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caucuses) for the nomination of the party candidates for every public office, from President of the United States down to the humblest local official. The whole machinery of party nomination would, under the terms of the Geran Bill (the measure bore the name of the Assemblyman who introduced it), be as much under the control and direction of the State as the actual election itself. The passage of such a measure appeared to spell the inevitable doom of party bosses and machine rule ; and so in a measure it did, though in most electoral areas politicians adept at wire-pulling have revealed sufficient fertility of resource to find means for retaining, even under the Geran Act, something of their threatened domination. Such a Bill was assured of an organized and desperate opposition. Prophets of established reputation foretold a débâcle for the Governor.
A conference of dissentient Democrats and Republicans was called to concert the defeat of the measure. Governor Wilson invited himself to the conference and addressed it for four hours. He did not kill the opposition, but he detached from it every legislator responsive to the appeal of political morality and democratic principle. The Geran Bill went through the Assembly by what, for so bitterly contested a measure,
almost luxurious majority. In the Senate, where its rejection was counted as certain, it had a passage of unruffled tranquillity. The first undertaking in the platform programme was redeemed.
The further measures of the session of 1911 need not be considered in intimate detail. А
Corrupt Practices Act required the publication of election expenses ; prohibited contributions by corporations to party funds ; forbade betting on results and treating by candidates ; and imposed on candidates a statutory maximum of expenditure. Together with the Geran Act, the measure
far towards transforming the political atmosphere of New Jersey.
The drafting of an Employers' Liability Bill presented some difficulties, owing to recent legal decisions in another State raising doubts as to the constitutionality of a compulsory measure on the English model. The New Jersey Bill, therefore,
so drawn as to impose liability on the employer in the absence of a specific agreement to the contrary between master and man. In actual working practically no advantage has been taken of the loophole thus offered for contracting out. The Act is in almost universal application throughout the State, and has been quoted by high legal authorities as a model for other State legislatures.
There remained the regulation of corporations. State and municipal trading has made little headway in America, most of the public services which in this country are under popular ownership and direction being discharged under contract by private corporations. Hence the ceaseless stream of scheming, lobbying, and intriguing by gas companies, power companies, street-car panies, railroads, road-cleaning contractors, and the like, by which legislators, municipal, State, and Federal, in America are exposed to perpetual
temptation to corruption of varying degree. That is not the only evil effect of the system. Franchises, or contracts, conferred by the Legislature may be paid for directly by secret commissions to the members of a Senate or Assembly, or indirectly by contributions to party funds (very often to the funds of both parties simultaneously), and that outlay is possible largely because the successful company can always recoup itself in enhanced charges to the consumer.
On both grounds Governor Wilson was abundantly justified in his endeavour to put the relations of legislators and corporations on a different footing. The first measure directed to that end was a Public Utilities Bill, establishing a Public Utilities Commission such as was created about the same time in a number of other States. The purpose of the commissions is, as an American constitutional writer' succinctly puts it, "to divorce all corporate regulation from politics by taking it out of the hands of the Legislature and placing it in the control of a small administrative body.” Such a commission, consisting usually of not more than four members, has jurisdiction over water, gas, telephone, tramway, railway, lighting, and similar companies, with power to regulate their operations and control their charges, having regard equally to the interests of the consumer and of the company shareholder, and to investigate their finances and supervise new issues of capital.
The institution of a Public Utilities Commis
· Young, The New American Government and its Work, chap. xviii.
sion in New Jersey was one of the chief products of the first legislative session of Dr. Wilson's Governorship. Its effect has been all that was looked for in the purification of public life and the protection of the interest of the consumer, With the Public Utilities Bill was associated a similar measure providing for the reform of municipal administration by the adoption of the commission form of city government. That system involves the supersession of the municipal council of the old type, whose members are elected on party lines, and subject to the constant solicitations of corporations and their agents, in favour of a small commission, presided over by a salaried mayor, which administers all the affairs of the city, often acquiring and running by direct labour such necessary enterprises as waterworks and electric plant. The commissioners are elected for a two or three year term by a direct popular vote, which appears in most cases to have been successfully emancipated from party influences. The commission system, which the 1911 Act made voluntary, not mandatory, was in 1915 in operation in twenty-four New Jersey cities, including Atlantic City, Jersey City, Trenton, and Hoboken. Only three States of the Union had a larger number of municipalities so governed.
The measures so far enumerated do not comprise the whole harvest of 1911, and the harvest of 1911 does not comprise the whole yield of Mr. Wilson's Governorship; but between the close of that session and his resignation on becoming President of the United States in 1913, his power of legislative initiative and direction at Trenton was seriously curtailed. The elections to the Senate and Assembly in November 1911 resulted in a Republican victory, and when the Governor met the new Legislature in March 1912 he found his political opponents in command. The handicap was less serious than it would have been under normal conditions. Mr. Wilson had never exaggerated party distinctions, and he had made it a regular practice to consult as freely with individual Republicans as with individual Democrats. None the less his influence over the houses was inevitably less than in the previous year, and in the remaining twelve months of his Governorship the legislative output fell off. That was not necessarily an evil. The main reforms Dr. Wilson had had in view were already effected, and, in any case, efficient administration was as important as sound legislation. The chief measure of 1912, an attempt to reorganize the various State boards and commissions on a basis of economy and efficiency, was largely vitiated by the Legislature, but in the following year the Governor's last official message, an appeal for the further regulation of corporations, led directly to the formulation and passage into law of the series of Bills known as the Seven Sisters, directed to the protection of the public from exploitation by trusts and combinations, and of shareholders from the manipulation and watering of stock.