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Here is a line of railway extending, if you please, from Atlanta, in the State of Georgia, to Macon, in the same State. If investors conceive the idea that the business of that line is sufficient to justify another, they go to the Legislature, which represents the people, and ask the right to build the line, they ask that the State exercise and grant to them the right of eminent domain, in order that they may acquire a right of way. What is the inducement to the State to grant the charter; is it not that the people may have the benefit of competition and thus perhaps get better and cheaper rates? Unquestionably this is so.
The Legislature that grants to the corporation a charter that enables it to transact its business, represents the public, and grants the franchise only for the public good, to-wit, that the people between the two points shail have the benefit of competition. That is true everywhere where there are competitive lines.
What is the effect of pooling? It is to defeat the object of the Legislature. It is to defeat the interest of the public. It is to place those lines in the same condition that they would be if one great railway magnate or great railway corporation should become the owner of the line. Gentlemen who sustain this practice say to us that if you prohibit pooling, the result will be a railroad war, that the irresponsible bankrupt concern will reduce its rates and undercut, that the other will undercut, and one will go under, and it will be a case of the survival of the fittest. If that lamentable state of affairs should exist, it will be the fault of the railway companies themselves, who will not brook that legitimate competition that every other enterprise has to bear; but even if this dire result should occur; then, Mr. Speaker, we would be in no worse condition than we are to-day, where the effect of the pool is practically to make one line.
MR. HOPKINS. I ask the gentlemen if the clause in section 4 will not have a tendency to prohibit these rate wars? If they put down the price of freight at å terminal point they will be compelled to put it down all along the line, and no road can afford to engage in such a war with section 4 in the bill.
MR. CRISP. There may perhaps be some tendency of that sort; but to me it occurred that there could be no justification looking to the public interest for a practice of this sort. Why, Mr. Speaker, it is not an uncommon thing in a State for the Legislature to provide that such and such a railroad company shall not own another or operate another. In my judgment one of the wisest things a State Legislature could do in granting a charter would be to provide that a company should not engage in any other business but the business of transportation, and that it should not acquire the ownership of any other line. Why not? There is nothing in this bill, you understand, that prevents traffic arrangements by which continuous carriages are made. That is not prohibited. The prohibition is against the pooling of freights or the receipts of competitive railroads. You all know what kind of pools have existed and do exist in this country to-day.
Under that system there is no inducement to the railroad company to furnish good transportation; there is no incentive to the enterprise and to the energy so typical of the American character. They go into the pool, and, according to the agreement, so you receive, whether you carry a pound of freight or a million pounds of freight. The amount of money
that comes in on all the roads is put into a pool. A commissioner is appointed at a great salary, paid by these railroads, and it is his duty to divide the receipts according to the agreement, one receiving five, another ten, another twenty, or whatever may be the per cent. agreed upon.
There are other kinds of pools, pools which agree that a certain railroad company not in the pool shall not have a right to ship its freight over their line. When I say it shall not have the right I mean the rate is prohibitory. They put such a rate on the competing line at another point that the shipper can not ship over it, but must take one of the lines within the pool. They have an arrangement by which the water transportation of the country can not be used and at the same time give the people the benefit of the railway.
The Central Pacific Railroad Company, the evidence shows, has arrangements of this sort, that they will make special rates to a shipper over their road provided he will agree he will give them all his freight and will not ship a dollar's worth by water. If he will do that he will have a special rate. If he will exercise the freedom and independence and manhood that are supposed to belong to our people, then he has to pay to this creature of the public an increased price for his transportation.
They have had pools by which a railway in the city of Chicago agreed to pay to a single live-stock firm in that city $15 for every carload they carried for anybody; and in consideration of that the firm was to even up according to an understanding they had. He was to even up; that is, the firm was to give each railroad the amount of transportation that according to the bargain it was to have, not according to the public demand, not according to the choice of the shipper, but what they in in their magnanimity or wisdom thought was satisfactory or sufficient between themselves, and they directed
where your cattle would go and where yours would go, and you would be bound to ship them in that way.
That is another kind of pool they have had in this country. Now, Mr. Speaker, I propose to break up that system.
MR. HAYDEN. I ask the gentleman whether they do not have these pools abroad or some similar arrangement?
MR CRISP. I have heard that they do.
MR. ANDERSON, of Kansas. That is upon the principle of total depravity. [Laughter.]
MR. CRISP. There are some very remarkable things in connection with that which, if I had the time, I might relate. I would suggest, however, to my good friend from Massachusetts in passing that the system abroad can hardly be compared fairly to the system in this country in view of the difference in the circumstances. But the point we make is that any system or practice which tends to destroy competition is an injury to the people who must use the roads.
Why is it not so? Can any good reason be given? The only reply made by the railroads is: “If you do not allow us to pool we will compete, and our competition will be ruinous; we will ruin ourselves if you do not stop us!” Why can not they compete legitimately as people do in other business? We think that they ought to do so, and therefore we prohibit pooling
By the terms of this bill we create a railroad commission, and I ask the attention of gentlemen interested for a few moments to that point.
I say with the utmost frankness, that, as an individual, I preferred the bill without the commission, but I say also in the same breath that I am not to be classed with those who will not take anything unless they can get all they want, and that, with all respect I submit, must be the
I attitude of those gentlemen who oppose this bill because of the commission. What are the powers of that commission? In particular cases, under the fourth section of the bill, they may relax the rule therein set up. As to other matters, they may require the railroads to make returns of their accounts, their stocks and bonds, their running expenses, rates of charge, etc.
Where the complainant invokes their authority they may pass upon a given case between the individual and the railroad company. When they so pass upon the case their finding upon the facts is prima facie true. They have no power to give vital force and effect to their judgment, but it is prima facie true in the courts of the country. Is there anything in this power that is alarming or dangerous to the public? Is there anything in this bill that should lead representative men, men who have had large experience in public affairs, to say that nowhere in this country are to be found men of power enough, men good enough, men honest enough to administer the law?
I should be ashamed, sir, of my people if I believed in any such theory as that. I should be ashamed to come before the country and state that I did not believe it was in the power of the President of the United States, with the concurrence of the Senate, to select men wise and upright and honest enough to carry out this law. I am not one of those who believe that human nature is so utterly depraved that we can find nobody left who is honest and upright. What other powers are there than those I have enumerated. None.
Mr. Speaker, we do not drive the complainant to the Railroad Commission. If he chooses to go there he has the right to go there and invoke this power which is created by the government for his protection; but if he prefers, for any reason, to go to the courts of the country, they are open to him. The same judge who passes upon his rights of property, his rights of life and liberty, will there pass upon his rights in his dealings with the railroads.
Objection is made by some gentlemen who are in the main friendly to this bill, because we have not conferred jurisdiction upon the State courts to hear and determine these questions. I have two replies to make to that criticism. Waiving for the present the question of our power, by an act of Congress, to give to the courts of a State jurisdiction to try a matter of this character-a statutory case—waiving that, I say to
I those gentlemen that if we had insisted upon putting that provision in this bill, we would have had no agreement. Under the bill as it stands no great injustice or hardship can arise to the citizen.
He can go to the commission, but if he is one of those who, either from suspicion or for any other reason, believe that this commission will not do right, then he can go into court and file his suit and have it tried as every other case is tried, the only difference being that it is proposed by this bill to allow to such an individual in every case of recovery a reasonable attorney fee, to be taxed by the court. That provision is, I admit, an exceptional one, and some complaint has been made of it as a hardship
The answer I make to that complaint is, that on the one hand is the humble individual, the small shipper, while on the other is the great corporation with its wealth, its employees, and its power. To put them upon something like an equal footing, we say to the poorest man in the land, who feels that he has suffered a wrong at the hands of one of these corporations, that he shall be enabled to test the question before the courts; and we say to him, if you prove to have been correct in your judgment as to the wrong inflicted upon you, then we will enable you to enforce your rights by paying the counsel that you employ for that purpose. Is not that fair enough? Are we to be told that because we do not provide that these matters may be tried and determined in the State courts we leave the railroads free to discriminate, and that they are still permitted to go on in their oppression of the people?
I commend this idea to those gentlemen who base their opposition upon that ground.
MR. CALDWELL. In the proviso of the fourth section power is granted to this commission to make exceptions under the long-and-short-haul clause. That was my great objection to the original Cullom bill, because I believed such a grant of power ought never, under any circumstances, to be given to the commission or anybody else - - a power to make some and break others. Now, will my friend tell me the difference between the clause as contained in the bill agreed upon by the conference committee and the original grant of power to the commission under the Cullom bill?
MR. CRISP. In the Cullom bill, Mr. Speaker, as the gentlemen will find by turning to it, these words are stricken out, " and from the same original point of departure or .to the same point of arrival.” Those words were stricken out because, in our judgment, they put a limitation upon what we understand to be the rule that in no case should a greater amount be charged for a shorter than a longer haul. With that language in the Cullom bill implied that there might be cases where a greater charge might be made for a shorter than a longer haul. By striking out those words we made the rule general that in no case could such a charge be made, no matter what the point of departure or the point of arrival might bé.
As the gentleman understands, a practice exists among the railroad companies by virtue of which, at competitive points, freight received over one line goes cheaper than if received over another. Now, with those words in, there would always be that exception in regard to the point of departure or the point of arrival. With those words stricken out, the law is general; and that was the sole object in making the change.
The Senate bill provided that the commission might make general regulations exempting common carriers from the operation of that rule. We restricted that by requiring it to be done only in special cases after examination. That is the only difference between the two sections, as I understand.
Now, the only power of the commission after that is to require pub
licity of the rates of the railroads, to require them to make return of the amount of their stocks and bonds. Gentlemen all recognize the importance of a provision of this kind. One of the great troubles in the way of ascertaining to-day what is a reasonable charge by a common carrier is the fact that stocks are watered, and it is hard to find out what is the actual cost of a railroad.
Watered stocks, bonds issued for speculative purposes, all these enter into the present computation of the railroad companies in fixing the sum upon which they must earn a reasonable interest. The object of the publicity required in this bill is that when resort is had to the courts, when you appeal to the enlightened conscience of an intelligent jury, they may understand exactly the cost of the plant and the cost of transportation, so as to determine what is or is not a reasonable charge. The bill provides that you can search at law the conscience of every officer of a railroad. You can force him to disclose any fact connected with transportation. If the fact is such that it would expose him to criminal indictment, then we provide that it shall not be so used against him. If it is a mere question affecting damages, then of course it may be used; and it enables the suitor to get his case fairly and fully before a jury.
There is one other provision to which I shall call attention, and then I shall close. As I said at the outstart, nearly all the provisions of this bill are to be found to-day in the common law. One of the great purposes we have in view is to aid the common law by providing a penalty for its violation other than the penalty of damages. At common law a trespass or a wrong gives the party aggrieved the right to sue and recover damages. We propose to say that, in addition to the common law liability, any transportation company violating this law shall be liable to have its officers indicted, and if found guilty they shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000.
If the gentlemen will examine the bill they will observe that it is framed in such a way as to declare certain practices unlawful. Turning to the penal section of the bill, you will find that if a common carrier shall be found guilty of doing anything in this act forbidden, or failing to do anything in this act required, the officers of the company may be indicted in the district courts of the United States, and if found guilty may be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000. This provision was intended to aid the common law. It was designed for the protection of every individual, no matter how humble, who may be wronged by the action of these corporations.
This, Mr. Speaker, is the bill. It is not, as I have already said, exactly as I would like it. It contains one or two propositions which I would be glad to have out; and there have been omitted from it one or two propositions which I would be glad to have in. But taken as a whole, I commend this bill to the representatives of the people who believe that wrong is being done by these corporations, who believe that the murmurs of the people all over this country do not come to us except as the expression of some injury perpetrated upon them by transportation companies.
To those gentlemen who desire to make the assertion of the power of the Government to control these corporations I commend this bill, and ask them to sustain it. The practices which it condemns are unjust