Слике страница

Opinion of the Court.

a continuous journey could be made to other States, then it would be a navigable water of the United States.

“I repeat to you that, under my view of the case, all you have to decide is whether Red Pass was a navigable water of the United States, and as you decide that the case will go,

because it is conceded that Mr. Leovy dammed it.”

It is plain, therefore, that the attention of the jury was not directed at all to the question of any existing interstate commerce, and that the learned judge was of opinion, and so ruled, that the physical possibility of passing by a boat out of Red Pass into the Mississippi River constituted the pass a navigable water of the United States.

The court refused to give the following instruction :

“If the jury shall find that Red Pass was a crevasse, or outbreak, of the Mississippi River from its natural channel, the result of which was to overflow a large portion of Plaquemines Parish, to the detriment of the inhabitants thereof, by the destruction of their property, and prejudicial to their health, the State, in the exercise of its police power, delegated to the police jury of the parish of Plaquemines, had a right to close it.”

Perhaps this instruction ought to have been qualified or accompanied by a prayer that the acts of Congress, relied on by the government, were not applicable to the case suggested in the instruction asked for. But we think, in the circumstances disclosed by the evidence, the instruction should have been given, at least as so qualified.

The Circuit Court of Appeals, in dealing with the error assigned for the refusal of the trial judge to so charge, said:

“There is no legitimate evidence in the record tending to show that the police jury of the parish of Plaquemines ordered Red Pass closed for the purpose of affecting or promoting the peace, morals, education, health or good order of the people;' but the case does show that the pass was ordered closed, and was closed, for the sole purpose of reclaiming swamp lands. Under the power to regulate commerce, Congress having forbidden the closing of any navigable river without the consent of the United States, it is very doubtful whether any navigable water of the United States, although wholly within the limits

Opinion of the Court.

[ocr errors]

of the State, can be closed under the exercise of the police power of the State for any purpose whatever, but where the purpose is only the reclamation of swamp lands, there is no doubt the police power of the State must give way to the authority of Congress.

We think that the trial court might well take judicial notice that the public health is deeply concerned in the reclamation of swamp and overflowed lands. If there is any fact which may be supposed to be known by everybody, and, therefore, by courts, it is that swamps and stagnant waters are the cause of malarial and inalignant fevers, and that the police power is never more legitimately exercised than in removing such nuisances. The defendant was not deprived of the defence that the act which he was charged with was performed in order to promote the health of the community, by the fact, if fact it was, that the order under which he acted did not say any. thing about the subject of health, but simply authorized the erection of the dam, so as to exclude the overflow from the river.

Nor are we disposed to concur in the doubt expressed whether any navigable water wholly within the limits of a State can be closed under the exercise of the police power for any purpose whatever. Such

Such a doubt might be justified if there was express legislation of the United States forbidding the act proposed. But, as we have seen, in the present case the reclamation of swamp and overflowed lands was not only not forbidden, but was recognized as the duty of the State, in consideration of the grant of the public lands. And, for the reasons already given, we do not construe the acts of Congress under which this indictment was brought as intended to apply to the case of a stream of the history and character disclosed in this record. Hence, the state authorities were left free to act in such a manner as they thought fit to promote the health and prosperity of the people concerned.

It can scarcely be contended that if, by a sudden breach of the banks of the Mississippi River in the lowlands of Louisiana, a stream of water across agricultural lands was created, endangering the health and welfare of the inhabitants, the case

Opinion of the Court.

would be within the meaning and operation of the acts of Congress

relied on in this case. It may be that in such a case, if the State declines to act or, rather, permits such a stream to become a high way of commerce among the States, the Federal control over it might attach. Thus Grand Pass, of which Red Pass is a branch, might, in view of the volume of its water and of the nature and amount of the cominerce carried on it, be held to be a navigable water of the United States. However that may be, our conclusion, upon the record now before us, is that Red Pass, in the condition it was at the time when this dam was built, was not shown by adequate evidence to have been a navigable water of the United States, actually used in interstate commerce, and that the court should have charged the jury, as requested, that, upon the whole evidence adduced, the defendants were entitled to a verdict of acquittal.

It is claimed by the counsel for the plaintiff in error that the act of July 13, 1892, so far amended and repealed the act of September 19, 1890, that the penal section of the latter was repealed, and that hence, as no penalty is provided in the act of 1892, the indictment and conviction of the plaintiff in error was without authority of law. It is also contended that the policy of Congress, in respect to the authority of the Secretary of War in the matter of obstruction to navigation, has been greatly changed and modified by the act of March 3, 1899. Fifty-fifth Cong. Session 3, Ch. 423, sec. 9, p. 1151.

It is also suggested that whatever may be the powers of Congress, over streams wholly within the State, they cannot be legitimately enforced by criminal prosecution of officers and agents of the State for acts done under state authority, but that, in such cases, the proper remedy would be found in bills in equity.

But in the view we take of the case in hand, we are not called upon to express any opinion on such questions. The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed ;

the judgment of the Circuit Court is likewise reversed, and the cause is remanded to that court, with directions to award a new trial.

Statement of the Case.



No. 263. Submitted April 24, 1900.–Decided May 14, 1900.

A bill in equity in a state court to foreclose a common law lien upon a raft

for towage services, is not an invasion of the exclusive admiralty jurisdiction of the District Courts, but is a proceeding to enforce a common law remedy and within the saving clause of section 563 of a remedy which the common law is competent to give.


This was a bill in equity filed in the Circuit Court for the county of Mercer, Illinois, by the defendant in error, John McCaffrey, against the Knapp, Stout & Co. Company, (hereinafter called the Knapp Company,) and the Schulenburg & Boeckler Lumber Company, (hereinafter called the Schulenburg Company,) and its assignees, to enforce a lien for towage upon a half raft of lumber then lying at Boston Bay, in Mercer County.

The suit arose from a contract made April 6, 1893, by McCaffrey with the Schulenburg Company, in which, after reciting that McCaffrey bad purchased of this company three steam tow boats for the sum of $17,500, it was agreed that McCaffrey was to tow all the rafted lumber such company would furnish him at or below their mill at Stillwater, Minnesota, to St. Louis, and deliver the same there to the company in quantities not exceeding one half a raft at a time, for which service he was to be paid $1.121 per thousand feet, board measure, for the lumber contained in the raft. The other provisions of the contract, of which there were many, were not material to the present controversy. After towing a number of rafts for the company, the charges for which remained unpaid, one of McCaffrey's steamers, known as the Robert Dodds, left Stillwater, October 13, 1994, with raft No. 10 of that year. The river being low and navigation difficult, McCaffrey was instructed to divide the raft, to bring one half to St. Louis, and to lay up the other half in some safe harbor. In compliance with these instruc

Counsel for Parties.

tions McCaffrey divided the raft on October 20 at Boston Bay harbor in Mercer County, leaving one half there, wbile the other half was towed to St. Louis and delivered to the lumber company on November 2. The company paid the clerk of the boat $1250 without directions as to its application, and McCaffrey applied it on the amount due him for the towage of other rafts. The steamer returned to Boston Bay the morning of November 4, and laid up outside the raft for the winter.

On the next day, November 5, the Schulenburg Company sold the half rast in Boston Bay to the Knapp Company for $15,000, part in cash and the remainder in a note due in four months, which was paid at maturity. A bill of sale was given for the lumber, and a letter written to the watchman in charge of the raft informing him of the sale. On November 9 the Schulenburg Company made a voluntary assignment in St. Louis for the benefit of creditors. McCaffrey, hearing of the assignment, offered both companies to tow the half raft to St. Louis under his contract, but the Knapp Company informed him that they did not wish him to do so, saying that they did their own towing; whereupon McCaffrey, claiming to be still in possession of the half raft and believing that the company was about to take it from him by force, filed this bill to foreclose his lien for towage. The Knapp Company gave a bond for the amount of the claim and took the raft away.

The case came on for hearing in the Circuit Court upon pleadings and proofs, and resulted in a decree dismissing the bill without prejudice. McCaffrey appealed to the appellate court, which reversed the decree of the Circuit Court, and remanded the cause with directions to enter a decree for the sum of $3643.17, with interest thereon. The Knapp Company appealed to the Supreme Court of the State, which affirmed the judgment of the appellate court, (178 Ill. 107); whereupon defendant sued out a writ of error from this court.

Mr. Charles P. Wise for plaintiff in error.

Mr. Charles E. Kremer and Mr. Guy C. Scott for defendant in error.

« ПретходнаНастави »