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of car was meant. Tested by context, subject matter and object, "any car" meant all kinds of cars running on the rails, including locomotives. And this view is supported by the dictionary definitions and by many judicial decisions, some of them having been rendered in construction of this act. Winkler v. Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, 53 Atl. Rep. 90; 4 Penn. (Del.) 387; Fleming v. Southern Railway Company, 131 N. Car. 476; East St. Louis Connecting Railway Company v. O'Hara, 150 Illinois, 580; Kansas City &c. Railroad Company v. Crocker, 95 Alabama, 412; Thomas v. Georgia Railroad and Banking Company, 38 Georgia, 222; Mayor &c. v. Third Ave. R. R. Co., 117 N. Y. 404; Benson v. Railway Company, 75 Minnesota, 163.
The result is that if the locomotive in question was not equipped with automatic couplers, the company failed to comply with the provisions of the act. It appears, however, that this locomotive was in fact equipped with automatic couplers, as well as the dining car, but that the couplers on each, which were of different types, would not couple with each other automatically by impact so as to render it unnecessary for men to go between the cars to couple and uncouple.
Nevertheless, the Circuit Court of Appeals was of opinion that it would be an unwarrantable extension of the terms of the law to hold that where the couplers would couple automatically with couplers of their own kind, the couplers must so couple with couplers of different kinds. But we think that what the act plainly forbade was the use of cars which could not be coupled together automatically by impact, by means of the couplers actually used on the cars to be coupled. The object was to protect the lives and limbs of railroad employés by rendering it unnecessary for a man operating the couplers to go between the ends of the cars, and that object would be defeated, not necessarily by the use of automatic couplers of different kinds, but if those different kinds would not automatically couple with each other. The point was that the
railroad companies should be compelled, respectively, to adopt devices, whatever they were, which would act so far uniformly as to eliminate the danger consequent on men going between the cars.
If the language used were open to construction, we are constrained to say that the construction put upon the act by the Circuit Court of Appeals was altogether too narrow.
This strictness was thought to be required because the common law rule as to the assumption of risk was changed by the act, and because the act was penal.
The dogma as to the strict construction of statutes in derogation of the common law only amounts to the recognition of a presumption against an intention to change existing law, and as there is no doubt of that intention here, the extent of the application of the change demands at least no more rigorous construction than would be applied to penal laws. And, as Chief Justice Parker remarked, conceding that statutes in derogation of the common law are to be construed strictly, "they are also to be construed sensibly, and with a view to the object aimed at by the legislature." Gibson v. Jenney, 15 Massachusetts, 205.
The primary object of the act was to promote the public welfare by securing the safety of employés and travelers, and it was in that aspect remedial, while for violations a penalty of one hundred dollars, recoverable in a civil action, was provided for, and in that aspect it was penal. But the design to give relief was more dominant than to inflict punishment, and the act might well be held to fall within the rule applicable to statutes to prevent fraud upon the revenue, and for the collection of customs, that rule not requiring absolute strictness of construction. Taylor v. United States, 3 How. 197; United States v. Stowell, 133 U. S. 1, 12, and cases cited. And see Farmers' and Merchants' National Bank v. Dearing, 91 U. S. 29, 35; Gray v. Bennett, 3 Met. (Mass.) 522.
Moreover, it is settled that "though penal laws are to be construed strictly, yet the intention of the legislature must VOL. CXCVI-2
govern in the construction of penal as well as other statutes; and they are not to be construed so strictly as to defeat the obvious intention of the legislature." United States v. Lacher, 134 U. S. 624. In that case we cited and quoted from United States v. Winn, 3 Sumn. 209, in which Mr. Justice Story, referring to the rule that penal statutes are to be construed strictly, said:
"I agree to that rule in its true and sober sense; and that is, that penal statutes are not to be enlarged by implication, or extended to cases not obviously within their words and purport. But where the words are general, and include various classes of persons, I know of no authority, which would justify the court in restricting them to one class, or in giving them the narrowest interpretation, where the mischief to be redressed by the statute is equally applicable to all of them. And where a word is used in a statute, which has various known significations, I know of no rule, that requires the court to adopt one in preference to another, simply because it is more restrained, if the objects of the statute equally apply to the largest and broadest sense of the word. In short, it appears to me, that the proper course in all these cases, is to search out and follow the true intent of the legislature, and to adopt that sense of the words which harmonizes best with the context, and promotes in the fullest manner, the apparent policy and objects of the legislature."
Tested by these principles, we think the view of the Circuit Court of Appeals, which limits the second section to merely providing automatic couplers, does not give due effect to the words "coupling automatically by impact, and which can be uncoupled without the necessity of men going between the cars," and cannot be sustained.
We dismiss as without merit the suggestion, which has been made, that the words "without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars," which are the test of compliance with section two, apply only to the act of uncoupling. The phrase literally covers both coupling and uncoupling, and if
read, as it should be, with a comma after the word "uncoupled," this becomes entirely clear. Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company v. Voelker, 129 Fed. Rep. 522; United States v. Lacher, supra.
The risk in coupling and uncoupling was the evil sought to be remedied, and that risk was to be obviated by the use of couplers actually coupling automatically. True, no particular design was required, but whatever the devices used they were to be effectively interchangeable. Congress was not paltering in a double sense. And its intention is found "in the language actually used, interpreted according to its fair and obvious meaning." United States v. Harris, 177 U. S. 305, 309.
That this was the scope of the statute is confirmed by the circumstances surrounding its enactment, as exhibited in public documents to which we are at liberty to refer. Binns v. United States, 194 U. S. 486, 495; Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U. S. 457, 463.
President Harrison, in his annual messages of 1889, 1890, 1891 and 1892, earnestly urged upon Congress the necessity of legislation to obviate and reduce the loss of life and the injuries due to the prevailing method of coupling and braking. In his first message he said: "It is competent, I think, for Congress to require uniformity in the construction of cars used in interstate commerce, and the use of improved safety appliances upon such trains. Time will be necessary to make the needed changes, but an earnest and intelligent beginning should be made at once. It is a reproach to our civilization that any class of American workmen should, in the pursuit of a necessary and useful vocation, be subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier in time of war."
And he reiterated his recommendation in succeeding messages, saying in that for 1892: "Statistics furnished by the Interstate Commerce Commission show that during the year ending June 30, 1891, there were forty-seven different styles of car couplers reported to be in use, and that during the same period there were 2,660 employés killed and 26,140 injured.
Nearly 16 per cent of the deaths occurred in the coupling and uncoupling of cars, and over 36 per cent of the injuries had the same origin."
The Senate report of the first session of the Fifty-second Congress (No. 1049), and the House report of the same session (No. 1678), set out the numerous and increasing casualties due to coupling, the demand for protection, and the necessity of automatic couplers, coupling interchangeably. The difficulties in the case were fully expounded and the result reached to require an automatic coupling by impact so as to render it unnecessary for men to go between the cars, while no particular device or type was adopted, the railroad companies being left free to work out the details for themselves, ample time being given for that purpose. The law gave five years, and that was enlarged, by the Interstate Commerce Commission as authorized by law, two years, and subsequently seven months, making seven years and seven months in all.
The diligence of counsel has called our attention to changes made in the bill in the course of its passage, and to the debates in the Senate on the report of its committee. 24 Cong. Rec., pt. 2, pp. 1246, 1273 et seq. These demonstrate that the difficulty as to interchangeability was fully in the mind of Congress and was assumed to be met by the language which was used. The essential degree of uniformity was secured by providing that the couplings must couple automatically by impact without the necessity of men going between the ends of the cars.
In the present case the couplings would not work together, Johnson was obliged to go between the cars, and the law was not complied with.
March 2, 1903, 32 Stat. 943, c. 976, an act in amendment of the act of 1893 was approved, which provided, among other things, that the provisions and requirements of the former act "shall be held to apply to common carriers by railroads in the Territories and the District of Columbia and shall apply in all cases, whether or not the couplers brought together are of the