The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, April 28, 1911, Image 1

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    The Commoner
VOL. 11, NO: 16
Lincoln, Nebraska, April 28, 1911
Whole Number 536
The Duty of Corporations
(Written for The Commoner by Governor Thomas R. Marshall, of Indiana)
Now and then a thoughtful man wonders
whether after all, Solomon was not right when
he declared that there was nothing new under
the sun. When he considers the problems of
today and their proposed solutions and acci
dently finds in the records of the past, as ho
frequently does, problems and solutions similar
if not identical, he is apt to wonder whether the
inherent difficulty of our civilization consists
as much in the problems being presented to it
as in the points of view taken by those at
tempting to solve them.
. One of the vital questions affecting the public
weal at the present time is the corporate ques
tion. No one is opposed to the corporation
per se. Most of us are agreed that the evils in
corporate management about whioh we com
plain are evils which have arisen not from the
law nor from the purposes for which the cor
porations were organized, but from the conduct
of the men who control the corporations and
their assumption that a creator has no control
over its own creation.
It does not do us any great credit to find
that more than one hundred years ago our fore
fathers recognized the danger of an uncontrolled
corporation and it gives us pause as to our wis
dom when we consider the precautions which
they took to prevent the cupidity and arrogance
of human nature from exercising functions
which the state was not willing to grant and
from imposing unjust burdens upon the people.
Whether we will or "not, questions rolative to
the perpetuity of corporations, the formation of
monopolies, state control of corporations; cor
porate relief from liability on account of con
tributory negligence and means to prevent in
jury from the insolvency of corporations, are
great and vital questions to tho American
Some' few days since, in a quaint book pub
lished in the state of Tennessee, I found that
upon the 14th day of November, 1801, the legis
lature of Tennessee created the first corpora
tion in that state. It was known as tho "Cum
berland Turnpike Company," and its charter
contained tho following clauses:
"J.. The company may make by-laws, rules
and regulations not inconsistent with tho laws
of tho state.
"2. It must measure and mile-mark tho
whole road, erect bridges and causeways, dig
and level fields, hills and mountains to tho
width of fifteen feet, and maintain and keep tho
road in good order and repair.
"3. The life, of the franchise is limited to
a period of ten years.
"4. The corporation Is required to execute
a bond in the sum of $2,000.00 with an ap
proved security for keeping' the road in safe
condition and good repair.
"5. The governor Is to appoint three com
missioners, they or either of them, to review
and examine the condition of the road once in
each six months and report its condition to .
tho governor.
"6. The company, on tho completion of tho
road, is required' to report to the governor that
the road has been completed in accordance with
the charter requirements.
"7. Thereupon the commissioners are to view
and examine the road and if they report to tho
governor that the road has been completed in
accordance with tho true intent and meaning
of tho chartor, tho governor shall issue a licenso
to tho company permitting it to orect gates and
to collect tolls.
"8. Tho tolls to bo demanded and received
from- tho various kinds of vehicles, live stock,
footmen, etc., aro prescribed by tho chartor.
"9. Tho charter provided that if any person
should sustain any damago on account of be
ing detained by Che keepers of said turnpikes,
or on account of tho road being out of re
pair, such persons should have an action against
tho company for tho damages sustained.
"10. Tho charter fixes tho compensation of
tho commissioners at $2.00 per day whllo
necessarily employed, which compensation
should bo paid by tho corporation.
"11. It requires the road to bo completed on
or before tho first day of September, 1802, in
default of which all rights granted by tho
charter should bo forfeited."
Here, in tho far-off, early days of American
history, a legislature upon tho outposts of civi
lization, granted a chartor which prevented
monopolies, maintained state control, provided
against insolvency and granted to persons In
jured by tho negligence of tho company,
Tho conclusion to bo drawn from such an
historical allusion is that the thing needed more
than anything else, is a thorough knowledge of
the rights of incorporators, the rights of the
state and tho duty of corporations toward tho
citizens of tho state. I hope that this ancient
bit of history may induce all right-thinking
men in and out of corporations, to consider
principles rather than profits when laying out
a line of conduct.
The New York Tribune rejoiced over tho
rejection of the income tax amendment by the
state senate in Arkansas and New Hampshire.
But its manifestations of joy were premature,
for Arkansas later went into line for tho in
come tax. The Tribune exultingly declares
that the- amendment is losing ground. The
amendment is not losing it is gaining,
but why does the Tribune oppose., it?
A republican president 'recommended the sub-i
mission of the amendment; a republican
senate unanimously supported the president's
recommendation, and a republican house passed
the necessary resolution with only fourteen dis
senting votes. The last republican legislature
in New York a republican body came within
one vote of ratifying it. Why is the Tribune
anxious to see tho amendment defeated? What
patriotic reason can it give for "desiring to con
tinue the present condition in which the nation
is unable to collect an Income tax even in .war?
If the Tribune will examine the vote by which
the amendment has been rejected where it has
been rejected it will find that as a rule not
without exceptions, of course, but as a rule the
opposition has come from the predatory in
terests, Does the Tribune speak for these in
terests in opposing the amendment?
Some of tho senators who voted for Mr. Mar
tin did so because they are like him they
have no sympathy with " progressive ideas.
SSm'e havo aristocratic reasons for holding the
ayerage man in contempt; others have pluto
cratic reasons for doing so. There is no hope
for them they ought to bo retired a3 soon' as'
possible. They are a millstone to the party
until they are retired.
But several of Mr. Martin's supporters were
deluded. They were pledged through a mis
understanding of the situation. They would
have been glad to secure a' release and will take
the first opportunity to declare their indepen
dence. Watch them as the fight develops. They
ought not to have been misled; they can give
no valid excuse for voting for Mr. Martin, and
they will have ample opportunity to regret it
if they do not regret it now. They will spend
the next year squaring themselves with their
constituents. The? may do even better under
the fire of critieism than they would have done
had they voted right. Let us hope so.
Those who care to know why seventeen pro
gressive democrats opposed Mr. Martin and why
several who voted for him did so with reluc
tance, can "find out by examining tho record.
First Let them inquire why he was elevated
to the senate? Upon what record was his
selection urged? To what influence does he
owe his position?
Second Let them Inquire what part he took
in the attempt to keep Virginia from favoring
the election of senators by the people and why.
s' Third Let them examine his championship
of the three million dollar appropriation to tho
railroads for tho Washington depot and com
pare his voto with tho vote of tho congressmen
from Virginia.
Fourth Let them examine his rocord on
district legislation affecting the street cars.
-Fifth Let them examine his votes with Aid
rich and tho tariff taxes for which he voted.
Let them examine his record on these and
other questions and it will be easy to under
stand why seventoen democrats refused to voto
for him. It will be hard to understand why
any democrat' should support him.
The democrats in congress do well when they
begin tariff revision by putting upon tho 'free
list something like one hundred articles largely
consumed by farmers. The farmer has been tho
chief sufferer from the principle of protection
and it is only fair that relief should begin with
him. Tho reciprocity treaty is a God-send to
him, not so much because it confers great bene
fits -upon him but because It leads to greater
reductions., Tho opponents of tho reciprocity
agreement have tried tqjiide behind tho farmer
but the "farmers' free listwjll drive them from
under cover and compel themVp voto with tho
democrats or quit talking about tho farmer.
Look at the list!
"Plows, harrows, headers, harvesters, reapers,
threshing machines, cotton gins and other agri
cultural implements 15 per cent ad valorem.
"Cotton bagging, gunny cloth and similar
fabrics used as coverings, etc.T-G-10 of a cent
per square yard.
"Grain, buff and split leather 7 per cent.
"Band, bond, belting, rough and solo leather
5 per cent.
- "Boots an shoes made of -bovine cattle hides
or skins 10 per cent,
. "Harness, saddles and saddlery 20 per cent.
"Leather cut into shop uppers or vamps, etc.
10 per cent additional duty.
"Barbed fence wire- of a cent a pound.
"Wire rods, strands or wire rope, woven wire
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