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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States

Butterfield, C. W.
V.--Wisconsin as a state,   pp. 52-109 PDF (28.8 MB)

Page 100

gated capital-this "plank" having special reference to a long series
of alleged grievances
assumed to have been endured by the people on account of discriminations
in railroad charges
and a consequent burdensome taxation upon labor-especially upon the agricultural
industry of
the State.
     The twenty-seventh regular session of the Wisconsin legislature commenced
at Madison on
the fourteenth of January. The two houses were politically antagonistic in
their majorities; the
senate was republican, while the assembly had a "'reform" majority.
In the latter branch,
Gabriel Bouck was elected speaker. Governor Taylor, on the fifteenth, met
the legislature in
joint convention and delivered his message: "An era," said he,
"of apparent prosperity without
parallel in the previous history of the nation, has been succeeded by financial
reverses affecting
all classes of industry, and largely modifying the standard of values."
 "Accompanying these
financial disturbances," added the governor, " has come an imperative
demand from the people
for a purer political morality, a more equitable apportionment of the burdens
and blessings of
government, and a more rigid economy in the administration of public affairs."
     Among the important acts passed by this legislature was one generally
known as the
"Potter Law," from the circumstance of the bill being introduced
by Robert L. D. Potter, sen-
ator, representing the twenty-fifth senatorial district of the state. The
railroad companies for
a number of years had, as before intimated, been complained of by the people,
who charged them
with unjust discriminations and exorbitantly high rates for the transportation
of passengers and
merchandize. All the railroad Charters were granted by acts at different
times of the State leg-
islature, under the constitution which declares that "corporations may
be formed under general
laws, but shall not be created by a special act, exeept for municipal purposes
and in cases
where, in the judgment of the legislature, the objects of the corporations
can not be attained
under general laws. All general laws, or special acts, enacted under the
provisions of this
section, may be altered or repealed by the legislature at any time after
their passage."   The
complaints of the people seem to have remained unheeded, resulting in the
passage of the
"Potter Law." This law limited the compensation for the transportation
of passengers, classi-
fied freight, and regulated prices for its transportation within the State.
It also required the
governor on or before the first of May, 1874, by and with the consent of
the senate, to appoint
three railroad commissioners; one for one year, one for two years, and one
for three years,
whose terms of office should commence on the fourteenth day of May, and that
the governor,
thereafter, on the first day of May, of each year, should appoint one commissioner
for three
years. Under this law, the governor appointed J. H. Osborn, for three years;
George H. Paul,
for two Years; and J. W. Hoyt, for one year. Under executive direction, this
commission inau-
gurated its labors by compiling, classifying, and putting into convenient
form for public use for
the first time, all the railroad legislation of the State.
     At the outset the two chief railroad corporations of the State-the Chicago,
Milwaukee and
St. Paul, and the Chicago and Northwestern-served formal notice upon the
governor of Wis-
consin that they would not respect the provisions of the new railroad law.
Under his oath of
office, to support the constitution of the State, it was the duty of Governor
Taylor to expedite
all such measures as should be resolved upon by the legislature, and to take
care that the laws
be faithfully executed. No alternative, therefore, was lert the chief executive
but to enforce the
law by all the means placed in his hands for that purpose. He promptly responded
to the noti-
fication of the railroad companies by a proclamation, dated May i, 1874,
in which he enjoined
compliance with the statute, declaring that all the functions of his office
would be exercised in
faithfully executing the laws, and invoking the aid of all good citizens
thereto. "The law of the
land," said Governor Taylor, "must be respected and obeyed."
" While none," continued he,

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