Samuel J. (Samuel Jones) Tilden.

The writings and speeches (Volume 1) online

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phy of the equity system, whose proud boast has ever been
that it leaves no wrong without a remedy.

On the discovery in 1871 of the frauds committed by the
governing officials of the municipality of New York, the
Attorney-General, acting on these intimations of our own
courts and on the English precedents, instituted actions
against the parties inculpated by positive proofs. Within
the last year the Court of Appeals, in the cases of The
People vs. Tweed, Ingersoll, et al., and of The People vs. Fields,
has decided that the State cannot maintain those actions.
The result is at last arrived at that neither the taxpayer
nor the State in his behalf can seek redress ; that in all the
long interval, nobody has been competent to sue or conduct a
suit, except some corporation counsel who was an appointee
of the accused parties. This is a state of our jurisprudence
which calls for new legislation.

In choosing between the two expedients of vesting the right
to sue in the individual taxpayer or in the State,

New legislation.

it is obvious that the latter should be preferred.
The existing statutes intended to confer some limited rights
on the individual taxpayer are practically nugatory. The
reasoning of the Court of Appeals, in the cases denying him
the right under our customary jurisprudence or the common
law, argues with cogency the inconveniences which might
attend the possession of such a power by every member of so
multitudinous a bodv. The wiser alternative is to vest the


power in the people of the State, acting by their attorney-
general. It will be analogous to the authority which exists
in respect to private corporations and in cases of nuisances
and of quo warranto, and will be in conformity to the safe
methods and traditional usages of equity jurisprudence.

The establishment of such a remedy for the injured taxpayer

Local self-govern- or citizen will not detract from, but will make

possible, and will found on a durable basis, local

self-government. Human society will struggle, like every-


thing that lives, to preserve its own existence. When abuses
become intolerable, to escape them it will often surrender its
dearest rights.

All the invasions of the rights of the people of the city of
New York to choose their own rulers and to manage their own
affairs which have amounted to a practical denial of self-
government for the last twenty years have been ventured
upon in the name of reform, under a public opinion created
by abuses and wrongs of local administration that found no
redress. When the injured taxpayer could discover no mode
of removing a delinquent official, and no way of holding him to
account in the courts, he assented to an appeal to the legisla-
tive power at Albany ; and an Act was passed whereby one
functionary was expelled, and by some device the substitute
selected was put in office. Differing in politics as the city and
State did, and with all the temptations to individual selfish-
ness and ambition to grasp patronage and power, the great
municipal trusts soon came to be the traffic of the lobbies. It
is long since the people of the city of New York have elected
any mayor who has had the appointment, after his election, of
the important municipal officers. Under the charter of 1870,
and again under the charter of 1873, the power of appointment
was conferred on a mayor already in office. There has not
been an election in many years in which the elective power
of the people was effective to produce any practical results
in respect to the heads of departments, in which the actual
governing power really resides.

A new disposition of the great municipal trusts has been
srenerallv worked out bv new legislation. The arrangements

v v GJ

were made in secret. Public opinion had no opportunity to
act in discussion, and no power to influence results. Inferior
offices, contracts, and sometimes money were means of com-
petition, from which those who could not use these weapons
were excluded.

Whatever defects may sometimes have been visible in a
system of local self-government under elections by the people,


they are infinitely less than the evils of such a system, which
insures bad government of the city, and tends to corrupt the
legislative bodies of the State. A popular election invokes
publicity, discussion by the contending parties, opportunity for
new party combinations, and all the methods in which public
opinion works out results.

No part of the civic history of this State is more instructive

recorded debates of the Convention of

Official accounta-

biiity a condition ig21 O n the question of electing, by the voters

of municipal J

independence. O f the counties, the sheriff, who is the executive
arm of the State. It was thoughtfully considered by our
foremost statesmen. Its solution embraced the two ideas,
the selection by the locality, and the removal for cause by the
State. The Convention of 1846 carried its dispersion of the
power of choosing local officers much farther on the same
system. That system is to distinguish between the power of
electing or appointing the officer and the power to hold him
to account. It is, while dispersing the one to the localities, to
reserve the other to the State, acting by its general repre-
sentatives and as a unit, and to retain in the collective State
a supervisory power of removal in addition to whatever other
accountability may result to the voters or authorities of the
locality from the power to change the officer at the expiration
of his term, or from special provisions of law. The two ideas
are not incompatible. On the contrary, each is the comple-
ment of the other. Such dispersion of the appointing power
has become possible only because these devices have been
invented to preserve accountability to the State.

The right of the State, by its general representatives, to
remove, is capable of being made to destroy the local election
or appointment ; the right of the State to sue is not. It is
also less in conflict with the local power of election and ap-
pointment. Official accountability is not complete if there is
no remedy for official wrongs but removal ; that remedy needs
to be supplemented by accountability in the courts on the
appeal of a taxpayer or citizen of the locality. If a right to


that appeal is denied, the appeal will continue to be made, on
often recurring occasions, to the legislative power, and the
system of the last twenty years will be perpetuated.

The problem of municipal government is agitating the intel-
lect of all civilized peoples. In our own State it Municipal
is the more interesting and important because it
involves the half of all our population, which lives in cities or
lar^e villages. The framework of the svstem which we should

O v

adopt must be intrenched in the fundamental law, and pro-
tected, by constitutional restrictions, from arbitrary and ca-
pricious changes by legislation. This problem failed of any
solution in the recent amendments to the Constitution. It is
worthy of long-continued thought and debate. Time and dis-
cussion will at last mature a safe and wise result.

The State of New York, not denying the general unfitness
of Government to own, construct, or manage the The Erie Canal

and the transpor-

works which afford the means of transportation, tation problem,
saw an exception in the situation and in the nature of the
canals, which are trunk communications between the Hudson
and the great inland seas of the North and West. They con-
nect vast navigable public waters, and themselves assume some-
thing of a public character.

The voyage from Europe to America, even if destined to
Southern ports, is deflected by the ocean currents The natural paas
so as to pass closely by the gates of our com- ofcommerce -
mercial metropolis. That capacious harbor is open the whole
year, is accessible in all prevailing winds, and is sheltered,
safe, and tranquil. From it the smooth waters of the Hud-
son give transit to the lightest hull, carrying the largest
cargo, which the skill of man has brought into use. The head
of navigation on the Hudson touches the natural pass of com-
merce opened up in the geographical configuration of this
continent, where the Alleghanies are cloven down to their
base, and travel and traffic are allowed to flow across on
a level and by the narrowest isthmus to the lake ports,
which connect with all that great system of inland water


communication and interior commerce, the most remarkable
in its character and extent and accessories that exists in any
part of the globe.

Tributary to the Western centres of lake commerce such as
Chicago and Milwaukee, are vast areas of fertile

The Northwest.

soils, which stretch to and partly include the
valley of the upper Mississippi. Open prairies easily brought
into cultivation, fitted for the use of agricultural machinery,
adapted to the cheap construction of railways, and peculiarly
dependent on their use as a means of intercourse and traffic,
have been opened to settlers at nominal prices. They have
been rapidly filled by a young, intelligent, and energetic popu-
lation, trained in the arts and industries of an older civiliza-
tion, and applying them to natural advantages which have
been found elsewhere only in conjunction with the social bar-
barism of an uninhabited wilderness. They are now covered
with a network of railways which connect myriads of little
centres with the lake ports and with the trunk railways that
bring them into practical contiguity to our great Eastern
centres of population, capital, commerce, and manufactures.
New York, without arrogating to itself an undue share in

York's lib- these achievements, may contemplate with proud

eral policy the .

Erie Canal trust, satisfaction its contribution to results so magnifi-
cent. Important as are the advantages which have accrued to
itself, it has not sought to monopolize the benefits of its policy.
The price of such cereals and other products of agriculture as
are exported in considerable quantities are mainly fixed by the
competitions of the foreign markets, even for our own con-
sumption. The cheapening of the cost of transit, therefore,
chiefly profits the producer. This consideration illustrates
how large and liberal, in the main, is the policy adopted by the
State, - - a policy which 1 had the satisfaction of advocating in
1846 and in 1867, of treating these great works as a trust
for the million, and not seeking to make revenue or profit for
the sovereign out of the right of way. In consonance with
the same policy was the action of the State in 1851 in per-


mitting the transit free of tolls upon a railway which it allowed
to be constructed between the termini of the Erie Canal and
along its bank. It had originally undertaken the construction
and administration of the canal, in order to create a facile and
cheap transportation demanded by the interests of the people,
and not otherwise possible to be attained. It did not for-
get the motive for which it had acted, and remember only
its selfish interests as a proprietor. It therefore, by an Act
which anticipated the necessity afterward to arise by the con-
struction of rival routes, repealed all restraints on the car-
riage of property, and opened to free competition every mode
of transit, even in rivalry to its own works, for the products
of the West and for the manufactures and merchandise of the

The Erie Canal remains an important and valuable instru-
ment of transport, not only by its direct services, Xot to be aban _
but also by its regulating power in competition doned -
with other methods of transportation. The State, so far as we
can now foresee, ought to preserve it, and not contemplate its

If the State accepts the view which commands it to abstain
as a proprietor from making profit out of the Duties of the
canal, but to deal with it as a trust, it still has
great duties to perform. It is bound, as a faithful trustee, to
protect this great work, not only from a spoliation of its rev-
enues and from maladministration, but also from empirical
changes, proposed in the seductive form of specious improve-
ments, that would destroy its usefulness while charging it
with new incumbrances, and from an improvident tampering
with its incomes that would dissipate its means of effecting
real improvements. These are its ever-recurring and its
greatest perils.

The nine hundred and twenty-five miles Of lake navigation
from Chicago to Buffalo, and the four hundred Lake and canal

. -, f in navigation cannot

and ninety-rive miles ot canal and river naviga- be assimilated.
tion from Buffalo to New York, and the three thousand miles


of ocean navigation from New York to the Old World, cannot
be made homogeneous, or even assimilated ; each is subject to
physical conditions which are unchangeable, and to which the
vehicle of transportation must be adapted.

The rough and stormy Lakes require a strong vessel, made
Lake boats unfit seaworthy by its deep keel, fully manned, and of
a form intended for speed in an unlimited expanse
of water. The canal admits of a light keel and a shape which
will carry a larger proportional cargo ; for the boat moves safely
in a tranquil channel of water, closely confined by physical
boundaries on the bottom and sides, and cannot but submit to
a slow movement. The propeller of the Lakes tends to grow
in dimensions. A recent one carries seventy thousand bushels
of wheat, or two thousand one hundred tons. A barge to be
towed by each propeller is a system now being tried with fair
prospects of success. The lake craft of the average size carries
less cargo in proportion to the vessel than the canal-boat ; and
it costs twice and a half or three times as much as the canal-boat
per ton of capacity. If the canal were made large enough to
pass the lake craft, the transporter could not afford to use the
lake craft on the canal. It carries too little cargo ; it is too
costly. It would have to reduce its rate of motion from about
eight miles per hour on the lake to less than three miles per
hour, which is the highest aim of the canal-boats, that now
make only 1-j 4 ^- miles per hour. Such a vehicle of trans-
port would not be adapted to the water channel it must
move in, and would not be economical. Transshipment at
Buffalo, with modern machinery, would cost little, compared
with the loss incident to using an unfit and ill-adapted

To enlarge the Erie Canal to dimensions adapted to the move-
ment of such a vessel, at the rate of less than three miles per
hour, would be so inconvenient to the traffic that it would be
easier and cheaper to construct an independent work. That
would probably cost a principal sum, the annual interest on
which would be greater than the entire amount now received


by the carrier for his services and by the State for its tolls on
all the existing business. A shorter route would be likely to
be preferred. The Hudson River, from Troy to deep water,
would need a similar reconstruction.

A project often urged within the last ten years is the en-
largement of the locks and other structures of Enlarged locks

and unenlarged

the Erie Canal, without a proportionate enlarge- water-way. v
ment of the water-way. That plan exhibits a singular union
of injurious costliness and fatal parsimony. It is founded on
the fallacy that the use of a large boat, without reference to
its adaptation to the water-way in which it is to move, would
be economical. It is supported by an estimate of the State
Engineer in 1864 that the cost of transportation would be
reduced one half. His opinion has been repeated on all
occasions until the present time. But that estimate, when
analyzed, is found to omit all the wages and support of the
crew during the return trip and during the time occupied in
loading and unloading, and to allow for the use of the boat
about half its real cost. In other respects it was utterly
unworthy of trust.

The truth is, the boat is but one part of the whole machine
of transportation. Economy in the service de- Economy from the
pends upon getting the best adaptation of all the adaptations.
various parts, the boat, the motive power, the canal with its
structures and its water-way, the best group of adaptations
which adjustments and compromises of each can work out and
combine, and the resultant of the greatest economies which
can be obtained in conjunction. A larger boat, in a water-way
which now needs to be itself enlarged and improved to give
a good transit to the present boat, would be an unmixed
damage to the economy of the service, attained at immense

The Erie Canal was planned in view of the best science and
experience then possessed. It has excellent Perfecting the

canal the wise

adaptations, and is a superior instrument of policy.
transportation. It should not be fundamentally changed in


its character and conditions without great consideration. It
should be perfected, and so made available to every practica-
ble extent for facilitating and cheapening the exchanges of
commodities between the East and the West.

The two questions concerning it are, first, its capacity

its capacity, its to do an a gg re g at e business during a given
economy. period ; secondly, the economy per ton per

mile of the transportation it affords. These questions are
generally confounded with each other in all discussions ; but
they are completely distinct, and depend upon wholly different

Capacity to accommodate an aggregate tonnage during a
day, a month, or a season of navigation depends

Its capacity ample.

on the number 01 boats 01 the normal size which
the locks are able to pass during the period. Boats can be
multiplied indefinitely ; the limit to their use is in the num-
ber to which the locks can give transit. The time occupied
in a lockage is the test ; but it is unnecessary to apply it, for
the actual results of experience set at rest every doubt.

Of the seventy-two locks which intervene between the waters
of Lake Erie and the waters of the Hudson, all but a few have
been doubled for many years. In 1867, when the subject was
discussed in the Constitutional Convention, thirteen remained
single. For the first time, on the opening of navigation next
spring, double locks will be brought into use throughout the
entire canal ; that will nearly double the capacity of the canal
to make lockages. The largest delivery of the Erie Canal at
tide-water was in 1862 ; in that year it amounted to 2,917,094
tons, in cargoes averaging one hundred and sixty-seven tons.
The lockages both ways, including rafts which pass only one
way, at Alexander's, which is in the throat of the canal,
three miles west of Schenectady, was 34,977. In 1873 the
deliveries were 2,585,355 tons, in cargoes averaging 213 tons,
and the lockages were 24,960.

The theoretical capacity of the canal will be three or four
times the largest tonnage it has ever reached. There is no


doubt it can conveniently and easily do double the business
which has ever existed, even though the locks be not manned
and worked with the highest efficiency. The subject of
capacity may therefore be dismissed from this discussion.

The question, however, really worthy of our attention is
how we can perfect the canal so as to reduce Economy per ton
the cost per ton per mile of the transportation P ermile -
it affords. Quickening the movement of the boat increases the
service it renders in a given period. It lessens every element
in the cost of that service ; it enlarges the number of tons
carried in the given time ; and by enlarging the divisor of the
same expenses, it reduces the rate of cost per ton per mile.
The economy in the transit of the boat must be made, not in
the locks, but in the water-way. The seventy- TO be increased

by perfecting

two locks in the three hundred and forty-five water-way,
miles between Buffalo and West Troy, if each takes five
minutes, would occupy exactly six hours. In October, 1873,
seventy-six boats were timed, and their average passage down,
with average cargoes of two hundred and twenty-seven tons,
was ten days, two hours, and forty-six minutes, or nearly two
hundred and forty-three hours. If we double the time taken
in the locks, the time occupied on the levels between them
would still be over 95 per cent of the whole time of the voyage.
It is clear, therefore, that the saving of time must be made in
the 95 per cent, and not in the 5 per cent. Economy per ton
per mile in the transportation, so far as it depends on the
structure of the canal, is to be found in the relation which
the water-way bears to the boat. The movement of the boat
through water confined in an artificial channel, narrow and
shallow, is, at best, very slow. The engineers in 1835 planned
the Eric Canal and the boat with such relations to each other
as to give the greatest economy of power and facility of transit.
The boat has inclined to grow rather large and too square.
The water-way was practically never excavated in every part
to its proper dimensions. Time, the action of the elements,
and neglect of administration, all tend to fill it by deposits.


I may be excused for repeating here what I said in the
Constitutional Convention eight years ago :

" What the Erie Canal wants is more water in the prism more
water in the water-way. A great deal of it is not much more than
six feet, and boats drag along over a little skim of water ; whereas
it ought to have a body of water larger and deeper even than was
intended in the original project. Bring it up to seven feet, hon-
est seven feet, and on all the levels, wherever you can, bottom
it out ; throw the excavation upon the banks ; increase that seven
feet toward eight feet, as you can do so progressively and economi-
cally. You may also take out the bench-walls."

I recommend that such measures be taken as your wisdom,
aided by such information as can be had from

Recommendations. . .

the proper administrative officers, may devise,
to put in good condition and to improve the water-way of the
Erie Canal ; and that provision be made by law to enable the
State Engineer, soon after navigation is opened, to measure
the depth of -water in the canal by cross-sections as often as
every four rods of its length, and on the upper and lower
mitre-sill of each lock.

Such a policy, if properly executed, will give a better and

Future inventions more economical transit to the boats if they con-
and economies. tinue to be towed by horses. It will also facili-
tate the use of steam canal-boats and the full realization of the
advantages they may be expected to give as to economy of
transportation. The obstacle to their use in 1867 was that the
machinery, in its then state, displaced - too much cargo to be
economical, and was in other respects imperfect. The progress
of invention since seems to promise more beneficial results. If
the movement of the boat can be expedited from one and forty-
two hundredths miles to three miles per hour, including the
time consumed in the lockages, the improvement will be of
great importance and value. The estimate of the able engi-
neer of the Commission on Steam Canal Navigation is that
the cost of carriage of a bushel of wheat from Buffalo to New
York will be reduced from eight cents to four cents. It is


not to be supposed that the inventive genius applied to this in-
teresting subject is exhausted ; and if these results shall in any
degree fail to be realized by the present experiments, we may
nevertheless anticipate more complete success in the future.

It will be seen that on the Erie Canal alone the surplus of
income over expenditures is about 37-J- per cent

. Income and outgo.

oi the gross income. It the three other canals

which are to be retained by the State as part of the system be

included, the surplus is but 11| per cent.

The present tolls on wheat are 3 ^ cents, and on corn 3 cents
per bushel, from Buffalo to Troy, 345 miles.


They were reduced in 1870, those on wheat
from 6y 2 ^-, or one half ; and those on corn from -i^ 8 ^- to 3 cents,
or about 38 per cent. One cent per bushel taken off the pres-

Online LibrarySamuel J. (Samuel Jones) TildenThe writings and speeches (Volume 1) → online text (page 3 of 52)