Изображения страниц

In 1879 and 1880 the water was 3 inches lower. In Ontario, the lake most affected, the low water of 1888 was 6 inches below the average, but this record has been exceeded six times in the last twenty-eight years. 1868 marks 10 inches below, 1872 16 inches, 1873 14 inches, 1875 (February) 13 inches, 1875 (December) 7 inches, and 1881 11 inches. In Michigan-Huron the recent low water was but 2 inches below the average, and in Erie but one inch. If our inland commerce has need to be assured of the continued fidelity of its “unsubsidized ally," it can find comfort in the contemplation of these figures.

The oscillations described affect an entire lake uniformly. There are others that affect its parts differently, the water rising in one place while falling in another. The most powerful cause of such displacement of level is the wind, which, driving the surface water before it, heaps it up against the lee shore; and the greatest effects are seen in Erie, wbose shallowness interferes with the adjustment of levels by means of a return current beneath. A gale blowing in the direction of the lake's length has been known to raise the level seven or eight feet at one end and depress it an equal amount at the other.

Oscillations of a second kind are caused by inequalities and variations of atmospheric pressure. When the air presses unequally on different parts of a lake an equilibrium is reached by a depression of the water surface under the heavier column and its elevation under the lighter. If the air pressures are rapidly shifted, as in the case of thunder-storms and tornadoes, rhythmic undulations are produced analogous to those from the dropping of a pebble in still water, and traveling like them to remote shores. The rhythmic period is usually measured in minutes and the height of the undulation in inches, but waves of this class sometimes equal the largest generated by wind. The passage over Lake Michigan of a broad wave of barometric change sets the water to swaying from side to side as we sometimes see it in a hand basin; but the greater body has a longer period, advancing and receding only eleven times in twenty-four hours.

Third and last are the tides, which ebb and flow in lunar and solar cycles as regularly here as on the ocean, but are unheeded by the navigator. The highest determined spring tide rises about 3 inches, and the average height of tide on the shores of the larger lakes is probably not more than one inch.

And so these lakes of ours, that seem to ordinary observation as enduring as the earth and yet as fickle as the weather, are to the trained imagination of science both ephemeral and constant The geologist looks backward to the time when they were not, and forward to the time when they will no longer be ; talks of their birth, growth, decline, and death, and, comparing their span of life with the earth's, declares them evanescent The physical geographer, analyzing the motions of the water, refers them to the attractions of celestial bodies, the pressures of air, the friction of winds, the varying dryness of the atmosphere, and the varying rain, and assigning each fluctuation to its appropriate cause, lays hare a fundamental constancy to which the navigator and the statesman may safely pin their faith.



RAILROAD managers have to face two distinct problems. With those who use the roads there are disputes about rates and facilities ; with those who operate the roads there are disputes about wages and organization, .

The question of railroad rates is constantly under discussion, and there has been a decided though slow progress toward its solution. No such progress can be observed in the relations between the railroads and their employees. A period of labor troubles comes and directs public attention to this matter; but when the strikes are over the public and the railroad managers forget all about them, and go on in the same heedless way as before. Yet railroad strikes involve a more vital problem than disputes about rates. The question what we are to pay for a given service is less serious than the question whether we are to have that service at all. And it is in this last form that the matter comes before the public in the event of a widespread railroad strike. This is what gives such troubles their greatest importance at the present day. It is not that these disputes are so much more numerous than they were fifty years ago; the difference in this respect is not nearly so great as most people believe. There were labor troubles then, just as there are now. But their effect upon the public to-day is much more serious ; first, because we are now more dependent for the necessaries of our daily life upon railroads and other agencies employing large bodies of workmen than we were fifty years ago; and secondly, because the concentration of industry in a few hands makes the strikes occur on a larger scale all at once, instead of being :scattered along from month to month and from place to place. When they were thus scattered, they could be left to be fought out by the parties immediately interested. Today the public interests are involved much more deeply; the parties to the contest have public responsibilities which they must not be allowed to overlook.

A railroad corporation must perform without serious interruption the work for which it is chartered. Whatever reservations the courts may make, the public demands continuous service. If the present system does not secure such service, there will be a demand too powerful to be resisted for a change of system. But may the workmen be allowed to take advantage of this necessity, and thus impose upon the corporation whatever terms they please? Obviously not. Such a course would make people justly unwilling to invest their money in railroads. It would interfere with the supply of capital necessary for the development of the country. It would actually injure the employees themselves, by diminishing the chances for employment. The case would be parallel to that of the granger legislation with regard to rates, fifteen years ago, when the shippers, by depriving the railroads of all chance for profit, deprived themselves of the railroad facilities which they needed for conducting their own business. Further than this, to allow the employees to dictate terms to their employers would interfere with the system and the discipline which is essential to public safety ; and it would disregard the rule, which has been found to be a matter of fundamental importance, of placing the power in the same hands as the responsibility. Were such dictation allowed, the more capital a company had invested the more completely would it be at the mercy of its employees.

The problem which we have to face is this: How shall we enforce upon the corporations the necessity of performing continuous service without, at the same time, enabling the employees to take an unfair and destructive advantage of this necessity ? Some say, by stricter laws with regard to combination. The difficulty cannot be overcome in that way. It has often been tried, and has as often failed. While it is not true that a thousand men have a right to do what one man has a right to do, it is generally true that the attempt to suppress the thousand men by sbeer force proves worse than useless. There is reason to hope that the combination laws may be improved, and that the mutual responsibilities of employer and employed under the labor contract may be better defined. But such improvements will tend rather to narrow the fighting ground, and prevent the public from being taken unawares, than to remove the actual occasion for the fight. The trouble is too deep-seated to be met by repressing the symptoms.

Others hope to see the difficulty solved by a system of compulsory arbitration. Unfortunately no general solution is likely to be attained in that way. There are certain rather narrow limits within which arbitration is useful. When a trouble arises from a misunderstanding rather than from a real controversy over a vital point, the mere chance to talk things over calmly may prevent a conflict. It is unfortunately true that many managers and superintendents, mistaking the appearance of discipline for the reality, give workmen very little opportunity to talk over their just grounds of complaint; and they thus foster an irritation which ought never to have arisen. In such cases arbitration may be the means for a mutual understanding. The French courts of arbitration, about whose success so much has been said, are chiefly of this kind. They are not composed of men selected for their technical knowledge, whose chief duty it is to make an award on disputed points; but men who will try to bring the parties at issue to a mutual understanding and a voluntary agreement. When an arbitrator can do this it is well; when he has to patch up a forced agreement it is generally useless, and sometimes worse. Many of our most serious strikes have been the result of the unpatural tension produced by living for a few months under such an agreement, satisfactory to neither party, and causing bad feeling, if not bad faith, on both sides.

An arbitrator's award differs from a legal decision in that it deals so largely with future events as distinct from past ones. A court makes a decision about the past, and enforces a penalty ; this serves as a precedent which cannot be safely disregarded. An arbitrator makes an order for the future; before it goes into effect either party can claim that the conditions have changed, and can refuse to abide by it; and a penalty cannot easily be exacted for such refusal. Under these circumstances the demand

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »