The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, April 03, 1908, Page 5, Image 5

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The Commoner.
XPRIL 3, ltOt
Are States to Be Stripped of All Power?
Tho railroads won a great victory in a do
jcision rendered by the United States supreme
fcourt March 23. The story told in a Washing
Jon dispatch to the New York American follows:
States' rights received a staggering blow
today from the supreme court of the United
States. That tribunal decided the laws of Min
nesota and North Carolina seeking to regulate
rates on intra-state freight and passenger traffic
,-were unconstitutional, by upholding the juris
diction of the federal courts to inquire into the
.confiscatory nature of state rate laws.
The supreme court gave the railroads their
first big victory since the days when the federal
government and the states began their crusade
against them.
The Minnesota freight rate law, passed last
year, was declared unconstitutional in that it
Imposed such largo fines and such long impris
onments $5,000 and Ave years on railroads
and officials that the courts were practically
closed to them.
Justice Harlan, in a 12,000-word opinion,
dissents on the ground that the proceeding in
the Minnesota case is a suit against the state
and, therefore, not permissible under the con
stitution. He says:
"Neither the words nor the policy of the
eleventh amendment will, under our former de
cisions, justify any order of a federal court, the
necessary effect of which will be to exclude a
state from its own courts. Such an order, at
tended by such results, can not, I submit, be
sustained consistently with the powers which
the states, according to the uniform declarations
of this court, possess under the constitution.
"I am justified, by what this court has
heretofore declared, in now saying that the wise
men who framed the constitution and who caused
the adoption of the eleventh amendment would
be startled by the suggestion that a state of the
union can be prevented by an order of a subor
dinate federal court from being represented by
Its attorney general in a suit brought by the
state in one of its own courts; and that such
an order would be inconsistent with the dignity
of the states as involved in their constitutional
immunity from the judicial process of the fed-?
eral courts (except In the limited cases in which
they can constitutionally be made parties in this
court), and would be attended by most perni
cious results."
In the North Carolina case the action of
Justice Pritchard, of the United States circuit
court, in dismissing James Wood, an agent of
the Southern railroad, from jail, where ho has
been sent for violating the state railroad law,
was sustained. The court said that Justice
Pritchard, having assumed jurisdiction in the
case questioning the legality of the law, had
the right, and it was his duty to see that nothing
interfered with the determination of the ques
tion in his court. In both the cases Justice Har
lan alone dissented.
As a result of the decisions, Attorney Gen
eral Edward Young, of Minnesota, must pay a
fine of $100 for contempt of the federal court
of Minnesota, which found him guilty of at
tempting to enforce the Minnesota freight rate
law, after the federal court had enjoined him
from so doing. Young invited the contempt
proceedings to test the law.
Justice Peckham, in the opinion, said:
"By reason of the enormous penalties pro
vided in the rate laws, by way of fines against
the companies, and imprisonment of their agents
and employes, the companies were in effect pre
vented from ever questioning the validity of
those laws, as the risk of confiscation of prop
erty and imprisonment of agents in case the
companies failed in their defense was too much
to undertake in order to obtain a judicial de
cision of the question of such validity.
"Such laws are, therefoi-u, held unconsti
tutional, as they prevented the companies from
resorting to the courts, and, therefore, deprived
them of the equal protection of the laws.
"The question of .the sufficiency of the rates
to enable the company to obtain some return
to its stockholders for their investment has for
many years been held to be one for the courts
to decide, as it would bo a violation of the con
stitution of the United States to fix rates so
low as to be confiscatory if enforced.
"The laws providing rates for transporta
tion of passengers and freight in the two cases
under consideration have been held by the
courts below to be so low as to be substantially
confiscatory, 'and should therefore not be en
forced until after further trials. Tho courts
had jurisdiction to make such an order.
"It has also for many years been hold that
a suit is not one against the state, although it
prevents a state officer from bringing suits for
tho enforcement of a state enactment which
fixed rates so low as to bo confiscatory, and
which act was therefore a violation of the con
stitution of tho United States, and this principle
is reiterated and again decided in these cases.
"Tho jurisdiction of tho federal court in
such cases is only exercised where tho stato en
actment is alleged to be a violation of tho con
stitution of tho United States, and in such case
it is proper for those courts to take jurisdiction
equally with the stato courts, as the constitution
of the United States Is by Its own provisions tho
supremo law of the land, anything in any stato
constitution or law to tho contrary notwithstand
ing, and there is no usurpation of jurisdiction In
such event.
"The same duties rest upon tho state courts,
and tho party had his choice of forum without
any invidious distinction against the state
courts and In favor of the federal courts because
of his choice of the latter.
"When a federal court has taken jurisdic
tion of a case before any proceedings in a state
court has been commenced tho former court has
authority to decide the case, and to enjoin any
person from proceeding in a state court until
the federal court has proceeded to judgment.
This Is also a well established right of a court
of equity, and no new ground Is taken In this
Attorney General Young of Minnesota,
commenting upon the decision said:
"From the fragmentary report that I havo
seen of the decision of the majority of the court
and the dissenting opinion of Justice Harlan, It
would seem that the decision of the majority
overturns all former decisions as to the Immu
nity of states from suit, and In effect repeals
the eleventh amendment.
"If a stato, in exercising its governmental
powers, can be controlled by federal injunctions
sued out by the railroad companies, the state
governments might as well bo abandoned and
the inferior federal courts be placed, in charge
of all state affairs. As stated by Justice Harlan
in his dissenting opinion, if an injunction can
be upheld in this case it can also bo used to
prevent grand juries from finding indictments
against persons who violate any criminal law
of the state.
"There seems now to be but one recourse,
and that lies In tho recommendation made by
the convention of attorneys general last fall In
St. Louis. A law should bo passed by congress
taking away from tho inferior federal courts
jurisdiction in cases where corporations attempt
by injunction to prevent the enforcement of
legitimate state law3.'
"The question of the validity of our rate
laws was not beforo the court in this habeas
corpus case. The only question was as to the
jurisdiction of the federal court to enjoin tho
state. As soon as we can get the whole decision
we will decide what steps should be taken for
the protection of the rights of the people of tho
Attorney General Hadley of Missouri said:
"While the decision of the supremo court
of the United States In these cases is princi
pally based upon the unreasonableness of the
penalties prescribed by the Minnesota and North
Carolina statutes its effect is unquestionably to
sustain the contention of the railroads. When
ever the railroads do not like a state law, they
can now have one of their own officials make an
affidavit that it would unreasonably reduce their
earnings, and thereupon a United States circuit
judge can suspend the operation 'of this law un
til it can be shown that the law Is reasonable.
"If the people of the several states do not
want to have the laws that they enact to be
subject to the suspensive veto power of the
United States circuit courts, they should insist
that their senators and representatives in con
gress enact tho law recommended by the recent
convention of the attorneys general of eighteen
states that no United States circuit court should
have the right to enjoin the enforcement of any
state statute."
t?W tV ip$ 2
The Philadelphia North American, a repub
lican paper, declares that the Aldrlch bill "is
meant to givo J. Plorpont Morgan, John D.
Rockofcllor and Thomns F. Ryan completo
mastery of tho money of this eauntYy."
The North American also says that "Satan
himself never devised a moro wicked cheat nor
ono moro pregnant with evil for tho futuro of
tho people." Concerning this financial measuro
tho North Amorlcan says: "Tho actual result
would bo that Morgan, Rockefeller, Ryan and
their allies would bo able to raise and lower
rates of interest and tho prices of proporty and
labor at will. And moro than that, they would
bo our political as woll as our caiomorclal over
lords, endowed, as thoy would be, with pwer .
to precipitate at any time tho worst panic in
history as punishment of any disobedience of
thoir mandates. Tho whole purpose of tho Aid
rich bill Is to make a few men superior to all
economic laws and to enable them to turn on
and off tho national supply of currency as If it
ran from a faucet to bo gripped by no hand
save theirs."
Tho North American further says: "If
there Is patriotism among tho business men of
America; If commercial common sonso Is not
dead or drugged; If there still oxlsts tho forco
of public opinion capablo of being aroused to
righteous regard for tho good of tho country
and for every honost citizen's self-interest, tho
Aldrlch bill will bo killed."
Is It not about tlmo for republicans to
wako up?
4V 3 fc Jv
Washington Letter
Washington, D. C, March 30. Tho ono
reason that tho Now York World, the Now York
Sun, and other servitors of plutocracy
are antagonizing Bryan is because thoy boliovo
that ho will bo olected. What they want is a
democratic nomlnco who can not be elected.
They got ono In 1004 and are still singing his
praises. For these forces In politics tho con
tinuance In power of tho republican party Is en
tirely satisfactory. Why? Simply becauBo tho
republican party stands for special privilege, and
whoever may bo tho president elected upon a
republican ticket ho may bo rolled upon to take
caro of tho powers of privilege and of pro
tection. Washington opinion vibratos botweon Taft
and Roosevelt as the probable nominee. Two
weeks ago tho general opinion .would havo been
that President Roosevelt if he so dosired might
take away the nomination from Secretary Taft
Today It Is believed that Taft's strength has
grown so that the president himself could not
prevent his nomination. But will Taft's nom
ination be a strong ono? Ho will Inherit, as a
senator of his own party faith said to me today,
all the weakness of the Roosevelt administra
tion and Httlo of Its strength. Secretary Taft
will be held quite as responsible for tho presi
dent's Impulsive and unjust action In the
Brownsville case as would tho president him
self. He will bo charged, and justly, of being
the originator of the doctrine of government by
Injunction. It will bo urged against him that
he never has been a candidate for an electoral
office beforo the people, but has always served
the country as the beneficiary of some president,
senator or governor. The story which I have
already told of the enormous sums of money
being spent In his behalf will not be forgotten,
but will grow. He will appear as a presidential
candidate created by a president whom h
served, financed by a relative and supported for
his nomination by men who were coerced by the
power of federal patronage into giving him their
Tho democratic stato convention of Rhode
Island held last Saturday was addressed by
Senator Gore of Oklahoma who has done as
much throughout the states of the north to ad
vance the cause of real democracy as any man
in public life today. Overcoming or even for
getting the physical disability that comes from
his total blindness, Senator Gore has gone into
every stato where his voice and his brilliant
oratory might be of service to the democratic
cause, willingly and enthusiastically. Ho is to
day a candidate for re-election in his own stato.
Ho and Senator Owen were elected at the same
time, both being the finest types of democrats
and of American public men. It so happened
that Senator Gore, in the lottery which Senators
elected together must always join in, drew tho
short term. What the democratic party In
Oklahoma may do no one not a resident of that
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