Page images

said Trans-Missouri Freight Association, to the great injury and prejudice of the public and to the people of the United States. Then follows the prayer that the defendants, and each of them, be en: joined from further agreeing, combining, conspiring, and acting together to maintain rules and regulations for carrying freight upon their several lines of railroad, to hinder trade and commerce between the states and territories of the United States; and that they be enjoined from continuing in a combination, association, or conspiracy to deprive the people engaged in trade and commerce among the states and territories of the United States of such facilities, rates, and charges of freight and transportation as will be attained by free and unrestrained competition between said several lines of railroad; and that said defendants be enjoined from agreeing, combining, conspiring, and acting together to monopolize or attempting to monopolize freight traffic in the states and territories of the United States and that all and each of them be enjoined from agreeing, combining, conspiring, and acting together to prevent each or any of their associates in said agreement from carrying freight and commodities in the trade and commerce between the states and territories of the United States, except at such rates as shall be voluntarily fixed by the officers and agents of each of said roads acting independently and separately in its own behalf.

The defendants the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company, the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railway Company, and the Denver, Texas & Ft. Worth Railroad Company have filed answers, denying that they were members of the Trans-Missouri Freight As: sociation. The other 15 companies have each filed a separate answer, but, as they are substantially the same as to the facts, it will not be necessary to refer to them separately. They each admit that they are common carriers engaged in transporting persons and property among the several states and territories of the United States, and allege that, as such common carriers, they are subject to the provisions of the act of congress approved February 4, 1887, entitled “An act to regulate commerce," with the various amendments thereof and additions thereto, and that said act and the amendments constitute the system of regulation which has been established by congress for the common carriers subject to said act; and they deny that they are subject to the provisions of the act of congress entitled "An act to protect trade and commerce against unlawful restraints and monopolies," approved July 2, 1890. Further answering, the defendants admit that they severally own, control, and operate separate and distinct lines of railroad fitted up for carrying on business as common carriers of freight, independently and disconnectedly with each other, except that common interest exists between certain of the companies named in the answer. It is further admitted by the defendants that the lines of road mentioned in the bill are lines of transportation and communication engaged in freight traffic between and among the states and territories of the United States, and are through lines for freight traffic in that region of country lying west of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and east of the Pacific ocean, but deny that they are the only such lines, and allege that there are several others, naming them. It is further admitted that prior to the organization of the freight association the defendants furnished to the public, and persons engaged in trade, traffic, and commerce between the several states and territories of the United States and countries named in the bill, separate, distinct, and competitive lines of transportation and communication, and allege that they still continue to do so. It is further admitted that some of the roads mentioned in the bill received aid by land grants from the United States, and others received aid from the states and territories by loans of credits, donations of depot sites and right of way, and in a few cases by investments of money, and the people of the said states and territories to a limited extent made investments in the stocks and bonds in some of said railroads, while other of the lines mentioned in the bill were almost entirely constructed by capital furnished by nonresidents of said region. It is further admitted that the purpose of said land grants, loans, donations, and investments was to obtain the construction of competitive lines of transportation and communication, to the end that the public, and people engaged in trade and commerce throughout said region of country, might have the facilities afforded by railways in communicating with each other, and with other portions of the United States, and with the world, and denied that they were granted for any other purpose. Defendants further admit the formation, on or about March 15, 1989, of the voluntary association described in the bill az the Trans-Missouri Freight Association.

Further answering, defendants deny that they were not content with rates prevailing at the date of agreement; they deny any in. tent to unjustly increase rates, and deny that said agreement de stroyed, prevented, or illegally limited or influenced competition; they deny that arbitrary rates have been fixed or charged; they deny that rates have been increased, or that the effect of free competition has been counteracted; they deny any purpose in the formation of said association to monopolize the freight traffic or commerce between the states and territories within the region inentioned in the bill, and deny that the said agreement is in any respect the unlaw. ful result of any confederation or conspiracy. Further answering, defendants allege that they are subject to the provisions of the act of congress approved February 4, 1887, entitled "An act to regulate commerce,” in the matter of adjusting rates on their several roads, so as to prevent unjust discrimination against persons and locali. ties, which involves an adjustment between different companies in. terested in joint rates, and doing business in said region of country, requiring preconcerted action between defendant companies, and that this service is the greater part of the work of the association. The defendants admit that the chairman of the association is authorized to investigate rate cutting, and that the articles of agree ment provide that he may assess fines for violations thereof, but allege that no attempt has been made to enforce the collection of fines since 1890. Further answering, the defendants allege that the principal object of the association is to establish reasonable rates, rules, and regulations on all freight traffic, and the maintenance of

such rates until changed in the manner provided by law. It is further alleged that the agreement was filed with the interstate commerce commission, as required by section 6 of the act of February 4, 1887. Defendants further allege that it is not the purpose of the association to prevent members from reducing rates or changing the rules or regulations fixed by the association, and that by the terms of the agreement each member may do so; the preliminary requirement being that the proposed change shall be voted upon at the meeting of the association, after which, if the proposal is not agreed to, the line making the proposal can make such reduced rate notwithstanding the objection of the other lines. That the purpose of this provision is to afford opportunity for the consideration of the reasonableness of any proposed rate, rule, or regulation by all lines interested, and an interchange of views on the effect of such reduction; and that reductions of rates have been made in many instances, through said process, by said association. It is admitted by the answer that this agreement took effect April 1, 1889, and that it has since remained operative, and that the rates, rules, and regulations properly fixed and established from time to time, under said agreement, have been put into effect and maintained in conformity to law; but it is denied that by reason of said agreement, or under duress of fines and penalties or otherwise, the defendants have refused to establish and maintain just and reasonable rates, and it is alleged that the object of the association at all times has been and is to establish all rates, rules, and regulations upon a just and reasonable basis, and to avoid unjust discrimination and undue preference..

The answer further denies that shippers or the public are in any way oppressed or injured by reason of the rates fixed by the association, but, on the contrary, it is alleged that the agreement, and the association established under it, have been beneficial to the patrons of the defendant railway lines, composing the association, and the public at large.

A copy of the agreement is set out at length, and attached to the answer of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company. The case was set down for hearing on bill and answer, and the pleadings only are to be considered. The answer, therefore, is ad- . mitted to be true in all its allegations of fact, even when not stated positively; and the defendants only aver that they believe, and hope to be able to prove, such facts, but the complainant does not thereby admit conclusions of law, nor matters concerning which the court takes judicial notice.

The act of congress of July 2, 1890, which it is alleged in the bill is violated by the agreement to form and the formation of the freight association, in the first section declares every contract, combination in the form of a trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states, to be illegal, and provides for the .punishment by fine or imprisonment of every person who shall make any such contract, or engage in any such combination or conspiracy. Section 2 declares that every person who shall monopolize

See note at end of case.

or attempt to monopolize or combine or conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several states or with foreign nationg shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine or imprisonment. Section 3 makes the provisions of the first section applicable within the territories, and between one territory and another, and between a territory and a state, and between the District of Columbia and a territory or state. Section 4 confers jurisdiction upon the several circuit courts of the United States to prevent and restrain violations of the act, and makes it the duty of the district attorneys in the respective districts, under the direction of the attorney general, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violation. Section 5 provides for bringing in other necessary parties. Section 6 provides for the seizure and condemnation of property owned under any contract or combination prohibited by the act, and being in the course of transportation from one state to another or to a foreign country. Section 7 gives a right of action to any person injured by violations of the act, and authorizes a recovery of threefold damages. The eighth and last section provides that the word "per. son” or “persons,” whenever used in the act, shall be construed to include corporations or associations existing under or authorized by the laws either of the United States or of the territories or of any state or of any foreign country.

It will be seen from an examination of this statute that its purpose was to reach two evils: First, contracts, combinations, or conspiracies in restraint of trade; and, second, monopolies. It was urged at the argument that the contract mentioned in the bill, and the association formed thereunder, came within the provisions of this act of July 2, 1890, for the reason that it is a contract or agreement in re straint of trade, in that it prevented free competition in the matter of transportation of freight among the several states within the region specified in the bill; counsel for the government insisting that "trade and commerce among the several states of the Union is free, except as regulated and restrained by acts of congress, and that no state, municipality, corporation, individual, or combination of individuals can by any act or device legally restrain, hinder, and retard it.” On the other hand, it is insisted by the defendants that there is no fixed rule of law by which to determine whether any given contract is in restraint of trade, but that in determining the question the courts must look to the particular circumstances of each case.

In disposing of this branch of the case, I will first briefly refer to some of the decided cases cited by counsel in their briefs.

The case of Com. v. Carlisle, Brightly, N. P. 36, was a case where certain master shoemakers had entered into an agreement not to enploy any journe'men shoemakers who would not consent to work at reduced wages; the purpose being to re-establish wages for this class of labor which had prevailed before that time, but which the defendants had been compelled to advance by reason of a combination among the workmen. The court, in deciding the case, said:

“Where an act is lawful for an individual it can be the subject of conspiracy when done in concert only where there is a direct intention that in


jury shall result from it, or where the object is to benefit the conspirators to the prejudice of the public or the oppression of individuals, and where such prejudice or oppression is the natural and necessary consequence flowing from the act.”

The case of People v. Fisher, 14 Wend. 9, was an indictment against journeyman shoemakers for conspiring together to :is the price of making boots, and establishing a penalty against any journeyman shoemakers who should make boots for a less rate than that fixed by the parties to the agreement, and also agreeing to refuse to work for any master shoemaker who should hire a man who reduced the rates for making boots; and it was held in that case that this was a conspiracy against trade and commerce, and, as such, prohibited under a statute providing: “If one or more persons shall conspire to commit any act injurious to trade or commerce, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” In passing upon the case, Savage, C. J., said:

*The man who owns an article of trade or commerce is not obliged to sell it for any particular price, nor is the mechanic obliged by law to labor for any particular price. He may say that he will not make coarse boots for less than $1.00 per pair, but he has no right to say that no other mechanic shall make them for less. If one individual does not possess such a right over the conduct of another, no number of individuals can possess such a right. All combinations, therefore, to effect such an object, are injurious, not only to the individual particularly oppressed, but to the public at large."

Hooker v. Vandewater, 4 Denio, 319, was an action to compel a division of net earnings between several lines of boats engaged in transporting persons and freight on the Erie and Oswego canals. The agreement was that each party should run his line of boats upon these canals during the period of canal navigation in 1842, at rates of freight fixed by themselves, from which neither should deviate; and to indicate the interest of each the respective lines were converted into stock, amounting in all to 69 shares. All were to share equally in the net earnings of all the lines in proportion to the number of shares of such stock, and to enforce performance of the contract a common agent was appointed, to whom each party to the agreement was to advance and keep good $35 on each share of such stock, and who was from time to time to receive returns of the business done by each line, and adjust the proportions from the earnings due to each, and out of this common fund to pay and liquidate all such sums as should appear from time to time to be due from one to the other. It was held in this case that the transaction amounted to a conspiracy to commit an act injurious to trade, and was therefore illegal and void.

The case of Stanton v. Allen, 5 Denio, 434, was a suit upon a promissory note, given, as stated upon the face of the note, for percentage on tolls for the season of 1843. In this case an agreement had been entered into by the proprietors of boats on the Erie and Oswego canals, to regulate the price of freight and passage by a uniform scale to be fixed by a committee chosen by themselves, and to divide the profits of their business according to the number of boats employed by each, with a provision in the contract prohibiting the members from engaging in similar business out of the association, and it was held that the tendency of such an agreement was to pre

« EelmineJätka »