Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/218

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

by statute unconstitutional with reference to the new State Constitution, expressing no opinion on the point claimed by the railroads—that this Constitution itself was contrary to the clause in the United States Constitution in regard to impairing the obligation of contracts. Coming up for re-election, Judge Lawrence was defeated, to the astonishment of himself and everybody else, by a combination of farmers. Emboldened by success, the farmers held nominating conventions, and managed to elect several circuit judges, and county tickets in nearly half the counties. A great mass-meeting was held at Springfield during the session of the Legislature in that city, to urge upon it the necessity of a new railroad bill. The Legislature, nothing loath, passed the law of 1873, avoiding the point made by Lawrence against that of 1871 by providing for “reasonable” instead of “maximum” rates, and making it the duty of the commissioners to draw up a schedule of such rates. Provision was made that they be ideally unfit for the task in the following section: “No person shall be appointed who is in any way connected with any railroad company, or who is, directly or indirectly, interested in any stock or bond.” It is no wonder that their schedule was as fearfully and wonderfully made as a United States tariff list. The “Nation” called it “a crazy table of rates drawn up by a mob of ignorant and excited politicians.” The system had one advantage, however, over a cast-iron set of maxima fixed by statute. It could be modified or made inoperative as the information of the commissioners grew, and this is what was done in Illinois. Early in 1873 the “American Cheap Transportation Company” was organized at the Astor House, and later in the year two other great mass-meetings were held in Illinois. They accomplished only a great waste of pyrotechnic eloquence. Demagogues and sharpers had taken control, and the real movers had quietly dropped out.

In spite of the assertions of Mr. C. F. Adams and others, it can be shown that the Grange was not responsible for the Illinois legislation. When the Constitution of 1870 and the law of 1871 were passed, the Grange had scarcely a foothold in the State. The State Grange was organized in March, 1872. The real organ of agitation was the “State Farmers' Association,” whose subordinate lodges were called “Farmers' Clubs.” Its president, W. C. Flagg, testified before the Windom committee in 1873 that he was not a Granger, that his organization was an open and political one, while the Grange was secret and non-political, disavowing and preventing, as far as it could, any political action.

By 1874 seven States had passed so-called “Granger” laws, either fixing maxima or providing for a commission to make out a schedule of rates. The Iowa bill, on the former model, devoted twenty-six pages to a classification of freight. But all this was surpassed in Wisconsin. In 1873 there appeared in the State Senate a certain Potter, from Wautoma, Waushara County. It was said that his county