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)
100 HISTORY OF WISCONSIN. 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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