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U.S. Supreme Court

Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 219 U.S. 467 (1911)

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company v. Mottley

No. 246

Submitted January 9, 1911

Decided February 20, 1911

219 U.S. 467


The intent of Congress is to be gathered from the words of the act according to their ordinary acceptation, and the act should be construed in the light of circumstances existing at the time it was passed. Personal hardships cannot be considered, nor can the court mold the statute to meet its views of justice in a particular case.

The Court must have regard to all the words used by Congress in a statute and give effect to them as far as possible, and the introduction of a new word into a statute indicates an intent to cure a defect in, and suppress an evil not covered by, the former law.

The prohibition of the Act of February 4, 1887, c. 104, 2, 24 Stat. 379, as amended by the Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, against a carrier charging a different compensation from that specified in its published tariff extends to the granting of interstate transportation by carriers as compensation for injuries, services, advertising, or property; the statute means that transportation shall be paid for by all alike, and only in cash.

The purpose of Congress in enacting the amendatory act of June 29, 1906, was to cut up by the roots every form of discrimination in rates not specially excepted, and the act applied to existing contracts and rendered those which were discriminatory illegal.

The court cannot on equitable grounds add an exception to the classes to which a statute clearly applies if Congress forbears to do so.

The power of Congress to regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations is complete and unrestricted except by limitations in the Constitution itself, and extends to rendering impossible

Page 219 U. S. 468

the enforcement by suit of contracts between carriers and shippers, although valid when made.

The power of Congress to act in regard to matters delegated to it is not hampered by contracts made in regard to such matters by individuals, but contracts of that nature are made subject to the possibility that, even if valid when made, Congress may, by exercising it power, render them invalid.

An act of Congress rendering contracts in regard to interstate commerce invalid does not infringe the constitutional liberty of the citizen to make contracts, and an act, otherwise constitutional, is not unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment as taking private property without compensation because it invalidates contracts between individuals which conflict with the public policy declared in the act.

After the enactment of the Act of June 29, 1906, it was unlawful for a carrier to issue interstate transportation in pursuance of a prior existing contract to do so as compensation for injuries received, and, even though valid when made, such a contract cannot now be enforced against the carrier by suit.

133 Ky. 652 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act relating to payment of fares on railways, are stated in the opinion.

Page 219 U. S. 471

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