October 27, 1870
In the railroad industry, there are two distinct policies under which companies run. These policies vary rather significantly, however it is clear that one is more beneficial than the other.
There are two kinds of policy of railroads which are intended to enrich their owners. Of course it is not to be presumed that any policy of corporations is Intended for anything else. But, as with individuals, one of the two policies above alluded to proceeds from narrow and contracted heads and hearts, and the other from liberal and comprehensive views. The narrow-gauge policy of men of narrow heads and granitive hearts looks to the coming in every day of two cents for every one that is paid out, if possible. The instruction to the superintendent of transportation is to assess the charges for transportation as high as it is possible to make them without stopping all transportation. He is charged to tax what goes over the road as though there could never be an increase in freight, and that the expenses and profits must be made out of that never-to-be-increased freight. Of course this system, by restraining the increase of freight, verifies the wisdom of the narrow-minded directors, and comforts and satisfies them of their wonderful forecast. There could be nothing more fallacious, and little that could be more injurious to the public welfare. It restrains both production and transportation, and dwarfs the consequence, usefulness, and prosperity of every road In whose business it prevails. The opposite policy is that of cultivating and inviting freights - of lowering the rates until, like a swelling volume of water, they lift up and bear off to market everything that may be converted into money by being carried to market. This policy stimulates industry, developes the country, increases population, and swells the business and receipts of a railroad in a hundred ways. Take a single case: Say that upon a railroad there is a region of splendid timber or a mine of valuable ore. If the railroad puts the freight upon the timber or the ore down to a nominal price, that will induce men of enterprise to undertake the working of the forest or the mine, and an active business is immediately established. Workmen and their families come into the locality - mills and forges are built - villages rise - and the railroad has a multiplication of passengers, increase of freights of every sort, and where it had not a dollar for either freight or passenger is in receipt of thousands. This illustrates the whole effect of a liberal policy: how it enriches railways, increases industry, and swells the general wealth and population of the State. This last is the policy of wise and liberal men. It is the true policy of humanity and sound judgment. Richmond has been a terrible sufferer from the narrow-minded and selfish policy. She is still a sufferer, and this day her trade is the sport and plaything of men who think alone and most unwisely of their individual interests, and hesitate not to sacrifice the welfare of this community if they deem that by doing so they can add a few dollars to their private fortunes. The trade that would come to this city is repelled by the contracted and avaricious views of schemes that do not see beyond their noses; and thus is the natural course of commerce vexed and fretted, and the public spirit of an enterprising people crippled and circumscribed. We have been much encouraged by the railroad games upon the chess-board of late, and do still trust that our hopes are not to be disappointed. Richmond is in the happy situation of fearing nothing that may be worse, and therefore is ready to welcome any change whatever. And what a sad management, indeed, is that of our own people, which prepares us to welcome any alteration of the course of our railway transportation! Yes; let it come. Anything that will upset the narrow and contracted policies - anything that will relieve us from the system of constriction and parsimony that allows no growth, no increase, and detains Virginia in a condition stationary and despondent, with no hope, no sunshine in the future.
About this article
“Railroad Policy,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed October 27, 2020, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1868.