U.S. Supreme Court

PROPRIETORS OF CHARLES RIVER BRIDGE v. PROPRIETORS OF, 36 U.S. 420 (1837)

36 U.S. 420 (Pet.)

The Proprietors of the CHARLES RIVER BRIDGE, Plaintiffs in error,
v.
The Proprietors of the WARREN BRIDGE and others.

January Term, 1837[ Proprietors of Charles River Bridge v. Proprietors of (1837) ]

(This case raises the question of whether a state legislature can act in such a way as to lessen or destroy the value of a franchise granted by prior legislatures.  In 1828 the Massachusetts legislature chartered a bridge that competed with a bridge chartered in 1786.  Did these subsequent act impair the obligation of contracts?)

TANEY, Ch. J., delivered the opinion of the court.

The questions involved in this case are of the gravest character, and the court have given to them the most anxious and deliberate consideration. The value of the right claimed by the plaintiffs is large in amount; and many persons may, no doubt, be seriously affected in their pecuniary interests, by any decision which the court may pronounce; and the questions which have been raised as to the power of the several states, in relation to the corporations they have chartered, are pregnant with important consequences; not only to the individuals who are concerned in the corporate franchises, but to the communities in which they exist. The court are fully sensible, that it is their duty, in exercising the high powers conferred on them by the constitution of the United States, to deal with these great and extensive interests, with the utmost caution; guarding, so far as they have the power to do so, the rights of property, and at the same time, carefully abstaining from any encroachment on the rights reserved to the states.

It appears, from the record, that in the year 1650, the legislature of Massachusetts granted to the president of Havard College 'the liberty and power,' to dispose of the ferry from Charlestown to Boston, by lease or otherwise, in the behalf, and for the behalf, of the college; and that under that grant, the college continued to hold and keep the ferry, by its lessees or agents, and to receive the profits of it, until 1785. In the last-mentioned year, a petition was presented to the legislature, by Thomas Russell and others, stating the inconvenience of the transportation by ferries, over Charles river, and the public advantages that would result from a bridge; and praying to be incorporated, for the purpose of erecting a bridge in the place where the ferry between Boston and Charlestown was then kept. Pursuant to this petition, the legislature, on the 9th of March 1785, passed an act incorporating a company, by the name of 'The Proprietors of the Charles River Bridge,' for the purposes mentioned in the petition. Under this charter, the company were empowered to erect a bridge, in 'the place where the ferry was then kept;' certain tolls were granted, and the charter was limited to forty years from the first opening of the bridge for passengers; and from the time the toll commenced, until the expiration of this term, the company were to pay 200l., annually, to Harvard College; and at the expiration of the forty years, the bridge was to be the property of the commonwealth; 'saving (as the law expresses it) to the said college or university, a reasonable annual compensation, for the annual income of the ferry, which they might have received, had not the said bridge been erected.'

The bridge was accordingly built, and was opened for passengers on the 17th of June 1786. In 1792, the charter was extended to seventy years from the opening of the bridge; and at the expiration of that time, it was to belong to the commonwealth. The corporation have regularly paid to the college the annual sum of 200l. and have performed all of the duties imposed on them by the terms of their charter.

In 1828, the legislature of Massachusetts incorporated a company by the name of 'The Proprietors of the Warren Bridge,' for the purpose of erecting another bridge over Charles river. This bridge is only sixteen rods, at its commencement, on the Charlestown side, from the commencement of the bridge of the plaintiffs; and they are about fifty rods apart, at their termination on the Boston side. The travellers who pass over either bridge, proceed from Charlestown square, which receives the travel of many great public roads leading from the country; and the passengers and travellers who go to and from Boston, used to pass over the Charles River bridge, from and through this square, before the erection of the Warren bridge.

The Warren bridge, by the terms of its charter, was to be surrendered to the state, as soon as the expenses of the proprietors in building and supporting it should be reimbursed; but this period was not, in any event, to exceed six years from the time the company commenced receiving toll.

...

Borrowing, as we have done, our system of jurisprudence from the English law; and having adopted, in every other case, civil and criminal, its rules for the construction of statutes; is there anything in our local situation, or in the nature of our political institutions, which should lead us to depart from the principle, where corporations are concerned? Are we to apply to acts of incorporation, a rule of construction differing from that of the English law, and, by implication, make the terms of a charter, in one of the states, more unfavorable to the public, than upon an act of parliament, framed in the same words, would be sanctioned in an English court? Can any good reason be assigned, for excepting this particular class of cases from the operation of the general principle; and for introducing a new and adverse rule of construction, in favor of corporations, while we adopt and adhere to the rules of construction known to the English common law, in every other case, without exception? We think not; and it would present a singular spectacle, if, while the courts in England are restraining, within the strictest limits, the spirit of monopoly, and exclusive privileges in nature of monopolies, and confining corporations to the privileges plainly given to them in their charter; the courts of this country should be found enlarging these privileges by implication; and construing a statute more unfavorably to the public, and to the rights of community, than would be done in a like case in an English court of justice.

. . .

Adopting the rule of construction above stated as the settled one, we proceed to apply it to the charter of 1785, to the proprietors of the Charles River bridge. This act of incorporation is in the usual form, and the privileges such as are commonly given to corporations of that kind. It confers on them the ordinary faculties of a corporation, for the purpose of building the bridge; and establishes certain rates of toll, which the company are authorized to take: this is the whole grant. There is no exclusive privilege given to them over the waters of Charles river, above or below their bridge; no right to erect another bridge themselves, nor to prevent other persons from erecting one, no engagement from the state, that another shall not be erected; and no undertaking not to sanction competition, nor to make improvements that may diminish the amount of its income. Upon all these subject, the charter is silent; and nothing is said in it about a line of travel, so much insisted on in the argument, in which they are to have exclusive privileges. No words are used, from which an intention to grant any of these rights can be inferred; if the plaintiff is entitled to them, it must be implied, simply, from the nature of the grant; and cannot be inferred, from the words by which the grant is made.

The relative position of the Warren bridge has already been described. It does not interrupt the passage over the Charles River bridge, nor make the way to it, or from it, less convenient. None of the faculties or franchises granted to that corporation, have been revoked by the legislature; and its right to take the tolls granted by the charter remains unaltered. In short, all the franchises and rights of property, enumerated in the charter, and there mentioned to have been granted to it, remain unimpaired. But its income is destroyed by the Warren bridge; which, being free, draws off the passengers and property which would have gone over it, and renders their franchise of no value. This is the gist of the complainant; for it is not pretended, that the erection of the Warren bridge would have done them any injury, or in any degree affected their right of property, if it had not diminished the amount of their tolls. In order, then, to entitle themselves to relief, it is necessary to show, that the legislature contracted not to do the act of which they complain; and that they impaired, or in other words, violated, that contract, by the erection of the Warren bridge.

The inquiry, then, is, does the charter contain such a contract on the part of the state? Is there any such stipulation to be found in that instrument? It must be admitted on all hands, that there is none; no words that even relate to another bridge, or to the diminution of their tolls, or to the line of travel. If a contract on that subject can be gathered from the charter, it must be by implication; and cannot be found in the words used. Can such an agreement be implied? The rule of construction before stated is an answer to the question: in charters of this description, no rights are taken from the public, or given to the corporation, beyond those which the words of the charter, by their natural and proper construction, purport to convey. There are no words which import such a contract as the plaintiffs in error contend for, and none can be implied; and the same answer must be given to them that was given by this court to Providence Bank. The whole community are interested in this inquiry, and they have a right to require that the power of promoting their [36 U.S. 420, 550]   comfort and convenience, and of advancing the public prosperity, by providing safe, convenient and cheap ways for the transportation of produce, and the purposes of travel, shall not be construed to have been surrendered or diminished by the state; unless it shall appear by plain words, that it was intended to be done.

...

Can the legislature be presumed to have taken upon themselves an implied obligation, contrary to its own acts and declarations contained in the same law? It would be difficult to find a case justifying such an implication, even between individuals; still less will it be found, where sovereign rights are concerned, and where the interests of a whole community would be deeply affected by such an implication. It would, indeed, be a strong exertion of judicial power, acting upon its own views of what justice required, and the parties ought to have done, to raise, by a sort of judicial coercion, an implied contract, and infer it from the nature of the very instrument in which the legislature appear to have taken pains to use words which disavow and repudiate any intention, on the part of the state, to make such a contract.

Indeed, the practice and usage of almost every state in the Union, old enough to have commenced the work of internal improvement, is opposed to the doctrine contended for on the part of the plaintiffs in error. Turnpike roads have been made in succession, on the same line of travel; the later ones interfering materially with the profits of the first. These corporations have, in some instances, been utterly ruined by the introduction of newer and better modes of transportation and travelling. In some cases, railroads have rendered the turnpike roads on the same line of travel so entirely useless, that the [36 U.S. 420, 552]   franchise of the turnpike corporation is not worth preserving. Yet in none of these cases have the corporation supposed that their privileges were invaded, or any contract violated on the part of the state. Amid the multitude of cases which have occurred, and have been daily occurring, for the last forty or fifty years, this is the first instance in which such an implied contract has been contended for, and this court called upon to infer it, from an ordinary act of incorporation, containing nothing more than the usual stipulations and provisions to be found in every such law. The absence of any such controversy, when there must have been so many occasions to give rise to it, proves, that neither states, nor individuals, nor corporations, ever imagined that such a contract could be implied from such charters. It shows, that the men who voted for these laws, never imagined that they were forming such a contract; and if we maintain that they have made it, we must create it by a legal fiction, in opposition to the truth of the fact, and the obvious intention of the party. We cannot deal thus with the rights reserved to the states; and by legal intendments and mere technical reasoning, take away from them any portion of that power over their own internal police and improvement, which is so necessary to their well-being and prosperity.

And what would be the fruits of this doctrine of implied contracts, on the part of the states, and of property in a line of travel, by a corporation, if it would now be sanctioned by this court? To what results would it lead us? If it is to be found in the charter to this bridge, the same process of reasoning must discover it, in the various acts which have been passed, within the last forty years, for turnpike companies. And what is to be the extent of the privileges of exclusion on the different sides of the road? The counsel who have so ably argued this case, have not attempted to define it by any certain boundaries. How far must the new improvement be distant from the old one? How near may you approach, without invading its rights in the privileged line? If this court should establish the principles now contended for, what is to become of the numerous railroads established on the same line of travel with turnpike companies; and which have rendered the franchises of the turnpike corporations of no value? Let it once be understood, that such charters carry with them these implied contracts, and give this unknown and undefined property in a line of travelling; and you will soon find the old turnpike corporations awakening from their sleep, and calling [36 U.S. 420, 553]   upon this court to put down the improvements which have taken their place. The millions of property which have been invested in railroads and canals, upon lines of travel which had been before occupied by turnpike corporations, will be put in jeopardy. We shall be thrown back to the improvements of the last century, and obliged to stand still, until the claims of the old turnpike corporations shall be satisfied; and they shall consent to permit these states to avail themselves of the lights of modern science, and to partake of the benefit of those improvements which are now adding to the wealth and prosperity, and the convenience and comfort, of every other part of the civilized world. Nor is this all. This court will find itself compelled to fix, by some arbitrary rule, the width of this new kind of property in a line of travel; for if such a right of property exists, we have no lights to guide us in marking out its extent, unless, indeed, we resort to the old feudal grants, and to the exclusive rights of ferries, by prescription, between towns; and are prepared to decide that when a turnpike road from one town to another, had been made, no railroad or canal, between these two points, could afterwards be established. This court are not prepared to sanction principles which must lead to such results.

 

STORY, Justice. (Dissenting.)

...

It is a well-known rule in the construction of private grants, if the meaning of the words be doubtful, to construe them most strongly against the grantor. But it is said, that an opposite rule prevails in cases of grants by the king; for, where there is any doubt, the construction is made most favorably for the king, and against the grantee. The rule is not disputed; but it is a rule of very limited application. To what cases does it apply? To such cases only, where there is a real doubt, where the grant admits of two interpretations, one of which is more extensive, and the other more restricted; so that a choice is fairly open, and either may be adopted, without any violation of the apparent objects of the grant. If the king's grant admits of two interpretations, one of which will make it utterly void and worthless, and the other will give it a reasonable effect, then the latter is to prevail; for the reason (says the common law), 'that it will be more for the benefit of the subject, and the honor of the king, which is to be more regarded than his profit.' Com. Dig. Grant, G. 12; 9 Co. 131 a; 10 Ibid. 67 b; 6 Ibid. 6. And in every case, the rule is made to bend to the real justice and integrity of the case. No strained or extravagant construction is to be made in favor of the king. And if the intention of the grant is obvious, a fair and liberal interpretation of its terms is enforced.

...

The present, however, is not the case of a royal grant, but of a legislative grant, by a public statute. The rules of the common law in relation to royal grants have, therefore, in reality, nothing to do with the case. We are to give this act of incorporation a rational and fair construction, according to the general rules which govern in all cases of the exposition of public statutes. We are to ascertain the legislative intent; and that once ascertained, it is our duty to give it a full and liberal operation.

...

As to the manner of construing parliamentary grants for private enterprise, there are some recent decisions, which, in my judgment, establish two very important principles, applicable directly to the present case; which, if not confirmatory of the views which I have endeavored to maintain, are at least not repugnant to them. The first is, that all grants for purposes of this sort are to be construed as contracts between the government and the grantees, and not as mere laws; the second is, that they are to receive a reasonable construction; and that if, either upon their express terms, or by just inference from the terms, the intent of the contract can be made out, it is to be recognised and enforced accordingly. But if the language be ambiguous, or if the inference be not clearly made out, then the contract is to be taken most strongly against the grantor, and most favorably for the public.

...

I admit, that where the terms of a grant are to impose burdens upon the public, or to create a restraint injurious to the public interest, there is sound reason for interpreting the terms, if ambiguous, in favor of the public. But at the same time, I insist, that there is not the slightest reason for saying, even in such a case, that the grant is not to be construed favorably to the grantee, so as to secure him in the enjoyment of what is actually granted.

...

In the case of a legislative grant, there is no ground to impute surprise, imposition or mistake, to the same extent as in a mere private grant of the crown. The words are the words of the legislature, upon solemn deliberation, and examination and debate. Their purport is presumed to be well known, and the public interests are [36 U.S. 420, 603]   watched, and guarded by all the varieties of local, personal and professional jealousy; as well as by the untiring zeal of numbers, devoted to the public service.

It should also be constantly kept in mind, that in construing this charter, we are not construing a statute involving political powers and sovereignty, like those involved in the case of The Elsebe, 5 Rob. 173. We are construing a grant of the legislature, which though in the form of a statute, is still but a solemn contract. In such a case, the true course is, to ascertain the sense of the parties, from the terms of the instrument; and that once ascertained, to give it full effect. Lord COKE, indeed, recommends this as the best rule, even in respect to royal grants. 'The best exposition' (says he) 'of the king's charter is, upon the consideration of the whole charter, to expound the charter by the charter itself; every material part thereof (being) explained according to the true and genuine sense, which is the best method.' Case of Sutton's Hospital, 10 Co. 24 b.

But with a view to induce the court to withdraw from all the common rules of reasonable and liberal interpretation in favor of grants, we have been told at the argument, that this very charter is a restriction upon the legislative power; that it is in derogation of the rights and interests of the state, and the people; that it tends to promote monopolies and exclusive privileges; and that it will interpose an insuperable barrier to the progress of improvement. Now, upon every one of these propositions, which are assumed, and not proved, I entertain a directly opposite opinion; and if I did not, I am not prepared to admit the conclusion for which they are adduced. If the legislature has made a grant, which involves any or all of these consequences, it is not for courts of justice to overturn the plain sense of the grant, because it has been improvidently or injuriously made.

But I deny the very ground-work of the argument.

...

I go further, and maintain, not only that it is not a case for strict construction; but that the charter, upon its very face, by its terms, and for its professed objects, demands from the court, upon undeniable principles of law, a favorable construction for the grantees. In the first place, the legislature has declared, that the erecting of the bridge will be of great public utility; and this exposition of its own motives for the grant, requires the court to give a liberal interpretation, in order to promote, and not to destroy, an enterprise of great public utility. In the next place, the grant is a contract for a valuable consideration, and a full and adequate consideration. The proprietors are to lay out a large sum of money (and in those times it was a very large outlay of capital) in erecting a bridge; they are to keep it in repair, during the whole period of forty years; they are to surrender it in good repair, at the end of that period, to the state, as its own property; they are to pay, during the whole period, an annuity of 200l. to Harvard College; and they are to incur other heavy expenses and burdens, for the public accommodation. In return for all these charges, they are entitled to no more than the receipt of the tolls, during the forty years, for their reimbursement of capital, interest and expenses. With all this, they are to take upon themselves the chances of success; and if the enterprise fails, the loss is exclusively their own. Nor let any man imagine, that there was not, at the time when this charter was granted, much solid ground for doubting success. In order to entertain a just view of this subject, we must go back to that period of general bankruptcy, and distress and difficulty. The constitution of the United States was not only not then in existence, but it was not then even dreamed of. The union of the states was crumbling into ruins, under the old confederation. Agriculture, manufactures and commerce were at their lowest ebb. There was infinite danger to all the states, from local interests and jealousies, and from the apparent impossibility of a much longer adherence to that shadow of a government, the continental congress. And even four years afterwards, when every evil had been greatly aggravated, and civil war was added to other calamities, the constitution of the United States was all but shipwrecked, in passing through the state conventions; it was adopted by very slender majorities. These are historical facts, which required no coloring to give them effect, and admitted of no concealment, to seduce men into schemes of future aggrandizement. I would even now put it to the common sense of every man, whether, if the constitution of the United States had not been adopted, the charter would have been worth a forty years' purchase of the tolls.

This is not all. It is well known, historically, that this was the very first bridge ever constructed, in New England, over navigable tide- waters so near the sea. The rigors of our climate, the dangers from sudden thaws and freezing, and the obstructions from ice in a rapid current, were deemed by many persons to be insuperable obstacles to the success of such a project. It was believed, that the bridge would scarcely stand a single severe winter. And I myself am old enough to know, that in regard to other arms of the sea, at much later periods, the same doubts have had a strong and depressing influence upon public enterprises. If Charles River bridge had been carried away, during the first or second season after its erection, it is far from being certain, that up to this moment, another bridge, upon such an arm of the sea, would ever have been erected in Massachusetts. I state these things, which are of public notoriety, to repel the notion that the legislature was surprised into an incautions grant, or that the reward was more than adequate to the perils. There was a full and adequate consideration, in a pecuniary sense, for the charter. But, in a more general sense, the erection of the bridge, as a matter of accommodation, has been incalcuably beneficial to the public. Unless, therefore, we are wholly to disregard the declarations of the legislature, and the objects of the charter, and the historical facts of the times; and indulge in mere private speculations of profit and loss, by our present lights and experience; [36 U.S. 420, 611]   it seems to me, that the court is bound to come to the interpretation of this charter, with a persuasion that it was granted in furtherance, and not in derogation, of the public good.

...

Now, I put it to the common sense of every man, whether if, at the moment of granting the charter, the legislature had said to the proprietors; you shall build the bridge; you shall bear the burdens; you shall be bound by the charges; and your sole reimbursement shall be from the tolls of forty years: and yet we will not even guaranty you any certainty of receiving any tolls; on the contrary; we reserve to ourselves the full power and authority to erect other bridges, toll or free bridges, according to our own free will and pleasure, contiguous to yours, and having the same termini with yours; and if you are successful, we may thus supplant you, divide, destroy your profits, and annihilate your tolls, without annihilating your burdens: if, I say, such had been the language of the legislature, is there a man living, of ordinary discretion or prudence, who would have accepted such a charter, upon such terms? I fearlessly answer, no. There would have been such a gross inadequacy of consideration, and such a total insecurity of all the rights of property, under such circumstances, that the project would have dropped still-born. And I put the question further, whether any legislature, meaning to promote a project of permanent, public utility (such as this confessedly was), would ever have dreamed of such a qualification of its own grant, when it sought to enlist private capital and private patronage to insure the accomplishment of it? [36 U.S. 420, 616]   Yet, this is the very form and pressure of the present case. It is not an imaginary and extravagant case. Warren bridge has been erected, under such a supposed reserved authority, in the immediate neighborhood of Charles River bridge; and with the same termini, to accommodate the same line of travel. For a half-dozen years, it was to be a toll bridge, for the benefit of the proprietors, to reimburse them for their expenditures; at the end of that period, the bridge is to become the property of the state, and free of toll; unless the legislature should thereafter impose one. In point of fact, it has since become, and now is, under the sanction of the act of incorporation, and other subsequent acts, a free bridge, without the payment of any tolls, for all persons. So that, in truth, here now is a free bridge, owned by and erected under the authority of the commonwealth, which necessarily takes away all the tolls from Charles River bridge; while its prolonged charter has twenty years to run. And yet the act of the legislature establishing Warren bridge, is said to be no violation of the franchise granted to the Charles River bridge. The legislature may annihilate, nay, has annihilated, by its own acts, all chance of receiving tolls, by withdrawing the whole travel; though it is admitted, that it cannot take away the barren right to gather tolls, if any should occur, when there is no travel to bring a dollar. According to the same course of argument, the legislature would have a perfect right to block up every avenue to the bridge, and to obstruct every highway which should lead to it, without any violation of the chartered rights of Charles River bridge; and at the same time, it might require every burden to be punctiliously discharged by the proprietors, during the prolonged period of seventy years. I confess, that the very statement of such propositions is so startling to my mind, and so irreconcilable with all my notions of good faith, and of any fair interpretation of the legislative intentions, that I should always doubt the soundness of any reasoning which should conduct me to such results.

...

The truth is, that the whole argument of the defendants turns upon an implied reservation of power in the legislature to defeat and destroy its own grant. The grant, construed upon its own terms, upon the plain principles of construction of the common law, by which alone it ought to be judged, is an exclusive grant. It is the grant of a franchise, publici juris, with a right of tolls; and in all such cases, the common law asserts the grant to be exclusive, so as to prevent injurious competition. The argument seeks to exclude the common law from touching the grant, by implying an exception in favor of the legislative authority to make any new grant. And let us change the position of the question as often as we may, it comes to this, as a necessary result-that the legislature has reserved the power to destroy its own grant, and annihilate the right of pontage of the Charles River bridge. If it stops short of this exercise of its power, it is its own choice, and not its duty. Now, I maintain, that such a reservation is equivalent to a power to resume the grant; and yet it has never been for a moment contended, that the legislature was competent to resume it.

To the answer already given to the objection, that, unless such a reservation of power exists, there will be a stop put to the progress of all public improvements; I wish, in this connection, to add, that there never can any such consequence follow upon the opposite doctrine. If the public exigencies and interests require that the franchise of Charles River bridge should be taken away, or impaired, it may be lawfully done, upon making due compensation to the proprietors. 'Whenever,' says the constitution of Massachusetts, 'the public exigencies require that the property of any individual should be appropriated to public uses, he shall receive a reasonable compensation therefor;' and this franchise is property-is fixed determinate property. We have been told, indeed, that where the damage is merely consequential (as, by the erection of a new bridge, it is said that it would be), the constitution does not entitle the party to compensation; and Thruston v. Hancock, 12 Mass. 220, and Callender v. Marsh, 1 Pick. 418, are cited in support of the doctrine. With all possible respect for the opinions of others, I confess myself to be among those who never could comprehend the law of either of those cases; and I humbly continue to doubt, if, upon principle or authority, they are easily maintainable; and I think my doubts fortified by the recent English decisions. But, assuming these cases to be unquestionable, they do not apply to a case like the prevent, if the erection of such a new bridge is a violation of the plaintiffs' franchise. That franchise, so far as it reaches, is private property; and so far as it is injured, it is the taking away of private property. Suppose, a man is the owner of a mill, and the legislature authorizes a diversion of the watercourse which supplies it, whereby the mill is injured or ruined; are we to be told, that this is a consequential injury, and not within the scope of the constitution? If not within the scope of the constitution, it is, according to the fundamental principles of a free government, a violation of private rights, which cannot be taken away, without compensation.

...

The legislature understood itself to be granting a boon; and not making a bargain or asking a favor. It was liberal, because it meant to be just, in a case of acknowledged hazard, and of honorable enterprise, very beneficial to the public. To suppose, that the plaintiffs meant to surrender their present valuable and exclusive right of franchise for thirty-four remaining years, and to put it in the power of the legislature, the next day, or the next year, to erect a bridge, toll or free, which by its contiguity should ruin theirs, or take away all their profits; is a supposition, in my judgment, truly extravagant, and without a scintilla of evidence to support it. The burdens of maintaining the bridge were to remain; the payment of the annuity to Harvard College was to remain: and yet, upon this [36 U.S. 420, 650]   supposition, the extension of the term of their charter, granted in the shape of a bounty, would amount to a right to destroy the franchise the next day, or the next hour, at the pleasure of the legislature. I cannot perceive, upon what ground such an implication can be made; an implication, not arising from any words or intent expressed on the face of the act, or fairly inferrible from its purposes; and wholly repugnant to the avowed objects of the grant, which are to confer a benefit, and not to impose an oppressive burden, or create a ruinous competition.

Upon the whole, my judgment is, that the act of the legislature of Massachusetts granting the charter of Warren Bridge, is an act impairing the obligation of the prior contract and grant to the proprietors of Charles River bridge; and, by the constitution of the United States, it is, therefore, utterly void. I am for reversing the decree to the state court (dismissing the bill); and for remanding the cause to the state court for further proceedings, as to law and justice shall appertain.