The questions thus presented are neither new nor difficult of solution. Except in one particular, they have been considered and determined in many cases, of which the most important are Wilson v. Blackbird Creek Marsh Co., 2 Pet. 245; Pennsylvania v. Wheeling Bridge Co., 13 How. 518, 564; Gilman v. Philadelphia, 3 Wall. 713; Pound v. Turck, 95 U.S. 459; Escanaba Co. v. Chicago, 107 U.S. 678, and Miller v. Mayor of New York, 109 U.S. 385. In these cases the control of Congress over navigable waters within the States so as to preserve their free navigation under the commercial clause of the Constitution, the power of the States within which they lie to authorize the construction of bridges over them until Congress intervenes and supersedes their authority, and the right of private parties to interfere with their construction or continuance, have been fully considered, and we are entirely satisfied with the soundness of the conclusions reached. They recognize the full power of the States to regulate within their limits matters of internal police, which embraces among other things the construction, repair and maintenance of roads and bridges, and the establishment of ferries; that the States are more likely to appreciate the importance of these means of internal communication and to provide for their proper management, than a government at a distance; and that, as to bridges over navigable streams, their power is subordinate to that of Congress, as
In Wilson v. Blackbird Creek Marsh Co., a dam had been constructed across a small navigable river in the State of Delaware, by authority of its legislature; and this court held that the obstruction which it caused to the navigation of the stream was an affair between the government of the State and its citizens, in the absence of any law of Congress on the subject.
In the case of Gilman v. Philadelphia, a bridge across the Schuylkill River connecting East and West Philadelphia, had been constructed by authority of the legislature of Pennsylvania. It was without a draw, and prevented the passage of vessels to wharves above it, although the river was tide water and navigable to them, and commerce had been carried on to them for years in all kinds of vessels. The owner of the wharves filed a bill to prevent the erection of the bridge, alleging that it would be an unlawful obstruction to the navigation of the river and an illegal interference with his rights, and claimed that he was entitled to be protected by an injunction against the progress of the work, and to a decree for its abatement should it be proceeded with to completion. But the court held that the State had not exceeded the bounds of her authority in permitting its construction, and until the power of the Constitution was made effective by appropriate legislation, the power of the State was plenary, and its exercise, in good faith, could not be made the subject of review here. The court observed that it was not to be forgotten that bridges, which are connecting parts of turnpikes, streets, and railroads, were means of commercial transportation, as well as navigable waters; that the commerce which passed over a bridge might be much greater than would be transported on the water obstructed; and that it was for the municipal power to weigh the considerations that applied to the subject, and to decide
These cases illustrate the general doctrine, now fully recognized, that the commercial power of Congress is exclusive of State authority only when the subjects upon which it is exerted are national in their character and admit and require uniformity of regulations affecting alike all the States; and that when the subjects within that power are local in their nature or operation, or constitute mere aids to commerce, the States may provide for their regulation and management, until Congress intervenes and supersedes their action.
The complainant, however, contends that Congress has intervened and expressed its will on this subject by a clause in the act of September 9, 1850, 9 Stat. 452, admitting California as a State into the Union, which declares "that all the navigable waters within the said State shall be common highways and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said State as to the citizens of the United States, without any tax, impost, or duty therefor." 9 Stat. 453. This declaration is similar to that contained in the ordinance of 1787, for the government of the territory of the United States northwest of the Ohio River, so far as the latter relates to the navigable waters flowing into the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence. And in Escanaba Co. v. Chicago we held, with respect to the State of Illinois, that the clause was superseded by her admission into the Union, for she then became entitled to, and possessed of all the rights of domain and sovereignty which belonged to the original States. The language of the resolution admitting her declared, that it was on "an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatever;" so that, after her admission, she possessed the same power over rivers within her limits that Delaware exercised over Blackbird Creek and Pennsylvania over Schuylkill River.
The act enabling the people of Wisconsin Territory to form a Constitution and State government, and for admission into the Union, contains a similar clause. And yet, in Pound v. Turck, which was before this court at October Term, 1877, it was held, that a statute of that State which authorized the
The clause, therefore, in the act admitting California, quoted above, upon which the complainant relies, must be considered, according to these decisions, as in no way impairing the power which the State could exercise over the subject if the clause had no existence. But independently of this consideration, we do not think the clause itself requires the construction which the court below placed upon it, and which counsel urges so earnestly for our consideration. That court held that the clause contains two provisions, one that the navigable waters shall be a common highway to the inhabitants of the State as well as to citizens of the United States; and the other, that