The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, January 12, 1899, Page 5, Image 5
'Cbe Conservative * ItAILKOADS. 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 utmost. 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. KATES NOT SATISFACTORY. 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. THE TRANS-MISSOUUIOA8E. _ 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 solved. 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 flict. NOT IX UESTHAINT OF TRADE. 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. VAST INTERESTS OF THE RAILROADS. 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 ? LAWS AOAINST DISCRIMINATION. 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. PAUL MORTON , 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. "