The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 01, 1917, Page 7, Image 7
" -& Vl fSPJlSlP The Commoner JANUARY,. 1917 eighteenth century. This as not tho fruition of any ono man's reasoning:, but largely th result of circumstances; however, a most happy result, which has surpassed tho expectations of those who conceived the plan. The builders wrought better than they knew. "For many years our government was re ferred to among political circles in Europe as 'the great American experiment.' They said it would be impossible for this nation to live with out developing into a strong central form of gov ernment, gradually wiping out of existence all separate state sovereignties, or else wo would become split up into a number of distinct na tions. Their words seem almost prophetic. Tho tendency to swing- from one extreme to the other has been very pronounced in our history. The movement toward the creation of a large number of separate nations culminated in the Civil war. The result of that costly struggle put the stamp of success upon 'the great Amer ican experiment OTHER NATIONS FOLLOW BASIC FEATURES "When the success of this novelity in state craft became assured, the basic features of tho plan were followed by other countries. Eng land has been forced to abandon the strong centralized form of government for her largo empire, and to substitute the federal principle in most of her colonies. It is now being se riously proposed to go. a step farther and to break up the small island- itself into a number of separate sovereignties. A metropolitan daily a few years ago contained the following dis patch: " 'The first lord of the admiralty today ad vocated a change in government whereby Eng land would have a number of parliaments, on a plan similar to the state legislative system of tho United States. " 'Mr. Churchill outlined a system of feder ation for Great Britain. He said England alone was too large for a single parliament, which would be strong as an. imperial parliament, and conflict of opinion would be disastrous. " 'He suggested that England should bo broken up into provinces, such as Lancashire, Yorkshire, Midlands, and London, and pointed out that the United States conducted its busi ness through a larger number of parliaments in proportion to population than if there wero 10 or 12 parliaments in the United Kingdom. " 'The British government,' said the first lord of the admiralty, 'intended Irish home rule to be the forerunner .of a genuine system of self government in all four countries of the King dom.' - ..;"' "Germany and other nations followed' pur" example during the past century. ' " -' ' "In the early part of the nineteenth century Tocqueville stated, as to our constitution: ' " " 'This constitution, .which may at first bo confounded with federal constitutions'' that have preceded it, rests in truth upon a whdlly novel theory, which may be considered a great discovery in modern political science.' "In the latter part of the nineteenth century the eminent statesman, Gladstone, described this American plan of government as 'the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.' "Now, in its heydey of prosperity, when its success has been proven and is acknowledged, on all sides, iUis proposed to gradually destroy the chief feature qf the American-plan. That which renders the United States unique 'in all history is the organization of a vast empire in territory and population, so as to preserve the largest possible home rule to the various parts of the nation. In the name of a new national ism It is now proposed to eliminate this basic characteristic of our government.' "The fact is that men of the eighteenth .cen tury clearly anticipated just such situations as are here presented in the attempt to take away Powers from the several states, powers-which "undoubtedly intended at the beginning and wmch have been .thoroughly established, exer cjseu by many states, and recognized by -all courts for a generation. Jefferson's autobi ography contains the . following remarkable Passages: - , t t - f" .J1 j deem-it indispensable to the continuance Lisovrillnentutfilt tejr (our judge) aaouiu be submitted. tosome practical and" im partial control; and that this, to bo imparted, must bo compounded of a mixture of state and federal authorities. .JLl11! iB4 Il0t enouBh that honest men are ap pointed judges. All know tho influence of iii- ! in,.tb? ?nA of man' and wow uncon sciously his judgment Is warped by that inuu euce. To this bias add that of tho esprit do corps, of their peculiar maxim and creed, that It is tho office of a good judge to enlargo his jurisdiction,' and tho absence of responsibility: and how much can wo expect in impartial de cision between tho general government, of which they aro themselves so eminent a part, and an individual stato, from which they havo nothing to hope or fear? Wo have seen, too, that, contrary to all correct examplo, they are In the habit of going out of the question boforo them, to throw an anchcr ahead, and grapplo further hold for future advances of power. They are, then, in fact, tho corps of sappers and miners steadily working to undermine tho independent rights of tho states and to con solidate all power in the hands of that govern ment in which they havo beoa so important a freehold estate. But it isot by the consolida tion or concentration of powers but by their distribution that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be mado that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority.' (Extract from tho autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, p 81, Vol. 1, of the writings of Thomas Jefferson, published by Taylor & Maury, Washington, D. C, 1853.) "Mr. Jefferson, in his first inaugural ad dress, summarized what he termed 'the essen tial principles of our government,' and amongst the first of these he placed: 'The support of the stato governments in all their rights as tho most competent administrations for our do mestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies.' "If the national government is permitted to gradually absorb thos6 functions formerly ex ercised by the states it will only be a question of time until sqme great evil will demand somo great remedy. Agitation will follow agitation. There will be no opportunity to try out tho now proposal; the nation as a whole must adopt it or reject Jt. Those will be trying times, when the foresight of the best of us will differ and the 'future of this American system will be at stake. "Itt would be wise for us to weigh well the advantages of that which- we have before ex changing, it fpr that which we have. not. STATES A THSTINCT FACTOR "We believe the federal plan as conceived by our fathers Is better than ,the hew nationalisiri. We believe the states are a distinct factor In our Scheme of government;. There is 'a func tion! for the national government to exercise and there is' a function for the .state. This federal plan is a sort of safety valve against political anfd industrial revolution, and it is the greatest ever deviBed by the makers of government. New ideas are tried out in a few states before they are adopted in others or by the nation. ''The state government is far closer to tho local needs and demands of ""traffic conditions than is the national government. "Practically every important .advance step in the regulation of railroads, corporations,, and the great consolidations' of our generation has originated with the states, "The first legislative acts to regulate the busi ness of our railway companies were passed by a few middle western states. This occurred in the early seventies, many years before the federal government ever took a similar step. "At first these commissions were largely fig ureheads, but several states provided for com missions with full power to fix maximum rates during and prior to the year 1887. It was not until 19 years later that the federal government gave the interstate commerce commission actual power to fix maximum rates. "It was in the nineties that tjie supreme court stated that the fair value of the proper ties -devoted to the public service should be the basis of all computations relative to reasonable rates, and it was in the nineties that one of the states' made a valuation of her railway prop erties; Since then 20 dffferent states have valued 'one" or more railroads. It has how been M moro than . doondft Inrn .fVi Infnmtafn nna- morco commission first asked congress for 'fa cilities to raako a valuation of railway proper tics in this country. Year after year they pe titioned for this, and their efforts wero ontlrely -in vain until March 1, 1013. "Each important step of progress along theso lines has been initiated in tho Btatos. No one except tho ignorant or ho who is not In his right mind will clnlra that wo havo solved these prob lems concerning tho regulation of railroads. Wo aro only at tho threshold of this subject, pioneors along tho edges. Now, at this stago Is It wise to cut off that which oxpcrlonco has demonstrated to bo tho principal sourco of progress? I'Thero is a natural reason why tho states havo always noted first and will continue to do so in tho future It is easier for a small group of men of moderate means, realizing tho valuo of a new lino of action, to command tho atten tion and consideration of a stato. In ordor to secure tho serious consideration of tho samo thing by a great nation it taken many years of agitation and large sums of monoy; Indeed, it is doubtful If a nation scattered across a con tinent like ours would over havo taken many of theso steps for generations to como had It not been because they proved practical and ef fective when tried in differont states. It is only tho rich, tho extromoly powerful, who arc able to start out and persuade tho nation along a- given lino of policy; but if ono state adopts it, and it proves to be wlso, thon another stato adoirtS it, and then another state, and finally it grows untnjLhojiatlon adopts It. That Is the natural result 7 "bit our method or system of gov ernment. "Theso facts aro true not only as applied to railroads. We abolished -slavery In tho various states long before wo did $ tho nation. "Wo havo had efficient temperance legisla tion in tho states long before any substantial steps havo been taken by the nation. Wo had puro-food acts in tho otatca long boforo tho ua-.-tion acted. "As one stato after another finds tho action , of their neighboring commonwealth to bo wlso and good, they havo followed her and adopted similar provisions. In this way progress or re form is gradually brought about in the nation as a whole. Tho states form a sort of experi ment station, and whero they havo gone wrong the .courts aro quick to check them, or there is developed a tremendous public sentiment In tho country as a whole which quietly destroys that wh.ich is jnpt wise. "It Is no rofleptlon ori g'lato commissions that they stifculd have been reversed occasionally; they have been blazing the way. In the matter of the regulation of railroad rates theso car riers can have little to complain about as to tho differont states. Tho records show that the interstate commerce commission has been y& versed by the courts oh railroad questions as often as' all tho stato commissions put together. Where mistakes have" been made tho companies havo had ready access to tho federal courts. So' long as this cbntlnues tho railroad companies havo nothing to Xear. Upon the other hand, they have "much to hope for if they can succeed in destroying the state regulation of rates, "In view of the remarkable history of the origin of theso movements, it is little wonder , that the carrier aro extremely solicitor In their efforts to prevent and to remove the pos- ' sibility of further advance steps in 'the dlffer' ent states. ' ' ' ELEMENTS OF STRENGTH ANDVALUE "This novelty In statecraft, this federal gov ernment of ours, which combines the stronjp central government with local self-government into one whole, hag some elements of valuo and strength never dreamed of, perhaps, by thoM who worked out the details in the latter years of tho eighteenth century. It is precisely ithie local self-government which keeps (regulation, close down to tho needs and demands of differ ent localities, and different states. , "It has been said .that the railroad businees is so complicated, state business is; so closely , interlaced with interstate business, and tb,e, de tails of the costs, rate, earnings, values,, n& the. physical handling of 'the traffic ''are fd'hj terwoven 'and; connected' - gether thkt it is fcs?. impossibility1 to make any separatlbn. TherV'V fore It is' claimed thit this business V of sue 3 1 .