In Missouri v. Illinois21 was raised the interesting point whether the general health and prosperity of its citizens give to a State, as such, an interest sufficiently direct to enable it to prosecute a suit for equitable relief in their behalf against another State. This case arose out of the construction, under the authority of the State of Illinois, by the Sanitary District of Chicago, of an artificial drainage canal by which large quantities of sewage were carried into and thus polluted the river of Mississippi which furnishes the water supply to inhabitants of the State of Missouri.
After an exhaustive examination of cases in which the court had entertained suits in which either plaintiff or both plaintiffs and defendants had been States, the court in their majority opinion say: "From the language, alone considered, it might be concluded that whenever and in all cases where one State may choose to make complaint against another, no matter whether the subject of complaint arises from the legislation of the defendant State, or from acts of its officers and agents, and no matter whether the nature of the injury complained of is to affect the property rights or the sovereign powers of the complaining State, or to affect the rights of its citizens, the jurisdiction of this court would attach." But after quoting from Marshall's opinion in Cohens v. Virginia,22 which would seem to sustain this broad construction of the court's jurisdiction, the opinion declares: "But it must be conceded that upon further consideration, in cases arising under different states of fact, the general language used in Cohens v. Virginia has been, to some extent, modified." As instances of this modification, the cases of New Hampshire v. Louisiana, Wisconsin v. Pelican Insurance Co., and Louisiana v. Texas are cited. But even as to these cases it is pointed out that the court did not decline jurisdiction, but, after inquiry into their nature and the character of the relief prayed for, held either that the plaintiff State was not entitled to, or at least that the Supreme Court could not grant this relief. The opinion then continues: "The cases cited show that such jurisdiction has been exercised in cases involving boundaries and jurisdiction over lands and their inhabitants, and in cases directly affecting the property rights and interests of a State. But such cases manifestly do not cover the entire field in which such controversies may arise, and for which the Constitution has provided a remedy; and it would be objectionable, and, indeed, impossible, for the court to anticipate by definition what controversies can and what cannot be brought within the original jurisdiction of this court."
21 180 U. S. 208; 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 331; 45 L. ed. 497. 22 6 Wh. 264; 5 L. ed. 257.
As to the case at bar, the court say: "An inspection of the bill discloses that the nature of the injury complained of is such that an adequate remedy can only be found in this court at the suit of the State of Missouri. It is true that no question of boundary is involved, nor of direct property rights belonging to the complainant State. But it must surely be conceded that if the health and comfort of the inhabitants of a State are threatened, a State is the proper party to represent and defend them. If Missouri were an independent and sovereign State all must admit that she could seek a remedy by negotiation, and, that failing, by force. Diplomatic powers and the right to make war having been surrendered to the General Government, it was to be expected that upon the latter would be devolved the duty of providing a remedy, and that remedy, we think, is found in the constitutional provisions we are considering."
It will thus be seen that in this case the court held that, under certain circumstances, a State can invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court even though it has no direct pecuniary or proprietary interests involved, but is standing, as it were, as trustee, parens patriae, or representative of a considerable portion of its citizens.23
23 Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, with whom concurred Mr. Justice Harlan and Mr. Justice White, dissented. The dissenting opinion read:
"Controversies between the States of this Union are made justiciable by the Constitution because other modes of determining them were surrendered; and before that jurisdiction which is intended to supply the place of held that the controversy was one between the States of which the Supreme Court could take original jurisdiction.