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March 2, 1889
Record and Guide.
DeVojeD to Ke^I- Estate , BuiLoif/c Aj«,ct(iTE.crrgi^£ .HouseiIold DecohatioiJ.
Si/sitJEss pAd Themes or GeHeraL !j^t€i\est
PRICE, PER YEAR IN ADVANCE, SIX DOLLARS.
Published every Saturday.
TELEPHONE. - - - JOHN 370.
iCommimlcatioiis should be addi'essed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
T. T. LINDSEY, Business Manager.
MARCH 3, 1889.
The market for railroad securities dm-ing the past week has
been a waiting one, as neither investors or speculators care to do
much until something is known respecting the financial policy of
the incoming administration. The inaugura! address on Moudaj-
may give a hint that will make or n^ar the market. But President
Harrison is more Hkely, in that document, to indulge in vague
generalities than in specific recommendations. A call for an extra
session of the new Congress would probably depress prices, aa it
would be interpreted as leading to another tariff debate and a con¬
sequent disturbance to the business of the couutry.
The general business situation presents several unfavorable feat¬
ures. The abundance and cheapness of money in Wall street shows
that it is not being used in the channels of trade or in opening up
new enterprises. The bank clearances indicate that there is a
reasonably large trade going on, but it does not seem to be profit¬
able. The slow sale of coal, the shutting down of the collieries and
the enforced idleness of so many« miners tells its own story of
the check given to manufacturing industry. Yet the picture is not
all dark. Railroad returns are improving, because rates are being
better maintained. Wheat is being marketed in larger volume
than bas beeu the case since the season's crop lias been gathered;
nor did wo ever ship so much corn abroad as we are now doing.
Should the administration decline to call an extra session and stop
the accumulation of surplus by very liberal bond-buying, there
might be a revival of stock speculation; but the pohcy would not be
a wise one, as we want all our accumulations for works of needed
public improvement. This might not suit "Wall street, but it would
be of immense benefit to the country at large.
row. The idea of jeopardizing this at the dictation of old enemies
on any "boundaries" scheme, or on the pretence of adding a few
dollars to the city ti-easury, is ludicrous. The people have not
even seen the new parks yet; and there wiU be plenty of time
to peddle them oiit by-and-by, if it must be done.
In another column the action of the Legislative Committee of
the Real Estate Exchange upon the Ives Park Boundary bill is
given in full. It will be seen tliat the warning uttered in The
Record and Guide last week bore good fruit, and the resolution
indorsing the scheme and committing the entire Exchange nominally
to its support was "tabled " on the motion of its most industrious
advocate. Any further consideration of the bill should be of a
condemnatory character; for euough is already known to stamp the
measure as one of the moat impudeut and disgraceful that has
emanated from Albany for a considerable time. The question of
" motives " is always a difficult one to decide, even when they are
quite apparent, and in the present case it is perhaps sufficient to
say, what no one who has read the sweeping, unrestricted pro¬
visions of the bill will deny, that if an act had to be drawn that
would jeopardize the new parks and place them permanently
in tbe power of old opponents, like Mayor Grace and ex-Com¬
missioner Crimmins or others that may yet appear, the Ives bill
could not be improved upon. It is perfect. It need not even be
asked whether legislation of this kind is either wise or proper.
Acta like the Ives bill, of a "blank check" kind, which give
the power to entirely dispose of valuable pubKc property into
the hands of a few individuals, desei-ve on the score of "proba¬
bility " alone to be considered unwise aud ti"eated [as such. Un-
con-upt legislation seldom adopts this giuse.
To say the least, it is to be regretted that the Ives bill should
have come from the Corporation Counsel, and at the same
time received the approval, if not the support, of some of
the highest city officials. It is an unpleasant beginning for
a new administration, and cannot but create distrust aud a sus¬
picion that the Mayor does not fully appreciate the force of public
sentiment against any curtailment of the park area of the city. At
the next meeting of the Legislative Committee the bill should
receive the most pronounced condemnation, so that there may be
no longer any doubt either in Albany or in the municipal
offices as to where the real estate "interest" stands on the
subject of the new parks. After years of agitation, effort and
struggle against the most bitter opposition, the people have
acquired a magnificent system of parks in the new ward.3, which
will be a benefit to the community to-day, and a blessing to-mor-
Two bills'are before the Legislature at Albany to amend the
Arrears la\\ of Brooklyn. They have created a gi-eat deal of excite¬
ment on the other side of the river, and dm-ing the week bavebeen
the principal local topic of discussion in the press. There can be
uo doubt that the Brooklyn law is one of the most severe, if not the
severest, in the country: but under its operation the finances of the
city have greatly improved, and they are now in excellent condi¬
tion. Much of this is undoubtedly due to the'Ai-rears law. The
penalties on " delinquency " are so heavy, amounting even to con¬
fiscation, that it does not "pay" to be inthe debt of that city, as it
often does elsewhere. This, of coiu-se, is an objectionable feature to
some speculative holders of property, who, if occasion requires,
would like to defer payment of what they owe the city until they
make a "strike ;" but it is a good tiling for the rest of the tax¬
payers. The interests of real estate are \mdoubtedly great, but the
interests of the entire city are gi-eater. Experience has shown that
the worst thing that can happen to real estate is to be tax-encum¬
bered. It has not only a special effect but a general effect, as
old holders of property in the outside wards of Brooklyn well know.
We beUeve the people of Brooklyn will regret any impairment of
the vital parts of the present law. What should be done is to pro¬
vide some more certain way of informing property-holders of their
indebtedness, for assessments, than at present prevails. The
amount might be put upon tiie tax bills, or widely advertised in
The question as to the need of a national banki-uptcy law has
again come up for discussion, this time at the meeting that opened
tills week in St. Louis under the auspices of the Wholesale Grocers'
Association. No one who has had any experience in trade will
deny that the laws that we have for the collection of debts are not
only inadequate but positively miscliievous. They invite dishonesty
and undoubtedly are the cause of a vast amoimt of fraudulent
trading. In this State it is not necessary for a swindler to cheat
his creditors illegally; it can usually be fully accomplished strictly
according to law.
The real service, however, that a bankruptcy law would perform
is not generally recognized. The experience of countries that have
stringent bankruptcy laws iu operation is that they are of more
value in deterring reckless and fraudulent ti-ading than in transfer¬
ring to the creditors the assets of insolvent debtors. In Great
Britain, in spite of the strictest legal safeguards, it has been found
that bankruptcy proceedings fritter away so large a proportion of
an estate in fees to the assignee, lawyers, accountants, etc., that the
assets are little better than a Barm ecide feast to the creditors. Upon
failure there must be some one appointed to take charge of the
debtor's property, collect indebtedness to him, perhaps instigate
law proceedings, dispose of merchandise, etc. Creditors, as a rule,
cannot give the atteution and time necessary to the performance of
these duties, and besides are usually distrustful of one another. Au
assignee has to be appointed, and then the phmder begins. To
obviate tliis is a problem which no banki-uptcy law has yet effec¬
tively solved. Its solution seems to depend upon discovering a
means to make men honest and self-disinterested. On the other
hand, the knowledge that a law exists enabling creditors to take
possession of the property of a debtor, investigate his accounts,
pmiish fraud and carelessness, deters either reckless or criminal con-
ti-action of debts. The creditors may not gain everything by bank¬
ruptcy, but the debtor knows he certamly loses nearly everything
tbat he has. The adoption of a bankruptcy law is a long way
ahead yet, and while such meetings as the one in St. Louis are steps
in the right direction something should be done to immediately
reform the laws we have.
The Mas?achusetts papers are congratulating themselves over the
passage of a law by the Legislature, rendering the duty of giving
quarterly reports obligatory on the railway companies of the State.
" The wisdom of such a course," says the Boston Advertiser, " will
be apparent to any one who investigates the subject." No one will
deny that it is very desu-able for a person who i^ investing money
in the securities of a company, to know, if possible, on imtmpeach-
able authority, its exact financial standing. But the real question
is, can this standing be ascertained with any certainty from reports
rendered by the company itself? Not only are the methods of
bookkeeping often misleading, but certain corporations have been
known to falsify theu- accounts. The Baltimore & Ohio was sup¬
posed at one time to have a cash siu-plus of l!;40,000,000, but when
the facts came to be known, it turned out that this surplus merely
represented certain improvements made, and it was no more cash
than telegi-aph poles, stations and cars are cash. There ia no