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Munn v. THE PEOPLE.
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 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.
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 on 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 establislıment 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 [No. 4.
Munn v. The PEOPLE.
Be it, the Great Briduties to pants" Bk.
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 Vol. IV.]
Munn v. THE PEOPLE.
their capital and devoted their industry to such business as a private pursuit."
In this connection it must also be borne in mind that although in 1874 there were in Chicago fourteen warehouses adapted to this particular business and owned by about thirty persons, nine business firms controlled them, and that the prices charged and received for storage were such “ as have been from year to year agreed upon and established by the different elevators or warehouses in the city of Chicago, and which rates have been annually published in one or more newspapers printed in said city, in the month of January in each year, as the established rates for the year then next ensuing such publication.” Thus it is apparent that all the elevating facilities through which these vast productions “ of seven or eight great states of the West ” must pass on the way “to four or five of the states on the sea-shore,” may be a “virtual” monopoly.
Under such circumstances it is difficult to see why, if the common carrier, or the miller, or the ferryman, or the innkeeper, or the wharfinger, or the baker, or the cartman, or the hackney-coachman pursues a public employment and exercises “a sort of public office,” these plaintiffs in error do not. They stand, to use again the language of their counsel, in the very “ gateway of commerce," and take toll from all who pass. Their business most certainly " tends to a common charge, and is become a thing of public interest and use." Every bushel of grain for its passage “pays a toll, which is a common charge," and, therefore, according to Lord Hale, every such warehouseman “ought to be under public regulation, viz., that he .... take but reasonable toll.” Certainly if any business can be clothed" with a public interest and cease to be juris privati only," this has been. It may not be made so by the operation of the Constitution of Illinois or this statute, but it is by the facts.
We also are not permitted to overlook the fact that, for some reason, the people of Illinois, when they revised their Constitution in 1870, saw fit to make it the duty of the general assembly to pass laws “ for the protection of producers, shippers, and receivers of grain and produce" (Art. XIII., sec. 7), and by sec. 5 of the same article to require all railroad companies receiving and transporting grain in bulk or otherwise to deliver the same at any elevator to which it might be consigned, that could be reached by any track that was or could be used by such company, and that all railroad companies should permit connections to be made with their tracks, so that any public warehouse, &c. might be reached by the cars on their railroads. This indicates very clearly that during the twenty years in which this peculiar business had been assuming its present “ immense proportions,” something had occurred which led the whole body of the people to suppose that remedies such as are usually employed to prevent abuses by virtual monopolies might not be inappropriate here. For our purposes we must assume that if a state of facts could exist that would justify such legislation, it actually did exist when the statute now under consideration was passed. For us the question is one of power, not of expediency. If no state of circumstances could exist to justify such a statute, then we may declare this one void, because in excess of the legislative power of the state. But if it could, we must presume it did. Of
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Munn v. THE PEOPLE.
the propriety of legislative interference within the scope of legislative power the legislature is the exclusive judge.
Neither is it a matter of any moment that no precedent can be found for a statute precisely like this. It is conceded that the business is one of recent origin; that its growth has been rapid, and that it is already of great importance. And it must also be conceded that it is a business in which the whole public has a direct and positive interest. It presents, therefore, a case for the application of a long known and well established principle in social science, and this statute simply extends the law so as to meet this new development of commercial progress. There is no attempt to compel these owners to grant the public an interest in their property, but to declare their obligations if they use it in this particular manner.
It matters not in this case that these plaintiffs in error had built their warehouses and established their business before the regulations complained of were adopted. What they did was from the beginning subject to the power of the body politic to require them to conform to such regulations as might be established by the proper authorities for the common good. They entered upon their business and provided themselves with the means to carry it on subject to this condition. If they did not wish to submit themselves to such interference, they should not have clothed the public with an interest in their concerns. The same principle applies to them that does to the proprietor of a hackney carriage, and as to him it has never been supposed that he was exempt from regulating statutes or ordinances because he had purchased his horses and carriage and established his business before the statute or the ordinance was adopted.
It is insisted, however, that the owner of property is entitled to a reasonable compensation for its use, even though it be clothed with a public interest, and that what is reasonable is a judicial and not a legislative question.
As has already been shown, the practice has been otherwise. In countries where the common law prevails, it has been customary from time immemorial for the legislature to declare what shall be a reasonable compensation under such circumstances, or, perhaps more properly speaking, to fix a maximum beyond which any charge made would be unreasonable. Undoubtedly, in mere private contracts, relating to matters in which the public has no interest, what is reasonable must be ascertained judicially. But this is because the legislature has no control over such a contract. So, too, in matters which do affect the public interest, and as to which legislative control may be exercised, if there are no statutory regulations upon the subject, the courts must determine what is reasonable. The controlling fact is the power to regulate at all. If that exists, the right to establish the maximum of charge, as one of the means of regulation, is implied. In fact, the common law rule, which requires the charge to be reasonable, is itself a regulation as to price. Without it the owner could make his rates at will and compel the public to yield to his terms or forego the use.
But a mere common law regulation of trade or business may be changed by statute. A person has no property, no vested interest in any rule of the common law. That is only one of the forms of municipal law,