The Iron Horse and the Constitution: The Railroads and the Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment

The Iron Horse and the Constitution: The Railroads and the Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment

The Iron Horse and the Constitution: The Railroads and the Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment

The Iron Horse and the Constitution: The Railroads and the Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment

Synopsis

This is the first in-depth analysis of American railroad litigation from the 1880s to 1910 that led to landmark Supreme Court decisions fundamentally altering the meaning of due process in American constitutional law and establishing a basic power of the federal courts to restrict state regulation over railroad rates. This is also the first book-length study to systematically explore the impact of American railroads on the Constitution and judicial process.

Excerpt

Some years ago, I published a book that analyzed the process by which the U.S. Supreme Court had applied most of the rights in the Bill of Rights as restrictions on the powers of the states via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The research for that work required an intensive scrutiny of the Supreme Court's decisions construing the Fourteenth Amendment since its adoption in 1868. I was struck by the very substantial impact that constitutional litigation conducted by the railroads had produced on American constitutional development, particularly regarding the Fourteenth Amendment, during the post- Civil War era. I decided that if the opportunity should present itself, I would explore what permanent consequences for constitutional development in the United States had resulted from constitutional litigation by railroad interests during the post-Civil War era.

As the first modern, interstate industry that intimately affected the economic interests of virtually all of American society, the railroads were soon affected during the post-Civil War era by attempts at both the state and federal levels to impose governmental regulations on their operations, in the public interest. The roads responded to the most important of the earliest attempts to subject them to governmental regulation--the so-called Granger laws, which regulated railroad rates and were enacted during the 1870s. in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin--with a systematic litigation campaign challenging the constitutional validity of governmental regulation in the courts. The railroad challenge to the Granger laws nevertheless met with disaster when the Supreme Court, in the Granger Cases of 1877, upheld the constitutionality of governmental regulation of railroad rates and rejected every constitutional contention relied upon by the roads in their challenge to the validity of the Granger laws.

The roads viewed as especially dangerous to their ability to protect their property interests the holding by Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite in the Granger Cases that whether a governmentally imposed railroad rate was reasonable or not . . .

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