« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
pursuit of happiness; and, on top of that, another restraining him from interfering with these rights; still another compelling him to positively contribute in cash or services to the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of his neighbors ; and add to all these a still further law taking away his (Mr. Hudson's) own life, liberty, etc., because he had not in the past so contributed ? Would not Mr. Hudson begin after a while to consider the propriety of looking up his own constitutional privileges; or, possibly, the charter of the particular society that was enacting all these statutes ?or query, perhaps, if the mere grant of power to breathe himself were a fair consideration for the burden of seeing to it that the entire neighborhood breathed ? But our laws are daily imposing upon the railway companies they have chartered (on account of this so-called quasi-public character which the once granting of this long-lapsed power of eminent domain has saddled upon them) the duty of carrying whatever of passengers or freight is offered—of reasonably accommodating the public-of forfeiture of their charter if, even at a loss, trains are not so run as to accommodate reasonably; of operating, whether at a profit or at a deficit (under penalties for refusal to perform services desired of them) —under a burden of proof always to prove a negative if the refusal is alleged of them—under a disadvantage always before a jury —and of being obliged to accept the jury always of the locality where ideas of value and damage are the largest. Liabilities always to patrons, servants, abutters and adjoiners; to the State; compelled to pay damages for accidents caused by trespasses on their own rights of way; to maintain alert and vigilant counsel always to watch, lest at any moment they inadvertently overlook any of the thousands of statutes that thirty-eight Legislatures are annually pouring from the legislative mill; black-mailed on every hand,* and always under the conviction that the average citizen
* I have been assured that the following story is true, at least I do not believe it improbable. A certain member of the board of aldermen of a city, not a thousand miles from the city of New York, confided to a fellow member that he was hard up. “Well then," replied the latter-" Give notice of your intention to introduce a resolution for a city ordinance providing
sees no dishonesty in getting the better of them by dodging fares, or getting passes under false pretenses; and, if they receive a public gift of land, having it at once construed against them and carried to defend it against the grantor himself in the grantor's own courts—these are the least of the burdens which this once granted and quickly terminated privilege of eminent domain is supposed to impose, and practically does impose, upon railway companies. Admitting their public character--even such a character is, perhaps, not morally a deterrent to the rights of their stockholders to get the interest on their investment; or otherwise a displacement of the unwritten law of meum and tuum. Railroads, by the uniform decisions of half a century, are indeed public conveniences. But, so far, this character of a public convenience has been only a burden, never a blessing, or even a shield. The man who steals a ride on a railway-train and imputes it to himself for sin would be a curiosity. The railway company has no consciencefund; and, had it, there would be no contributors. It may submit to robbery, may carry for less than the cost of the service and so plunder its stockholders to its heart's content, and Mr. Hudson and his clique have no protest to put on record. But if under all this load the railway company succumbs to bankruptcy, Mr. Hudson, from his elastic standpoint (or rather from his lack of any standpoint whatever) is enabled to cite this very bankruptcy as another instance of the hostility and danger of railways to the republic. He has charged them with being enemies to the public, firstly, because of their tariffs. He charges them, secondly, with being public enemies because of the bankruptcy which a failure to collect those tariffs has brought upon them; and yet again, thirdly-when that bankruptcy has made the stock nominal in value and so speculative, and a shrewd operator absorbs it and so lays the foundation of a private fortune-Mr. Hudson still
and Railway Company provide two brakemen for every passenger, and one for every freight car it runs." The notice was given, the resolution was never introduced. But the member giving the notice made no further complaints of impecuniosity.
charges the railways with being public enemies because the farseeing operator has accumulated this very private fortune! Moreover, he lumps the whole catena of cause and effect into a series of indictments (or, more absurdly still, into a series of specifications under a single indictment against railways as a class or an institution), and proposes as a relief from the whole--what? Why, that the Government confiscate (or purchase by way of condemnation) these railways, and make them a public highway upon which any one may run his own rolling stock on payment of a trackagefee!
CONCLUSIONS FROM THE FOREGOING.
It would seem, then, that while railroads are not philanthropic or charitable bodies, organized for good works among the poor and needy, neither are they basilisks, or gorgons, or minotaurs, destroyers of the state, or dragons that feed upon the people. And now we might well leave Mr. Hudson and all his works, were not his lack of standpoint just here so ludicrous as to tempt from us a further word. He cries (page 9), “ Railway projectors have invariably embarked in these enterprises, not so much for the public welfare as for their own private enrichment.” What else had Mr. Hudson been led to suppose ? The millennial state in which private enterprises are conducted for public ends is certainly not yet a State in the Federal Union, wherever else on this planet it may be discovered. Mr. Hudson's next proposition is that, “if the country has had hundreds of millions added to its wealth by railway construction, the builders have also secured tens of millions for their individual fortunes.” In any but the millennial state one would think that a free gift to the commonwealth of ninety per centum of one's profits was a rather liberal tithe, and an exceedingly handsome thing. Most private parties, certainly most governments, would open their coffers to their friends on the same terms. But Mr. Hudson is ashamed to think
that private capital, enterprise, patience, and labor should have been returned anything. Clearly, the Government should take fully cent per cent for the industry of its subjects.
“While the nation has gained in wealth and population by the general extension of railways," says Mr. Hudson, "it does not follow that the wealth could not have been more justly distributed if railway management had been universally governed by the principles of equity” (page 8). What wealth ? Mr. Hudson was just now complaining that the entire benefit did not go to Government, and that the individual received ten per cent. Now he regrets that it was not even more widely distributed among individuals. What are Mr. Hudson's views as to the meaning of the word “equity”? Would “ equity” have been subserved if the ten per centum or the hundred per centum were distributed by lot, or on a basis of pauperism, or covered at once into the treasury of the republic? The statements that “the equality of all persons is denied by the discriminations of the corporations which the Government has created”; that “ under them the increase of national wealth is not distributed among all classes according to their industry and prudence, but is concentrated among those who enjoy the favor of the railway power"; and that by means of railways “general independence and self-respect are made impossible” (page 9), may perhaps be passed over with the remark that if Mr. Hudson himself believed in propositions as silly as these, to argue with him at all would be like reading Herbert Spencer to the Salvation Army. The railway is certainly an eminent factor in our American civilization, though it has not just yet, perhaps, usurped the functions of the humanities !
It is a bonne bouche to bring into the discussion at any point in a discussion like this, an allusion to the riots of 1877 in lurid juxtaposition with the French Revolution; and our Mr. Hudson does not neglect his opportunity, but-since, wherever planted, the roots of neither of these cataclysms lie in land-grants, construction companies, pools, rebates, or fast-freight lines—it need not detain us here. I have not touched
upon the “Granger cases (so called), my limits forbidding. But I do not understand
that the principles enunciated in them conflict with any of the statements I have made. I lately had the pleasure of perusing a learned article in an English magazine which proposed that railway companies, like post-office departments, make rates independently of distances or extent of services rendered ; or at least establish two rates, one for short distances and others for long distances : so much for every distance not exceeding one hundred miles, so much for every distance between one hundred and three hundred miles, and so much for all distances exceeding three hundred miles, keeping the one rate for all distances in view as the ultimate object.” It seems to me that, if gentlemen who write in this fashion expect their papers to be read, they expect the utmost they are entitled to. Similarly, I think that Mr. Hudson's loving treatment of the ancient claim that, since railways are public highways, any citizen has a right to send his own limited express along the line at any moment on payment of a trackage-fee, ought to stamp the value of his criticism. Mr. Hudson's book is printed on better paper and more nicely bound than the usual socialistic attack upon things as they are.
But that he is, or is destined to become, the long-looked for reformer of the American railroad, I fear can hardly be hoped. But even Senator Cullom argues, (see post p. 88), that, since Congress cannot constitutionally protect the railways against wreckage and stock jobbery, the next best thing is to collar them.
I know what the railways of this continent are, what services they perform. I know that, by vigilant watch for and adoption of the latest triumphs of engineering and mechanical skill, and by employment of the costliest of expert assistance, they have reduced the percentage of accident to a minimum, and the chances of loss of life to a fraction so small that it is actually a mathematical truth to assert that a man is safer in a railway-train running at full speed than in his bed, or in any other spot on this most precarious globe! What these railways could become if operated upon Mr. Hudson's plan I can not question; the details of that picture I can not, for one, fill in. I know not what terminal facilities, what time-tables, or what per centage of slaughter would
every man, woman, and child possess the inalien