SAT Subject US History Practice Question 945: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 945

26. Railroads challenged several of the "Granger laws" in court, claiming that they were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court rejected this claim in Munn v. Illinois on the grounds that

A. regulating business activities for the public good is a legitimate power of the states.
B. criticizing corporate activities is protected by the 1st Amendment.
C. the principle of eminent domain should only be applied if an overriding public need is involved.
D. railroad companies were not considered "citizens" and only citizens can initiate lawsuits.
E. contracts between the states and individuals or corporations are binding.

Correct Answer: A


The Munn decision of 1877 held that the state of Illinois was within its constitutional rights to regulate rates for storing grain in warehouses. More broadly, it upheld the power of the states to regulate private property when it is used in the public interest. The 1st Amendment was not relevant to the decision, and its protection (B) has always extended to criticism of corporate activities. Railroads used eminent domain to obtain property to build railroads (C), but this was not the subject of the Munn case. Because corporations were considered citizens in legal terms (D), they did have the right to sue. The Munn decision did not deal with contracts (E).

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