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Opinion of the Court.
ment or under the laws of the United States, as well to all controversies to which the United States shall be a party, (Art. 3, sec. 2,) and as the Circuit Courts of the United States are capable, under the statutes defining and regulating their jurisdiction, of exerting such power in cases or controversies of that character, within the limits prescribed by Congress, 25 Stat. 434, c. 866, the fundamental inquiry on this appeal is whether the present proceeding is a "case" or "controversy” within the meaning of the Constitution. The Circuit Court, as we have seen, regarded the petition of the Interstate Commerce Commission as nothing more than an application by an administrative body to a judicial tribunal for the exercise of its functions in aid of the execution of duties not of a judicial nature, and accordingly adjudged that this proceeding did not constitute a case or controversy to which the judicial power of the United States could be extended.
At the same time the learned court said : “Undoubtedly, Congress may confer upon a non-judicial body authority to obtain information necessary for legitimate governmental purposes, and make refusal to appear and testify before it touching matters pertinent to any authorized inquiry, an offence punishable by the courts, subject, however, to the privilege of witnesses to make no disclosures which might tend to criminate them or subject them to penalties or forfeitures. A prosecution or an action for violation of such a statute would clearly be an original suit or controversy between parties within the meaning of the Constitution, and not a mere application, like the present one, for the exercise of the judicial power in aid of a non-judicial body.” In re Interstate Coir erce Commission, 53 Fed. Rep. 476, 480.
In other words, if the Interstate Commerce Act made the refusal of a witness duly summoned to appear and testify before the Commission in respect to a matter rightfully committed by Congress to that body for examination, an offence against the United States, punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, a criminal prosecution or an information for the violation of such a statute would be a case or controversy to which ihe judicial power of the United States extended;
Opinion of the Court.
while a direct civil proceeding, expressly authorized by an act of Congress, in the name of the Commission, and under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, against the witness so refusing to testify, to compel him to give evidence before the Commission touching the same matter, would not be a case or controversy of which cognizance could be taken by any court established by Congress to receive the judicial power of the United States.
This interpretation of the Constitution would restrict the employment of means to carry into effect powers granted to Congress within much narrower limits than, in our judgment, is warranted by that instrument.
The Constitution expressly confers upon Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes, and to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying that power into execution. Art. 1, § 8. While the completely internal commerce of a State is reserved to the State itself, because never surrendered to the general government, commerce, the regulation of which is committed by the Constitution to Congress, comprehends traffic, navigation, and every species of commercial intercourse or trade between the United States, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 193, 194. “ It may be doubted,” this court has said, “whether any of the evils proceeding from the feebleness of the Federal government contributed more to that great revolution which introduced the present system than the deep and general conviction that commerce ought to be regulated by Congress. It is not, therefore, matter of surprise that the grant should be as extensive as the mischief, and should comprehend all foreign commerce, and all commerce among the States. To construe the power so as to impair its efficiency would tend to defeat an object, in the attainment of which the American public took, and justly took, that strong interest which arose from a full conviction of its necessity.” Brown V. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419,446; Phila. Steamship Co.v. Pennsylvania, 122 U.S. 326, 346. “In the matter of interstate commerce," this court, speaking by Mr. Justice Bradley, has declared, “the United
Opinion of the Court.
States are but one country, and are and must be subject to one system of regulations, and not to a multitude of systems." Robbins v. Shelby Taxing District, 120 U. S. 489, 494. The same principle was announced by the present Chief Justice in Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U. S. 141, 148.
What is the nature of the power thus expressly given to Congress, and to what extent, and under what restrictions, may it be constitutionally exerted !
This question was answered when Chief Justice Marshall said that it was the power “to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed.” “This power,” the Chief Justice continued, “like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution. These are expressed in plain terms, and do not affect the questions which arise in this case, or which have been discussed at the bar. If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations and among the several States is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the Constitution of the United States. The wisdom and the discretion of Congress, their identity with the people, and the influence which their constituents possess at elections, are, in this, as in many other instances, as that, for example, of declaring war, the sole restraints on which they have relied to secure them from its abuse. They are the restraints on which the people must often rely solely in all representative governments.” Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 189, 196-7.
Congress thus having plenary power subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution to prescribe the rule by which commerce among the several States is to be governed, the question necessarily arises, what are the principles that should control the judiciary when determining whether a particular act of Congress, avowedly adopted in execution of that power, is consistent with the fundamental limitations of the Constitution?
Opinion of the Court.
The general principle applicable to this subject was long ago announced by this court, and has been so often affirmed and applied that argument in support of it is unnecessary, even if it were possible to suggest any thought not heretofore expressed in the adjudged cases. In the great case of McCul
. loch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 421, 423, it was said : “ The sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion, with respect to the means by which the powers-it confers are to be carried into execution, which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people. Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional.” Again : “Where the law is not prohibited, and is really calculated to effect any of the objects entrusted to the government, to undertake here to inquire into the degree of its necessity would be to pass the line which circumscribes the judicial department, and to tread on legislative ground. This court disclaims all pretensions to such a power."
Guided by these principles, we proceed to inquire whether the twelfth section of the Interstate Commerce Act, so far as it authorizes the present proceeding, assumes to invest the Circuit Courts of the United States with functions that are not judicial.
It was not disputed at the bar, nor indeed can it be successfully denied, that the prohibition of unjust charges, discriminations, or preferences, by carriers engaged in interstate commerce, in respect to property or persons transported from one State to another, is a proper regulation of interstate commerce, or that the object that Congress has in view by the act in question may be legitimately accomplished by it under the power to regulate commerce among the several States. In every substantial sense such prohibition is a rule by which interstate commerce must be governed, and is plainly adapted to the object intended to be accomplished. The same obser
Opinion of the Court.
vation may be made in respect to those provisions empowering the Commission to inquire into the management of the business of carriers subject to the provisions of the act, and to investigate the whole subject of interstate commerce as conducted by such carriers, and, in that way, to obtain full and accurate information of all matters involved in the enforcement of the act of Congress. It was clearly competent for Congress, to that end, to invest the Commission with authority to require the attendance and testimony of witnesses, and the production of books, papers, tariffs, contracts, agreements, and documents relating to any matter legally committed to that body for investigation. We do not understand that any of these propositions are disputed in this case.
Interpreting the Interstate Commerce Act as applicable, and as intended to apply, only to matters involved in the regulation of commerce, and which Congress may rightfully subject to investigation by a commission established for the purpose of enforcing that act, we are unable to say that its provisions are not appropriate and plainly adapted to the protection of interstate commerce from burdens that are or may be, directly and indirectly, imposed upon it by means of unjust and unreasonable discriminations, charges, and preferences. Congress is not limited in its employment of means to those that are absolutely essential to the accomplishment of objects within the scope of the powers granted to it. It is a settled principle of constitutional law that “the government which has a right to do an act, and has imposed on it the duty of performing that act, must, according to the dictates of reason, be allowed to select the means; and those who contend that it may not select any appropriate means, that one particular mode of effecting the object is excepted, take upon themselves the burden of establishing that exception.” 4 Wheat. 316, 409. The test of the power of Congress is not the judgment of the courts that particular means are not the best that could have been employed to effect the end contemplated by the legislative department. The judiciary can only inquire whether the means devised in the execution of a power granted are forbidden by the Constitution. It cannot go beyond that inquiry