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Rundle et al. v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Company.
sylvania, passed March ninth, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-one, and the act of the then Province of New Jersey, passed December twenty-first, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventyone, as set forth in said amended fifth count, do not vest in the said Adam Hoops, or in his heirs or assigns, the right and privilege to the use of the water of the River Delaware without diminution or alteration, by or from the act of the then Province, now State, of Pennsylvania, or of the then Province, now State, of New Jersey, or of any person or persons claiming under either of them, or of any person or persons whomsocver, as averred in the said amended fifth count of the said declaration. And also, for that it does not appear, from the said amended fifth count, that the same George Rundle and William Griffiths are entitled to the right and privilege to the use of the water of the River Delaware, in manner and form as they have averred in the said amended fifth count of their declaration.
“ And also that, as it appears from the said amended fifth count, that the said River Delaware is a common highway and public navigable river, over which the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey have concurrent jurisdiction, and a boundary of said States, these defendants insist that the legislative acts of the then Province of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, passed in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and seventy-one, as set forth in the said amended fifth count, were intended to declare the said River Delaware a common highway, and for improving the navigation thereof, and that the provision therein contained, as to the mill-dam erected by Adam Hoops, in the said River Delaware, did not and does not amount to a grant or conveyance of water power to the said Adam Hoops, his heirs or assigns, or to a surrender of the public right in the waters of the said river, but to a permission only to obstruct the waters of the said river by the said dam, without being subjected to the penalties of nuisance; that the right of the said Adam Hoops was, and that of his assigns is, subordinate to the public right at the pleasure of the legislature of Pennsylvar.ia and New Jersey, or either of them.”
On this demurrer the court below gave judgment for the defendants, which is now alleged as error.
It is evident, that the extent of the plaintiff's rights as a riparian owner, and the question whether this proviso operates as the grant of a usufruct of the waters of the river, or only as a license or toleration of a nuisance, liable to revocation or subordinate to the paramount public right, must depend on the laws and customs of Pennsylvania, as expounded by her own courts. It will be proper, therefore, to give a brief sketch of
Rundle et al. v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Company.
the public history of the river and the legislative action connected with it, as also of the principles of law affecting aquatic rights, as developed and established by the courts of that State.
The River Delaware is the well known boundary between the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Below tide water, the river, its soil and islands, formerly belonged to the crown; above tide water, it was vested in the proprietaries of the coterminous provinces— each holding ad medium filum aquæ. Since the Revolution, the States have succeeded to the public rights both of the crown and the proprietaries. Immediately after the Revolution, these Si entered into the compact of 1783, declaring the Delaware a common highway for the use of both, and ascertaining their respective jurisdiction over the same. For thirty years after this compact, they appear to have enjoyed their common property without dispute or collision. When the legislature of either State passed an act assecting it, they requested and obtained the concurrence and consent of the o her. Their first dispute was caused by an act of New Jersey, passed February 4, 1815, authorizing Coxe and others to erect a wing dam, and divert the water for the purpose of mills and other inachinery. The consent of the State of Pennsylvania was not requested; it therefore called forth a protest from the legislature of that State. This was followed by further remonstrance in the following year. A proposition was made to submit the question of their respective rights to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was rejected by New Jersey. After nurnerous inessages and remonstrances between the governors and legislatures, cominissioners were mutually appointed to compromise the disputes. But they failed to bring the matter to an amicable conclusion. The dispute was never settled, and the wing dam remained in the river.
In 1824, New Jersey passed the first act for the incorporation of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Company, for which the company gave a bonus of $100,000. This act rruires the consent of the State of Pennsylvania; and on application being made to her legislature, she clogged her consent with so many conditions, that New Jersey refused to accept her terms, returned the bonus to the company; and so the matter ended for that time.
Both parties then appointed commissioners to effect, if possible, some compact or arrangement by which each State should be authorized to divert so much water as would be necessary for these contemplated canals. After protracted negotiations, these commissioners finally (in 1831) agreed upon terms, but the compact proposed by them was never ratified by either party.
Rundle et al. v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Company,
In the mean time, each State appropriated to itself as much of the waters of the river as suited its purpose. In 1827 and 1828, Pennsylvania diverted the River Lehigh, a confluent of the Delaware, and afterwards, finding that stream insufficient, took additional feeders for her canal, out of the main stream of the Delaware. On the 4th February, 1830, the legislature of New Jersey passed the act under which the defendants were incorporated, and in pursuance of which, they have constructed the dam and feeder, the subject of the present suit
. The canals in both States, supplied by the river, are intimately and extensively connected with their trade, revenues, and general property - while the navigation of the river above tide water, and the rapids at Trenton, is of comparatively trifling importance, being used only at times of the spring freshets, for floating timber down the stream, when the artificial diversions do not affect the navigation. The practical benefits resulting to both parties, from their great public improvements, appear to have convinced them that further negotiations, complaints, or remonstrances, would be useless and unreasonable ; and thus, by mutual acquiescence and tacit consent, the necessity of a more formal compact has been superseded.
The law of Pennsylvania, by which the title and rights of the plaintiffs must be tested, differs materially from that of England, and most of the other States of the Union. As regards her large fresh-water rivers, she has adopted the principles of the civil law. In the case of Carson v. Blazer, the Supreme Court of that State decided, that the large rivers, such as the Susquehanna and Delaware, were never deemed subject to the doctrines of the common law of England, applicable to fresh water streams, but that they are to be treated as ravigable rivers; that the grants of William Penn, the proprietary, never extended beyond the margin of the river, which belonged to the public, and that the riparian owners nave therefore no exclusive rights to the soil or water of such rivers ad filum medium aquæ.
In Shrunk v. The Schuylkill Navigation Company, the same court repeat the same doctrine; and Chief Justice Tilghman, in delivering the opinion of the court, observes: “ Care seems to have been taken, from the beginning, to preserve the waters of these rivers for public uses, both of fishery and navigation; and the wisdom of that policy is now more striking than ever, from the great improvements in navigation, and others in contemplation, to effect which, it is necessary to obstruct the flow of the water, in some places, and in others to divert its course. It is true that the State would have hud a right to do these things for the public benefit, even if the rivers had been private property; but then, compensation must have been made to the
Randle et al v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Company.
owners, the amount of which might have been so enormous as to have frustrated, or at least checked these noble undertakings."
In the case of The Monongahela Navigation Company v. Coons, the defendant had erected his mill under a license given by an act of the legislature (in 1803) to riparian owners to erect dams of a particular structure, “provided they did not impede the navigation,” &c. The Monongahela Navigation Company, in pursuance of a charter granted them by the State, had erected a dam in the Monongahela, which flowed back the water on the plaintiff's mill, in the Youghiogany, and greatly injured it. And it was adjudged by the court, that the Company were not liable for the consequential injury thus inflicted. The court, speaking of the rights of plaintiff, consequent on the license granted by the act, (of 1803,) observe: “ That statute gave riparian owners liberty to erect dams of a particular structure, on navigable streams, without being indictable for a nuisance, and their exercise of it was, consequently, to be attended with expense and labor. But was this liberty to be perpetual, and forever tie up the power of the State ? Or, is not the contrary to be inferred, from the nature of the license ? So far was the legislature from seeming to abate one jot of the State's control, that it barely agreed not to prefer an indictment for a nuisance, except on the report of viewers to the Quarter Sessions. But the remission of a penalty is not a charter, and the alleged grant was nothing more than a mitigation of the penal law."
The case of the Susquehanna Canal Company v. Wright, confirms the preceding views, and decides, “that the State is never presumed to have parted with one of its franchises in the absence of conclusive proof of such an intention.
Hence a license, accorded by a public law to a riparian owner, to erect a dam on the Susquehanna River, and conduct the water upon his land for his own private purposes, is subject to any future provision which the State may make, with regard to the navigation of the river. And if the State authorize a company to construct a canal which impairs the rights of such riparian owner, he is not entitled to recover damages from the company. In that case, Wright had erected valuable mills, under a license granted to him by the legislature; but the court say, -" He was bound to know that the State had power to revoke its license whenever the paramount interests of the public should require it. And, in this respect, a grant by a public agent of limited powers, and bound not to throw away the interests confided to it, is different from a grant by an individual who is master of the subject. To revoke the latter, after an expenditure in the prosecution of it, would be a fraud. But he who accepts a
Rundle et al. v. Delaware and Raritan Canal Company.
license from the legislature, knowing that he is dealing with an agent bound by duty not to impair public rights, does so at his risk; and a voluntary expenditure on the foot of it, gives him no claim to compensation.”
The principles asserted and established by these cases, are, perhaps, somewhat peculiar, but, as they affect rights to real property in the State of Pennsylvania, they must be treated as binding precedents in this court. It is clear, also, from the application of these principles to the construction of the proviso under consideration, that it cannot be construed as a grant of the waters of a public river for private use, or a fee-simple estate in the usufruct of them, “ without diminution or altera. tion.” It contains no direct words of grant, which would ope rate by way of estoppel upon the grantor. The dam of Adam Hoops was a nuisance when it was made; but, as it did little injury to the navigation, the commissioners, who were commanded to prostrate other nuisances, were enjoined to tolerate .this. The mills of Hoops had not been erected on the faith of a legislative license, as in the cases we have quoted, and a total revocation of it would not be chargeable with the apparent hardship and injustice which might be imputed to it in those
His dam continues to be tolerated, and the license of diverting the water to his mills is still enjoyed, subject to occasional diminution from the exercise of the superior right of the sovereign. His interest in the water may be said to resemble a right of common, which by custom is subservient to the right of the lord of the soil; so that the lord may dig claypits, or empower others to do so, without leaving sutlicient herbage on the common. Bateson v. Green, 5 T. R. 411.
Nor can the plaintiff claim by prescription against the public for more than the act confers on him, which is at best impunity for a nuisance. His license, or rather toleration, gives him a good title to keep up his dam and use the waters of the river, as against every one but the sovereign, and those diverting them by public authority, for public uses.
It is true, that the plaintiff's declaration in this case, alleges, that the waters diverted by defendants' dam and canal are used for the purpose of mills, and for private emolument. But as it is not alleged, or pretended, that defendants have taken more water than was necessary for the canal, or have constructed a canal of greater dimensions than they were authorized and obliged by the charter to make, this secondary use must be considered as merely incidental to the main object of their charter. We do not, therefore, consider the question before us, whether the plaintiff might not recover damages against an individual, or private corporation, diverting the water of this river