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Opinion of the Court. would require it to be held that as the statute did not define the things to which it related and excluded resort to the only means by which the acts to which it relates could be ascertained—the light of reason—the enforcement of the statute was impossible because of its uncertainty. The merely generic enumeration which the statute makes of the acts to which it refers and the absence of any definition of restraint of trade as used in the statute leaves room for but one conclusion, which is, that it was expressly designed not to unduly limit the application of the act by precise definition, but while clearly fixing a standard, that is, by defining the ulterior boundaries which could not be transgressed with impunity, to leave it to be determined by the light of reason, guided by the principles of law and the duty to apply and enforce the public policy embodied in the statute, in every given case whether any particular act or contract was within the contemplation of the statute.
But, it is said, persuasive as these views may be, they may not be here applied, because the previous decisions of this court have given to the statute a meaning which expressly excludes the construction which must result from the reasoning stated. The cases are United States v. Freight A880ciation, 166 U. S. 290, and United States v. Joint Traffic Association, 171 U. S. 505. Both the cases involved the legality of combinations or associations of railroads engaged in interstate commerce for the purpose of controlling the conduct of the parties to the association or combination in many particulars. The association or combination was assailed in each case as being in violaton of the statute. It was held that they were. It is undoubted that in the opinion in each case general language was made use of, which, when separated from its context, would justify the conclusion that it was decided that reason could not be resorted to for the purpose of determining whether the acts complained of were within the statute. It is, however, also true that the nature and character of the contract or agreement in each case was fully referred to and suggestions as to their unreasonableness pointed out in order to indicate that they were within the prohibitions of the statute. As the cases cannot by any possible conception be treated as authoritative without the certitude that Opinion of the Court. reason was resorted to for the purpose of deciding them, it follows as a matter of course that it must have been held by the light of reason, since the conclusion could not have been otherwise reached, that the assailed  contracts or agreements were within the general enumeration of the statute, and that their operation and effect brought about the restraint of trade which the statute prohibited. This being inevitable, the deduction can in reason only be this: That in the cases re. lied upon it having been found that the acts complained of were within the statute and operated to produce the injuries which the statute forbade, that resort to reason was not permissible in order to allow that to be done which the statute prohibited. This being true, the rulings in the cases relied upon when rightly appreciated were therefore this and nothing more: That as considering the contracts or agreements, their necessary effect and the character of the parties by whom they were made, they were clearly restraints of trade within the purview of the statute, they could not be taken out of that category by indulging in general reasoning as to the expediency or non-expediency of having made the contracts or the wisdom or want of wisdom of the statute which prohibited their being made. That is to say, the cases but decided that the nature and character of the contracts, creating as they did a conclusive presumption which brought them within the statute, such result was not to be disregarded by the substitution of a judicial appreciation of what the law ought to be for the plain judicial duty of enforcing the law as it was made.
But aside from reasoning it is true to say that the cases relied upon do not when rightly construed sustain the doctrine contended for is established by all of the numerous decisions of this court which have applied and enforced the Anti-Trust Act, since they all in the very nature of things rest upon the premise that reason was the guide by which the provisions of the act were in every case interpreted. Indeed intermediate the decision of the two cases, that is, after the decision in the Freight Association case and before the decision in the Joint Traffic case, the case of Hopkins v. United States, 171 U. S. 578, was decided, the opinion being delivered by Mr. Justice Peckham, who wrote both the Opinion of the Court. opinions in the Freight Association and the Joint Traffic cases. And, referring in the Hopkins case to the broad claim made as to the rule of interpretation announced in the Freight A 88ociation case, it was said (p. 592):
" To treat as condemned by the act all agreements under which, as a result, the cost of conducting an interstate commercial business may be increased would enlarge the application of the act far beyond the fair meaning of the language used. There must be some direct and immediate effect upon interstate commerce in order to come within the act.”
And in the Joint Traffic case this statement was expressly reiterated and approved and illustrated by example; like limitation on the general language used in Freight Association and Joint Traffic cases is also the clear result of Bement v. National Harrow Co., 186 U. S. 70, 92, and especially of Cincinnati Packet Co. v. Bay, 200 U. S. 179.
If the criterion by which it is to be determined in all cases whether every contract, combination, etc., is a restraint of trade within the intendment of the law, is the direct or indirect effect of the acts involved, then of course the rule of reason becomes the guide, and the construction which we have given the statute, instead of being refuted by the cases relied
upon, is by those cases demonstrated to be correct. This is true, because as the construction which we have deduced from the history of the act and the analysis of its text is simply that in every case where it is claimed that an act or acts are in violation of the statute the rule of reason, in the light of the principles of law and the public policy which the act embodies, must be applied. From this it follows, since that rule and the result of the test as to direct or indirect, in their ultimate aspect, come to one and the same thing, that the difference between the two is therefore only that which obtains between things which do not differ at all.
 If it be true that there is this identity of result between the rule intended to be applied in the Freight Association case, that is, the rule of direct and indirect, and the rule of reason which under the statute as we construe it should be here applied, it may be asked how was it that in the opinion in the Freight Association case much consideration was given to the subject of whether the agreement or Opinion of the Court. combination which was involved in that case could be taken out of the prohibitions of the statute upon the theory of its reasonableness. The question is pertinent and must be fully and frankly met, for if it be now deemed that the Freight Association case was mistakenly decided or too broadly stated, the doctrine which it announced should be either expressly overruled or limited.
The confusion which gives rise to the question results from failing to distinguish between the want of power to take a case which by its terms or the circumstances which surrounded it, considering among such circumstances the character of the parties, is plainly within the statute, out of the operation of the statute by resort to reason in effect to establish that the contract ought not to be treated as within the statute, and the duty in every case where it becomes necessary from the nature and character of the parties to decide whether it was within the statute to pass upon that question by the light of reason. This distinction, we think, serves to point out what in its ultimate conception was the thought underlying the reference to the rule of reason made in the Freight Association case, especially when such reference is interpreted by the context of the opinion and in the light of the subsequent opinion in the Hopkins case and in Cincinnati Packet Company v. Bay, 200 U. S. 179.
And in order not in the slightest degree to be wanting in frankness, we say that in so far, however, as by separating the general language used in the opinions in the Freight Association and Joint Traffic cases from the con-  text and the subject and parties with which the cases were concerned, it may be conceived that the language referred to conflicts with the construction which we give the statute, they are necessarily now limited and qualified. We see no possible escape from this conclusion if we are to adhere to the many cases decided in this court in which the Anti-Trust Law has been applied and enforced and if the duty to apply and enforce that law in the future is to continue to exist. The first is true, because the construction which we now give the statute does not in the slightest degree conflict with a single previous case decided concerning the Anti-Trust Law aside from the contention as to the Freight Association and
Opinion of the Court. Joint Traffic cases, and because every one of those cases applied the rule of reason for the purpose of determining whether the subject before the court was within the statute. The second is also true, since, as we have already pointed out, unaided by the light of reason it is impossible to understand how the statute may in the future be enforced and the public policy which it establishes be made efficacious.
So far as the objections of the defendants are concerned they are all embraced under two headings:
(a) That the act, even if the averments of the bill be true, cannot be constitutionally applied, because to do so would extend the power of Congress to subjects dehors the reach of its authority to regulate commerce, by enabling that body to deal with mere questions of production of commodities within the States. But all the structure upon which this argument proceeds is based upon the decision in United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U. S. 1. The view, however, which the argument takes of that case and the arguments based upon that view have been so repeatedly pressed upon this court in connection with the interpretation and enforcement of the Anti-Trust Act, and have been so necessarily and expressly decided to be unsound as to cause the contentions to be plainly foreclosed and to require no ex press notice. United States v. Northern Securities Co., 193 U. S. 197, 334; Loewe v. Lawlor, 208 U. S. 274; Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U. S. 375; Montague v. Lowry, 193 U. S. 38; Shawnee Compress Co. v. Anderson, 209 U. S. 423,
(6) Many arguments are pressed in various forms of statement which in substance amount to contending that the statute cannot be applied under the facts of this case without impairing rights of property and destroying the freedom of contract or trade, which is essentially necessary to the wellbeing of society and which it is insisted is protected by the constitutional guaranty of due process of law. But the ultimate foundation of all these arguments is the assumption that reason may not be resorted to in interpreting and applying the statute, and therefore that the statute unreasonably restricts the right to contract and unreasonably operates upon the right to acquire and hold property. As the premise is demonstrated to be unsound by the construction we have