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Mr. Charles W. Jones, for the appellant.
Except when prohibited or restricted by the provisions of the State Constitution, the legislature can grant exclusive privileges and franchises within its own jurisdiction. Cooley, Const. Lim. 281; Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1 ; West River Bridge Co. v. Dir et al., 6 How. 507; s. c. 16 Vt. 446; The Binghamton Bridge, 3 Wall. 51 ; Shorter v. Smith, 9 Ga. 529; The Proprietors of the Piscataqua Bridge v. The New Hampshire Bridge et al., 7 N. H. 35; Boston Water Power Co. v. Boston f Lowell Railroad Corporation et al., 23 Pick. (Mass.) 360; Boston f Lowell Railroad Corporation v. Salem & Lowell Railroad Co. et al., 2 Gray (Mass.), 1; California Telegraph Co. v. The Atlantic Telegraph Co., 22 Cal. 398; Hazen et al. v. The Union Bank of Tennessee, 1 Sneed (Tenn.), 115; The People v. Bowen, 30 Barb. (N. Y.) 24; Livingston v. Van Ingen et al., 9 Johns. (N. Y.) 506; Ogden v. Gibbons, 4 Johns. (N. Y.) Ch. 150.
In Florida there were no such restrictions or prohibitions. On the contrary, by the express terms of sect. 3, art. 15, of her Constitution, the special statute of Dec. 11, 1866, incorporating the appellant and granting the exclusive privileges which are asserted in this suit, is valid.
That statute is not referred to in that of Feb. 14, 1873, or the amendatory act of 1874, and is, therefore, not repealed by a general repealing clause. Crane v. Rider, 22 Mich. 322; State v. Mills, 34 N.J. L. 177; State v. Brannin, 2 Zab. (N. J.) 485; Fostick v. Perrysburg, 14 Ohio St. 474.
The said statute of Dec. 11 is, however, a contract with the State, which cannot be impaired or modified without the company's consent. A subsequent statute interfering with that contract, or the rights thereunder vested, is inoperative and void. Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheat. 518; State Bank of Ohio v. Knoop, 16 How. 369; Dodge v. Woolsey, 18 id. 331 ; Jefferson Branch Bank v. Skelly, 1 Black, 436; Franklin Branch Bank v. The State of Ohio, id. - 74; The Binghamton Bridge, supra; Farrington v. Tennessee, 95 U. S. 679.
The appellee is a New York corporation; and, in the absence of any legislation of Florida empowering it to exercise its corporate franchises in the latter State, can set up nothing in conflict with the exclusive rights of the appellant under its charter.
It has no existence or rights beyond the limits of the State which created it, except by the comity or the enabling acts of other States. The Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 15 Pet. 519; Ohio & Mississippi Railroad Co. v. Wheeler, 1 Black, 286; Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168 ; Liverpool Insurance Co. v. Massachusetts, 10 id. 566; Railroad Company v. Harris, 12 id. 65.
The act of 1874, under which the appellee claims by assignment from the Louisville & Pensacola Railroad Company, must be construed with reference to this settled principle. The assignment was not effectual to transfer any franchise, because the assignee was, in this instance, incompetent to take.
The act of Congress of July 24, 1866, has no bearing upon the case.
It is in substantially the same terms as that of Aug. 4, 1852, 10 Stat. 28, which grants to any railroad, plank-road, or turnpike company the right of way through the public lands, and the right to take therefrom earth, stone, or wood, for the purpose of construction, and to select sites for depots and workshops. It extends, on certain conditions, efficient aid to any telegraph company whose authorized lines are to be established over the public domain. If it can be construed as conferring upon a corporation of one State the right in another State to do certain acts and enjoy certain privileges in connection with that domain, the indispensable condition is necessarily implied, that, by an enabling statute of such other State, the requisite capacity to do the acts or enjoy the privileges within her limits has been, or will be, bestowed on the corporation. It does not, proprio vigore, enlarge the corporate powers of any company, or authorize it to exercise them in a foreign jurisdiction. If it attempted to do so, it would, to that extent, be clearly void, as an assumption of a power which has been wisely and to the fullest extent lodged with the respective States.
But if the appellee was a Florida corporation, clothed with undisputed authority to establish and work its lines within the county of Escambia, the act would give her — what is not here in issue a right of way only over the public domain. Congress did not possess, and could not grant, more. The United States acquires no proprietary interest in any railroad by declaring it a post-road. Dickey v. Maysville f Lexington Turnpike Road Co., 7 Dana (Ky.), 113. The only objects thereby
attained or sought are the security of the mail and the protection of the postal service.
Mr. Perry Belmont, contra.
Telegraphing, as practised by the respondent, is a part of that intercourse which constitutes commerce.
Restrictions upon the free right to erect and maintain telegraph lines operate to regulate that intercourse.
Such restrictions, when imposed by State authority, are void, as contravening the Constitution of the United States.
The act of the legislature of Florida, approved Dec. 11, 1866, relied on by the appellant, not only trespasses upon the domain of Congress, but assumes to forbid what that body has authorized.
The question concerning the power of Congress to enable a corporation to exercise its franchises in a State other than that which created it, is not necessarily involved in determining the rights of the parties. The appellee is exercising certain franchises which the Pensacola and Louisville Railroad Company, pursuant to a statute of Florida, transferred to it by an assignment, which, except within the territory in question, it must be conceded, was as valid and effectual in vesting them as if they had been immediately derived from a legislative grant. The landed proprietors have granted to it the right of occupancy. It is, therefore, lawfully in that State, and has established connections there with its lines coming from other States. The case, therefore, turns upon the single point, whether, after complying with the conditions and regulations imposed by Congress, such a company so carrying on a commercial business may, with all its foreign and internal connections, be excluded, at the instance of another corporation, from certain portions of the State.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.
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.
A law of Congress made in pursuance of the Constitution suspends or overrides all State statutes with which it is in conflict.
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 instrumentalities 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 mer
chant rarely enters upon an important transaction without using the telegraph freely to secure information.
It is not only important to the people, but to the government. By means of it the beads 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 intercommunication 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