Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/325

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
309
MISGOVERNMENT OF GREAT CITIES.

Mr. Shorey here admits judgment by confession, and his opportunities for knowing whereof he affirms are especially favorable. Without waiting to determine whether, as Mr. Shorey says, the man who makes merchandise of a public trust is less culpable than the other man who purchases what the trustee offers for sale, we will at least agree that we have fallen upon evil times, if the public interests are to be subordinated to the office-holder's cupidity.

It is not strange if private corporations, finding that they can only obtain legitimate privileges and authority by the payment of a certain largess or bounty, attempt to secure, perhaps, by the payment of an additional fee, perquisites and privileges which a proper regard for the public interests would deny them.

The magnitude of this danger can not be exaggerated. Private rights and interests are jeopardized, and, if maintained at all, are only so maintained at the price of an expensive litigation, which is a substantial denial of justice. Competition is prevented or crushed out by the potent agency of gold, and the public, bound band and foot by its own trusted agents, is surrendered to the greed and avarice of private corporations.

The practice of purchasing municipal legislation is not peculiar to American cities. Thomas Hare, in "Macmillan's Magazine," says, as to London: "The ascertained cost of legislation, to the companies who are forced to seek it, is enormous. Railway bills have cost from £650 to £1,000 per mile. Power to make twenty-nine miles of railroad cost the Hereford Company £250,000, equal to $1,250,000; and, before a spade was put in the ground, the Great Northern Railway had paid £420,000, or $2,100,000, in parliamentary costs!"

Is it not reasonable to expect that companies paying such enormous charges will attempt to obtain privileges and concessions somewhat commensurate with the outlay involved; and that they will endeavor to recoup from the public the money which they have paid in securing their charter privileges?

No opposition will be offered to this proposition:

"It should be practicable for any corporation to obtain a legitimate and proper franchise without the payment of fees for legislative favors. It ought always to be understood that illegitimate privileges or concessions prejudicial to the interests of the community could not be obtained at any price."

The recent developments in the matter of the Broadway Surface Railroad disclose a condition of affairs not only disgraceful to the venal participants in the infamy, but perilous to the community. It does not seem too much to demand that the municipal government be placed on a basis which will protect the public against such a prostitution of municipal powers.

The security of the public in all these cases is in the personnel of the city government. If it is practicable to put into that government