The Railroad Empire
Handicapped by inept politicians, by apathetic, legalistic, or antagonistic judges, and by the unrelenting opposition of railroad management, the purpose of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 had been virtually nullified and the Interstate Commerce Commission rendered impotent. As with industrial consolidations, finance capital argued that consolidation was necessary for the salvation of the railroads. Consolidations often brought monopoly conditions and unreasonable rates; moreover, they were generally accompanied by banker control. While efforts were being made to curtail transportation monopolies, Congress turned to the problem of stiffer regulation of interstate commerce. The fact that a tightening of federal regulation came simultaneously with a decline in the position of American railroads gave railroad executives an opportunity to blame their situation on government control. American railroads, built as they are along the river courses and often but a few feet above normal high water, are an easy prey to floods and washouts.