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Sate, would require something more than this. The Central road should be extended to the waters of Lake Michigan, and the Southern, with the Tecumseh branch should be put into a condition to command the greatest possible income from the investment in its construction. We have been accustomed to look to these roads as the means of transporting the rich productions of the wheat growing country in the interior, to the waters upon which they are to be floated to a distant market. Experience has proven, however, that the transportation has been at charges, little, if any less than the cost of carriage by teams. On the Central road, about two-thirds of the total receipts, were until last year, derived from freight, and the remainder from passengers. On the Southern road the proportionate amount received for freight is much greater. It is evident, then, that freight forms an important part of the business of the roads, and it is of great moment to the public that it should be done at low rates.But roads with the light superstructure and iron of ours, it is now clearly demonstrated, both here and elsewhere where the experiment has been fairly tried, cannot do a profitable freighting business without charging for transportation, rates ruinous to the producer. The weight of the heavy freight trains soon breaks the iron, and injures the wooden superstructure of the road—the machinery often requires expensive repairs, and is soon rendered useless, and the weight drawn by a locomotive is small, compared with that drawn by the same power over roads of greater solidity. Much complaint has existed of the high charges for freight on these roads, yet, even at these rates, it is very doubtful whether any thing has been received from this branch of their business, above the expenses of transportation, and the actual injury to the roads and their stock and fixtures. If we can judge anything by universal experience on this subject, it would seem that true policy requires the Central road to be speedily re-built with a more substantial superstructure and with a T or HI rail. In no other manner, it is believed, can the road be made to do the business which seeks this means of transportation, with profit to the treasury, and at rates which shall enable the farmer in this man. ner to forward his produce to market. A comparison of the freight charged on our roads with those charged for the same distance on many of the eastern roads, will exhibit the peculiar advantages of the above mode of construction over our own.
If the roads should be repaired by using the heavy rail, and comploted in this manner to Dexter, the requisite expenditure on this section alone could not be less than $500,000. For this purpose the present profits of the road, even if the whole of them could be directed to this object, would be totally inadequate. The limited quantity of land now remaining and appropriated to internal improvement purposes would be equally unavailable. Taxation, to raise means for this purpose, could not be attempted, and a new loan would be alike objectionable and impracticable.
While I thus speak of the condition of these roads, and the expen, diture necessary to put them into a condition to yield the utmost profit to the treasury, I do not lightly estimate the value of the public works. The geographical position of a rail road crossing the peninsula of Michigan, is such as must necessarily control an immense travel, and an almost unlimited freight business. When the contemplated route, soon to be commenced across Canada West is completed, the Central rail road will form a link in that chain of intercommunication between the east and the west, which must eventually become one of the greatest thoroughfares in the land, and which, when properly repaired, will be one of the most profitable roads in the Union. Indeed, its present proceeds, under all its disadvantages, clearly evince its capabilities.
No direct proposition for the purchase of these works, or either of them, has yet been made, but it is understood that there are those who are ready to negotiaie for the purchase, if it can be made on terms sufficiently favorable. The granting of an act of incorporation to the purchasers, seems to be deemed indispensable. The reluctance of many of our citizens to see these important works fall into the hands of corporate bodies, has occasioned some opposition to the proposed sale, and it must be admitted that this objection is not withqut weight. If the Legislature should entertain the proposition favorably, it will of course be in their power to annex to the corporation, such guards and restrictions as in their opinion shall best secure the public interests. A maximum rate of tolls may be established in the charter; the company may be required to finish the roads in the best possible manner, and in such time as the Legislaiure may designate, and to keep them in the best possible repair, and in constant operation. The right of re-purchase after a certain period, and on certain conditions, may, if deemed advisable, be retained by the State, and a simple method, in case of forfeiture of the chartered privileges, may be adopted for annulling the charter and revesting the property in the State. But while every requisite guard should be thrown around such chartered rights, it should be remembered, that the facilities granted in such charter, will be regarded as of the utmost importance by those proposing to purchase, and the character of the provisions may very possibly determine the question whether or not a sale can be effected. The utmost discretion is therefore necessary in so framing the provisions of such a charter, as to protect as fully as possible the public weal on the one hand, and not to defeat the possibility of a sale, by unusual restrictions and impracticable requirements on the other.
The passing of an act of incorporation by the Legislature, containing provisions for the purchase of these works of internal improvement by a company or companies to be organized under it, would seem to require that the detail and consumination of such purchase, should be committed to certain state officers, or to a board to be appointed for that special purpose. The same board might perhaps with propriety be authorized if no purchases should be made under the terms proposed by legislative enactment, to receive propositions for such purchase, and to lay them before the next Legislature, for its consideration.
In viewing the whole matter as to the disposition of the publie works, no course of action free from all objections and difficulties presented. The importance of the works clearly indicate that when completed in the proper manner, and with the requisite stock and fixtures, they will he sources of great prufit. But the means to put thein in that condition are not within the resources of the state. On the contrary, the debt contracted for their original construction, is pressing upon uş, and the interest is required to be paid. If no lief from this source is obtained towards the liquidation of the debt, direct taxation appears to me to be the only means left within the power of the State to meet the demand. As a means of avoiding these difficulties, 1 commend to your careful consideration the project of a sale. Coming fresh from the people, among whom the matter has
been the subject of frequent discussion, you will bring to the task an intimate acquaintance with the views and wishes of those mainly interested in the result. If no sale should be effected, it will then become important to settle upon a course of policy in reference to our improvements, and to provide for meeting the demands on the public treasury to which I have already alluded. In view of the limited means within our control, further embarrassments should, if possible, be avoided, while at the same time prompt measures should be taken to put the works in a condition to yield the greatest amount of revenue to the treasury. Any judicious method tending to accomplish this object which you may
your wisdom see fit to adopt, will receive the hearty co-operation of the Executive.
While the trusts which are committed to the Legislature, pertain chiefly to the rights and interests of our own state, we should never forget that this commonwealth, as one of the members of the federal union, is laden with important duties and high obligations. The association of these sovereign states, is not to be regarded merely as a union for the preservation or happiness of each, but rather as a confederation in the holy work of guarding and protecting human rightsof exalting civil liberty high above anarchy und despotism, and testing the wisdom, safety and practicability of free government. Success in such a couse is not for the present alone. It is to cast its blessings into the lap of the future. It is to break the sceptre of tyran. ny-to dispel ignorance and bigotry—to shed light on the publie intellect-to elevate the moral being—to make man a freeman in the highest and noblest sense. It is to give to the world the benefits of institutions and laws extending their restraints and protection over all, yet so kindly in their influence, that, like the air by which we are surrounded, their presence should not shackle, nor their weight oppress. As a member of a Union for such objects, the duty of Michigan is plain. No act of ours should weaken the chain that binds us in such a brotherhood. No legislation should give sanction to injustice or oppression, but every measure should tend to promote the noble object of self government, and the advancement of civil rights. From honest efforts in such a cause, the blessing of Him, who holdeth the nations in His hand, will not be withheld. EXECUTIVE OFFICE, ?
ALPHEUS FELCH. De'roit, January, 6, 1846. §