Marine and Coastal Law: Cases and Materials

By Dennis W. Nixon | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE

Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892)

JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

The object of the suit is to obtain a judicial determination of the title of certain lands on the east or lake front of the city of Chicago, situated between the Chicago River and Sixteenth Street, which have been reclaimed from the waters of the lake, and are occupied by the tracks, depots, warehouses, piers and other structures used by the railroad company in its business; and also of the title claimed by the company to the submerged lands, constituting the bed of the lake, lying east of its tracks, within the corporate limits of the city, for the distance of a mile, and between the south line of the south pier near the Chicago River extended eastwardly, and a line extended, in the same direction, from the south line of lot 21 near the company's roundhouse and machine shops. The determination of the title of the company will involve a consideration of its right to construct, for its own business, as well as for public convenience, wharves, piers, and docks in the harbor.

The State of Illinois was admitted into the Union in 1818 on an equal footing with the original States in all respects. Such was one of the conditions of the cession from Virginia of the territory northwest of the Ohio River, out of which the State was formed. But the equality prescribed would have existed if it had not been thus stipulated. There can be no distinction between the several States of the Union in the character of the jurisdiction, sovereignty, and dominion which they may possess and exercise over persons and subjects within their respective limits. The boundaries of the State were prescribed by Congress and accepted by the State in its original Constitution. They are given in the bill. It is sufficient for our purpose to observe that they include within their eastern line all that portion of Lake Michigan lying east of the main land of the State and the middle of the lake south of latitude forty-two degrees and thirty minutes.

It is the settled law of this country that the ownership of and dominion and sovereignty over lands covered by tidewaters, within the limits of the several States, belong to the respective States within which they are found,

-35-

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