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HON. JAMES H. HOPKIN S.
The House having under consideration the bill (H. R. 5461) to establish a board of commissioners of interstate commerce and to regulate such commerce
Mr. HOPKINS said:
Mr. SPEAKER: I think I can justly claim that the agitation of this question of railroad discriminations began in the district which I represent. Individual rights were so completely ignored, corporate power was so arrogantly and unfairly exercised, that the patience of our people was utterly exhausted, and they cried out for relief.
In the first session of the Forty-fourth Congress, I introduced a bill to regulate interstate commerce and to prohibit unjust discriminations by common carriers. And soon thereafter I secured the passage of a resolution instructing the Committee on Commerce to investigate the charges of favoritism and combinations by railroad companies. That investigation proceeded far enough to prove specific acts of gross discrimination. But by some process, never yet explained, the investigation was smothered at a critical juncture, and the testimony already taken disappeared from the committee-room. I feel sure that what I state will be corroborated by my distinguished friend the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, who was then a member of that committee. The gentleman from Texas (Judge REAGAN), to whom I refer, took a lively interest then in the effort to protect the people against the wrongs inflicted by corporations. And I am glad to know that ever since then he has labored faithfully, zealously, and ably to secure the legislation necessary to that end.
I am willing to admit that there is less ground for complaint now than existed nine years ago. But I apprehend the reason is that during that time eight States have embodied in their Constitution clauses prohibiting discriminations, and the further reason that bills have been pending in each Congress since to place the strong hand of the Government upon the offending corporations. If a wholesome fear of penal statutes has wrought so much good, it is fair to presume that the enactment of a law upon the subject will accomplish still greater results. And it is also fair to presume that the defeat of this bill will remove all restraints and cause a repetition of the wrongs so earnestly complained of. For the nature of corporations has not changed. They are as rapacious, remorseless, and selfish as they were nine years ago. They are as ready as ever to benefit their friends and favorites at the expense of the general public.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that this view is confirmed by the action of the great railroad companies in reference to the pending measure. Their opposition is earnest, persistent, and bitter. Whenever this question has been before Congress these corporations have appeared, represented by the ablest and most distinguished counsel whom money
could employ. I have here one hundred and eighty-nine closely printed pages of argument delivered before the Committee on Commerce in opposition to the Reagan bill. It is true that certain features of the bill are especially attacked; but it is equally true that the spirit of all these arguments is against any bill asserting the authority of Congress over the subject-matter, and prescribing penalties for violations of the law of common carriers.
If no wrongs are practiced or contemplated why this intense opposition? Just and law-abiding men have no fear of penal statutes. Corporations which intend to deal fairly and equitably with all men will not object to measures of relief to those who may be unfairly and unjustly dealt with.
While I think this is a legitimate inference from the hostility of the railroad companies we are not left to inference as to the substantial fact of the existence of great wrongs which this bill is intended to redress.
It is boldly and specifically charged that an arrangement exists by which the transportation of live-stock is controlled by an association called the board of eveners, who receive a bonus of at least $15 per car upon all live-stock shipped over certain lines of traffic.
This sum is, of course, taxed upon the customer, and is a grievous burden to the poor to whom nutritious and cheap meat food is so essential.
Besides this, boards of trade, chambers of commerce, agricultural societies, and individual shippers in all parts of the country have sent up resolutions, memorials, and protests against the policy of discrimination practiced by most of the leading corporations. These are practical men, who have personal knowledge and experience of the injuries done them; and having failed to secure redress, they earnestly and emphatically demand that Congress shall throw its shield over them, and lay a rod on the backs of those who have oppressed them. All this goes upon the assumption that Congress has the constitutional power to grant the relief prayed for. Can there be any doubt of that? The Constitution expressly declares that Congress shall have power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States."
And judicial decisions may be piled upon text-books monument high; and on every side may be read in the clearest language a construction of these words so plain and simple in themselves.
Commerce means more than the mere barter of goods. It embraces everything by which purchase and sale can be effected, including transportation.
In his Commentaries upon the Constitution, Story, reviewing the clause already quoted, says:
It may, therefore, be safely affirmed that the terms of the Constitution have at all times been understood to include a power over navigation as well as trade, over intercourse as well as traffic."
And the highest judicial tribunal in the land has again and again affirmed this doctrine, and maintained the complete power of Congress to control “the subject, the vehicle, and the agent” of commerce.
For sixty years this question has in various forms been before the Supreme Court of the United States, and I believe in every instance the power of Congress to regulate or control commerce in its broadest and fullest sense has been clearly and unequivocally sustained.
Chief Justice Marshall said “ a power to regulate navigation is as expressly granted as if that term had been added to the word 'commerce.'''
Whether or not this great jurist foresaw that other methods would be used for conducting commerce than by navigation, his arguments and
illustrations apply with equal force to commerce by means of railroads. He says:
Commerce among the States can not stop at the external boundary line of each State, but may be introduced into the interior.
And if the trading intercourse be between two States remote from each other, must it not commence in one, terminate in the other, and probably pass through a third? (Gibbon vs. Ogden, 9 Wheaton.)
And, as if to emphasize the power of Congress, and sweep away all restrictions with which the ingenious counsel of railroad companies might seek to hedge in this power, Justice Marshall adds:
This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution.
And the only limitation is that contained in section 9 of article 1, to wit:
No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels bound to or from one State be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.
And yet we find to-day railroad corporations undertaking to do, ay, and boldly and persistently doing, that which Congress is expressly prohibited from doing.
The student of the Constitution is constantly compelled to pay reverence to the inspiration which guided the framers of that matchless document. They framed an instrument adapted to all circumstances, and to last for all time. They looked far into the future, and foresaw and provided for new and then unknown conditions. They saw the growth of corporate power, the exercise of franchises injurious to the people and yet beyond the control of State authority. And they provided that Congress should “control comnierce among the States,' and in that control that no preference shall be given" to any locality. The current of trade was to flow in its natural channels, and no artificial shutes were to be permitted to turn it aside for selfishness or avarice.
To any unbiased mind it must seem clear that the pending bill is in the exercise of a power expressly granted, and is to correct abuses expressly prohibited.
For the benefit of those who have any doubt as to the powers of Congress in this regard, and for the convenience of those who wish to investigate the train of judicial thought upon this question, I refer to Gibbons vs. Ogden, 9 Wheaton; Steamship Company vs. Port Wardens, 6 Wallace; Passenger Cases, 7 Howard; United States vs. Coombs, 12 Peters; Redfield on Railways; The Clinton Bridge Case, 16 Am. Law. Reg.; The Clinton Bridge Case, 10 Wallace; Brown vs. Maryland, 12 Wheaton; The City of New York vs. Miln, 11 Peters; Grover vs. Slaughter, 15 Peters; Corfield vs. Coryell, 4 Wash. C. C. Rep. ; Wilton vs. The State of Mo., 1 Otto; License Cases, 5 Howard; Erie Ry. Co. vs. Pennsylvania, 15 Wallace; The Granger Cases (4), 4 Otto; Railroad Co. vs. Richmond, 19 Wallace; Cooly vs. Board of Wardens, 12 Howard; Thomas vs. Railroad Co., 11 Otto.
From these authorities it will be learned that the power to regulate commerce means the power to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed.”
“And this intercourse''—which is covered by the grant of power and embraced in the definition of commerce-“must include all the means by which it can be carried on, whether by the free navigation of the waters of the several States, or by a passage overland through