|RAILROADS AND TRADE-CENTERS.|
IF, a century or so from now, a student of the political history of the United States shall ask, How happened it that its Congress was once moved to establish a court of star-chamber aimed at an industry not ordinarily operated except by charter; a court which was to be not only an oyer and terminer, but an inquisitor of its own motion; which should dispense with due process of law or with any process at all; which should supply penalties, civil, criminal, and as for contempt with plentiful liberality; but never assume, nay, never so much as hint or suggest a probable or even possible protection or premium upon any probable or even possible good or useful thing to be by any accident done or subserved by that industry—if, we say, the political student should ask that question, in view of the fact that no public interest seemed to have required such a statute, and that its immediate effect was to raise freight rates to the people passing the law—the lawyer of that date might suggest possibly that an application of the rule of interpretation, which provides that the intention of the framers of a statute may be looked into (under certain restrictions), would be most likely to furnish some sort of a clew.
Should the inquirer then cast about for this intention, he might perhaps light upon the following (which I clip from a morning paper):
"Springfield, Ill., June 30.—At a meeting of the Illinois Grain Merchants' Association yesterday, Senator Cullom was called upon to speak on the Interstate Commerce law. He said: ' . . . The requirements of the law that all charges shall be reasonable, and that there shall be no unjust discrimination or unreasonable advantage or preference in favor of any person or place, had been shown by the character of the complaints against the enforcement of the act to be absolutely demanded.' In reference to the long and short haul clause, he said: ' For many years the railroads of the country have so absolutely controlled our interstate commerce that we have no means of knowing what are the natural channels of trade, or what would be the effect of the natural laws of trade upon many, at least, of the present commercial centers. What the critics of the law call natural centers of trade are centers created by railroad favoritism which has diverted trade from its natural channels into artificial ones at the expense of less favored localities' " [The italics here are ours.]
In reading the above, the student of political history aforesaid might be led to remark that to centralize and to submit to the espionage of a simple paternal commission of this Government, not only the entire railway interests of the United States (being its operation of 125,379 miles of railway, with a funded debt of $3,669,005,722, upon