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UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY v. HALL ET AL.

October 1, 1875

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY
v.
HALL ET AL.



ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Iowa. Submitted on brief by Mr. A. J. Poppleton for the plaintiff in error, and by Mr. John N. Rogers, contra.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Strong delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a proceeding instituted under the act of Congress of March 3, 1873 (17 Stat. 509, sect. 4), which confers upon the proper Circuit Court of the United States jurisdiction to hear and determine all cases of mandamus to compel the Union Pacific Railroad Company to operate its road as required by law. The alternative writ, as amended, commanded the railroad company to operate the whole of their road from Council Bluffs westward (including that portion thereof between Council Bluffs and Omaha, and constructed over and across their bridge spanning the Missouri River) as one continuous line for all purposes of communication, travel, and transportation; and especially commanded them to start from Council Bluffs their regular through freight and passenger trains westward bound, and to run their eastern-bound trains of both descriptions through and over said bridge to Council Bluffs under one uniform time-schedule with the remainder of their road, and to desist and refrain wholly from operating said last-mentioned portion of said road as an independent and separate line, and from causing freight or passengers bound westward or eastward to be transferred at Omaha, or to show cause why they did not obey the writ.

To the alternative mandamus the railroad company put in a return, which was met by an answer filed by the relators; and the case was heard by the Circuit Court on the facts stated in the writ, the return, and the answer (the averments of the answer not being controverted), and a peremptory mandamus was ordered. It is of this final judgment that the plaintiffs in error now complain.

The obligation of the Union Pacific Railroad Company to operate their road as a continuous line, throughout its entire length, is not denied. The company is a creature of congressional legislation. It was incorporated by the act of Congress of July 1, 1862 (12 Stat. 489); and its powers and duties were prescribed by that act, and others amendatory thereof. By the twelfth section it was enacted that the 'whole line of the railroad and branches and telegraph shall be operated and used for all purposes of communication, travel, and transportation, so far as the public and government are concerned, as one connected, continuous line.' A similar requisition was made in the fifteenth section of the amendatory act of July 2, 1864. 13 Stat. 356. The contest in the case does not relate to the existence of this duty: it is principally over the question, whether the railroad bridge over the Missouri River, between Omaha in Nebraska and Council Bluffs in Iowa, is a part of the Union Pacific Railroad; for, if it is, there can be no doubt that the company are required by law to use it in connection with, and as a part of, their entire road, operating all parts together as a continuous line.

The answer to this question must be found in the legislation of Congress, and in what has been done under it. By the first section of the act of 1862, the Union Pacific Railroad Company was authorized to construct, maintain, and enjoy a continuous railroad and telegraph, with the appurtenances, from a point on the one hundredth meridian of longitude west from Greenwich to the western boundary of the Territory of Nevada. There it was intended to meet and connect with the line of the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (sect. 8), thus forming a continuous line to the Pacific Ocean. This was the main line. But the same act made provision also for several eastern connections. The ninth section authorized the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company of Kansas (now the Kansas Pacific) to construct a railroad from the Missouri River, at the mouth of the Kansas River (on the south side thereof, so as to connect with the Pacific Railroad of Missouri), to the point of western departure of the Union Pacific on the one hundredth meridian. Thus provision was made for an eastern connection by an unbroken line of road to St. Louis on the Mississippi. This was not all. By the fourteenth section of the act the Union Pacific was authorized and required 'to construct a single line of railroad and telegraph from a point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa, to be fixed by the President of the United States, . . . so as to form a connection with the lines of the said company at some point on the one hundredth meridian of longitude aforesaid, from the point of commencement on the western boundary of the State of Iowa.' Thus provisions were made for the Iowa eastern branch of the main line. It was doubtless intended to render possible a connection with any railroad that might thereafter be constructed from the western boundary of Iowa eastward. None was then completed; but a railroad was in progress of construction through the State, from its eastern border to the Missouri River.

The fourteenth section also made provision for another eastern connection. It enacted, that whenever there should be a line of railroad completed through Minnesota or Iowa to Sioux City, then the said Pacific (Union Pacific) Railroad Company should be authorized and required to construct a railroad and telegraph from said Sioux City, so as to connect with the Iowa branch, or with the main line, at a point not farther west than the one hundredth meridian of longitude.

The scheme of the act of Congress, then, is very apparent. It was to secure the connection of the main line, by at least three branches, with the Missouri and Iowa Railroads, and with a railroad running eastwardly from Sioux City in Iowa, either through that State or through Minnesota. An observance of this scheme, we think, will aid in considering the inquiry at what place the act of Congress, and the orders of the President made in pursuance thereof, established the eastern terminus of the Iowa branch. From it may reasonably be inferred that the purpose of Congress was to provide for connections of the branches of the main line of the Union Pacific road with railroads running through the States on the east of the Territory, and to provide for those connections within those States, at points at or near their western boundaries. Thus the northern branch was required to be constructed from Sioux City (which is in the State of Iowa) westward toward the main line; and the southern branch was authorized to build their railroad from the south side of the Kansas River, at its mouth, so as to connect with the Pacific Railroad of Missouri. If, now, the provisions of the act respecting the central or Iowa branch be examined, the same purpose is evident. Those provisions are found in the fourteenth section, and they are as follows:––

'And be it further enacted, That the said Union Pacific Railroad Company is hereby authorized and required to construct a single line of railroad and telegraph from a point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa, to be fixed by the President of the United States, upon the most direct and practicable route, to be subject to his approval, so as to form a connection with the lines of the said company at some point on the one hundredth meridian of longitude aforesaid, from the point of commencement on the western boundary of the State of Iowa.'

This clause contains the only provisions of the act respecting the eastern terminus of the Iowa branch, and it twice defines that terminus as 'a point on the western boundary of the State of Iowa.' The legal boundary of the State is the middle of the channel of the Missouri River. 9 Stat. 52. But it is very evident that Congress did not intend that the road should start from a point in the mid-channel of the river. That would be impossible; and, were it possible, it would not carry out the general design of the act, which, as we have been, was to provide for connections with the eastern railroads then in existence or contemplated. It is conceded by the counsel of the company that Congress ought not to be held to have intended to fix the initial point in the mid-channel of the river, exactly on the line which is the legal boundary of the State. Such a construction of the law, it is acknowledged, would be unreasonable, because it would involve the requirement of an impossibility. But, if Congress did not mean to require a construction of the railroad from the imaginary line which is the legal boundary of Iowa,–namely, from the mid-channel of the river, they must have intended the initial point to be either, on the Iowa shore or on the Nebraska shore. If the Nebraska shore was intended, why was it not mentioned? Why was not the west bank of the Missouri River designated? or why was not the eastern boundary of Nebraska fixed as the point of departure? Still more, why was Iowa mentioned at all? or why was the initial point described as a point on the western boundary of Iowa? It is impossible to give a satisfactory answer to these questions, if the eastern or Iowa shore of the river was not intended to be the terminus of the railroad. Unless it was so intended, no reason is found in the acts of Congress for mentioning Iowa at all. The western shore of the river is no nearer the western legal boundary of Iowa than the eastern shore is; while the latter is, in common understanding, the western boundary of the State. Congress may well be supposed to have used language in accordance with the common understanding. It is common usage to speak of the boundary of a state or county as a river, though the legal boundary may be the middle of the river; and particularly when any thing is to be constructed on such a boundary, which from its nature must be constructed on dry land, would no one understand the place of construction as any other than the shore of the river. It is perfectly legitimate and in accordance with every-day usage to say that a house built in Illinois on the eastern shore of the Mississippi stands on the western boundary of the State, though the legal boundary of the State is the mid-channel of the river. In common understanding, therefore, a point on the western boundary of Iowa would be a point in Iowa on the eastern shore of the Missouri, precisely as a point on the eastern boundary of Nebrasks would be understood to be in Nebraska, on the western shore of the river. The words 'on the boundary of Iowa' are not technical words; and therefore they are to be taken as having been used by Congress in their ordinary signification. Instances are not rare in which statutes have been construed, not literally, but in accordance with the common use of the language employed by the law-makers. Authority to construct a railroad or turnpike from A. to B., or beginning at A. and running to B., is held to confer authority to commence the road at some point within A., and to end it at some point within B. The words 'from,' 'to,' and 'at,' are taken inclusively, according to the subject-matter. 1 Mas. 126; 1 Stra. 179; Farmers' Turnpike v. Coventry, 10 Johns. 389. So in the case of The Mohawk Bridge Company v. The Utica and Schenectady R.R. Co., 6 Paige, 554, a similar ruling was made. The city of Schenectady was on the south bank of the Mohawk River, the north bounds of the city being the middle of the channel of the river; yet it was held that a railroad company authorized to build a railroad 'commencing at or near the city of Schenectady, and running thence on the north side of the Mohawk River,' was by those words empowered to build a bridge over the Mohawk, and commence their railroad at or within the city. These decisions bear some analogy to the construction given by the Circuit Court to the phrase 'on the western boundary of Iowa;' and that construction is the only one consistent with the paramount purpose manifested in the act of Congress, to provide for connections with the railroads of the States east of Nebraska Territory,–a purpose to which we have already referred. Unless the Iowa branch of the Union Pacific was intended to commence on the Iowa shore of the Missouri River, its connection with the Iowa railroads would have been impossible. Those roads could not be extended to the Nebraska shore; for the State of Iowa was without power to authorize the erection of a bridge over the river, or even the establishment of a ferry. We do not propose to enter upon a consideration of the question, whether Congress had power to authorize the construction of railroads within a State: it is not necessary for the present case. Even the appellants would shrink from denying the lawful existence of their bridge. What is to be sought now is the intention of Congress, not its power. Did Congress intend the place of connection to be on the eastern shore of the river? That they did is manifest, if they intended any connection; for no other was possible, either with or without the co-operation of Iowa.

In accordance with this understanding of the act of 1862 was the action of the President. The fourteenth section of the act required the company to construct the Iowa branch from a point on the western boundary of Iowa, to be fixed by the President of the United States. In discharging the duty thus imposed, the President, by an executive order, dated Nov. 17, 1863, fixed so much of the western boundary of the State of Iowa as lies between the north and south boundaries of the United States township within which the city of Omaha is situated as the point from which the line of railroad and telegraph should be constructed. This designation was, in one particular, indefinite. While it adhered to the western boundary of Iowa, it left undetermined at what place on that boundary the initial point should be, except that it should be somewhere between the north and south boundaries of a township, those boundaries being six miles apart. The President, therefore, on the seventh day of March, 1864, by a second executive order, made a more definite location. By that order he designated and established the point from which the railroad company was authorized to construct the road as a point 'on the western boundary of Iowa east of and opposite to the east line of section 10, in township 15, north of range 13, east of the 6th principal meridian, in the Territory of Nebraska.' Section 10 is a fractional section, its eastern boundary being the Missouri River. That the President understood this designation as fixing the point on the eastern shore of the river, and within the State of Iowa, is manifest from the message which, two days afterwards, he sent to Congress accompanying a copy of his official orders, in which he declared that the orders fixed the point on the western boundary of Iowa, 'within the limits of the township in Iowa opposite the town of Omaha, in Nebraska.' And such appears to be the plain meaning of the executive orders. The point could not have been 'east of and opposite to the east line of section 10, in township 15' (the section spoken of), if it was on the western shore of the river. It would then have been in Nebraska. The designation by the President was thus in strict conformity with the act of Congress; for, whenever that act spoke of the terminus of the Iowa branch with reference to its location, it described it, not as being in Nebraska, not even as being in the Missouri River, but as on the western boundary of Iowa.

Thus far we have confined our attention to the act of 1862, and to the President's action under it. From that act alone we have deduced the conclusion that the company was authorized and required to build their railroad to the Iowa shore. That authority included within itself power to build a bridge over the Missouri. No express grant to bridge the river was needed. Whatever bridges were necessary on their line were as fully authorized as the line itself; and the company were as much empowered to build one across the Missouri as they were across the Platte or any other river intersecting the route of their road. People v. The Saratoga & Rensselaer R.R. Co., 15 Wend. 130; Springfield v. connecticut River R.R. Co., 4 Cush. 63; Mohawk Bridge Co. v. Utica & Schenectady R.R. Co., ut supra.

But the amendatory act of 1864 is not to be overlooked. It is to be regarded in connection with the act of 1862, and interpreted as a part of it. By its ninth section the company were expressly authorized to construct bridges over the Missouri, and other rivers which their road might pass in its course, for the convenience of their road; and the act declared this authority to be given to enable the company to make convenient and necessary connections with other roads. This enactment may not have been necessary. The power may have been conferred upon the Union Pacific Railroad Company by the act of 1862; and we think it was. But, whether necessary or not it shows clearly that Congress had in view the construction of the railroad to the Iowa shore of the river. No bridge could be constructed without making use of the Iowa shore.

It is well to observe here that the authority was given to the company as a railroad company, and not as a bridge company. The bridge was for the convenience of their road, and to enable them to connect it with other roads. They could build it for no other uses. They were not authorized to use it for other purposes than those of their road. They were not allowed to charge rates of toll which they did not charge upon other portions of their line. If they acquired such a right, is was by subsequent legislation, by the act of 1871, to which we shall refer hereafter; but if, under the acts of 1862 and 1864, the company were authorized to build a railroad bridge across the river, and if such bridge was a part of their road, and not another railroad, the conclusion is irresistible that their road was intended to have its eastern terminus on the Iowa shore of the river.

It is no answer to this to urge that Congress could not have intended to invade a State by chartering a company to build a railroad in part within the State limits. The stubborn fact remains, that Congress did authorize the building of a railroad bridge on land within the territorial limits of the State, and, as necessarily incidental to that, a railroad upon the necessary approaches to the bridge. So, also, Congress authorized building a railroad from Sioux City, in Iowa, across the Missouri River westward. The statute does show a plain intention that the company's railroad should enter the State under its authority; and the twelfth section enacted what should be done whenever the route of the road should ...


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