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U.S. Supreme Court

American Express Co. v. United States, 212 U.S. 522 (1909)

American Express Company v. United States

Nos. 405, 406, 407, 408, 409

Argued November 10, 11, 1908

Decided February 23, 1909

212 U.S. 522


The purpose of the Elkins Act is to require publication of tariff and to prevent and prohibit all discrimination, and the issuing of express franks falls within such prohibition.

Whether or not the issuing of express franks to officers and employees of express companies and their families is prohibited by § 2 of the Interstate Commerce Act of February 4, 1889, c. 104, 24 Stat. 379, an injunction is authorized under § 3 of the Elkins Act of February 19, 1903, c. 708, 32 Stat. 846, wherever a common carrier is engaged in the carriage of passengers or freight at less than the published rate, and by the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, express companies are brought within the act, and obliged to file and publish their rates.

The power of Congress over interstate transportation embraces all manner of carriage whether gratuitous or otherwise; and, in the absence of express exceptions, the intention of Congress in enacting the Elkins Act was to prevent any departure whatever from published rates.

The exceptions contained in the provision in § 1 of the Hepburn Act of June 29, 1906, c. 3591, 34 Stat. 584, allowing a common carrier to issue passes for free transportation of passengers to certain classes of persons cannot be extended to give express companies the right to issue passes to the same classes of persons for transportation of merchandise.

While a proviso may sometimes be construed as extending, rather than limiting, legislation, each statute must depend on its own terms, and chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 212 U. S. 523

a proviso will be construed consistently with the legislation under consideration.

Where Congress has used plain and explicit language, the only province of the courts is to give effect to the act as plainly expressed in its terms, and if the law is defective in not extending to one class of common carriers privileges extended to another, the remedy is in the hands of Congress, and not of the courts.

The facts are stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 212 U. S. 528

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