COMPANY V. HUSEN, 95 U. S. 465 (1877)

U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Company v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465 (1877)

Railroad Company v. Husen

95 U.S. 465


1. The statute of Missouri which prohibits driving or conveying any Texas, Mexican, or Indian cattle into the state between the first day of March and the first day of November in each year is in conflict with the clause of the Constitution that ordains "Congress shall have power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes."

2. Such a statute is more than a quarantine regulation, and not a legitimate exercise of the police power of the state.

3. That power cannot be exercised over the interstate transportation of subjects of commerce.

4. While a state may enact sanitary laws, and, for the purpose of self-protection, establish quarantine and reasonable inspection regulations, and prevent persons and animals having contagious or infectious diseases from entering the state, it cannot, beyond what is absolutely necessary for self-protection, interfere with transportation into or through its territory.

5. Neither the unlimited powers of a state to tax nor any of its large police powers can be exercised to such an extent as to work a practical assumption of the powers conferred by the Constitution upon Congress.

6. Since the range of a state's police power comes very near to the field committed by the Constitution to Congress, it is the duty of courts to guard vigilantly against any needless intrusion.

An Act of the Legislature of Missouri approved Jan. 23, 1872, 1 Wagner's Stat. 251, provides as follows:

"SECTION 1. No Texas, Mexican, or Indian cattle shall be driven or otherwise conveyed into or remain in any county in this state between the first day of March and the first day of November in each year, by any person or persons whatsoever, provided that nothing in this section shall apply to any cattle which have been kept the entire previous winter in this state; provided further that when such cattle shall come across the line of this state loaded

Page 95 U. S. 466

upon a railroad car or steamboat and shall pass through this state without being unloaded, such shall not be construed as prohibited by this act, but the railroad company or owners of a steamboat performing such transportation shall be responsible for all damages which may result from the disease called the Spanish or Texas fever should the same occur along the line of such transportation, and the existence of such disease along such route shall be prima facie evidence that such disease has been communicated by such transportation."

"SEC. 9. If any person or persons shall bring into this state any Texas, Mexican, or Indian cattle in violation of the first section of this act, he or they shall be liable in all cases for all damages sustained on account of disease communicated by said cattle."

Husen brought this action against the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad Company for damages alleged to have been done him by means of the company's violation of the foregoing act.

On the trial in the Circuit Court for Grundy County it was, among other things, objected by the company that the act was in violation of that part of Sec. 8 of Art. I of the Constitution of the United States which provides that Congress shall have power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." This objection having been overruled, there was a judgment for the plaintiff, which the supreme court on appeal affirmed, holding that the act was "not contrary in any wise, in regard to this case, to the Constitution of the United States."

The company then brought the case here.

Page 95 U. S. 468

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