Page images

another of export or import, or of whatever, they may then modify and change this general rule for the time being according to the necessity of that particular case. That is all of that.

Now we come to the next change in the fourth section. The conferees propose after the words, "And the commission may from time to time,'' to strike out so much of the succeeding paragraph as follows: make general rules exempting such designated common carrier in such special cases from the operation of this section of this act; and when such exceptions shall have been made and published, they shall, until changed by the commission or by law, have like force and effect as though the same had been specified in this section,

That language the conferees propose to strike out, and, after the words, “And the commission may from time to time,” insert this: prescribe the extent to which such designated common carrier may be relieved from the operation of this section of this act.

Where is the substantial difference except this, that in the Senate provision they were compelled to do it by a general regulation, and the House thought, evidently--and there is some force in it-inasmuch as it must be a general regulation it might operate too far and too widely and to defeat the very object that was designed by the fourth section; and therefore they said that this being the general rule, when there is brought to the attention of the commission a special state of circumstances that makes it right and fair, on investigation, that there shall be a special exception for a limited time, renewable at the judgment of the commission, that less may be charged for a long than for a short haul; to use the common phrase, they might do it.

Therefore I say, as it anpears to me, that the changes in this fourth section, so far as they amount to anything at all, are favorable to the railway interest and to the exporting and importing and other interests that my friends who have opposed this coníerence report have so much at heart, and not more at heart than I have myself. That is the way it looks to me.

Now we come to the pooling business; and my distinguished friend from Ohio has undertaken to show, as my distinguished friend from Massachusetts did, and with all the ingenuity that it is possible for the human mind to exert, that there is really something dangerous to the public welfare in declaring that there shall not be combinations among chartered corporations employed for the public interest, existing and created only for the public interest, taking private property for the public interest (which is the most sacred thing we know of except life and liberty in this world)—that combinations between these corporations, otherwise monopolies, against the benefit of trade and against fair transportation shall not exist. That is what the anti-pooling clause is.

It may be said, as it can in every case where there may be a combination, that in a particular instance it is good for the public welfare, just as there may be, in a thousand instances in this world, a private invasion by a private person of the private rights of somebody else that on the whole we would say would be right. The hungry man comes into my garden as trespasser and takes fruit; he comes into my kitchen unasked and uninvited and without authority of law and takes bread. He has violated the law; but who cares? And so there may be an instance, though I can not think of one just now, when a corporation created for a public purpose, existing by having taken the property of private citizens for this public purpose, may combine with some other corporation and arrange with it that they will go and do so and

so about public interests. I do not think of the instance, but it may be, and I will grant that it may be; but this law, like every other law, lays down general rules and general principles. It does not legislate for the exception; it legislates for the general and for the universal practice and experience of mankind, and therefore if in the city of Washington there should be a combination of all the bakers that they would regulate the price of bread, I say that the Congress of the United States, or whatever may be the power in the District of Columbia, could put it down, just as in Alabama many and many a year ago-and it has been a famous case cited in many causes since argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the United States-it was undertaken to regulate the price of bread of every baker in a certain city or perhaps in all the cities of that State, that they should sell for a price that should be regulated just as these corporations are in this bill under competent sovereign legislative authority, just as we know in all the States in a thousand ways that legislation has always existed and always ought to exist against combinations even of private persons to forestall the markets and put up prices, to speculate against the general interests of the community and against fair play.

And this is especially so when you apply it to great and powerful corporations who exist only by having taken private property into their possession for the proposed benefit of the public, consolidating themselves so that they may mutually, according to their will and their discretion, and not that of the sovereign power of the people, regulate and conduct the affairs of the people as common carriers according to their discretion and not regulated by any law.

So, Mr. President, I believe that what is called pooling-which is simply another phrase for the combination of corporate monopolies not to compete with each other, and so to regulate the freights and the carriage of passengers as if they were one single line, and hold their hands upon the throat of the business intercourse of States and peoplesought to be prohibited; and yet in some instances it may happen that some corporation will so far run down the price of its transportation that it can make no profit, that it will exhaust the resources of its stockholders if they have actually paid their money and have not got watered stock--and I should like to see a railroad that has not got that sort of thing—but if they really have paid their money will exhaust the resources of their shareholders. Would that be sensible? Would you or I, Mr. President, being stockholders, vote for a board of directors who would do that thing as a system? I admit, like everybody else, we might be tempted or deluded or drawn into a temporary thing of that kind, running at a temporary loss for a little while; but in general, looking over large spaces of time and over large spaces of country, the thing will not work, and everybody knows it. The consequence is, that without a restraining hand we shall see, as we have seen in the last twenty years, that when the people giving their private property or having it taken from them against their will for the purpose of building up quasi public corporations for the public benefit, and into which nobody is compelled to go or put his money unless he chooses on the terms proposed, find these competitors, they find that it would be better for their interest, not for that of the people, that they should combine, pool, and that they should fix their rates as if they were only one, and thereby become a monopoly in restraint of trade and for oppression, instead of being what they were intended to be, advantageous to the interests of the people on both their lines, carrying persons and property at fair rates, according to the situation in which they were placed.


Now, let us suppose, Mr. President, in respect to these two sections that the “gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire” that have appeared in all manners and forms in this Senate Chamber for the last week should some of them finally, when we lay our hand on them, be experienced and turn out to be the fact. I do not believe that any of them will; but suppose it does turn out, applied to the good city of Boston, for which as the cradle of New England and American liberty I always have reverence, that the export trade of the good city of Boston is in some way injured or hampered or diminished or crippled by the effect of this act, who would be more ready than the Senate of the United States to rectify it when we saw that the forebodings of these gentlemen were in any substantial sense well founded? These are the same kind of forebodings that have appeared whenever in any State or in any country the legislative voice has been appealed to to redress admitted evils as applied to corporations.

I remember a few years ago that the State of Iowa passed among the first of what are called the granger acts. The farmers found, as they thought-and the mass of the lowa people are farmers, as they are in Vermont-that the railroads which they had chartered for the public interest, the railroads which they had authorized to cross the private property of farmers and other people in that State and take it were not executing this public trust in a just and fair way, and they passed the granger acts. The passage of them was resisted by just the same kind of forebodings and dismal prophecies of ruin and destruction to that State and all its interests that we hear now, and as somebody has said, I believe, about this bill, the Constitution was appealed to as being violated. Well, the railroads resisted the legistation, but it came into force; they resisted its validity, but the Supreme Court of the United States decided that it was valid; and then what was the consequence?

Were the railroads destroyed? Was anybody injured ? Did any of the calanities, great or small, that had been so prophesied and foreboded take place? Not one of them. The stock and the property of the railroads that cross that State, after ten or fifteen years of obedience, which they were at last compelled to perform to these laws, have been steady and firm and prosperous and profitable in the market; and yet the farmers of Iowa, legislating wisely for equality and fair play, put their laws in force, and it was found that instead of injuring the people who had resisted it in every way they could, it really did them good. My belief is that when this great railway system of the United States between States, covering a continent, comes to find itself compelled (for that is what it is) against its will, against its opinion, against its inspiring fears and discontent on the part of business people all over the United States, to be subject to the force of this act wisely and fairly administered, it will be for its benefit as well as for the benefit of the people.

Mr. MORRILL. May I ask my colleague whether the law to which he refers in Iowa was not subsequently modified or repealed?

Mr. EDMUNDS. Not repealed; it was modified just as this law will be modified if it is found to operate hardly upon any just interest of any man or of any corporation. Nothing in the way of experimental legislation, as this is, in this country and in this way can he supposed in advance to be perfect. It will need undoubtedly, as it is applied, modification here and modification there, and it will turn out undoubtedly, as our human experience proves it has turned out for a hundred years in this country and for a thousand in Great Britain, that there is not a statute of general interest upon any subject in the world that having been first passed did not at some time in the future require some modification or alteration to adjust itself to the circumstances of the occasion,

Mr. PLATT. With the permission of the Senator from Vermont, reading from the report of Judge McDill, a former Senator, who is now one of the lowa commissioners, he says:

The law of 1878, known as the commissioner law, repeals all portions of the act of 1874, known as the granger law, except that portion which provides for the classification of railroads according to earnings per mile, fixes rates for passenger fare, and requires an annual report of gross earnings.


Mr. ALDRICH. Will the Senator from Vermont allow me to interrupt him a moment to read a statement from a present Senator of the United States from the State of Iowa on this present law? Mr. EDMUNDS.

Yes. Mr. ALDRICH. He is referring to this law: They put it into a law. The railroad companies put it into practice. It produced evil, and only evil, to the greater portion of the State. It needed but to be tried to cause a general demand for its repeal. It was repealed, and the commissioner system enacted in its stead.

That is the statement of a present Senator from the State of lowa. Mr. CULLOM. Will the Senator allow me to make a remark?

Mr. EDMUNDS. Oh, yes; I think I understand the subject, but I am glad to get contributions all around.

Mr. CULLOM. As the Senator from Connecticut [Mr. PLAir] has referred to a gentleman in lowa, Mr. McDill, I desire to say that I have had not less than two or three letters from that gentleman ipsisting that we must pass this bill.

Mr. PLATT. I was speaking simply of what the state of law was in Iowa at the present time.

Mr. EDMUNDS. All of which illustrates exactly what I was saying, that in inaugurating a law of this character or any other which deals with new conditions of affairs, in the first instance it will undoubtedly turn out as it did in Iowa, as it did in Great Britain, as it has done in dozens of the States here, that the law will need modification, amendment, just as a locomotive put for the first time on a railway line needs a screw tightened here, a connecting-rod lengthened there, a screw loosened in another place, and so on. The idea, therefore, of saying that we will not have anything--because that is what it comes to, with all respect to my friend from Massachusetts--that we will not have anything, and will not go far enough to embrace this whole subject in all its aspects because it may turn out, and probably will turn out, that in many respects the legislative discretion and sense of justice will be appealed to to adjust it when it is applied practically so that it will run, just as we do everything in our farms and our shops and our railroad operations, and every business operation of the world.

There is Great Britain, Mr. President, which had almost exactly such an experience as we are having now. The railways, in the first instance, were chartered under conditions and circunstances which made it much less possible for them to do wrong to the ge public than it is in this country, in that small kingdom. They were chartered much like our charters--independent fellows, monopolies, combinations, pooling, long hauls and short hauls, and all that sort of thing. The people of Great Britain stood it as long as they could, and the people of the United States have, as I hope, stood it in this instance as long as they could. They first enacted a law stringent like this-not like it in all particulars, but in substance--and they thought it wise in the first instance to put it into the hands of the judges of the courts by summary process, and with administrative as well as judicial power to administer. They practiced on that for a number of years.


It was found by experience that while it was in the hands of the judges this particular point in the law needed modification, another point needed modification, either strengthening or being diminished, according to the circumstances; and after a certain number of years' experience it was thought that it was better to relieve the judges of the courts entirely from that duty, and to put it into the hands of a commission, and the Parliament of Great Britain did that. But the Parliament of Great Britain had the power, which we have not, of investing that commission with summary judicial powers so that they could not only require a railroad to do something, but compel it to do it, with the saine powers and effect as the Supreme Court of the United States, or any circuit court of the United States, or any court of a State can do in its own State. We have not that power, because we have a written Constitution with a separation of powers, so that, in my opinion, it can not be done.

This bill comes the nearest to doing it that we can. It has its commission; it has its general regulations of limitation against obvious injustice and wrong, and within those limits it leaves the administration to the commission upon fair principles. Then when that commission determines that something ought to be done and it can not enforce it, appeal must be made to the courts. So every railway corporation will have its fair rights and its fair play in a judicial tribunal. What more can be asked ?

All this illustrates, as it seems to me, how clearly we should do a very unwise thing if on account of forebodings and suggested difficulties and possible disasters we should not go forward with this great measure, and if we find at the next session or at any session hereafter, that in any one of the respects that agitate the minds of Senators who oppose it, it is working unjustly and injuriously, it is easy to correct it. But if you break it down now on the ground that it being an untried experiment you are unwilling to try it, how many years will it be before the people of the United States can emancipate themselves from the tyranny of this corporate management and corporate combination that now exists?

Mr. ALDRICH Mr. President, I do not intend to enter upon a discussion of thegeneral features of this bill. The provisions which authorize the appointment of a commission, which enforce the publicity of rates, which prohibit the exaction of unreasonable charges, and which seek to shield the public from undue and unjust discriminations, have my hearty approval. I shall confine my remarks to a criticism of the fourth section, and I am led to claim the attention of the Senate for this purpose because I desire to express my emphatic dissent from the interpretation sought to be placed on its terms by the Senator from Illinois (Mr. CULLOM), the chairman of the conference committee, and from a profound conviction that if the provisions of this section are enacted into law the result must be disastrous to great interests.

I believe this section to be revolutionary in its character and in violation of the sound principles which should govern transportation

« PreviousContinue »