|Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States
100 U.S. 1
173 Fed. Rep. 177, modified and affirmed.
[ White ]
[ Harlan ]
Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurring in part, and dissenting in part.
A sense of duty constrains me to express the objections which I have to certain declarations in the opinion just delivered on behalf of the court.
I concur in holding that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and its subsidiary companies constitute a combination in restraint of interstate commerce, and that they have attempted to monopolize and have monopolized parts of such commerce -- all in violation of what is known as the Anti-Trust Act of 1890. 26 Stat. 209, c. 647. The evidence in this case overwhelmingly sustained that view, and led the Circuit Court, by its final decree, to order the dissolution of the New Jersey corporation and the discontinuance of the illegal combination between that corporation and its subsidiary companies.
In my judgment, the decree below should have been affirmed without qualification. But the court, while affirming the decree, directs some modifications in respect of what it characterizes as "minor matters." It is to be apprehended that those modifications may prove to be mischievous. In saying this, I have particularly, in view the statement in the opinion that
it does not necessarily follow that, because an illegal restraint of trade or an attempt to monopolize or a monopolization resulted from the combination and the transfer of the stocks of the subsidiary corporations to the New Jersey corporation, [p83] that a like restraint of trade or attempt to monopolize or monopolization would necessarily arise from agreements between one or more of the subsidiary corporations after the transfer of the stock by the New Jersey corporation.
Taking this language in connection with other parts of the opinion, the subsidiary companies are thus, in effect, informed -- unwisely, I think -- that, although the New Jersey corporation, being an illegal combination, must go out of existence, they may join in an agreement to restrain commerce among the States if such restraint be not "undue."
In order that my objections to certain parts of the court's opinion may distinctly appear, I must state the circumstances under which Congress passed the Antitrust Act, and trace the course of judicial decisions as to its meaning and scope. This is the more necessary because the court by its decision, when interpreted by the language of its opinion, has not only upset the long-settled interpretation of the act, but has usurped the constitutional functions of the legislative branch of the Government. With all due respect for the opinions of others, I feel bound to say that what the court has said may well cause some alarm for the integrity of our institutions. Let us see how the matter stands.
All who recall the condition of the country in 1890 will remember that there was everywhere, among the people generally, a deep feeling of unrest. The Nation had been rid of human slavery -- fortunately, as all now feel -- but the conviction was universal that the country was in real danger from another kind of slavery sought to be fastened on the American people, namely, the slavery that would result from aggregations of capital in the hands of a few individuals and corporations controlling, for their own profit and advantage exclusively, the entire business of the country, including the production and sale of the necessaries of life. Such a danger was thought to be then [p84] imminent, and all felt that it must be met firmly and by such statutory regulations as would adequately protect the people against oppression and wrong. Congress therefore took up the matter and gave the whole subject the fullest consideration. All agreed that the National Government could not, by legislation, regulate the domestic trade carried on wholly within the several States, for power to regulate such trade remained with, because never surrendered by, the States. But, under authority expressly granted to it by the Constitution, Congress could regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign states. Its authority to regulate such commerce was and is paramount, due force being given to other provisions of the fundamental law devised by the fathers for the safety of the Government and for the protection and security of the essential rights inhering in life, liberty and property.
Guided by these considerations, and to the end that the people, so far as interstate commerce was concerned, might not be dominated by vast combinations and monopolies, having power to advance their own selfish ends, regardless of the general interests and welfare, Congress passed the Anti-Trust Act of 1890 in these words (the italics here and elsewhere in this opinion are mine):
SEC. 1. Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court. § 2. Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, [p85] to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court. § 3. Every contract, combination in form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce in any Territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia, or in restraint of trade or commerce between any such Territory and another, or between any such Territory or Territories and any State or States or the District of Columbia, or with foreign nations, or between the District of Columbia and any State or States or foreign nations, is hereby declared illegal. Every person who shall make any such contract or engage in any such combination or conspiracy, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding one year, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.
26 Stat. 209, c. 647.
The important inquiry in the present case is as to the meaning and scope of that act in its application to interstate commerce.
In 1896, this court had occasion to determine the meaning and scope of the act in an important case known as the Trans-Missouri Freight Case. 166 U.S. 290. The question there was as to the validity under the Anti-Trust Act of a certain agreement between numerous railroad companies whereby they formed an association for the purpose of establishing and maintaining rates, rules and regulations in respect of freight traffic over specified routes. Two questions were involved: first, whether the act applied to railroad carriers; second, whether the agreement the annulment of which as illegal was the basis of the suit which the United States brought. The court [p86] held that railroad carriers were embraced by the act. In determining that question, the court, among other things, said:
The language of the act includes every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations. So far as the very terms of the statute go, they apply to any contract of the nature described. A contract therefore that is in restraint of trade or commerce is, by the strict language of the act, prohibited, even though such contract is entered into between competing common carriers by railroad, and only for the purposes of thereby affecting traffic rates for the transportation of persons and property. If such an agreement restrains trade or commerce, it is prohibited by the statute unless it can be said that an agreement, no matter what its terms, relating only to transportation cannot restrain trade or commerce. We see no escape from the conclusion that if an agreement of such a nature does restrain it, the agreement is condemned by this act. . . . Nor is it for the substantial interests of the country that any one commodity should be within the sole power and subject to the sole will of one powerful combination of capital. Congress has, so far as its jurisdiction extends, prohibited all contracts or combinations in the form of trusts entered into for the purpose of restraining trade and commerce. . . . While the statute prohibits all combinations in the form of trusts or otherwise, the limitation is not confined to that form alone. All combinations which are in restraint of trade or commerce are prohibited, whether in the form of trusts or in any other form whatever.
United States v. Freight Assn., 166 U.S. 290, 312, 324, 326.
The court then proceeded to consider the second of the above questions, saying:
The next question to be discussed is as to what is the true construction of the statute, [p87] assuming that it applies to common carriers by railroad. What is the meaning of the language as used in the statute, that
every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal?
Is it confined to a contract or combination which is only in unreasonable restraint of trade or commerce, or does it include what the language of the act plainly and in terms covers, all contracts of that nature? It is now, with much amplification of argument, urged that the statute, in declaring illegal every combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce, does not mean what the language used therein plainly imports, but that it only means to declare illegal any such contract which is in unreasonable restraint of trade, while leaving all others unaffected by the provisions of the act; that the common law meaning of the term "contract in restraint of trade" includes only such contracts as are in unreasonable restraint of trade, and, when that term is used in the Federal statute, it is not intended to include all contracts in restraint of trade, but only those which are in unreasonable restraint thereof. . . . By the simple use of the term "contract in restraint of trade," all contracts of that nature, whether valid or otherwise, would be included, and not alone that kind of contract which was invalid and unenforceable as being in unreasonable restraint of trade. When, therefore, the body of an act pronounces as illegal every contract or combination in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, etc., the plain and ordinary meaning of such language is not limited to that kind of contract alone which is is unreasonable restraint of trade, but all contracts are included in such language, and no exception or limitation can be added without placing in the act that which has been omitted by Congress. . . . If only that kind of contract [p88] which is in unreasonable restraint of trade be within the meaning of the statute, and declared therein to be illegal, it is at once apparent that the subject of what is a reasonable rate is attended with great uncertainty. . . . To say, therefore, that the act excludes agreements which are not in unreasonable restraint of trade, and which tend simply to keep up reasonable rates for transportation, is substantially to leave the question of unreasonableness to the companies themselves. . . . But assuming that agreements of this nature are not void at common law, and that the various cases cited by the learned courts below show it, the answer to the statement of their validity now is to be found in the terms of the statute under consideration. . . . The arguments which have been addressed to us against the inclusion of all contracts in restraint of trade, as provided for by the language of the act, have been based upon the alleged presumption that Congress, notwithstanding the language of the act, could not have intended to embrace all contracts, but only such contracts as were in unreasonable restraint of trade. Under these circumstances, we are, therefore, asked to hold that the act of Congress excepts contracts which are not in unreasonable restraint of trade, and which only keep rates up to a reasonable price, notwithstanding the language of the act makes no such exception. In other words, we are asked to read into the act by way of judicial legislation an exception that is not placed there by the lawmaking branch of the Government, and this is to be done upon the theory that the impolicy of such legislation is so clear that it cannot be supposed Congress intended the natural import of the language it used. This we cannot and ought not to do.
If the act ought to read as contended for by defendants, Congress is the body to amend it, and not this court, by a process of judicial legislation wholly unjustifiable. Large numbers do not agree that the view taken by defendants [p89] is sound or true in substance, and Congress may and very probably did share in that belief in passing the act. The public policy of the Government is to be found in its statutes, and when they have not directly spoken, then in the decisions of the courts and the constant practice of the government officials; but when the lawmaking power speaks upon a particular subject, over which it has constitutional power to legislate, public policy in such a case is what the statute enacts. If the law prohibit any contract or combination in restraint of trade or commerce, a contract or combination made in violation of such law is void, whatever may have been theretofore decided by the courts to have been the public policy of the country on that subject. The conclusion which we have drawn from the examination above made into the question before us is that the Anti-Trust Act applies to railroads, and that it renders illegal all agreements which are in restraint of trade or commerce as we have above defined that expression, and the question then arises whether the agreement before us is of that nature.
I have made these extended extracts from the opinion of the court in the Trans-Missouri Freight Case in order to show beyond question that the point was there urged by counsel that the Anti-Trust Act condemned only contracts, combinations, trusts and conspiracies that were in unreasonable restraint of interstate commerce, and that the court, in clear and decisive language, met that point. It adjudged that Congress had in unequivocal words declared that "every contract, combination, in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of commerce among the several States" shall be illegal, and that no distinction, so far as interstate commerce was concerned, was to be tolerated between restraints of such commerce as were undue or unreasonable and restraints that were due or reasonable. With full knowledge of the then condition of the country and of its business, Congress determined [p90] to meet, and did meet, the situation by an absolute, statutory prohibition of "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, in restraint of trade or commerce." Still more; in response to the suggestion by able counsel that Congress intended only to strike down such contracts, combinations and monopolies as unreasonably restrained interstate commerce, this court, in words too clear to be misunderstood, said that to so hold was "to read into the act, by way of judicial legislation, an exception not placed there by the lawmaking branch of the Government." "This," the court said, as we have seen, "we cannot and ought not to do."
It thus appears that, fifteen years ago, when the purpose of Congress in passing the Anti-Trust Act was fresh in the minds of courts, lawyers, statesmen and the general public, this court expressly declined to indulge in judicial legislation by inserting in the act the word "unreasonable" or any other word of like import. It may be stated here that the country at large accepted this view of the act, and the Federal courts throughout the entire country enforced its provisions according to the interpretation given in the Freight Association Case. What, then, was to be done by those who questioned the soundness of the interpretation placed on the act by this court in that case? As the court had decided that to insert the word "unreasonable" in the act would be "judicial legislation" on its part, the only alternative left to those who opposed the decision in that case was to induce Congress to so amend the act as to recognize the right to restrain interstate commerce to a reasonable extent. The public press, magazines and law journals, the debates in Congress, speeches and addresses by public men and jurists, all contain abundant evidence of the general understanding that the meaning, extent and scope of the Anti-Trust Act had been judicially determined by this court, and that the only question remaining open for discussion was the [p91] wisdom of the policy declared by the act -- a matter that was exclusively within the cognizance of Congress. But at every session of Congress since the decision of 1896, the lawmaking branch of the Government, with full knowledge of that decision, has refused to change the policy it had declared, or to so amend the act of 1890 as to except from its operation contracts, combinations and trusts that reasonably restrain interstate commerce.
But those who were in combinations that were illegal did not despair. They at once set up the baseless claim that the decision of 1896 disturbed the "business interests of the country," and let it be known that they would never be content until the rule was established that would permit interstate commerce to be subjected to reasonable restraints. Finally, an opportunity came again to raise the same question which this court had, upon full consideration, determined in 1896. I now allude to the case of United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U.S. 505, decided in 1898. What was that case?
It was a suit by the United States against more than thirty railroad companies to have the court declare illegal, under the Anti-Trust Act, a certain agreement between these companies. The relief asked was denied in the subordinate Federal courts, and the Government brought the case here.
It is important to state the points urged in that case by the defendant companies charged with violating the Anti-Trust Act, and to show that the court promptly met them. To that end, I make a copious extract from the opinion in the Joint Traffic Case. Among other things, the court said:
Upon comparing that agreement [the one in the Joint Traffic Case, then under consideration, 171 U.S. 505] with the one set forth in the case of United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, 166 U.S. 290, the great similarity between them suggests that a similar result should be reached in the two cases.
(P. 558). [p92] Learned counsel in the Joint Traffic Case urged a reconsideration of the question decided in the Trans-Missouri Case, contending that "the decision in that case [the Trans-Missouri Freight Case] is quite plainly erroneous, and the consequences of such error are far-reaching and disastrous, and clearly at war with justice and sound policy, and the construction placed upon the Anti-Trust statute has been received by the public with surprise and alarm." They suggested that the point made in the Joint Traffic Case as to the meaning and scope of the act might have been, but was not, made in the previous case. The court said (171 U.S. 559) that
the report of the Trans-Missouri Case clearly shows not only that the point now taken was there urged upon the attention of the court, but it was then intentionally and necessarily decided.
The question whether the court should again consider the point decided in the Trans-Missouri Case, 171 U.S. 573, was disposed of in the most decisive language, as follows:
Finally, we are asked to reconsider the question decided in the Trans-Missouri Case, and to retrace the steps taken therein, because of the plain error contained in that decision and the widespread alarm with which it was received and the serious consequences which have resulted, or may soon result, from the law as interpreted in that case. It is proper to remark that an application for a reconsideration of a question but lately decided by this court is usually based upon a statement that some of the arguments employed on the original hearing of the question have been overlooked or misunderstood, or that some controlling authority has been either misapplied by the court or passed over without discussion or notice. While this is not strictly an application for a rehearing in the same case, yet, in substance, it is the same thing. The court is asked to reconsider a question but just decided after a careful investigation of the matter involved. There have heretofore been in effect two arguments of precisely the same [p93] questions now before the court, and the same arguments were addressed to us on both those occasions. The report of the Trans-Missouri Case shows a dissenting opinion delivered in that case, and that the opinion was concurred in by three other members of the court. That opinion, it will be seen, gives with great force and ability the arguments against the decision which was finally arrived at by the court. It was after a full discussion of the questions involved, and with the knowledge of the views entertained by the minority as expressed in the dissenting opinion, that the majority of the court came to the conclusion it did. Soon after the decision, a petition for a rehearing of the case was made, supported by a printed argument in its favor, and pressed with an earnestness and vigor and at a length which were certainly commensurate with the importance of the case. This court, with care and deliberation and also with a full appreciation of their importance, again considered the questions involved in its former decision. A majority of the court once more arrived at the conclusion it had first announced, and accordingly it denied the application. And now, for the third time, the same arguments are employed and the court is again asked to recant its former opinion and to decide the same question in direct opposition to the conclusion arrived at in the Trans-Missouri Case. The learned counsel, while making the application, frankly confess that the argument in opposition to the decision in the case above named has been so fully, so clearly, and so forcibly presented in the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice White [in the Freight Case] that it is hardly possible to add to it, nor is it necessary to repeat it. The fact that there was so close a division of opinion in this court when the matter was first under advisement, together with the different views taken by some of the judges of the lower courts, led us to the most careful and scrutinizing examination of the arguments advanced by both sides, and it was after such an examination that the majority of [p94] the court came to the conclusion it did. It is not now alleged that the court on the former occasion overlooked any argument for the respondents or misapplied any controlling authority. It is simply insisted that the court, notwithstanding the arguments for an opposite view, arrived at an erroneous result, which, for reasons already stated, ought to be reconsidered and reversed. As we have twice already deliberately and earnestly considered the same arguments which are now for a third time pressed upon our attention, it could hardly be expected that our opinion should now change from that already expressed.
These utterances, taken in connection with what was previously said in the Trans-Missouri Freight Case, show so clearly and affirmatively as to admit of no doubt that this court, many years ago, upon the fullest consideration, interpreted the Anti-Trust Act as prohibiting and making illegal not only every contract or combination, in whatever form, which was in restraint of interstate commerce, without regard to its reasonableness or unreasonableness, but all monopolies or attempts to monopolize "any part" of such trade or commerce. Let me refer to a few other cases in which the scope of the decision in the Freight Association Case was referred to: in Bement v. National Harrow Co., 186 U.S. 70, 92, the court said:
It is true that it has been held by this court that the act (Anti-Trust Act) included any restraint of commerce, whether reasonable or unreasonable
-- citing United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Asso., 166 U.S. 290; United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U.S. 505; Addyston Pipe &c. Co. v. United States, 175 U.S. 211. In Montague v. Lowry, 193 U.S. 38, 46, which involved the validity, under the Anti-Trust Act, of a certain association formed for the sale of tiles, mantels, and grates, the court referring to the contention that the sale of tiles in San Francisco was so small "as to be a negligible quantity," held that the association was nevertheless a combination in restraint of interstate trade or commerce [p95] in violation of the Anti-Trust Act. In Loewe v.Lawlor, 208 U.S. 274, 297, all the members of this court concurred in saying that the Trans-Missouri, Joint Traffic and Northern Securities cases "hold, in effect, that the Antitrust Law has a broader application than the prohibition of restraints of trade unlawful at common law." In Shawnee Compress Co. v. Anderson (1907), 209 U.S. 423, 432, 434, all the members of the court again concurred in declaring that
it has been decided that not only unreasonable, but all direct restraints of trade are prohibited, the law being thereby distinguished from the common law.
In United States v. Addyston Pipe Company, 85 Fed.Rep. 271, 278, Judge Taft, speaking for the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, said that, according to the decision of this court in the Freight Association Case,
contracts in restraint of interstate transportation were within the statute, whether the restraints could be regarded as reasonable at common law or not.
In Chesapeake & Ohio Fuel Co. v. United States (1902), 115 Fed.Rep. 610, 619, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, after referring to the right of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, thus interpreted the prior decisions of this court in the Trans-Missouri, the Joint Traffic, and the Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. cases:
In the exercise of this right, Congress has seen fit to prohibit all contracts in restraint of trade. It has not left to the courts the consideration of the question whether such restraint is reasonable or unreasonable, or whether the contract would have been illegal at the common law or not. The act leaves for consideration by judicial authority no question of this character, but all contracts and combinations are declared illegal if in restraint of trade or commerce among the States.
As far back as Robbins v. Shelby Taxing District, 120 U.S. 489, 497, it was held that certain local regulations, subjecting drummers engaged in both interstate and domestic trade, could not be sustained by reason of the fact that no discrimination [p96] was made among citizens of the different States. The court observed that this did not meet the difficulty, for the reason that "interstate commerce cannot be taxed at all." Under this view, Congress no doubt acted when, by the Antitrust Act, it forbade any restraint whatever upon interstate commerce. It manifestly proceeded upon the theory that interstate commerce could not be restrained at all by combinations, trusts or monopolies, but must be allowed to flow in its accustomed channels, wholly unvexed and unobstructed by anything that would restrain its ordinary movement. See also Minnesota v. Barber, 136 U.S. 313, 326; Brimner v. Rebman, 138 U.S. 78, 82, 83.
In the opinion delivered on behalf of the minority in the Northern Securities Case, 193 U.S. 197, our present Chief Justice referred to the contentions made by the defendants in the Freight Association Case, one of which was that the agreement there involved did not unreasonably restrain interstate commerce, and said:
Both these contentions were decided against the association, the court holding that the Anti-Trust Act did embrace interstate carriage by railroad corporations, and, as that act prohibited any contract in restraint of interstate commerce, it hence embraced all contracts of that character, whether they were reasonable or unreasonable.
One of the Justices who dissented in the Northern Securities Case in a separate opinion, concurred in by the minority, thus referred to the Freight and Joint Traffic cases:
For it cannot be too carefully remembered that that clause applies to "every" contract of the forbidden kind -- a consideration which was the turning point of the Trans-Missouri Freight Association case. . . . Size has nothing to do with the matter. A monopoly of "any part" of commerce among the States is unlawful.
In this connection, it may be well to refer to the adverse report made in 1909, by Senator Nelson, on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in reference to a certain bill [p97] offered in the Senate and which proposed to amend the Anti-Trust Act in various particulars. That report contains a full, careful and able analysis of judicial decisions relating to combinations and monopolies in restraint of trade and commerce. Among other things said in it which bear on the questions involved in the present case are these:
The Anti-Trust Act makes it a criminal offense to violate the law, and provides a punishment both by fine and imprisonment. To inject into the act the question of whether an agreement or combination is reasonable or unreasonable would render the act as a criminal or penal statute indefinite and uncertain, and hence, to that extent, utterly nugatory and void, and would practically amount to a repeal of that part of the act. . . . And while the same technical objection does not apply to civil prosecutions, the injection of the rule of reasonableness or unreasonableness would lead to the greatest variableness and uncertainty in the enforcement of the law. The defense of reasonable restraint would be made in every case, and there would be as many different rules of reasonableness as cases, courts and juries. What one court or jury might deem unreasonable, another court or jury might deem reasonable. A court or jury in Ohio might find a given agreement or combination reasonable, while a court and jury in Wisconsin might find the same agreement and combination unreasonable. In the case of People v. Sheldon, 139 N.Y. 264, Chief Justice Andrews remarks:
If agreements and combinations to prevent competition in prices are or may be hurtful to trade, the only sure remedy is to prohibit all agreements of that character. If the validity of such an agreement was made to depend upon actual proof of public prejudice or injury, it would be very difficult in any case to establish the invalidity, although the moral evidence might be very convincing. . . .
To amend the Anti-Trust Act, as suggested by this bill, would be to entirely emasculate it, and for all practical purposes render it nugatory as a remedial [p98] statute. Criminal prosecutions would not lie, and civil remedies would labor under the greatest doubt and uncertainty. The act as it exists is clear, comprehensive, certain and highly remedial. It practically covers the field of Federal jurisdiction, and is in every respect a model law. To destroy or undermine it at the present juncture, when combinations are on the increase, and appear to be as oblivious as ever of the rights of the public, would be a calamity.
The result was the indefinite postponement by the Senate of any further consideration of the proposed amendments of the Anti-Trust Act.
After what has been adjudged, upon full consideration, as to the meaning and scope of the Anti-Trust Act, and in view of the usages of this court when attorneys for litigants have attempted to reopen questions that have been deliberately decided, I confess to no little surprise as to what has occurred in the present case. The court says that the previous cases, above cited,
cannot by any possible conception be treated as authoritative without the certitude that reason was resorted to for the purpose of deciding them.
And its opinion is full of intimations that this court proceeded in those cases, so far as the present question is concerned, without being guided by the "rule of reason," or "the light of reason." It is more than once intimated, if not suggested, that, if the Anti-Trust Act is to be construed as prohibiting every contract or combination, of whatever nature, which is, in fact, in restraint of commerce, regardless of the reasonableness or unreasonableness of such restraint, that fact would show that the court had not proceeded, in its decision, according to "the light of reason," but had disregarded the "rule of reason." If the court, in those cases, was wrong in its construction of the act, it is certain that it fully apprehended the views advanced by learned counsel in previous cases and pronounced them to be untenable. The published reports place this beyond all question. The opinion of the court [p99] was delivered by a Justice of wide experience as a judicial officer, and the court had before it the Attorney General of the United States and lawyers who were recognized, on all sides, as great leaders in their profession. The same eminent jurist who delivered the opinion in the Trans-Missouri Case delivered the opinion in the Joint Traffic Association Case, and the Association in that case was represented by lawyers whose ability was universally recognized. Is it to be supposed that any point escaped notice in those cases when we think of the sagacity of the Justice who expressed the views of the court, or of the ability of the profound, astute lawyers, who sought such an interpretation of the act as would compel the court to insert words in the statute which Congress had not put there, and the insertion of which words, would amount to "judicial legislation"? Now this court is asked to do that which it has distinctly declared it could not and would not do, and has now done what it then said it could not constitutionally do. It has, by mere interpretation, modified the act of Congress, and deprived it of practical value as a defensive measure against the evils to be remedied. On reading the opinion just delivered, the first inquiry will be that, as the court is unanimous in holding that the particular things done by the standard Oil Company and its subsidiary companies in this case were illegal under the Anti-Trust Act, whether those things were in reasonable or unreasonable restraint of interstate commerce, why was it necessary to make an elaborate argument, as is done in the opinion, to show that, according to the "rule of reason," the act as passed by Congress should be interpreted as if it contained the word "unreasonable" or the word "undue"? The only answer which, in frankness, can be given to this question is that the court intends to decide that its deliberate judgment, fifteen years ago, to the effect that the act permitted no restraint whatever of interstate commerce, whether reasonable or unreasonable, was not in accordance with [p100] the "rule of reason." In effect, the court says that it will now, for the first time, bring the discussion under the "light of reason" and apply the "rule of reason" to the questions to be decided. I have the authority of this court for saying that such a course of proceeding on its part would be "judicial legislation."
Still more, what is now done involves a serious departure from the settled usages of this court. Counsel have not ordinarily been allowed to discuss questions already settled by previous decisions. More than once at the present term, that rule has been applied. In St. Louis, I. M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Taylor, 210 U.S. 281, 295, the court had occasion to determine the meaning and scope of the original safety Appliance Act of Congress passed for the protection of railroad employes and passengers on interstate trains. 27 Stat. 531, § 5, c.196. A particular construction of that act was insisted upon by the interstate carrier which was sued under the Safety Appliance Act, and the contention was that a different construction than the one insisted upon by the carrier would be a harsh one. After quoting the words of the act, Mr. Justice Moody said for the court:
There is no escape from the meaning of these words. Explanation cannot clarify them, and ought not to be employed to confuse them or lessen their significance. The obvious purpose of the legislature was to supplant the qualified duty of the common law with an absolute duty deemed by it more just. If the railroad does, in point of fact, use cars which do not comply with the standard, it violates the plain prohibitions of the law, and there arises from that violation the liability to make compensation to one who is injured by it. It is urged that this is a harsh construction. To this we reply that, if it be the true construction, its harshness is no concern of the courts. They have no responsibility for the justice or wisdom of legislation, and no duty except to enforce the law as it is written, unless it is clearly beyond the constitutional power of the lawmaking [p101] body. . . . It is quite conceivable that Congress, contemplating the inevitable hardship of such injuries and hoping to diminish the economic loss to the community resulting from them, should deem it wise to impose their burdens upon those who could measurably control their causes, instead of upon those who are in the main helpless in that regard. Such a policy would be intelligible, and, to say the least, not so unreasonable as to require us to doubt that it was intended, and to seek some unnatural interpretation of common words. We see no error in this part of the case.
And at the present term of this court, we were asked, in a case arising under the Safety Appliance Act, to reconsider the question decided in the Taylor case. We declined to do so, saying in an opinion just now handed down:
In view of these facts, we are unwilling to regard the question as to the meaning and scope of the Safety Appliance Act, so far as it relates to automatic couplers on trains moving in interstate traffic, as open to further discussion here. If the court was wrong in the Taylor case, the way is open for such an amendment of the statute as Congress may, in its discretion, deem proper. This court ought not now to disturb what has been so widely accepted and acted upon by the courts as having been decided in that case. A contrary course would cause infinite uncertainty, if not mischief, in the administration of the law in the Federal courts. To avoid misapprehension, it is appropriate to say that we are not to be understood as questioning the soundness of the interpretation heretofore placed by this court upon the Safety Appliance Act. We only mean to say that, until Congress, by an amendment of the statute, changes the rule announced in the Taylor Case, this court will adhere to and apply that rule.
C., B. & Q. Ry. Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 559. When counsel in the present case insisted upon a reversal of the former rulings of this court, and asked such an interpretation of the Anti-Trust Act as would allow reasonable restraints of interstate commerce, this [p102] court, in deference to established practice, should, I submit, have said to them:
That question, according to our practice, is not open for further discussion here. This court long ago deliberately held (1) that the act, interpreting its words in their ordinary acceptation, prohibits all restraints of interstate commerce by combinations in whatever form, and whether reasonable or unreasonable; (2) the question relates to matters of public policy in reference to commerce among the States and with foreign nations, and Congress alone can deal with the subject; (3) this court would encroach upon the authority of Congress if, under the guise of construction, it should assume to determine a matter of public policy; (4) the parties must go to Congress and obtain an amendment of the Anti-Trust Act if they think this court was wrong in its former decisions, and (5) this court cannot and will not judicially legislate, since its function is to declare the law, while it belongs to the legislative department to make the law. Such a course, I am sure, would not have offended the "rule of reason."
But my brethren, in their wisdom, have deemed it best to pursue a different course. They have now said to those who condemn our former decisions and who object to all legislative prohibitions of contracts, combinations and trusts in restraint of interstate commerce, "You may now restrain such commerce, provided you are reasonable about it; only take care that the restraint in not undue." The disposition of the case under consideration according to the views of the defendants will, it is claimed, quiet and give rest to "the business of the country." On the contrary, I have a strong conviction that it will throw the business of the country into confusion and invite widely extended and harassing litigation the injurious effects of which will be felt for many years to come. When Congress prohibited every contract, combination or monopoly in restraint of commerce, it prescribed a simple, definite rule that all could understand, and which could be easily applied [p103] by everyone wishing to obey the law, and not to conduct their business in violation of law. But now, it is to be feared, we are to have, in cases without number, the constantly recurring inquiry -- difficult to solve by proof -- whether the particular contract, combination, or trust involved in each case is or is not an "unreasonable" or "undue" restraint of trade. Congress, in effect, said that there should be no restraint of trade, in any form, and this court solemnly adjudged many years ago that Congress meant what it thus said in clear and explicit words, and that it could not add to the words of the act. But those who condemn the action of Congress are now, in effect, informed that the courts will allow such restraints of interstate commerce as are shown not to be unreasonable or undue.
It remains for me to refer, more fully than I have heretofore done, to another, and, in my judgment -- if we look to the future -- the most important aspect of this case. That aspect concerns the usurpation by the judicial branch of the Government of the functions of the legislative department. The illustrious men who laid the foundations of our institutions, deemed no part of the National Constitution of more consequence or more essential to the permanency of our form of government than the provisions under which were distributed the powers of Government among three separate, equal and coordinate departments -- legislative, executive, and judicial. This was at that time a new feature of governmental regulation among the nations of the earth, and it is deemed by the people of every section of our own country as most vital in the workings of a representative republic whose Constitution was ordained and established in order to accomplish the objects stated in its Preamble by the means, but only by the means, provided either expressly or by necessary implication, by the instrument itself. No department of that government can constitutionally exercise the [p104] powers committed strictly to another and separate department.
I said at the outset that the action of the court in this case might well alarm thoughtful men who reversed the Constitution. I meant by this that many things are intimated and said in the court's opinion which will not be regarded otherwise than as sanctioning an invasion by the judiciary of the constitutional domain of Congress -- an attempt by interpretation to soften or modify what some regard as a harsh public policy. This court, let me repeat, solemnly adjudged many years ago that it could not, except by "judicial legislation," read words into the Anti-Trust Act not put there by Congress, and which, being inserted, give it a meaning which the words of the Act, as passed, if properly interpreted, would not justify. The court has decided that it could not thus change a public policy formulated and declared by Congress; that Congress has paramount authority to regulate interstate commerce, and that it alone can change a policy once inaugurated by legislation. The courts have nothing to do with the wisdom or policy of an act of Congress. Their duty is to ascertain the will of Congress, and if the statute embodying the expression of that will is constitutional, the courts must respect it. They have no function to declare a public policy, nor to amend legislative enactments. "What is termed the policy of the Government with reference to any particular legislation," as this court has said,
is generally a very uncertain thing, upon which all sorts of opinions, each variant from the other, may be formed by different persons. It is a ground much too unstable upon which to rest the judgment of the court in the interpretation of statutes.
Hadden v. Collector, 5 Wall. 107. Nevertheless, if I do not misapprehend its opinion, the court has now read into the act of Congress words which are not to be found there, and has thereby done that which it adjudged in 1896 and 1898 could not be done without violating [p105] the Constitution, namely, by interpretation of a statute, changed a public policy declared by the legislative department.
After many years of public service at the National Capital, and after a somewhat close observation of the conduct of public affairs, I am impelled to say that there is abroad in our land a most harmful tendency to bring about the amending of constitutions and legislative enactments by means alone of judicial construction. As a public policy has been declared by the legislative department in respect of interstate commerce, over which Congress has entire control, under the Constitution, all concerned must patiently submit to what has been lawfully done until the People of the United States -- the source of all National power -- shall, in their own time, upon reflection and through the legislative department of the Government, require a change of that policy. There are some who say that it is a part of one's liberty to conduct commerce among the States without being subject to governmental authority. But that would not be liberty regulated by law, and liberty which cannot be regulated by law is not to be desired. The Supreme Law of the Land -- which is binding alike upon all -- upon Presidents, Congresses, the Courts and the People -- gives to Congress, and to Congress alone, authority to regulate interstate commerce, and when Congress forbids any restraint of such commerce, in any form, all must obey its mandate. To overreach the action of Congress merely by judicial construction, that is, by indirection, is a blow at the integrity of our governmental system, and, in the end, will prove most dangerous to all. Mr. Justice Bradley wisely said, when on this Bench, that illegitimate and unconstitutional practices get their first footing by silent approaches and slight deviations from legal modes of legal procedure. Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 635. We shall do well to heed the warnings of that great jurist. [p106]
I do not stop to discuss the merits of the policy embodied in the Anti-Trust Act of 1890, for, as has been often adjudged, the courts, under our constitutional system, have no rightful concern with the wisdom or policy of legislation enacted by that branch of the Government which alone can make laws.
For the reasons stated, while concurring in the general affirmance of the decree of the Circuit Court, I dissent from that part of the judgment of this court which directs the modification of the decree of the Circuit Court, as well as from those parts of the opinion which, in effect, assert authority in this court to insert words in the Anti-Trust Act which Congress did not put there, and which, being inserted, Congress is made to declare, as part of the public policy of the country, what it has not chosen to declare.