Charles River Bridge Case, decided in 1837 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Charles River Bridge Company had been granted (1785) a charter by the state of Massachusetts to operate a toll bridge. The state later authorized (1828) a competing bridge that would eventually be free to the public. The Charles River Bridge Company brought suit against the competing company, claiming that the state charter had given it a monopoly. The court upheld the state's authorization to the other company, holding that since the original charter did not specifically grant a monopoly, the ambiguity in the contract would operate in favor of the public, thus allowing a competing bridge. The holding modified the Dartmouth College Case, which held that a state could not unilaterally amend a charter.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.