Puslapio vaizdai

But it is said that railroad managers, knowing the cost of carriage, seek to make as large a profit as possible and then establish unreasonable rates. It may be admitted that this is sometimes the case, if it is fair to compare the rates of one locality with those of another; but in many cases it is done not so much to secure an excessive profit as to obtain a fair return in some other direction, or to protect their business on some other part of the road. At most centers of trade, however, on the great lines of railroad, rival routes meet, and competition prevents unreasonable rates. It is only on the branch lines, at non-competitive points, that there is much if any reason for complaint. To adjust the adverse interests of carriers and shippers in such cases, there may well be some tribunal; and if such tribunal is wisely constituted, and acts in each case on a full knowledge of the questions at issue, according to the facts and a fair application of the law, intelligent railroad managers will prudently, if not altogether willingly, abide by its decisions. But it is said that competition affords no protection to the shipper, because it invariably results in combination which imposes high rates. It is true that sharp competition, by which rates have been reduced to a ruinously low figure, has resulted in a combination of the competing lines as a measure of self-protection, and the shippers who had been rejoicing in the low rates have cried out against the higher rates as extortion. But experience has shown that if the combination agrees upon exorbitant rates they are soon "cut" by some of its members, and competition again follows. This fluctuation of rates has proved injurious alike to railroads and their patrons. Hence the great trunk lines have sought to prevent such fluctuations by a federation of competing and connecting roads, with stringent rules to prevent the cutting of rates, which are established on a fairly paying basis, and with a commissioner to administer the affairs of the federation, and a tribunal of their own choice to settle all questions between its members. This plan has worked better than any previous combination, both for the railroads and the public; the rates have been more steady and not open to any just complaint that they are exorbitant or unreasonable. It is said, perhaps, that this federation is merely a voluntary association which can be dissolved at any time, and that the commissioners or arbitrators have no power to


enforce their decisions or compel a conformity to the rules of the compact; and, therefore, as the roads are in different States, legislation by Congress is necessary. But if railroads enter into such a federation for certain legitimate purposes of business, they contract, each with the other, to be bound by the rules they establish, and that contract can be enforced by the courts of the several States, or, in some cases, by the federal courts, without any legislation of doubtful policy or questionable constitutionality.


In the matter of discrimination there are unquestionably grounds for complaint; and it is not the purpose of the writer to defend or apologize for those railroad managers who deliberately discriminate in favor of certain parties to the serious injury of others. Generalizing from such cases, many people make a common complaint against any discrimination whatever. But there is discrimination recognized and made necessary by the natural laws of trade, and is common to all branches of business. A man who buys goods at wholesale expects and will receive more favorable terms than the one who buys at retail. The man who buys a thousand barrels of flour will get them at a cheaper rate than the man who buys but ten or a hundred. And the seller can afford to dispose of them at a lower rate, for by one such transaction he is saved the trouble and incidental expenses of many smaller ones, as well as the cost of storage, while he also has the advantage of turning his capital more speedily. This discrimination is so natural and so founded in reason that no one thinks of calling it discrimination. It is practiced in every branch of trade, from large commercial transactions to the buying of family supplies. Why should not the same rule apply to the business of railroads-to transportation? Yet it is proposed by some reformers that railroads shall carry all merchandise, whether in large or small quantities, at a fixed rate per ton per mile, whether an unbroken train is hauled to the terminus of the line, or the cars of which it is composed are distributed at numerous points along the route, with the delays and expenses of "switching," and of taking on other cars (if they are to be had), that the engine may not continue its journey with but the fraction of a load.

Discrimination, to be illegal at common law, and to furnish reasonable cause of complaint, must be unjust. But discrimi


quently—it might be said almost invariably, unless controlled by law-are charged for the carriage of freight to non-competitive points than for a longer haul to competitive points. In many cases this is not unreasonable. The rates to the non-competitive point may, in themselves, be just and fair, while those to the competitive point may rule so low as to afford no profit, even if they pay expenses. The company must compete with rival lines or abandon the business; but it is oftentimes wiser to continue the business, even at a temporary loss, in order to command it at some more favorable time. It is better, too, for the public, for if one road abandon the business to a rival so that it cannot be readily resumed, rates would speedily go up. But a reduction to profitless rates at a competitive point affords no good reason for a like reduction at a non-competitive point. The only question then in such cases should be, Is the rate reasonable? A place that enjoys the advantages of competing lines to the sources of its supplies or to the market for its products, is like one which by its situation enjoys superior natural advantages. Places less accessible, whether by natural avenues like navigable waters or by railroads, may be less fortunate, but it is scarcely just or profitable-it must be unprofitable to some interest-to undertake by arbitrary laws to sup

nation is not unjust so long as equal rates are given all parties for like service, under like circumstances, and for like quantities of As already admitted, there are railroad managers who pay little regard to their obligations to afford equal rates to all shippers of like amounts under like circumstances; and there are some who do not hesitate to favor their own private interests to the damage of others. The number is probably not so large as is often imagined, but it ought to be smaller. It is true, also, that in the complex system of railroad transportation, unintentional discrimination favors certain places or parties as against others. But neither of these offenses or mistakes affords just ground for the sweeping charge that is often made that all railroads willfully and wantonly practice discrimination. And some of the measures proposed to remedy the evil complained of would in many cases be not only unjust to the railroads, but injurious to the general public. In a case which was investigated by the Railroad Commission of Massachusetts within a year, the complainants desired that the railroad might be prohibited from permitting corn to be ground in transit, at a point where it could be ground cheaply by water-power and then forwarded with only a small additional charge for switching, for the reason that the millers at the terminus of the road, with more costly buildings and more expen-ply the advantages denied by their situation. sive steam-power, could not compete with their country rivals. But the commissioners wisely decided that it was not for the interest of the public to prohibit that which cheapened meal to the consumers, in order to protect a few city millers who could not compete with their rivals enjoying superior natural advantages.

Local discrimination is perhaps more general with railroads than discrimination in favor of individuals. Higher rates fre

The courts have sometimes construed this rule very liberally. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts has said: "If, for special reasons, in isolated cases, the carrier sees fit to stipulate for the carriage of goods or merchandise of any class for a certain time or in certain quantities for less compensation than is the usual, necessary, and reasonable rate, he may undoubtedly do so without thereby entitling all other persons or parties to the same advantage and relief.' In a more recent case the same court decided that "the selling of season tickets to certain students at a reduction from the regular price did not entitle all such students to the same reduction, and did not constitute a violation of the statute requiring railroads to give reasonable and equal terms," etc. See 128 Mass. Reports, p. 326.

This is a question, however, which has deeply agitated business communities at different points on the same line; and the demand for regulation has been answered by a rule which in the main is not unreasonable. Massachusetts and some other States have enacted laws which prohibit a railroad charging more for the transportation of freight a shorter distance than they do for a longer distance on the same line, and from the same original point of departure, —that is, it may not charge more for transportation from the same point to a way station than to its terminus. Against this law there is no reasonable cause of complaint on the part of the railroads; for, if the rates for carriage the whole length of the roads are profitable, they will afford no less profit for carriage a part of the distance. In fact, railroad managers do not complain unless competition reduces the through rates to too low a figure. Doubtless the law is sometimes evaded in local shipments, but in the great bulk of business-the transportation of produce and live-stock from the West-it is generally faithfully observed.

Nor have communities along the line any just cause of complaint, for all are placed on an equal footing, and competitive and non-competitive points are served alike. The rule on the whole is more equitable both for railroads and the public than the establishment, by authority outside of the railroads, of fixed rates per ton per mile for all distances and under all circumstances, which is the favorite prescription of those who cry aloud for reform. For it leaves the business still subject to some of the natural laws of trade, with room for elasticity of rates according to circumstances, and allows the rates to be fixed by those who best understand the conditions and cost of the service, rather than by the iron rule of legislative enactment, or the arbitrary decision of a commission which acts, however honestly, without a full knowledge of all facts and circumstances. Wherever such an arbitrary establishment of rates has been attempted, it has worked injustice to some roads, and has sometimes imposed additional burdens on the public.

Another very common charge against all successful and well-developed railroads is "the watering of stock." A certain class of complainants simply echo a popular cry, and without any knowledge of facts apply it indiscriminately to all the large corporations. Others make the charge against those corporations only which have increased their stock without the payment, by those who receive it, of the par value of the shares into the treasury of the company. It is not to be denied that there have been some gross cases of "watering" the stock of railroad corporations, but the dilution is by no means so general or so great as many people believe.

An increase of capital stock, without actual payment of its value in cash by purchasers into the treasury of the corporation, may be, and in a majority of cases is, an honest and legitimate operation. It is simply capitalizing the money which has been invested in permanent improvements and added to the value of the property. A part of the operating expenses of every wellmanaged road goes into permanent improvements and additions to the rolling-stock. Besides this, the surplus earnings are always invested in such improvements and additions, increasing the capacity of the road and furnishing greater facilities to the public. The annual surplus may not be large, but it belongs to the stockholders, and might be divided among them. In the

course of years it amounts to a considerable sum, which has been converted into new property on which additional earnings are realized. If the surplus earnings were enormous, that might justify a demand for a reduction of rates, but is no good reason why they should not be capitalized if invested. in the road. And generally the annual surplus is not excessive, is comparatively small, and so long as it has gone into improvements which have added to the value of the property, those improvements represent so much of the money of the stockholders. And what difference does it make to the public whether that surplus so invested is capitalized or is paid out in dividends, and is then paid for new stock of a like amount in order to make those same improvements? Whatever difference there is is in favor of the former course, for the public enjoys the advantages of the improved facilities at an earlier day than they would by the latter.

The war against railroads has now got into Congress, and parties outside are making persistent efforts to secure legislation concerning the inter-State business of railroads. Various measures are proposed to regulate this great industry, some of them very comprehensive and stringent, others more general and moderate. It would be curious, were it not so serious a matter, to see how the stout advocates of State sovereignty and opponents of "centralization can bring themselves to support such measures; for they would be a longer stride toward centralization and over the bounds of the Constitution than any Federal election laws or other "usurpations" of which these statesmen complain.

Among other measures proposed is one to fix by Federal law the rates at which railroad lines extending into more than one State shall transport merchandise in those States. Such legislation, crude and ill-considered as it is likely to be in a body influenced by sectional interests and prejudices, would be fraught with mischief to some sections of the country. It would legalize discrimination in favor of those ports which are nearest to the wheat-fields; and the growing commerce of the more eastern ports, which has been encouraged by the present system of rates, would receive a serious check if not its death-blow. If Congress can adopt such a measure, why may it not regulate the fares of stage-coaches running from one State into another? Why not fix the rates of express companies carrying goods from one State to another? Why not

control the flow of water from a reservoir in one State to the mills in another? Why not prescribe the dimensions of lumber sawed in Michigan to be carried to Massachusetts, or exercise authority over any industry which is carried on jointly in more than one State, or which produces in one State and sells in another? The railroad companies (with few exceptions) are not the creatures of Congress but of the several States, and within their borders the States alone have any right to control or regulate them. The authority of Congress concerning inter-State commerce, as hitherto construed, extends only to securing free trade between the States, and to the prohibition of restrictions of any kind by one State upon the products or business coming from another. If it is extended beyond this and undertakes to control and regulate transportation, the door is opened for Federal regulation of any industry in which the people of these States are engaged. Moreover, any legislature is an unfit body to undertake the regulation of rates or any details of railroad operation, and of all legislative bodies the most unfit is the Congress of the United States.

One would think, from the language of some of those engaged in the "investigation" of railroad management, and the general tone of the complainants, that railroad corporations were public enemies, monstrous monopolies, leagued together in opposition to the interests of commerce and travelers. The vast benefits which these roads have conferred, and are daily renewing, seem to be forgotten,-how they have hastened the development of the great West, and brought the products of the most distant fields within reach of a market; how they bring the interior granaries to the sea-board to supply the wants of the manufacturing and commercial communities, to increase our foreign commerce, and to supplement the failing crops of Europe; how they distribute our manufactures and imports throughout our broad territory; how many millions of passengers are carried, on business or pleasure, with rapidity and safety; how they have multiplied the industries and added enormously to the wealth of the country; how they have, in the main, kept pace with the demands of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

an enterprising people; and how, by their facilities, they cheapen the cost of many of the prime necessities of life, as compared with other modes of transportation; how, indeed, it would be impossible, by any other means, to meet the wants of our population and business. These benefits, past and always continuing, should not be forgotten, and it may be well to consider if merchants and the public at large have not suffered more at the hands of speculators, who have created "corners" in articles of necessity, than they have by the alleged extortions and discriminations of railroads. Selfish and unscrupulous men may have made some of these roads-as all other means of profit-subservient to their inordinate avarice. "Railroad kings," ambitious of wealth and power, by gigantic stock operations and far-reaching combinations, may have sought to control continuous lines across the continent. But even such schemes are not altogether injurious in their results, and a majority of railroads, in the main and in the long run, have steadily promoted the prosperity and welfare of the country.

No intelligent manager will pretend that railroad management is above criticism; but it will not be improved by an indiscriminate warfare upon it, or by hostile and ill-considered legislation concerning rates and discriminations. Such improvement can best be accomplished by the action of railroad managers themselves, through the influence of more diplomatic measures and the pressure of public opinion. State control over railroad corporations, as common carriers, is admitted; but it should be wisely exercised, in order to do no injustice to that part of the community who are stockholders, and in order to secure permanent benefits to the public at large; and that can best be done, not by direct legislative action upon the details of management, but through some tribunal which can study the railroad problem so far as its jurisdiction extends, and can apply the common law and reasonable statutes to special cases, with intelligent reasoning to support its conclusions. And such a tribunal should be established, not by Congress, but by each of the several States which have created the corporations, and alone have the right to control them.


If there be one species of poetical composition which more than another depends for its effect upon a rigid adherence to form, it is the sonnet, and it is this one which, more than all others, has been suffered to depart most widely from it. The law which governs the construction of the sonnet is immutable. It must consist of fourteen lines, no more and no less, which are divided into two parts, the first consisting of eight lines, and the second of six lines. The major division is technically known as the octave, the minor division as the sestette. The octave possesses but two rhymes, the sestette never more than three. The con

struction of the quatrains composing the octave is imperative, the first, fourth, fifth, and eighth lines rhyming with each other, repeating the same vowel sounds, while the second, third, sixth, and seventh do the same, repeating, of course, their vowel sounds, which should be dissimilar to those which precede and surround them. The versification of the terzettes composing the sestette admits of more variety, which, however, does not include a couplet at the close. The best disposition of the rhymes in the sestette is that which marries the first and fourth, the second and fifth, and the third and sixth lines, the vowel sounds of which, varied as in the octave, and contrasting with them, complete the melody, or, it may be, the harmony of the sonnet. Such is the structural law of this perfect little composition, concerning which a Spanish proverb declares that he is a fool who cannot make one, and a madman who makes two.

The sonnet derived its name from being played or sounded. "To sound, in Italian, still means to play music," says Leigh Hunt, who has written more intelligently upon the sonnet than any English author with whom I am acquainted. It dates back to the beginning of the twelfth century, and is understood to have been the invention of Friar Guittone, of Arezzo, who builded better than he knew. A favorite form of composition with the early Italian poets, it has never lost its popularity in Italy, where it is still a common intellectual pastime.

[blocks in formation]

Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow."

Italy was a great storehouse, wherefrom the old English poets drew the subjects of their verse, which was largely of a narrative character. Chaucer, we know, was indebted to Boccaccio and Petrarch, and his biographers tell us that he visited the latter at Padua. This visit was made, they believe, the year before Petrarch's death, the year

in which he wrote his Latin version of Boccaccio's Griselda, which Chaucer afterward retold in the "Canterbury Tales," where it figures as "The Clerkes Tale," the narrator of which, the poor clerk of Oxenford, professes to have learned it at Padow (Padua) of

"Fraunceis Petrark, the laureat poete."

Among the many obligations which the old English poets owe to their Italian forerunners and masters, it is curious to note that there is none of an amatory nature. Their love poetry, such as it was, was their own; at any rate, whatever form it took, it never took that of the sonnet. "How are we to account for the non-appearance of a sonnet in the poems of Chaucer,-" asks Hunt, "of Chaucer, who was so fond of Italian poetry, such a servant of love, such a haunter of the green corners of revery, particularly if they were 'small'-of Chaucer, moreover, who was so especially acquainted with the writings of Petrarch's predecessor, Dante, with those of his friend Boccaccio, and who, besides eulogizing the genius of Petrarch. himself, is supposed to have made his personal acquaintance at Padua ? Out of the four great English poets, Chaucer is the only one who has left us a sonnet of no kind whatsoever, though he was qualified for every kind, and though of none of the four poets would it seem more naturally to have fallen in the way. The secret, I conceive, lay in one of three reasons, perhaps in all three combined; first, that the Anglo-Norman court which he served had so close a connection with France as to lead him, when he was not writing his narrative poetry, rather into French miscellaneous poetry than Italian; second, that the sonnets neither of Dante nor Petrarch had yet followed into England the great poem of the one, or the fame of the Latin poetry of the other;

« AnkstesnisTęsti »