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INTRODUCTION.

PERH

ERHAPS no measure that ever passed

Congress equals in importance the law which has now become famous under the name of the Inter-State Commerce Act. It is the first attempt on the part of the National Government to regulate, if not to control, a private commercial business ; for, although the transportation of passengers and property is regarded as one in which the public has an interest, it is, in its main features, not different from any other private commercial occupation. The capital invested in such enterprises is generally furnished by individuals, and the business, in its financial features, is conducted purely for private gain. For the

past few years, however, public attention has been steadily concentrating around the subject of the government of railroad corporations, and, step by step, the Legislatures of the different States have encroached upon the prerogatives of these bodies, and

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interested themselves by various means in their affairs.

Finally, by one bold and single leap, the Congress of the United States has, through the Inter-State Commerce Act, sought to absolutely direct all of the business of railroad transportation in the United States. This piece of legislation, although not

new in thought, as we shall hereafter see, is entirely novel in the history of the United States Government; and when it passes through the ordeal of the courts, and its constitutionality is challenged, it will be found that outside of some disjected dicta of judges, there is no precedent for it in the decisions of the United States courts.

What its effect will be, assuming the perfect constitutionality of the Act, upon the prosperity or progress of the country, and upon the business and financial interests of the railroad corporations, no one can foretell; but that it will be a factor of the most vital importance, in the management of railroads, will be readily conceded. Whether the Act will be injurious to the financial condition of all the railroad corporations, or favorable to some and detrimental to others, it is impossible to predict.

But this is certain : So much power is lodged in the hands of the Inter-State Commerce Com-. missioners, that it lies mainly with those officials to determine whether the law will be salutary or hurtful, either to the railroads or the public; because there can be no question that if the Act is broadly and wisely interpreted, and prudently administered, by the Inter-State Commerce Commissioners, all interests may be subserved, if not benefited.

This move of the National Legislature is one strongly towards the direction of centralization of power in the hands of the Federal Govern-. ment. Strangely enough, its chief promoters and advocates are representatives from the South. The next natural step must be the purchase and absolute control, by the same power, of all this vast railroad property.

The subjects involved in the Inter-State Commerce Act are so interesting, and the people of the country are so deeply involved in its results, that no apology need be made for this little treatise, which embraces a history of the law, an analysis of its different provisions, as well as other matters generally connected with the subject.

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