Hepburn Act 34 Stat. 584 (1906)

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HEPBURN ACT 34 Stat. 584 (1906)

A string of adverse decisions by the Supreme Court left the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) with few effective powers. Abuses abounded despite the elkins act of 1903, and in December 1905 theodore roosevelt reiterated his earlier calls for corrective legislation. The resulting bill, which met significant opposition only in the Senate, expressly vested the ICC with the power to prescribe "reasonable" maximum rail rates only after current rates and practices had been condemned in a hearing. The bill, which became law on June 29, 1906, nonetheless failed to establish any standards for those rates, thus leaving the Court to apply the fair return rule of smyth v. ames (1898). Rates initiated by the ICC were subject to narrow judicial review; new rates became effective upon issuance unless challenged in the circuit courts and successfully enjoined, in which case they took effect only when sustained by the courts. The "commodities clause," which forbade carriers from transporting goods produced by railroads or in which they had an interest, was primarily addressed to rail lines serving mining interests. Additional provisions, effective immediately, shifted the burden of appeals to the carriers, not the commission. Congress followed this with the mannelkins act in 1910, further supporting the commission.

David Gordon

(see also: Interstate Commerce Commission v. Illinois Central Railroad.)


Sharfman, Isaiah L. 1931–1937 The Interstate Commerce Commission, 4 vols. New York: Commonwealth Fund.

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Hepburn Act 34 Stat. 584 (1906)

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