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principle of competition was distinctly renounced, the French system of granting to separate corporations the exclusive right of constructing railroads within certain territorial limits having been adopted. The railway companies of North Germany have heretofore enjoyed a considerable degree of freedom in the matter of freight classifications, and in making differential or discriminating rates they have been alloweit considerable liberty.
The railroad companies are required to give sufficient publicity to all rates prior to their enforcement.
The constitution of the German Empire requires that all railroads shall be administered as a part of one uniform system, and makes it in. cambent upon all the companies to make arrangements for the exchange of freight and passengers, or, in other words, to enter into such combinations as shall afford the best facilities for the direct shipment of goods from one poiut in the empire to another without unnecessary transsbip. ment or expense in forwarding. The government exercises a very mi. uute supervision over all the operations of railroads: their finances, roadway, equipment, stations, and traffic. An officer is appointed for each company, styled the government director, whose duty it is to attend to the enforcement of the laws and regulations relative to railroads.
The principle of partial state ownership prevails to a considerable extent in the German Empire.
The railroad bureau of the German Empire has recently collected statistics of the railroads of the empire, exclusive of those in Bavaria, over which the empire exercises no control.
By this it appears that at the close of 1875 the figures were as follows:
The kingdom of Bavaria has an independent railroad system, and since entering the empire it has completed the purchase of all its roads.
Within the last two years the purchase of all the railroads by the imperial government has been agitated, but as yet it is an unsettled question, Prince Bismarck and the advocates of the centralization of power favoring the measure, while the railroad interests and many well. informed commercial men take the opposite ground.
The opponents of the plan of ownership by the empire maintain that there would not be one-half the railroad-unileage that there is to-day had it not been for the construction of railroads by private enterprise, and they maintain that, whatever may be the defects and abuses incident to
private ownership, tbis system best attains the main object aimed at: the construction of roads. It appears probable at the present time that the imperial policy with regard to the purchase of the roads will be adopted.
Causes of irritation and of popular discontent, similar to those which have prevailed throughout the Western States of this country, have also been experienced in Germany.
The German mind naturally looks to the government for relief from all evils affecting the public interests. The empire may secure the ownership and control of all the railroads, but the acquisition will bring with it an enormous responsibility, and subject the government in manifold ways to adverse criticism.
One of the ablest opponents of the system of imperial ownership has declared that there is no man who possesses the gigantic power and breadth of view necessary to the performance of the duties of chief of the whole railroad system, and that a despotic control of the roads can only work evil.
The railroad question in other countries of Europe presents but few points of interest in addition to those already referred to in speaking of the railroad systems of France, Belgium, Holland, and the German Empire.
Iu almost all the countries of South America in which railroads have been constructed, the companies have received aid from the government by loans, or by the guarantee of interest on bonds. The principal roads of Peru were built and are owned by the government. All the South American governments are continually “regulating" the railroads, the people in all these countries adhering to the idea that they must look to governmental interference for the correction of all evils of a public character. Rail-rates are in most of these countries limited in the original charters. The companies are restrained from making large profits by the fear that the government will step in and cut down their tariffs of charges.
FULL AND RELIABLE RAILROAD REPORTS. The importance of collecting statistical and other information in regard to the operations of railroads was fully appreciated both in England and in the United States at an early day. Manifestly, the first step toward protecting the public interests against the apprehended evils of the railroad system was to arrive at a proper understanding of the whole subject in all its economic and commercial bearings. Such information has accordingly been collected with great care and exactitude in England, by parliamentary committees and commissions, and by the statistical department of the board of trade.
A parliamentary committee was appointed in England in the year 1840 for the purpose of considering the relations of the railroads to the state, and of recommending such measures as might be deemed necessary. The practical results of their labors were almost exclusively confined to the recommendation of a superintending department of the government which should have no duty but that of requiring returns and of enlightening the public as to the condition of the traffic and of the rates for transportation. Returns in regard to British railways have been rendered annually ever since. From time to time these returns have been greatly enlarged and improved, and they now constitute an exceedingly valuable source of information. The knowledge thus afforded has been the means of correcting many erroneous views, and the railroad companies, knowing that their operations were matters of public information, have been much more guarded in their actions than have railroad managers iu this country.
The managers of the railroads of Great Britain have been brought to realize the fact that in order to avoid hostile legislation it is best that they should aid the government in its efforts to arrive at a clear under. standing of the railroad question.
For many years the railroads in the United States claimed and exercised almost absolute immunity from any sort of governmental super. vision over, or of inguiry into, their doings or their financial condition. The privileges accorded to the companies in this, as well as in other respects, went to the verge of license. At last the people of some of tue States in which the construction of railroads was farthest advanced, saw the necessity of compelling the companies to render certain annual returns as to their doings, their financial status, and other matters of public interest.
The commissioner system has been adopted in nearly all the Northern and Western States, and there is a general similarity in the nature of the returns required. These returns are, however, quite defectire, a fact well known to the commissioners, who have instituted measures toward securing a unification of forms, and towards arriving at an agreement as to the uature and scope of the data to be collected. The greatest difficulty to be encountered is the force of habits and of methods of book-keeping adopted by the railroad companies during a long period of exemption from the requirement of rendering any account of their doings to the State.
Widely different views have been entertained by railroad managers as to the value of such statistics as may enable them to gain an exact knowledge, in detail, of their own experiences in the conduct of railroad affairs. Many important lines are operated simply upon the prac. tical knowledge possessed by them in regard to the details of railroad affairs. The managers of other lines, however, collect elaborate statistics covering every branch of expenditure, and the line of policy pursued is largely dictated by such knowledge.
Railroad managers also differ widely in their views as to the policy of publishing the facts known to themselves in regard to the economies, the traffic interests, and the financial status of the railroads over which they preside. The managers of many important railroads in this coun. try have neglected to make public such information as is necessary to afford even to their own directors and stockhollers a knowledge of the interests intrusted to their charge. Only a few of the trunk lines of the United States have as yet deemed it expedient or useful to publish information in regard to their doings.
The reports covering the subject of transportation on the Louisville, Nashville and Great Southern Railroad, prepared by Mr. Albert Fink, late vice-president and general superintendent of that road, stand by themselves for completeness and philosophical arrangement. These reports serve to throw light upon almost every question of a practical nature in regard to the business of that road, and clearly indicate what can be done by other companies. So important did Mr. Fink consider the collection of this information, in the light of the interests of the company in whose service he was employed, that he declared himself unwilling to bear the responsibilities of his position, if he was not allowed to expend annually the necessary sum for the collection and collation of all statistics in detail bearing in the remotest degree upon the business of the company.
There is reason to believe that the managers of several other rail. roads in this country have prepared elaborate statistics of the same general character, but unfortunately those managers deem it proper to keep such information from the public, and even from their directors and stockholders.
It is exceedingly important that the public should be informed as to the great commercial movements of the country for which railways now afford very largely the facilities of transportation. This object can best be effected by the adoption of uniform returns in the several States, such returns being supplemented by correlative data in regard to the principal movements of commerce between States and between sections, collected under the authority of the National Government. This is a matter which must, however, be brought about in the light of a clear understanding of the subject in all its branches. It is a very easy matter to prepare schedules covering much desirable information touching the management of railroads and the commerce upon them; but unless great care is exercised such schedules may embrace requirements which the railroad companies will find it utterly impracticable to comply with. It is believed, however, to be quite practicable to gain information which shall serve as a guide in preventing abuses by railroad companies on the one hand, and unwise and unjust legislation on the other.
It is proposed at a future time to consider very carefully the different classes of information which should be collected in regard to interstate commerce, and the means to be adopted for securing that end.
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In this connection it is sufficient to mention a few of the general topics in regard to which information is desired.
1. Statistics showing the quantity of grain, live-stock, lumber, and provisions shipped from the Western and Northwestern States into the States of the Atlantic seaboard north of the southern boundary of Virginia.
2. Statistics showing the quantity and value of the commodities just mentioned, which are shipped from the Western and Northwestern States into the South Atlantic and Gulf States.
3. Statistics showing the quantity and value of commodities shipped from the North Atlantic States into the South Atlantic and Gulf States.
4. Such statistical data as will develop (at least approximately) the value of the imports into and exports from several well-defined sections of the country. It is believed by men well informed in regard to commercial movements that it is quite practicable for railroad companies to collect and furnish much information of this character.
5. Such data as may be necessary for developing certain facts bearng upon the economy of transportation by rail under various circumstances and conditions. This is one of the most important branches of inquiry at the present time. Information of this character will aid very much in determining the distinction between just and unjust discriminations, reasonable and unreasonable charges, and other questions of public interest relative to our internal commerce.
Many of the abuses complained of in this country are directly trace. able to certain features of the organization of railroad companies. Rail. road management in this country has thus far been autocratic rather than representative in its form. In many cases almost absolute power is lodged in the hands of a single individual. Even at the present time many of the managers of railroads in the United States practically ignore their stockholders in the conduct of the interests intrusted to them, and the people have naturally been led to suspect that men so reckless of the interests of those whom they were bound to serre, could not be true to their obligations to the public.
In England, the policy of concealment and personal rule in railroad management has given place to that of publicity and accountability. The annual and semi-annual reports of the railroad corporations of England now present detailed and valuable information in regard to the financial affairs of the various companies, the magnitude and direc. tion of commercial movements, and other facts of interest to proprietors and to the public. This has tended to establish confidence in railroad securities and to shield stockholders from financial exploits designed to depreciate the value of their property. The public have through such publicity been brought to a more intelligent understanding of the relations of the railroads to the state, and many erroneous ideas in the public mind as to railroad operations have been dispelled.
During the last three or four years signs of improvement in this