« AnteriorContinuar »
Hon. LUCIUS Q. O. LAMAR,
Secretary of the Interior : SIR: The undersigned, Commissioners appointed under "An act to regulate commerce," approved February 4, 1887, in discharge of the duty imposed by the twenty-first section of said act, which directs tho Commission on or before the first day of December in each year to make a report to the Secretary of the Interior, to be by him transmitted to Congress; the report to contain such information and data collected by the Commission as may be considered of value in the determination of questions connected with the regulation of commerce, together with such recommendations as to additional legislation relating thereto as the Commission may deem necessary,” beg leave respectfully to report:
It is provided in the act referred to that its provisions shall apply toAny common carrier or carriers engaged in the transportation of passengers or property wholly by railroad, or partly by railroad and partly by water when both are used, under a common control, management, or arrangement, for a continuous carriage or shipment from one State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia to any other State or Territory of the United States or the District of Columbia, or from any place in the United States to an adjacent foreign country, or from any place in the United States through a foreign country to any other place in the United States, and also to tbe transportation in like manner of property shipped from any place in the United States to a foreign country, and carried from such place to a port of transshipment, or shipped from a foreign country to any place in tho United States, and carried to such place from a port of entry either in the United States or an adjacent foreign country: Provided, however, That the provisions of this act shall not apply to the transportation of passengers or property, or to the receiving, delivering, storage, or handling of property wholly within one State, and not shipped to or from a foreign country from or to any State or Territory as aforesaid.
It is further provided thatThe term “ railroad” as used in this act shall include all bridges and ferries used or operated in connection with any railroad, and also all the road in use by any corporation operating a railroad, whether owned or operated under a contract, agreement, or lease; and the term “transportation" shall include all instrumentalities of shipment or carriage.
The railroad mileage of the United States, computed to the close of the fiscal year 1886, of the companies respectively, was 133,606. The number of corporations represented in this mileage was 1,425, but by the consolidation or leasing of roads the number of corporations controlling and operating roads as carriers was reduced to 700. It is estimated that 4,380 miles of road have been constructed since the foregoing statistics were obtained, making a total mileage at this time of 137,986. It is impossible to say with entire accuracy what is the number of railroad companies subject to the provisions of the act, but it is believed that not less than 1,200, operated by about 500 corporations as
10638 I C-1
carriers, engage either regularly or at times in interstate commerce, so as to make the act applicable. The Commission has as yet no statistics of its own collection to lay before the public, but in a manual generally accepted as reliable, the cost of construction and equipment of the 133,606 miles of road is estimated at $7,254,995,223, and the funded debt of the companies at $3,882,966,330. Interest, according to the same authority, was paid by these companies for the last fiscal year to the amount of $187,356,540, and the aggregate payment to stockholders in dividends was $80,094,138.
Some idea of the magnitude of the interest which the act undertakes to regulate may be obtained from these figures, but they fall far short of measuring, or even of indicating, its importance. The regulation of no other business would concern so many or such diversified interests or would affect in so many ways the results of enterprise, the prosperity of commercial and manufacturing ventures, the intellectual and social intercourse of the people, or the general comfort and convenience of the citizen in his every day life. The railroads provide for the people facilities and conveniences of a business and social nature which bare become altogether indispensable, and the importance of so regulating these that the best results may be had, not by the general public alone, but by the owners of railroad property also, is quite beyond computation.
The act to regulate commerce was passed under the authority conferred upon Congress by the Federal Constitution "to regolate commerce with foreign nations, among the several States, and with the Indian tribes," and in recognition of a duty which, though long delayed, had at length, in the opinion of Congress, become imperative. The reasons for the delay are well understood. When the grant of this power of regulation was made by the Constitution the commerce between the States which might be controlled under it was quite insignificant both in volume and value. It was for the most part carried on by means of coastwise vessels and by water craft of various kinds which were sailed or otherwise propelled on the lakes, rivers, and smaller streams of the
interior. On the land there was very little that could be said to rise to • the dignity of interstate commerce, and the regulation of that little, as
also of that which was exclusively State traffic, was for the most part left to the rules of the common law. The exceptional regulations, if any seemed to be called for, were made by the State laws. In a few cases where persons had associated themselves together as regular carriers of persons ou definite routes, exclusively righuis were granted to them by the States as such carriers, the morire to such grants being a belief on the part of the State authorities that without the exclusive privilege the regular transportation would not be adequately and reliably provided for.
For the regulation of commerce on the ocean and other navigable waters Congress very promptly passed the necessary laws; but its ju. risdiction within the limits of the States was not very clearly understood, and it was not until the great case of Gibbons v. Ogden, decided in 1824, that it was authoritatively and finally determined that the waters of a State, when they constituted a highway for foreign and interstate commerce, are, so far as concerns such commerce, as much within the reach of Federal legislation as are the high seas; and consequently that exclusive rights for their navigation cannot be granted by States whose limits embrace them.
But while providing from time to time for the regulation of commerce by water, Congress still abstained from undertaking the regulation of commerce by land. The reasons for this continued to be the same as
at the first. The land commerce was insignificant in amount, and the rules of the common law were in general found adequate to the settlement of the questions arising out of it. The commerce of trappers and hunters, of traders with the Indians, or that of the early settlers in the wilderness, needed only the most primitive modes of conveyance; the emigrant wagon in one direction and the pack-horse and canoe in the other, performed in respect to it the functions now performed by the railroad train and the steam-boat. The use of such primitive instrumentalities required little regulation by either State or national law. When Congress provided for the construction of the Cumberland road as a great national highway, it was thought quite undesirable to regulate its use by national law or to take national supervision of the commerce upon it; and, with the commerce on the ordinary highways, it was left to the supervision and care of the States respectively through or into which the road should be built.
With the application of steam as a motive power for propelling vessels the conditions were immediately, to a considerable extent, changed. An impetus was given to the internal commerce of the country which promised immense results, and which made immediate and imperative demand for other and very different highways to those which accommodated the pack-horses and heavy wagons of the early traders and settlers. But even then the circumstances were favorable to a prolongation of State control. The first improved highways were turnpikes; the next in grade were canals; but the highways by water as well as the highways by land were provided for by the States. The General Government made some appropriations for canals where they were needed as improvements in existing navigation, but the great artificial channels of water transportation were State creations. Such was the case with the Erie Canal, which during the period when emigration to the wilderness was greatest, and when improvement in the new Territories was most rapid, constituted the most important of all the highways connecting the interior with the sea-board. Such also were the canals which were constructed to connect the Delaware with the Hudson, the Chesapeake with the Ohio, the waters of Lake Erie with the Ohio at Portsmouth, at Cincinnati, and at Evansville, the waters of Lake Michigan with the Mississippi, and many others now almost forgotten, but which were of great temporary importance and value.
As the States constructed these great interstate highways, it was not unnatural that they should be left in charge of the regulation of trade upon them, especially as no complaint was made that their regulations were unjust, or that they discriminated unfairly as against the citizens or the business of other States. When, in 1830, steam-power began to be applied to the propulsion of vehicles upon land, the same reasons as regards control continued to prevail. The roads constructed for such vehicles were authorized by and built under the authority of the States; the corporate charters under which they were operated, and which prescribed the rights, privileges, and powers of the associated owners were State laws; the States determined for them the measure of their taxation, and limited if it seemed politic their charges and their profits. The States thus touched them so nearly in all their interests and all their functions that Federal intervention seemed not only unnecessary but intrusive unless State power should be abused; and the abuse not often appearing, intervention was scarcely thought of by any one.
For a long time, therefore, the power of the Federal Government in the regulation of commerce between the States was put forth by way of negation rather than affirmatively; that is to say, it was put forth
in restraint' of excessive State power when it appeared, instead o by way of affirmative national regulation. The national restraint, when there was any, was commonly effected by invoking the action of the judicial department of the Government, and by its assistance arresting such State action as appeared to constitute an unauthorized interference with interstate traffic and intercourse. This special intervention, whether in the exercise of an original jurisdiction, as in the Wheeling Bridge case, reported in 13 Howard, 518, or under an appellate authority, as in Ward v. Maryland (12 Wallace, 418), and Welton v. Missouri (91 United States Reports, 275), has been important and useful in a considerable number of cases, but in the nature of things it could not accomplish the purposes of general regulation. On the other hand, the effect was to leave the corporations, into whose hands the internal commerce of the country had principally fallen, to make the law for themselves in mauy important particulars—the State power being inadequate to complete regulation, and the national power not being put forth for the purpose.
The common law still remained operative, but there were many reasons why it was inadequate for the purposes of complete regulation. One very obvious reason was that the new method of land transportation was wholly unknown to the common law, and was so different from those under which common-law rules had grown up, that doubts and differences of opinion as to the extent to which those rules could be made applicable were inevitable. A highway of which the ownership is in private citizens or corporations who permit no other vehicles but their own to run upon it bears obviously but faint resemblance to the common highway upon which every man may walk or ride or drive his wagon or his carriage. If we undertake to apply to the one the rules which have grown up in regulation of the others, there must necessarily be a considerable period in which the state of the law will, in many important particulars, be uncertain, and while that continues to be the case, those who have the power to act and who must necessarily act by rule and according to some established system, will for all practical purposes make the law, because the rule and the system will be of their establishment.
Such, to a considerable extent, has been the fact regarding the business of transporting persons and property by rail.
Those who have controlled the railroads have not only made rules for the government of their own corporate affairs, but very largely also they have determined at pleasure what should be the terms of their contract relations with others, and others have acquiesced, though oftentimes unwillingly, because they could not with confidence affirm that the law would not compel it, and a test of the question would be diffi. cult and expensive. The carriers of the country were thus enabled to determine in great measure what rules should govern the transportation of persons and property; rules which intimately concerned the commercial, industrial, and social life of the people.
The circumstances of railroad development tended to make this indi. rect and abnormal law-making exceedingly unequal and oftentimes oppressive. When railroads began to be built the demand for participation in their benefits went up from every city and hamlet in the land, and the public was impatient of any obstacles to their free construction and of any doubts that might be suggested as to the substantial benefit to flow from any possible line that might be built. Under an impera: tire popular demand general laws were enacted in mauy States which enabled projectors of roads to organize at pleasare and select their own