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234 U.S.

Opinion of the Court.

cott the hats of a manufacturer and deter dealers from buying them in order to coerce the manufacturer to a particular course of action with reference to labor organizations, the effect of the combination being to compel third parties and strangers not to engage in a course of trade except upon conditions which the combination imposed, was within the Sherman Act. In Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U. S. 418, after citing Loewe v. Lawlor, supra, this court said (p. 438):

"But the principle announced by the court was general. It [the Sherman Act] covered any illegal means by which interstate commerce is restrained, whether by unlawful combinations of capital, or unlawful combinations of labor; and we think also whether the restraint be occasioned by unlawful contracts, trusts, pooling arrangements, blacklists, boycotts, coercion, threats, intimidation, and whether these be made effective, in whole or in part, by acts, words or printed matter."

And see Montague & Co. v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38.

These principles are applicable to this situation. Here are wholesale dealers in large number engaged in interstate trade upon whom it is proposed to impose as a condition of carrying on that trade that they shall not sell in such manner that a local retail dealer may regard such sale as an infringement of his exclusive right to trade, upon pain of being reported as an unfair dealer to a large number of other retail dealers associated with the offended dealer, the purpose being to keep the wholesaler from dealing not only with the particular dealer who reports him but with all others of the class who may be informed of his delinquency. "Section 1 of the act, is not confined to voluntary restraints, as where persons engaged in interstate trade or commerce agree to suppress competition among themselves, but includes as well involuntary restraints, as where persons not so engaged conspire to compel action by others, or to create artificial

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Opinion of the Court.

234 U.S.

conditions, which necessarily impede or burden the due course of such trade or commerce or restrict the common liberty to engage therein." United States v. Patten, supra, p. 541. This record abounds in instances where the offending dealer was thus reported, the hoped for effect, unless he discontinued the offending practice, realized, and his trade directly and appreciably impaired.

But it is said that in order to show a combination or conspiracy within the Sherman Act some agreement must be shown under which the concerted action is taken. It is elementary, however, that conspiracies are seldom capable of proof by direct testimony and may be inferred from the things actually done, and when in this case by concerted action the names of wholesalers who were reported as having made sales to consumers were periodically reported to the other members of the associations, the conspiracy to accomplish that which was the natural consequence of such action may be readily inferred

The circulation of these reports not only tends to directly restrain the freedom of commerce by preventing the listed dealers from entering into competition with retailers, as was held by the District Court, but it directly tends to prevent other retailers who have no personal grievance against him and with whom he might trade from so doing, they being deterred solely because of the nfluence of the report circulated among the members of the associations. In other words, the trade of the wholesaler with strangers was directly affected, not because of any supposed wrong which he had done to them, but because of the grievance of a member of one of the associations, who had reported a wrong to himself, which grievance when brought to the attention of others it was hoped would deter them from dealing with the offending party. This practice takes the case out of those normal and usual agreements in aid of trade and commerce which may be found not to be within the act and puts it within the pro

Opinion of the Court.

hibited class of undue and unreasonable restraints, such as was the particular subject of condemnation in Loewe v. Lawlor, supra.

The argument that the course pursued is necessary to the protection of the retail trade and promotive of the public welfare in providing retail facilities is answered by the fact that Congress, with the right to control the field of interstate commerce, has so legislated as to prevent resort to practices which unduly restrain competition or unduly obstruct the free flow of such commerce, and private choice of means must yield to the national authority thus exerted. Addyston Pipe Co. v. United States, 175 U. S. 211, 241, 242.

234 U.S.

Anderson v. United States, 171 U. S. 604, is cited and relied upon by the appellants. In that case this court sustained, as against an attack under the Sherman Law, the legality of an association called the Traders' Live Stock Exchange in Kansas City. An agreement among purchasers of cattle for the purpose of regulating and controlling the local business among themselves had been entered into, and one of the rules provided that the members of the exchange should not deal with any other yard trader unless he was a member of such exchange. It was said (p. 613):

"There is no evidence that these defendants have in any manner other than by the rules above mentioned hindered or impeded others in shipping, trading or selling their stock, or that they have in any way interfered with the freedom of access to the stock yards of any and all other traders and purchasers, or hindered their obtaining the same facilities which were therein afforded by the stock yards company to the defendants as members of the exchange, and we think the evidence does not tend to show that the above results have flowed from the adoption and enforcement of the rules and regulations referred to."

Opinion of the Court.

As distinguished from this situation the present case shows that the trade of the listed wholesalers is hindered or impeded; that competition is suppressed and the natural flow of commerce interfered with as the direct result of the circulation of the official reports in the manner stated. The case is quite different from the Anderson Case. And see Montague & Co. v. Lowry, supra, p. 48.

A retail dealer has the unquestioned right to stop dealing with a wholesaler for reasons sufficient to himself, and may do so because he thinks such dealer is acting unfairly in trying to undermine his trade. "But," as was said by Mr. Justice Lurton, speaking for the court in Grenada Lumber Co. v. Mississippi, 217 U. S. 433, 440, "when the plaintiffs in error combine and agree that no one of them will trade with any producer or wholesaler who shall sell to a consumer within the trade range of any of them, quite another case is presented. An act harmless when done by one may become a public wrong when done by many acting in concert, for it then takes on the form of a conspiracy, and may be prohibited or punished, if the result be hurtful to the public or to the individual against whom the concerted action is directed."

234 U. S.

When the retailer goes beyond his personal right, and, conspiring and combining with others of like purpose, seeks to obstruct the free course of interstate trade and commerce and to unduly suppress competition by placing obnoxious wholesale dealers under the coercive influence of a condemnatory report circulated among others, actual or possible customers of the offenders, he exceeds his lawful rights, and such action brings him and those acting with him within the condemnation of the act of Congress, and the District Court was right in so holding. It follows that its decree must be


234 U.S.

Opinion of the Court.




No. 339. Argued April 30, 1914.—Decided June 22, 1914.

The statute of Tennessee of 1865, c. 40, § 8, declaring that children of slave marriages should be legitimately entitled to inherit, as it has been construed by the highest court of that State as not extending the right of inheritance beyond lineal descendants of the parents, is not unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Inheritance is not a natural or absolute right but the creation of statute

and is governed by the lex rei sitæ.

The rights of one claiming real property as heir, through an alien, a bastard or a slave, must be determined by the local law. Blythe v. Hinckley, 180 U. S. 333.

While a colored freedman in Tennessee could dispose of property acquired during freedom by deed or will and it descended to his issue, if any, if he died intestate, if no issue survived, it passed under the terms of the act of 1865 to his widow, if she survived, and not to his collateral relatives.

THE facts, which involve the construction and constitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment of certain provisions of the laws of Tennessee in regard to the descent of real property, are stated in the opinion.

Mr. W. H. Harrelson, with whom Mr. W. P. Metcalf was on the brief, for plaintiff in error.

Mr. B. F. Booth for defendants in error.

MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the court.

This is a question of collateral descent arising under the Tennessee statutes.

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