Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/307

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RAILROAD PROBLEM IX THE UNITED STATES.

prise, and hasten the undesirable tendency so plainly observable on all sides, whereby the great houses are constantly absorbing the trade of the lesser ones, and the business of the country seems passing into fewer and fewer hands.

As to the growth of subordinate railroad organizations, the quotations of the stock-exchanges and the testimony of those interested in investments not listed on the stock-exchanges prove the great lucrativeness of express, fast-freight line, palace-car, elevating, and stockyard companies. It is a question whether these businesses can be successfully carried on by railroad companies, but, if not, the corporations which give them birth should, if honestly managed, see to it that they retain such interest as to participate in the large profits earned. The chief danger attending these subsidiary organizations is, that the railroad officials who take stock in them are interested in granting them special privileges and good bargains. It is notorious that officers of unprofitable or bankrupt roads have grown rich by interests of the kind mentioned.

The political power which the railroads can exert has repeatedly attracted public attention. In New York State there are thirty thousand railway employés, and the number of people indirectly interested in the roads, and influenced by them, is perhaps equally large. At the capital this voting element has opposed railway legislation, and triumphantly. Parallel cases have occurred in other States, notably in California and Illinois. As an example of what a railroad can do in the way of controlling political action, let this quotation be given from Jay Gould's testimony before the State Committee appointed in 1873 to investigate the management of the Erie Railway: "I do not know how much I paid toward helping friendly men. We had four States to look after, and we had to suit our politics to circumstances. In a Democratic district I was a Democrat, in a Republican district I was a Republican, and in doubtful districts I was doubtful; but in every district, and at all times, I have always been an Erie man." Other testimony proved that millions of dollars had been expended from the treasury of the Erie road in nominating, electing, and corrupting Senators and members of Assembly. A new danger certainly threatens public liberties in the light of these and many kindred revelations, a danger which, perhaps, only counter-organization by the people can successfully face. It was a notable day in American history when the attorney of the Pennsylvania Railroad threatened the Supreme Court of the State with the displeasure of his clients if a verdict unfavorable to them were granted. When President Vanderbilt, of the New York Central, was told about the State Commissioners who were to supervise railroad affairs, he said that either the railroads would have to own the commissioners or the commissioners the railroads. His later utterances with respect to public criticism are tolerably familiar, and need not be here repeated.