I have exercised the powers over the transportation systems of the country which were granted me by the Act of Congress of lastAugust 29, 1916 because it has become imperatively necessary for me to do so. This is a war of resources no less than of men, perhaps even more than of men, and it is necessary for the complete mobolization of our resources that the transportation facilities systems of the country should be organized and employed under a single authority and a simplified method of coordination which have not proved possible under private management and control. The committee of railway executives who have been cooperating with the Government in this all-important matter have done the utmost that it was possible for them to do; have done it with patriotic zeal and with great ability; but there were difficulties that they could neither escape nor neutralize. Complete unity of administration in the present circumstances involves upon occasion and at many points a serious dislocation of earnings, and the committee was, of course, without power or authority to re-arrange charges or effect proper compensations and adjustments of earnings. Several roads which were willingly and with admirable public spirit accepting the orders of the committee have already suffered from these circumstances and should not be required to suffer further. Inmmere fairness to them the full authority of the Government must be substituted. The Government itself will thereby gain an immense increase of efficiency in the conduct of the war and of the innumerable activities upon which its successful conduct depends.
The public interest must be first served and, in addition, the financial interests of the Government and the financial interests of the railways must be brought under a common direction. The financial operations of the railways need not then interfere with the borrowings of the Government, and they themselves can be conducted at a greater advantage. Investors in railway securities may rest assured that their rights and interests will be as scrupulously looked after by the Government as they could be by the directors of the several railway systems. Immediately upon the reassembling of Congress I shall recommend that these definite guarantees be given: first, of course, that the railway properties will be maintained during the period of federal control in as good repair and as complete equipment as when taken over by the Government, and, second, that the roads shall receive a net operating income equal to in each case to the average net income of the three years preceding June 30, 1917; and I am entirely confident that the Congress will be disposed in this case, as in others, to see that justice is done and full security assured to the owners and creditors of the great systems which the Government must now use under its own direction or else suffer serious embarrassment.
The Secretary of War and I are agreed that, all the circumstances being taken into consideration, the best results can be obtained under the immediate executive direction of the Honorable William G. McAdoo, whose practical experience peculiarly fits him for the service and whose authority as Secretary of the Treasury will enable him to coordinate as no other man could the many financial interests which will be involved and which might, unless systematically directed, suffer very embarrassing entanglements.
The Government of the United States is the only great government now engaged in the war which has not already assumed control of this sort. It was thought to be in the spirit of American institutions to attempt to do everything that was necessary through private management, and if zeal and ability and patriotic motive could have accomplished the necessary unification of administration, it would certainly have been accomplished; but no zeal or ability could overcome insuperable obstacles, and I have deemed it my duty to recognize that fact in all candor now that it is demonstrated and to use without reserve the great authority reposed in me. A great national necessity dictated the action and I was therefore not at liberty to abstain from it.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHEREAS the Congress of the United States, in the exercise of the constitutional authority vested in them, by joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives, bearing date April 6, 1917, resolved:
And by joint resolution bearing date of December 7, 1917, resolved:
The the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
And by joint resolution bearing date of December 7, 1917, resolved:
That a state of war is hereby declared to exist between the United States of America and the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government; and that the President be, and his is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
And whereas it is provided by section 1 of the Act approved August 29, 1916, entitled “An Act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1917, and for other purposes,” as follows:
The President, in time of war, is empowered, through the Secretary of War, to take possession and assume control of any system or systems of transportation, or any part thereof, and to utilize the same to the exclusion as far as may be necessary all other traffic thereon, for the transportation of troops, war material and equipment therefor, and for other needful and desirable purposes connected with the prosecution of the war;
And WHEREAS, it has now become necessary in the national defense to take possession and assume control of certain systems of transportation and to utilize the same, to the exclusion as far as may be necessary of other than war traffic thereon, for the transportation of troops, war material and equipment therefor, and for other needful and desirable purposes connected with the prosecution of the war;
NOW THEREFORE I, WOODROW WILSON, President of the United States, under and by virtue of the powers vested in me by the foregoing resolutions and statute, and by viture of all other powers thereto me enabling, do hereby, through Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, take possession and assume control at 12 o'clock noon on the twenty-eight day of December, 1917, of each and every system of transportation and the appurtenances thereof locat ed wholly or in part within the boundaries of the cont inentalUnited States and consisting of railroadsm, and owned or controlled systems of coastwise and inland transportation, engaged in general transportation, whether operated by steam or by electric power, including also terminals, terminal companies and terminal associations, sleeping and parlor cars, private cars and private car lines, elevators, warehouses, telegraph and telephone lines and all other equipment and appurtenances commonly used upon or operated as a part of such rail or combined rail and water systems of transportation; - to the end that such systems of transportation be utilized for the transfer n and transportation of troops, war material and equipment, to the exclusion so far as may be necessary of all other traffic thereon; and that so far as such exclusive use be not necessary or desirable, such systems of transportation be operated and utilized in the performance of such other services as the national interest may require and of the usual and ordinary business and duties of common carriers.
It is hereby directed that the possession, control, operation and utilization of such transportation systems hereby anby me undertaken shall be exercised by and through Wim. G. McAdoo, who is hereby appointed and designated Director General of Railroads. Said Director may perform the duties imposed upon him, so long and to such extent as he shall determine, through the Boards of Directors, Receivers, officers and employees of said systems of transportation. Until and except so far as said Director shall from time to time by general or special orders otherwise provide, the Boards of Directors, Receivers, officers and employees of the various transportation systems shall continue the operation thereof in the usual and ordinary course of the business of common carriers, in the names of their respective companies.
Until and except so far as said Director shall from time to time otherwise by general or special orders determine, such systems of transportation shall remain subject to all existing statutes and orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and to all statutes and orders of regulating commissions of the various states in which said systems or any part thereof may be situated. But any orders, general or special, hereafter made by said Director, shall have paramount authority and be obeyed as such.
Nothing herein shall be construed as now affecting the possession, operation and control of street electric passenger railways, including railways commonly called interurbans, whether such railways be or be not owned or controlled by such railroad companies or systems. By subsequent order and proclamation, if and when it shall be found necessary or desirable, possession, control, or operation may be taken of all or any part of such street railway systems, including subways and tunnels; and by subsequent order and proclamation possession, control and operation in whole or in part may also be relinquished to the owners thereof of any part of the railroad systems or rail and water systems, possession and control of which are hereby assumed.
The Director shall as soon as may be after having assumed such possession and control enter upon negotiations with the several companies looking to agreements for just and reasonable compensation for the possession, use and control of their respective properties on the basis of an annual guaranteed compensation, above accruing depreciation and the maintenance of their properties, equivalent, as nearly as may be, to the average of the net operating income thereof for the three year period ending June 30, 1917, -the results of such negotiations to be reported to me for such action as may be appropriate and lawful.
But nothing herein contained, expressed or implied, or hereafter done or suffered hereunder, shall be deemed in any way to impair the rights of the stockholders, bondholders, creditors and other persons having interests in said systems of transportation or in the profits thereof, to receive just and adequate compensation for the use and control and operation of their property hereby assumed.
Regular dividends hitherto declared, and maturing interest upon bonds, debentures and other obligations, may be paid in due course; and such regular dividends and interest may continue to be paid until and unless the said Director shall from time to time otherwise by general or special orders determine; and, subject to the approval of the Director, the various carriers may agree upon and arrange for the renewal and extension of maturing obligations.
Except with the prior written assent of said Director, no attachment by mesne process or on execution shall be levied on or against any of the property used by any of said transportation systems in the conduct of their business as common carriers; but suits may be brought by and against said carriers and judgments rendered as hitherto until and except so far as said Director may, by general or special orders, otherwise determine.
From and after twelve o'clock on said twenty-eighth day of December, 1917, all transportation systems included in this order andproclamation shall conclusively be deemed within the possession and control of said Director without further act or notice. But for the purpose of accounting said possession and control shall date from twelve o'clock midnight on December 31, 1917.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done by the President, through Newton D. Bakerm Secretary of War, in the District of Coolumbia, this 26th day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seventeen, and of the independence of the United States the one hundred and forty-second.
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924, “Government Assumption of Control of Transportation Systems,” 1917 December 26, WWP20635, Woodrow Wilson Press Statements, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.