« PreviousContinue »
on an agreed state of facts are concerned, we are fully convinced, and I think that is the opinion of all teachers who have had experience in the practice of law, that you may carry on courses in pleading and practice just as efficiently as you can matters of substantive law. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT PAGE: Gentlemen, what is your pleasure as to this report?
MR. BROWN: I move that it be received and filed.
PRESIDENT PAGE: The next matter on the program is a discussion upon the question of Municipal Ownership, opened by Mr. Clarence S. Darrow, of Chicago.
MR. DARROW: Those matters that are particularly dry and uninteresting we always reduce to writing, and Municipal Ownership, not being a very lively subject at its best, I thought it would fall in that category. So, as far as what I have got to say goes, I am going to submit it on brief.
The public ownership of public service corporations is often confounded with Socialism. While there are some points of resemblance between public ownership and Socialism, still they have no necessary connection with each other. In one sense every collective activity, even the policing of the State, is socialistic, and the difference between the crudest form of police service and the complete collective ownership of all means of production and distribution is covered by a series of steps so gradual that it may be difficult to draw any distinct line of demarkation at any particular point. And yet there is considerable difference between those activities which require the use of public property or the power of eminent domain and those other business affairs which can be carried on independent of State aid.
Without highways modern civilization cannot exist, and it is inconceivable that highways are possible wthout the assertion of the right of the community as against the claims
of the individual. There are places where the general welfare must prevail over any individual rights, and without the assertion by the State of such power, society must find a new sort of civilization. It is scarely worth while to prove that the laying out and controlling of highways is one of the first functions of the State and yet at no very distant time highways were private enterprises and until a quite recent time individuals were granted the privilege of constructing and maintaining highways and the public compelled to submit to toll for their use.
Very few people to-day would contend that the highways in the country or the streets in the city should pass again to private use.
Under modern industrial institutions the private ownership of highways would make monopoly inevitable and would lead to the complete subjugation of the great mass of citizens. But highways change from time to time. Once it was the rivers, oceans and lakes; again the turnpikes and the city streets. To-day the city streets, the rivers, the lakes and the turnpikes are all comparatively unimportant standing by themselves. The great highways of commerce and of transportation are the steam and electric roads, upon which all commercial life depends. A traveler who goes from Chicago to New York or even makes a journey of twenty miles within the State is generally ignorant of the turnpike roads and takes no means of informing himself of where they are, the conditions of their improvement or the distance between two points. Likewise in sending his produce to market and in receiving his goods in return he knows nothing of the turnpike and the street, but makes his bargains and does his business with the view to the railroads alone.
The law, which generally lags behind progress and public opinion, has uniformly held that turnpikes and steam roads were alike public highways; that while steam railways might be owned by private corporations, they are still impressed with
the public use and must manage their business under police supervision and for the equal benefit of all the people affected by them. Any other theory would be utterly intolerable and the bitterest opponents of public ownership would not contend that society could exist with the unrestricted right of private ownership of public highways. The streets of the city are as important to urban life as the turnpike to rural life and the street cars are as important means of urban transportation as the steam railways to interstate commerce and travel.
No one would tolerate the granting of a street to a private corporation or individual who should be allowed to fix the terms of travel and regulate it to suit his personal whims. The street car is the great public means of travel in our cities. Its use is as much a public use as that of the street itself. Likewise the water, the lighting and the heating depend upon public highways, upen the right of eminent domain, upon the power of the State, without which private companies cannot perform these services, and both by law and right these companies are bound to perform equal service to all citizens at fair rates of compensation.
The most pronounced advocate of private ownership would scarcely contend that steam railways, street railroads, water works, gas works and the like should be freed from State control but when State control is conceded the whole question is admitted. State control can only be urged because the business is public and necessary to the general welfare of the people.
It requires no proof or argument to show that it is more difficult to control another's business than to control your own. The State control of railroads, street cars and the like has always been unsatisfactory and beset with evils and dangers, and yet however unsatisfactory this system has been no one would think of abandoning control and leaving these utilities unrestricted in the hands of private individuals.
Men and corporations alike pursue business for their own profit. Their concern is not the social welfare, but private in