Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917)

Author: Justice White

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Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917)

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Was there power in Congress, under the circumstances existing, to deal with the hours of work and wages of railroad employees engaged in interstate commerce, is the principal question here to be considered. Its solution, as well as that of other questions which also arise, will be clarified by a brief statement of the conditions out of which the controversy arose.

Two systems controlled in March, 1916, concerning wages of railroad employees -- one, an eight-hour standard of work and wages with additional pay for overtime, governing on about fifteen percent of the railroads; the other, a stated mileage task of 100 miles to be performed during ten hours, with extra pay for any excess, in force on about eighty-five percent of the roads. The organizations representing the employees of the railroads in that month made a formal demand on the employers that, as to all engaged in the movement of trains, except passenger trains, the 100-mile task be fixed for eight hours, provided that it was not so done as to lower wages, and provided that an extra allowance for overtime, calculated by the minute at one and one-half times the rate of the regular hours’ service, be established. The demand made this standard obligatory on the railroads, but optional on the employees, as it left the right to the employees to retain their existing system on any particular road if they elected to do so. The terms of the demand were as follows, except the one which reserved the option, which is in the margin,{1} and others making Article 1 applicable to yard and switching and hostling service.

Article 1(a) In all road service 100 miles or less, eight hours or less will constitute a day except in passenger service. Miles in excess of 100 will be paid for at the same rate per mile.

(b) On runs of 100 miles or less, overtime will begin at the expiration of eight hours.

(c) On runs of over 100 miles, overtime will begin when the time on duty exceeds the miles run divided by 12 1/2 miles per hour.

(d) All overtime to be computed on the minute basis and paid for at time and one-half times the pro rata rate.

(e) No one shall receive less for eight hours or 100 miles than they now receive for a minimum day or 100 miles for the class of engine used or for service performed.

(f) Time will be computed continuously from time required for duty until release from duty and responsibility at end of day or run.

The employers refused the demand, and the employees, through their organizations, by concert of action, took the steps to call a general strike of all railroad employees throughout the whole country.

The President of the United States invited a conference between the parties. He proposed arbitration. The employers agreed to it, and the employees rejected it. The President then suggested the eight-hour standard of work and wages. The employers rejected this, and the employees accepted it. Before the disagreement was resolved, the representatives of the employees abruptly called a general strike throughout the whole country, fixed for an early day. The President, stating his efforts to relieve the situation, and pointing out that no resources at law were at his disposal for compulsory arbitration, to save the commercial disaster, the property injury and the personal suffering of all, not to say starvation, which would be brought to many among the vast body of the people if the strike was not prevented, asked Congress, first, that the eight-hour standard of work and wages be fixed by law, and second, that an official body be created to observe during a reasonable time the operation of the legislation, and that an explicit assurance be given that, if the result of such observation established such an increased cost to the employers as justified an increased rate, the power would be given to the Interstate Commerce Commission to authorize it. Congress responded by enacting the statute whose validity, as we have said, we are called upon to consider. Act of September 3, 5, 1916, 39 Stat. 721, c. 436. The duty to do so arises from the fact that the employers, unwilling to accept the act and challenging the constitutional power of Congress to enact it, began this typical suit against the officers of certain labor unions and the United States District Attorney to enjoin the enforcement of the statute. The law was made to take effect only on the first of January, 1917. To expedite the final decision before that date, the representatives of the labor unions were dropped out, agreements essential to hasten were made, and it was stipulated that, pending the final disposition of the cause, the carriers would keep accounts of the wages which would have been earned if the statute was enforced so as to enable their payment if the law was finally upheld. Stating its desire to cooperate with the parties in their purpose to expedite the cause, the court below, briefly announcing that it was of opinion that Congress had no constitutional power to enact the statute, enjoined its enforcement, and, as the result of the direct appeal which followed, we come, after elaborate oral and printed arguments, to dispose of the controversy.

All the propositions relied upon and arguments advanced ultimately come to two questions: first, the entire want of constitutional power to deal with the subjects embraced by the statute, and second, such abuse of the power, if possessed, as rendered its exercise unconstitutional. We will consider these subjects under distinct propositions separately.

I. The entire want of constitutional power to deal with the subjects embraced by the statute.

To dispose of the contentions under this heading calls at once for a consideration of the statute, and we reproduce its title and text so far as is material.

An Act to Establish an Eight-hour Day for Employees of Carriers Engaged in Interstate and Foreign Commerce, and for Other Purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, beginning January first, nineteen hundred and seventeen, eight hours shall, in contracts for labor and service, be deemed a day’s work and the measure or standard of a day’s work for the purpose of reckoning the compensation for services of all employees who are now or may hereafter be employed by any common carrier by railroad, except railroads independently owned and operated not exceeding one hundred miles in length, electric street railroads, and electric interurban railroads, which is subject to the provisions of the Act of February fourth, eighteen hundred and eighty-seven, entitled "An Act to Regulate Commerce," as amended, and who are now or may hereafter be actually engaged in any capacity in the operation of trains used for the transportation of persons or property on railroads, except railroads independently owned and operated not exceeding one hundred miles in length, electric street railroads, and electric interurban railroads. . . .

Sec. 2. That the President shall appoint a commission of three, which shall observe the operation and effects of the institution of the eight-hour standard workday as above defined and the facts and conditions affecting the relations between such common carriers and employees during a period of not less than six months nor more than nine months, in the discretion of the commission, and within thirty days thereafter such commission shall report its findings to the President and Congress; . . .

Sec. 3. That, pending the report of the commission herein provided for and for a period of thirty days thereafter, the compensation of railway employees subject to this act for a standard eight-hour workday shall not be reduced below the present standard day’s wage, and for all necessary time in excess of eight hours, such employees shall be paid at a rate not less than the pro rata rate for such standard eight-hour workday.

Sec. 4. That any person violating any provision of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $1,000, or imprisoned not to exceed one year, or both.

There must be knowledge of the power exerted before determining whether, as exercised, it was constitutional, and we must hence settle a dispute on that question before going further. Only an eight-hour standard for work and wages was provided, is the contention on the one side, and, in substance, only a scale of wages was provided, is the argument on the other. We are of the opinion that both are right and in a sense both wrong insofar as it is assumed that the one excludes the other. The provision of § 1 that "eight hours shall . . . be deemed a day’s work and the measure or standard of a day’s work" leaves no doubt about the first proposition. As to the second, this is equally true because of the provision of § 3, forbidding any lowering of wages as a result of applying the eight-hour standard established by § 1 during the limited period prescribed in § 2. Both provisions are equally mandatory. If it be said that the second, the depriving of all power to change the wages during the fixed period, is but ancillary to the first command, the standard of eight hours, that would not make the prohibition as to any change of wages any the less a fixing of wages. It certainly would not change the question of power unless it could be assumed that the legislative power to fix one thing, the standard of hours, could be enforced by exerting the power to do another, fix the wages, although there was no legislative authority to exert the latter power. The doing of one thing which is authorized cannot be made the source of an authority to do another thing which there is no power to do. If to deprive employer and employee of the right to contract for wages and to provide that a particular rate of wages shall be paid for a specified time is not a fixing of wages, it is difficult to see what would be.

However, there is this very broad difference between the two powers exerted. The first, the eight-hour standard, is permanently fixed. The second, the fixing of the wage standard resulting from the prohibition against paying lower wages, is expressly limited to the time specified in § 2. It is therefore not permanent, but temporary, leaving the employers and employees free as to the subject of wages to govern their relations by their own agreements after the specified time. Concretely stated, therefore, the question is this: did Congress have power, under the circumstances stated -- that is, in dealing with the dispute between the employers and employees as to wages -- to provide a permanent eight-hour standard and to create by legislative action a standard of wages to be operative upon the employers and employees for such reasonable time as it deemed necessary to afford an opportunity for the meeting of the minds of employers and employees on the subject of wages? Or, in other words, did it have the power, in order to prevent the interruption of interstate commerce, to exert its will to supply the absence of a wage scale resulting from the disagreement as to wages between the employers and employees, and to make its will on that subject controlling for the limited period provided for?

Coming to the general considerations by which both subjects must be controlled, to simplify the analysis for the purpose of considering the question of inherent power, we put the question as to the eight-hour standard entirely out of view, on the ground that the authority to permanently establish it is so clearly sustained as to render the subject not disputable.{2}

That common carriers by rail in interstate commerce are within the legislative power of Congress to regulate commerce is not subject to dispute.{3} It is equally certain that, where a particular subject is within such authority, the extent of regulation depends on the nature and character of the subject and what is appropriate to its regulation.{4} The powers possessed by government to deal with a subject are neither inordinately enlarged or greatly dwarfed because the power to regulate interstate commerce applies. This is illustrated by the difference between the much greater power of regulation which may be exerted as to liquor and that which may be exercised as to flour, dry goods, and other commodities. It is shown by the settled doctrine sustaining the right by regulation absolutely to prohibit lottery tickets, and by the obvious consideration that such right to prohibit could not be applied to pig iron, steel rails, or most of the vast body of commodities.

What was the extent of the power, therefore, of Congress to regulate, considering the scope of regulation which government had the right to exert with reference to interstate commerce carriers, when it came to exercise its legislative authority to regulate commerce, is the matter to be decided. That the business of common carriers by rail is in a sense a public business because of the interest of society in the continued operation and rightful conduct of such business, and that the public interest begets a public right of regulation to the full extent necessary to secure and protect it, is settled by so many decisions, state and federal, and is illustrated by such a continuous exertion of state and federal legislative power, as to leave no room for question on the subject. It is also equally true that, as the right to fix by agreement between the carrier and its employees a standard of wages to control their relations is primarily private, the establishment and giving effect to such agreed-on standard is not subject to be controlled or prevented by public authority. But, taking all these propositions as undoubted, if the situation which we have described and with which the act of Congress dealt be taken into view -- that is, the dispute between the employers and employees as to a standard of wages, their failure to agree, the resulting absence of such standard, the entire interruption of interstate commerce which was threatened, and the infinite injury to the public interest which was imminent -- it would seem inevitably to result that the power to regulate necessarily obtained, and was subject to be applied to the extent necessary to provide a remedy for the situation, which included the power to deal with the dispute, to provide by appropriate action for a standard of wages to fill the want of one caused by the failure to exert the private right on the subject, and to give effect by appropriate legislation to the regulations thus adopted. This must be unless it can be said that the right to so regulate as to save and protect the public interest did not apply to a case where the destruction of the public right was imminent as the result of a dispute between the parties and their consequent failure to establish by private agreement the standard of wages which was essential -- in other words, that the existence of the public right and the public power to preserve it was wholly under the control of the private right to establish a standard by agreement. Nor is it an answer to this view to suggest that the situation was one of emergency, and that emergency cannot be made the source of power. Ex Parte Milligan, 4 Wall. 2. The proposition begs the question, since, although an emergency may not call into life a power which has never lived, nevertheless emergency may afford a reason for the exertion of a living power already enjoyed. If acts which, if done, would interrupt, if not destroy, interstate commerce may be by anticipation legislatively prevented, by the same token, the power to regulate may be exercised to guard against the cessation of interstate commerce, threatened by a failure of employers and employees to agree as to the standard of wages, such standard being an essential prerequisite to the uninterrupted flow of interstate commerce.

But, passing this, let us come to briefly recapitulate some of the more important of the regulations which have been enacted in the past in order to show how necessarily the exertion of the power to enact them manifests the existence of the legislative authority to ordain the regulation now before us, and how completely the whole system of regulations adopted in the past would be frustrated or rendered unavailing if the power to regulate under the conditions stated, which was exerted by the act before us, was not possessed. That regulation gives the authority to fix for interstate carriage a reasonable rate, subject to the limitation that rights of private property may not be destroyed by establishing them on a confiscatory basis, is settled by long practice and decisions.{5} That the power to regulate also extends to many phases of the business of carriage, and embraces the right to control the contract power of the carrier insofar as the public interest requires such limitation, has also been manifested by repeated acts of legislation as to bills of lading, tariffs, and many other things too numerous to mention.{6} Equally certain is it that the power has been exercised so as to deal not only with the carrier, but with its servants, and to regulate the relation of such servants not only with their employers, but between themselves.{7} Illustrations of the latter are afforded by the Hours of Service Act, the Safety Appliance Act, and the Employers’ Liability Act. Clear also is it that an obligation rests upon a carrier to carry on its business, and that conditions of cost or other obstacles afford no excuse and exempt from no responsibility which arises from a failure to do so, and also that government possesses the full regulatory power to compel performance of such duty.{8}

In the presence of this vast body of acknowledged powers, there would seem to be no ground for disputing the power which was exercised in the act which is before us so as to prescribe by law for the absence of a standard of wages, caused by the failure to exercise the private right as a result of the dispute between the parties -- that is, to exert the legislative will for the purpose of settling the dispute, and bind both parties to the duty of acceptance and compliance, to the end that no individual dispute or difference might bring ruin to the vast interests concerned in the movement of interstate commerce, for the express purpose of protecting and preserving which the plenary legislative authority granted to Congress was reposed. This result is further demonstrated, as we have suggested, by considering how completely the purpose intended to be accomplished by the regulations which have been adopted in the past would be rendered unavailing or their enactment inexplicable if the power was not possessed to meet a situation like the one with which the statute dealt. What would be the value of the right to a reasonable rate if all movement in interstate commerce could be stopped as a result of a mere dispute between the parties or their failure to exert a primary private right concerning a matter of interstate commerce? Again, what purpose would be subserved by all the regulations established to secure the enjoyment by the public of an efficient and reasonable service if there was no power in government to prevent all service from being destroyed? Further yet, what benefits would flow to society by recognizing the right, because of the public interest, to regulate the relation of employer and employee and of the employees among themselves, and to give to the latter peculiar and special rights safeguarding their persons, protecting them in case of accident, and giving efficient remedies for that purpose, if there was no power to remedy a situation created by a dispute between employers and employees as to rate of wages, which, if not remedied, would leave the public helpless, the whole people ruined, and all the homes of the land submitted to a danger of the most serious character? And finally, to what derision would it not reduce the proposition that government had power to enforce the duty of operation if that power did not extend to doing that which was essential to prevent operation from being completely stopped by filling the interregnum created by an absence of a conventional standard of wages, because of a dispute on that subject between the employers and employees, by a legislative standard binding on employers and employees for such a time as might be deemed by the legislature reasonably adequate to enable normal conditions to come about as the result of agreements as to wages between the parties?

We are of opinion that the reasons stated conclusively establish that, from the point of view of inherent power, the act which is before us was clearly within the legislative power of Congress to adopt, and that, in substance and effect, it amounted to an exertion of its authority under the circumstances disclosed to compulsorily arbitrate the dispute between the parties by establishing as to the subject matter of that dispute a legislative standard of wages operative and binding as a matter of law upon the parties -- a power nonetheless efficaciously exerted because exercised by direct legislative act, instead of by the enactment of other and appropriate means providing for the bringing about of such result. If it be conceded that the power to enact the statute was in effect the exercise of the right to fix wages where, by reason of the dispute, there had been a failure to fix by agreement, it would simply serve to show the nature and character of the regulation essential to protect the public right and safeguard the movement of interstate commerce, not involving any denial of the authority to adopt it.

And this leaves only to be generally considered whether the right to exercise such a power under the conditions which existed was limited or restrained by the private rights of the carriers or their employees.

(a) As to the carrier. As engaging in the business of interstate commerce carriage subject the carrier to the lawful power of Congress to regulate irrespective of the source whence the carrier draws its existence, and as also, by engaging in a business charged with a public interest, all the vast property and every right of the carrier become subject to the authority to regulate possessed by Congress to the extent that regulation may be exerted, considering the subject regulated and what is appropriate and relevant thereto, it follows that the very absence of the scale of wages by agreement, and the impediment and destruction of interstate commerce which was threatened, called for the appropriate and relevant remedy -- the creation of a standard by operation of law, binding upon the carrier.

(b) As to the employee. Here again it is obvious that what we have previously said is applicable and decisive, since, whatever would be the right of an employee engaged in a private business to demand such wages as he desires, to leave the employment if he does not get them, and, by concert of action, to agree with others to leave upon the same condition, such rights are necessarily subject to limitation when employment is accepted in a business charged with a public interest and as to which the power to regulate commerce possessed by Congress applied, and the resulting right to fix, in case of disagreement and dispute, a standard of wages, as we have seen, necessarily obtained.

In other words, considering comprehensively the situation of the employer and the employee in the light of the obligations arising from the public interest and of the work in which they are engaged, and the degree of regulation which may be lawfully exerted by Congress as to that business, it must follow that the exercise of the lawful governmental right is controlling. This results from the considerations which we have previously pointed out and which we repeat, since, conceding that, from the point of view of the private right and private interest, as contradistinguished from the public interest, the power exists between the parties, the employers and employees, to agree as to a standard of wages free from legislative interference, that right in no way affects the lawmaking power to protect the public right and create a standard of wages resulting from a dispute as to wages and a failure therefore to establish by consent a standard. The capacity to exercise the private right free from legislative interference affords no ground for saying that legislative power does not exist to protect the public interest from the injury resulting from a failure to exercise the private right. In saying this, of course, it is always to be borne in mind that, as to both carrier and employee, the beneficent and ever-present safeguards of the Constitution are applicable, and therefore both are protected against confiscation and against every act of arbitrary power which, if given effect to, would amount to a denial of due process, or would be repugnant to any other constitutional right. And this emphasizes that there is no question here of purely private right, since the law is concerned only with those who are engaged in a business charged with a public interest, where the subject dealt with as to all the parties is one involved in that business, and which we have seen comes under the control of the right to regulate to the extent that the power to do so is appropriate or relevant to the business regulated.

Having thus adversely disposed of the contentions as to the inherent want of power, we come to consider all the other propositions which group themselves under a common heading, that is:

II. Such an abuse of the power, if possessed, as rendered its exercise unconstitutional.

We shall consider the various contentions which come under this heading under separate subdivisions.

(a) Equal protection of the laws and penalties.

The want of equality is based upon two considerations. The one is the exemption of certain short line and electric railroads. We dismiss it because it has been adversely disposed of by many previous decisions.{9} The second rests upon the charge that unlawful inequality results because the statute deals not with all, but only with the wages of employees engaged in the movement of trains. But such employees were those concerning whom the dispute as to wages existed, growing out of which the threat of interruption of interstate commerce arose -- a consideration which establishes an adequate basis for the statutory classification.

As to the penalties, it suffices to say that in this case a recovery of penalties is not asked, and consequently the subject may well be postponed until it actually arises for decision.{10}

(b) Want of due process resulting from the improvidence with which the statute was enacted and the impossibility in practice of giving effect to its provisions; in other words, as stated in the argument, its "unworkability."

The contention virtually is that, conceding the legislative power under the circumstances stated to fix a standard of wages, such authority necessarily contemplates consideration before action, and not a total and obvious disregard of every right of the employer and his property -- a want of consideration and a disregard which, it is urged, appear on the face of the statute, and which cause it therefore to amount to a decision without a hearing, and to a mere arbitrary bestowal of millions by way of wages upon employees, to the injury not only of the employer, but of the public, upon whom the burden must necessarily fall. Upon the assumption that unconstitutionality would result if there be ground for the propositions,{11} let us test them. In the first place, as we have seen, there is no room for question that it was the dispute between the parties, their failure to agree as to wages, and the threatened disruption of interstate commerce caused by that dispute which was the subject which called for the exertion of the power to regulate commerce, and which was dealt with by the exertion of that power which followed. In the second place, all the contentions as to want of consideration sustaining the action taken are disposed of by the history we have given of the events out of which the controversy grew, the public nature of the dispute, the interposition of the President, the call by him upon Congress for action, in conjunction with the action taken -- all demonstrating not unwitting action or a failure to consider, whatever may be the room, if any, for a divergence of opinion as to the want of wisdom shown by the action taken.

But, to bring the subject to a closer analysis, let us briefly recall the situation, the conditions dealt with, and the terms of the statute. What was the demand made by the employees? A permanent agreement as to wages by which the period should be shortened in which the fixed mileage task previously existing should be performed, and an allowance to be made of extra pay by the minute at one and one-half times the regular pay for any overtime required to perform the task if it was not done in the reduced time, with a condition that no reduction in wages should occur from putting the demands into effect, and also that, in that event, their operation should be binding upon the employers and optional on the employees. What was the real dispute? The employers insisted that this largely increased the pay, because the allotted task would not be performed in the new and shorter time, and a large increase for overtime would result. The employees, on the other hand, insisted that, as the task would be unchanged and would be performed in the shorter hours, there would be no material, or, at all events, no inordinate, increase of pay. What did the statute do in settling these differences? It permanently applied an eight-hour standard for work and wages which existed and had been in practice on about fifteen percent of the railroads. It did not fix the amount of the task to be done during those hours, thus leaving that to the will of the parties. It yielded in part to the objections of the employers by permitting overtime only if "necessary," and it also absolutely rejected, in favor of the employers and against the employees, the demand for an increased rate of pay during overtime, if there was any, and confined it to the regular rate, and it moreover rejected the option in favor of the employees by making the law obligatory upon both parties. In addition, by the provision prohibiting a lower rate of wages under the new system than was previously paid, it fixed the wages for such period. But this was not a permanent fixing, but, in the nature of things, a temporary one which left the will of the employers and employees to control at the end of the period, if their dispute had then ceased.

Considering the extreme contentions relied upon in the light of this situation, we can discover no basis upon which they may rest. It certainly is not afforded because of the establishment of the eight-hour standard, since that standard was existing, as we have said, on about fifteen percent of the railroads, had already been established by act of Congress as a basis for work on government contracts, and had been upheld by this Court in sustaining state legislation.{12} It certainly cannot be said that the act took away from the parties, employers and employees, their private right to contract on the subject of a scale of wages, since the power which the act exerted was only exercised because of the failure of the parties to agree, and the resulting necessity for the lawmaking will to supply the standard rendered necessary by such failure of the parties to exercise their private right. Further, in view of the provisions of the act narrowing and limiting the demands made, the statute certainly affords no ground for the proposition that it arbitrarily considered only one side of the dispute, to the absolute and total disregard of the rights of the other, since it is impossible to state the modifications which the statute made of the demands without, by the very words of the statement, manifesting that there was an exertion of legislative discretion and judgment in acting upon the dispute between the parties. How can this demonstration fail to result if it be stated that the scope of the task to be performed in the eight-hour period was not expressed, but was left therefore to adjustment between the parties; that overtime was only permitted if "necessary;" and that extra pay for overtime was rejected and regular rate of pay substituted?

Conceding that there would necessarily result from the enforcement of the statute an increase of pay during the period for which the statute forbade a reduction, such concession would not bring the statute within the grounds stated. The right to meet the situation caused by the dispute and to fix a standard which should be binding upon both parties included, of course, the legislative authority to take into consideration the elements of difference, and, in giving heed to them all, to express such legislative judgment as was deemed best under the circumstances.

From this it also follows that there is no foundation for the proposition that arbitrary action in total disregard of the private rights concerned was taken, because the right to change or lower the wages was left to be provided for by agreement between the parties after a reasonable period which the statute fixed. This must be unless it can be said that to afford an opportunity for the exertion of the private right of agreement as to the standard of wages was in conflict with such right.

When it is considered that no contention is made that, in any view, the enforcement of the act would result in confiscation, the misconception upon which all the propositions proceed becomes apparent. Indeed, in seeking to test the arguments by which the propositions are sought to be supported, we are of opinion that it is evident that, in substance, they assert not that no legislative judgment was exercised, but that, in enacting the statute, there was an unwise exertion of legislative power, begotten either from some misconception or some mistaken economic view, or partiality for the rights of one disputant over the other, or some unstated motive which should not have been permitted to influence action. But to state such considerations is to state also the entire want of judicial power to consider them -- a view which therefore has excluded them absolutely from our mind, and which impels us as a duty to say that we have not in the slightest degree passed upon them. While it is a truism to say that the duty to enforce the Constitution is paramount and abiding, it is also true that the very highest of judicial duties is to give effect to the legislative will, and, in doing so, to scrupulously abstain from permitting subjects which are exclusively within in the field of legislative discretion to influence our opinion or to control judgment.

Finally, we say that the contention that the act was void and could not be made operative because of the unworkability of its provisions is without merit, since we see no reason to doubt that, if the standard fixed by the act were made applicable and a candid effort followed to carry it out, the result would be without difficulty accomplished. It is true that it might follow that, in some cases, because of particular terms of employment or exceptional surroundings, some change might be necessary, but these exceptions afford no ground for holding the act void because its provisions are not susceptible in practice of being carried out.

Being of the opinion that Congress had the power to adopt the act in question, whether it be viewed as a direct fixing of wages to meet the absence of a standard on that subject, resulting from the dispute between the parties, or as the exertion by Congress of the power which it undoubtedly possessed to provide by appropriate legislation for compulsory arbitration -- a power which inevitably resulted from its authority to protect interstate commerce in dealing with a situation like that which was before it -- we conclude that the court below erred in holding the statute was not within the power of Congress to enact, and in restraining its enforcement, and its decree therefore must be, and it is, reversed, and the cause remanded with directions to dismiss the bill.

And it is so ordered.


Article 4. Any rates of pay, including excess mileage or arbitrary differentials that are higher, or any rules or conditions of employment contained in individual schedules in effect January 1, 1916, that are more favorable to the employees, shall not be modified or affected by any settlement reached in connection with these proposals. The general committee representing the employees on each railroad will determine which is preferable and advise the officers of their company. Nothing in the settlement that may be reached on the above submitted articles is to be construed to deprive the employees on any railroad from retaining their present rules and accepting any rates that may be agreed upon or retaining their present rates and accepting any rules that may be agreed upon.

2. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 221 U.S. 612; Missouri, Kansas & Texas Ry. Co. v. United States, 231 U.S. 112.

3. United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366.

4. M’Culloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 421-423; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brinson, 154 U.S. 447, 472; Lottery Case, 188 U.S. 321; Clark Distilling Co. v. Western Maryland Ry. Co., 242 U.S. 311.

5. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. Co. v. Iowa, 94 U.S. 155, 161; Stone v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 116 U.S. 307; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. Co., 218 U.S. 88; Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. 352.

6. New York, New Haven & Hartford R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 220 U.S. 361; Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. Riverside Mills, 219 U.S. 186; Texas & Pacific Railway Co. v. Abilene Cotton Oil Co., 204 U.S. 426; Adams Exp. Co. v. Croninger, 226 U.S. 491; Boston & Maine Railroad v. Hooker, 233 U.S. 97.

7. Johnson v. Southern Pacific Company, 196 U.S. 1; Employers’ Liability Cases, 207 U.S. 463; Baltimore & Ohio R. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 221 U.S. 612; Southern Railway Co. v. United States, 222 U.S. 20; Second Employer’s Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1.

8. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. v. North Carolina Corp. Commission, 206 U.S. 1, 26; Missouri Pacific Railway v. Kansas, 216 U.S. 262, 278.

9. Dow v. Beidelman, 125 U.S. 680; Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. Co. v. Arkansas, 219 U.S. 453; Omaha & Council Bluffs Street Ry. Co. v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 230 U.S. 324; Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Conley, 230 U.S. 513, 522-524; St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Ry. Co. v. Arkansas, 240 U.S. 518.

10. United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366, 417; Grenada Lumber Co. v. Mississippi, 217 U.S. 433, 443; Southwestern Oil Co. v. Texas, 217 U.S. 114, 120; Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Richmond, 224 U.S. 160, 172; Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. Co. v. Conley, 230 U.S. 513, 522.

11. McCray v. United States, 195 U.S. 27, 63.

12. United States v. Martin, 94 U.S. 400; Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366; Ellis v. United States, 206 U.S. 246; United States v. Garbish, 222 U.S. 257; Miller v. Wilson, 236 U.S. 373; Bosley v. McLaughlin, 236 U.S. 385.


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Chicago: White, "White, J., Lead Opinion," Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917) in 243 U.S. 332 243 U.S. 341–243 U.S. 358. Original Sources, accessed August 15, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3VHZCN8SL3DU67B.

MLA: White. "White, J., Lead Opinion." Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917), in 243 U.S. 332, pp. 243 U.S. 341–243 U.S. 358. Original Sources. 15 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3VHZCN8SL3DU67B.

Harvard: White, 'White, J., Lead Opinion' in Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917). cited in 1917, 243 U.S. 332, pp.243 U.S. 341–243 U.S. 358. Original Sources, retrieved 15 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3VHZCN8SL3DU67B.