Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/773

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But, summary as the above statements appear, these are only the secondary and mechanical effects of this insidious little humming bee—the trolley. The heavier and costlier revolution lies behind its operation and even behind its construction. The legal status of the trolley is that of a street railway. To construct the railway (and it may yet become convenient to adopt the English word "tramway," and apply hereafter arbitrarily the two, making the word Railway signify the great lines operated by steam, while the word Tramway signifies all lines operated by other traction systems), first of all, that slow-moving branch of the common law which we call "eminent domain" must be invoked with all its paraphernalia; and, of all large bodies, this power of the State, this "eminent domain," moves far the slowest. The jealousy with which it is guarded by legislatures, the reluctance with which it is authorized, the ten thousand and one commissions, boards, and councils which watch with sleepless eyes its control and its administration by the devoted railway company, are as harassing as they are beyond escape. A paternal Interstate Commerce Commission pre-empts the railway situation and pours out three or four octavo volumes a year of rules and regulations. Then the boards of railway commissioners of forty sovereign States take a hand apiece and issue each as many more pandects, edicts, decisions, restrictions, and findings again! Next the boards of aldermen of cities intervene with their ordinances and committees of investigation; and, when there are no boards of aldermen, the county supervisors, "boards of chosen freeholders," town committees, and what not gather around; and no authority, however brief or minute, but has its word in railway operation which, like Mr. Haggard's She, "must be obeyed!" Not only must all these be maintained sooner or later by taxes on the earnings of the railway, with liberal subsidies paid on the nail, but each and all of these are to be supported and placated with "passes"; courtesied to and consulted at every step; salaried, subsidized, and placated, too—for the sole purpose of making laws, rules, to restrict and never to benefit: to curtail but never to enlarge the earning powers of the long-suffering railway. For who ever heard of a law, rule, edict, or ordinance in behalf of a railway company—to bless and not to ban? And even courts, which construe a railway to be a quasi-public corporation, are most vigorous in denying it any public right (except, perhaps, the right to be bled and mulcted by everybody). But not so and such is the primal legal career of the blithe little trolley! Not only does it harness an invisible horse who works for no board and no salary, but the greater part of all this accumulated espionage and control is escaped. The "eminent domain" which it envoys comes to it through the minor powers of annoyance and interference.