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chase and distribution of city supplies ; this concentration being necessary in order to replace the present wasteful methods of purchasing the necessary city supplies by each department independent of the others. While the bill providing for this new system was not passed by the legislature at its last session, the matter has been so far advanced in public favor that the outlook appears bright for favorable action at another session.
The Chamber's Committee on Finance and Currency also presented reports in regard to several
bills introduced in the State Legislature vitally affecting the financial supremacy of the City of New York. One of these proposed to institute a state regulation of the sale of investment securities in such a way as to greatly burden legitimate operations without providing any effective bar against the sale of worthless securities by dishonest promoters. It is a matter for congratulation that this bill failed of passage.
The committee also reported adversely to three so-called Stock Exchange bills, one of which would have doubled the already heavy tax on stock sales. Another would have imposed uneconomic and harmful restrictions upon security loans and the third would have provided for the incorporation of the Stock Exchange. In view of the harmful effect of these bills upon the financial standing of this city, it is gratifying to be able to say that they failed to become laws and the action of the Chamber contributed in no small measure to their defeat.
Rarely even in the long history of the Chamber CANAL TOLLS of Commerce has there been such a spirited
debate as that of which took place at the regular meeting of February 6th, and at the adjourned meeting of February 13th, on the Panama Canal toll question. The debate resulted from the report made by the Committee on Foreign Commerce and the Revenue Laws in favor of Senator Root's bill striking out of the Panama Canal Law the provision exempting the coasting vessels of the United States from the payment of tolls.
The discussion was conducted with great ability on both sides, MR. Douglas and Mr. Nixon speaking in opposition to the report, and ex-Ambassador Joseph H. CHOATE, WELDING Ring, Jacob H. Schiff and Edward D. Page leading the forces in favor of the report.
The debate, it will be observed, focussed on the question of the obligations imposed by the HaY-PAUNCEFOTE Treaty upon this country. The question of the benefits to be derived, or otherwise, from the exemption of our coastwise vessels from tolls, became secondary in the debate to the larger issue of whether the good faith of this country was not involved. Therefore the interpretation of the language of the treaty was a determining point at issue ; and on this point the statement of Mr. CHOATE, who had a prominent part in the negotiation of the Hax-PAUNCEFOTE Treaty, was very illuminating and convincing.
The debate ended with the adoption of the report by an overwhelming majority. The attendance at the meeting was three hundred and forty and of this number, only seven voted in the negative.
Various questions relating to the improvement LABOR.
of labor occupied the attention of the Chamber of Commerce during the past year. The recent report of the Board of Arbitration which dealt with the dispute between fifty-two Eastern railroads and their engineers was so important, as relating to the great questions respecting the improvement of labor on the steam railroads and other public service corporations, that the Chamber believed that it would render a useful public service by reprinting a large part of the report in the Bulletin for the benefit of its members. The Chamber also adopted resolutions commending the findings of the arbitrators to the consideration of Congress; and the Chamber's action has been communicated to the Committees on Labor of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
At the January meeting also, action was taken by the Special Committee on Workmen's Compensation Legislation which reported a series of principles which it believed should govern legislation on this subject. There has developed a general consensus of opinion that Workmen's Compensation Legislation is desirable and inevitable; and this committee labored to bring about the enactment of laws governing the subject that should be just in principle and in application, and uniform in the different states.
The Committee on Arbitration of the Chamber of Commerce gave much attention to the dispute between the manufacturers in the clothing trade and their employees; and, recognizing the menace to the trade of New York and to the peace of the community of a long continued strike of thousands of persons employed in this important branch of industry, it worked to bring about a settlement of the questions at issue and while it was not successful in preventing the strike, the final settlement after a long struggle, was substantially on the basis of the terms suggested during the early negotiations by the Chamber's Committee.
The protest of the Chamber of Commerce against WATER CON the Murtaugh Bill to amend the Conservation
law, by enacting a new article in relation to hydro electric plants, was effective. While the bill passed the Legislature, the Governor, after a hearing at which the Chamber was represented by two members of its Special Committee on Conservation, killed the measure by a veto. The protest of the Chamber was put in the form of a report made by the Special Committee. Whether the state, it argued, shall eventually decide to construct storage reservoirs, develope water power within the forest preserve for the marketing of power in the open market, with revocable or indeterminate permits, or to transfer its right of eminent domain, to quasi-public service corporations, it certainly should not bandicap itself, at this time, in the attempt to construct and operate electric plants and transmission lines for supplying electricity to municipalities and persons within the state, as a competitor in commercial enterprises.
Not only has the Governor of the state adopted the view of the Chamber in regard to this measure, but what is still more important, the Supreme Court of the United States has, in a recent decision,
rendered a judgment as regards individual vested rights in water that seems almost revolutionary. Yet this decision follows the line of thought contained in another report by the Chamber's Conservation Committee. In this report, adopted on March 7, 1912, the committee said:
“ To classify water as real estate, and apply the theory of vested rights to it, resolves itself into an entanglement of legal technicalities and controversial rights from which there is no exit. The theory that the rainfall on its way to the sea may be corraled by one person to the exclusion of all others, cannot stand for the reason that it is neither good law por good sense. The reparian owner of the stream may exclude his neighbor to low water mark and may use the stream as it flows by, but the fact that he has a vested right on the adjacent land and banks of the stream does not carry with it a vested right in the water which flows past that bank; that water is free for the common use of all.”
This declaration has now been confirmed by the United States Supreme Court in a decision rendered May 26th, in the case of the United States vs. CHANDLER-DU'NBAR WATER POWER Co. The following are a few extracts from that decision :
“ This title of the owner of fast land upon the shore of a navigable river to the bed of the river is at best a qualified one. * * * It is subordinate to the public right of navigation, and however helpful in protecting the owner against the acts of third parties is of no avail against the exercise of the great and absolute power of Congress over the improvement of navigable rivers. * * * Só unfettered is this control of Congress that its judgment as to whether a construction in or over such a river is, or is not an obstacle and a hindrance to navigation, is conclusive. * * * The flow of the stream was in no sense private property. * * * Ownership of a private stream wholly upon the lands of an individual is conceivable; but that the running water in a great navigable stream is capable of private ownership is inconceivable.”
The one hundred and forty-fourth annual banANNUAL
quet of the Chamber was the occasion of a very BANQUET.
notable address by Senator Elhiu Root on The Spirit of Self Government. In this address, Senator Root spoke of the Panama Canal toll question as one which would test the willingness of the American people to be true to the ideals of self government, and show that a democracy can be honorable and just. What Senator Root said on this subject was greeted with loud applause and had a great influence upon public opinion. Senator Root later repeated the substance of his Chamber of Commerce address in the Senate.
Mayor GAYNOR made an illuminating speech on the various problems involved in the development of the Port of New York, and there were also striking and eloquent addresses by JAMES M. BECK and CHAUNCEY M. DEPEW.
The banquet was one of the most largely attended in the history of the Chamber.
The reception which was given by the Chamber RECEPTION
at its May meeting to the members of the French TO FRENCH DELEGATION. delegation visiting this country for the purpose of
presenting a bas relief by Rodin for the ChamPLAIN monument at Crown Point was in every respect a notable occasion. The attendance at the meeting was very large and representative of the commercial interests of the country; the addresses made were of extreme interest, and the important Frenchmen who honored the Chamber by their presence were very much gratified by the greeting which was extended to them. In an interview, M. GABRIEL HANOTAUX, formerly Prime Minister of France, who headed the delegation, said:
“Interested as I have been by the evidences of material progress here, I have not been so much impressed by them as by the men. We have had the honor of meeting many eminent Americans.
They have simplicity, solidity and dignity. I shall never forget the appearance of the Supreme Court in Washington, with its impressive settings and its Justices, who have the bearing of Roman Senators.