Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

Here was

its territory, and making law and rules and regulations by each for the corruption of the other. Personal and sectional jealousies, too, have crept in to complicate the situation. In the countless myriads of details, from collecting for a sixpence worth to the thousand dollars worth of transportation, somebody, no doubt, has been charged more for a short haul than for a long one. the parable of the laborer in the vineyard, who was perfectly satisfied with his penny a day until his fellow laborer received a penny also for somewhat less work: or, as Mr. Hudson puts it, “ For while the rate of 16 cents for hauling one hundred pounds of freight 56 miles may be reasonable enough in itself, it stands side by side with the rate of 10 cents for hauling the same goods 172 miles. If one rate is fair, what must the other be?” (p. 161) It does not occur to Mr. Hudson that the simple fact may have been that the circumstances and conditions under which these two rates were made, might have been different. If Mr. Hudson supposes that a railway company 172 miles long is in the habit of suspending its business and bringing its books into a single office in order to discriminate between two individual shippers out of personal favoritism, he has a very crude conception of the volume of trade necessary to enable a railroad to exist, or of the details of railroad book-keeping. But this sentence is not more crude and artless than any other I am able to find in his volume, though indeed, it gives as good an idea as any other I could select therefrom of his whole intellectual process, viz: The, by this time, familiar profession of collecting real or rumored items of discriminations on individual railroads, and hurling the mass of them at the public as an indictment against the entire railway system ofthe United States, and demanding that under that indictment that system be instantly pronounced guilty without benefit of clergy. Such matter of fact, of daily and hourly occurrence, as the fact that when individual hardships have occurred in the service of the public by the railways, they have either been too trivial to be redressed, or, if important enough to carry to the courts, have been carried there and there have been speedily and properly redressed--such a fact as this, we say-has no effect upon such

railway reformers as Mr. Hudson's. Nothing less than placing the entire Railway system of the nation under penal laws, will satisfy, in his eyes, a single, solitary, inequality in the freight inadvertently or purposely charged, to shippers for an identical service. In every

other walk of human life the intention governs; but Mr. Hudson never stops to enquire whether discrimination is intentional or unintentional; it is enough for him that it exists. Doubtless in Railway history cases of discrimination have been counted by the millions. I know of no walk in life in which our poor human nature has been able to resist or to avoid them. The fakir from his stall, the grocer behind bis counter, the very judge on the bench has dealt in them. 6 Who hath died for this fault ? There's many have committed it !” But whatever others have done, the Railway Companies of the United States saw themselves, first of all, the evils of discrimination and themselves set to work to find the remedy. There never has been a day in the history of America railroading when somebody in the service of a Railway Company has not been employed at a liberal salary to grapple with “ The Railway Problem.” The combined wisdom and experience of the shrewd and trained men who operate our railways at last developed the “Pooling System”; inaugurated it, employed the best and most expert men they could find anywhere to administer it, and abided themselves by their arbitraments. The Companies themselves paid these accomplished gentlemen their liberal salaries to adjust these public matters. They did not call upon the public to pay them. What was the result? The public was satisfied, rates went down, everything was moving smoothly, when the Interstate Commerce act stepped in and set everything at odds again. For dispersion of the Pool Commissioners, gentlemen of lifelong study and experience, for whom every question of differentiation involved the most intricate calculations of price, wages, markets, trade, even first costs of railway plants, there came a hostile Act of Congress like a bull in a china shop. The delicate calculations were tumbled together into the scrap heap—the Commissioners were sent home, and politics and political patronage are hereafter charged with solving the Railway Problem in the United States ! I admit that, so far, the interstate commerce commission has not changed a single item in our Railway Procedure —that our daily newspapers still devote the same unnumbered pages to railway “strikes,” “cuts” and “wars. I admit that it has been officially decided in banc, that the railways must go on doing just as they have always done, and that the railways have obeyed their mandates. But, all the same, I find in the text of the Interstate Commerce Law doctrines and enactment which if inforced would be dangerous to the liberty of this people, and since we may not always have a perfect commission-I think it dangerous to leave the law upon our statute books. It may

all be for the best. But, for my part, it seems to me that it would have been better to allow the Railway Companies to continue to work out the salvation of the people, for experience had taught them that it was their own salvation as well !!

The centralization of industrial corporations known as “Trusts," are popularly supposed, somehow or other, to be inimical to the public weal. Yet any stockholder of an en-Trusted company can (and, dividends not forthcoming and probably would) complain. But, should the government of the United States resolve itself into one huge Railway Trust, and maintain—as Mr. Hudson and his congeners demand—all the railroad trackage on this continent as public highways over which every citizen could run his own conveyances ; no matter what this Trust might see fit to do, there could be no complainant and no courts in which to complain. And, most serious of all (not to mention certain minor inconveniences, such as that the Trust could not constitutionally lay itself up treasures in heaven by transporting ministers of the gospel at half rates), it is possible that constant problems of terminals, carstorage, misunderstandings between locomotives as to right of way, etc., would render any other than a Railway President ineligible for President of the United States.

The modernization of methods which accompanies civilization -the telephone, the telegraph, the railway-require quite other rules than those imposed upon society by the Middle Ages. In these matters rules must keep up with circumstances, not circum

stances bend to rules. Time was when the expenses of a war were limited to the men withdrawn from useful employments and the properties destroyed. But, to-day, commercial effects in the antipodes of the battle-field—the single discharge of a gun or the touch of an electric button, cannot be removed from a computation of first cost, until the very facilities for making war have rendered wars themselves improbable. And, similarly, to subject the pulses and arteries of commerce to rigid and Procrustean edicts framed in mob or market place, in labor-union or in cabinet, is and must be commercial suicide and nothing less. Nay more, they can only recoil upon the people, the nation, the power which utters them. Thus it is estimated that the Interstate Commerce Act has inflicted upon this people in a single year-in increased freights paid to the Railway companies since the abolition of pools—a burden of sixty millions of dollars, (thus justifying the Interstate Commerce commission in declaring-in its first annual report—that the Act “has operated directly to increase railroad earnings.") But, as this estimate would only be about a cent apiece for our great population (little enough to pay for an experiment), I have preferred, in these pages, to speak of the Interstate Commerce Act as simply null and void in practical benefit or damage at present, and to confine the discussion to its portent as a menace and a peril to possible political emergencies of the future. We cannot now, if we would, go back to the days of the nomad and the Shepherd Kings in order to dodge the Corporation, the Railway Company, and the Trade Centre !

THE END.

APPENDIX A.

AN ACT TO REGULATE COMMERCE.

[For a careful annotation of this Act see Mr. Dos Passos' little volume published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1887; also, Mr. Harper's Commentary published by Robert Clarke & Co., Cincinnati, 1887. I can add nothing to these exhaustive annotations.]

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled: That the provisions of this Act shall apply to any common carrier or carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers or property wholly by railroad or partly by railroad and partly by water when both are used, under common control, management or arrangement for a continuous carriage or shipment from one State or Territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia to any other State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia or from any place in the United States to an adjacent foreign country, or from any place in the United States through a foreign country to any other place in the United States, and also to the transportation in like manner of property shipped from any place in the United States to a foreign country and carried from such place to a port of transshipment, or shipped from a foreign country to any place in the United States, and carried to such place from a port of entry either in the United States or an adjacent foreign country. Provided, however, that the provisions of this Act shall not apply to the transportation of passengers or property or to the receiving, delivering, storage or handling of property wholly within one State, and not shipped to or from a foreign country from any State or Territory as aforesaid.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »