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willing that the State of New Jersey should control its own railroads, arrange its own freights, impose its own fares, tax passengers or tax articles of commerce and production even from the West, from my own State, that go through it, without let or hinderance, because in the dispensations of Divine Providence it was thought expedient to have some other outlet to the rest of the world that could be made available outside of New Jersey. In regard to such subjects as this the only redeeming thing there is about New Jersey is that it does not swell to such magnificent proportions as to compel every body to go through it.
I speak with all respect for old New Jersey, the home of my ancestors. By all the associations of kindred and ancestry and old home residence I should be glad to join the Senator from New Jersey in his attack upon all the great and beneficial industries and communications and transportations of all the vast country lying to the west if I could do it without such detriment and such injury to the interest of every producer, of every shipper, of every consumer of the United States and in the markets of the world as could possibly be borne at all. But his proposition, as Dogberry said about a similar proposition a great many years ago, is “tolerable and not to be endured.” No man can even glance over this amendment without seeing that it is sacrificing the whole country to New Jersey.
What will be the effect of the first provision ? That no person or corporation shall have authority to engage in interstate commerce after three months from the passage of this act
Perhaps I ought to express in passing the extreme gratification I feel that there is a limit of three months' existence without the enforcement of this lawwithout having procured a license for that purpose from the board of commissioners herein provided.
No man away far up the Tennessee can load his barge and pursue his journey down among the mountains and the valleys and over the Muscle Shoals and past Chattanooga and into the Ohio and down to New Orleans, engaged in interstate commerce as that would be, running through several States, without going first somewhere and getting a license from the commission provided for in the bill which is reported by the Senator from Illinois. No man dare load a boat on any river in the United States with the produce of a State to take into another State, whether it is a canoe or a dugout, a batteau, a barge, a steamboat, or a scow-I speak of a scow with great respect, for scows are common on the Western rivers, at any rate-without getting this license. That may or may not be possible to do; it would be unfortunate to these small traders, certainly; and yet they are in the bill. No ship-owner on our great lakes could start from Duluth, or Ontonagon, or Marquette, or Green Bay, or Milwaukee, or Racine, or Chicago even, with his little hooker loaded with produce there, and go down to Toledo, or Cleveland, or Buffalo, or Detroit, or Oswego with the freight which he had on board his vessel without first getting a license to go.
Mr. PLATT. One could not drive a stage from Wheeling to Bellaire without a license.
Mr. CONGER. No; one could not drive a stage across the Ohio there; but I am not talking now about land companies. I made some remarks about passengers getting through New Jersey. I tried to avoid the culminating point of that argument by saying that there were other ways to go around New Jersey of which the good people of the United States have availed themselves and are availing themselves year by year. They did so at least until some of the old restrictions imposed upon freights and passengers were removed, perhaps by the advice of my friend the Senator from New Jersey. Controlling as he does the railroads of that State with his influence over them in the councils of the administration of railroad men in that State, perhaps by his advice he so made the laws of New Jersey, modified, civilized, regenerated, almost Christianized, as to enable New Jersey to come back into the family of States again with some decent laws in regard to the rest of the citizens of the United States.
But I am now on the subject of water transportation and I leave the subject of land transportation to the Senator from Connecticut who made the happy suggestion to me just now. I was saying that no man could, without a license from these commissioners, take his vessel, or barge, or bateau, or steamboat on any of the navigable waters of the United States. By a law of the United States those are navigable waters which have navigable water communication with other parts of the country and other States; that is under our law for the security of life on steamboats. No man can use the property he has in boats to transport freight from one State to another on any navigable river, or any river not navigable, in the interstate and common-law sense, a highway under the laws of the United States and of the States, on any of our great lakes, on the Mississippi, on the Missouri, on the Columbia, on the Blackwater, on any river anywhere, without first going to these commissioners and, on some terms, I do not know what or how or at what expense, getting a license from them to trade.
Sir, has it come to this, that the narrow, restricted views of New Jersey in regard to passengers and freight are to be extended over the broad domain? Is that the evolution theory by which binderances and obstructions and impositions are to be placed upon the growing and increasing commerce and intercommunication between the States of this Union? Is that the evolution theory by which New Jersey shall evolve this idea, dear to itself at one time, dear to itself now I should suppose from the manner in which this amendment is presented here, and shall extend itover the great mass of the domain of the United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and become the law of the land, and put under subjection every vessel-owner, yes, every cartman who goes over the boundary of a State, every common carrier; for the amendment is comprehensive in its language.
I will say for the Senator from New Jersey that without going into any details whatever he has the gift with one sweeping clause of overturning all the statute laws and reaching out to control all manner of subjects with the smallest number of words and in the most hidden and occult manner of any Senator on this floor. It is a common remark among my brother Senators that in the little nutshell of a paragraph the Senator from New Jersey introduces, in connection with railroads and with transportation, comparatively innocent little remarks or propositions that no one can understand, which make sweeping changes in the whole commercial interests of the country. He has done it before and tries to do it again. If I had that adroitness and that skill in the construction of sentences which the Senator from New Jersey has evinced in the preparation of this amendment, I could rival Talleyrand any day, who said that the object of language was to conceal thought, to conceal the truth. The object of this amendment is to revolutionize and put under control and compel the procuring of licenses by every ship and every vessel-owner on all the waters, rivers, lakes, and the ocean itself, because we have to go out 3 miles by the common law on water to get out into the ocean.
I do not think the Senator from New Jersey can satisfy the Senate the amendment applying to all common carriers, carriers of freight, transporters of produce-that it is for the interest of the people of our States, of those who navigate our lakes and our rivers, of those who carry as cheaply as can be carried the vast produce of the West and of the South to market-that it is for the interest of our constituents that they be subjected to any such restriction, to any such requirement as that. Under the common laws and obligations of commerce and transportation in the United States, well known and well defined, men carry on their business and carry the productions of the vast West to the East and return the productions of the East to the West with a constantly diminishing expense, cheaper and cheaper, so that the producer may receive profits which would otherwise go to the transporter, and that the consumer may receive from the vast granaries of the West the overflowing provisions of that region for the support of himself and his family at a cheaper rate in the East.
I do not know that I understand the proposition. Hidden beneath the soft, flowing language which scarcely casts a ripple upon the shore of this amendment, there seems to me to be an absolute revolution of all our old, accustomed laws, and modes, and measures of transportation. Except that it is printed, except that it seems to have been printed under the authority of Congress, except that it has been introduced with a name attached to it of an honorable Senator, I could scarcely believe that any man would have the temerity, unless by way of a joke, to present such a proposition to the Senate, to say nothing of fastening on the vast body of the American people such a proposition. I take it that it is a joke. I take it that it is a quiet, pleasant, gentlemanly way of throwing ridicule upon the bill itself perhaps, or upon the subject-matter. I take it that not seeing any other way to prevent some little provision being made by which the transportation of commerce by great railroad corporations may be to a small extent modified and controlled by the National Government, as it has been modified and controlled to some extent by the States, the railroad magnates have taken this way and induced my friend here to present a proposition so ridiculous in itself, so overflowing with ridicule, so swelling and enlarging and bursting its bounds by the inherent ridiculousness of the proposition, that it shall in some manner float over and fasten itself upon the bill, which is supposed to be a serious one, now in the hands of the Senator from Illinois.
If that be its object it is an inopportune time for the great evolution theory. It is not a matter of unconcern to my constituents; it is not a matter of little concern to the States of the great Northwest, teeming with produce, whose fields furnish the millions of bushels of wheat and corn and oats and grain of other kinds for the markets of the world and for the consumption of our Eastern brethren; it is not a matter of unconcern to the miners who delve beneath the ground in the dark caves of the earth and procure the copper and the iron which they ship to the markets of the world; it is not a matter of unconcern to the fishermen on the borders of our lakes; it is not a matter of unconcern to the hardy men who spend the winter in bringing down from its lofty heights the towering pine, and cutting it into logs and driving it down the rivers, and manufacturing it in the mills, and preparing it for market and for use for all the various purposes of the community, for homes, for barns, for store-houses, for all those things for which the lumber of the Northwest is used; it is no matter of unconcern to them that their industry and their products, that all these men and hundreds of others that I could pame, shall be subject to the little paltry restriction in the amendment, that whoever takes from the place where they have labored to produce these products and carries them to the market where they can sell them and realize the price of their labor must hunt up somewhere a commission and humbly beg of them a license to travel on the great highways which God meant for man to go upon without let and without hinderance, ay, and without license too, from anybody on earth. That is what this amendment says—they shall have a license, a license to go on God's highway, a license to float down the rivers which have been forming through the past ages for the use of man, a license to move their vessels and their steamboats and carry the produce of themselves or their neighbors to market.
I have heard of many kinds of restrictions upon the freedom and ability of men to follow their ordinary pursuits. I do not speak of star chambers, I do not speak of bulldozing, I do not speak of kukluxism, I do not speak of mobs, I do not speak of strikes, and I do not speak of the suppression of laboring men here and of laboring men there; those things are local; they may be, thank God, temporary, and we hope they will; they may be avoided; they may be controlled; they affect buta part of our citizens at a time; but I never yet have known of any legal clause which compelled a vast body of the American people, the whole of them interested either in production and cheap transportation or in consumption and the cheap acquirement of property, to be subjected to the licensesystem of three commissioners appointed by the President, I think, in this bill and confirmed by the Senate—three commissioners. “Five commissioners," I am told.
So much the worse. I never heard of all the vast industries of the nation being submitted for control to a license to trade or not trade, to go or not go, to point the prow onward or inward, to turn the helm this way or that, to go in on the great waters of the land where the winds or the powers of steam, or the
more humble man who propels his boat laden with freight by a pole as he gets it down the rivers— I never before heard that all that great vast system of industry and all the productions of this vast land should be made subject to the caprice or to the will or even to the sober judgment of any five men that the President might select or any five men that this Senate might confirm, composed of the great men of the land it is true, composed of men who, when they die, our country will find that wisdom has died with them undoubtedly-but sometimes men make mistakes, not intentionally of course, but from lack of information and knowledge. So the Senate may confirm men from New Jersey—think of it!-with such views as are embodied in this amendment, thinking it their duty to stick this man on this lake and that man on that river, interfering with the flatboat and even with the Senator from North Carolina as he is taking the phosphates down the Cape Fear River and the French Broad and all those rivers that he has urged Congress to make appropriations to improve so that the overflowing productions of that land may not lie idle in the glorious State of North Carolina, but may get by these water communications to the market. With the trouble already on the poor boatman there, he is asked to vote to compel his constituent before he starts from away up the waters at the uttermost navigable portions of those rivers, as far up as the rivers themselves have capacity for valuable floatage on barges, to get a license! The Senator has persuaded Congress to make appropriations to make available those streams up among the mountains of his State, and now a man must send out from Carolina to his Senator, humbly beseeching him to procure from this commission a permit to go down the French Broad! Or perhaps the Senator from Georgia will get that permission for one of his constituents to go down the Cape Fear River.
I know the people of that country are intelligent, as they are all over the nation, but it would take more than three months for the laboring men on those rivers, with their boats of whatever dimensions, to find out that there was such an irreconcilable folly perpetrated by the Congress of the United States as should compel them to go away off and use all the diplomatic arts and powers and influence of their Senators and Representatives to find out first where these five men were and then to bring influence to show that they were not offensive partisans and were worthy of a license.
I am drawing a picture I know that horrifies the Senator from North Carolina. I see by his countenance already that no such proposition as that will be allowed to affect the navigation of the Cape Fear or the French Broad, because I have been upon the Committee on Commerce with the Senator from North Carolina long enough to know that if he has any one thing dear to his heart it is the improvement of the navigation of the rivers of his own State, so that men may carry their produce cheaply and without license from anybody. Contrary to his old convictions, the Senator from North Carolina has of late years seen the importance of cheap transportation and cheap navigation, so that it has overcome his old life-long constitutional scruples about interual improvements in his State. The time was when Carolina would not receive money from the General Government. But my friend from Carolina has overcome that scruple. He does not ask it himself, because he is too modest to do that, but if the Committee on Commerce force appropriations to improve these rivers so that his people can bring down their boats, he is willing quietly to let them pass and let them go into the bill. But neither he nor any other man through whose State runs a river, or on whose borders is a lake, or whose shores are laved and washed by the ocean itself-none of those people can vote for such a proposition as this.
If the appeal were to the Senator from Nevada, away up in the mountains above the storm-clouds, in a region where there is neither river, por lake, nor rain, nor dew, nor transportation-plenty of hollows in which there might be lakes and might be rivers, but no water--it would not be unreasonable to ask him to vote for such a proposition as this. Some of my friends from the prairies, if there be any such, through which no river runs, might be willing to forego the old transportation of boats through the dew and let this provision pass, but they would have to get a license.
But, sir, I rose without fear of the result and I feel that there is no necessity for further remark upon the knowledge which every Senator on this floor has. Nevada is a State which is perched up too near heaven and has too much gold and silver to need anything else; and there they have no rivers, and no water, and no rain, and no dew, but clear, naked, glittering gold and silver. No other State has a Senator here that would vote for this thing except the Senator from New Jersey, who is in a State where rivers run and where the ocean laves the shore and where it has all the privileges and blessings of water communication that any State can have in this Union, but which has not its representative here of rivers, which has no representative here of its steamboats, which has no one here to call the long roll of the classical names of its canalboats, but has here the spirit which would prompt an amendment like that now offered. Vevada and New Jersey may possibly vote for such a proposition. If there is any other Senator whose State has no rivers, and no lakes, and no seashore, and no water communication, we may lose a vote or two for this amendment; otherwise this amendment is doomed to the sleep that knows no waking, not even to be honored by funeral obsequies; and so I leave it.