Sever Hall was filled to overflowing yesterday evening at the occasion of Professor Hadley's very interesting lecture on the "Inter-State Commerce Bill." The opportunity to hear so eminent authority on so live a question as this could not operate otherwise than draw all interested in railroad matters to the lecture.
The first attempts to regulate railroad rates were made by the so-called "granger legislation" in the Western States. This term is not very accurate, but it arose from the fact that it was the farmer element that used its influence to bring it about. The lowest rates were taken as a basis for the whole scale of transportation. The example which Illinois set in this matter was followed by other states as Wisconsin in 1884. The result was very disastrous, and foreign capital was no longer willing to invest in the railroads of those sections.
A commission was appointed in Massachusetts in 1876, of which Charles Francis Adams was the leading spirit.
The commission had only advisory powers, and they made the country see and appreciate the necessity of sober and thoughtful legislation. The first Inter-State Commerce Bill was proposed by Mr. Reagan, but this underwent numerous changes, until finally the present bill was introduced by a committee on railroads. After a series of compromises, by which the Senate agreed to prohibit pools, and the House agreed to the appointment of a commission, the bill became a law. Professor Hrdley then stated and discussed the most important clauses of the bill. There are: I - The provision against personal discrimination, which he characterized as very just. The fact is that where discrimination is made between two shippers it is usually the wrong one that gets the advantage. II. - The long and short haul clause, whose justice in theory he was willing to allow. There is, however, this much to be said against it, that the business of the country has distributed itself in accordance with the old discriminating rates. Men would plant factories where low rents and cheap raw material made up for high rates. The enforcement of this clause of necessity revolutionizes many of these arrangements and causes much hardship to shippers. III. - The prohibition of pools is inexpedient, as the experience of all other countries has shown. Even Germany, where there is so much government control over railroads, has found it impossible to prohibit pools and equalize rates at the same time. Whereas Germany employs a force of 8000 men to manage railroad matters, our bill intends that five commissioners should do all the work over a larger area. They may take such aids as a yearly appropriation of $100,000 will provide.
In a government constitution like ours, it is to be feared that the Inter-State Commerce law will be abolished while it is in the beginning of its operation and that the people will not wait until the good results which must finally ensue have been realized.