Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad
November 30, 1869
The approval of the contract fith Huntingdon & Co. by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company we suppose will be regarded as the best thing the company could do under the circumstances. The completion of the road is almost certain considering the stakes the comany has placed on the road. The road itself with help Richmond become a stronger city for trade.
The approval of the contract fith Huntingdon & Co. by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company we suppose will be regarded as the best thing the company could do under the circumstances. The whole question is will the Huntingdon company complete the road? If they do, the company will be indemnified for the sacrifice made in the bargain with them. If they fail to complete the road, then they will place the company and the State at a great disadvantage indeed, but they lose the great gains to themselves which constitute that feature in the contract which is called the sacrifice--viz., eight millions of dollars of shares in the stock of the company. And this sacrifice is the guarantee for the completion of the road. So great an interest stimulating the contractors to the completion of what they undertake must be considered one of the strongest of guarantees. Nothing could defeat the performance of a work which brings so vast a profit to its undertakers but a want of means and force. Now, can we suppose that either will be wanting in such men as Huntingdon, Lowe, Stewart, Aspinwaix, and their colleagues? Replying; upon the powerful motive which must stimulate them, and their proverbial sagacity, energy, and immense wealth, we must regard the completion of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad under their auspices as one of the most certain of events yet to be accomplished. The competing proposition, brought in at the eleventh hour by an unknown gentleman, without such credentials as are regarded indispensable in all business, and especially financial transactions, was most properly rejected. This gentleman, Mr. Carter, spoke for a firm called "Smith & Co.," of London. Even so respectable a name as Smith could hardly pass for millions unsupported by proper testimonials of credit. We could hardly see how even John with his great and universallyhonored name, could expert his draft for more than a million to be honored without them! But a telegram from the Westminster Bank, received after the difficulty about credential had been raised, said that that bank had had connections with Smith & Co. as "solicitors "--not bankers--and that they were "reliable" men ; and this "reliable," we take it, hardly meant that they were good for $8,000,000, but were men of good report, wouldn't lie, and might be trusted as other trustworthy men who do not ask to be trusted for more than they are worth without security. The company here had no knowledge that this answer of the Westminster Bank was written with the knowledge that Smith & Co., through Carter, proposed to assume any such obligation as $8,000,000; and if not written with that knowledge, it was not entitled to be considered. It seems that McGinness A Co. were in correspondence with the parties, and threw their influence in favor of Smith & Co. But when we consider that McGinnrss & Co. have had a sort of financial agency for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company for a year or more, and have utterly failed to secure for the company any material assistance, their recommendation could hardly be of much help to Smith & Co. And in another view of the probable connection of McGinness A Co. with the movement, their appearance in the matter at all was justly damaging. The company might well ask itself, shall wo reject the Huntingdon contract, and be thrown once more upon the broad ocean of embarrassment and uncertainty, to enter into negotiations with an unknown company in London, represented here by an unknown man, without letters of credit, whose best recommendation is from a house in this country whose efforts to assist the company have failed? The fact is, the whole proceeding in this proposition introduced by Carter was so much like that of "Link & Co." at Danville, that our reporter inadvertently wrote the name "Like it Co." instead of "Smith & Co." in his report of the proceedings of the stockholders' meeting. Carter said he would get the endorsement of the Bakings. The committee waited for it, and it never came. Precisely the same happened with Link! In neither case was there any show of "spondulies." Our opinion is that had the company thrown off Huntingdon & Co. to take hold of Smith & Co.'s bait they would have been nicely hooked, indeed. They would have waited long for another proposition from real capitalists in this country ; and we cannot think that the suspicious and utterly unsupported proposal from London would have ever resulted in anything but disappointment and embarrassment. "Well, the Huntingdon scheme is inaugurated. Huntingdon is President of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad, and the directory is composed of the men he and his colleagues indicated as proper men to direct the affairs of the company. According, also, to their wish. General Wickham is VicePresident, and will probably be the acting president, with the occasional supervision of Mr. Huntingdon. Thus the control of the company is translated to New York : but the interest controlled is fast anchored here, in Virginia and West Virginia, in property that is immovable; and it becomes the interest of these capitalists and directors in New York to promote our interests. Therefore we are safe ; and if by the scheme we infuse into the great work in question a life and activity which will hurry it to early completion, and secure for it the most efficient management, we will be more than compensated for the great bonus given to the men of New York. Anxiety has been expressed for the safety of our State and local interests with this great work in the hands of New York capitalists. We think they are unfounded. New York is too great a city to be engaged in the small business of warring upon the commerce of smaller cities. She is too powerful to be mean, too well assured of supremacy to tyrannize and hector over inferiors. The interests of this city and New York are entirely harmonious. And were they not, the interests of the capitalists who have embarked in the great work under consideration are sufficiently allied with ours to give us the best protection. Assuredly it will be their interest that the freights o their road should travel along tho whole route, and that the rates and accommodations of tho road should be such as to secure for it the largest business. And that is what we in Richmond want to see it have. If we here, with such a road, managed with each objects, cannot take care of ourselves and profit by the immense advantages it offers us, why we may well be considered as a people unable, under any circumstances, to build a great city. There never will be such a comment passed upon this community. A people who could triumph as they have over such calamities as those which have fallen upon Richmond the last ten years, can never fall under accusation of being wanting in energy or enterprise. The interest, the pride, and fame, of the capitalists now controlling the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad ore all guarantees for its speedy completion; and once built, the benefits that will flow from it to this city can hardly be over-estimated by the most sanguine speculator upon future events.
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“Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 3, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1537.