The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, January 12, 1899, Page 5, Image 5

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    'Cbe Conservative *
llo\v Jtcccnl Legislation and
JIavo AMV'HocI The
The year 1808 has performed all that
it promised in tonnage for the railroads ,
and the ollicers of transportation lines
everywhere in the West are gratified at
the volume of traffic carried.
The earlier months of the year indi
cated a largo wheat crop , which was
realized when the harvest came , but as
the fanners had been the chief benefi
ciaries of Joe Leiter's wheat deal
had in many instances sold their hold
ings free on board cars at trims-Missouri
river stations for more than $1.25 a
bushel they felt able to hold the crop of
1898 until prices suited them. For this
reason the Western wheat crop did not
move at all freely , and instead of two-
thirds of it moving out in September
and October , as it did in 1897 , it is esti
mated that on the 1st of November two-
thir'ls of the crop was still in the hands
of the producers. Since November 1 ,
the movement has been large , and it has
been a question of capacity in transpor
tation , all lines having been taxed to the
The movement of live stock , coal ,
lumber , minerals , manufactured articles
and merchandise has been largo , and the
last named has shown beyond question
a purchasing power among the agricul
tural communities far exceeding any
thing in the last five years.
Notwithstanding the large tonnage ,
the rate situation has not been satisfac
tory. Unrestricted competition is cer
tainly not the life of trade in the trans
portation business , and if followed to
its logical conclusion will result in vastly
inferior service to the public , bank
ruptcy for the railroads and in the end
a consolidation of the transportation
interests of the country in a few hands.
The year 1898 has been unusual in the
number of very important decisions by
the courts affecting the railroad rate
problem. The Nebraska rate case ,
which involved the right of the state
railroad commission to make arbitrary
reductions in rates which the railroad
claimed were confiscatory in character ,
brought forth the constitutionality of
the question. The courts decided in
favor of the railroads.
A similar decision has recently been
rendered by Judge McCormick of the
United States , circuit court at Dallas ,
Texas , restraining the Texas railway
commission from making rates which
the court found to be unreasonably low.
The fourteenth amendment to the
constitution of the United States was
invoked in both of these cases , wherein
it is forbidden for a state to deprive any
person of property without due process
of law.
Another important decision was the
'trans-Missouri case , in * which the su-
promo court of the United States de
cided that the association of Western
railroads to iix rates was an illegal com
bination under the Sherman trust law.
This decision was closely followed in
the joint traffic association case , which
association was declared illegal and dis
There are many who believe that ,
while these last two decisions may have
been in accordance with the anti-trust
law , the law never was intended to
cover the railroads , which had already
been covered by the interstate-commerce
act , and others believe that the anti
trust law is a bad law , anyway , and
ought never to have been enacted. The
Sherman anti-trust law prohibits all
combinations and agreements in re
straint of trade ; hence these decisions.
The interstate-commerce law provides
that rates shall be so adjusted that
they shall not discriminate between
persons or localities , but under the de
cisions referred to associations with this
object in view are declared illegal.
There are many railroads , with vastly
diverging interests , and it seems unreasonable
enable to expect that the rates can bo
arranged to conform to the interstate-
commerce act without conference or
agreements. The two laws seem to con
An experience of over twenty years
in actual contact with these associations
convinces mo that they have been in
furtherance of trade and not in restraint
of it. Seventy-five per cent of the
changes in rates and classifications made
by these organizations have been reduc
tions , always with the idea of stimulat
ing trade , and to one who is familiar
with the operations of these associations
and the actual results attained the de
cision by the supreme court that they
are in restraint of trade is , to say the
least , amusing.
The interstate law as it is now written
is weak. It aids more than it prevents
the evils it sought to eradicate. It
should be strengthened. There are
probably more and greater discrimina
tions in favor of large shippers today
under that law than there over wore
prior to its enactment.
The majority of the shippers and car
riers in this country want uniformity
and stability in freight rates. It maybe
bo true that there are selfish shippers
and carriers who believe that unre
stricted competition will best serve theii
purpose , but they are the exceptions.
In strengthening the act to regulate
commerce the railroads should bo per
mitted to make enforceable contracts
whereby a division of tonnage or earn
ings may bo entered into. These ar
rangements should be Tinder the super
vision of the commission. Under them
the commission should bo empowered to
say what a reasonable rate is , and it
should not hesitate to decide that a rate
might bo unreasonably low as well as
unreasonably high. This seems neces
sary authority in order to carry out the
provisions of the act preventing unjust
discrimination between localities.
One-fifth of the wealth of the. nation
is invested in railroads ; in value they
come second to agriculture. First pro
duction , then distribution. Neither can
prosper without the other. Distribution
is the handmaid of production.
Every good citizen every one having
the interest of the country at heart
should see to it that the railroads are fair
ly treated. It is true that much of their
trouble arises from bad faith among
themselves , but it is likewise true that
when the transportation interests of the
country become paralyzed other indus
tries will suffer and calamity will again
bo abroad in the land.
Stability in rates should bo insisted on
by all classes. It. has .often been said
that transportation is a commodity. It
is nothing of the sort. It is a public ser
vice , and no more a commodity than a
tax. How long would the merchants of
Chicago submit to pay higher import
taxes than the merchants of New York ?
How would one merchant in Chicago
feel if another one was buying postage
stamps for less money ?
It is clearly the intention of all the
laws ever enacted in this country to
have rates of fare and freight so ad
justed that they will not discriminate
between persons or places , and yet even
a great city like Chicago is seriously dis
criminated against in many ways , and
apparently without redress. Thousands
of small towns have no chance to grow ,
and as to individual discriminations ,
they are well known.
There is nothing of public interest
neither extension of territory , the cur
rency question nor the tariff that de
mands more careful study and prompt
attention than the proper regulation and
protection of American transportation.
It can only be treated soundly as a pub
lic service , and as such the question of
competition has to be eliminated , just as
it is in the postoffice and custom house.
Second Vice-President Atchison , Topeka
& Santa Fe Railway.
London papers call Christian Science
a "pagan superstition" and regret
that "imposture can shut out so much
civilization. " They trace the epidemic
back to the United States.
Life lias considered the case of Mr.
Roberts of Utah. "Ho must not ex
pect , " says Life , "that they will all
three bo received in Washington society
as his wives. Washington has never
approved of ostentatious polygamy ,
oven iu members of congress. "