The announcement is made that the Pacific Railway is completed. Amid the conflicting statements in regard to the manner in which the work has been performed, we know not whether the people ought to rejoice or to feel sorry. It is generally admitted that the road has been laid in an imperfect manner. Some will even have it, that it is a mere sham, only built as a matter of form to obtain the very liberal subsidies granted by the Government. This may be an extreme statement, but between those of the friends of the enterprise and its foes, there is room for no little fear that the immense franchise granted to the company has resulted in no adequate return to the people at large. If this should prove to be the case, through want of vigilance on the part of the Government, we see no reason to find fault with the company. As business experts they would naturally give only what was demanded of them. The Government has had it in its power at any time to withhold its aid until the terms of the charter were complied with, and if the company have found pliant tools in the Government officials, who were willing to rob the people for their own profit, it was to be expected that they would use them. We are confirmed more and more by daily developments in the belief that such enterprises should be either carried for- ward entirely by the Government, or accomplished solely by private enterprise. The system of making appropriations in aid of such works, is a vicious one, leading naturally to official corruption and fraud. It is loudly asserted, in many quarters, that the company have made too much money, and that they have at least attempted to cheat the Government. If the latter part of this charge is true, and if it means that the acceptance of inferior work has been sought by concealment of deficiencies, it ought to divest the corporation of all the privileges it holds under its charter. The former is no charge at all unless coupled with dishonesty. The right to make money, if it can be made honestly, is one nobody has hitherto denied either individuals or corporations. If the company have built as good a road as they contracted to make, we care not how much profit rewards their enterprise. If they have made their money dishonestly, and by performing their work in a manner inferior to the provisions of their contract, a remedy for the people ought not to be difficult to find, a remedy that will teach future solicitors for Government help, that it is dangerous to trespass upon the rights of the people. If, however, the cheating has been done through the honorable gentlemen who were stationed to guard the public purse, the public will transfer their wrath from the company to these offenders. We should not envy the position of those gentlemen should the people find that they have permitted themselves to be derelict in their duty in this matter. We give, on another page, a number of views taken from different points along the line of this road, which will interest those unacquainted with the peculiar features of the section it traverses.
This article was originally published with the title "Completion of the Pacific Railway" in Scientific American 20, 21, 329 (May 1869)