GRANGER CASES. In the face of increasing activism calling for the regulation of railway rates by the Grangers (members of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry) and other groups, several Midwestern states asserted regulatory authority over the railroad industry, enacting what were known as the Granger Laws. Illinois's 1870 constitution called for the state legislature to "prevent unjust discrimination and extortion" in freight and passenger rates, and Illinois, along with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota moved to regulate railroads and warehouses within their borders. Most of the state laws were poorly drawn and were eventually appealed as the railroads created uniform rates by raising them to the maximum allowed by law.
Illinois's regulations were the strongest and became the subject of Munn v. Illinois (1877), the most important of the eight Granger Cases. Fourteen Chicago warehouses, including that of the Munn Brothers, stored the grain produced by seven states. In Munn v. Illinois, the Court was asked to determine whether the state could regulate a private industry that served a public function. In a 5 to 4 decision, the Court sided with Illinois and established the Public Interest Doctrine, declaring that states could properly regulate private entities that served a public function. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, writing for the Court, declared that when "one devotes his property to a use in which the public has an interest, he, in effect, grants to the public an interest in that use, and must submit to be controlled by the public for the public good." Nationwide, other states followed suit, and the movement eventually gave rise to federal regulatory entities such as the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Ely, James W., Jr. The Chief Justiceship of Melville W. Fuller, 1888–1910. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
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