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There was a time when public officials were content to receive occasionally a trip pass for themselves. They have learned to ask for passes for themselves, for members of their families, and for political adherents, and others. They not only ask for passes good over lines which are controlled by the officers to whom they apply, but they ask for passes over connecting lines, to distant and remote parts of the country, good at all seasons of the year. They not only ask for trip passes for themselves and friends, but they ask for annual passes for themselves and friends, and no matter how many passes may be granted to a single individual, if a single request be refused, the enmity of that official is aroused, and his vengeance exercised, if he has an opportunity so to do.
I have known a member of the Supreme Court of the United States to apply for free transportation, the money value of which in a single instance, was between two and three hundred dollars. Governors of States, United States Senators, members of the House of Representatives, members of every department of State government, from the Governor to the janitor, ask and expect to receive these favors.
In consequence of the position I have taken, and persisted in on this subject, for several years, I have seen County Auditors and State Boards of Equalization, who hold the power of taxation over us, exercise it tyranically and unjustly, to the detriment of the companies I represent.
I have known of the chiefs of the executive departments in the State government, combining in the capitol, during sessions of the Legislature, and at other times, to wreak their vengeance upon our companies because they were not served with annual passes by our company, as by other companies.
I have known of the passage of resolutions in State Legislatures, made against the companies I represent, accompanied by unsuppressed howls of delight, for the reason that the members had not been served with passes, according to their wishes and requests. I have received offers from men in public station to serve our company in their official capacity, if I would give them passes, and I have received threats from the chiefs of executive departments of State, because I declined to give them annual passes, as other railroads have done.
I have seen other railroad companies issue these passes without stint, to persons in all grades and stages of public life, and receive a direct pecuniary benefit therefrom, and have seen those
benefits withheld from our company because I did not do as other men did, in the granting of passes.
An officer of a rival railroad company recently told me that be had taken the entire Board of Tax Commissioners of a certain State, with their families and certain friends, from a large inland city to Fortress Monroe and Washington and back home, furnishing the comforts of a Fullinan car, free transportation, and all expenses of the journey, and receiving, as he said, as a direst reward thereof, a reduction on the appraisement of the property of the company he represented, equivalent to many thousand dollars a year.
If railroad companies originally issued passes voluntarily to eminent men in public life, and from disinterested motives, the system of granting passes indiscriminately to public officials has far, and long since, outgrown the control of railroad officials, and it is now an evil of which most of them are ashamed, and of which all of them would be glad to be rid.
A pass over a railroad is the equivalent of money, and few men in civilized society are above the temptation of receiving it. In very many instances, railroad companies receive a direct pecuniary equivalent of the pass which they give. In other cases, the public officials who receive passes quietly enjoy the saving of money, which the passes afford them, and discharge their duties impartially, as between the railroad company and the public, precisely as if the passes had not been given.
I regard the tendency of the system pernicious in the extreme. The difference between giving a thing of money value, and money itself, to a public official, is slight. If railroad officials and public officials become accustomed to the giving and receiving of things of value, the official character of the recipient being the only consideration thereof, the conscience of both railroad officials and public officials becomes demoralized and corrupted, and men on both sides soon learn that money might as well be given as passes, for the purpose of controlling the action of public servants.
I have always thought that the practice of railroad companies in giving these passes to servants of the public was, and is, one important factor of the distrust and denunciation in which the common people indulge against railway corporations. It certainly needs no argument to prove that free transportation is a thing of money value, and that these passes, given to men in public life, who, in the exercise of their public functions, are required to pass upon the rights of railroad companies, as between
railroad companies and the public, are given for a consideration, and no matter what the forms or terms of courtesy on which those passes are given, the selfish and improper motive is always apparent.
The present is a good time for law makers and officials of railroad companies to take heed of the signs of the times, and regulate their conduct according to the ancient principles of justice and patriotism.
I hope the Constitutional Convention of New York will enact a thorough provision on this subject. It is imperative that the Convention shall find some way, if possible, by which a constitutional provision may enforce itself, for I have no hope that any Legislature can be found to be unselfish and patriotic enough to deny themselves the privileges of free transportation for themselves and friends.
There is one State in the American Union whose Constitution contains a provision prohibiting persons in the service of that State from receiving passes. That Constitution in this respect, is a dead letter in the State where it exists, and members of all departments of State, including herein, nearly all members of the Supreme Court and of inferior courts, receive and expect, and even ask for passes.
A constitutional provision on this subject should be broad enough to make it a misdemeanor for any person elected or appointed to any position in the service of the public, to ask or receive for themselves, or any other person, free transportation.
Within the last few years black-mailing legislators have been introducing bills for the taxation of sleeping car companies, express companies and telegraph companies. The result is that passes are being issued by these various organizations in greater or less number, and telegraph passes can now be found in the pockets of nearly all members of the Legislature, in all the important States.
I hope the Constitutional Convention of the great State of New York will set a noble example on this subject. If they can be made to realize the evils and the evil tendencies of the free pass system, as it now exists, I am certain they will do so.
I. T. BROOKS, Second Vice-President.
MEMORIALS OF FARMERS' ASSOCIATIONS.
OF THE VARIOUS FARMERS' ASSOCIATIONS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, ASKING THE INCORPORATION INTO THE CONSTITUTION OF PROPOSED AMENDMENTS, GENERAL ORDERS Nos. 62, 67 AND 71. ORDERED PRINTED AND PLACED ON THE FILES OF MEMBERS.
We, the farmers and taxpayers of the State of New York, in convention assembled, at Agricultural Hall, in the city of Albany, on the 4th day of September, 1894, do present the following memorial to the Constitutional Convention now in session, and respectfully ask for the following amendments to the Constitution, now before that body.
It is well known that the agricultural interests of the country are in a depressed condition; especially is this true in the Empire State. Our farms, located only a few miles from market, are, in many instances, not paying expenses. Land values are, therefore, constantly declining, so much so that our farms, when thrown upon the market, will not, in many cases, bring the cost of the improvements thereon; while bonds and mortgages, and even many of our corporate stocks, are at or above par. This abnormal condition, in our judgment, results mainly from two
First. From our present system of tax assessments. Land which represents only one-fourth of the wealth of the State, now bears ten-elevenths of the expenses of government; while the vast personal, which represents three-fourths of the taxable property of the State, bears only one-eleventh.
We have, therefore, practically reached the Henry George single-tax millenium, and what is the result? We answer, a general unrest, a depreciation of land values, except in the great cities, and a boom in all classes of personal wealth.
We hold that equal taxation is just and fundamental, and should, therefore, be in the Constitution. Were our taxes levied equally upon all taxable property, the normal relation between
real and personal property would be restored. It would also reduce our land tax seventy-five per cent, and by so much as it reduced the tax on our farm lands, so much it would increase the value of our farms.
We, therefore, ask that General Order No. 62 be added to the Constitution that provides that all property, whether real or personal, shall be taxed at its full market value, except that which is already exempt by law.
This would settle in the public minds, our system of taxation, and put a stop to the present discussion of the anarchitic singletax fallacy which has already done much to unsettle our real estate values.
Second. The second cause in the decline of our agricultural prosperity results from our present system of exorbitant local freight rates. The actual cost of transportation on our main lines of railroads is only one mill a mile per ton. The main roads are even now advertising to bring produce from St. Paul to New York, a distance of nearly 1,500 miles, for five cents per 100 pounds, while the same roads are charging us from fifteen to twenty cents per 100 pounds on distances often less than 100 miles, making a difference of 100 per cent. Our roads are chartered as common carriers, and as such have no right to make discriminations so unjust to the people. It is evident that such a system must be ruinous to all local trade. Give the farmers of this State a just system of pro rata freight rates, and we can successfully compete with the farmers of the west; without it, neither skill or economy can save us from ultimate bankruptcy.
We, therefore, ask this Convention to favorably consider the Cornwell amendment, General Order No. 71, which provides for a clause in the Constitution that shall establish a system of pro rata freight rates under the advisement of the Railroad Commissioners, which shall be so arranged that no short haul shall equal in price any longer haul.
We also ask this Convention to pass the McDonough amendment, No. 67, so far as it relates to the government permitting the people to transfer our State canals, through the Legislature, to the general government whenever desired, upon such terms as may be acceptable to the people.
We are aware that an influential canal trust is making every effort possible to fasten forever upon the State the incubus of a gigantic canal tax.
The people are tired of being taxed for the maintenance of a. canal when less than one-fourth of its tonnage comes from this