The champions of right fought well, fought n.o.bly, in the legislature, but alas! the gold of the monopoly was too powerful, and the _extra session_, called to devise means of compelling the railroad corporation to obey the law, adjourned-adjourned, having _failed_ in accomplishing the object for which it was called.
The legislators themselves acknowledged that corruption was too strong to be withstood. Mr. Nicol said:
"There was once a belief that the legislature of California was a high, honorable body, into which it should be the pride and glory of fathers to see their sons gain admission. I have been here two sessions, and instead of being a place to which an honorable ambition should prompt a young man to aspire, I believe it to be the worst place on the continent. _We are surrounded by a lobby which degrades every man here by constant temptation and offers of corruption; the monopoly has made it no place where a careful father will send his son._"
If these powerful monopolists were to speak candidly, would they say that the result of their struggle for money in the last fourteen years of their lives has compensated them for that shoulder-to shoulder fight with opponents who were in the right, and must be vanquished by foul means? "I shall see the grass grow over Tom Scott," prophetically wrote Mr. Huntington several times. He had his wish. The grass grows over Tom Scott. Mr. Huntington can claim the glory of having laid low his powerful opponent, for it is well known that the ten years' struggle for the Texas Pacific undermined Colonel Scott's health beyond recovery.
Broken down in health, he left Mr. Huntington master of the field. But is the victory worth the cost? The fight was certainly not glorious for the victor. Is it to be profitable? Many lives have been wrecked, many people impoverished, much injustice done, and all for the sake of having the Southern Pacific Railroad without a rival, without competition. This road runs mostly through a desert; how is it to be made profitable? In their eager pursuit of riches, the projectors of it miscalculated the inevitable, and did not foresee that other capital could, in a few years, build competing lines through more favorable routes; did not foresee that it would have been a better policy to adhere honestly to the terms of their first charter; did not foresee that it would have been better not to sacrifice San Diego. No, they deemed it a wiser plan to kill Tom Scott, to kill San Diego, and then take the money earned in this manner to go and build railroads in Guatemala and in British America. To men who do not think that in _business_ the rights of others should be considered, this policy of crushing or desolating everything in the path of triumphant accumulators no doubt is justifiable. But why should the rich enjoy rights that are "deadly to other men?" It is alleged in defense of the California railroad monopolists that as they do not think it would be lucrative to run a railroad to San Diego, they do not build any. If this were a true allegation, why did they fear the Texas Pacific as a competing road? Why did they spend so much money and ten years of their lives to kill that railroad? Surely, if they knew so well that a road to San Diego would not pay, why were they so anxious to prevent its construction? Was it out of a purely disinterested and philanthropic solicitude for their rivals? Did Mr. Huntington wish "to see grass grow over Tom Scott" because he kindly desired to prevent his financial ruin?
Obviously, to maintain that the monopoly did not build a road to San Diego because it would not pay, and that they would not allow Tom Scott to build it either, for the same reason, is not logical. If to construct and run such road would have been ruinous, that was the very best of reasons for allowing it to be built. This would have been as effective a way of getting rid of Colonel Scott as by seeing grass grow over his grave.
But no, it is not true that the San Diego road would not have been profitable; the truth is, that because it would have been profitable, it was dreaded as a rival of the Southern Pacific. But the monopoly had no money to build two roads at once, so they (characteristically) thought best to kill it. As they could not have it, no one else should. And for this reason, and because one of the railroad kings conceived a great animosity against the people of San Diego and became their bitter, revengeful enemy, they were not allowed to have a railroad. This last fact seems incredibly absurd, but if we remember how a Persian tyrant razed a city to the ground because he ate there something that gave him an indigestion, we ought not be surprised if a modern king-one of California's tyrants-should punish a little city because it did not turn out _en masse_ to do him humble obeisance. Doubtless, to indulge in such petty malice was not lofty; it was a sort of mental indigestion not to be proud of; it was a weakness, but it was also a wickedness, and worse yet, it was a _blunder_.
Time alone, however, will prove this. In the meanwhile, the money earned in California (as Californians only know how) is taken to build roads in Guatemala. Towns are crushed and sacrificed in California to carry prosperity to other countries. And California groans under her heavy load, but submits, seeing her merchants and farmers ground down with "special contracts" and discriminating charges, and the refractory punished with pitiless severity. Thus, merchants and farmers are hushed and made docile under the lash, for what is the use of complaining? When the Governor of this State sought in vain to curb the power of the monster and compel it to pay taxes by calling an extra session of the Legislature, and nothing was done, what more can be said?
Ask the settlers of the Mussel Slough what is their experience of the pitiless rigor of the monopoly towards those who confidently trusted in the good faith of the great power. These poor farmers were told by the railroad monopoly to locate homesteads and plant orchards and vineyards and construct irrigating canals; that they would not have to pay for their land any higher price than before it was improved. With this understanding the farmers went to work, and with great sacrifices and arduous labor made their irrigating canals and other improvements. Then when this sandy swamp had been converted into a garden, and valueless lands made very valuable, the monopoly came down on the confiding people and demanded the price of the land after it had been improved. The farmers remonstrated and asked that the original agreement should be respected; but all in vain. The arm of the law was called to eject them.
They resisted, and bloodshed was the consequence. Some of them were killed, but all had to submit, there was no redress.
And what price did the monopoly pay for these lands? Not one penny, dear reader. These lands are a little bit of a small portion out of many millions of acres given as a subsidy, a _gift_, to build the Southern Pacific Railroad, which road, the charter said, was to pass through San Diego and terminate at Fort Yuma.
The line of this road was changed without authority. [Mr. Huntington talks in his letters about _convincing_ people to make this change.]
Thus the Mussel Slough farmers got _taken in_, into Mr. Huntington's lines-as was stated by the public press.
But these, as well as the blight, spread over Southern California, and over the entire Southern States, are historical facts. All of which, strung together, would make a brilliant and most appropriate chaplet to encircle the lofty brow of the great and powerful monopoly. Our representatives in Congress, and in the State Legislature, knowing full well the will of the people, ought to legislate accordingly. If they do not, then we shall-as Channing said "kiss the foot that tramples us!"
and "in anguish of spirit" must wait and pray for a Redeemer who will emanc.i.p.ate the white slaves of California.