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The manner in which the state's duty in properly caring for and protecting the humblest of the unfortunates in the charitable and benevolent institutions is discharged cannot be too cautiously guarded, and the power of legitimate and intelligent visitation and inspection, as desired by the board of charities and reform, can at least result in no harm.
CHARITIES AND REFORMS. The state board of charities and reform has the power of inspection of all public and private charitable and correctional institutions in the state, excepting the six state institutions. Their report, which is now in the hands of the printer, shows the semi-state institutions - the Milwaukee county insane asylum and the Milwaukee county house of correction — to be in excellent condition; that there are 62 county jails, with 7,936 prisoners during the year, and 255 at the date of the report; that the jails are generally in good condition, but they report that there are a few in such wretched condition and so insecure that they should be condemned if there were any power competent to do so. Of the poorhouses, 39 in number, with 1.859 inmates during the year, and 1,179 at the date of the report, they say the condition is good, and that the class of dependent population is as well cared for as is considered desirable. The increase of private benevolent institutions, both in number and resources, as reported, speaks well for the benevolent disposition of the people of the state. The board make numerous recommendations, and they should be carefully considered. They ask that their power of visitation be extended to the six state institutions, and this recommendation meets my approval.
THE NATIONAL GUARD
fully meets the constitutional standard in being in the strictest sense “ well regulated," and its energies are being well directed to the attainment of a thorough knowledge of rifle practice, guard and camp duty. The maximum fixed by the legislature, in pursuance of its constitutional authority, of 35 companies, with a membership of 3,335, has been reduced, in the interests of more compact organization and economy, to 33 companies, with a membership of 2,247.
Under the authority of chapter 162, laws 1882, tents and camp equipage sufficient to comfortably encamp 100 men have been purchased and about two-thirds of the force ordered into camps of instruction for six days, with results that amply justify the expense.
The results obtained in the administration of the force, in proportion to the expense incurred in its behalf, will favorably bear the most critical comparison with those obtained in any of the states. For full details I refer you to the reports of the adjutant and quartermaster generals, and I especially ask your attention to the practical suggestions of the adjutant general, and particularly with reference to the war records, which should be cared for and preserved at an early date.
INSURANCE. The valuable report of the insurance commissioner shows that for the year ending December 31, 1881, the fire insurance companies had: Risks written.........
...$165,336,642 Premiums received.......
1.997,243 Losses paid...............
The life insurance companies doing business in the state reported for the year ending March 1, 1882: Policies in force..
$32,705,956 Premiums received.........
873,143 Losses paid......
The commissioner recommends the passage of a law prescribing a uniform policy contract. I have no doubt that such a law, properly guarded, would simplify the liability of the companies for losses and avoid many misunderstandings upon the part of the people, which now grow into expensive litigation, and is well worthy of your consideration.
RAILROADS. The vear just closed has been one of more than usual activity in railroad enterprise, both in the volume of business and in the building of new roads.
On June 30, 1881, the various companies doing business in the state of Wisconsin reported to the railroad commissioner a total mileage of 3,142.13 miles; the mileage reported June 30, 1882, was 3,175.73, an increase during what may be termed the railroad year of 333.3 miles. From June 30 1882, to the end of the calendar year, December 31, 1882, 358.01 miles of rail were laid, making a total mileage of 3,833.74 miles of railroad in the state of Wisconsin December 31, 1882. The number of miles built during the calendar year was 390.29.
The prediction contained in my message to the legislature one year ago, of an increased amount of railroad construction during the year 1882, has been amply verified, and an almost trackless region of unbroken forest is now being transformed into thriving villages and prosperous homes, adding to the state needed railroad facilities, and vastly increasing its taxable values. If we except the year 1871 and the year 1873, the great years of railroad building in this country, the year 1882 stands foremost in railroad construction.
The Wisconsin railroad earnings from June 30, 1881, to June 30, 1882, were $18.765,428.32, an increase of $3,287,255.71 for the year; being an average per mile of $5,6:39.16, an increase of earnings per mile of $824.25. The total cost of operating the railroads of the state was $10,276,746.45, leaving as net earnings $8,488,681.87; the operating expenses per mile were $3,088.24, and the net earnings per mile of operated road were $2,550.91. The total number of passengers carried upon the roads of the state was 3,611,973, equal to 162,231,759 passengers carried one mile at an average cost per mile of a trifle less than 2.83 cents. There were 5,199,321 tons of freight carried; an equal of 813,414,402 tons carried one mile; and the average rate per mile on each ton carried was a little less than 1.61 cents, which is a decrease of .07 of a cent per mile on each ton of freight carried.
The regulation of railroads by state authority, as a power for good, is no longer a matter of experiment or doubt. To be of the highest good, however, it does not need to be clothed with rigorous exactions or arbitrary authority. The laws should be fair and impartial to all, and while guarding and protecting with unerring certainty every right and interest of the people, they should be adequate to the just protection of the real rights of capital.
The railroad companies doing business in the state paid during the year $580,328.58 toward the revenue of the state; but sleeping cars are running upon all roads of any considerable magnitude in the state, and upon most of the lines they are owned by foreign companies, which make no report of their cost or their earnings, and while they are wealthy and money making corporations, they pay no revenue to the state. This is wrong, and the error should be corrected by appropriate legislation.
The railroad commissioner system in Wisconsin has been a success, and while the complaints have not been numerous they have always received prompt attention. I am informed that during a long term of years not a single case of litigation has grown out of a complaint lodged with the commissioner, but in every instance an amicable adjustment has been had, satisfactory to all parties concerned. It has been found much easier and better to adjust than to litigate, and in this way a better spirit has been developed and maintained between the people and the railroad corporations. I see no reason to doubt that the harmony now existing may continue uninterrupted for years to come.
AIR LINE LABORERS. Under chapter 10, laws of 1882, the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha R’y Company deposited with me the sum of $78,000, and gave such security as was required of them to save harmless the state from any liability it may have incurred in feeding the laborers then thrown out of employment by the failure of the Chicago, Portage and Superior R. R. company. There have been paid to the laborers direct $36,429.95; to the purchasers of time checks $5,482.90, and there was pro-rated to the subcontractors, material and supply men the sum of $33,087.07. The work of finding the amounts due and disbursing the sums has been very large; numerous claims have been disallowed and many have been cut down. The claims of the officers and engineer corps have been disallowed, and the question litigated in the supreme court, and the rejection of such claims fully sustained by the court. The security exacted from the company to which the grant was made by chapter 10 has been found ample to protect the state against all liability incurred in feeding laborers and otherwise.
FISHERIES. The commissioners of fisheries, working without pay, have merited approbation for the success of their work. They have distributed during the year nearly a million of trout fry, and are preparing to add, during the coming year, white fish and wall-eyed pike. It is suggested that in many counties in the state it would be very profitable, and is almost necessary, that there be a fish warden, whose duty it shall be to see that the laws for the preservation and protection of fish are duly executed. The expenditures made by the fish commission for the last fiscal year were $7,712.66, and they estimate that their expenditures for the next two years will be $8,000 a year. This enterprise is one that is now fostered by almost every State in the union, and Wisconsin is not behind in the progress made.
IMMIGRATION. By a reference to the tables of the report of the board of immigration, it will be seen that of the 57,952 immigants arriving in Milwaukee during the calendar year, 31,758 have found homes in our state; and it is safe to say that fully 10,000 more have gone into Wisconsin direct from Chicago without passing through Milwaukee. The great majority of these new-comers have settled in the northern parts of the state. They were chiefly small farmers and farm laborers from Germany and Norway and Sweden, and will become important factors in developing the agricultural and other natural resources of Northern Wisconsin. The disbursements of the commission have been $5,147.88.
ILLUMINATING OILS. The state supervisor of inspectors of illuminating oils reports the workings of the inspectors of oils throughout the state and the names of the various inspectors appointed by him. He reports that there have been only two accidents reported to him that proved to be “lamp explosions;" and he suggests some amendments to the law relating to illuminating oils, and I commend his report to your careful consideration.
LEWISTON LEVEE. The Lewiston levee, provided for by chapter 138, laws of 1882, has been completed in a very satisfactory manner, and the commissioners have drawn the amount appropriated by the state therefor. The entire cost of the work was $9,000, and the general government has assumed the payment of, $3,000, and the town of Lewiston has agreed, by its board of supervisors, to keep the levee in good condition and repair for twenty years.
OVERFLOW OF FOX RIVER.
In conformity to the request contained in joint resolution No. 31, senate, the attorney general and myself visited Washington to confer with the proper officers of the government as to the action which might and should be taken to abate the overflow in the Fox river and Lake Winnebago, and to prevent future injury to property around said lake and along said river. By agreement with the government officers, and through the efforts of our delegation in the Senate and House, the following provisd upon the subject was inserted in the clause of the river and harbor bill, making appropriation for the improvement of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.
"Provided, That the Secretary of War shall, without delay, cause the channel of the Lower Fox river, between Lake Winnebago and the upper government dam at Appleton, to be restored to its natural width and capacity, and shall cause such changes and alterations to be made in the dams at Menasha and Appleton, not inconsistent with security to navigation, as may be necessary to reduce to and maintain the waters of Lake Winnebago and Little Butes des Mortes, respectively, at their natural height; and a sufficient amount of said sum appropriated is made immediately available."
It only remains now for the Secretary of War, through the engineer department, to carry out the plan as agreed upon and authorized by law. It is hoped that action will not longer be delayed, "and that the plan adopted will afford adequate protection against injury from overflow, and that, too, without detriment to any other locality or property.
CAPITOL EXTENSION. Under the provisions of a law enacted by the last Legislature, the Supreme Court named Hon. N. B. Van Slyke and Hon. John Winans, and the State Historical Society named Hon. E. W. Keyes, as commissioners, with certain of the State officers named therein, to contract for the construction of a capitol extension. The board has performed this duty with much care, and the extensions are being erected in a thorough and substantial manner and will be ready for occupancy within the present year. There has been expended of the appropriation thus far the sum of $19,217.89