Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/351

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
337
RAILROADS AND TRADE-CENTERS.

ones at the expense of less favored localities," as Senator Cullom boldly charges, why is the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, owned in Baltimore, and. largely by that city itself—a corporate pet of the State whose securities are a legal investment for trust funds—expending its earnings, and surplus like water to parallel the Pennsylvania in a territory requiring massive construction, and fighting not only that corporation, but the State of New Jersey, in order to get into the city of New York at one end, as it has succeeded in getting into Chicago at the other? Why not save your millions, gentlemen managers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, and build a few trade-centers for yourselves at small expense? Senator Cullom says it is simplicity itself to make an artificial trade-center; that railways have not only had no difficulty in doing it, but have actually and tortuously thereby diverted trade from natural trade-centers to the artificial ones created by themselves. Why not, then, scatter as many trade-centers as your business requires along the line of your railroad, and grow opulent beyond the dreams of avarice by doing business between them, with no possible competition to intrude and make you afraid? Seriously, is it not common information on the subject that the laws of trade are as inexorable as those of gravitation, and that it is simply impossible for human ingenuity to create a trade-center or to destroy one already made by Nature? Yea, and, moreover, that not only are human beings unable to shift the trade-center, but they can not even alter the local commercial centers of a trade-center. When Chicago was wiped out by conflagration it occurred at once to certain clever owners of real estate in the neighborhood of the heart of the city—within the city lines, and of easy communication therewith—that their opportunity had arisen. Instead of buying land in the old business centers at ten thousand dollars a foot, and spending a reasonable fortune in carting away débris before beginning to erect new walls let us go to work at once and build on our own lands, they said; the trade of this vast metropolis can not wait, it will come and transact itself on our premises as soon as completed. What was the fact? The clever ones built well and richly, and sat within and wooed the commerce of Chicago to change its seat. But they wooed in vain. The commerce of Chicago transacted itself knee-deep in its own ashes, and in tents and hemlock shanties, until it could re-rear its own palaces over its own head on the very spot where it had thrived before, and refused to hear the voice of the real-estate charmers, who disappeared in bankruptcy and disappointment as the result of trying even to move the sites of the local habitations in which the commerce of a city dwelt. And their successors have not yet forgotten the experiments of their principals. And so it is throughout the continent. The honest farmer in Vermont or in Central Illinois does not perhaps grumble because a few superficial feet of land on the East River, in New York City, or on the Chicago River, in Chicago, are worth more for trade pur-