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details of these volumes. While the general subject is there presented, many interesting and instructive discussions of particular and special questions are found, and many important principles have been settled so as to call forth general acquiescence.
The difficulties which are still found are those which are inherent in the subject. It has been said that the most skillful and successful managers of railroads, while flattering themselves that the subject to which they have devoted a lifetime has at last become familiar and easy, will almost any day meet a new question as difficult of proper solution as though they had no experience in such matters. It cannot be expected in reason that difficulties of this character will ever be removed. They must be met daily and hourly, and the mistakes of yesterday must be corrected to-day. The qualities required for their proper correction are candor, mutual forbearance, and a clear perception of right.
There are difficulties, and not inconsiderable ones, in the way of proper consideration of vexing questions in the State of Iowa peculiar to our situation.
The total number of holders of railroad stock in Iowa is twentyfive thousand nine hundred, holding stock amounting in value to three hundred and ninety million five hundred and eighty-six thousand seven hundred and sixty-six dollars and forty-four cents. Of the twenty-five thousand nine hundred holders of stock only seven hundred and forty are citizens and residents of Iowa. The value of the holding of the Iowa citizens and residents is eight million six hundred and twenty thousand three hundred and forty-one dollars and forty-one cents. Twenty-five thousand one hundred and sixty stockholders live out of the State, and three hundred and eightyone million nine hundred and sixty-six thousand four hundred and twenty-five dollars in value are held out of the State. This great interest is thus practically without representation in the General Assembly, while in the boards of directors, as the majority runs the other way, it is but fair to suppose that the real interests of Iowa shippers are not fairly represented. We have here a form of absenteeism which can only result in clashing interests and conflicting methods. Men are at all times governed by quite similar motives. It would not be strange that the members of the General Assembly should hear and think more about the calls and demands of the living, present, constituent shippers and producers than of the absent, non-represented stockholders, who are neither voters nor constituents. On the other hand it would not be strange if the directors meeting abroad and representing funds invested demanding remunerative returns, should think and act more for the present, aggressive, vigilant stockholders, than for the absent, unknown, shippers and producers.
Equally unhappy is the situation of the managing officials of the railways. The companies owe two kinds and often conflicting kinds of duties: one to the fund investors, the other to the patrons, the shippers and producers. To them the two phases of the railroad, its public and its private phase, should be ever present, and yet from the absentee or monied interest, they secure their appointment, their continued tenure, their salary, and are approved when incomes are large, and condemned when incomes are small. It is not strange that they should rather yield to the present active force nearest to them. This state of affairs leads constantly to a widening of breaches and an intensifying of differences. The dividends, if large, when all taken from the Staté where earned and paid, tend to the impoverishment of the commonwealth, when if paid to her own citizens each dollar earned adds to the sum of general happiness and financial comfort.
It may well be maintained that some wise action of the General Assembly which would encourage the investment of funds belonging to citizens of the State in stocks and bonds of railroads in the State would be a step in the right direction. No real, permanent harm is ever done in a legislative body to a constituent interest; it is the absentee interest that is always in danger.
Another inherent difficulty peculiar to the State is her distance from market, coupled with the peculiar character of her agricultural products. Iowa is the outermost western State which must market all or nearly all her agricultural products on the eastern coast. Speaking upon another subject, the Commissioners in their report for 1880, say: "There is no State that can as ill afford the system of pro-rating per mile as Iowa. Kansas and Nebraska are further from the sea-boards, but they have a limited market for their products in the ruining regions west of them, and hence that advantage.” Her products, corn, wheat, oats, and other small grains, are not capable of paying the cost of long hauls except under favorable auspices. Hence, when times of depression come, when prices for such products are very low, almost any attainable rate of transportation bears an
apparent undue proportion to the prime cost of the article produced. When the product is gathered, hauled to the station and transportation rates paid, the amount left for the farmer is so small as to furnish no sufficient return for labor done and capital invested. At once a demand arises for reduced rates of transportation on the part of shippers, while stockholders view such a movement with alarm, seeing in its consummation smaller dividends and reduced incomes. Discussion rarely continues long before accusation and counter accusation is made. Passions are aroused and a situation alarming and distressing in the extreme loses the benefit of that calm, thoughtful and moderate consideration which it so much needs. On the one hand it may be properly urged that the roads should recognize the fact that their interests are or should be closely identified with the prosperity of those who depend upon them for transportation and furnish them their business." On the other hand it may be truthfully urged that capital is the product and representative of labor; that there is and should be no conflict between them, and that it should not be deprived of its legitimate earnings.” The constant temptation to shippers is to decide the question entirely with reference to the undue cost of transportation as compared with the market price of the article to be transported. The constant temptation to carriers is to decide the question with entire reference to profitable returns upon capital invested. At this writing the State is witnessing just such a state of affairs as has been described above. The difficulty is inherent and unavoidable. The most that can be hoped is that a more thorough and intelligent knowledge of the facts and surroundings will lead all parties concerned to a just and moderate course of action and to mutual forbearance, as the interdependence of carrier and shipper must ever continue.
The Commissioners are in full sympathy with those who are now earnestly seeking for some means of relieving the distress and depression resulting from the extremely low price of agricultural products. It having been stated that within the year rates have been advanced, and having no knowledge or advice of such advance, they have instituted a series of inquiries intended to test the truth. such statement.
It is their purpose, also, even if it shail be shown that theri ias been no increase, to look carefully into the question of the reasona leress of present rates, to the end that they may pass upon the quesuun intelligently. The present rate is about one-fifth of a cent per pound for corn for about four hundred miles haul, and it would seem that two mills is too high a charge for hauling a pound worth two and a half mills, at point of shipment, that distance. Within bounds, there is some reason for arranging rates according to the value of the thing carried. Silver and diamonds should undoubtedly pay a higher rate than copper and iron, and wheat should pay a higher rate than corn and oats.
As the Commissioners now view the question, they hope that railway managers, recognizing the complete inter-dependence of carrier and shipper, and acknowledging their obligation to aid those who must look to them for transportation, and upon whom they must in all time look for business, will voluntarily reduce rates to meet the extraordinary situation.
The Commissioners would suggest that if, as it is stated, corn is being used as fuel in the country west of us, a reduction of rates which would set corn in motion eastward and coal in motion westward might not only be hailed by the public as proof of the hearty unison of feeling between railways and their patrons so much needed, but in the increased work done might result in an increased income. All who are at all familiar with the transportation question know that income is never so much the concomitant of high rates as of large volume of business.
Since writing the above the Commissioners have received additional information which they deem it proper to make public. Eleven of the railroads of Iowa which carry the bulk of the grain to market, in answer to our inquiries, report there has been no increase of rates, and the Commissioners are satisfied that rates have not been raised for several years, and that the roads are generally carrying at or below the rates agreed upon with the Commissioners in 1878, which was a slight reduction below rates prescribed in what is commonly known as the "Granger Law."
In addition to the inquiry sent from this office as to the truth of the report that rates had been increased, the Commissioners addressed letters to certain leading railroad officials, urging a careful consideration of the question of reduced rates on grain moving eastward to market. The responses have shown a just and fair consideration of the question, and illustrates what we have heretofore claimed, namely:
a more intelligent and tolerant understanding and discussion of the subject than has ever before been known in the State.
A manager of one of our principal roads writes as follows:
“I have felt that the producing interest woull, after a time, come to see and know that the railway companies are not responsible for the present exceptionally low prices that all products of the farm command in the general markets, and for the depression in business generally that prevails throughout the country, and in fact the world. No doubt there has been an overproduction, if I may use the term in this connection, of railways, just as there has been of everything else of late years. How much of the present surplus is due to the application of machinery, both on the farm and in the shop, is a question that is entitled to consideration, and it affords a fruitful field for thought. I saw it stated recently in a Minnesota newspaper that a farm laborer declared that he was unable to purchase an overcoat for use this winter because he had been without the usual harvest wages, the twine binder having deprived him of that period of profitable employment. The fact is, there has been an over-production in every. thing (and a great lack of demand therefor), that the western people and railways are interested in.
“You touch upon a subject in your letter that has caused me a great deal of thought, that is, the movement of young cattle out of lowa. We have carried hundreds of car-loads of young stock out of the State, not one hoof of which should have left the farms where they were grown. In my opinion the farmers have parted with the stock just at the time when the largest profits were within their reach had they kept the stock but a few months longer. "I agree with
you that under all the circumstances it is the part of wisdom to make a concession on the rates of grain; accordingly we have decided to fix the maximum rates on grains (corn and other coarse grains) from, say the middle of the State to the Missouri river, at 22 cents per hundred pounds, and on wheat from the same points, 27 cents. This reduction is equivalent to about twelve per cent from the present rates, and I hope it will be received with satisfaction not only by the dealers, but by the farmers as well.”
Mr. Clark, President of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, writes to Mr. Coffin as follows:
"I have your favor of 27th December in reference to the clamor about railroad rates, arising from the low prices of farm products.