Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/390

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In "The Prevention of Railroad Strikes"[1] as the title indicates, the author confines himself to the want of harmony existing between railroad companies and their employés, and suggests a plan for improving their relations by bringing the officials of the roads into closer personal contact with the men.

An examination of the evils, as above given from various sources, proves them to be symptoms of a chronic disease, at once suggesting a complication of disorders arising from two forms of original stimulation, which, although more or less reciprocal in their operations, are susceptible of a tolerably distinct line of division: viz., (1) legislative stimulation of railway construction; (2) legislation tending to push capital into unnatural combinations. These two groups of laws give rise to evils independent of each other, although when coexisting they interact, and not unfrequently the one furnishes the means while the other affords the occasion for dishonesty, as the construction companies heretofore alluded to make plain; e. g., while our loose laws, encouraging the construction of new railroads, have afforded the opportunity or occasion for directors to insidiously absorb the profits of stockholders by the extension of systems, the laws which have united "unbusiness-like and immoral forces" for the control of railway properties have placed in the hands of designing men the tools and means of doing so dishonestly.

In this present article let us confine the inquiry to the evils arising from laws intended to induce the speedy construction of railroads, and we will leave to a future number the examination of those evils which have developed within the railway corporation itself, of which railroad wrecking, false reports, bribery in railway election, and railroad strikes are familiar phases.

The splendid opportunities which the railroad afforded for the development of a country's resources were very quickly recognized by society at large, and, being impatient of the reasonable caution exercised by capital before embarking into vast and costly enterprises, the people through their Legislatures enacted laws especially calculated to promote and hasten the construction of railroads, never imagining that any evils could arise therefrom. The Western and central States particularly enacted laws providing for State subsidies and local aid, while the General Government joined the States in the surrender of the public lands to railroads. Nearly all the States passed general railroad laws substantially granting railway charters to any one who followed the legal forms in making application for them. These various laws have all contributed to destroy the equilibrium between the normal wants of a developing commerce and the natural development of railway systems within prudential limits to meet the growing demand,

  1. Charles Francis Adams, "Scribner's Monthly," April, 1889.