This was a civil action to recover penalties for the violation in specified instances of the Safety Appliance Acts of Congress. 27 Stat. 531, c. 196; 32 Stat. 943, c. 976. The Government prevailed in the District Court and the defendant sued out this direct writ of error.
Briefly stated, the case is this: The defendant, while operating a railroad which was "a part of a through highway" over which traffic was continually being moved from one State to another, hauled over a part of its railroad, during the month of February, 1907, five cars, the couplers upon which were defective and inoperative. Two of the cars were used at the time in moving interstate traffic and the other three in moving intrastate traffic; but it
The original act of March 2, 1893, 27 Stat. 531, c. 196, imposed upon every common carrier "engaged in interstate commerce by railroad" the duty of equipping all trains, locomotives and cars, used on its line of railroad in moving interstate traffic, with designated appliances calculated to promote the safety of that traffic and of the employes engaged in its movement; and the second section of that act made it unlawful for "any such common carrier" to haul or permit to be hauled or used on its line of railroad any car, "used in moving interstate traffic," not equipped with automatic couplers capable of being coupled and uncoupled without the necessity of a man going between the ends of the cars. The act of March 2, 1903, 32 Stat. 943, c. 976, amended the earlier one and enlarged its scope by declaring, inter alia, that its provisions and requirements should "apply to all trains, locomotives, tenders, cars, and similar vehicles used on any railroad engaged in interstate commerce, and in the Territories and the District of Columbia, and to all other locomotives, tenders, cars, and similar vehicles used in connection therewith." Both acts contained some minor exceptions, but they have no bearing here.
The real controversy is over the true significance of
For these reasons it must be held that the original act as enlarged by the amendatory one is intended to embrace all locomotives, cars and similar vehicles used on any railroad which is a highway of interstate commerce.
We come then to the question whether these acts are within the power of Congress under the commerce clause of the Constitution, considering that they are not confined to vehicles used in moving interstate traffic, but embrace vehicles used in moving intrastate traffic. The answer to this question depends upon another, which is, Is there a real or substantial relation or connection between what is required by these acts in respect of vehicles used in moving intrastate traffic and the object which the acts obviously are designed to attain, namely, the safety of interstate commerce and of those who are employed in its movement? Or, stating it in another way. Is there such a close or direct relation or connection between the two classes of traffic, when moving over the same railroad, as to make it certain that the safety of the interstate traffic and of those who are employed in its movement will be promoted in a real or substantial sense by applying the requirements of these acts to vehicles used in moving the traffic which is intrastate as well as to those used in moving that which is interstate? If the answer to this question, as doubly stated, be in the affirmative, then the principal question must be answered in the same way. And this is
Speaking only of railroads which are highways of both interstate and intrastate commerce, these things are of common knowledge: Both classes of traffic are at times carried in the same car and when this is not the case the cars in which they are carried are frequently commingled in the same train and in the switching and other movements at terminals. Cars are seldom set apart for exclusive use in moving either class of traffic, but generally are used interchangeably in moving both; and the situation is much the same with trainmen, switchmen and like employes, for they usually, if not necessarily, have to do with both classes of traffic. Besides, the several trains on the same railroad are not independent in point of movement and safety, but are interdependent, for whatever brings delay or disaster to one, or results in disabling one of its operatives, is calculated to impede the progress and imperil the safety of other trains. And so the absence of appropriate safety appliances from any part of any train is a menace not only to that train but to others.
These practical considerations make it plain, as we think, that the questions before stated must be answered in the affirmative.