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If it has accomplished this great reduction in the staple it handles by grinding other producers and handlers-other corporations--then the question arises as to how far consumers are interested in the rivalries of producers—so long as they themselves are cheaply served—which question, Mr. Hudson is careful not to include within his otherwise comprehensive purview.
But by far the most remarkable feature of Mr. Hudson's equipment for the discussion upon which he enters is his understanding of what a railway tariff schedule represents, and what is the meaning of railway competition.
Mr. Hudson is under the impression that railways compete with each other just as tradesmen on opposite sides of a street-each putting up or putting down prices; each keeping his eye on the other's advertised prices and marking up or marking down his stock accordingly. The impression is a natural one, and we can not wonder that Mr. Hudson has received it. But the least familiarity with the inside of a railroad office (and it is unfortunate that he did not acquire, at least at second hand, such a familiarity before selecting Railroads as the theme on which to become an authority) would have convinced him that, excepting the one element of distance, no element entering into the framing of tariff schedules is either constant or determinable in advance. The tariff schedules are framed by a conference of many departments, by long and intricate computations, by estimates of probable business, expenses and calculations of profit and loss, all tempered by the results of a lifetime of experience, by the cost of material, of labor and services, maintenance of way, by gradient, limit of motive power, wear and tear of engines and rolling stock. Nor, after being arrived at, and settled upon, are they exposed, like price-lists, for other railroads to undersell or undercarry. The competition is not among the companies so much so as among the trade centres and what are known as trade areas, which latter are not concentric, but overlap and often include each other. For example, there is scarcely an appreciable difference in the rates from Chicago to New York, or Chicago to Baltimore (as a matter of fact may be only from two and two-thirds to three cents
per hundred pounds.) Such a city as Albany, Syracuse or Rochester—the actual mileages being annihilated by railroads—are really as near in point of rates to either Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Baltimore—and to one as another. Therefore, the competition is not by which road the tariff is less, but to which seaport shall the load be delivered. And the merchants of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore — nay, even Pittsburg, St. Louis, Cincinnati—are the competing parties on our lines of interstate commerce, while the railways are the humble servants of these merchants, not their masters or in any way dominating them. As far south as New Orleans, as far north as Louisville, merchants are competing. In dressed beef, grain, packed provisions, flour and other staples, the competition goes on practically without consideration as to distance, and upon the differences in the prices of these staples in Europe and at various points in our own country depend not only prices but railway rates. The price of wheat in Liverpool has much more to do with the railway freight tariff on that staple from New York to Chicago than the actual distance in miles between those two points or the cost per wheel of hauling it. But of these facts Mr. Hudson has no suspicion; and so he blunders along with his examples of railway extortion and consequent peril to the republic. Verily, a little learning is by far the most dangerous of accomplishments! It is within the memory of most of us, that this government once attempted to handle its armies in the field by telegrams from Washington, and that the result was not illustrious. For myself, I doubt if the attempt to operate our railways from the same centre would be of any more potency for good upon the trade of this Union than the other plan was distinguished for putting down rebellion. It may not unreasonably, however, as a sort of plea in abatement, should we require one in the course of this discussion, to deny at the outset, first, that railways are ever (or hardly ever) the private and personal property of their officers—merely calling attention to the fact that their ownership, as a rule, shifts with every sale of stocks made in Wall Street, or on the 'Change of a dozen capitals; second, that in Mr. Hudson's formula (page 5)“ of
the existence of actual abuses in the railway system of the country there is little room for dispute;" it were not impossible to substitute for the term “ railway system of the country” the term “everything human;" and third (and this, even, perhaps at the risk of becoming elementary), that one railroad company not all railroads. Such syllogisms as : 1. A railway corporation which charges more for a short haul than a long haul is a public enemy. 2. The A B and C D Railroad charges more for a short haul than a long haul; ergo, ALL railroads are public enemiesor, 1. A corporation which “waters” its capital stock is a public enemy. 2. The E F and G H Railroad once watered” its stock; ergo, ALL railroads are public enemies—and the like, are mere replica of the schoolboy fallacy: Food is necessary to life: Corn is food ; ergo, corn is necessary to life (in which the undistributed middle is supposed to elude an urchin logician), and are altogether beside adult discussion of economical questions. But let Mr. Hudson's processes be waived while we address ourselves to the material of the charges he pastes—and I assume that he pastes them correctly-in his scrap-book. Let us pass to the counts of his indictment.
OF land-grants Mr. Hudson says: “We might even make allowance for the men who, having received a gift of an empire of lands and money for the construction of a transcontinental railway, proceed to bribe legislators and buy up public officials to prevent adverse action as to the ratification of past donations. . . (page 6). “ If the Government has secured the settlement of the Western Territories, the pacification of the Indians, and quick transit to the Pacific coast, by giving the men who built the transcontinental railways the money to build the roads, and an empire of land in addition, it is still permissible to ask whether it
will not suffice to present the projectors of the next enterprise with the completed railroad, without adding the millions of acres of territory to induce them to take the gift” (page 8). This is hardly in what might be termed “the scientific spirit.” But let that pass. The point is, does Mr. Hudson know what a land-grant is? In the free and buoyant West, where language is as bounding and breezy as its own prairies, a land-grant is often spoken of as a "land-grab.” Mr. Hudson is more choice in his phrase, and calls it simply and grandly, a gift—a “gift of empire”—but his idea appears to be much the same. If the Government makes one a gift of land, that ought to be the end of it, by every principle of morality and justice, if not of politics. The Government is just as much bound by its gifts (barring the rule of construction to be noted) as any other giver. But Mr. Hudson says it is not a gift, exactly; a gift ... for the construction of a transcontinental railway.” Those who have tried it have been heard to affirm that “the construction of a transcontinental railway” is a matter of some considerable magnitude, requiring time, perseverance, and even
labor. The Government, then, makes men a gift to build a transcontinental railway much as Mr. Hudson would make a builder a gift to build Mr. Hudson a house; and Mr. Hudson will even " make allowance for men who will bribe legislators to prevent adverse action as to ratification of such a gift as that! Bribery is an intolerable crime; of all crimes most subversive of the public weal. But if bribery were ever, or ever by any possibility could be, justifiable as a last resort, it seems to me it would be justifiable to prevent adverse action by legislators who were determined to prevent the Government from ratifying a gift of land to men who had relied upon its honor and good faith even to such a trifling extent as to build a mere transcontinental railway! If the Government gives Mr. Hudson land, surely it ought not to take it away again, ratified or unratified. But, if it gives him land in consideration of labor and services rendered and material furnished, and he deliver the material and perform the labor and services, surely he ought not to be put to the peril of the Government's refusal to ratify the gift. or to the expense of bribing legislators. But if Mr. Hudson had received a gift of lands (and even an empire is not—some who have attempted it say—too great for the task) in exchange for the construction of a transcontinental railway, from the General Government, I think, on reflection, he would consider himself harshly treated if, on constructing the same, the Government should withhold ratification of its gift. And if Mr. Hudson, why not a railway company ?
But what is a land-grant, or “ gift of an empire," since Mr. Hudson prefers that term ? To begin with, it is a devotion or dedication of a certain portion of the public domain to railway purposes. Instead of purchasing it at two or three dollars an acre, the railroad company purchases it by building a railroad; not where and when they pleased, but between certain points, perhaps even through mountain-ranges, no matter how great the difficulties or how costly the construction, tunnels or viaducts, banks or bridges; not at their leisure, but in good faith as nearly within a specified time as human industry and allowance for the uncertainty of human events, financial and physical, would permit. Surely, this is no “gift” or “grab," to begin with. But, on building this railroad, does the land thus “ given" become the property of the company? Not yet. There are other details ; the land must be surveyed by Government surveyors, and the company must
pay the cost of the survey in cash before it can take possession. Even Government surveyors do not work for nothing, and land in its native wildness, where human foot hath scarcely trod, is not apt to recoup much of engineering expenses. Nor is this all. If there happens to be upon the “empire ” of land (which is granted by the square mile, and without reference to any map, or former record of grant, by general description in terms of quantity only) any acre or plot already occupied by an individual, Indian tribe, or other company, does the Government guarantee its own“ grant of empire” given to this company as a consideration for the labor, services, and material it has exhausted in building a transcontinental railway? Strange as it may seem, the Government not only does nothing of the scrt, but in its own general land-office sits as arbitrator between this earlier proprietor