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Vol. IV.)

MUNN v. THE PEOPLE.

(No. 4.

as a principle of civilized government. It is found in Magna Charta, and, in substance if not in form, in nearly or quite all the constitutions that have been from time to time adopted by the several states of the Union. By the fifth amendment it was introduced into the Constitution of the United States as a limitation upon the powers of the national government, and by the fourteenth as a guaranty against any encroachment upon an acknowledged right of citizenship by the legislatures of the states.

When the people of the United Colonies separated from Great Britain, they changed the form but not the substance of their government. They retained for the purposes of government all the powers of the British parliament, and, through their

state constitutions or other forms of social compact, undertook to give practical effect to such as they deemed necessary for the common good and the security of life and property. All the powers which they retained they committed to their respective states, unless in express terms or by implication reserved to themselves. Subsequently, when it was found necessary to establish a national government for national purposes, a part of the powers of the states and of the people of the states was granted to the United States and the people of the United States. This grant operated as a further limitation upon the powers of the states, so that now the governments of the states possess all the powers of the parliament of England, except such as have been delegated to the United States or reserved by the people. The reservations by the people are shown in the prohibitions of the constitutions.

When one becomes a member of society he necessarily parts with some rights or privileges which, as an individual not affected by his relations to others, he might retain. " A body politic,” as aptly defined in the preamble of the Constitution of Massachusetts, " is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good.” This does not confer power upon the whole people to control rights which are purely and exclusively private ; Thorpe v. R. & B. R. R. Co. 27 Vt. 143; but it does authorize the establishment of laws requiring each citizen to so conduct himself and so use his own property as not unnecessarily to injure another. This is the very essence of government, and has found expression in the maxim, Sic utere tuo ut alienum non lædas.

From this source come the police powers, which, as was said by Chief Justice Taney in the License Cases, 5 How. 583, "are nothing more or less than the powers of government inherent in every sovereignty,

that is to say, .... the power to govern men and things. Under these powers the government regulates the conduct of its citizens one toward another, and the manner in which each shall use his own property, when such regulation becomes necessary for the public good. In their exercise it has been customary in England from time immemorial, and in this country from its first colonization, to regulate ferries, common carriers, hackmen, bakers, millers, wharfingers, innkeepers, &c., and in so doing to fix a maximum of charge to be made for services rendered, accommodations furnished, and articles sold. To this day statutes are to be found in many of the states upon some or all these subjects, and we think it has never yet been successfully contended that such legislation came within any of the constitutional prohibitions against interference

Vol. IV.]

MUNN V. THE PEOPLE.

[No. 4.

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with private property. With the fifth amendment in force, Congress, in 1820, conferred power upon the city of Washington “to regulate the rates of wharfage at private wharves, the sweeping of chimneys, and to fix the rates of fees therefor, and the weight and quality of bread;" 3 Stat. 587, sec. 7; and, in 1848, “to make all necessary regulations respecting hackney carriages and the rates of fare of the same, and the rates of hauling by cartmen, wagoners, carmen, and draymen, and the rates of commission of auctioneers.' 9 Stat. 224, sec. 2.

From this it is apparent that down to the time of the adoption of the fourteenth amendment it was not supposed that statutes regulating the use or even the price of the use of private property necessarily deprived an owner of his property without due process of law. Under some circumstances they may, but not under all. The amendment does not change the law in this particular; it simply prevents the states from doing that which will operate as such a deprivation.

This brings us to inquire as to the principles upon which this power of regulation rests, in order that we may determine what is within and what without its operative effect. Looking, then, to the common law, from whence came the right which the Constitution protects, we find that when private property is - affected with a public interest it ceases to be juris privati only.” This was said by Lord Chief Justice Hale more than two bundred years ago, in his Treatise De Portibus Maris (1 Harg. Law Tracts, 78), and has been accepted without objection as an essential element in the law of property ever since. Property does become clothed with a public interest when used in a manner to make it of public consequence and affect the community at large. When, therefore, one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he in effect grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good to the extent of the interest he has thus created. He may withdraw his grant by discontinuing the use, but so long as he maintains the use he must submit to the control.

Thus, as to ferries, Lord Hale says, in his Treatise De Jure Maris (1 Harg. Law Tracts, 6), the king has " a right of franchise or privilege, that no man may set up a common ferry for all passengers, without a prescription time out of mind, or a charter from the king. He may make a ferry for his own use or the use of his family, but not for the common use.of all the king's subjects passing that way ; because it doth in consequent tend to a common charge, and is become a thing of public interest and use, and every man for his passage pays a toll, which is a common charge, and every ferry ought to be under a public regulation, viz., that it give attendance at due times, keep a boat in due order, and take but reasonable toll; for if he fail in these he is fineable.” So if one owns the soil and landing places on both banks of a stream he cannot use them for the purposes

of a public ferry, except upon such terms and conditions as the body politic may from time to time impose, and this because the common good requires that all public ways shall be under the control of the public authorities. This privilege or prerogative of the king, who in this connection only represents and gives another name to the body politic, is not primarily for his profit, but for the protection of the people and the promotion of the general welfare,

Vol. IV.)

Munn v. THE PEOPLE.

(No. 4.

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And again, as to wharves and wharfingers, Lord Hale, in his Treatise De Portibus Maris, already cited, says: “A man, for his own private

: advantage, may, in a port or town, set up a wharf or crane, and may take what rates he and his customers can agree for cranage, wharfage, housellage, pesage ; for he doth no more than is lawful for any man to do, viz., makes the most of his own. . . If the king or subject have a publick wharf, unto which all persons that come to that port must come and unlade or lade their goods as for the purpose, because they are the wharfs only licensed by the queen,

or because there is no other wharf in that port, as it may fall out where a port is newly erected ; in that case there

1 cannot be taken arbitrary and excessive duties for cranage, wharfage, pesage, &c., neither can they be enhanced to an immoderate rate, but the duties must be reasonable and moderate, though settled by the king's license or charter. For now the wharf and crane and other conveniences are affected with a publick interest, and they cease to be juris privati only; as if a man set out a street in new building on his own land, it is now no longer bare private interest, but is affected by a publick interest.” This statement of the law by Lord Hale was cited with approbation and acted upon by Lord Kenyon, at the beginning of the present century, in Bolt v. Stennett, 8 T. R. 606.

And the same has been held as to warehouses and warehousemen. In Aldnutt v. Inglis, 12 East, 527, decided in 1810, it appeared that the London Dock Company had built warehouses in which wines were taken in store at such rates of charge as the company and the owners might agree upon. Afterwards the company obtained authority under the general warehousing act to receive wines from importers before the duties upon the importation were paid, and the question was whether they could charge arbitrary rates for such storage or must be content with a reasonable compensation. Upon this point Lord Ellenborough said (p. 537); “ There is no doubt that the general principle is favored both in law and justice, that every man may fix what price he pleases upon his own property, or the use of it; but if, for a particular purpose, the public have a right to resort to his premises and make use of them, and he have a monopoly in them for that purpose, if he will take the benefit of that monopoly, he must, as an equivalent, perform the duty attached to it on reasonable terms. The question then is, whether, circumstanced as this company is by the combination of the warehousing act with the act by which they were originally constituted, and with the actually existing state of things in the port of London, whereby they alone have the warehousing of these wines, they be not, according to the doctrine of Lord Hale, obliged to limit themselves to a reasonable compensation for such warehousing. And according to him, whenever the accident of time casts upon a party the benefit of having a legal monopoly of landing goods in a public port, as where he is the owner of the only wharf authorized to receive goods which happens to be built in a port newly erected, he is confined to take reasonable compensation only for the use of the wharf.” And further on (p. 539): “It is enough that there exists in the place and for the commodity in question a virtual monopoly of the warehousing for this purpose, on which the principle of law attaches as laid down by Lord Hale in the passage referred to [that from De Portibus Maris, already

Vol. IV.)

MUNN v. THE PEOPLE.

[No. 4.

quoted], which includes the good sense as well as the law of the subject.” And in the same case, Le Blanc, J., said (p. 541): “ Then, admitting these warehouses to be private property, and that the company might discontinue this application of them, or that they might have made what terms they pleased in the first instance, yet having as they now have this monopoly, the question is, whether the warehouses be not private property clothed with a public right, and if so, the principle of law attaches upon them. The privilege, then, of bonding these wines being at present confined by the act of parliament to the company's warehouses, is it not the privilege of the public, and shall not that which is for the good of the public attach on the monopoly, that they shall not be bound to pay an arbitrary but a reasonable rent? But upon this record the company resist having their demand for warehouse rent confined within any limit, and though it does not follow that the rent in fact fixed by them is unreasonable, they do not choose to insist on its being reasonable for the purpose of raising the question. For this purpose, therefore, the question may be taken to be, whether they may claim an unreasonable rent. But though this be private property, yet the principle laid down by Lord Hale attaches upon it, that when private property is affected with a public interest it ceases to be juris privati only; and in case of its dedication to such a purpose as this, the owners cannot take arbitrary and excessive duties, but the duties must be reasonable.'

We have quoted thus largely the words of these eminent expounders of the common law, because, as we think, we find in them the principle which supports the legislation we are now examining. Of Lord Hale it was once said by a learned American judge: “In England, even rights of prerogative, they scan his words with as much care as if they had been found in Magna Charta, and the meaning once ascertained, they do not trouble themselves to search any further.” 6 Cowen, 536, note.

In later times the same principle came under consideration in the supreme court of Alabama. That court was called upon, in 1841, to decide whether the power granted to the city of Mobile to regulate the weight and price of bread was unconstitutional, and it was contended that “it would interfere with the right of the citizen to pursue his lawful trade or calling in the mode his judgment might dictate;” but the court said, "there is no motive, .... for this interference on the part of the legislature with the lawful actions of individuals or the mode in which private property shall be enjoyed, unless such calling affects the public interest, or private property is employed in a manner which directly affects the body of the people. Upon this principle, in this state, tavernkeepers are licensed;

and the county court is required at least once a year to settle the rates of innkeepers. Upon the same principle is founded the control which the legislature has always exercised in the establishment and regulation of mills, ferries, bridges, turnpike roads, and other kindred subjects.” Mobile v. Yuille, 3 Ala. N. S. 140.

From the same source comes the power to regulate the charges of common carriers, which was done in England as long ago as the third year of the reign of William and Mary, and continued until within a comparatively recent period. And in the first statute we find the following suggestive

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Vol. IV.]

Munx v. THE PEOPLE.

(No. 4.

preamble, to wit : “ And whereas divers wagoners and other carriers, by combination amongst themselves, have raised the prices of carriage of goods in many places to excessive rates, to the great injury of the trade : Be it, therefore, enacted,” &c. 3 W. & M., chap. 12, sec. 24, 3 Statutes at Large (Great Britain), 481. Common carriers exercise a sort of public office and have duties to perform in which the public is interested. New Jersey Nav. Co. v. Merchants' Bk. 6 How. 382. Their business is, therefore, ** affected with a public interest,” within the meaning of the doctrine which Lord Hale has so forcibly stated.

But we need not go further. Enough has already been said to show that when private property is devoted to a public use it is subject to public regulation. It remains only to ascertain whether the warehouses of these plaintiffs in error and the business which is carried on there come within the operation of this principle.

For this purpose we accept as true the statements of fact contained in the elaborate brief of one of the counsel of the plaintiffs in error. From these it appears that “the great producing region of the West and Northwest sends its grain by water and rail to Chicago, where the greater part of it is shipped by vessel for transportation to the seaboard, by the great lakes, and some of it is forwarded by railway to the eastern ports. • Vessels, to some extent, are loaded in the Chicago harbor and sailed through the St. Lawrence directly to Europe. .... The quantity [of grain) received in Chicago has made it the greatest grain market in the world. This business has created a demand for means by which the immense quantity of grain can be handled or stored, and these have been found in grain warehouses, which are commonly called elevators, because the grain is elevated from the boat or car, by machinery operated by steam, into the bins prepared for its reception ; and elevated from the bins, by a like process, into the vessel or car which is to carry it on. . . . . In this way the largest traffic between the citizens of the country north and west of Chicago, and the citizens of the country lying on the Atlantic coast north of Washington, is in grain which passes through the elevators of Chicago. In this way the trade in grain is carried on by the inhabitants of seven or eight of the great states of the West, with four or five of the states lying on the sea-shore, and forms the largest part of inter-state commerce in these states. The grain warehouses or elevators in Chicago are immense structures, holding from 300,000 to 1,000,000 bushels at one time, according to size. They are divided into bins of large capacity and great strength.. . . They are located with the river harbor on one side and the railway tracks on the other, and the grain is run through them from car to vessel, or boat to car, as may be demanded in the course of business. It has been found impossible to preserve each owner's grain separate, and this has given rise to a system of inspection and grading, by which the grain of different owners is mixed, and receipts issued for the number of bushels which are negotiable, and redeemable in like kind, upon demand. This mode of conducting the business was inaugurated more than twenty years ago, and has grown to immense proportions. The railways have found it impracticable to own such elevators, and public policy forbids the transaction of such business by the carrier ; the ownership has, therefore, been by private individuals, who have embarked

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