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The Richmond, &c. Railroad Co. v. The Louisa Railroad Co.
Their road was completed and opened for use in January, 1837. In February, 1836, an act was passed incorporating the stockholders of the Louisa · Railroad Company. In December, 1838, the Louisa 'road was opened for use to the Louisa court-house, and from that time to March, 1848, the passengers using the Louisa road, going to or coming from Richmond,
and points between that city and the junction, passed over the road of the complainants. In March, 1848, the complainants and the Louisa Company having differed concerning the tolls to be charged by the former on passengers and merchandise going to or coming from the Louisa road, the legislature passed the “ Act for the extension of the Louisa Railroad,” which contains the following section :- " Be it: further enacted, that in case the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad Company shall, at the next annual meeting of the stockholders, stipulate and agree, from and after the expiration of the present contract with the Louisa Railroad Company, to carry all passengers and freight coming from the Louisa. Railroad from the junction to the city of Richmond, at the same rate per
mile as may
at the same time be charged by the Louisa Railroad Company on the same passengers and freight; and shall also agree to carry all passengers and freight entered at the city of Richmond for any point on the Louisa Railroad, at the same rate per mile as is charged at the time for the same, by the Louisa Railroad Company, and shall also agree to submit to the umpirage of some third person or persons, to be chosen by the said companies, the compensation to the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad Company for collecting at the depots in Richmond the dues of the Louisa Railroad Company, and any other matters of controversy which may arise between the said companies owing to the connection between them, then this act to be void, or else to remain in full force.” It will thus be seen that the passenger travel, which it is the object of this act to take away from the complainants' road, bad been de facto a part of its passenger travel between Richmond and the junction for about ten years. It is maintained that as the Louisa Railroad, from the junction westward, was the cause of the existence of this travel upon the complainant's road, between Richmond and the junction, the Louisa corporation might be empowered to construct another road be. tween those points for the purpose of doing that business. In other words, that passenger travel actually existing on the complainant's road, may properly be diminished by the construction of another road for a part of the distance between Richmond and Washington, provided it be done by a party who at some prior time was instrumental in increasing the passenger travel;
The Richmond, &c. Railroad Co. v. The Louisa Railroad Co.
that we are to inquire whether by this new and competing road any more is to be taken away than was brought by the corporation which builds it, and if not, then the competing road does not diminish the number of passengers, travelling on the complainants' road, within the fair meaning of this contract. I can not give to this contract such a construction. It seems to me to be at variance with its, express terms and with what must have been within the contemplation of the parties when it was entered into. The promise not to authorize any other railroad between Washington and Richmond, or for any part of that distance, the probable effect of which would be to diminish the number of passengers travelling on the complainants' railroad is absolute and unqualified. It contains no reservation in favor of parties who have been instrumental in bringing that travel to thė complainants' road.“ It extends over the period of thirty years, and applies to the travel actually existing thereon during every part of that period, to whatever causes its existence there may be attributable. It must have been contemplated by the parties that the number of travellers on the complainants road would increase during the long period of thirty years; it must have been known to them that this increase would be likely to arise, among other causes, from the increased number of passengers coming laterally to the line, in consequence of the construction of other railroads, as well as from increased facilities of access by other means. They enter into a contract which by its terms protects this increased travel during the whole period, and by whatever causes produced, just as much as it protects the travel existing during the first month after the opening of the road. How then can we engraft upon the contract an exception not found there, and say, that when it speaks generally of passengers travelling upon the road, it does not mean passengers which another railroad corporation has brought there? I am unable to see why not, as much as if a steamboat or stage company had brought them. In my opinion this class of pas. sengers on the complainants' road, are as truly within the contract as any others; and à railroad, the object of which is to take away this class of passengers from the complainants' road, is one which the State has promised it would not authorize to be built. - Parties may agree; not only on the substantial rights to be protected, but on the particular mode of protecting them; and if they do agree on a particular mode, it becomes a part of their contract, which each party have a just right to have executed. In this compact the parties have agreed on the mode of protection. It is that the State will not authorize to be built any other railroad, which would probably have tie effect to diminish the The Richmond, &c. Railroad Co. v. The Louisa Railroad Co.
number of passengers on the complainants' road. It is the right to construct, and not the right to use which the contract restrains. To say that the State may properly authorize a road to be built, the purpose of which is to carry passengers, and thus diminish the number of passengers on the complainants' road, but that the road thus authorized must not be used to the injury of the complainants' rights, is to strike out of the con. tract the stipulation that such a road should not be authorized to be built. The power of the State to enable a corporation to build another road to carry merchandise only, seems to me to have nothing to do with this question. When the legislature shall adjudge that the public convenience requires another railroad there, to carry merchandise only, and that therefore the power of eminent domain may be exercised to build it, and when a company is found ready to accept such a charter, and risk their funds in its construction, then a case will arise under the power of the legislature to authorize a road for the transportion of merchandise only. But in the law now in question the legislature has not so adjudged; no such charter has been granted, or accepted, and no such road built; but one which the State is by its own promise restrained from authorizing. It seems quite aside from the true inquiry, therefore, to urge that the State might have empowered a company to make a railroad on which to transport merchandise only; for it has not done so.
It has been suggested by one of the defendants' counsel, that though the power of the legislature to enter into a compact for some exclusive privileges is not denied, yet that the legislature had not power to grant such privileges as are here claimed by the complainants, and therefore the State is not bound thereby. This is rested not upon any express restriction on the powers of the legislature, contained in the Constitution of Virginia, but upon limitations resulting by necessary implication from the nature of the delegated power confided by the people of that State to their government. But if, as must be, and is admitted, it is one of the powers incident to a sovereign State to make grants of rights, corporeal and incorporeal, for the promotion of the public good, it necessarily follows that the legislature must judge how extensive the public good requires those rights to be. Whether the State shall grant one acre of land, or one thousand acres ; whether it shall stipulate for the enjoyment of an incorporeal right, in fee, for life or years; whether that incorporeal right shall extend to one, or more subjects; and what shall be deemed a fit consideration for the grant in either case, is intrusted to the discretion of the legislative power, when that discretion is not rerestrained by the constitution under which it acts. This has been the interpretation by all courts, and the practice under all
The Richmond, &c. Railroad Co. v. The Louisa Railroad Co.
constitutions in the country so far as I know, and it seems to me to be correct. See Piscataqua Bridge, v. New Hamp. Bridge, 7 N. H. Rep. 35, and cases there cited; Enfield Bridge, v. The Hart. & N. H. R. R. Co., 17 Conn. R. 40; Washington Bridge v. State, 18 Conn. R. 53.
It remains to consider whether this court has jurisdiction to reverse the decision of the State court.
The Court of Appeals having refused to entertain an appeal, the superior Court of Chancery of the Richmond Circuit, was the highest court of the State, to which the complainants could carry the case ; and it is to the decision of that court we must look. The questions are whether that court erroneously decided against a right claimed by the complainants under the Constitution of the United States, and whether the bill was dismissed by reason of that erroneous decision. The points decided are set out with great clearness upon the face of the decree. Their substance is, that the construction of this extension road is law. ful, the legislature having power to authorize it; that it may lawfully be used for the transportation of passengers, who, but for the existence of the Louisa road would never have come on to the line of the Fredericksburg road; that whether the Louisa Company will use the extension for the transportation of any other passengers, and thus infringe complainants' rights, does not appear; when the supposed case shall occur, it may be proper to interfere by injunction, if, upon the facts of that case as they shall appear, there is not a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law.
It is clear, then, that the Chancellor decided, against the right claimed by the complainants, under the Constitution, that this extension should not be constructed. In my opinion, this decision was erroneous. It is clear, also, that he decided against their right, under the Constitution, to be protected in the enjoyment of the passenger travel coming upon their road, in consequence of the existence of the Louisa road. I think this was also erroneous. By reason of these decisions the bill was dismissed. They left nothing but a case of contingent damage, which would not happen at all, if the Louisa Company should carry only the passengers coming upon the line of the complainants' railroad by reason of the existence of the Louisa road; there was no certainty to what extent, or under which circumstances, or whether at all, the complainants' rights would be infringed.
Upon these views of the contract of the State, and the rights of the complainants, it necessarily followed that the bill was to be dismissed; for equity would not interfere in a case where the defendants had valuable rights and powers, which they might not
Parish et al. v. Murphree et al.
exceed, and which they ought not to be restrained from exercising. But on the other hand if the defendants had no such rights, or powers; if they were claiming them and about to exercise them, in a manner certain to inflict great and continuing injury on the complainants, the extent of which injury a court of law could not fully ascertain, and could redress, even partially, only by a great multiplicity of suits, then no court of chancery would hesitate to grant relief. It is certain therefore that this bill was dismissed, by reason of, what I consider, the erroneous views taken by the chancellor, of the rights claimed by the complainant under the Constitution of the United States.
It has been argued that by the local law of Virginia, contained in the general railroad act of that State, the chancellor had not jurisdiction to grant an injunction to restrain the construction of the extension road. If the chancellor had so decided and dismissed the bill, for that reason this court could not reverse that decision. But he did not so decide ; and I cannot infer that he would so decide if this case were to be remanded, because I am of opinion that the statute relied on has no application to this case.
My opinion is that the decree of the Superior Court of Chancery should be reversed and the case remanded, with such directions as would secure to the complainants the remedy to which they are entitled, to prevent the violation of rights, secured to them by the Constitution of the United States.
Order. This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Court of Appeals of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, it is now here ordered, adjudged, and decreed, by this court, that the decree of the said Court of Appeals in this cause be, and the same is hereby affirmed with costs.
Henry Parish, Daniel Parish, Leroy M. Wiley, John R.
MARSHALL, THOMAS P. NORRIS, AND THOMAS PARISH, MERCHANTS AND PARTNERS TRADING UNDER THE FIRM AND STYLE OF Parisa & Co., APPELLANTS, v. Caleb MurPHREE, ADMINIS. TRATOR of GEORGE GOFFE, DECEASED; LOUISA C. Goffe, Thomas Williams, Jr., John H. HENDERSON, TRUSTEE, &c., MARTHA LUCY, ADDISON BOYKIN AND WIFE, ELIZABETA G. GOFFE, Calvin NORRIS, AND David STRODER.
The Statute of Frauds in the State of Alabaina declares void conveyances made for
the purpose of hindering or defrauding creditors of their just debts.