The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, October 13, 1905, Page 2, Image 2

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The Commoner.
The nmnagers of the railroad literary bureau
and others who protest against railroad regula
tion advance the same arguments against which
that eminent lawyer, Jeremiah S. Black, con
tended in a speech delivered in 1883. Mr. Black
dealt with "the duties of corporations as public
servants," and we aro told by one authority "it
is doubtful if any other speech on a technical
question of law and industrial economy ever pro
duced effects so profound and far-reaching."
Note the similarity between the arguments of
the railroad literary bureau of today, and the con
tention of the railroad magnates of Mr. Black's
time. Referring to these railroad claims, Mr.
Black said:
They assert that the management of
the railroads, being a mere speculation of.
their own, these thoroughfares of trade and
travel must be run for their interests, with
out regard to public right. If they take ad
vantage of their power to oppress the labor
and overtax the land of the state; if they
crush the industry of one man or place to
build up the prosperity of another; if they
plunder the rich by extortion, or deepen the
distress of the poor by discriminating against
them, they justify themselves by showing
that all this was in the way of business;
that their interest required them to do it;
that if they had done otherwise their fortunes
would not have been so great as they are;
that it was the prudent, proper, and success-
ful method of managing their own affairs.
This is1 their universal answer to all com
plaints. Their protests against legislative
intervention to protect the public always
takes this shape, with more or less distinct
ness of outline.
May we not, referring to these same claims,
use the language employed by Jeremiah Black
when in that same speech he said: "In whatever
language they clothe their argument, it is the
.same in auustunco oo that with which Demetrius,
the silversmith, defended the sanctity -ot tho
temple for which he made statues: 'Sirs, ye
know that by his craft we have our wealth.'"
In an editorial entitled "Bryan and the Pres
ident," th3 Wall Street Journal says:
Admitting that the president has adopt
ed a Bryan idea, that is by no means a new
thing in politics. The conservative party in
England has repeatedly adopted policies first
advocated by the liberals. Besides, the policy
of government rate regulation is older than
Mr. Bryan. He can not lay claim to having
invented it. It is a policy that has sprung
up naturally out.of the needs and desires of
the people.
The people are not greatly concerned wheth
er one man or another has advocated a desirable
plan. They want relief from imposition. Presi
dent Roosevelt has promised to give them that
relief along the lines which, as it happens, were
laid down in three successive democratic na
tional platforms, and which, as it happens, dem
ocrats generally have for many years earnestly
It Is a good sign that in the proposition to
enlarge powers of the Interstate commerce
commission, giving that body authority to regu
late railroad rates, Mr. Roosevelt finds his strong
est supporters among democrats.
Republicans having no axes to grind but
desiring that policies shall be adopted which
will result in the greatest good to the .greatest
number do not, and will not, raise the criticism
that the president has adopted a democratic
measure. That plea is made by representatives
of special interests, and it is made for the pur
pose of arousing the partisanship of republicans
In the hope that the president will be discouraged
by finding that he does not have the support of
the members of his own party.
It is natural that democrats should be grati
fied when the foremost man in the opposition
party, in an effort to give tho people relief, has
adopted domocrrtic policies. It is natural that
democrats generally should express gratification
that long ago they adopted the plan now cham
pioned by a president elected as a republican.
But if President Roosevelt puts this plan into
' execution, if he shows himself strong enough to
wttbstapd tho powerful influences which, accord
ing to former Senator Chandler, are now bein
It would be difficult to make better answer
to these claims than that given by Mr. Black
himself, and it would be well if every American
citizen could read Mr. Black's speech in full.
Mr. Black laid down the doctrine that "the
management of the railroads is not a matter of
business to be conducted like private enterprises,
merely for the profit of the directors or stock
holders." He cited an opinion rendered by the
supreme court of Pennsylvania, where it was
determined that a railroad is a public highway
and in no sense private property, and that "the
corporation authorized to operate it is a servant
of the state, much as an officer legally appointed
to do any other public duty; as strictly confined
by the laws and as liable to be removed for
transgressing them;" and he said that no judge
"whose authority is worth a straw" ever denied
the doctrine for which he contended, the United
States supreme court having affirmed it in scores
of cases.
Because of the vast magnitude of the affairs
intrusted to the railroad magnates, and the ter
rible temptation to which their cupidity is ex
posed, Mr. Black said that it was necessary that
the people "hold them to their responsibilities,
and hold them hard." He averred that a cor
poration intrusted to do a public duty must per
form it with an eye single to the public interest,
and that partiality or extortion should no more
be tolerated on the part of the railroad official
than when practiced by any other public ser
vant. "The people," said Mr. Black, "have rights
of property as well as the corporations and ours
are or ought to be as sacred as theirs. Be
tween the great domain which we have ceded to
them and that which still belongs to us, the line
is plainly and distinctly marked, and if they cross
it for purposes of plunder they should be driven
back under the lash of the law."
Mr. Black showed that it is the duty of the
state to open thoroughfares of trade and trarvel
through her territory; that for that purpose she
may take the property of citizens and pay for the
work out of her own treasury; that she may
make that thoroughfare free to in
SSi bX. lev a special
"T""u.u 3L at sue may nmw.'T11
ntoi .. A- vi- ZT"""" a ""turai or nr.
wcva ioibuu tu uo mis work, but that tn
cases the nronripfnrv crf ,. ' V:L m. n all
,7 ro i,r,T if ,:r:, "fc "" m me
road to be built by a corporation or n,n 1
and pay for it by permitting the In, lder tn 1 SUal
tolls: that she mav emnm, u""?.5 Lto collt
r art!,
'in all
neodnfiUer(I hW ta trUSt tor " ou
Mr. Black said that the railroad cornontinn
is charged with the duty to see that w
needed facility shalL be furnished ?o Xdtta?
like the justice promised in Magna Charta X
out sale, denial or delay." And because ,15.
services if faithfully performed, are in orfi
and valuable the corporation is authorized to
pay itself by levying upon all who use the road
a tax, or toll, or freight sufficient for a fair com
pensation. He added: "But this tax must be
reasonable, fixed, certain and uniform, otherwise
it is a fraud upon the people which no depart
ment of the state government, nor all of them
combined, has power to legalize'
Mr. Black described the contempt shown by
. the railroad monopolist in his day just as it is
shown today. He said that the corporation in
fluence in official circles is "mysterious and in
calculable," and that upon the subject of a popu
lar demand for the enforcement of law "the
press is shy" and the politicians are eager to
take a smoother road than that which leads to
conflict with corporation chiefs.
Referring to railroad impositions, he said:
"They have destroyed the business of hundreds
for one that they have favored; for every mil
lionaire they have made ten thousand paupers."
He pleaded for the enforcement of existing laws
and the enactment of new ones that would pro
vide adequate protection to the public, saying
that every one of these railroad magnates "can
be trusted to keep clear of acts which may take
him to the penitentiary."
Mr. Black concluded that if these men knew
that a continuation of impositions upon the public
meant imprisonment in jail "they would no more
rob a shipper on the railroad than they would
vigorously used in the president's confidential
circles, democrats and republicans and men of
all parties, will cheerfully give to Mr. Roosevelt
the great credit to which he will be entitled.
Tn the- meantime democrats everywhere must
extend to the president all the encouragement
they are capable of giving, and the least that
men of his own party can do is to support him
with equal vigor.
John A. McCalT, president or the New York
Life Insurance company, who has confessed to
the contribution of large sums of money to the
republican campaign fund, explained that in 1896
he made up his mind to do all in his power to
defeat the democratic ticket, adding: "I had no
idea in my mind about politics at all, but I had
a duty and a trust regarding the New York Life
policy holders."
Judging from other portions of Mr. McCall's
testimony and other revelations concerning the
?w lt Jrhi8 nsurance company, it would seem
that Mr McCall was not quite so particular "re
garding the New York Life policy holders" when
liamei ?Jhe, exnendit"re of enormous mims of
SSHi?01 money' witllout the sanction or
authority of any one other than John A. McCall.
The care of other people's money Is to many
an a tractive occupation. It is a danger to the
individual and a detriment to the public to have
money hoarded. If one is sure that Wtf W
is secure it is better to deposit it in a bS
without interest than to keep it at home but
the money can be loaned to such advantage that
the bank can afford to pay interest. The banker
occupies an important place In a community and
can render great assistance as an advisor
. The temptation peculiar to the banker la
speculation and it is the temptation against which
he must steel himself. No one who handles trust
funds can afford to speculate in grain or stocks
or anything else. Until all gambl is stopped
there ought to be a law making it a criminal
offense for any one acting in a trust canacitv
t speculate. It is not sufficient to wait Ztli
turn In the market has revealed his misuse of
trust funds. Many a banker would have been
saved from disgrace and some from death had
there been such a law. The greatest danger in
banking is that it may harden the heart. The
banker becomes as accustomed to hard luck tales
as a butcher becomes accustomed to blood and he
is likely to lose compassion. The man who most
needs money is the very one who finds it most
difficult to borrow and the fact that the banker
is handling other people's money makes it im
possible for him to indulge his sympathies as
freely as he might do with his own means.
To make banking absolutely safe ought to
be the first object of the banker. There is profit
enough in banking to permit of legislation mak
ing the depositor absolutely secure and it is
probable that the money that would be drawn
from hoarding by such legislation would more
than compensate for any burden imposed.
The banker like every other business man is
the servant of the community and he can as a
faithful servant win an enviable position among
his fellows.
That staid old republican newspaper, the
Nebraska State Journal, talks as though it was
half sorry that the republican party had not
appropriated the income tax policy of the demo
cratic party. It says, editorially:
"In European countries the graduated income
tax is not and probably never will be pronounced
popular with the ones who are pinched by it, hut
it stands nevertheless and is accounted a just
and necessary method of maintaining the needed
public revenues. In some countries the posses
sion of children entitles a taxpayer to an abate
ment For instance, Prussia and Norway mane
'an additional special reduction' on incomes under
$450 for each child under 14, and on incomes
under $2,375 for continuous illness, special mis
fortune, maintenance of poor relations, and eeu
debts. Most countries levying an income tax
recognize a 'minimum of subsistence,' wliicn w
allowed as an exemption. These exemptions are
as follows: Prussia, $225; Saxony, $100; Austrw,
$250; Holland, $270; Norway, $90; Sweden, $J-U
and Great Britain, $800."
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