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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/349

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RAILROADS AND TRADE-CENTERS.

of these lake-ports saw the increasing prosperity of Chicago, and each and every one of them fell into the very error which Senator Cullom cherishes to-day. In almost his exact language each one said to itself—You people who are rushing to Chicago to build your docks and elevators are poor deluded creatures, who "have no means of knowing what are the natural channels of traffic." Those railroads are fooling you. Don't go to Chicago. Here at Racine, at Kenosha, at Milwaukee, is the place for your capital. Here is where the great development is to be. (There was no Interstate Commerce law then, but here was its spirit, and its root was, as perhaps a generation later, jealousy pure and simple). But somehow the capital still poured into Chicago; its docks and elevators multiplied. What was the next step of the jilted towns? Each went to work; each for itself built a railroad of its own, mortgaging the property of its citizens, issuing its bonds, pledging its credit, and multiplying its taxes to pay for it. What was the result? Simply that the wheat and corn and produce which had come to each of these ports to be loaded into ships—thereby making the trade on which the town lived and fattened in moderate prosperity—now having a cheaper transit to a larger and therefore better market, went where?—went to Chicago! In other words, these cities had destroyed themselves—impoverished not only their citizens, but loaded their successors with debt—not to increase their own prosperity, but that of hated Chicago! They had tried to fight the inexorable laws of trade and of trade-centers, and had been ruined in the attempt. The West is not free to-day from the effects of this lake-side effort to guide and assist the natural laws of trade. Money is yet being paid annually into New York trust companies in the vicinity of Wall Street by these same small lake cities (many of which by the prevailing of better counsels have become manufacturing towns of wealth and importance), as their yet uncompleted penance for believing in their own wisdom as against the unwritten statutes of the universe; and if Senator Cullom sincerely believes that trade-centers can be created by human foresight, he can—by following up the map in the direction I have indicated—find many students in the hard school of experience willing to enlighten him.

It has been the bulk of criticism against the Interstate Commerce law, not that it was unconstitutional, but that it was an attempt to equalize by statute what Nature and cosmic forces has rendered unequal; that it was Geography and not the railways which had established sea-ports and lake-ports and river-ports; and that—since the sea, the lakes, and rivers did not as a rule charge more for a short than for a long haul—it was putting the statute-book of the United States into the position of a bull warning off comets, to give a railroad a franchise to live with one hand, and with the other to brandish a sword over it if—in operating its franchise—it compete with its competitors! But the bottom objection on the part of the people to the railway com-