A New Enemy.

March 2, 1870


The commissioners of the railroads, appointed by Virginia and West Virginia, are determining the legality of acquisitions involving the Chesapeake and Ohio railroads.


... underground work is going on in hostility to the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad. Resolutions offered in the Senate on Monday propose a sweeping inquiry into the contract with Huntington & Co.; into the subscription by this city to the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad; and into the propriety of repealing or modifying the law authorizing the sale of the Blue Ridge railroad for State bonds. The gentleman who offered the resolutions had the good sense not to assume the paternal relation to them. The work apparently cut out for themselves by the authors of this movement is a great one, and we suspect one for which they are poorly qualified. In effect, they propose to impair the obligation of contracts by repealing a law under which rights have accrued, and to abrogate a contract that is completed involving millions, and under which a very large sum has been expended. The authors seem to be abounding in their zeal for other people's rights, and extend their protecting arms over this city. We are not aware that anybody has been solicited to interfere on behalf of Richmond, and the volunteered attorneyship is gratuitous, not to say obtrusive. Here was a great work undertaken by the State, which she failed to complete. It was stuck in the mountains, laboring under a heavy debt, and liable any day to be sold under foreclosed mortgages. After long and laborious consideration by the Legislature, a bill was passed proposing, with the concurrence of West Virginia, to appoint commissioners to dispose of the work to any company that would undertake to finish it. West Virginia concurred, and the commissioners appointed by both States met time and again, and a subcommittee appointed by them conferred at great length with capitalists in New York and elsewhere with the view of carrying out the object of their appointment. After a vast deal of interviewing and conferring the contract with the company headed by Mr. Huntington of New York, was completed and properly signed. Now, these gentlemen who thus undertook the work of completing the road were already large creditors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company, and might at any time have forced a sale of its property, and could at such sale have bought it at a price exceedingly low. "Possibly they might thus have gotten possession of the property upon such terms as would have yielded them as much or more profit than they will derive from the contract they have made with the commissioners of Virginia and West Virginia. And now comes first one assault and then another upon an enterprise so long despaired of, and just about to proceed with new life towards its early completion. The southside lines, in disregard of the entente cordiale of '67, under which there were two consolidated lines,-northside and southside -formed with conditional connections authorized between them-propose a new consolidation with the Chesapeake and Ohio road. Next comes some unknown party and proposes to repeal and impair all contracts, all obligations, between the State and the Chesapeake and Ohio Company. The present Legislature is composed of gentlemen who have had no great experience in legislation, but they are intelligent and just, and, we are sure, desire to give no example of legislative caprice and want of respect for vested rights. It is no light matter the investment of millions under contract with high officials acting by the authority of the State. Her prosperity, let alone her honor, depends upon the preservation of her pledges inviolate, and we do trust and believe that the present Assembly will in no way sully her reputation by hasty and ill-advised action. It may be well that the discontented and officious are raising questions for decision. They must end in approving and sustaining the act of the commissioners and the legality of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company.
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Charles Simmonds




“A New Enemy.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 8, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1601.