The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 01, 1917, Page 6, Image 6

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The Commoner
VOL. 17, NO. 1
6 ,
Mr. Bryan Opposes Exclusive Federal Con
trol of Railroads
Following Is the statemont of Mr. Bryan
beforo tho Joint Subcommittee on Interstate
Commorce of tho United States senate, In ses
sion, Thursday, Dec. 7, 19X0, Sonator Francis G.
Nowlands, chairman, proBi.Mng; also VJce-chalr-man,
William C. Adamson.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of tho com
mitted, my reason for coming hero is that tho
proposition which you have before yotrSeoms to
mo to bo of so great importance, In fact, so rev
olutionary in character, that,as one interested
in all things that affect the government and peo
ple, I fool it ray duty to present very briefly
what might be called tho other sldo from tho
aide that has been presented, as I have read it
In tho papers.
Tho first question to bo de61ded Is whether
wo need MORE stringent railroad regulations,
and, according to tho decision of that question
will bo tho decision of tho other questions in
volved. If wo want LESS restriction 1 know no
bettor plan of securing it than tho transfer of all
regulation to Washington. Tho issue, as I un
derstand it, is whether the federal government
should take exclusive control of the regulation
of railroads, not only as to interstate commerce
but as to intrastate commorce as well. Tho
transfer of this power to Washington that Is,
tho giving of tho federal government exclusive
control is, in my judgment, oDjuctionablo for
several reasons, if what wo desiro is moro
stringent regulation. It seems to me inevitable
that such a chango would Very much weaken
tho regulation of railroads for two reasons: In
tho first place, It would bring such a burden
upon tho people In charge of regulation at
Washington that they would bo overwhelmed
and would find It physically impossible to go
into -tho -whole subject and understand tho de
tails. I may add that I would like to introduce
and make part of ray testimony, if you call it
tostlmony, a speech mado'by Dr. Clifford Thome,
chairman of tho state board of railroad com
missioners of Iowa, and president of the Na
tional Association of Railway Commissioners.
This is an extract from his address which is
described as tho "President's address at the
twenty-sovonth annual convention of tho Na
tional Association of Railway Commissioners,
San Francisco, October 12, 1915."
Tho Chairman. If you will hand the speech
to tho roporter it will bo included In the record.
(Tho paper referred to is hero printed In full,
as follows:)
"Wo aro on the ovo of another struggle for
party supremacy. The birth and death of po
litical parties are intensely dramatic and in
teresting; but, at tho most, parties aro only
tomporary things. Our form of government is
.ot far greater consequence; itrhas outlived and
will outlive hundreds of brilliant leaders and
many great political TartieaV Its creation was,
and its change will be,, a news item of centuries.
"For several years there 'has 'been gradually
developing in this country a sentiment in favqr
ot wiping out state lines. An agitation, partly
spontaneous and partly inspired by interested
persons, has been carried on 40, support a
chango in tho trend of our judicial decisions
relative to the powers of a state to regulate
business. This is .reflected in speeches, inaga
jrine articles and books.
Vlt is now vigorously claimed that tho time
has arrived for tho. practical -abolition of all
atate regulation. This Uiought has permeated
'tho mindB of some of our ableBt leaders. Such
a change in the American plan of government
would be of stupendous importance.
"It is probaoly safe to say that not since the
Civil war has this question of the relative rights
and functions of state and national governments
commanded . such widespread consideration as
during tho past few years.
"The issufes of today again concern vast prop
erty interests. The rights of railroads, express
companies, telegraph, telephone, and other public-service
corporations, as well as many huge in
dustrials, the rights of shippers, prqducors, arid
consumers, and the future policies of state and
nation on many grave questions of business aro
vitally concerned.
"Shall wo proceed as rapidly as possible to
eliminate state government from our commer
cial life?
"Judge Sanborn, as a circuit judgo, in the
spring of 1911, rendered a decision enjoining
tho enforcement of certain orders made by tho
Minnesota Railroad & Warehouse commission.
During the past 50 years there have been many
orders of federal courts sustaining and enjoin- ,
ing orders made by state authorities, but none
of these have commanded tho nation-wide con
sideration following that decision.
"Tho decision by Judge Sanborn occasioned
tho railroad commissions of eight sister states,
having 70 similar casos pending in the federal
courts involving precisely the same issues, to
file a brief with the supreme court as amicl
curiae, opposing the doctrine he announced.
This action was later uanimously indorsed at
a representative gathering of 30 state railroad -commissions
in their annual convention at
Washington, D. C.
"After the railroad commissions had deter
mined to file a brief and argument against the
doctrine announced by Sanborn, the governors
at their national convention unanimously
agreed upon a similar action. Finally,. the fed
eral government, through the attorney general
of the United States, filed a brief opposed to
the positions taken by the governors and, rail
road commissions of the various states. Per
haps never before in tho history of the United
States has any case called forth such an array
of briefs and arguments from the various de
partments of the state and national goyern
monts. "The Minnesota rate cas.e will probably take
rank as one of the great legal contests of the
present generation. The decision of the su
preme court of the United"4- States reversing
Judge Sanborn, of the lower federal court,
brought into issue the whole subject of the rel
ative functions of the state and nation in our
scheme of government as applied to the com
mercial affairs of the country. It focused at
tention for the moment on, the wisdom of our
American plan of dual government.
"The supremo court refused to decide the
real issue that the public had under consider
ation at the time. The court said that the 'ques
tion as to whether federal regulation of com
merce shall supplant state regulation is not a
question for the judiciary to determine; it is
legislative and not judicial in character. The
contest was thereby transferred 'from the court
room to the halls of congress. It now becomes
not a question of precedence or of statute but
one of expediency of wisdom.
"Since that .decision a movement has been
gradually 'inaugurated throughout the nation
looking toward the .elimination of. state regula
tion of commerce..
".Let us pause .a few. moments and --carefully
weigh the -wisdom of this dual system or fed
eral Dlan.
"You may start -with thiB premise: Within
the next 25 years substantially all our com
mercial affairs will be carried on by companies
doing both state and interstate business. What
is good for railroads will bo good for others
Shall wo abandon our state governments, so
far as the regulation of business is concerned'
Here is an Issue which strikes at fundamentals
which-has to do with the method of govern
ment. "In striving after the new wo frequently fail
to realize tho intrinsic value of the old. Let us
consider a few of tho reasons justifying this
federaj plan or dual form of regulation, which
contemplates both a centralized governing
power and state regulation.
"It is true that our constitution in many re
spects was a compromise, the creation of cir
cumatances. The different colonies were loath
Jyif dUp aUT of thGir powers- Hamilton
fought vigorously for a strong national gov
ernment. In those days much fear prevailed
that we might have too loose a central govern
ment. -Statesmen of that and succeeding pe
riods were profoundly concerned over this
problem. Marshall, on the supreme bench, be
came tho chief instrument! in cementing' the
national character of our government.
"However, it is a gross mistake to Imagine
that the jealousy among the rival states was
the solo cause for limiting the powers of the
central government. There existed among the
framers of our constitution, entirely independ
ent of any compromise as to the rights of rival
states, a deep-seated conviction that a federal
government composed of several states retain
ing large jurisdiction was far preferable to a
strong centralized government. This" is evi
denced by the recorded discussions of that day.
Here was a question not of state rights but of
expediency, of wise government. This purposo
or intent in their minds was reflected in tho
constitution which they drafted.
"One whose writings insp'red much of tho
thought of that time was Rousseau. His 'Con
trat social' became a standard textbook for tho
makers of the government of those days. In
this work Rousseau stated:
" 'As nature has set limits to the stature of
a properly formed man, outside which it pro
duces only giants and dwarfs, so likewise, with
regard to the best constitution of a state, there
are limits to its possible extent, so that it may
be neither too great to enable It to be well gov
erned nor too small to enable it to maintain
itself single handed. There is in every body
politic a maximum of force which it can not ex
ceed and which is often diminished as the state
is aggrandized. The more the social bond is
extended the more it is weakened, and in gen
eral a small state is proportionally stronger
than a large one".
" 'A thousand reasons demonstrate the truth
of this: maxim. In the first place, administra
tion becomeX more difficult at great distances,
as weight-Aecomes heavier at the end of a
longer lever. . The same laws can
not be suitable to so many different provinces,
wh'ch have different customs and different cli
mates and can not tolerate the same form of
government . The chiefs, overwhelmed
with business, see nothing themselves; clerks
rule the state. In a word, the measures that
must be taken to maintain the general author
ity, which so many officers at a distance w'sh
to evade or Impose upon, absorb all the public
attention; no regard for the welfare of the
people remains, and scarcely any for their de
fense in time of need, and thus a body too huge
for its constitution sinks and perishes, crushed
by its own weight.'
"There is much truth well stated in the fore
going sentences. It is quite evident, however,
that Rousseau had not realized the full possi
bilities of the federal plan of government, as
worked out in America, whereby the advant
ages of intelligent, efficient local home rule and
the large empire, compelling respect, are com
bined into one whole. It is this comnlnation,
this federated co-operative plan which is tho
distinguishing feature of the American consti
tution. "From the earliest records we learn that men
have always been, seeking for some form of
government which would come close to the life
and thought of the average man, which would
keep in close touch -with the progress of busi
ness and social life and at the same time lie
large and strong enough to keep peace at home
and abroad. Powerful centralized governments or
innumerable small principalities have been com
mon. There seems to be an inevitable tend
ency for a government either to fall to pieces
or to gravitate into a strong, centralized dom
ineering power.
MWhat is .the fundamental characteristic of
our government, which distinguishes it from all
others preceding ours? It is not the republican
idea of government, for the world has seen
many republics. It is not the formation of a
large empire, for there have been larger. It is
the creation of a nation large and strong
enough to assert its independence among the
world powers and to compel respect from oth
ers and obedienco and order at home, at the
same time combined with a form of government
securing real, tangible home rule to the va
rious independent sovereignties making up that
nation. The delicate balance between the cen
tral and local authorities in America was a
novelty among the nations, up to the end of the