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that the cause be remanded, with instructions to dissolve the said injunction, and dismiss the original bill, with costs.
We have before this had occasion to commend the very able treatise of Mr. Charles Ellet on the " Laws of Trade," and we now have the pleasure of presenting to our readers an exposition of some of these principles in a popular form. Mr. E. is of the opinion, that no effort should be spared in bringing this most important subject into general notice, and while in his former work, he has aimed at the foundation of the Laws of Trade, upon strict mathematical reasoning, for the satisfaction of the professional reader, he has in this one now before us, translated his mathematical, into popular phraseology, thus opening the subject to all classes of the community. There is no time more fitting than the present, for the discussion of this subject, and convinced as we are, of its momentous bearing, we recommend the paper of Mr. Ellet to the attentive perusal and earnest consideration of our readers.
A POPULAR EXPOSITION OF THE INCORRECTNESS OF THE TARIFFS OF TOLL IN USE ON THE PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES. BY CHARLES ELLET, JR., CIVIL ENGINEER.
The object of this paper is to point out, in a brief and popular view, the consequences of some of the errors which are committed in the charges assessed on the public works of this country.
The writer has recently published a work in which he has attempted to expose the true principles of trade, and to show the only correct mode of determining the tolls proper to be levied on our great lines of canals and railroads. But it has been suggested to him by some intelligent readers of that work, that the method of analysing the subject which he has been compelled to adopt in it, is not the best adapted to the pursuits of the class of readers most likely to be interested in the subject; and that some advantage might be derived from exhibiting, in a popular form, a few of the results which were there obtained by a different process. This paper is intended to subserve that purpose; and to show that the principles on which all the tariffs in the country are based, are unsound, and lead, in their application, to oppressive injustice to a portion of the community, and to great loss of trade and revenue to the improvements.
SECTION I-Of the importance of the subject.
1. There are no questions of public policy which are thought to concern. so intimately the general and particular interests of the people of this country, as those which relate to their internal improvements. The consideration of this subject constitutes the greatest part of the legislation of nearly all the States in the Union, and the employment of the privileges sanctioned by the law, constitutes a prominent portion of the efforts of individual enterprize. There are now completed and in use in the country more than three thousand miles of railroads, and not less than three thousand miles of canals, the construction of which has occasioned an actual expenditure of probably $150,000,000, and for which loans have been incurred by the State gov ernments or incorporated companies, to nearly an equal amount.
*An Essay on the Laws of Trade in reference to the works of Public Improvement in the United States..
This enormous investiment of capital is by some viewed as alarming; ! and might indeed, appear so, when it is considered that a draft of some $8,000,000 will be annually made on the country for the payment of the interest on this sum, and that the principal itself, in the brief space of twenty years, may possibly have to be refunded. On the other hand, there are sanguine advocates of improvements, who look to the revenue to be derived from the works themselves, consequent on the rapid growth and progressively increasing productiveness of the country, as offering an ample guarantee for the prompt payment of the interest, and the due liquidation of the principal, of the debt.
It is not the intention now to discuss this momentous question, or to endeavor to ascertain which of these hypotheses approaches nearest the truth. Both are but surmises, advanced as the result of a hasty glance at the facts, or possibly based on no safer evidence than the prepossessions, or mere conjectures, of the parties. They are wanting in that detail, that exhibition of statistical information, without which it is impossible to generalize with security.
Doubtless many of the works of the country will possess abundant means to sustain their credit; and among so many enterprises, it is equally probable that some have been undertaken which will fall very far short of the expectations of their patrons.
2. But, whatever may be the general ability of these immense lines of improvements, it is certain that the success and profitableness of those which are now progressing under the fairest auspices, are not so well established but that it ought to be an object of deep solicitude with their proprietors to find the means of increasing their productiveness. To every state that has embarked in a career of internal improvement, and to every individual who has invested his property in such stock, it is an interesting question to ascertain the most efficient means of equalizing the charges on the trade, and increasing the revenue and tonnage of the line.
The public improvements of Pennsylvania are sinking that commonwealth in debt about a million and a half per annum-or, in other words, the interest on the loans incurred for their construction, added to the annual charges for repairs and superintendence, exceeds the gross revenue of the works from one or two millions of dollars per annum.
Those of Ohio, and many of those constructed by great incorporated joint stock companies, exhibit balances scarcely less unsatisfactory; and although these unpropitious results cannot be fairly adduced as evidences of the impolicy of the undertakings, they are facts which may be legitimately used in evidence of the necessity of inquiring into the correctness of the principles of their management. Many of them are now regarded as partial failures, and have involved the community in great pecuniary difficulty. Possibly a careful investigation of the principles on which their tariffs have been established, may lead to the conviction that there is some radical error of administration which may be advantageously corrected.
No more fitting season can be selected for such an investigation than the present. The system of public improvement is now prostrated throughout the country for want of the means necessary for the extension of the works. Those who have been engaged in their execution, may therefore take time to consider by what mode the tax with which they load their constructiors may be lightened, or the revenue they pay may be augmented.
3. It is not less important that the charges adopted on the works should. be those which would render them most productive to the stockholders, or to the commonwealth as a proprietor, than that they should be reconcilable
with principles of justi e. In levying a tax for purposes of revenue on any portion of the property of the public, it has been an object of legislation in all times, to make the nearest possible approach to equity in its distribution. The tolls charged on the works of the commonwealth are intended for revenue, and they should be so adjusted, if such an adjustment be practicable, as to produce the greatest possible revenue with the least inequality in the
At the same time it is essential to have due regard to the cultivation of the trade, which is the primary object of the improvements-a condition which must be reconciled with those above stated-of drawing the greatest possible revenue from the transportation of the produce of the country, and an adherence to principles of equity in the distribution of the tax.
This may appear to be a complicated problem, the solution of which, however desirable in itself, can scarcely be regarded as attainable in prac
I shall endeavor, however, to show by a few evident propositions, both that the principles by which these charges are now assessed on all our great lines, are such as operate unjustly upon a large portion of the country; are such as in a great measure defeat this primary object of the improvement, that of inviting the distant trade to a market—and such as reduce the revenue far below the limit belonging to a more just and more judicious tariff; and, at the same time, that an attention to the true laws of trade will render the avoidance of these errors exceedingly easy.
SECTION II-Of the incorrectness of the principles on which tolls are at present assessed.
4. To be able to appreciate the necessity of a departure from the principles on which the present charges for the use of our public works are established, it is essential to examine into the effective operation of the scale now in use. To render the view which I design to take as little complicated as possible, it may be confined for the present to one of the principal divisions of the trade of the country. For, in treating of the laws of trade it is found convenient to divide the commerce of the line into two principal classes; in the first of which is included all those commodities which will bear but a limited charge for their transportation, and which, if taxed beyond that limit, will be excluded from the line and from market. This division usually consists of stone, coal, lumber, ore, lime, and many agricul tural productions. Indeed it embraces all articles which will seek a market along the line in question, and no other; and in this respect is to be distinguished from that division of the trade which consists of more valuable commodities, and which, if not accommodated on one line, will find a passage by the route of a rival work.
Our present investigation will be confined to the first of these divisions. 5. The charges which are levied on this trade consist of what are usually termed freight and toll. If the work be a canal, by freight is understood the charge of the carrier, and by toll that of the state or corporation owning the work. In the management of railroads, it is usual for the company to act as carrier on their own line; and to make but one charge, which is called toll, for both objects. In this pamphlet I shall make a somewhat different application of these terms, and designate by freight, in either case, every expense actually incurred in the carriage of the commodity, and by toll, the clear profit on its transportation. So that if the carrier, or transporting company, charge seven mills per mile for the carriage of one ton of any article, and the cost of repairs and superintendence of the Jine due to the passage of that ton is three mills per mile, I call the freight
on the article one cent per ton per mile; and any charge, exceeding this three mills, which is assessed by the state or company, is what I denominate their toll.
6. In nearly every tariff of toll adopted in this country, the charge on every article is proportional to the distance it is transported on the line.The toll is some fixed amount per ton per mile. This scale of taxation, I contend, is improper and unjust.
To examine the question, let us suppose the article to be lumber, of which the market value, at the point to which it is sent, is $10 per ton. Let us also assume that the cost of producing this article, or preparing it for shipping on the canal, is $6 per ton. It is then most obvious that if the charge for transportation on this commodity exceed $4 per ton it will be wholly excluded from the line; for then the cost of carriage added to the cost of production would exceed the market value of the article, and there could be no profit to remunerate the producer. But if the charge be less than $4 there will be a certain profit, and the article will be found to seek the market.
If now, this lumber is carried a space of une hundred miles to its mart, and the charge for freight is one cent per ton per mile, the freight for that distance will obviously be $1, and there will remain a balance of $3 for the extreme limit which the article will bear to be charged for toll. The toll levied by the state, at one cent per ton per mile, will be $1, or one-third the amount, which the article could in this case sustain.
Let us next suppose that similar lumber comes upon the line at a distance of three hundred miles from the same mart. The charge for freight would now be $3. and there would consequently be a residue of only $1 on which the state might levy for toll. The commodity could bear no more than $1 -since that sum added to the $3 freight would be $4, or the difference between the cost of producing the lumber and its price in market. But, by the principle of taxation usually adopted, the toll assessed at one cent per ton per mile, would here be $3, or three times as mucn as the article would bear. In other words, at the distance of one hundred miles from the mart, in the usual tariffs, a commodity is charged one dollar where it might bear a charge of three, and at three hundred miles it is charged three dollars where it could bear but one.
7. Does it need any argument to prove that a scale producing such results is neither compatible with principles of equity or good economy? Is it not manifestly unjust to charge the man who is situated three hundred miles from market three times as much as he can afford to pay, while the man at one hundred miles can afford to pay three times as much as he is charged? Is it not any thing but good economy to tax all the trade in this article beyond two hundred miles so heavily that it is totally driven from the line, when, if the tolls were differently assessed, it might be invited, and made to pay a respectable revenue to the state? And is not the primary object of the work defeated by the adoption of a tariff that excludes those commodities from it which it was especially intended to draw to marketan effe ctwhich is accompanied by a direct sacrifice of trade, revenue and even justice?
8. I think it can scarcely need more than this plain exposition to make clear to any reflecting mind that some of the charges on the public works of this country need revision: that they are based on principles which are unsound, and at once do injury to the proprietors of the work, and injustice to a large portion of the public. The commonwealth, as the constructor and owner of the improvement, is a sufferer in the loss of the trade that is excluded, and the revenue that might be derived from it; the citizens of
the emporium which is the mart of the line, suffer from the contraction of their business in consequence of the exclusion of the articles in which they traffic; and the country traversed by the improvement, and taxed, perhaps, for its construction, suffers from its inability to share the benefits which the work was designed to confer.
SECTION III-Further evidence of the loss of trade consequent on uniform charges.
9. To render more palpable the fact that a charge for toll proportioned directly to the distance will cause the exclusion of a certain amount of tonnage, without conferring any compensating advantage, we will consider the subject with the aid of a diagram.
Let M in the figure be the position of the mart, and M L the line of the improvement: and let us assume, as before, that the commodity will be capable of sustaining a charge of $4 per ton for its transportation; that the toll is one cent per ton per mile, the freight likewise one cent, and the cost of carriage on the lateral roads by which the tonnage is brought to the work, is ten cents per ton per mile.
The distance Mn from which this commodity can be brought to the mart at M on the lateral roads nM, nM, will then be 40 miles; and the distance MP which we can afford to carry it along the improvement, at an aggregate charge of two cents. per ton per mile, will of course be two hundred miles. The area of country, therefore, which will supyly trade to the line, will be represented by the triangle nPn, having a base nn of 80 miles, and a height N MP of two hundred miles. 10. Now, it is apparent that the line will receive no tonnage of this article, from beyond the point P; and therefore, that if the trade were permitted to come free of toll from beyond that point, there would result a certain increase of tonnage, which would be accompanied by no diminution of revenue.
Under such an arrangement of the tarriff, the charge for freight from P to M. for produce coming from the country beyond P, would be only $2, and there would consequently be left a ballance at P of $2 out of the limit of $4 which the article could sustain, to bear the cost of its carriage along the lateral roads to the improvement, and down the improvement to the