Letter from RODNEY V. MARSH to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated November 27, 1858.
Hon Geo. P. Marsh
There has never been a time since I was a member that rail road influences were brought to bear so directly on members and so overpoweringly as during the session of the Legislature just passed. The Com. on Roads to whom was referred all Rail road matters were, at least a majority of them, the creatures of the Rail roads and Dean its Chairman had undoubtedly made up his mind to do every thing, precisely, as they desired to have him. I preferred to have your Report & the bill I introduced referred to a Select Committee but Linsley of Rutland fought against it as well as others and finally it went to the Committee on Roads. This was in October
After this I had frequent conversations with Dean--gave my views to him & the
he encouraged me with the beleif that he would report in a reasonable time. But he kept delaying the matter, paid no sort of attention to it, and although one or two resolutions passed the House calling upon him to report on that bill (H.99) he paid no sort of attention to them and did not report until the last week of the Session and then merely reported the passage of the bill. I stated in decisive language what I thought of this course the last night of the Session but as he did not attempt to apologise for it or to defend his course there was no great opportunity for discussion. It passed off like other business for want of time --
As to RR. Com a joint Resolution passed the House (after having been delayed time after time by Linsley of Rutland) to elect and the Senate laid it on the table till nearly the close of the Session--when they took it up and passed it. We did not elect till the last day, or last but one. Now as to reducing the salary.
A bill was referred to the Com. on Roads repealing all
laws on the subject of R.R. Com. and abolishing the Office and another reducing the Salary to $500. Dean, I beleive, first reported in favor of the and then in favor of the , but a Senate bill coming in reducing the salary to $500. He reported in favor of the Senate bill and under whip and spur of the rail-roads it was rushed through after midnight amid the bustle & confusion of the last night of the Session.
If I had not had so much other business on hand, during the Session, that must be done , I would have had, in some shape, a full discussion on this great subject of Rail roads but it would have resulted in nothing practical with a Senate constituted as it was, and so finally let it go.
But I am satisfied that this whole matter must, in some shape, be brought before the
people and decided by them. They are the ultimate tribunal but the question is how
can you get the question before them with most of the leading lawyers and nearly all
the presses in the State by them or at least favors in some shape
extended to them so that they would either refuse or be disinclined to publish any
thing on the subject. I should be pleased to have you consider this matter and let
me know what
you think of it.
I have been examining the Rail road laws of Mass. & Conn. and find them more stringent than any thing in the bill introduced that Com. on Roads reported against.
I think if Mr. Edmunds (the Speaker) had appointed a different Com. on Roads it might have effected a vast difference in the action of the House on the subject. Linsley who voted to reduce the Salary I presume thought the $1000. none too high when he was Comr.
It would, I presume, very much gratify the roads to have you resign, because of the reduction of the Salary, but I would do no such thing. I would watch them the closer and be faithful and thorough in exposing every thing of importance to the public in your next report the same as if the salary were higher so as to keep the public advised of their doings & movements Should be pleased to receive your views on all these matters addressed to me at Brandon as I shall return on Monday Very Truly & Respfly Yours
R V. Marsh
References in this letter:
In November 1857 Marsh was appointed Vermont Railroad Commissioner, a post he held until 1859. An informed critic of railroad corporate abuses, he wrote three devastating reports, incurring the wrath of the railroad lobby. Using its influence in the Vermont legislature, the lobby sought to block his reappointment.
Charles Linsley (1795-1863) served in the Vermont House of Representatives during the 1858 session. He represented railroad lobby interests while he was Commissioner of Railroads but in 1857 the legislature replaced him with George Perkins Marsh.
George Franklin Edmunds (1828-1919) began his career practicing law in Burlington. He served in the Vermont State House of Representatives and in the State Senate. In 1866 he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican to fill the vacancy caused by Solomon Foot's death and served for four terms. He resigned in 1891. Edmunds was married to Susan Edmunds, the daughter of Marsh's sister and Wyllys Lyman, his Burlington friend.
Rodney V. Marsh of Brandon (1807-1872) served in the Vermont House of Representatives during the 1856, 1857 and 1858 sessions.