168 US 144 Interstate Commerce Commission v. Alabama Midland Ry Co
168 U.S. 144
18 S.Ct. 45
42 L.Ed. 414
INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION
ALABAMA MIDLAND RY. CO. et al.
November 8, 1897.
[Syllabus from pages 144-146 intentionally omitted]
On the 27th day of June, 1892, the board of trade of Troy, Ala., filed a complaint before the interstate commerce commission, at Washington, D. C., against the Alabama Midland Railway Company and the Georgia Central Railroad Company and their connections; claiming that, in the rates charged for transportation of property by the railroad companies mentioned, and their connecting lines, there is a discrimination against the town of Troy, in violation of the terms and provisions of the interstate commerce act of congress of 1887.
The general ground of complaint is that, Troy being in active competition for business with Montgomery, the defendant lines of railway unjustly discriminate in their rates against the former, and give the latter an undue preference or advantage, in respect to certain commodities and classes of traffic. The specific charges insisted on at the hearing, and to which the testimony relates, are:
(1) That the Alabama Midland Railway, and the defendant roads, forming lines with it from Baltimore, New York, and the East to Troy and Montgomery, charge and collect a higher rate on shipments of class goods from those cities to Troy than on such shipments through Troy to Montgomery; the latter being the longer-distance point, by 52 miles.
(2) That the Alabama Midland Railway and Georgia Central Railroad and their connections unjustly discriminate against Troy and in favor of Montgomery, in charging and collecting $3.22 per ton to Troy on phosphate rock shipped from the South Carolina and Florida fields, and only $3 per ton on such shipments to Montgomery, the longer-distance point by both of said roads, and that all phosphate rock carried from said fields to Montgomery over the road of the Alabama Midland has to be hauled through Troy.
(3) That the rates on cotton, as established by said two roads and their connections, on shipments to the Atlantic seaports, Brunswick, Savannah, and Charleston, unjustly discriminate against Troy and in favor of Montgomery, in that the rate per 100 ponds from Troy is 47 cents, and that from Montgomery, the longer-distance point, is only 40 cents, and that such shipments from Montgomery over the road of the Alabama Midland have to pass through Troy.
(4) That on shipments for export from Montgomery, and other points within the socalled 'jurisdiction' of the Southern Railway & Steamship Association, to the Atlantic seaports, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, West Point, and Norfolk, a lower rate is charged than the regular published tariff rate to such seaports, and that Montgomery and such other points are allowed by the rules of said association to ship through to Liverpool via any of these seaports at the lowest through rates on the day of shipment, which may be less than the sum of the regular published rail rate and the ocean rate via the port of shipment; that this reduction is taken from the published tariff rail rate to the port of shipment; that this privilege being denied to Troy is an unjust discrimination against that town, in favor of Montgomery and such other favored cities; and that it is also a discrimination against shipments which terminate at such seaports, in favor of shipments for export.
(5) That Troy is unjustly discriminated against in being charged on shipments of cotton via Montgomery to New Orleans the full local rate to Montgomery by both the Alabama Midland and Georgia Central.
(6) That the rates on 'class' goods from Western and Northwestern points, established by the defendants forming lines from those points to Troy, are relatively unjust and discriminatory, as against Troy, when compared with the rates over such lines to Montgomery and Columbus.
The commission, having heard this complaint on the evidence theretofore taken, ordered, on the 15th day of August, 1893, the roads participating in the traffic involved in this case 'to cease and desist' from charging, demanding, collecting, or receiving any greater compensation in the aggregate for services rendered in such transportation than is specified as follows, to wit:
(1) On class goods shipped from Louisville, Ky., St. Louis, Mo., or Cincinnati, Ohio, to Troy aforesaid, no higher rate of charge than is now charged and collected on such shipments to Columbus, Ga., and Eufaula, Ala.
(2) On shipments of cotton from Troy aforesaid through Montgomery, Ala., to New Orleans, La., no higher rate of charge than 50 cents per 100 pounds.
(3) On shipments of cotton from Troy aforesaid for export through the Atlantic seaports, to wit, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, West Point, or Norfolk, no higher rate of charge to these ports than is charged and collected on such shipments from Montgomery aforesaid.
(4) On shipments of cotton from Troy aforesaid to the ports of Bruswick, Savannah, or Charleston, no higher rate of charge than is charged and collected on such shipments from Montgomery aforesaid through Troy to said ports.
(5) On shipments of class goods from New York, Baltimore, or other Northeastern points to Troy aforesaid, no higher rate of charge than is charged and collected on such shipments through Troy to Montgomery aforesaid.
(6) On shipments of phosphate rock from South Carolina and Florida fields to Troy aforesaid, no higher rate of charge than is charged and collected on such shipments through Troy to Montgomery aforesaid.
The defendants having failed to heed these orders, the commission thereupon filed this bill of complaint in the circuit court of the United States for the Middle district of Alabama, in equity, to compel obedience to the same. On the hearing in said court the bill of complaint was dismissed (69 Fed. 227), and complainant, the interstate commerce commission, appealed the cause to the United States circuit court of appeals for the Fifth judicial circuit, at New Orleans, La. And thereupon, in said last-named court, on the 2d day of June, 1896, the decree of the said circuit court of the United States for the Middle district of Alabama was in all things duly affirmed (21 C. C. A. 51, 74 Fed. 715), and from this judgment and decree the appellant has appealed to this court.
Asst. Atty. Gen. E. B. Whitney, L. A. Shaver, and Geo. F. Edmunds, for appellant.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 149-161 intentionally omitted]
Ed. Baxter and A. A. Wiley, for appellees.
Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
Several of the assignments of error complain of the action of the circuit court of appeals in not rendering a decree for the enforcement of those portions of the order of the interstate commerce commission which prescribed rates to be thereafter charged by the defendant companies for services performed in the transportation of goods.
Discussion of those assignments is rendered unnecessary by the recent decisions of this court wherein it has been held, after elaborate argument, that congress has not conferred upon the interstate commerce commission the legislative power of prescribing rates, either maximum, or minimum, or absolute, and that, as it did not give the express power to the commission, it did not intend to secure the same result indirectly, by empowering that tribunal, after having determined what, in reference to the past, were reasonable and just rates, to obtain from the courts a peremptory order that in the future the railroad companies should follow the rates thus determined to have been in the past reasonable and just. Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. R. Co. v. Interestate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 184, 16 Sup. Ct. 700; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. R. Co., 167 U. S. 479, 17 Sup. Ct. 896.
Errors are likewise assigned to the action of the court in having failed and refused to affirm and enforce the report and opinion of the commission, wherein it was found and decided, among other things, that the defendant common carriers which participate in the transportation of class goods to Troy from Louisville, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, and from New York, Baltimore, and other Northeastern points, and the defendant common carriers which participate in the transportation of phosphate rock from South Carolina and Florida to Troy, and the defendant common carriers which participate in the transportation of cotton from Troy to the ports of New Orleans, Brunswick, Savannah, Charleston, West Point, or Norfolk, as local shipments, or for export, have made greater charges, under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, for the shorter distance to or from Troy than for longer distances over the same lines in the same direction, and have unjustly discriminated in rates against Troy, and subjected said place and dealers and shippers therein to undue and unreasonable prejudice and disadvantage in favor of Montgomery, Eufaula, Columbus, and other places and localities, and dealers and shippers therein, in violation of the provisions of the act to regulate commerce.
Whether competition between lines of transportation to Montgomery, Eufaula, and Columbus justifies the giving to those cities a preference or advantage in rates over Troy, and, if so, whether such a state of facts justifies a departure from equality of rates without authority from the interstate commerce commission, under the proviso to the fourth section of the act, are questions of construction of the statute, and are to be determined before we reach the question of fact in this case.
It is contended in the briefs filed on behalf of the interstate commission that the existence of rival lines of transportation, and consequently of competition for the traffic, and not facts to be considered by the commission or by the courts when determining whether property transported over the same line is carried under 'substantially similar circumstances and conditions,' as that phrase is found in the fourth section of the act.
Such, evidently, was not the construction put upon this provision of the statute by the commission itself in the present case, for the record discloses that the commission made some allowance for the alleged dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions, arising out of competition and situation, as affecting transportation portation to Montgomery and Troy, respectively, and that among the errors assigned is one complaining that the court erred in not holding that the rates prescribed by the commission in its order made due allowance for such dissimilarity.
So, too, in case In re Louisville & N. R. Co., 1 Interst. Commerce Com. R. 77, in discussing the long and short haul clause, it was said by the commission, per Judge Cooley, that 'it is impossible to resist the conclusion that in finally rejecting the 'long and short haul clause' of the house bill, which prescribed an inflexible rule, not to be departed from in any case, and retaining in substance the fourth section as it had passed the senate, both houses understood that they were not adopting a measure of strict, prohibition in respect to charging more for the shorter than for the longer distance, but that they were, instead, leaving the door open for exceptions in certain cases, and, among others, in cases where the circumstances and conditions of the traffic were affected by the element of competition, and where exceptions might be a necessity if the competition was to continue. And water competition was, beyond doubt, especially in view.'
It is no doubt true that in a later case (Railroad Commission of Georgia v. Clyde S. S. Co., 5 Interst. Commerce Com. R. 327) the commission somewhat modified their holding in the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company Case, just cited, by attempting to restrict the competition that it is allowable to consider to the cases of competition with water carriers, competition with foreign railroads, and competition with railroad lines wholly in a single state; but the principle that competition in such cases is to be considered is affirmed.
That competition is one of the most obvious and effective circumstances that make the conditions under which a long and short haul is performed substantially dissimilar, and as such must have been in the contemplation of congress in the passage of the act to regulate commerce, has been held by many of the circuit courts. It is sufficient to cite a few of the number: Ex parte Koehler, 31 Fed. 319; Missouri Pac. Ry. Co. v. Texas & P. R. Co., Id. 862; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., 50 Fed. 306; Interstate Commerce Commission v. New Orleans & T. P. R. Co., 56 Fed. 943; Behlmer v. Railroad Co., 71 Fed. 835; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 73 Fed. 409.
In construing statutory provisions forbidding railway companies from giving any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favor of any particular person or company, or any particular description of traffic, in any respect whatever, the English courts have held, after full consideration, that competition between rival lines is a fact to be considered, and that a preference or advantage thence arising is not necessarily undue or unreasonable. Denaby Colliery Co. v. Manchester, S. & L. Ry. Co., 11 App. Cas. 97; Phipps v. Railway  2 Q. B. Div. 229.
But the question whether competition, as affecting rates, is an element for the commission and the courts to consider in applying the provisions of the act to regulate commerce, is not an open question in this court.
In Interstate Commerce Commission v. Baltimore & O. R. Co., 145 U. S. 263, 12 Sup. Ct. 844, it was said, approving observations made by Jackson, Circuit Judge (43 Fed. 37), that the act to regulate commerce was 'not designed to prevent competition between different roads, or to interfere with the customary arrangements made by railway companies for reduced fares in consideration of increased mileage, where such reduction did not operate as an unjust discrimination against other persons traveling over the road; that it was not intended to ignore the principle that one can sell at wholesale cheaper than at retail; that it is not all discriminations or preferences that fall within the inhibitions of the statute,—only such as are unjust or unreasonable'; and accordingly it was held that the issue by a railway company, engaged in interstate commerce, of a 'party-rate ticket' for the transportation of 10 or more persons from a place situated in one state or territory to a place situated in another state or territory, at a rate less than that charged to a single individual for a like transportation on the same trip, does not thereby make 'an unjust or unreasonable charge' against such individual, within the meaning of the first section of the act to regulate commerce, nor make 'an unjust discrimination' against him, within the meaning of the second section, nor give 'an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage' to the purchasers of the party-rate ticket, within the meaning of the third section.
In Texas & P. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 197, 16 Sup. Ct. 666, it was held that, 'in passing upon questions arising under the act, the tribunal appointed to enforce its provisions, whether the commission or the courts, is empowered to fully consider all the circumstances and conditions that reasonably apply to the situation, and that, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, the tribunal may and should consider the legitimate interests as well of the carrying companies as of the traders and shippers, and, in considering whether any particular locality is subjected to an undue preference or disadvantage, the welfare of the communities occupying the localities where the goods are delivered is to be considered as well as that of the communities which are in the locality of the place of shipment; that among the circumstances and conditions to be considered, as well in the case of traffic originating in foreign ports as in the case of traffic originating within the limits of the United States, competition that affects rates should be considered, and in deciding whether rates and charges, made at a low rate to secure freights which would otherwise go by other competitive routes, are or are not undue and unjust, the fair interests of the carrier companies and the welfare of the community which is to receive and consume the commodities are to be considered.'
To prevent misapprehension, it should be stated that the conclusion to which we are led by these cases, that, in applying the provisions of the third and fourth sections of the act, which make it unlawful for common carriers to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person or locality, or to charge or receive any greater compensation in the aggregate for the transportation of passengers or of like kind of property, under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, for a shorter than for a longer distance over the same line, in the same direction, competition which affects rates is one of the matters to be considered, is not applicable to the second section of the act.
As we have shown in the recent case of Wight v. U. S., 167 U. S. 512, 17 Sup. Ct. 822, the purpose of the second section is to enforce equality between shippers over the same line, and to prohibit any rebate or other device by which two shippers, shipping over the same line, the same distance, under the same circumstances of carriage, are compelled to pay different prices therefor; and we there held that the phrase, 'under substantially similar circumstances and conditions,' as used in the second section, refers to the matter of carriage, and does not include competition between rival routes.
This view is not open to the criticism that different meanings are attributed to the same words when found in different sections of the act; for what we hold is that, as the purposes of the several sections are different, the phrase under consideration must be read, in the second section, as restricted to the case of shippers over the same road, thus leaving no room for the operation of competition, but that in the other sections, which cover the entire tract of interstate and foreign commerce, a meaning must be given to the phrase wide enough to include all the facts that have a legitimate bearing on the situation, among which we find the fact of competition when it affects rates.
In order further to guard against any misapprehension of the scope of our decision, it may be well to observe that we do not hold that the mere fact of competition, no matter what its character or extent, necessarily relieves the carrier from the restraints of the third and fourth sections, but only that these sections are not so stringent and imperative as to exclude in all cases the matter of competition from consideration, in determining the questions of 'undue or unreasonable preference or advantage,' or what are 'substantially similar circumstances and conditions.' The competition may in some cases be such as, having due regard to the interests of the public and of the carrier, ought justly to have effect upon the rates, and in such cases there is no absolute rule which prevents the commission or the courts from taking that matter into consideration.
It is further contended on behalf of the appellant that the courts below erred in holding, in effect, that competition of carrier with carrier, both subject to the act to regulate commerce, will justify a departure from the rule of the fourth section of the act without authority from the interstate commerce commission, under the proviso to that section.
In view of the conclusion hereinbefore reached, the proposition comes to this: That when circumstances and conditions are substantially dissimilar the railway companies can only avail themselves of such a situation by an application to the commission.
The language of the proviso is as follows:
'That upon application to the commission appointed under the provisions of this act, such common carrier may, in special cases, after investigation by the commission, be authorized to charge less for longer than shorter distances for the transportation of persons or property, and the commission may from time to time prescribe the extent to which such designated common carrier may be relieved from the operation of this section of this act.'
The claim now made for the commission is that the only body which has the power to relieve railroad companies from the operation of the long and short haul clause on account of the existence of competition, or any other similar element which would make its application unfair, is the commission itself, which is bound to consider the question, upon application by the railroad company, but whose decision is discretionary and unreviewable.
The first observation that occurs on this proposition is that there appears to be no allegation in the bill or petition raising such an issue. The gravamen of the complaint is that the defendant companies have continued to charge and collect a greater compensation for services rendered in transportation of property than is prescribed in the order of the commission. It was not claimed that the defendants were precluded from showing in the courts that the difference of rates complained of was justified by dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions, by reason of not having applied to the commission to be relieved from the operation of the fourth section.
Moreover, this view of the scope of the proviso to the fourth section does not appear to have ever been acted upon or enforced by the commission. On the contrary, in the case of In re Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 1 Interst. Commerce Com. R. 57, the commission, through Judge Cooley, said, in speaking of the effect of the introduction into the fourth section of the words, 'under substantially similar circumstances and conditions,' and of the meaning of the proviso: 'That which the act does not declare unlawful must remain lawful, if it was so before; and that which it fails to forbid the carrier is left at liberty to do, without permission of any one. * * * The charging or receiving the greater compensation for the shorter than for the longer haul is seen to be forbidden only when both are under substantially similar circumstances and conditions; and therefore if in any case the carrier, without first obtaining an order of relief, shall depart from the general rule, its doing so will not alone convict it of illegality, since, if the circumstances and conditions of the two hauls are dissimilar, the statute is not violated. * * * Beyond question, the carrier must judge for itself what are the 'substantially similar circumstances and conditions' which preclude the special rate, rebate, or drawback which is made unlawful by the second section, since no tribunal is empowered to judge for it until after the carrier has acted, and then only for the purpose of determining whether its action constitutes a violation of law. The carrier judges on peril of the consequences, but the special rate, rebate, or drawback which it grants is not illegal when it turns out that the circumstances and conditions were not such as to forbid it; and, as congress clearly intended this, it must also, when using the same words in the fourth section, have intended that the carrier whose privilege was in the same way limited by them should in the same way act upon its judgment of the limiting circumstances and conditions.'
The view thus expressed has been adopted in several of the circuit courts. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co., 50 Fed. 300; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. Ry. Co., 56 Fed. 942; Behlmer v. Railroad Co., 71 Fed. 839. And we do not think the courts below erred in following it in the present case. We are unable to suppose that congress intended, by the fourth section and the proviso thereto, to forbid common carriers, in cases where the circumstances and conditions are substantially dissimilar, from making different rates until and unless the commission shall authorize them so to do. Much less do we think that it was the intention of congress that the decision of the commission, if applied to, could not be reviewed by the courts. The provisions of section 16 of the act, which authorize the court to 'proceed to hear and determine the matter speedily as a court of equity, and without the formal pleadings and proceedings applicable to ordinary suits in equity, but in such manner as to do justice in the premises, and to this end, such court shall have power, if it think fit, to direct and prosecute in such mode and by such persons as it may appoint, all such inquiries as the court may think needful to enable it to form a just judgment in the matter of such petition,' extend as well to an inquiry or proceeding under the fourth section as to those arising under the other sections of the act.
Upon these conclusions, that competition between rival routes is one of the matters which may lawfully be considered in making rates, and that substantial dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions may justify common carriers in charging greater compensation for the transportation of like kinds of property for a shorter than for a longer distance over the same line, we are brought to consider whether, upon the evidence in the present case, the courts below erred in dismissing the interstate commerce commission's complaint.
As the third section of the act, which forbids the making or giving any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person or locality, does not define what, under that section, shall constitute a preference or advantage to be undue or unreasonable, and as the fourth section, which forbids the charging or receiving greater compensation in the aggregate for the transportation of like kinds of property for a shorter than for a longer distance over the same line, under substantially similar circumstances and conditions, does not define or describe in what the similarity or dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions shall consist, it cannot be doubted that whether, in particular instances, there has been an undue or unreasonable prejudice or preference, or whether the circumstances and conditions of the carriage have been substantially similar or otherwise, are questions of fact, depending on the matters proved in each case. Denaby Main Colliery Co. v. Manchester Ry. Co., 3 Railway & Can. Cas. 426; Phipps v. Railway  2 Q. B. Div. 229; Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 184, 194, 16 Sup. Ct. 700; Texas & P. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 197, 235, 16 Sup. Ct. 666.
The circuit court, after a consideration of the evidence, expressed its conclusion thus:
'In any aspect of the case, it seems impossible to consider this complaint of the board of trade of Troy against the defendant railroad companies, particularly the Midland and Georgia Central Railroads, in the matter of the charges upon property transported on their roads to or from points east or west of Troy, as specified and complained of, obnoxious to the fourth or any other section of the interstate commerce act. The conditions are not substantially the same, and the circumstances are dissimilar, so that the case is not within the statute. The case made here is not the case as it was made before the commission. New testimony has been taken, and the conclusion reached is that the bill is not sustained; that it should be dismissed; and it is so ordered.' 69 Fed. 227.
The Circuit court of appeals, in affirming the decree of the circuit court, used the following language:
'Only two railroads, the Alabama Midland and the Georgia Central, reach Troy. Each of these roads has connection with other lines, parties hereto, reaching all the long-distance markets mentioned in these proceedings. The commission finds that no departure from the long and short haul rule of the fourth section of the statute, as against Troy, as the shorter distance point, and in favor of Montgomery, as the longer distance point, appears to be chargeable to the Georgia Central. The rates in question, when separately considered, are not unreasonable or jujust. As a matter of business necessity, they are the same by each of the railroads that reach Troy. The commission concludes that as related to the rates to Montgomery, Columbus, and Eufaula, the rates to and from Troy unjustly discriminate against Troy, and, in the case of the Alabama Midland, violate the long and short haul rule.
'The volume of population and of business at montgomery is many times larger than it is at Troy. There are many more railway lines running to and through Montgomery, connecting with all the distant markets. The Alabama river, open all the year, is capable, if need be, of bearing to Mobile, on the sea, the burden of the goods of every class that pass to or from Montgomery. The competition of the railway lines is not stifled, but is fully recognized, intelligently and honestly controlled and regulated, by the traffic association, in its schedule of rates. There is no suggestion in the evidence that the traffic managers who represent the carriers that are members of that association are incompetent, or under the bias of any personal preference for Montgomery or prejudice against Troy, that has led them, or is likely to lead them, to unjustly discriminate against Troy. When the rates to Montgomery were higher a few years ago than now, actual active water-line competition by the river came in, and the rates were reduced to the leved of the lowest practical paying water rates; and the volume of carriage by the river is now comparatively small, but the controlling power of that water line remains in full force, and must ever remain in force as long as the river remains navigable to its present capacity. And this water line affects, to a degree less or more, all the shipments to or from Montgomery from or to all the long-distance markets. It would not take cotton from Montgomery to the South Atlantic ports for export, but it would take the cotton to the points of its ultimate destination, if the railroad rates to foreign marts through the Atlantic ports were not kept down to or below the level of profitable carriage by water from Montgomery through the port of Mobile. The volume of trade to be competed for, the number of carriers actually competing for it, a constantly open river present to take a large part of it whenever the railroad rates rise up to the mark of profitable water carriage, seem to us, as they did to the circuit court, to constitute circumstances and conditions at Montgomery substantially dissimilar from those existing at Troy, and to relieve the carriers from the charges preferred against them by its board of trade. We do not discuss the third and fourth contentions of the counsel for the appellant, further than to say that within the limits of the exercise of intelligent good faith in the conduct of their business, and subject to the two leading prohibitions that their charges shall not be unjust or unreasonable, and that they shall not unjustly discriminate so as to give undue preference or disadvantage to traffic or persons similarly circumstanced, the act to regulate commerce leaves common carriers, as they were at the common law, free to make special rates looking to the increase of their business, to classify their traffic, to adjust and apportion their rates so as to meet the necessities of commerce and of their own situation and relation to it, and generally to manage their important interests upon the same principles which are regarded as sound, and adopted, in other trades and pursuits. The carriers are better qualified to adjust such matters than any court or board of public administration, and, within the limitations suggested, it is safe and wise to leave to their traffic managers the adjusting or dissimilar circumstances and conditions to their business.' 21 C. C. A. 51, 74 Fed. 715.
The last sentence in this extract is objected to by the commission's counsel, as declaring that the determination of the extent to which discrimination is justified by circumstances and conditions should be left to the carriers. If so read, we should not be ready to adopt or approve such a position. But we understand the statement, read in the connection in which it occurs, to mean only that, when once a substantial dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions has been made to appear, the carriers are, from the nature of the question, better fitted to adjust their rates to suit such dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions than courts or commissions; and when we consider the difficulty, the practical impossibility, of a court or a commission taking into view the various and continually changing facts that bear upon the question, and intelligently regulating rates and charges accordingly, the observation objected to is manifestly just. But it does not mean that the action of the carriers, in fixing and adjusting the rates, in such instances, is not subject to revision by the commission and the courts, when it is charged that such action has resulted in rates unjust or unreasonable, or in unjust discriminations and preferences. And such charges were made in the present case, and were considered, in the first place by the commission, and afterwards by the circuit court and by the circuit court of appeals.
The first contention we encounter upon this branch of the case is that the circuit court had no jurisdiction to review the judgment of the commission upon this question of fact; that the court is only authorized to inquire whether or not the commission has misconstrued the statute, and thereby exceeded its power; that there is no general jurisdiction to take evidence upon the merits of the original controversy; and, especially, that questions under the third section are questions of fact, and not of power, and hence unreviewable.
We think this contention is sufficiently answered by simply referring to those portions of the act which provide that, when the court is in coked by the commission to enforce its lawful orders or requirements, the court shall proceed, as a court of equity, to hear and determine the matter, and in such manner as to do justice in the premises.
In the case of Cincinnati, N. O. & T. P. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 184, 16 Sup. Ct. 700, the findings of the commission were overruled by the circuit court, after additional evidence taken in the court, and the decision of the circuit court was reviewed in the light of the evidence, and reversed, by the circuit court of appeals; and this court, in reference to the argument that the commission had not given due weight to the facts that tended to show that the circumstances and conditions were so dissimilar as to justify the rates charged, held that as the question was one of fact, peculiarly within the province of the commission, and as its conclusions had been accepted and approved by the circuit court of appeals, and as this court found nothing in the record that made it our duty to draw a different conclusion, the decree of the circuit court of appeals should be affirmed. Such a holding clearly implies that there was power in the courts below to consider and apply the courts below to court to review their decisions.
So in the case of Texas & P. R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 162 U. S. 197, 16 Sup. Ct. 666, the decision of the circuit court of appeals, which affirmed the validity of the order of the commission, upon the ground that, even if ocean competition should be regarded as creating a dissimilar condition, yet that in the case under consideration the disparity in rates was too great to be justified by that condition, was reversed by this court, not because the circuit court had no jurisdiction to consider the evidence, and thereupon to affirm the validity of the order of the commission, but because that issue was not actually before the court, and that no testimony had been adduced by either party on such an issue; and it was said that the language of the act, authorizing the court to hear and determine the matter as a case of equity, 'necessarily implies that the court is not concluded by the findings or conclusions of the commission.'
Accordingly our conclusion is that it was competent, in the present case, for the circuit court, in dealing with the issues raised by the petition of the commission and the answers thereto, and for the circuit court of appeals on the appeal, to determine the case upon a consideration of the allegations of the parties, and of the evidence adduced in their support; giving effect, however, to the findings of fact in the report of the commission, as prima facie evidence of the matters therein stated.
It has been uniformly held by the several circuit courts and the circuit courts of appeal, in such cases, that they are not restricted to the evidence adduced before the commission, nor to a consideration merely of the power of the commission to make the particular order under question, but that additional evidence may be put in by either party, and that the duty of the court is to decide, as a court of equity, upon the entire body of evidence.
Coming at last to the questions of fact in this case, we encounter a large amount of conflicting evidence. It seems undeniable, as the effect of the evidence on both sides, that an actual dissimilarity of circumstances and conditions exists between the cities concerned, both as respects the volume of their respective trade, and the competition, affecting rates, occasioned by rival routes by land and water. Indeed, the commission itself recognized such a state of facts, by making an allowance in the rates prescribed for dissimilarity resulting form competition; and it was contended on behalf of the commission, both in the courts below and in this court, that the competition did not justify the discriminations against Troy to the extent shown, and that the allowance made therefor by the commission was a due allowance.
The issue is thus restricted to the question of the preponderance of the evidence on the respective sides of the controversy. We have read the evidence disclosed by the record, and have endeavored to weigh it with the aid of able and elaborate discussions by the respective counse.
No useful purpose would be served by an attempt to formally state and analyze the evidence, but the result is that we are not convinced that the courts below erred in their estimate of the evidence, and that we perceive no error in the principles of law on which they proceeded in the application of the evidence.
The decree of the circuit court of appeals is accordingly affirmed.
Mr. Justice HARLAN, dissenting.
I dissent from the opinion and judgment in this case. Taken in connection with other decisions defining the powers of the interstate commerce commission, the present decision, it seems to me, goes far to make that commission a useless body, for all practical purposes, and to defeat many of the important objects designed to be accomplished by the various enactments of congress relating to interstate commerce. The commission was established to protect the public against the improper practices of transportation companies engaged in commerce among the several states. It has been left, it is true, with power to make reports and to issue protests. But it has been shorn, by judicial interpretation, of authority to do anything of an effective character. It is denied many of the powers which, in my judgment, were intended to be conferred upon it. Besides, the acts of congress are now so construed as to place communities on the lines of interstate commerce at the mercy of competing railroad companies engaged in such commerce. The judgment in this case, if I do not misapprehend its scope and effect, proceeds upon the ground that railroad companies, when competitors for interstate business at certain points, may, in order to secure traffic for and at those points, establish rates that will enable them to accomplish that result, although such rates may discriminate against intermediate points. Under such an interpretation of the statutes in question, they may well be regarded as recognizing the authority of competing railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce—when their interests will be subserved thereby—to build up favored centers of population at the expense of the business of the country at large. I cannot believe that congress intended any such result, nor do I think that its enactments, properly interpreted, would lead to such a result.