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Cardwell v. Americal River Bridge Company

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

113 U.S. 205

Cardwell  v.  Americal River Bridge Company

The American river is a branch of the Sacramento river in California. It is entirely within the state, and navigable for small steam-boats and barges from its mouth to the town of Folsom, a distance of 30 miles. By its junction with the Sacramento river, vessels starting upon it can proceed to the bay of San Francisco, and thence to adjoining states and foreign countries. It is therefore a navigable water of the United States, and, as such, is under the control of the general government in the exercise of its power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce, so far as may be necessary to insure its free navigation.

The defendant is a corporation organized under the laws of California, and, pursuant to the authority conferred by an act of its legislature, has constructed a bridge over the American river, of 20 feet in width and 300 feet in length, which is used as a roadway, across the stream. Its floor is about 14 feet above extreme low water, and about 5 feet above extreme high water; and the bridge is without a draw or opening for the passage of vessels. Steam-boats and other craft are therefore obstructed by it in the navigation of the river.

The complainant alleges that he is the owner of a large tract of land, bordering on the river, below Folsom, and raises many tons of grain each year; that he is also the owner of a steam-boat and other vessels by which he could ship his grain down the river but for the obstruction caused by the bridge; that there are also large quarries of granite on his land sufficient to supply the markets of Sacramento and San Francisco for years, and also large deposits of cobble-stone which have a value for paving, and, but for the obstruction, he could ship the granite and cobble-stone by his vessels and sell them at a profit, whereas the expense of sending them by rail or other means open to him are such as to deprive him of all profit on them. He therefore files his bill against the company, and prays that it may be enjoined from maintaining the bridge across the river until a draw shall have been placed in it sufficient to allow steam-boats, vessles, and water-craft, capable of navigating the stream, to pass and repass, freely and safely. A demurrer to the bill was sustained, and the bill dismissed, and the case is brought here on appeal.

J. J. Scrivner, for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 206-208 intentionally omitted]

A. T. Britton and J. B. Haggin, for appellee.

Mr. Justice Field delivered the opinion of the court. He recited the facts as stated above, and continued:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).