The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 01, 1917, Page 7, Image 7

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    " -& 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
"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
"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.
"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
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
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
"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. ' ' '
"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