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In other words my suggestion is: That the employé be led to understand that his employment is a contract made in good faith and for consideration on his part as well as on the part of the company. And that not the company alone, but each party thereto, is equally bound by, and liable for non-fulfillment of, such contract.
The passenger reclining among his Pullman cushions as his train moves out of the yard, will observe, upon divers and sundry box cars standing idly about, the legends Wt. 40,000, Load 20 tons, or Wt. 45,000, Load 23 tons. This is because our passenger happens to be travelling within the limits of the United States. Were he travelling in Germany, the legends he would read on the box cars would be 40 Mann, 8 Pferde ; or 30 Mann, 6 Pferde. Tho first named legends mean that the railways belong to the men who built them, and are used for the inter-traffic of freight; the latter, that the Empire of blood and iron decrees its own paramount denomination, over the railways as over everything else, and has marked these cars with their capacity, not of merchandise, but with the exact number of men and horses each will hold, in case the Imperial pleasure may desire to move its troops from place to place. That five men to one horse can be crowded into the same space is owing to the circumstance that horses are bulkier than men, not to any governmental consideration for the horse. Neither horses nor men, per se, are of much weight with the Imperial conscience, except for military purposes.
As the United States is not a military nation, is not in fear of foreign wars—is protected by a surplus in the treasury in fact, which is a considerably more powerful notice to ambitious alien nations to sheer off than the strongest turtle back coast defences,
or the longest ranged guns would or could ever be)—and as internecine embattlement is equally out of the question : there appears to be no present reason why the general Government should take control of the railways of this Republic. But, nevertheless, it appears to be considered essential to a discussion of railway problems in the United States to contemplate the acquirement and operation of our railroad lines by the general Government.
In the daily press—in the review and the monthly magazine-on the floor of Congress—in the convention and the caucus—the proposition is made and mooted, and the large majority of easily-considered and suddenly formed opinions appear to regard some plan for the purpose as desirable, constitutional and feasible. Those publicists and political economists who encounter no difficulties in the way of practical development of any theory they may happen to adopt, seem to be agreed upon a desirability or public necessity of something of the sort, and that the proposition may yet take definite form is in no way unlikely. A certain step, indeed, in the general trend of such proposition has actually been taken in the passage of the Interstate Commerce Law. And the fact that that law has worked no harm as yet to the public—it having fallen into the innocuous dissuetude of many better conceived statutes for regulating what must either regulate itself or cease to exist–is, with the general public, perhaps, an inducement to look kindly at some further step of the sort. But I have yet to discover that anybody has seriously set himself down to realize what the absolute control of the railways of this country by the Government would really and practically mean;—what it would mean, not on paper, but in actual practical working to the citizen, to the individual, and to the
One can live endurably with his tailor who is behind hand with his deliveries, or with his bootmaker who is derelict with the boots he has agreed to furnish upon occasion. Our green-grocer or our butcher may disappoint our tables, but at least we can remonstrate with him, and, if need be, carry our custom elsewhere. But where our tailor, our bootmaker, our green-grocer and our
are, at the same time, our Government-clothed with the same majesty of the law, were they the State incarnate, to protest, to remove our custom, or even to very gently request better service in the future, might not be a privilege that remained to us. All this seems to go without preachment. But it seems to occur to nobody that in the case of our railways the consideration applies in the slightest. The railroads are tyrants, they dominate this public, they purchase legislators, corrupt judiciaries, rule us with a rod of iron ! is the popular cry. What is the remedy? Why, make them still stronger, make them the very Government itself ! These railways abrogate too much already, treat us as if they were rulers indeed, and as if we, the people, were slaves! Well, then, make them our rulers indeed, make them the State itself ! They take too much upon themselves ! Well then, give them more! They are tyrants already! Make them dictators! As it is, our government is divided into the Executive, the Legislative, the Judicial functions! Let us incarnate the State into a fourth function—the transportational. This would be a feat in the way of making “ the punishment fit the crime” worthy of the GilbertSullivan Mikado himself; the great difficulty would be that it might return in time to plague the inventor.
For, that which the Government monopolizes and operates, is a part of the government, and must be clothed with its authority. The post office is benign to us if we study its regulations and conform ourselves to them, but if it miscarries our letters and loses our money packages, what reilress have we, except to complain? To be sure, the Government will send a searcher or decoy after our precious estrays, and the particular post offices in. volved will possibly be more careful in the future. But we have no grievances, no action, no remedy.
But, supposing the Government were a railway as well as a post office. Beyond a pleasant uncertainty as to whether our grievances were pigeon-holed at New York or Chicago, at Baltimore or Washington, what would it avail to complain then? Its officials will perhaps politely listen to our grievances, but how if its precious balms break our head ? But for all this, the proposition that
the Government control all the rail and telegraph transportation facilities, and we doubt not it would follow practically as it already does logically), our water courses and our telephones, possibly our horse cars and livery stables, (certainly our theatres, ought to be controlled long before our railways; they are institutions specially taxed upon receipts, they issue permits which are construed sometimes to be licenses, sometimes leases, and sometimes mere privileges, and it is conceded that they may have something to do with the public interest—if public morality is a public interest, at least-) the proposition, we say, finds an abundance always of proposers. As it is now, when a railway sets fire to our barns or kills our stock, or smashes our freights, we can couple it into any court in the land, and the jury will be “agin the corporation ” every time. The cattle the railway has killed will always be found to have been the costliest of their species; our barns the richest and our freights the most priceless. But if we are to be compelled to complain to a defendant sitting as a court of claims, against the acts of this same defendant operating as a railway company, possibly its assessment of the flagrancy of its own trespass might lean as largely the other way.
Would it not be well for every one of those who clamor so loudly for the government control of railways to spend a year in inquiring into the practical effect of a government's control of the railway facilities of its people ? I do not mean an enquiry among the bureaux to find out just how the thing is done; who appoints, or reports to who; to absorb the system of responsibility by which a train man is officially moved by wires pulled in the Prime Minister's Cabinet-conducting such investigation under courtesy of an escort from the same Prime Minister. Let them take up their residence among the people who are permitted to use their Government's railways for their daily wants, and let the enquirers gather the facts unofficially from station master to door man, from guard to ticket-taker, the passenger, the shipper, the abating proprietor_let one of them send a telegram and pay for the response and wait until he gets that response, if it please God he gets it at all, until his mauvais quart d'heure has grown into
twenty-four mauvais quarts d'heure, and then let these gentlemen come back and urge upon our voters that they send representatives to Congress to put our railways into the hands of the Government. At present, utterly depraved as our railways are, and skillful as the high priced legal talent they monopolize, they do, sometimes, pay for our baggage when they smash it, our cattle when they kill them, our freight when they destroy or mislay it, for our legs and arms and eyes when they maim us. I do not know whether all this would be done with a greater or less alacrity under a system of governmental controlled railways. But I think I do know, that the more paternal a government becomes, it is apt to take rather less than more care of the individual subject. The paternal relation in this case, as in most others, rather reaching out to grasp the money bag and accumulations of personal capital, than to smooth the aching brow of hard handed toil or visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction. And I am of the opinion, that when reversed conditions operate and the paternal Government becomes parentally severe, the severity would fall just in the reverse order upon the poor and the fatherless rather than upon the billionaire and the capitalist.
I have nothing to offer as to the vast addition to the civil list, the aggregation of patronage, with its tremendous opportunities for favoritism, speculation and every possible form of dishonesty, which would follow the operation of our railways employing five or six million of people, and indirectly about as many more; for that is merely a matter for dilation, the suggestion has been made often enough, and as often attempted to be laid. Still less is this paper a discussion of muthods. There are plenty of exhaustive dissertations, as to what the Government might, could, or would do with their railways. What I propose to discuss in this chapter is, the marked difficulty and hardship which would accrue, supposing we were resolved upon the policy of governmental absorbition of railways, from the realization of even the fairest, most generous and most liberal, plan the government could select for the purchase. Of course, the quickest plan would be to just seize upon the railways and run them. But objection would