Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

bill "for the more thorough investigation of accidents on railroads." It was simply referred to the committee on railroads. and canals and nothing further done.

A few other bills bearing on the safety of passengers were introduced between 1878 and 1882; but enough has been written to clearly show the character of the movement down to the latter date. The years 1866–1882 constitute a well-defined period during which resolutions and bills for the most part suggested the expediency of or proposed investigation concerning accidents on railways. The interests of passengers dominated and hence the passenger train alone was considered. The mail service was. mentioned also.

During this period self interest and public censure led the railways to rapidly introduce the train-brake in their passenger service, and by the year 1887 legislation on this point was hardly necessary. In the freight service this was not true, there being only some 24,000 freight cars equipped with such brakes in 1885. In this year the government railway engineers reported that while many railways had made a beginning in the use of automatic couplers upon freight cars they had not been applied to any great extent.

PROTECTION OF EMPLOYEES : 1882–87

Accordingly, in 1882, begins agitation for regulation of a somewhat different character. In that year Senator George (Miss.) introduced a bill to protect employees and servants engaged in foreign and interstate commerce, which bill was referred to a committee on education and labor. It is significant as the first proposition to regulate railways in the interest of the safety of railway employees found in congressional records. From this time on, however, such bills became frequent.

The fact is easily accounted for in the growing power of labor organizations. The National Labor Union declined after 1870, but in 1878 the national body of the Knights of Labor was formed and in 1881 it cast off the guise of secrecy. This body

5 H. J., 1877-78, p. 468: 1876-77. p. 343. « H, E.rec. Doc., 1885-86, 11:650. Cong. Rec., 1881-82, pp. 471, 1578.

agitated for a study of labor conditions and partly as a result of its efforts the National Labor Bureau was established. About 1880 the extended use of the strike began, indicating a militant trade unionism, and in 1887 there came the American Federation.

Again, the fact that of the total number killed, railway employees had come to furnish about 40 per cent. and of the injured over three-fourths, could not but have its effect. And the lack of proper brakes and couplers on freight cars made the explanation easy.

Most of the labor bills were similar in object to that originally introduced by Mr. George. In 1884, however, came the first proposition to limit the hours of railway operatives, a bill to prevent their employment for over twelve consecutive hours in each twenty-four being introduced by Mr. Wood (Ind.)."

Such legislation was to be passed later, but this bill got no further than a reference to the House committee on labor. It is of significance as the first attempt to remedy railway accidents by reducing the strain upon employees.

Naturally those bills which took the employee aspect emphasized the freight service, laying most stress upon the coupling problem. Such a measure, for example, was the resolution introduced in 1888 by Mr. Hatch (Mo.), instructing the newly established Interstate Commerce Commission to consider and report as to the "prevention of accidents in coupling and uncoupling cars and the use of brakes."

MAIL CLERKS AND MAIL SERVICE

As early as 1867 there was a bill to punish the obstruction of railways used for the transportation of the mails.10

The post-office cars used in the railway mail service were more substantially constructed than the ordinary passenger coach, and from time to time Congress provided for the proper heating and lighting of such cars.

[blocks in formation]

In 1881 the post-office appropriation bill made railways liable to a reduction of 10 per cent. in their compensation for failure to provide suitable safety heaters and safety lamps for postoffice cars with such saws and axes for use in case of accident as the post office department should require.11

The close connection between the safety of passengers and a prompt and sure delivery of the mails is apparent. Two bills introduced in 1886, for instance, were: a bill to protect life and property and to prevent accidents and delaying of mails (H. R. 4900); a bill to promote safer and quicker transportation of passengers and mails (H. R. 9272).

In a word, the government's interest in the safety of its employees in the mail service and its desire for the efficiency of that service both worked for government regulation in the interest of general safety.

11 Ibid., 21 : 375.

[blocks in formation]

The factors which make it logical to begin a new period, and a new volume, with the year 1850,1 do not at once find much expression in congressional action. In fact, the first ten years of the second half of the century differ relatively little from the preceding decade. They are characterized by debates on Pacific railways, duties on railway iron, the mail service, and land grants. There was not much action, save that in the shape of donations of land, and as yet the aid aspect of the government's relationship to railways dominated.

During the next decade, the second of the period, the fruit of the preceding economic developments appears in legislation along many lines. In addition to the subjects just mentioned, government construction, federal taxation, and regulation of commerce

among the several states, appear as the characteristic matters dealt with. This is the epoch of war and the consummation of the Pacific railway idea. The regulation aspect becomes prominent if not dominant, and toward the end of the decade the Granger movement takes its rise.

As in earlier years there was friction in the mail service which led to some regulation.

The war and the establishment of the nation were attended by an outburst of nationalism. The chief railway legislation consisted of acts giving the president power to seize and operate railways, to facilitate interstate commerce, to forbid territories to incorporate, and to establish various Pacific railways, incorporating and aiding by subsidies and land grants. Immediately following the Civil War came the period of greatest activity. Inflation was attended by revived railway construction. In the field of technics came the air-brake, the sleeping car, and steel construction of tires and rails. Organization was marked by the rapid breaking down of differences in gauge and the like, with a corresponding increase in co-operation and through transportation. It was in the spirit of the age, then, that Congress pushed railways across the Rockies to the Pacific and took steps to break down state barriers to interstate commerce.

1 See above, vol. I, p. 10.

Between 1870 and 1880 came notable developments in the relations between railways and Congress. For one thing the mere change in the number of railway bills is significant: the volume of railway measures increases tremendously. The qualitative change is little less marked. Rights of way and extensions of time were granted; but forfeiture of land grants, protection of settlers, mail service regulation, reasonable rates, regulation of interstate commerce—notably livestock,—are the questions dealt with. In 1869 the revulsion against the Pacific railway policy came,? and at about the same time began the movement to forfeit land grants. In 1872 an act regulating railway mail servire was passed, and in 1876 it was enacted that land-grant roads should receive but 80 per cent. of regular rates. In 1873 a bill regulating livestock traffic became a law. The McCrary bill passed the House in 1874, and the Reagan bill in 1878. In the latter year came the Thurman Act; and the position of auditor of railroad accounts was created.

It is almost enough to call attention to the fact that the Granger movement reached its height in the 1870-1880 decade. One object, however, of the chapter on "Congress and the Granger Movement'" was to emphasize the national aspect of

”? this movement-an aspect too often overlooked. As one looks back at the decade two problems seem to overshadow all others :

2

3

2 Above, p. 81 f. 3 Thid., p. 20.5. * Ibid.. p. 262 f. 3 Ibid., p. 288. • Ibid. p. 10.), ? Ibid., p. 2.39.

« PreviousContinue »