Click image to zoom in (opens new window)
The Record and Guide.
-HE RECORD AND GUIDE,
Published every Saturday.
1Â©1 Broad-way, 3Sr. "^.
OIVE YEAR, in advance, SIX DOLLARS.
Communicatioiis should be addi'essed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway.
J. T. LINDSEY, Busmess Manager.
JANUARY 24, 1885.
Public Measures and the Real Estate Exchange.
The new Real Estate E.Kchaiige has a great future before it, if it
continues iii the course in which it has begun. The aim of those
who originated the Exchange was much higher than to establish a
mere salesroom for trading in real estate. The other exchanges
have nothing to say about our government or laws, probably for the
reason tliat the price of stocks, grain, cotton, petroleum, metals,
coflFee and the like are not aflfected by bad State or municipal enactÂ¬
ments. It is otherwise with real estate. That greatest of interests
is directly injured by laws now on the statute book and is in danger
of others which may be passed by the State or local legislatures.
Hence the moment the recognized representatives of the real
estate interests got togetlier tliey were confronted by legal impediÂ¬
ments in the transaction of their busiuess, and were naturally
tempted to .see if something could not be done in the interest of taxÂ¬
payers. One of the first acts of the directors of tlie new Exchange
was to appoint a committee of fifty ou legislation whose functions
it would be to watch everything done at Albany and in the City
Hail affecting the interests of owners of realty. Tliis committee
did some excellent work last year and it promises to be still more
efficient this year. Its meetings are largely attended and a new
force in local politics has been set in motion which it is to be hoped
will take the place of the various reform organizations which in
times past have tried to accomplish so mucli, but all of which were
finally captured by the politicians. As soon as the Exchange is
recognized as a power in politics an attempt will of course be made
to run it in the interest of the tax eaters; but as the leading memÂ¬
bers of the Exchange are hard headed men of business, representing
great realty interests, and are. moreover, uot ambitious of office for
themselves or their friends, it is not likely that tliis institution will
become a jjrey to the politicians.
The Exchange has seen fit to memorialize Congress for ample
appropriations to put this city in a state of defence. Should a
foreign Heet bombard or capture New York, or should a ransom be
exacted to ward off an attack, it is the holders of realty who would
be the chief sufferers. It seems entirely proper therefore that an
institution representing the real estate of New York and its neighÂ¬
borhood should call the attention of the Federal Government to this
vital matter. The Real Estate Exchange Iia.s also Invited the Stock,
Cotton, Produce and other exchanges to second its efforts and those
of tlie Chamber of Commerce in liaving New York put in a state of
defence. In view of the facts the apathy of our own people as well
as Congress is simply amazing. Every recognized military and
naval authority iu the country has pointed out how defenceless are
our sea coast cities, especially New York. It would take us three
years if we commence at once to make New York reasonably safe
against the attack of any fifth rate naval power. Senator Hoar, of
Massachusetts, .said in the Senate recently :
Our condition is well known to foreign nations. The absolutely defenceÂ¬
less condition of all our coast is well kno>vn abroad. The late Minister of
Foreign Affairs iu France said to one of our own statesmen not loug since:
" How about your defences ? In the Intelligence Department ot our War
Office," said he, " we have a drawing of ev^ery military work of consequence
on the whole American coa.st line, with comments ou their strength. There
is not a first-class fortification among them all. Do you know how long it takes
to buUd a first-class modern gun ?" said this French Minister. The American
replied that he did not. Lacoursaid: " It takes a whole year. Yom- cities
would be shelled and sacked and laid uuder tribute while you were creating
a navy; aud how could you rebuild your fortifications with 1,000-poimd
shells falling about the ears of your working men ? Be sure"ânow mai-k
thisâ"Be sure that the defeuceless condition of yom- country is thoroughly
weU^ known and commented upon by every power in Eurojie, that would
gladly see you humbled, for, as I said, your prosperity is a dangerous menace
to all the nations of the Old World except France."
It is idle to say that if we give no offence there is no danger of
war. No nation ever escaped international conflicts, and there is
no instance in history of rich unprotected communities that were
not spoliated by unscrupulous rivals who had the advantage of
being prepared for war.
If the other exchanges will second the efforts of the Real Estate
Exchange and Chamber of Commerce it may be possible to secure
liberal appropriations from the sitting Congress, and this united
action of our great business organizations may be usefully employed
hereafter for other public objects.
British and American Legislation Contrasted.
Mr. Simon Sterne delivered a very interesting address before the
legislative committee of the Real Estate Exchange recently, which
deserved to be very widely publislied in the press, but, the latter
made no mention of it. Our newspapers do not seem to care for reÂ¬
porting any matter of real public moment. James R. Keene's rough
and tumble with a conductor, the bout between Sullivan and Ryan,
or a discussion about the office eat of our "esteemed contemporary",
seems to consume the energies of our journals; hence they can
find no place for reporting discourses which are full of valuable inÂ¬
formation and weighty suggestions.
Mr. Sterne's address was on the superior methods of British as
compared with American legislation. In our Congress and LegisÂ¬
latures immense numbers of bills are offered, some with public and
others with private objects in view; but in the struggle for life it is
the enactments which have most backing, and these are often of a
malign character, which are finally passed. Governor Hill is auÂ¬
thority for the statement that over fifty of the biUs passed by the
last Legislature were so crudely drawn and so inconsistent with
previous legislation that they all should have been vetoed, although
many of them Iiad worthy objects in view. So thoroughly bad is our
legislation that the annual meeting of the State Assembly and SenÂ¬
ate is regarded with alarm and their final adjournment is always
hailed with pleasure.
In the British Parliament matters are managed very much better.
The system of ministerial responsibility jiuts all the bills having a
public character in the hands of the existing Cabinet. This cuts off
the consideration of swarms of projects which in this country conÂ¬
sume the time of the committees and the legislatures. Then as
regards private bills, such as those for railroads, canals, bridges,
public improvements, the organization of industrial enterprises and
the like, they are put through a severe ordeal before they are conÂ¬
sidered at all. Notice of these bills must be filed sixty days before
Parliament meets, and they must be ptissed upon by what is really a
Parliamentary Court before they can he placed upon the docket of the
House of Commons. Every private bill has to stand upon its own
merits and the authorities must be satisfied that it injures no vested
interest and is otherwise unobjectionable before it is submitted to
Parliament. Experts examine these private bills and parliamentai y
lawyers are employed to discuss them pro and con. These parliaÂ¬
mentary lawyers by the way, are respectable practitioners and must
not be confounded witii our lobby, though they do some of tlie same
work ; but the final result is that nine-tenths of the proposed bills
are killed and only the fittest survive. These last are resubmitted
to committees of the House itself but not until after experienced
experts have got them into proper shape. The work done by the
ministry in accepting or rejecting public measures and by the preÂ¬
liminary parliamentary court in selecting unobjectionable private
bills reduces the work of Parliament to a minimum ; and hence legisÂ¬
lation in England is well considered and wise, while in this country
our laws are a hap-hazard jumble because Congress and the LegisÂ¬
latures undertake to do too much and employs wrong methods in
dealing with matters brought before them.
There is one peculiarity wliich distinguishes American legislaÂ¬
tors from British members of parliament which Mr. Sterne did not
touch upon. The British parliament has been called the "first club
in England." It represents the great interests of the British EmÂ¬
pire. The landlord class is the most powerful and mucli of the
evil legislation of the empire is due to the influence of the great
landlords especially in the House of Lords. The manufacturers are
very largely represented iii membership; also the merchants and
bankers. A very influential section of English legislators are men
of wealtli, edufuition and oratorical ability who make imperial polÂ¬
itics a profession. They are not politicans in the questionable sense
witli which we regard that class in this country, but public spirited
gentlemen who liave a laudable ambition to shine in the affairs of
state. Of lawy^ers projjer there are verj few in the Commons. They
find their place in the parliamentary court and represent the inÂ¬
terests of private bill promoters in what we w<Hild call the lobby.
The comiiositiou of our legislatures is, of course, entirely differÂ¬
ent. We hand over all legislation to the legal fraternity. Nearly
every president, cabinet minister, governor, members of Congress and
of the State legislatures is a lawyer. Every other profession and purÂ¬
suit is unrepresented except in the most casual way and the result is
before us in the deplorable chaos so ably described by Mr. Simon
Sterne. There is no instance in history of any one class ruling all
others wisely. Insensibly lawyer legislators, lawyer govenors and
lawyer judges will do what they can to promote litigation. This is
the legacy of lawyer rule continued througli a generation.
There does not seem to be any means to cure this evil. Our
wealthy and educated classes are unpopular with the average voter.
The lawyers are trained to public business. They cultivate the art
of oratory and persuasion and are familiar with parliamentary