Page images


putation of monopoly, and it is the only fact advanced in proof of the ability of a State to manage a railroad with advantage. We will comprre the cost of transportation on these State works, with that on some private roads. Strange as it may appear, the actual cost of transportation on the Philadel phia and Columbia railway was not known in Albany last winter, though a report of the superintendant was in the hands of the leading advocate and of the principal opponent of the southern railroad, Messrs. Dickinson and Wager. This document, like nearly all government reports on the subject of internal improvements, abounds in passages calculated to mislead. Thus Mr. Dickinson supposed that the cost of transportation was 12 mills per ton per mile, but his antagonist, Mr. Wager, saw a little further on, that the average rates of toll were 3 cents per ton per mile, or, as it is stated in the report, 15 cents per 100 lbs.—this mode of giving the charges preventing the generality of readers from perceiving the actual cost per ton per mile. In a note on the same page (Pa. Canal Commissioners Report, for 1837, p. 52) the superintendent gives a list of prices of transportation on different private roads-the lowest being the Baltimore and Washington railway, which is not allowed by law to charge more than 4 cents pr ton pr mile, or one-eleventh more than the tolls on the Philadelphia and Columbia railroad. The object aimed at was to lead to the belief that the cost of transportation on the latter road was less than on any private road. Now had this report been drawn up with the intention of giving correct information, it would have stated, that the sum paid by the community for the transportation of one ton of goods one mile was 91 cents. Another example of these miserable attempts at delusion is the following: (p. 52 ib.) It is not generally known that the tolls on the Columbia and Philadelphia railroad are lower than any other in the Union, but such is the fact." Those who have not given much attention to the extraordinary sense in which the commonest terms of the English language are used by no inconsiderable portion of the "officials" of the United States, will perhaps be surprised to hear that, at the time the above remark was written, Pennsylvania was the only State in the Union where railway tolls were known, and we believe continues so to this day. More yet, she was then the only State owning a railway in operation; all which was undoubtedly well known to the superintendant when he stated so positively, that the "tolls" on the Philadelphia and Columbia railroad were lower than on any other in the Union. (For an honest statement of the cost of transportation on that railway, see the clear and concise description of its construction and management by Mr. Wilson, one of the enginers.-Railroad Journal 2nd vol. 1839, p. 175.)

[ocr errors]

The supposed success of this railway was the only fact Mr. Dickinson could adduce in proof of the capacity of a State to manage a railroad with benefit to the public. Had Mr. W. known the actual cost of transportation on the Philadelphia and Columbia railway, Mr. D's grand argument, instead of being based on the success of that road as a State work, would have

been directed towards showing that its comparative failure to perform the duty of private roads to the public, did not apply to the southern railroad for a variety of those "reasons" which are never wanting in such cases.

The State of Michigan opened 30 miles of the "Central Railroad" in January, 1838, and carries on the forwarding business in all its branches, as well as the transportation of passengers, giving bills of lading for flour, butter, turkeys, live or dead hogs, etc., all under the direction of Commissioners appointed annually. There are of course no "tolls," the Philadelphia superintendent to the contrary notwithstanding-and the cost of transportation in 1838 was 374 cents per bbl. of flour carried 30 miles, or 121⁄2 cents per ton per mile, while the Mohawk and Hudson railroad, only 16 miles long, with three kinds and five changes of power, charged, and we believe still charges, 61 cents per bbl. of floua, or very nearly 4 cents per ton per mile, one third of the price charged by the State of Michigan. This same Mohawk and Hudson railroad charges for light goods 6 cents per ton per mile, which it carries throughout the year at the rate of 10 miles per hour for the very price charged on the Erie canal for transportation during seven or eight months, at the rate of two miles per hour. The rate for light goods from New York to Buffalo for 1839, was $1 20 per 100 lbs. and, deducting 10 cents for the river, there remains $1 10 for 363 miles, or 22 dollars per ton, or 6 cents per ton per mile. The hostility to railroads in a certain quarter, is not without reason, when "exclusive privileges" can alone keep the grass from intruding on the tow path.

The accommodations on State roads, are as contemptible as the price of freight is extravagant. In Philadelphia, the passengers embark and are landed, in the middle of Broad street, while in Detroit, they have not even a pavement to ctep on, but go direct from the car to the mud. The people of this State and of Massachusetts who have only travelled on the Albany, Troy, Utica, Boston and Lowell, Worcester, Salem, etc., railways, would be surprised at the truly sovereign indifference with which the sovereign States of Pennsylvania and Michigan regard the reasonable accommodation of the multitude." On the Pennsylvania plan, cars and buildings must be furnished by individuals, and it is impossible that the public. should, under that system, be accommodated as they now are on the Utica, Lowell and other private roads, for these arrangements require the investment of large sums of money, which can never be expected from those who have a mere temporary interest to serve.

The late Mr. N. Johnson was considered the ablest and most influential advocate of the southern railroad as a government work; hence his report may be expected to embody the views of its best friends. He alludes to the "success" of the Pennsylvania plan, but adds "should this plan prove to be deficient, we may safely rely on scientific and mechanical skill, and that spirit of invention and perseverance which characterizes the people of this State, to remedy its defects, and mature a more perfect system in the progress of experience." This is all very fine; but it will require some years

of experience in "this State," to put her on a par with Pennsylvania, and when nearly all our good locomotives are from Philadelphia and from one establishment, it is as well to avoid mentioning the scientific and mechani. cal skill which is yet to be shown. There can be little doubt that this skill will be shown, when the proper time comes, and that in a few years, establithments equal to those of Philadelphia will be found in New York, to which desirable result, nothing would contribute more than the construction of the southern railroad, by a company, which would, as a matter of interest, offer permanent inducements to the best mechanical skill in the country, which cannot possibly be procured by the ephemeral temptations of the political party, which may happen to be in the ascendant.

In another part of the above report, (No. 38 Sen. Doc. 1839, p. 9,) it is suggested that "such power and control over the commercial and productive interests of the country in the hands of a vast corporation" might prove injurious to "the purity of our institutions and the independent exercise of individual rights." The entire revenue of the federal government is under the control of comparatively few individuals in the large cities, yet they conduct the immense business of the exporting and importing trade of the Union and regulate the delicate and difficult inatter of exchanges with foreign countries, with a degree of accuracy contrasting strangely with the abortive attempts of both the federal and State governments to equalize the currency, not only between distant parts of the Union, but between different parts of the same State. The Boston and Lowell railroad, which is supported by the trade and travel between these two places, carries more passengers and more tons of freight, per annum, than the great thoroughfare of the western trade of Philadelphia-the Columbia railway, yet the people of Boston have no more fear for the "purity of their institutions" than have the people of Birmingham for "their individual rights," because the greatest work of internal improvement in the world-the London and Birmingham railway, is owned and conducted by a private company, who have within four years, spent-not borrowed-30 millions of dollars, of their own money on a railroad, the like of which "has as yet been accomplished, in any country, by private or incorporated means,"-only.— (p. 9.)

[ocr errors]

The following admission, (p. 9,) yields all we ask for or even wish.Where individual or corporate means are adequate to the accomplishment of a work, even with a reasonable proportion of aid from the State, it is doubtless sound policy to leave the work to such control, exclusively."

To this we cordially assent, and have no hesitation in declaring our belief that individuals in this State, will contribute towards the cost of the southern railway, in a greater proportion than do the citizens of Massachusetts, to the western railway. We again refer to the example of that Commonwealth. (Mass. H. of Rep., joint special committee, W. Lincoln, chairman, 27th Feb. 1839.)

"The committee were directed to consider the expediency of the purchase by the Com

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


monwealth, of the westeru railroad. They were of opinion that it was not desirable, while the work remained unfinished, for the State to become the owner. Uuder the management of the agents of the corporation, it will be carried forward with more of expedition and economy, than by the public officers. If the right of acquiring the whole property at any time is reserved, it may be exercised when the heavy labors of construction are ended, and in return for the help proposed to be bestowed, it may yield large revenues for the use of the government. When two-thirds of the amount of scrip, created by the act of February 21, 1838, shall have been expended in the construction of the road, then a further sum of $400,000, in scrip, may be delivered to the corporation. When the private stockholders shall have paid, on their part, $75,000. a further loan of $100,000 may be made; and when $75,000 more shall have been collected from the same stockholders, such additional sum may be advanced; as shall be assertained by the Governor and council, to be necssary for the entire finishing of the road.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

The right is secured to the Commonwealth, at any time, to purchase the franchise and property of the corporation, by reimbursing the stockholders, the sum actually paid by them, with interest at the rate of 10 per cent, annually.

Four of the nine directors are to be chosen annually, by the legislature."

How different is this policy, from that pursued by the State of New York towards the southern counlies, which have, with great difficulty, obtained a loan of one tenth of the sum to be given to the central counties as fast as it can be obtained on the credit of the State, while to the southern counties it is peddled out in sums of $100,000, after they have themselves contributed a like sum towards the construction of the work! Now if the same rule be applied to the enlargement and to the lateral canals, the southern counties would have less cause of complaint, but their immediate wants are passed by with indifference, while the most enormous expenditures are incurred in the central counties in anticipation of the present canal being at some future day unable to transport all the freight which may offer the remote interests of the forwarders and the immediate interests of the contractors and speculators, on the line of the canal far outweighing all considerations of the honor, duty and interests of the State as concerned in the developement of the resources of other than the central counties. However glorious may be considered the day which saw the Erie and Champlain canals determined on, it will be eclipsed by that which shines on the rejec tion of all aid from the State to works, which are avoided by private en terprise, and in the construction of which, individuals will not risk their own means—the only never failing test of their sincerity, as well as the infallible measure of their confidence in the ultimate success of the undertaking.

It was well observed, some years since, by Judge Wright, that it required "less mind" to manage a canal than a railroad, hence the government is more competent to conduct the former than the latter. Every traveller when carried in a large train of passenger cars, with great velocity, feels his dependance on the skill and judgment of the engine-man; hence their pay is necessarily liberal, and it is worthy of remark, that even in England, there is some difficulty in procuring good men, though the wages are very nearly as high as in this country. Now were the southern rail raod in the hands of the State, it is evident that these situations would be filled by political partizans, the lives of the passengers placed in jeopardy by their incompetence, the business delayed and the rates of toll as high as possible, to meet the heavy additional expenses, arising from the ignorance and in

difference of the temporary occupants of stations which are held by a tenare, the very reverse of that, which would recommend the incumbents to a private company-the making the duties of their stations a secondary consideration.

It is useless to say, that this general proscription is unnecessary and must not be assumed "a priori;" we have 15 years experience in this State to the contrary, and are very much deceived if the year 1840 prove any exception to the rule. This principle, disgusting and degrading as it is, forms one of the prominent features of the times, is daily assumed to be absolutely necessary to any political party which expects to retain the ascendency beyond its first period of appointment, and is justified in political matters by men, who would scorn a similar course in their own affairs. The differ ence between private and political morality is as strongly marked as that between truth and prevarication, between honor and hypocrisy. However much this state of things may be regretted, it still exists, and it is the province of men engaged in the active pursuits of life to view things as they are, not as they wish them to be or as they ought to be.

The patronage of the southern railroad as a State work would be immense nearly as much as if she owned all the steamboats of the Hudson, all the packet ships of the City, or all the flour mills of the State. The number of votes which the railway could command would be as well known and as certain as the votes which the Erie canal has always given to the party in power, and which, we believe, it will continue to do; but, as a much higher grade of men is required on a railway than on a canal, the injury inflicted on the southern counties, by filling the most important stations with abject politicians, will be proportionally greater, as well as the general demoralization which so atrikingly and disgustingly marks the canil policy of this State since the completion of the Erie canal.

Few suppose the State capable of undertaking and completing the southern railroad unless the enlargement be abandoned, which measure no poli. tician would dare to advocate-hence the project of making the former a government work is nearly hopeless. The southern counties have however the power to prevent though not to pass any appropriations, and it will be by the exercise of this power, and by no other means, that they can obtain such aid from the State, as united with their own means, energy, enterprise and economy, will enable them to complete a railway from the Hudson to Lake Erie in 4 or 5 years, while if undertaken by the State, and carried on simultaneously with the enlargement, their completion may be expected about the same time-a period too remote to have any interest for the present generation. The true policy of the southern counties is, to secure a loan which, with their own contributions, will be suffi cient to complete a single track, which we have stated might be done for 9 or 10 millions of dollars. And, deducting private subscription, the loan required would be about 6 millions or the probable amount which is to be given to a small portion of the inhabitants of the two counties traversed by

« PreviousContinue »