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were soon superseded by other agencies better adapted to meet the new conditions of life. Limitless areas were transformed into fruitful farms, and the railways themselves. became objects of wealth in the land whose value they had helped to create. The isolated settler was placed in touch with the world; and his wants, no longer dependent upon garden or farm or local market, could draw for their satisfaction upon the storehouses of the earth. The merchant's bazaar henceforth could offer commodities produced under many flags, and the man of learning exchanged ideas with scholars the world over. International unions, scientific, literary, industrial, and political even, sprang up in quick response to the throbbing of the larger life. The “bonds of consanguinity,” concerning which earlier American statesmen expressed so much solicitude, could now be preserved indissolubly among all sections of our country. The government became omnipresent and the law omnipotent. Such was the revolution caused by the railway
As a means of accomplishing great ends, the significance of railways is not diminishing. Russia is using railways in order to gain permanent control of Manchuria; in Persia railway rates provide a means of evading the most-favored-nation clause of treaty obligations; Germany is financiering a railway through the Tigris-Euphrates valley in order to gain influence in what is destined to become a clearing-house of continents, while at home Germany is making her railways the occasion of a closer federation; in South Africa the railways constitute the greatest lever for raising that long-suffering region; Canada is sending locomotives as missionaries into her great northwest; Mexico is attempting to use railways in controlling trusts and adverse tariff legislation ; Peru is trying to push the iron road over the Cordilleras and unite ocean and river; in the United States “twentieth century limited” and “overland limited” trains are closing the “suture" between East and West. The world over railways are harnessed in the interest of progress.
To be sure, railways have made and unmade towns; they have caused flowers to blossom and to wither; they have strangled one and made the other fat; they have raised their wizard's wand and commanded puppets to do their bidding; they have placed legislatures on wheels and hauled them whither they had constructed the track. But with it all, railways have been and continue to be one of the greatest agents of universal progress which the world has ever known. If we can but harness the railway as an institution as the railway engineer has harnessed the steam in his locomotive, human progress will be accelerated and human welfare become more widely diffused. This harness is the law.
CHARACTERISTICS OF RAILWAY LEGISLATION IN
THE UNITED STATES
The law as a harness has been an oddly constructed harness. The collar has been unevenly padded, so that parts of the shoulder have borne most of the pressure and become sore, while other parts have escaped the pressure of the draft. The traces have been constructed of material of varying degrees of strength; and they have been cut of unequal length, adding to the discomfiture resulting from a badly constructed collar. Important buckles have been left out, and not all the straps have been sewed together. The horse has at times become restless. Sometimes this restlessness has been due to his intolerance of all restraint, and sometimes to the misfit of the harness. The makers of the harness have not always taken care to get the measurements of the horse, relying unduly upon their casual observations of him as he pranced through the fields. In other words, railway legislation in the United States is full of inconsistencies and anomalies, spasmodic expressions of legislative impulses, and the futile attempts of administrative bunglers.
On the other hand, there is much that is valuable in existing laws. The growth of decades has produced many good results. No one can advance arguments adequate to justify the general repeal of existing laws and a substitution therefore of laws thought to be better. Amendments with a reconstruction of parts is probably a prudent rule. New conditions require new rules. Laws which were but poorly fitted to meet former conditions are much less adapted to meet the changed conditions of to-day.
Starting with England as the original area of diffusion, railway charters were carried into every quarter of the globe. The first that were landed on this side of the Atlantic bore close resemblances to their prototypes in the British Isles. Then, as they were carried westward, the carefulness of their construction and the comprehensiveness of their scope diminished as the distance from the Atlantic increased. The march across the continent consumed less than five decades, ending with the later sixties. Among the charters granted in Eastern States there are many which are relatively complete. In New England and in the Middle States there is little of that mutilation which characterizes the construction of charters farther west. In the West, charters frequently show great recklessness in their construction and enactment. Railways everywhere involve certain common matters of public and private interest. These common matters would logically find their expression in common charter provisions. Such, however, is not the case. Generally speaking, the differences among railway charters are far greater than their similarities. These differences, furthermore, are not found chiefly in charters granted to railways running through territories which differ in topography, where differences would be warranted, but they are found in charters granted for the construction of railways through the same or essentially similar territory. The number of points treated in charters varies from about a dozen to more than forty. In a very small number of cases charters are even more fragmentary. The fragmentary charter may have been granted for an important railway, and the complete charter for a railway of local significance. The perfection of the charter and the importance of the railway do not generally travel in the same direction.
Railway charters are private, local, or special laws. Originally these were the only laws relating to railways found on our statute books, although in a single instance reference was made in a charter to a general law granted as early as 1808. This was an exception to a rule which was exceedingly general. In a number of states legislators apparently sought to lighten their labors by abbreviating charters. Charters were granted containing a few clauses relating to purely local and individual matters, followed by a blanket provision to the effect that the company thereby