High prices, from Defective Railroad transportation.
--The slowness, uncertainly, and deficiency of railroad transportation in the South
, especially in Virginia
, is producing a taxation upon the people vexations, onerous, and in the last degree unfortunate in its consequences.
At any other time than during a period of war, the people might afford to pay seven dollars a sack for salt and twenty and thirty cents a pound for sugars; but if they are forced unnecessarily to pay these prices during the pendency of war, a large tax is extorted from them by private speculators, which diminishes that far their capacity for contributing help to the country in its struggle.
We have on former occasions shown that there is really no deficiency of salt in the Confederate States
We have pointed out the specific means from which an increase of supply can be procured more than sufficient to compensate for any falling off from the stoppage of importations.
But, notwithstanding that the supply is abundant, yet, owing to the failure of the railroads to transport it from the points of manufacture to the points of consumption, it is bringing in some localities the enormous price we have named.
There is especially in Virginia
not only enough salt to supply her own wants, but enough also to furnish all they need to at least half the Southern Confederacy.
It is blocked, however, for the want of transportation on the railroads.
We understand that many of the depots on the Virginia and Tennessee railroad have considerable stocks of salt held by speculators, and that these are confident of making large profits on the property, from the belief that the road itself will not bring down salt from the Salines, in Smyth county
, in quantities to meet the demands of the market.
Much allowance is to be made to the railroads for the heavy transportation they are obliged to do for the Government
; but this should not be permitted to produce a total suspension of transportation for the people.
If the railroads refuse to make arrangements for transporting ample supplies of such an article of necessity as salt for general consumption, they fail to perform their duty to the public, and become a curse to the community, by aiding and abetting in fact, however unintentionally, the extortions of speculators.
If all the salt that is manufactured at the Salines on the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, were brought down by that corporation, there would be no difficulty in obtaining it at $2.25 a sack, the price demanded at the Salines, with the freight to Richmond
What is said of this article is true of almost all others for which exorbitant prices are now demanded.
There is no reason why brown sugars
should be sold at the enormous prices now demanded for them.
They can be got for six and a half to ten cents in New Orleans, which price, with the regular rates of freight added, would bring the cost in Richmond
to a figure that none could complain of. But the failure of the railroads to transport the article produces a deficiency of supply here, which places the people at the mercy of unconscionable speculators.
When it is recollected that the community have consented to a very heavy taxation for the purpose of constructing these railroads, their delinquency at the present time seems unpardonable.
Such is the intensity of this evil resulting from inefficiency of railroad transportation, that goods are now wagoned in many parts of Virginia
for two or three hundred miles along the lines of the railroads, from the utter inability of the people to procure transportation for even necessaries of life upon their freight trains.
The evil calls aloud for reformation.
There can be no expense for the continuance systematically of an evil so galling and so crushing to the community.
While it is impossible to procure freights on the railroad or regular routes of freightage, Express companies seem to have no difficulty in getting their own costly transportation through; so that the only sure mode of procuring supplies by railroad, is by paying Express rates.
This is a disreputable mode of evading the charter restrictions upon the railroads prohibiting higher rates than eight cents per ton per mile.
Not only might sugar, salt, and nearly all articles of Southern production, be procured at reasonable rates, if the railroads would only transport the freight of the people, but many articles not of Southern growth could be materially brought down in price.
We understand the depots in Tennessee
are filled with dry and miscellaneous goods
brought in from the North
before the communications with the enemy were cut off; and that there would be no scarcity of the larger variety of goods needed by the public, if only the railroads would bring on the freight waiting for transportation.
The people might be saved, probably, half the expenses of the war, in the lower prices they would have to pay for supplies and goods, if only the railroads could be brought to do their duty.
We trust that the attention and scrutiny of the public will be fixed upon the subject until some reform is wrought of one of the most oppressive evils of the day.