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PART IV.

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS.

FROM the unexpected success of the Iowa Commission in its strong form, it would be premature to conclude that the universal adoption of such a policy by other Commonwealths would be any great step in the solution of the railroad question. Whether such a commission with the extended powers is at all to be desired, depends upon the character of a State's population, its industrial condition and commercial interests, and upon its geographical situation.

Massachusetts has been eminently successful in its advisory form of commission, but the circumstances under which the plan has evolved have been widely different from those affecting the Northwestern States. This Commission, organized in 1869, was based entirely upon the conviction of "the eventual supremacy of an enlightened public opinion," 1- which means, of course, public opinion with ultimate power in the legislature and the courts, for without this power public opinion is ineffective. The merits of the system were not realized at the start, but only after some years of experience; in fact, it was only an accident that the plan was adopted. "Had it not been a flagrant legislative

1 "Railroads, their Origin and Problems," Adams, p. 140.

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guess, it would have been an inspiration."

This Commission worked out its idea in a conservative com

munity, whose habits of life and ways of thinking were established. The period of rapid railroad building, with all its attendant evils, had passed, and the Board was set down in a State well supplied with railroad facilities, and fairly well satisfied with the manner in which the transportation business was being conducted. The Commissioners handled the complaints presented to them in a masterly manner, publishing a full statement of their decisions, which, under the harmonious relations existing between carriers and shippers, were as a rule readily accepted. The act giving the Massachusetts Commission power over corporation accounts was passed with the active assent of many of the railroads, and the system of investigation and reports was by this step brought to its ultimate point of development under a State government.

Iowa and the Northwest were in the stage of railroad pioneering when the commission system was introduced. The railroads grew hand in hand with the commissions, and the problems increased more rapidly than the ability of the commissions to handle them. There was no such spirit of forbearance existing between shippers and carriers as was to be found in Massachusetts. Its place was taken by a spirit of mutual distrust, which developed in some sections into bitter hatred. Under such circumstances, it was at least hazardous to trust to the strength of public opinion to enforce decisions. Decisions at times favored the railroads, as was natural, and such findings often met with storms of opposition

1 "Railroads, their Origin and Problems," p. 138.

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from the Granger element. On the other hand, the railroads had many supporters in the Western States who belittled all anti-railroad decisions. There seemed for many years no desire on the part of contending factions to come to a settlement. This feeling was enhanced by the fact that, whereas in Massachusetts the railroad owners were residents of the State or section, in Iowa and the West but a very small fraction of railroad stock was held by residents. Charles Francis Adams declares that the statement that the Eastern owner of Western railroad securities was insensible to public opinion in the West had no weight, and that the Eastern owner was in fact peculiarly sensitive to it. This may be true; yet the fact that his residence was so far from the seat of action made it impossible for the stockholder to possess that intimate knowledge of railroad matters that he would have had were the corporation operating all about him; and he was obliged by the force of circumstances to trust the management of affairs largely to subordinates, who had more in mind the securing of adequate revenues than of serving the people in the territory traversed, and who were often required to conduct the line so as to conform to the demands of Wallstreet operators. Then, again, the mere fact that the owners of railroads lived at such distance added fuel to the flame of Western sentiment. Whether the conclusion was warranted or not, the people of the West felt that the absence of owners denoted indifference to their needs and wishes; and they constantly pictured to themselves the absentee owner enjoying in ease and luxury the earnings of his Western investments, while the peo

1 "Railroads, their Origin and Problems,” p. 144.

ple were suffering from exactions and discriminations at the hands of wilful subordinates. Moreover, more radical legislation was possible under absentee ownership, because the owners were not citizens of the State, and could not, through their influence and their votes, check the passage of hasty and unwise laws.

Iowa's geographical position rendered the presence of railroad evils almost inevitable. As already noted in an earlier part of this essay, Iowa was the most western of the States which was obliged to depend upon Eastern markets. The through haul was a prime necessity at the opening of the commissioner period. The great trunk lines parallel each other in their passage across the State, and the temptations for severe rate-cutting are almost irresistible. The railroads, by their system of rates, have built up the cities of Omaha and Kansas City to the west of Iowa, while neglecting the river towns upon the eastern border, Burlington, Dubuque, Clinton, and others.

The entire net increase of the population from 1870 to 1890 in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, except in the new section, was in cities and towns possessing competitive rates, while all those having noncompetitive rates decreased in population.1 As a result of this earlier policy of the railroads, Iowa has no large commercial or manufacturing centres, and is obliged to cross her State line in order to market a large portion of her produce. With this intense competition of trunk lines Massachusetts has had no experience.

Massachusetts was very fortunate in the permanence of tenure of the members of the Commission. They 1 Stickney, "Railway Problem," p. 62.

were thus enabled to profit by their experience, and to become so familiar with railroad technique that they could meet the able railroad manager upon his own ground. The Western sentiment upon the question of tenure made such a condition of things almost impossible. It was, and is still, a general feeling among the Western people, that all citizens are capable of holding any of the offices within the gift of the State, and that the offices should be passed about from one to the other, so that the benefits may be universalized. Such a principle, when applied to positions which require a great amount of experience to be competently held, is disastrous to the best interests of the Commonwealth. More frequent changes than ever have occurred in Iowa's Board since the new plan went into effect, by which the tenure of office was made dependent upon the mutations of politics.

This law, making Commissioners elective, was passed in the spring of 1888. Before that time the Commissioners had been appointed by the Governor, and their selection had depended in no degree upon their political affiliations. The opponents of the new order predicted that the change would furnish the railroads the opportunity which they sought of going into politics, and so it unfortunately proved. It has resulted in more than one campaign being fought out by the railroad and antirailroad forces, regardless of the connection of the candidates with one or the other of the great national parties. A Commissioner who by his public acts seemed to favor the Granger sentiment as opposed to the railroads, would be obliged, if a candidate for re-election, to face the combined forces of the corporations, ably

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