Friday, August 24, 2012
THE EARLIEST REPUBLISCAMS WERE LEGAL
THE EARLIEST REPUBLISCAMS WERE LEGAL. NOT SO, THE ONES THAT FOLLOWED.
Shortly after the War of 1812 which the United States started by attacking Canada, our Federal and State governments made honest efforts to deal with the many problems presented by our rapidly growing country.
The tax revenue simply was not there for large Federal projects. The Industrial States that needed good reliable roads and canals over which to transfer items needed for production as well as finished products set out to build their own transportation systems. The efforts were piecemeal and not part of an overall coordinated plan. Consequently some states had good roads leading to their borders, but they did not connect with good roads in adjoining states. Quite a few canals were built, but more were needed and not funded.
As the population was rapidly expanding to the West it was obvious to the farmers and industrialists that we needed a vast national program to facilitate trade and transportation. As the engineering of railroads improved and safety concerns abated (less steam engine explosions and derailments) the railroads were seen as the best way to rapidly expand transportation, especially between East and West. The Federal Government realized that it needed to encourage the rail companies, but the only means (short of increasing taxes – never popular with the public) was to use the wealth of land that the Government had taken from the American Indians in treaty after treaty. Land could be freely given to the railroad companies as long as they built railroads over the land. The Railroad companies could eventually sell the land to farmers who would be obligated to use the railroads to transfer their produce and animals to big cities to feed America.
Eventually the donations of lands for miles on either side of the railroad right of way to the railroad builders became an eagerly accepted method for businessmen to become multimillionaires in very short order. Greedy men became fantastically rich, and the nation usually got operative transportation systems and new immigrant farmers were able to get their products to market. It was a Triple Win situation.
All the aspiring railroad tycoons had to do was hire cheap labor from the immigrant labor pool to build the railroads. They could get the funding from the banks and stockholders because success was guaranteed by the Federal Government. The sale of land on either side of the railroads was advertised all across the nation and in Europe.
My great Grandfather, Joseph Hubbell and his new wife immigrated to Minnesota from Switzerland to buy that farmland after reading about it back in the old country. His new neighbors in that part of Midwestern America were Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Dutch, Germans and Austrians. (That was a lot of Germanic languages! No wonder why a lot of the people of Minnesota speak English with an accent to this very day!) Compared to land prices in Europe, all of those immigrant farmers thought they were getting a good deal. None of the advertising told them about the occasional Indian uprisings and a few lost their lives to Indian attacks; but, by and large, they made a living off of the land, and the railroads made a profit on shipping their farm products to Chicago and other destinations.
Years later, once the new Railroad Tycoons realized that they had a monopoly on transportation from the farms to the cities, they started charging outrageous shipping rates and earned the name of Robber Barons.
With the passage of the Pacific Railway Bill during the American Civil War, the Union and Central Pacific Railroads were given millions of acres of land to complete a railroad all the way to the Pacific Ocean from the Midwest. One company started on the West Coast and built through the Sierra Nevada mountains towards the East, while the other built from the Midwest to the West. On May 10, 1869 the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, where the ceremonial "golden spike" was temporarily driven to fasten the last length of rail to commemorate the historic event.
It was shortly after that ceremony that land grants to the railroad tycoons ceased to be public policy, because many people had begun to question giving away so much land to private companies that made a few men unbelievably rich. Between 1850 and 1870, nearly 130 million acres had been granted to 80 railroad companies. That was seven percent of the continental United States! Most of that land was west of the Mississippi. Go West Young Man was wise advice for many men as long as the government paid them handsomely to do so.
Fantastic fortunes were easily made in the railroad industry, many due to land sales alone! Many others made outrageous sums of money just by building the railroads and making them profitable businesses. Excessive Federal generosity to businessmen who were in the right place at the right time created men like Vanderbilt (Vanderbilt University), Leland Stanford (Stanford University), Mark Hopkins (InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco), Collis P. Huntington (Huntington, West Virginia), and Charles Crocker (Crocker Bank. Charles was also chief shareholder of Wells Fargo bank at one time. Ironic, Wells Fargo bought Crocker Bank in the 1980’s). The last four men were known as “The Big Four.” There were a lot more than those men, but they left their names behind them as a testimony to how easy it is to become fantastically wealthy when taking advantage of Government generosity. It was all legal because the government said it was.
Unfortunately, in our current era there are far too many men (and a few women) who want to take government money by any means possible. They, the modern day Republiscams, do not care if their acquisition of wealth is illegal just as long as they can get away with it. Most of them do because our legal system is behind the times and has not even defined some of what they do as illegal, even though it is highly immoral.
Governments don’t want a population capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough to passively accept their situation. -- George Carlin -– A great humorist who was deadly serious with much of his humor.