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THE PEOPLE AND THE RAILWAYS.

129

be taken by the court) does not in the slightest degree change the hibitude and method of running a railway ; does not introduce a single innovation, or modify a single rule of railway operation : in other words, Congress has enacted a statute which a commission chartered to enforce it declares enacts that things shall remain as they are, and that, if the statute is ever suspected of interfering with things as they are already, the subjects of the statute must interpret it blindly and at their own peril!

It would seem, therefore, that the Commission itself has decided that the railways of this Republic have been, up to the date of its own appointment, properly managed : certainly there is no disapproval of any particular acts, and only in the sixth ruling does it condemn certain possible acts and differentiations which it is not alleged that any railways have been guilty of, and which certainly, therefore, is mere obiter, or the expression of a general opinion upon a very interesting but entirely gratuitous conundrum of supposititious railway policy. But is not a disturbance of constitutional limitations a rather high price to pay, even for so valuable a boon as is a governmental approval of American railway management? Once broken, who can say what will pass these barriers ? Perhaps there may yet be established at Washington an interstate theatrical commission which shall review and absorb the early functions of Master of the Revels, stage censor, and Lord Chamberlain! And, indeed, for such a bill, Congress need not again borrow its policy from an Empire of Blood and Iron. It can get its suggestion this time from a Republic—from Mexicowhere theatres are not only under the espionage of government, but even the migratory Yankee circus is officially coerced into living up to its posters. The theatres of the country have certainly quite as much influence upon the morals of the rising generation as have the railways, and, therefore, their regulation can be very easily construed to be the public policy. Nor are theatres so far removed, in legal status, from the condition occupied by the railways, as may be imagined. Each are licensed by law. Each issues tickets which are limited privileges or (to a certain extent) themselves licenses, extending to certain limits, which are exactly

defined; and each is supposed not to discriminate between in. dividuals of the common public. Moreover, each is taxed or assessed by way of taxation in a manner dependent upon income, instead of holdings. Clearly, the theatres should come next.

CHAPTER XIV.

A YEAR OF INTERSTATE COMMERCE CONTROL.

But, although the Commission thus hastened to declare that the Interstate Commerce Law, with its pains and penalties and forfeitures—with its iron grip—to ban and never to bless—upon the railway interests of the country, was after all only meant in a Pickwickian sense, that nobody had done wrong, and that everybody and everything was comfortable, although the Commission so declared, such was not the spirit in which the act was framed, was very far, as we have seen, from being the spirit of Mr. Hudson's book.

When Government laid the iron hand of a Bismarck upon the railways of this nation, the aggregate number of miles of railroad constructed in the United States in 1886 was about 9,000, the aggregate mileage for the entire country at the close of the year being 137,986, and the rate of increase during the year 7.8 per cent. In New York State the total number of miles of railroad was 7,649, the increase being but 96. The greatest increase in any one State was in Kansas, where 1,678 miles were constructed, and next to that were some of the states and territories along the line of the Northern Pacific, Dakota leading with 821 miles. Nebraska, however, was only third in the list, with 628 miles, wbile Minnesota had 492 and Wisconsin 451. Texas built 607 miles, Iowa 431, and even Florida had 314 miles to her credit for last year's work.

Throughout the country the mileage of all the roads from which returns of earnings and traffic operations were received, exclusive of elevated roads, was 137,986 The total capital of all such

roads, including elevated roads, was $3,999,508,508, as against $3,817,697,832 for 1885. The funded debt was $3,882,966,330, and the unfunded, $280,673,814, against $3,765,727,066 and $259,108,281 for 1885. The share capital and indebtedness together foot up $8,163,148,652, an increase of $320,615,473, the rate of increase being 4.09 per

cent. Upon the entire capital invested the gross earnings exceeded 10 per cent., and the net earnings almost equalled 3.5 per cent. The interest paid was $189,036,304, and dividends, $81,654,138. Of the funded indebtedness, 4.75 per cent. was paid, being .02 per cent. less than the amount two years before. To the whole share capital the percentages of dividends paid was 2.04 against 2.02 for 1885. The earnings per mile increased 4.9 per cent. having been $6,265 in 1885, and $6,570 last year. The operating expenses of all the roads were $524,880,334, the net earnings being $297,311,615. The total earnings from freight were $550,359,054, from passengers $211,929,858, and “ from miscellaneous sources,” $59,903,038. And the sources from whence these figures are derived showed a constant factor of increase calculated by experts at about 11 per cent., with an almost equally constant decrease of operating expenses of from one half of one to one and

per

cent. Now when this Bismarck grip aforesaid descended upon this enormous industry, upon these railways, their procedure, tariffs and particulars, under guise and pretext of a provision of the Constitution framed at a time when railways were unconceived of in the brain of man, and when the only possible object of that provision must have been to prevent internecine commercial hostilities or discriminations among the States, it was not mere aimless or experimental legislation, no product of mere zeal or temptation to legislate on general principles. The experiment of biennial or even triennial legislatures in some of the States, as tending to decrease the volume of legislation, has always been found to work well. The volumes of session laws of our States are, as to their bulk, apt to become mostly lumber in a surprisingly short time, the number of statutes whose usefulness will survive the first few

one half

years of their passage being found a surprisingly small one. And even of our National Legislature it can be fairly said that the more time it wastes, the greater the nation's gain. But while this act is the offshoot of sentimental prejudice and jealousy, no doubt, its fathers and advocates in Congress cannot be suspected of having been actuated by either jealousy of the railways of or mere zeal to give an account of themselves to the people. The vastness of the nation's growth for half a century had rapidly made railroads into systems. The immensity of the plants, the accumulation of costly rolling stock, the huge volume of business, could not fail to impress the people with a sense of power not proceeding, like the power of the government, from the consent of the governed—that is, from themselves. The enormous operations carried on daily in the people's eyes suggested enormous profits, and engendered popular discontent. These enormous operations necessitated new channels and feeders ; that is to say, new railways. To save time, the ingenuity of the nineteenth century had devised construction companies, which, by subscribing for the capital of these new roads, should obviate the slow and tortuous collection of money by private solicitation ; and these, centralizing profits as well as subscriptions, massed wealth in localities, and attracted the popular envy. The boundlessness of all these brought great bankruptcies for courts to deal with; and the result of each was the inevitable wrecking of great corporations, and the private accumulation of wealth in the hands of the winners in these legal fights. No sooner was this the situation than a new problem intruded itself upon the already complicated maelstrom. The movement known in Europe indifferently as internationalism, socialism, or nihilism (where it grew originally from the discontent of the constantly enlightening and self-educating masses at the support in opulent idleness of privileged classes, useless courts, and—to the people—always absolute monarchies) was utilized to express among us the popular envy, discontent, and prejudice against corporations it felt in Europe only against kings; and the result was felt in strikes, trade-combinations and central labor unions, where one trade supported another, and

season.

each all, in abandoning work by the thousands and ten thousands at one and the same time. Underlying all this was,

of
course,

the capital fact that the railway industry itself was not at fault; was not responsible for the shrewdness of the Wall Street operator : for intentional defaults in dividends and interest procured for wrecking purposes : for the huge competition and the closeness of margins which put them at the mercy of a single disastrous

The president of a great railway recently asserted, in answer to a demand from the company's employees for higher wages, that in twelve

years

his

company had not only not netted a dollar, but had actually mined and distributed 51,000,000 tons of coal at a cost of $51,000,000, and paid $53,000,000 for the privilege! The margin of profit had disappeared entirely in the giant competition of American railway companies, which yet had given, and was daily giving, support to almost a tenth part of the people of the United States.

But great economic facts like these, like great investments, lose strength by their very immensity. The laborer working ten hours a day, six days in the week, with a family of ten children, clamoring for food, cannot be approached with figures showing, that, out of a hundred millions of income, his employer had not been able to reserve one ten-thousandth per cent; that the private fortune amassed by one man in railway wrecking was the crytallization of ruinous losses to thousands of smaller capitalists not of the working-men; that the plant of the great corporations had been paid for by the hard-earned savings and small economies of thousands more; and, most of all, that, of the total of all these losses and savings, almost a hundred per cent had gone to pay for labor and for material the cost of which itself was largely the labor of handling it. Such statements as these, few of his betters have the brains to grapple with. The day-laborer may have sundry vague impressions that he should be paid in proportion to the number of his children rather than according to the value of his services; that the idea of anybody handling a million of money is a personal affront; and that altogether he is a slave, and that any change and convulsion, and shifting of bases, could not make him

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