Congress has power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States" (Const. art. 1, sect. 8, par. 3); and "to establish post-offices and post-roads" (id., par. 7). The Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof are the supreme law of the land. Art. 6, par. 2.
Since the case of Gibbons v. Ogden (9 Wheat. 1), it has never been doubted that commercial intercourse is an element of commerce which comes within the regulating power of Congress. Post-offices and post-roads are established to facilitate the transmission of intelligence. Both commerce and the postal service are placed within the power of Congress, because, being national in their operation, they should be under the protecting care of the national government.
The powers thus granted are not confined to the instrumen talities of commerce, or the postal service known or in use when the Constitution was adopted, but they keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of time and circumstances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage-coach, from the sailing-vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth. They were intended for the government of the business to which they relate, at all times and under all circumstances. As they were intrusted to the general government for the good of the nation, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Congress to see to it that intercourse among the States and the transmission of intelligence are not obstructed or unnecessarily encumbered by State legislation.
The electric telegraph marks an epoch in the progress of time. In a little more than a quarter of a century it has changed the habits of business, and become one of the necessities of commerce. It is indispensable as a means of inter-communication, but especially is it so in commercial transactions. The statistics of the business before the recent reduction in rates show that more than eighty per cent of all the messages sent by telegraph related to commerce. Goods are sold and money paid upon telegraphic orders. Contracts are made by telegraphic correspondence, cargoes secured, and the movement of ships directed. The telegraphic announcement of the markets abroad regulates prices at home, and a prudent merchant
It is not only important to the people, but to the government. By means of it the heads of the departments in Washington are kept in close communication with all their various agencies at home and abroad, and can know at almost any hour, by inquiry, what is transpiring anywhere that affects the interest they have in charge. Under such circumstances, it cannot for a moment be doubted that this powerful agency of commerce and inter-communication comes within the controlling power of Congress, certainly as against hostile State legislation. In fact, from the beginning, it seems to have been assumed that Congress might aid in developing the system; for the first telegraph line of any considerable extent ever erected was built between Washington and Baltimore, only a little more than thirty years ago, with money appropriated by Congress for that purpose (5 Stat. 618); and large donations of land and money have since been made to aid in the construction of other lines (12 id. 489, 772; 13 id. 365; 14 id. 292). It is not necessary now to inquire whether Congress may assume the telegraph as part of the postal service, and exclude all others from its use. The present case is satisfied, if we find that Congress has power, by appropriate legislation, to prevent the States from placing obstructions in the way of its usefulness.
The government of the United States, within the scope of its powers, operates upon every foot of territory under its jurisdiction. It legislates for the whole nation, and is not embarrassed by State lines. Its peculiar duty is to protect one part of the country from encroachments by another upon the national rights which belong to all.
The State of Florida has attempted to confer upon a single corporation the exclusive right of transmitting intelligence by telegraph over a certain portion of its territory. This embraces the two westernmost counties of the State, and extends from Alabama to the Gulf. No telegraph line can cross the State from east to west, or from north to south, within these counties, except it passes over this territory. Within it is situated an important seaport, at which business centres, and with which those engaged in commercial pursuits have occasion more or less
It is unnecessary to decide how far this might have been done if Congress had not acted upon the same subject, for it has acted. The statute of July 24, 1866, in effect, amounts to a prohibition of all State monopolies in this particular. It substantially declares, in the interest of commerce and the convenient transmission of intelligence from place to place by the government of the United States and its citizens, that the erection of telegraph lines shall, so far as State interference is concerned, be free to all who will submit to the conditions imposed by Congress, and that corporations organized under the laws of one State for constructing and operating telegraph lines shall not be excluded by another from prosecuting their business within its jurisdiction, if they accept the terms proposed by the national government for this national privilege. To this extent, certainly, the statute is a legitimate regulation of commercial intercourse among the States, and is appropriate legislation to carry into execution the powers of Congress over the postal service. It gives no foreign corporation the right to enter upon private property without the consent of the owner and erect the necessary structures for its business; but it does provide, that, whenever the consent of the owner is obtained, no State legislation shall prevent the occupation of post-roads for telegraph purposes by such corporations as are willing to avail themselves of its privileges.
It is insisted, however, that the statute extends only to such military and post roads as are upon the public domain; but this
The State law in question, so far as it confers exclusive rights upon the Pensacola Company, is certainly in conflict with this legislation of Congress. To that extent it is, therefore, inoperative as against a corporation of another State entitled to the privileges of the act of Congress. Such being the case, the charter of the Pensacola Company does not exclude the Western Union Company from the occupancy of the right of way of the Pensacola and Louisville Railroad Company under the arrangement made for that purpose.
We are aware that, in Paul v. Virginia (8 Wall. 168), this court decided that a State might exclude a corporation of another State from its jurisdiction, and that corporations are not within the clause of the Constitution which declares that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." Art. 4, sect. 2. That was not, however, the case of a corporation engaged in inter-state commerce; and enough was said by the court to show,
The questions thus suggested need not be considered now, because no prohibitory legislation is relied upon, except that which, as has already been seen, is inoperative. Upon principles of comity, the corporations of one State are permitted to do business in another, unless it conflicts with the law, or unjustly interferes with the rights of the citizens of the State into which they come. Under such circumstances, no citizen of a State can enjoin a foreign corporation from pursuing its business. Until the State acts in its sovereign capacity, individual citizens cannot complain. The State must determine for itself when the public good requires that its implied assent to the admission shall be withdrawn. Here, so far from withdrawing its assent, the State, by its legislation of 1874, in effect, invited foreign telegraph corporations to come in. Whether that legislation, in the absence of congressional action, would have been sufficient to authorize a foreign corporation to construct and operate a line within the two counties named, we need not decide; but we are clearly of the opinion, that, with such action and a right of way secured by private arrangement with the owner of the land, this defendant corporation cannot be excluded by the present complainant.
MR. JUSTICE FIELD.
I am compelled to dissent from the judgment of the court in this case, and from the reasons upon which it is founded; and I will state with as much brevity as possible the grounds of my dissent.
The bill was filed to obtain an injunction restraining the defendant from erecting, using, or maintaining a telegraph line in the county of Escambia, Florida, on the ground that, by a statute of the State passed in December, 1866, the complainant had acquired the exclusive right to erect and use lines of telegraph in that county for the period of twenty years. The court below denied the injunction and dismissed the bill, upon the ground that the statute was in conflict with the act of Congress of July 24, 1866, entitled "An Act to aid in the construction of telegraph lines, and to secure to the government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes." 14 Stat. 221.
The statute of Florida incorporated the Pensacola Telegraph Company, which had been organized in December of the previous year, and in terms declared that it should enjoy "the sole and exclusive privilege and right of establishing and maintain ing lines of electric telegraph in the counties of Escambia and Santa Rosa, either from different points within said counties, or connecting with lines coming into said counties, or either of them, from other points in this or any other State."
Soon after its organization, and in 1866, the company erected a line of telegraph from the city of Pensacola, through the county of Escambia, to the southern boundary of Alabama, a distance of forty-seven miles, which has since been open and in continuous operation. It was located, by permission of the Alabama and Florida Railroad Company, along its line of railway. After the charter was obtained, the line was substantially rebuilt, and two other lines in the county were erected by the company.
In February, 1873, the legislature of Florida passed an act granting to the Pensacola and Louisville Railroad Company, which had become the assignee of the Alabama and Florida Railroad Company, the right to construct and operate telegraph
Under this amendatory act, and soon after its passage, the railroad company assigned the rights, privileges, and franchises thus acquired to the Western Union Telegraph Company, the defendant herein, a corporation created under the laws of the State of New York; which at once proceeded to erect a line from the city of Pensacola to the southern boundary of Alabama, along the identical railway on which the complainant's line was erected in 1866, and has been located ever since, with the avowed intention of using it to transmit for compensation messages for the public in the county and State. By the erection and operation of this line, the complainant alleges that its property would become valueless, and that it would lose the benefits of the franchises conferred by its charter.
There can be no serious question that the State of Florida possessed the absolute right to confer upon a corporation created by it the exclusive privilege for a limited period to construct and operate a telegraph line within its borders. Its Constitution, in existence at the time, empowered the legislature to grant exclusive privileges and franchises to private corporations for a period not exceeding twenty years. The exclusiveness of a privilege often constitutes the only inducement for undertakings holding out little prospect of immediate returns. The uncertainty of the results of an enterprise will often deter capitalists, naturally cautious and distrustful, from making an investment, without some assurance that, in case the business become profitable, they shall not encounter the danger of its
The grant to the complainant was invaded by the subsequent grant to the Pensacola and Louisville Railroad Company. If the first grant was valid, the second was void, according to all the decisions of this court, upon the power of a State to impair its grant, since the Dartmouth College Case. The court below did not hold otherwise, and I do not understand that a different view is taken here; but it decided, and this court sustains the decision, that the statute making the first grant was void, by reason of its conflict with the act of Congress of July 24, 1866.
With all deference to my associates, I cannot see that the act of Congress has any thing to do with the case before us. In my judgment, it has reference only to telegraph lines over and along military and post roads on the public domain of the United States. The title of the act expresses its purpose; namely, "To aid in the construction of telegraph lines, and to secure to the government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes." The aid conferred was the grant of a right of way over the public domain; the act does not propose to give aid in any other way. Its language is, that any telegraph company organized under the laws of a State "shall have the right to construct, maintain, and operate lines of telegraph through and over any portion of the public domain, over and along any of the military and post roads which have been or may hereafter be declared such by act of Congress, and over and across the navigable streams or waters of the United States." The portion of the public domain which may be thus used is designated by reference to the military and post roads upon it. Were there any doubt that this is the
The only military roads belonging to the United States within the States are in the military reservations; and to them the act obviously does not apply. And there are no post-roads belonging to the United States within the States. The roads upon which the mails are carried by parties, under contract with the government, belong either to the States, or to individuals, or to corporations, and are declared post-roads only to protect the carriers from being interfered with, and the mails from being delayed in their transportation, and the postal service from frauds. The government has no other control over them. It has no proprietary interest in them or along them to bestow upon any one. It cannot use them, without paying the tolls chargeable to individuals for similar uses; it cannot prevent the State from changing or discontinuing them at its pleasure; and it can acquire no ownership or property interest in them, except in the way in which it may acquire any other property in the States, — namely, by purchase, or by appropriation
The public streets in some of our cities are post-roads, under the declaration of Congress (Rev. Stat., sect. 3964); and it would be a strange thing if telegraph lines could be erected by a foreign corporation along such streets without the consent of the municipal and State authorities, and, of course, without power on their part to regulate its charges or control its management. Yet the doctrine asserted by the majority of the court goes to this length: that, if the owners of the property along the streets consent to the erection of such lines by a foreign corporation, the municipality and the State are powerless to prevent it, although the exclusive right to erect them may have been granted by the State to a corporation of its own creation.
If by making a contract with a party to carry the mails over a particular road in a State, which thus becomes by act of Congress for that purpose a post-road, Congress acquires such rights with respect to the road that it can authorize corporations of other States to construct along and over it a line of telegraph, why may it not authorize them to construct along the road a railway, or a turnpike, or a canal, or any other work which may be used for the promotion of commerce? If the authority exist in the one case, I cannot see why it does not equally exist in the other. And if Congress can authorize the corporations of one State to construct telegraph lines and railways in another State, it must have the right to authorize them to condemn private property for that purpose. The act under consideration does not, it is true, provide for such condemnation; but if the right exist to authorize the construction of the lines, it cannot be defeated from the inability of the corporations to acquire the necessary property by purchase. The power to grant implies a power to confer all the authority necessary to make the grant effectual. It was for a long time a debated question whether the United States, in order to obtain property required for their own purposes, could exercise the right of eminent domain within a State. It has been decided, only within the past two years, that the government, if such property cannot be obtained by purchase, may appropriate
We are not called upon to say that Congress may not construct a railroad as a post-road, or erect for postal purposes a telegraph line. It may be that the power to establish post-roads is not limited to designating the roads which shall be used as postal routes, — a limitation which has been asserted by eminent jurists and statesmen.
A corporation can have no legal existence beyond the limits of the sovereignty which created it. In Bank of Augusta v. Earle (13 Pet. 519), it was said by this court that "it must dwell in the place of its creation, and cannot migrate to another sovereignty." And in Paul v. Virginia (8 Wall. 168), we added, that "the recognition of its existence even by other States, and the enforcement of its contracts made therein, depend purely upon the comity of those States, — a comity which is never extended where the existence of the corporation or the exercise of its powers is prejudicial to their interests or repugnant to their policy. Having no absolute right of recognition in other States, but depending for such recognition and the enforcement
In all that has been said of the importance of the telegraph as a means of intercourse, and of its constant use in commercial transactions, I fully concur. Similar language may be used with regard to railways; indeed, of the two, the railway is much the more important instrument of commerce. But it is difficult to see how from this fact can be deduced the right of Congress to authorize the corporations of one State to enter within the borders of another State and construct railways and telegraph lines in its different counties for the transaction of local business. The grant to the complainant in no way interferes with the power of Congress, if it possess such power, to construct telegraph lines or railways for postal service or for military purposes, or with its power to regulate commerce between the States. The imputation that Florida designed by the grant to obstruct the powers of Congress in these respects is not warranted by any thing in her statute. A like imputation, and with equal justice, might be made against every State in the Union which has authorized the construction of a railway or telegraph line in any one of its counties, with a grant of an exclusive right to operate the road or line for a limited period. It is true the United States, equally with their citizens, may be obliged in such cases to use the road or line; but it has not heretofore been supposed that this fact impaired the right of the State to make the grant. When the general government desires to transact business within a State, it necessarily makes use of the highways and modes of transit provided under
The position advanced, that if a corporation be in any way engaged in commerce it can enter and do business in another State without the latter's consent, is novel and startling. There is nothing in the opinion in Paul v. Virginia which gives any support to it. The statute of Virginia, which was under consideration in that case, provided that no insurance company not incorporated under its laws should do business within the State, without previously obtaining a license for that purpose; and that it should not receive such license until it had deposited with the treasurer of the State bonds of a specified character to an amount varying from $30,000 to $50,000. No such deposit was required of insurance companies incorporated by the State for carrying on their business within it; and in that case the validity of the discriminating provisions of the statute, between the corporations of the State and those of other States, was assailed. It was contended, among other things, that the statute was in conflict with the power vested in Congress to regulate commerce among the several States; that the power included commerce carried on by corporations as well as that carried on by individuals; and that the issuing of a policy of insurance upon property in one State by a corporation of another State was a transaction of inter-state commerce. The court replied, that it was true that the language of the grant to Congress made no reference to the instrumentalities by which commerce might be carried on; that it was general, and included alike commerce by individuals, partnerships, associations, and corporations; and that, therefore, there was nothing in the fact, that the insurance companies of New York were corporations, which impaired the argument of counsel, but that its defect lay in the character of the business; that issuing a policy of insurance was not a transaction of commerce; that the policies were mere contracts of indemnity against loss by fire, and not articles of commerce in any proper meaning of the term. In other words, the court held that the power of Congress to regulate commerce was not affected by the fact that such commerce was carried on by corporations, but that a contract of insurance made by a corporation of one
The power vested in Congress to regulate commerce "among the several States" does not authorize any interference with the commerce which is carried on entirely within a State. "Comprehensive
The late war was carried on at an enormous cost of life and property, that the Union might be preserved; but, unless the independence of the States within their proper spheres be also preserved, the Union is valueless. In our form of government, the one is as essential as the other; and a blow at one strikes both. The general government was formed for national purposes, principally that we might have within ourselves uniformity of commercial regulations, a common currency, one postal system, and that the citizens of the several States might have in each equality of right and privilege; and that in our foreign relations we might present ourselves as one nation. But the protection and enforcement of private rights of both persons and property, and the regulation of domestic affairs, were left chiefly with the States; and, unless they are allowed to remain there, it will be impossible for a country of such vast dimensions as ours — with every variety of soil and climate, creating different pursuits, and conflicting interests in different sections — to be kept together in peace. As long as the general government confines itself to its great but limited sphere, and the States are left to control their domestic affairs and business, there can be no ground for public unrest and disturbance. Disquiet can only arise from the exercise of ungranted powers.
Over no subject is it more important for the interests and welfare of a State that it should have control, than over corporations
MR. JUSTICE HUNT.
I dissent, on the ground that the act of Congress was intended only to apply to telegraph lines constructed upon the public domain.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN did not sit in this case, nor take any part in deciding it.