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Western Telegraph Company v. Magnetic Telegraph Company

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

62 U.S. 456

Western Telegraph Company  v.  Magnetic Telegraph Company

THIS was an appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Maryland.

The case is stated in the opinion of the court.

It was argued by Mr. Cornelius McLean for the appellants, no counsel appearing for the appellee.

Mr. McLean's points for the complainants and appellants were the following:

1st. That they are, under their assignment, entitled to all the business between Wheeling and Pittsburg, and Washington and Baltimore.

The defendants could not have set up a parallel line of telegraph between those points, and the question is simply whether they can do indirectly and by combination what they could not do directly.

This court has decided that question, where a slave was brought into Alexandria, which the master had a right to do, by referring it to the jury to find whether the slave had been brought there for the purpose of being introduced into Washington county, of the District of Columbia. (Lee v. Lee, 8 Peters Sup. Co. Rep., 44.)

In that case, the court take the ground that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. (United States v. Quincy, 6 Peters Supreme Co. Rep., 466; The William King, 2 Wheat., 148.)

It has been decided in Maryland, that although a man may part with his personal property, yet he cannot give it away to defraud his wife. (Feigley v. Feigley, 7 Md. Rep., 561.)

It will be contended that the contract and combination alleged on the bill is an indirect way of doing what could not be directly done, and an infringement of the complainants' rights, so as to destroy the value of their patent.

2d. It will be contended, as claimed in the bill, and as a corollary from the first claim, that the complainants, being entitled to the carrying of telegraphic messages between those points, have also the right to the carriage of all messages reaching those points, and destined for other points on their said line, or other points to which their line is the shortest and most direct route; and that the defendants cannot lawfully combine, as alleged in the bill, with others, to divert them from the complainants' line.

Mr. Justice McLEAN delivered the opinion of the court.


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).