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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 27, no. 677: March 5, 1881

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XXYII. NEW TOEK, SATUEDAY, MAECH 5, 1881. No. 677 Published Weekly by C|^ %ml €stal^ Mttaxb %Bsatmixan, TERMS. ONE YE.4.a. in advance.. ..SIO.OO. Communications should be addressed to C. W. SWEET, No. 137 Broadway It will be curious to watch the clianges in store for Washington square and surround¬ ings during the next few years. From time to time we hear of some prominent citizen returning with his household goods from the upper part of tlie city and settling down once more along the square. The latest addition, as will be seen by our mar¬ ket report, will be Mr, C. Gr. Francklyn, who has just purchased there a large house for his own occupancy, thus joining quite a coterie of first-class families now occupying the north side of the square. And yet we doubt whether this forced exception to the rule will be permanent. The entire neigh- boorhood is more apt to become somewhat more of a business centre than a quarter for fashionable residences, especially when tlie Hudson Eiver tunnel will be finished. It will be somewhere near this square that the tunnel will bring its enormous traffic, which must have a marked effect upon the character to be assumed by that section, and we rather share the belief of several prop¬ erty owners that in the not distant future Washington square will be metamorphosed into something like Union square, and filled more with retail stores than with private residences. THE RIGHTS AND WRONGS OF COR¬ PORATIONS. It needs no prophet to foresee that the re¬ lations of corporations to the Government and people are to be a subject of much dis¬ cussion for the next few years, and that in all probability political parties will divide upon the question of corporation control. Already the debate waxes warm, and the popular feeling against corporation monopo¬ lies is unmistakably strong. There is no doubt but what the great manipulators have thought of themselves more than they have of the community. They have built roads at $25,000 a mile, and saddled them on the investing public at fifty, seventy-five, and in the case of the New Jersey Central at 1200,000 a mile. We are asked to pay large dividends upon $80,000,000 of telegraph stock, yet the honest cost of the plant was probably less than $10,000,000. Nowhere does corporate management show to greater disadvantage than when associated with Government help. Not only have they managed to overcharge the pubKc, but they have debauched legislation in nearly every State in the Union; and the most serious scandal known in the history of Congress was connected with the Credit Mobilier, which constructed the Union and Central Pacific Railroads. But there is another side to this matter. It has been presented ably recently by Le¬ land Stanford, George Ticknor Curtis, and, last of all, by Jay Gould to an interviewer through the columns of the Herald. One claim, however, made by the corporations is wholly inadmissible. They insist, through the medium of their lawyers and officers, that railroads and telegraph lines are pri¬ vate property, and that they have a right to charge what they please, the same as any other dealer in commodities. But in this the common law and common sense of man¬ kind is against them. No nation would ever consent to put their means of com¬ munication by rail or telegraph into the exclusive possession of a set of capitalists, with a power to levy unlimited tolls upon the community. But just here comes in an opening for abuses and blackmailing prac¬ tices, of which tho corporations can justly complain. Taking advantage of the privi¬ leges granted by the State to corporations, swarms of legislative and legal blackmailers prey upon them. Having no friends, they are followed up and mulcted without mercy. In a case of accidenl, juries award heavy damages against corporations, no matter whether they are in the right or the wrong. In a recent heavy verdict against the ele¬ vated roads a German juryman in the case admitted that the plaintiff was not really injured, but he was a poor devil and the corporation was rich and could afford the $10,000 ; hence the verdict. Then, the legis¬ lative blackmailer, taking advantage of the prejudices against so-called monopolies, is unceasing in his demands upon the various transportation companies. It may not be generally known, but it is nevertheless true, that many of the employees of the elevated roads are forced upon the companies by the politicians. Influential "boss" aldermen or members of the State Legislature are con¬ stantly demanding positions for their politi¬ cal retainers. A great deal of the power of the railroads in the Legislatu'^e is due to their willingness to help politicians in the way of patronage for the benefit of their particular friends. When the elevated roads were laying their plans they consulted with law officers and tax experts, and were solemn¬ ly assured that if they invested their capital in the construction of this needed improve¬ ment they would not be taxed under the real estate head. But no sooner were the lines built than thoy were beset by legal and legislative harpies, and they will either have to pay a round tax or compromise with the blackmailers. Then, apart from every consideration the corporations have done a work which no in¬ dividuals could accomplish. The railroad and telegraph system of the country would not exist or would be in a very imperfect condition were it not for the union of effort made possible by the combination of capital¬ ists. The great consolidators of roads, such as the Vanderbilts, Jay Goulds, Scotts, and Garretts are really public benefactors. They are unifying the railway system, of the countiy and are preparing the way for governmental control. It is far better to have one telegraph company than a dozen, for business can be done by wholesale cheaper than by retail. One system of roads from New York to San Francisco or the City of Mexico is better than three or four, and far less costly. The multiplica¬ tion of rival lines should in some way be prevented, as it is a clear waste of capital. Wiser than the American people, the French (lOvernment will not permit competing lines, which it regards as a waste of capital. It protects the community against excessive tolls by running the roads itself, or limiting the dividends. It is well therefore in the pending discus¬ sion to bear these facts in mind. It will not do to discourage capitalists to combine for their own and the public benefit. Their just rights should not be interfered with, and public opinion should not permit legis¬ lative blackmailers to prey upon them. The most serious calamity that could happen to the country would be to alarm the investing class as to the security of their property. It would at once put a stop to all our great in¬ dustrial enterprises, and set back the pro¬ gress of our civilization. " Nothing," said Wendell Phillips, "is so timid as a million of dollars, except two milUon of dollars." CAPITALISTS IN CONGRESS. It is a notable circumstance that the recent changes in Congress have been in the direct¬ ion of fewer lawyers and more business men. Of the seventy-six members of the new Senate, twenty-three of the number are not lawyers. This is a larger proportion than was ever known even in pro-slavery times, when the South was sometimes represented by large slave-holding planters. The privi¬ leged class in this country has heretofore been the lawyers. They have had a monopoly of all political positions of honor and profit. AU our executives, our judges and our legis¬ lators, with but here and there an exception, are members of the bar. This has resulted in giving us more laws and poorer ones, than any other civilized country on earth. Con¬ sciously or unconsciously, our lawyer legis¬ lators and executives have worked for the benefit of their profession, and the result is a mass of confused, incoherent and litigation promoting enactments on aU our statute books which are a reproach to us as a com¬ mercial people. But our rich men are now desirous of being