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changes therein as the differences in the North Carolina Act and our conditions suggested. These rules are herewith filed and appear as a part of this report.
The enormous amount of capital invested in the leading trunk lines, and the power thus granted without control, necessarily led to excesses and the want of proper regard to the rights of citizens. This led to mutual distrust and want of confidence, whereby the public interest as well as the success of the railroads suffered. The interest of each is promoted by good feeling and mutual prosperity. To deny corporations a reasonable and fair compensation on their investment, or burden them with unreasonable legislation, as well as taxation, is contrary to public policy, it being evident that the prosperity of railroads enables them to give better accommodations and to serve the public more satisfactorily. The Commission has in all matters endeavored to adopt a conservative course as a friendly umpire between the railroads and the public; and the universal courtesy shown by the various officials, and their readiness to redress grievances, induces us to believe that our efforts in this regard have been of benefit.
As the Commission has been in operation only a portion of a year, the report is necessarily imperfect. We can briefly state, however, that on all roads making actual expenses, the charges for fare and freights have been reduced; and all unjust discriminations, originating within the State, under our control and brought to our attention, have been corrected. The Commissioners' standard rates now in effect are lower than in any other Southern State. Until our population becomes more dense, and manufactories more numerous, rates cannot be established as now exist in States north of us without bankrupting the corporations.
The taxable property of the railroads was assessed:
In 1890 at
Showing an increase of ---
$ 6,101,594. 28
In making a fair and uniform rate of taxation, the Commission was much embarrassed, for the following reasons: Two of the very largest systems, viz., the Seaboard Air Line and Wilmington &
Weldon and Atlantic Coast Line, claimed, the former, partial and the latter entire, exemption from taxation, for all time, for its main line and so-called branches; in fact, go so far as to claim the right, desired, to build a branch line from Goldsboro or Wilmington to Murphy, from the extreme east to the extreme west, and to be protected by the exemption clause of the Act. This assumption is controverted by the Commission, and a suit is now pending by which it is hoped to compel them to bear their just proportion of the public burdens. Another difficulty was from the fact that many existing roads did not make their actual expenses, and consequently could meet no tax at all commensurate with the cost of construction. The projectors of these lines being, not speculators, but enterprising, progressive citizens and counties, expected their earnings in the advancement of their section, and not in dividends. Upon such a seemingly low rate was fixed.
The machinery for taxation, as prescribed in section 47 of the Act constituting the Commission a Board of Appraisers, was drawn to meet the case of the North Carolina Railroad, and can be applied to no other, from the fact that, by its charter, its road-bed is exempt from taxation, and the capital stock bearing a market value, which is an exception to all other roads not claimed to be altogether free from taxation. By attempting to apply the method, as indicated above, its impracticability will be at once discovered. The net earnings of an entire road, or a portion of a road, was considered the just basis for valuation, and not the cost of construction. As an illustration, the Western North Carolina Railroad was assessed in three divisions — the first, from Salisbury to Old Fort, being first-class in every respect, streams crossed with iron bridges and stone viaducts, the track laid with heavy steel rail, entitled it to a good valuation. The mountain section, upon which the grading of one mile would equal in cost that of ten miles on the first division, was rated lower, for the reason that an assisting engine is necessary to overcome the mountain grade, thereby increasing the expense of its management and thus reducing net profits. The third division, from Asheville to Murphy, has even steeper grades, the crossings of streams made with temporary structures, laid mostly with old chair rail, having been in service since 1856. This section has never earned actual expenses,
and cannot, with any degree of justice, be rated as either the first or second.
The horrible disaster at Bostian bridge, on the Western North Carolina Railroad, resulting in the death of twenty-two persons and the seriously maiming of twenty-six, would certainly come within the purview of the Act empowering the Commission to investigate at their discretion the cause of the wreck. Agreeable thereto, a careful examination was made, and information obtained from every possible source, and the result is now on file in this office. The Act does not clearly define what further action should be taken, or to whoin or when a report should be made, and, as the responsibility of the accident is to be judicially determined, we deem it improper to embody our views in this report.
Telegraph and Express rates have been reduced and made uniform. Copies of these tariffs are herewith attached and made a part of this report.
There are sixty-seven railroads in North Carolina with a total mileage of 3,432 miles, every county in the State being penetrated by one or more roads, except the counties of Alleghany, Ashe, Clay, Dare, Graham, Hyde, Pailico, Transylvania, Tyrrell, Watauga, Yadkin and Yancey.
The various complaints made to the Commission, and our action upon the same, are also embodied in this report. Other complaints, not of public importance, do not appear.
These were called to the attention of the management complained of and were readily redressed.
As another report has to be submitted before the next session of the Legislature convenes, we have deferred until then any suggestions we may have to make for the perfection of the Act.
LAWS ESTABLISHING THE COMMISSION.
The following is the law under which the Railroad Cominission was created, being Chapter 320 of the Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of North Carolina, session 1891:
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE GENERAL SUPERVISION OF RAIL-
The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact:
bly to elect three elected by the General Assembly to carry out the pro- Commissioners. visions of this act, and no member of this General Member of Gen
eral Assembly Assembly shall be eligible for the position of Railroad ineligible. Commissioner. The term of office of said Commis- Term of office. sioners shall begin on the first day of April next after their election and shall continue for six years, but the terms of office of the Commissioners first elected, which shall be by the General Assembly, shall be as follows: one for two years, one for four years and one for six years. The General Assembly next preceding the expiration of the term of office of any of said Commissioners shall elect his successor. In case of vacancy the Gover- Vacancies. nor shall appoint to such vacancy, and his appointee shall hold until the qualification of his successor, who shall be elected by the General Assembly that convenes next after the vacancy has taken place, and the person then chosen shall hold the office for the unexpired term. The said Commissioners, in addition to the oath to sup- Oath. port the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of North Carolina, shall take, to be administered by one of the Judges of the Superior or Supreme Court, the following oath of office, which oath shall be signed by said Commissioners
and attested by said Judge and recorded in the office of
ability, without fear, favor or malice, or reward or the Qualificatlons of hope of reward: so help me God." Said Commissioners
shall not jointly, or severally, or in any way be the
therein of any such company he shall at once dispose of Suspension from the same; and in case any Commissioner shall fail in
this, or in case any one of them shall become disquali-
office shall be determined by a majority of the General Vacancy, Assembly in joint session. In any case of suspension
the Governor shall fill the vacancy, and if the General
Governor shall hold until his successor is elected and
sioner shall not be removed from his office, then the
a salary for the time he is so engaged, but a Commis-
office by Governor.
term of suspen. sion.