The case presented by the bill is this: The United States, finding that the interstate transportation of persons and property, as well as the carriage of the mails, is forcibly obstructed, and that a combination and conspiracy exists to subject the control of such transportation to the will of the conspirators, applied to one of their courts, sitting as a court of equity, for an injunction to restrain such obstruction and prevent carrying into effect such conspiracy. Two questions of importance are presented: First. Are the relations of the general government to interstate commerce and the transportation of the mails such as authorize a direct interference to prevent a forcible obstruction thereof? Second. If authority exists, as authority in governmental affairs implies both power and duty, has a court of equity jurisdiction to issue an injunction in aid of the performance of such duty.
"The government of the Union, then, is, emphatically and truly, a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit."
"No trace is to be found in the Constitution of an intention to create a dependence of the government of the Union on those of the States, for the execution of the great powers assigned to it. Its means are adequate to its ends; and on those means alone was it expected to rely for the accomplishment of its ends. To impose on it the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control, which another government may furnish or withhold, would render its course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create a dependence on other governments, which might disappoint its most important designs, and is incompatible with the language of the Constitution." Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 405, 424.
"Both the States and the United States existed before the Constitution. The people, through that instrument, established a more perfect union by substituting a national government, acting, with ample power, directly upon the citizens, instead of the confederate government, which acted with powers, greatly restricted, only upon the States." Chief Justice Chase in Lane County v. Oregon, 7 Wall. 71, 76.
"We hold it to be an incontrovertible principle, that the government of the United States may, by means of physical force, exercised through its official agents, execute on every foot of American soil the powers and functions that belong to
"This power to enforce its laws and to execute its functions in all places does not derogate from the power of the State to execute its laws at the same time and in the same places. The one does not exclude the other, except where both cannot be executed at the same time. In that case, the words of the Constitution itself show which is to yield. `This Constitution, and all laws which shall be made in pursuance thereof, . . . shall be the supreme law of the land.'" Mr. Justice Bradley in Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 395. See also, Schooner Exchange v. McFaddon, 7 Cranch, 116, 136; Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 413; Legal Tender Cases, 12 Wall. 457, 555; Tennessee v. Davis, 100 U.S. 257; The Chinese Exclusion Case, 130 U.S. 581; In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1; Logan v. United States, 144 U.S. 263; Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698; In re Quarles, ante, 532.
Among the powers expressly given to the national government are the control of interstate commerce and the creation and management of a post office system for the nation. Article I, section 8, of the Constitution provides that "the Congress shall have power. . . . Third, to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes. . . . Seventh, to establish post offices and post roads."
Congress has exercised the power granted in respect to interstate commerce in a variety of legislative acts. Passing by for the present all that legislation in respect to commerce by water, and considering only that which bears upon railroad interstate transportation, (for this is the specific matter involved in this case,) these acts may be noticed: First, that of June 15, 1866, c. 124, 14 Stat. 66, carried into the Revised Statutes as section 5258, which provides:
"Whereas the Constitution of the United States confers upon Congress, in express terms, the power to regulate commerce among the several States, to establish post roads, and to raise and support armies: Therefore, Be it enacted by the
Second. That of March 3, 1873, c. 252, 17 Stat. 584, (Rev. Stat. §§ 4386 to 4389,) which regulates the transportation of live stock over interstate railroads. Third. That of May 29, 1884, c. 60, § 6, 23 Stat. 31, 32, prohibiting interstate transportation by railroads of live stock affected with any contagious or infectious disease. Fourth. That of February 4, 1887, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379, with its amendments of March 2, 1889, c. 382, 25 Stat. 855, and February 10, 1891, c. 128, 26 Stat. 743, known as the "interstate commerce act," by which a commission was created with large powers of regulation and control of interstate commerce by railroads, and the sixteenth section of which act gives to the courts of the United States power to enforce the orders of the commission. Fifth. That of October 1, 1888, c. 1063, 25 Stat. 501, providing for arbitration between railroad interstate companies and their employés; and, sixth, the act of March 2, 1893, c. 196, 27 Stat. 531, requiring the use of automatic couplers on interstate trains, and empowering the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce its provisions.
Under the power vested in Congress to establish post offices and post roads, Congress has, by a mass of legislation, established the great post office system of the country, with all its detail of organization, its machinery for the transaction of business, defining what shall be carried and what not, and the prices of carriage, and also prescribing penalties for all offences against it.
Obviously these powers given to the national government over interstate commerce and in respect to the transportation
As, under the Constitution, power over interstate commerce and the transportation of the mails is vested in the national government, and Congress by virtue of such grant has assumed actual and direct control, it follows that the national government may prevent any unlawful and forcible interference therewith. But how shall this be accomplished? Doubtless, it is within the competency of Congress to prescribe by legislation that any interference with these matters shall be offences against the United States, and prosecuted and punished by indictment in the proper courts. But is that the only remedy? Have the vast interests of the nation in interstate commerce, and in the transportation of the mails, no other protection than lies in the possible punishment of those who interfere with it? To ask the question is to answer it. By article 3, section 2, clause 3, of the Federal Constitution it is provided: "The trial of all crimes except in cases of impeachment shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crime shall have been committed." If all the inhabitants of a State, or even a great body of them, should combine to obstruct interstate commerce or the transportation
But there is no such impotency in the national government. 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.
But passing to the second question, is there no other alternative than the use of force on the part of the executive authorities whenever obstructions arise to the freedom of interstate commerce or the transportation of the mails? Is the army the only instrument by which rights of the public can be enforced and the peace of the nation preserved? Grant that any public nuisance may be forcibly abated either at the instance of the authorities, or by any individual suffering private damage therefrom, the existence of this right of forcible abatement is not inconsistent with nor does it destroy the right of appeal in an orderly way to the courts for a judicial determination, and an exercise of their powers by writ of injunction and otherwise to accomplish the same result. In Stamford v. Stamford Horse Railroad Co., 56 Connecticut, 381, an injunction was asked by the borough to restrain the company from laying down its track in a street of the borough. The right of the borough to forcibly remove the track was insisted upon as a ground for questioning the jurisdiction of a court of equity, but the court sustained the injunction, adding: "And none the less so because of its right to remove
So, in the case before us, the right to use force does not exclude the right of appeal to the courts for a judicial determination and for the exercise of all their powers of prevention. Indeed, it is more to the praise than to the blame of the government, that, instead of determining for itself questions of right and wrong on the part of these petitioners and their associates and enforcing that determination by the club of the policeman and the bayonet of the soldier, it submitted all those questions to the peaceful determination of judicial tribunals, and invoked their consideration and judgment as to the measure of its rights and powers and the correlative obligations of those against whom it made complaint. And it is equally to the credit of the latter that the judgment of those tribunals was by the great body of them respected, and the troubles which threatened so much disaster terminated.
Neither can it be doubted that the government has such an interest in the subject-matter as enables it to appear as party plaintiff in this suit. It is said that equity only interferes for the protection of property, and that the government has no property interest. A sufficient reply is that the United States have a property in the mails, the protection of which was one of the purposes of this bill. Searight v. Stokes, 3 How. 151, 169, arose upon a compact between the United States and the State of Pennsylvania in respect to the Cumberland Road, which provided, among other things, "that no toll shall be
We do not care to place our decision upon this ground alone. Every government, entrusted, by the very terms of its being, with powers and duties to be exercised and discharged for the general welfare, has a right to apply to its own courts for any proper assistance in the exercise of the one and the discharge of the other, and it is no sufficient answer to its appeal to one of those courts that it has no pecuniary interest in the matter. The obligations which it is under to promote the interest of all, and to prevent the wrongdoing of one resulting in injury to the general welfare, is often of itself sufficient to give it a standing in court. This proposition in some of its relations has heretofore received the sanction of this court. In United States v. San Jacinto Tin Co., 125 U.S. 273, 285, was presented an application of the United States to cancel and annul a patent for land on the ground that it was obtained by fraud or mistake. The right of the United States to maintain such a suit was affirmed, though it was held that if the controversy was really one only between individuals in respect to their claims to property the government ought not to be permitted to interfere, the court saying: "If it be a question of property a case must be made in which the court can afford a remedy in
This language was relied upon in the subsequent case of United States v. Bell Telephone Company, 128 U.S. 315, 367, which was a suit brought by the United States to set aside a patent for an invention on the ground that it had been obtained by fraud or mistake, and it was claimed that the United States, having no pecuniary interest in the subject-matter of the suit, could not be heard to question the validity of the patent. But this contention was overruled, the court saying, in response to this argument, after quoting the foregoing language from the San Jacinto case: "This language is construed by counsel for the appellee in this case to limit the relief granted at the instance of the United States to cases in which it has a direct pecuniary interest. But it is not susceptible of such construction. It was evidently in the mind of the court that the case before it was one where the property right to the land in controversy was the matter of importance, but it was careful to say that the cases in which the instrumentality of the court cannot thus be used are those where the United States has no pecuniary interest in the remedy sought, and is also under no obligation to the party who will be benefited to sustain an action for his use, and also where it does not appear that any obligation existed on the part of the United States to the public or to any individual. The essence of the right of the United States to interfere in the present case is its obligation to protect the public from the monopoly of the patent which was procured by fraud, and it would be difficult to find language more aptly used to include this in the class of cases which are not excluded
It is obvious from these decisions that while it is not the province of the government to interfere in any mere matter of private controversy between individuals, or to use its great powers to enforce the rights of one against another, yet, whenever the wrongs complained of are such as affect the public at large, and are in respect of matters which by the Constitution are entrusted to the care of the Nation, and concerning which the Nation owes the duty to all the citizens of securing to them their common rights, then the mere fact that the government has no pecuniary interest in the controversy is not sufficient to exclude it from the courts, or prevent it from taking measures therein to fully discharge those constitutional duties.
The national government, given by the Constitution power to regulate interstate commerce, has by express statute assumed jurisdiction over such commerce when carried upon railroads. It is charged, therefore, with the duty of keeping those highways of interstate commerce free from obstruction, for it has always been recognized as one of the powers and duties of a government to remove obstructions from the highways under its control.
As said in Gilman v. Philadelphia, 3 Wall. 713, 724: "The power to regulate commerce comprehends the control for that purpose, and to the extent necessary, of all the navigable waters of the United States which are accessible from a State other than those in which they lie. For this purpose they are the public property of the nation, and subject to all the requisite legislation by Congress. This necessarily includes the power to keep them open and free from any obstruction to their navigation, interposed by the States or otherwise; to remove such obstructions when they exist; and to provide, by such sanctions as they may deem proper, against the occurrence of the evil and for the punishment of offenders. For these purposes, Congress possesses all the powers which existed in the States before the adoption of the national Constitution, and which have always existed in the Parliament in England."
See also the following authorities in which at the instance of
It may not be amiss to notice a few of the leading cases. City of Georgetown v. Alexandria Canal Co., 12 Pet. 91, 98, was a bill filed by the plaintiff to restrain the construction of an aqueduct across the Potomac River. While under the facts of that case the relief prayed for was denied, yet, the jurisdiction of the court was sustained. After referring to the right to maintain an action at law for damages, it was said:
"Besides this remedy at law, it is now settled, that a court of equity may take jurisdiction in cases of public nuisance, by an information filed by the Attorney General. This jurisdiction seems to have been acted on with great caution and hesitancy. . .. Yet the jurisdiction has been finally sustained, upon the principle that equity can give more adequate and complete relief than can be obtained at law. Whilst, therefore, it is admitted by all that it is confessedly one of delicacy, and accordingly the instances of its exercise are rare, yet it may be exercised in those cases in which there is imminent danger of irreparable mischief before the tardiness of the law could reach it."
"The injury makes the obstruction a private nuisance to the injured party; and the doctrine of nuisance applies to the case where the jurisdiction is made out, the same as in a public prosecution. If the obstruction be unlawful, and the injury irreparable by a suit at common law, the injured party may claim the extraordinary protection of a court of chancery.
"Such a proceeding is as common and as free from difficulty as an ordinary injunction bill, against a proceeding at law, or to stay waste or trespass. The powers of a court of chancery are as well adapted, and as effectual for relief in the case of a private nuisance, as in either of the cases named. And, in regard to the exercise of these powers, it is of no importance whether the eastern channel, over which the bridge is thrown, is wholly within the limits of the State of Virginia. The Ohio being a navigable stream, subject to the commercial power of Congress, and over which that power has been exerted, if the river be within the State of Virginia, the commerce upon it, which extends to other States, is not within its jurisdiction; consequently, if the act of Virginia authorized the structure of the bridge, so as to obstruct navigation, it could afford no justification to the bridge company."
Coosaw Mining Co. v. South Carolina, 144 U.S. 550, was a bill filed by the State in one of its own courts to enjoin the digging, mining, and removing phosphate rock and deposits in the bed of a navigable river within its territories. The case was removed by the defendant to the Federal court, and in that court the relief prayed for was granted. The decree of the Circuit Court was sustained by this court, and in the opinion by Mr. Justice Harlan, the matter of equity jurisdiction is discussed at some length, and several cases cited, among them Attorney General v. Richards, 2 Anstr. 603; Attorney
It is said that the jurisdiction heretofore exercised by the national government over highways has been in respect to
"The power of Congress, then, comprehends navigation within the limits of every State in the Union, so far as that navigation may be, in any manner, connected with `commerce with foreign nations, or among the several States, or with the Indian tribes.' It may, of consequence, pass the jurisdictional line of New York, and act upon the very waters to which the prohibition now under consideration applies."
See also Gilman v. Philadelphia, 3 Wall. 713, 725, in which it was said: "Wherever `commerce among the States' goes, the power of the nation, as represented in this court, goes with it to protect and enforce its rights."
Up to a recent date commerce, both interstate and international, was mainly by water, and it is not strange that both the legislation of Congress and the cases in the courts have been principally concerned therewith. The fact that in recent
Constitutional provisions do not change, but their operation extends to new matters as the modes of business and the habits of life of the people vary with each succeeding generation. The law of the common carrier is the same to-day as when transportation on land was by coach and wagon, and on water by canal boat and sailing vessel, yet in its actual operation it touches and regulates transportation by modes then unknown, the railroad train and the steamship. Just so is it with the grant to the national government of power over interstate commerce. The Constitution has not changed. The power is the same. But it operates to-day upon modes of interstate commerce unknown to the fathers, and it will operate with equal force upon any new modes of such commerce which the future may develop.
It is said that seldom have the courts assumed jurisdiction to restrain by injunction in suits brought by the government, either state or national, obstructions to highways, either artificial or natural. This is undoubtedly true, but the reason is that the necessity for such interference has only been occasional. Ordinarily the local authorities have taken full control over the matter, and by indictment for misdemeanor, or in some kindred way, have secured the removal of the obstruction and the cessation of the nuisance. As said in Attorney General v. Brown, 24 N.J. Eq. (9 C.E. Green) 89, 91: "The jurisdiction of courts of equity to redress the grievance of public nuisances by injunction is undoubted and clearly established; but it is well settled that, as a general rule, equity will not interfere, where the object sought can be as well attained in the ordinary tribunals. Attorney General v. New Jersey Railroad, 2 C.E. Green, (17 N.J. Eq.,) 136; Jersey City v. City of Hudson, 2 Beasley, (13 N.J. Eq.,) 420, 426; Attorney
That the bill filed in this case alleged special facts calling for the exercise of all the powers of the court is not open to question. The picture drawn in it of the vast interests involved, not merely of the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois, but of all the States, and the general confusion into which the interstate commerce of the country was thrown; the forcible interference with that commerce; the attempted exercise by individuals of powers belonging only to government, and the threatened continuance of such invasions of public right, presented a condition of affairs which called for the fullest exercise of all the powers of the courts. If ever there was a special exigency, one which demanded that the court should do all that courts can do, it was disclosed by this bill, and we need not turn to the public history of the day, which only reaffirms with clearest emphasis all its allegations.
The difference between a public nuisance and a private nuisance
Again, it is objected that it is outside of the jurisdiction of a court of equity to enjoin the commission of crimes. This, as a general proposition, is unquestioned. A chancellor has no criminal jurisdiction. Something more than the theatened commission of an offence against the laws of the land is necessary to call into exercise the injunctive powers of the court. There must be some interferences, actual or threatened, with property or rights of a pecuniary nature, but when such interferences appear the jurisdiction of a court of equity arises, and is not destroyed by the fact that they are accompanied by or are themselves violations of the criminal law. Thus, in Cranford v. Tyrrell, 128 N.Y. 341, an injunction to restrain the defendant from keeping a house of ill-fame was sustained, the court saying, on page 344: "That the perpetrator of the nuisance is amenable to the provisions and penalties of the criminal law is not an answer to an action against him by a private person to recover for injury sustained, and for an injunction against the continued use of his premises in such a manner." And in Mobile v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad, 84 Alabama, 115, 126, is a similar declaration in these words: "The mere fact that an act is criminal does not divest the jurisdiction of equity to prevent it by injunction, if it be also a violation of property rights, and the party aggrieved has no other adequate remedy for the prevention of the irreparable
The law is full of instances in which the same act may give rise to a civil action and a criminal prosecution. An assault with intent to kill may be punished criminally, under an indictment therefor, or will support a civil action for damages, and the same is true of all other offences which cause injury to person or property. In such cases the jurisdiction of the civil court is invoked, not to enforce the criminal law and punish the wrongdoer, but to compensate the injured party for the damages which he or his property has suffered, and it is no defence to the civil action that the same act by the defendant exposes him also to indictment and punishment in a court of criminal jurisdiction. So here, the acts of the defendants may or may not have been violations of the criminal law. If they were, that matter is for inquiry in other proceedings. The complaint made against them in this is of disobedience to an order of a civil court, made for the protection of property and the security of rights. If any criminal prosecution be brought against them for the criminal offences alleged in the bill of complaint, of derailing and wrecking engines and trains, assaulting and disabling employés of the railroad companies, it will be no defence to such prosecution that they disobeyed the orders of injunction served upon them and have been punished for such disobedience.
Nor is there in this any invasion of the constitutional right of trial by jury. We fully agree with counsel that "it matters not what form the attempt to deny constitutional right may take. It is vain and ineffectual, and must be so declared by the courts," and we reaffirm the declaration made for the court by Mr. Justice Bradley in Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 635, that "it is the duty of courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against any stealthy encroachments thereon. Their motto should be obsta principiis." But the power of a court to make an order carries with it the equal power to punish for a disobedience of that order, and the inquiry as to the question of disobedience has been, from time immemorial, the special function of the court. And
In brief, a court, enforcing obedience to its orders by proceedings for contempt, is not executing the criminal laws of the land, but only securing to suitors the rights which it has adjudged them entitled to.
Further, it is said by counsel in their brief:
"No case can be cited where such a bill in behalf of the sovereign has been entertained against riot and mob violence, though occurring on the highway. It is not such fitful and temporary obstruction that constitutes a nuisance. The strong hand of executive power is required to deal with such lawless demonstrations.
"The courts should stand aloof from them and not invade executive prerogative, nor even at the behest or request of the executive travel out of the beaten path of well-settled judicial authority. A mob cannot be suppressed by injunction; nor can its leaders be tried, convicted, and sentenced in equity.
"It is too great a strain upon the judicial branch of the
We do not perceive that this argument questions the jurisdiction of the court, but only the expediency of the action of the government in applying for its process. It surely cannot be seriously contended that the court has jurisdiction to enjoin the obstruction of a highway by one person, but that its jurisdiction ceases when the obstruction is by a hundred persons. It may be true, as suggested, that in the excitement of passion a mob will pay little heed to processes issued from the courts, and it may be, as said by counsel in argument, that it would savor somewhat of the puerile and ridiculous to have read a writ of injunction to Lee's army during the late civil war. It is doubtless true that inter arma leges silent, and in the throes of rebellion or revolution the processes of civil courts are of little avail, for the power of the courts rests on the general support of the people and their recognition of the fact that peaceful remedies are the true resort for the correction of wrongs. But does not counsel's argument imply too much? Is it to be assumed that these defendants were conducting a rebellion or inaugurating a revolution, and that they and their associates were thus placing themselves beyond the reach of the civil process of the courts? We find in the opinion of the Circuit Court a quotation from the testimony given by one of the defendants before the United States Strike Commission, which is sufficient answer to this suggestion:
"As soon as the employés found that we were arrested, and taken from the scene of action, they became demoralized, and that ended the strike. It was not the soldiers that ended the strike. It was not the old brotherhoods that ended the strike. It was simply the United States courts that ended the strike. Our men were in a position that never would have been shaken, under any circumstances, if we had been permitted to remain upon the field among them. Once we were taken from the scene of action, and restrained from sending telegrams or issuing orders or answering questions, then the minions of the corporations would be put to work.
Whatever any single individual may have thought or planned, the great body of those who were engaged in these transactions contemplated neither rebellion nor revolution, and when in the due order of legal proceedings the question of right and wrong was submitted to the courts, and by them decided, they unhesitatingly yielded to their decisions. The outcome, by the very testimony of the defendants, attests the wisdom of the course pursued by the government, and that it was well not to oppose force simply by force, but to invoke the jurisdiction and judgment of those tribunals to whom by the Constitution and in accordance with the settled conviction of all citizens is committed the determination of questions of right and wrong between individuals, masses, and States.
It must be borne in mind that this bill was not simply to enjoin a mob and mob violence. It was not a bill to command a keeping of the peace; much less was its purport to restrain the defendants from abandoning whatever employment they were engaged in. The right of any laborer, or any number of laborers, to quit work was not challenged. The scope and purpose of the bill was only to restrain forcible obstructions of the highways along which interstate commerce travels and the mails are carried. And the facts set forth at length are only those facts which tended to show that the defendants were engaged in such obstructions.
A most earnest and eloquent appeal was made to us in eulogy of the heroic spirit of those who threw up their employment, and gave up their means of earning a livelihood, not in defence of their own rights, but in sympathy for and to assist others whom they believed to be wronged. We yield to none in our admiration of any act of heroism or self-sacrifice, but we may be permitted to add that it is a lesson
We have given to this case the most careful and anxious attention, for we realize that it touches closely questions of supreme importance to the people of this country. Summing up our conclusions, we hold that the government of the United States is one having jurisdiction over every foot of soil within its territory, and acting directly upon each citizen; that while it is a government of enumerated powers, it has within the limits of those powers all the attributes of sovereignty; that to it is committed power over interstate commerce and the transmission of the mail; that the powers thus conferred upon the national government are not dormant, but have been assumed and put into practical exercise by the legislation of Congress; that in the exercise of those powers it is competent for the nation to remove all obstructions upon highways, natural or artificial, to the passage of interstate commerce or the carrying of the mail; that while it may be competent for the government (through the executive branch and in the use of the entire executive power of the nation) to forcibly remove all such obstructions, it is equally within its competency to appeal to the civil courts for an inquiry and determination as to the existence and character of any alleged obstructions, and if such are found to exist, or threaten to occur, to invoke the powers of those courts to remove or restrain such obstructions; that the jurisdiction of courts to interfere in such matters by injunction is one recognized from ancient times and by indubitable authority; that such jurisdiction is not ousted by the fact that the obstructions are accompanied by or consist of acts in themselves violations of the criminal law; that the proceeding by injunction is of a civil character, and may be enforced by proceedings in contempt; that such proceedings are not in execution of the criminal laws of the land; that the penalty for a violation of
We enter into no examination of the act of July 2, 1890, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209, upon which the Circuit Court relied mainly to sustain its jurisdiction. It must not be understood from this that we dissent from the conclusions of that court in reference to the scope of the act, but simply that we prefer to rest our judgment on the broader ground which has been discussed in this opinion, believing it of importance that the principles underlying it should be fully stated and affirmed.
The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is