U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
202-366-4000


Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Highway History

<< Previous Contents Next >>

A Maximum of Good Results: Martin Dodge and the Good Roads Trains

The Brownlow-Latimer Bill

As 1904 began, good roads advocates were optimistic about the prospects for Federal legislation authorizing funds for highway improvement. The 59th Congress had begun its second session on December 7, 1903, running through April 28, 1904. A third session would run December 5, 1904 to March 3, 1905. Those were the key dates for the good roads legislation.

E. L. Powers, the editor of Good Roads Magazine, published an editorial in the January 1904 issue expressing his view that the Brownlow Bill was a "starting point." Senator J. H. Gallinger of New Hampshire had introduced a similar bill, while Senator Latimer planned to introduce a bill with somewhat similar details. The editorial continued:

Whatever may be the outcome of the bills the fact that they have been introduced and will be up for discussion will be educational and serve to still further bring the matter of national aid more thoroughly before the people in every part of the country. The fact Senator Gallinger is a republican and Senator Latimer a democrat puts the measure beyond the charge that the question is in any way partisan. This is as it should be for since the question is an industrial one the matter should be developed along non-partisan lines similar to the way in which the rural free delivery of mail has been developed. ["National Aid in the Senate," p. 26]

In a separate article the magazine listed the amount each State would receive from the $24 million provided for in the Brownlow Bill. New York would receive the largest amount ($2,108,000), while the minimum amount allowed ($250,000) went to 16 States with populations less than 700,000 inhabitants. ["The Brownlow Bill," p. 28]

Senator Latimer introduced his bill to establish a Bureau of Public Highways in the Department of Agriculture. The bill appropriated $24 million "out of any moneys in the treasury not otherwise appropriated," at a rate of $8 million a year, with the funds apportioned among the States on a population basis. The bureau would consist of three commissioners, two of whom would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, from the majority and largest minority party. The third commission would be an officer (Captain or above) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Under the Latimer Bill, States and territories would apply to the bureau for aid, on a 50-50 matching basis, "in the improvement or construction of the public roads or sections thereof." A State or territory may not request aid "until it shall have established, to the satisfaction of the said commissioners of highways" that the road "is of sufficient public importance," the right-of-way has been secured, the road will be improved in accordance with the bureau's rules and regulations and "will be maintained and kept in repair without recourse upon the United States," and the State has provided for its share of the funding.

In introducing the bill on January 14, Senator Latimer had delivered an address in the Senate. He cited five reasons why the Federal Government should aid in road building, summarized here:

  1. History demonstrated that a complete system of public roads had never been constructed without aid of the general government.
  2. Since taxes are raised from all people, and all people should pay to improve roads, only the Federal Government could accomplish this goal. The Federal Government had a responsibility to pay its just proportion for roads that were used for the delivery of the mail, for military purposes in time of war, and at all times for interstate commerce.
  3. Better roads are a national necessity that closely concerns the general welfare.
  4. And the surplus of $260 million "lying idle in the treasury" should be expended for the greatest good for the largest number, a goal that could be accomplished by Federal-aid.
  5. Good roads would contribute many benefits, including a reversal of the trend pulling rural folks to the cities.

He concluded:

I am convinced that it is only by federal aid that we will ever have good roads uniformly throughout the country. The government must stimulate and aid the people in the work. It is the history of road development in every country. Small sections of roads may be built in various sections, but we can never advance in this respect in proportion to the needs of the people unless we can secure government aid. ["Good Roads and Road Building," Good Roads Magazine, April 1904, p, 172-174]

Powers also quoted President Roosevelt's annual message to Congress, dated December 7, 1903, which included a passage in support of rural free delivery. "While a due regard to economy must be kept in mind," the President had said, in establishing new routes, "yet the extension of the rural free delivery system must be continued for reasons of sound public policy." He knew of no governmental movement that had such an immediate benefit for residents of the country districts:

Rural free delivery, taken in connection with the telephone, the bicycle and the trolley, accomplishes much toward lessening the isolation of farm life and making it brighter and more attractive . . . . It is unhealthy and undesirable for the cities to grow at the expense of the country, and rural free delivery is not only a good thing in itself, but is good because it is one of the causes which check this unwholesome tendency toward the urban concentration of our population at the expense of the country districts.

He added:

It is for the same reason that we sympathize with and approve the policy of building good roads. The movement for good roads is one fraught with the greatest benefit to the country districts. ["The President on Good Roads," Good Roads Magazine, January 1904, p. 29]

Again, he endorsed good roads, but was silent on national aid.

On January 23, the Automobile Club of America held a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. Dodge, Eldridge, and Abbott of the OPRI were among the guests, along with Congressman Brownlow, Senators Latimer and Gallinger, General Miles, and Colonel Albert A. Pope, whose bicycles had launched the bicycle craze in the 1870's and who had long advocated Federal funding for good roads.

W. E. Scarritt, the club's president, offered a toast:

The Automobile Club of America stands for three things-good roads, good law and good behavior. The automobile is the last word of engineering skill. Yesterday it was the plaything of a few, to-day it is a servant of the many, to-morrow it will be the necessity of humanity.

Senator Gallinger recalled the funding for rivers and harbors, noting that, "Why, we have made appropriations for streams in the United States that ought to have been macadamized and made a playground for the automobiles." His views came down to this:

I am in favor of good roads, and I shall count it a great privilege to be permitted, as the representative of a generous and progressive people, to vote, if I have an opportunity, for a liberal appropriation from the public treasury for the purpose of aiding the towns, the cities and the states of this Union in procuring better roads than they have at the present time.

The account of the meeting in Good Roads Magazine pointed out that, "Three rousing cheers were given Representative Brownlow, of Tennessee, author of the famous Brownlow bill," as he rose to speak. He, too, cited the rivers and harbors money in addressing the constitutionality of funding for roads. "If they could appropriate this money under the constitution for the purpose of doing this, why may they not go into the interior and relieve the farmer?"

Senator Latimer also addressed the gathering:

The heaviest tax that the American people pay to-day is the mud tax. Why have we not changed this miserable condition that exists from one end of the country to the other? . . . . It takes the combined effort of the American people, just as it has taken in every civilized country; the combined effort of the government to accomplish the great results that we all long to see in this grand country of ours. ["Good Roads at the A.C.A. Banquet," Good Roads Magazine, February 1904, p. 67-68]

A few days later, on January 26, the special committee appointed by the NGRA in St. Louis met at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington for what Good Roads Magazinecalled the "most enthusiastic gathering of good roads advocates that has ever assembled in the city of Washington, D.C." Colonel Richardson of the NGRA led the discussion of the resolutions adopted in St. Louis. Dodge, who attended with Senator Latimer and Representative Brownlow, was appointed to the committee that would wait on President Roosevelt to arrange for a meeting. Other committees were appointed to call on Speaker of the House Joseph G. Cannon and the Agricultural Committees of the House and Senate, while another was dispatched to invite Secretary Wilson to address the meeting.

Representative Brownlow said that although he had submitted a bill, "I stand primarily on the broad proposition that Congress should grant national aid, and I am not a partisan of even my own bill." He would support the bills introduced by Senators Latimer or Gallinger or any measure that appropriates funds for good roads:

I think it would be unwise for this committee, or for the National Good Roads Association, to advocate any particular bill. We all want the same thing, and will be satisfied with nothing less. Let us, therefore, all work to the common end, disregarding any particular bill that may come before Congress.

Senator Latimer agreed. "I want this committee, when it goes before the committees of congress, to say nothing at all about the Latimer bill, the Brownlow bill, or any other bill, but to tell them you are here for the purpose of getting good roads, representing the farmers of this country." He added that since he and Representative Brownlow represented different political parties, "we have thus cinched the elimination of politics at the outset," joking:

The democrats will say this is a rotten republican scheme, and the republicans will say it is a rotten democratic scheme, and there the political argument must end.

He concluded:

You are here with a solid constituency standing for aid to the common people. The man who stands in the way of this measure must be retired to private life. Warn him that the people are organized at home, and that if he refuses they propose to send somebody to congress that will represent the people in this country.

At that point, the committee dispatched to invite Secretary Wilson arrived with the Secretary. After State Senator Thomas G. Harper, president of the Iowa State Good Roads Association, made a formal greeting, Secretary Wilson said, "I merely came over to bid you welcome to the Capitol City of our country, and to look you in the faces, to see how you size up with other conventions of farmers that come here to look after the interests of the farm." If he hadn't known better, "I would not have known the difference" between this group and a group of Senators of Representatives.

Secretary Wilson mentioned the importance of farmers to the Nation, saying "they have to have good roads to go on." He acknowledged that legislators have been "a little shy at the road problem," but authorized an inquiry into the problem in the form of the OPRI:

Great progress has been made in the work of this division in ascertaining and demonstrating how to build good roads, and in distributing literature to the people most interested in this subject. All this has tended to create a sentiment in favor of having better roads, and in keeping up with the march of progress in the United States . . . .

He did not commit to support the pending legislation, but said:

It is the special mission of the Department of Agriculture to do all in its power to aid the farmers of this country in every respect, and you may rest assured that whatever law may be enacted on the subject of good roads, if it is entrusted to that department to see to its execution, it will be ably and speedily carried out, I assure you.

Representative Brownlow responded to Secretary Wilson that advocates in Congress "have endeavored to make it non-partisan as far as possible." He noted that Congress appropriated funds for relief of the sufferers of Martinique and Ireland, to suppress the Spaniards in Cuba, "and now the people of this country are coming to congress with the determination that it shall do something to aid the farmer in shaking off the shackles of his investment in the way of bad and impassable roads."

The following day, January 24, the special NGRA committee testified before the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry of the U.S. Senate on "Roads and Road Building." The hearing was formally designed to consider the Latimer, Gallinger, and Brownlow Bills.

Committee Chairman Redfield Proctor of Vermont conducted the hearing. He was a lawyer who had fought in the Civil War, served in the State Senate and House of Representatives, as Lieutenant Governor (1876-1878) and Governor (1878-1880), and Secretary of War under President Benjamin Harrison before resigning to become a U.S. Senator in 1891 where he served until his death on March 4, 1908. Senator Proctor began the hearing by acknowledging that he had not examined the Latimer or Brownlow bill carefully, "but I see that $24,000,000 is the sum proposed to be appropriated in each. I suppose that is the main idea."

Senator Latimer began the hearing by introducing special committee chairman Harper, who presented the NGRA convention's resolution in support of national aid. After explaining the value of good roads in war and peace, Harper said, "History but repeats itself. No country now enjoys improved roads without the General Government's aid in their construction. We do not believe ours will prove an exception." He introduced the other members of the committee who made statements in support of the cause.

Chairman Proctor asked Harper for statistics on road methods in other countries. Although Harper did not have the statistics, he thought the OPRI could submit them to the committee. (The OPRI information was reprinted in the hearing report.)

Senator Joseph V. Quarles of Iowa asked Harper, "What provision have you in your scheme for determining, for instance, in the State of Iowa, where the first road should be built?" When Harper said he had not worked out that detail, Senator Quarles informed him that it was a matter "of very great importance." He asked if the scheme involved taxation. Harped replied that it did. Will not, the Senator asked, the people whose roads are not improved be dissatisfied? Senator Latimer replied that most States were considering appointment of a highway commission to cooperate with the Washington bureau:

The location of the roads will be left entirely with that commission, as to where it shall be constructed and on what plan.

Senator Quarles pointed out that the plan had three jurisdictions-the Federal Government, State government, and the local government. "How are you going to distribute those several jurisdictions so as to have no conflict or hostility?" A member of the NGRA committee, W. A. Walker of Racine, Wisconsin, responded:

I will state that we are going to begin where and when the local community first begins and says it is ready to contribute its part. The local community can not participate either in State or National aid until it is ready to do its part. Then it can get its per capita portion of both State and National aid.

With the hearing in its final moments, Harper told the committee, "We wanted you to see that we come from the people. We are of the people whom you represent." Chairman Proctor assured Harper that the committee was "glad to see you and to hear from you, and your case has been presented very intelligently." Senator Quarles added, "And very ably," to which Chairman Proctor amended, "And effectively." Harper concluded, "We leave the matter now in your hands, and we have a feeling that you will do what is right in the matter."

With the hearing concluded on page 24, the 115-page Senate hearing report reprinted the lengthy brief submitted by Harper's committee, including statements and other documents in support of national aid. [58th Congress, 2d Session, Document No. 204]

At 4 pm, the NGRA special committee went to the White House to see President Roosevelt. The President said:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to greet you particularly, and I am sure I need not say how entirely I sympathize with the movement that you are championing for better means of communication. The road is the symbol of communication. The road is the symbol of civilization. Take our great provinces of Alaska; I doubt if there is anything more needed for the development of Alaska on permanent lines than the building up of a proper system of roads and, where it is impossible to make wagon roads, trails in Alaska. Throughout the country our citizens will have to turn their energies toward improving the means of intercourse-that is, the roads-between community and community, because we are a civilized people, and we cannot afford to have barbaric methods of communication."

Like Secretary Wilson, the President endorsed good roads, but again was silent on Federal legislation on the subject. Nevertheless, the special committee returned to the Raleigh Hotel after the reception and closed the meeting "in a general handshaking and congratulations among each other upon the great success with which their efforts had been crowned." They all pledged to meet again at the NGRA's May meeting in St. Louis and "in the meantime [to] give time and energy to the subject of national aid to good roads." ["National Aid Committee Meeting," Good Roads Magazine, February 1904, p 60-65]

In an editorial, Powers emphasized the diversity of the special committee, which represented nearly every State in the Union, with people from a wide range of trades. "It is seldom that representatives of so many important interests have assembled for the purpose of advancing a cause, and the results accomplished mark a milestone in the history of the movement for good roadways." Advocates from around the country were "rejoicing over the cordial words of sympathy with the movement" by President Roosevelt:

While the chief executive did not definitely commit himself to the policy of federal aid, yet his unqualified endorsement of the efforts of the men whom he was addressing, in the full knowledge that they were striving to the utmost to secure an adequate appropriation by congress, may fairly be construed to imply a promise of his assistance in this important phase of the problem of highway improvement . . . .

We believe that the words uttered by President Roosevelt were entirely frank and ingenuous, and that he will put no obstacle in the way of the enactment of the national aid bills now before congress. He is, moreover, in a position to show just how deep his interest in the matter is; for if he should throw his influence into the scale in favor of those bills, it would greatly increase their chance of passage. May his deeds in this matter completely fulfil [sic] the promise of his words!

Regardless, Powers said, if any of the bills made it to the House or Senate floor for discussion "the adoption of some measure will, we believe, hardly fail of passage." In short, "Certainly, the outlook never looked so bright." ["A Milestone" and "Words and Deeds," Good Roads Magazine, February 1904, p. 78-79]

On February 3, Representative Brownlow introduced a new version of his bill that conformed for the most part to the Latimer Bill.

On February 10-11, 1904, Horatio Earle's American Road Makers met in the Assembly Chamber of the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut, for its annual meeting. Senator Latimer addressed the convention during the first session. Upon his introduction, the attendees "heartily applauded" the Senator, who spoke in support of Federal-aid. He objected to politicians who opposed the measure because of the presidential election coming in November 1904. He expressed the view that since this was the only time farmers had ever asked for something from the United States Treasury, their plea should be heard.

Earle pointed out the $400 million that had gone into rivers and harbors, and expressed the view that some of the tax revenue should go into the making of highways that belong to all the people. Because farmers paid taxes for a wide range of activities, he said, "Let the state practice reciprocity by aiding in improving the roads that all use." The expenditure would be returned:

Build a good road into the rural district, then daily papers will be bought, books, furniture, new house[s], new barns with silos and all kinds of labor-saving devices.

Martin Dodge addressed the convention on lowering the cost of transportation. "It is for lack of cheap transportation primarily and mainly that the country people suffer." He emphasized the broad nature of the Good Roads Movement:

[But] now a voice is heard through chambers of commerce and boards of trade and executive offices of the great cities to the effect that they are willing to pay money into a general fund the same to be used in improving the highways of the country and no part of it to be used toward paving the streets of the cities. Concurrently with this we find the southern statesmen coming rapidly to the front with a proposition for national aid in road building, and, for the first time in two generations, we have the very remarkable spectacle of a distinguished southern statesman offering in the United States Senate a bill authorizing the United States government to co-operate with the different states or civil subdivisions thereof in the permanent improvement of the public roads. Senator Latimer of South Carolina is the author of this measure, and says that it is generally supported by the statesmen of the south. So we have now for the first time the northern farmers, the southern statesmen and the representatives of concentrated wealth in the great cities all favoring a new plan of co-operation in road building by which the people in the rural districts shall be relieved of a portion of the burden and the entire cost distributed so that all shall bear their just proportion.

The convention concluded with the adoption of resolutions, including resolutions in favor of national, State, and local cooperation for the improvement of public highways. [" American Road Makers' Convention," Good Roads Magazine, March 1904, p. 105-113]

Participants in a wide range of good roads conventions discussed the pending legislation. Dodge, Senator Latimer, and Horatio Earle addressed the State good roads convenion in the hall of the House of Representatives in Columbus, Ohio, on February 15. Dodge contrasted his experience in 1893 on Ohio's first State good roads commission with the present, and recommended creation of a permanent road commission. Earle, Latimer, and others supported Federal-aid. Leaders of the Minnesota Good Roads Association endorsed the legislation during the association's convention on February 23. Colonel Richardson addressed the convention in support of Federal-aid. He also addressed the convention of the Iowa State Good Roads Association on February 24.

Earle and Senator Latimer joined Colonel Pope at the first annual convention of the New York and Chicago Road Association, another of the early named trail associations (dedicated to establishing a continuous road between the two cities) on March 16 and 17. They and others endorsed Federal-aid, as did the convention as a whole. Similarly, the Southern Good Roads Convention, sponsored by the NGRA and the Progressive Union of New Orleans, adopted a resolution in favor of national aid on the final day of the New Orleans convention, April 18.

The NGRA and OPRI attended, along with Senator Latimer, the Illinois State good roads convention in Springfield, May 3 and 4. Senator Latimer discussed his bill, citing statistics showing that from a purely business standpoint, Federal-aid was a good investment. "We are," he said, "building the Panama Canal to cheapen the cost of transportation, and yet in transportation on our country roads we are paying an annual 'mud' tax' of over $500,000,000." In the discussion that followed, Professor Ira O. Baker of the University of Illinois disputed the Senator's statistics and attacked the Federal-aid bills. According to an account in Good Roads Magazine:

Among those who took issue with the speaker in the discussion which followed were Senator Latimer, Col. R. W. Richardson and M. O. Eldridge, and the several arguments advanced by Professor Baker were convincingly answered by these gentlemen.

The convention adopted resolutions in support of State and Federal-aid. ["The Illinois State Convention," Good Roads Magazine, June 1904, p. 290]

Despite this support, neither House of Congress took up the Federal-aid bills before the session adjourned on April 28. Looking on the bright side, Powers stated:

There is little question, however, in the minds of the leaders of the movement . . . but that a bill granting national aid will be passed at the next session of congress.

Given the broad support from people around the country, he said, "it goes without saying that the members of both branches of congress will follow the wishes of their constituents." As further evidence, he cited an "important victory" when "the friends of the Office of Public Road Inquiries" in the Senate secured an appropriation of $45,000 for the OPRI in the Department of Agriculture appropriations act, approved April 23, 1904. Chairman James Wadsworth of the House Committee on Agriculture had threatened the increase in late January or early February, but had relented. [Seely, Ph.D., p. 97, footnote 54]

The funds would allow the OPRI to continue its many activities, including construction of object-lesson roads:

The work of the Office is virtually national aid on a small scale and is of great importance from an educational point of view. What is wanted, however, is a great many times larger appropriation in order to secure the best possible results in road improvement throughout the entire country. ["The Progress of National Aid," Good Roads Magazine, April 1904, p. 176]

58th Congress, 3rd Session

Advocates of Federal-aid began to focus on the third session of the 58th Congress, which would begin December 5, 1904 and run through March 3, 1905. To that end, the May 1904 issue of Good Roads Magazine contained articles by Senator Latimer and Representative Brownlow. Senator Latimer began by quoting Thomas Jefferson's 1786 letter to James Ross about the use of public funds for rivers, roads, and canals as an introduction to a discussion of the constitutional question involved in Federal-aid. Having addressed the constitutional authority, he asked, "Why is it that Congress does not pass this legislation?" His response:

There is only one answer that can be given, and that is "Politics." Many ingenious and refined arguments are advanced to shield those opposed to this measure, but not only is there nothing in the arguments themselves, but they are made for the sole purpose of avoiding the responsibility of meeting this question fairly. Some say it is unconstitutional, and when asked if they did not vote for this or that appropriation which was on all fours with this, they answer, "Yes, but one violation of the Constitution does not justify another." The literal truth is that every one recognizes that Congress can pass this measure in such form as will be perfectly Constitutional, and the opposition to it is on political grounds entirely. The party in power [says] that a Presidential election is approaching, and that they cannot afford to take the chance of increasing the appropriations. And so it is that the men who are responsible for the administration of the Government are playing politics while the people drag their weary way through the mud at a loss of millions of dollars annually.

What, he asked, is the best course to pursue? Fortunately, he said, "the people are the source of power." If they have the facts, "they will see to it that consideration of the subject is had." He continued:

We should make the proposition of national aid one of the main issues of the campaign, and commit every man who offers himself for the suffrages of the people to work for the passage of this legislation. Let us have no equivocation. It is only in this way that we can ever win the fight . . . .

[If] all the friends of the movement will unite in carrying on the campaign of education so auspiciously begun, we need not fear the ultimate result. ["The National Aid Cause," Good Roads Magazine, May 1904, p. 212-215]

Representative Brownlow used his article to respond to criticism of Federal-aid in the national press. Overall, the daily and weekly press "has been remarkably favorable to the national aid plan." Nevertheless, one paper "of national reputation," namely The Washington Post, "has persistently attacked all bills introduced into Congress, making appropriations for road improvement." He said:

The Post's principal charge against the national aid plan is that it is "stupendous paternalism." But I have watched in vain for any serious attempt to substantiate the charge.

He explained that the term "paternalism" was hard to define; there was "no clear and recognized line between that which is paternalistic and that which is not." He thought that as popularly used, the term meant: "Paternalism is a club with which public men try to kill off measures to which they are opposed." If national aid for good roads was objectionable paternalism, critics should also kill off river and harbor funds, government aid to irrigation, and many other appropriations that are "unconstitutional, undemocratic, paternalistic, etc."

The Post had predicted, Brownlow said, "that the South will eventually oppose national aid to road improvement" as it had a few years earlier opposed Federal aid to education. He responded that the Post editors should know that the two forms of Federal-aid were not comparable since, in the case of education, "this opposition arose from the more or less definite connection between that bill and the race question." Moreover, the South had not opposed Federal-aid for maintaining agricultural colleges. He asked:

Has the South opposed this "federal aid to education?" Not that I ever heard.

Brownlow welcomed criticism because it provided opportunities for discussion that would "lead to convictions and finally to definite action." ["A Reply to Some Criticisms," Good Roads Magazine, May 1904, p. 215-216]

In June, Powers recommended that good roads advocates introduce Good Roads Planks at the national political conventions. He reasoned that, "the political party which ignores committing itself in favor of one of the greatest needs of the country will go into the campaign greatly handicapped."

On May 16, the NGRA called its annual convention to order at Music Hall in St. Louis, during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the World's Fair held from April 30, to December 1, 1904. Speakers included Governor Dockery, Senator Latimer, General Miles, Colonel Moore, Colonel Richardson, Colonel Pope, Horatio Earle, Martin Dodge and Secretary Wilson.

Secretary Wilson addressed the convention on May 19, which had been declared "Good Roads Day" at the exposition. Speaking in the Missouri Building on exposition grounds, Secretary Wilson said that the convention was called to discuss "one feature of agriculture, that which pertains to getting about." He congratulated Colonel Moore and the NGRA for taking up "one of the great specialties pertaining to our future welfare, and . . . pushing it with such vigor and such success."

However, it was not the only science that pertained to "the man who works in the field with his coat off; he is my fellow, and I am his helper." For the farmer, meteorology was vital, as it was for roads. Drainage was vital to both. "We need to know more about the atmosphere before we know enough to be road engineers." Domestic animals were also important. "What is the value of a good road if you haven't anything to run over it?" And, a better understanding of materials and soils, which varied around the country, was needed. The OPRI, through its experimental and demonstration work, was making progress, and Secretary Wilson said he was pushing the scientists in his department to find answers. He closed with praise of the American farmer and, according to Good Roads Magazine "was loudly applauded" and "given a vote of thanks by a rising vote of the convention." As quoted in the magazine, he did not endorse or discuss the pending good roads bills in Congress.

As might be expected, the NGRA adopted resolutions in support of Federal-aid for the construction of public roads, as well as an increase to $150,000 for the OPRI, which should be advanced to Bureau status. The NGRA also resolved that in the 1904 election all candidates should be asked to take a stand on the subject.

A note in the August 1904 issue of Good Roads Magazine stated that "Senator Latimer's roads bill will be among the first to engage Congress at the next sessions." [p. 399] Meanwhile, the NGRA continued to promote the cause. It participated in the Southeastern Kansas Good Roads Association meeting at Iola, Kansas, on July 19. The association adopted resolutions similar to those approved in St. Louis. The NGRA also held a good roads institute in Shreveport, Louisiana, on September 6 and 7. Colonel Richardson addressed the attendees, as did Eldridge, who delivered his stereopticon lecture on the roads of the world. The meeting concluded with adoption of resolutions, including one supporting Federal-aid.

Colonel Moore submitted proposed Good Roads Planks for the national political parties but they declined to adopt them. (According to Seely, Dodge probably submitted a plank to the Republican platform committee, but Moore claimed authorship of both planks. [Seely, Ph.D. footnote 57, p. 97]) In October, Powers acknowledged his disappointment:

It is an encouraging sign and shows that the subject is constantly taking hold of the people who insist that their representatives shall be in favor of improved roads in order to secure their suffrage. It was a disappointment to many of the earnest advocates of good roads that the two great national parties did not declare themselves in favor of good roads at their late conventions. This failure is due no doubt to the fact that the question had not been before the people longer. A year or two hence we predict that the situation will be greatly changed. ["Good Roads Planks," Good Roads Magazine, October 1904, p. 497]

Powers also commented that "in some sections political capital has been made out of the Brownlow bill in the campaign for the election of congressional candidates." He knew of one instance where a candidate, whom he did not name, claimed "the bill is a political clap-trap." Powers said, "Such statements are of the sheerest folly, and are designed for political capital only." He expected the candidate "will be literally snowed under when the votes are in and counted." ["The Brownlow Bill," p. 497]

(The Republican Party had included a good roads plank in its 1900 platform:

Public movements looking to a permanent improvement of the roads and highways of the country meet with our cordial approval, and we recommend this subject to the earnest consideration of the people and of the Legislatures of the several states.

Although neither major political party adopted a good roads plank in 1904, both included a plank in the party platform for 1908. The Democratic Party adopted a "Post Roads" plank reading:

We favor Federal aid to State and local authorities in the construction and maintenance of post roads.

The Republican Party, in its plank on "The American Farmer" included this statement:

We recognize the social and economical advantages of good country roads, maintained more and more largely at public expense, and less and less at the expense of the abutting owner. In this work we commend the growing practice of State aid, and we approve the efforts of the National Agricultural Department by experiments and otherwise to make clear to the public the best methods of road construction.)

On October 1, Colonel Moore's NGRA was along for another good roads train, this one sponsored by the Frisco Railway Company. It would leave St. Louis for stops planned in Alabama, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma Territory, Tennessee, and Texas. The train consisted of six carloads of road building machinery provided by the manufacturers, a work crew, two Pullman coaches, and OPRI experts, notably Charles T. Harrison, to supervise object-lesson roads. Goods Roads Magazine summarized the plan:

It is planned to visit over sixty towns in the different states and territories through which the train will pass and build sample roads of macadam, telford, gravel, or dirt, in some places, and hold good roads conventions at all of them for the purposes of education and arousing enthusiasm to secure good roads legislation. ["Frisco Good Roads Train," Goods Roads Magazine, October 1904, p. 498]

Independent of the NGRA, other good roads associations endorsed the Federal legislation. On September 29, for example, the Washington Good Roads Association convened in Bellingham for its second annual convention. It adopted resolutions in support of "a liberal appropriation" for the OPRI and "passage of a federal law embodying the principles of the Brownlow bill (H.R. 15369), introduced in the National House of Representatives, December 15, 1902." Joseph H. Dodge and James W. Abbott represented the OPRI, with Dodge speaking on "Good Roads to Farmers." Abbott was to deliver Eldridge's illustrated lecture on "The Roads of the World," but had to cancel the speech when his lantern projector failed. ["The Washington State Convention," Good Roads Magazine, November 1904, p. 552-553]

As the Frisco good roads train hopped from city to city, different OPRI officials joined it for the series of conventions. Colonel Richardson was on hand, often in his capacity as a special agent of the OPRI. Eldridge was in DeKalb, Illinois, on September 16, Rolla, Missouri, on September 20, and Lebanon, Missouri, on September 21. Martin Dodge addressed the convention in Joplin, Missouri, on October 18; Fredonia, Kansas, on October 26; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, on October 28.

In November, Powers published another editorial on "The National Aid Measure." With the 58th Congress assembling for its third session on December 5, he expected the Latimer-Brownlow Bill to be brought up and debated in Congress and around the country:

Interest in this measure is constantly growing, and in the good roads conventions and meetings that have been held throughout the country within the past few months the principle of national aid has been universally indorsed. There will, it is likely, [be] some opposition to the plan develop, but this will only serve to make its advocates more strenuous in their efforts to carry the day. So far as we know there is no organized opposition to the principle of government aid, but if there are valid reasons why congress should not adopt such a measure and thereby help every person in the United States, it is devoutly hoped that these arguments will be brought to light. We hope the matter will be presented fairly on its merits, and that those honestly opposed to the plan will not hesitate to let their reasons be known. In this, as in every other great public question involving the appropriation of the people's money, the fullest and freest discussion should be given, and in the end there can be no doubt concerning the result. [p. 548-549]

In the election of November 1904, President Roosevelt won his election bid. He defeated Alton Brooks Parker, who had resigned as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals to run for President. Roosevelt secured 7,630,457 votes to Parker's 5,083,880. (After losing the election, Parker returned to the practice of law in New York.)

On December 5, the lame-duck Congress returned for the Third Session of the 58th Congress, primarily to complete work on the appropriations acts for FY 1906 and a few other matters, such as tariff reciprocity with Cuba. An overriding concern was the budget, with expenditures for the upcoming year projected to exceed revenue. After the session ended on March 3, Congressman James A. Hemenway, Republican of Indiana and Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said:

I am advised by those most competent to judge that the deficiency in the revenue of the Government for the current fiscal year will not exceed $18,000,000. This deficiency is brought about by unforeseen expenditures in two directions, namely, $13,000,000 on account of new ships for the navy, and also in the probable excess of $5,000,000 or $6,000,000 of expenditures for the postal service over the postal receipts for 1905.

Hemenway acknowledged that the appropriation of $818,478,914 was more than in the previous year ($781,172,375), but he added:

These figures represent indeed a large sum of money, but they likewise represent a great and rich Nation of people. The wisdom and the honesty of the appropriations are not challenged, and the absolute integrity of their expenditure is guaranteed by the presence of Theodore Roosevelt at the head of the Government.

Representative Leonidas F. Livingston, of Georgia, the Ranking Democrat on the Committee, referred to the projected FY 1906 deficit of nearly $93 million as "a broad enough expanse between the buckle of expenditures and the tongue of revenues to startle the plain and common people, who bear the burden of taxation." ["Defend and Assail the National Budget," The New York Times, March 9, 1905]

In the House, Representative Brownlow's national aid bill was the first bill introduced. "The proposition," he explained, "is to provide a method of co-operation between the Federal, the State, and the municipal Governments on the matter of road building. The money of the Government is to be spent only when an equal amount is put with it by the locality in which the road is to be built." He added that he had modeled the bill on the New York State law. ["Bills in the House," The New York Times, December 2, 1902]

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry approved the Latimer-Brownlow Bill shortly after the session began. However, as Powers mentioned in his editorial in the January 1905 issue, the session was interested in "the question of economy." He feared the bill would not pass. On December 10, 1904, The New York Timesreported that Senator Latimer shared the concern:

Senator Latimer has given up hope of the passage of his Good Roads bill at the present session of Congress. In every quarter where effort has been made to obtain support for the measure the question of legislative extravagance has been raised. ["Economy Order of the Day," The New York Times, December 10, 1904]

Powers was already thinking ahead:

It is confidently expected, however, by the friends of the measure that either this bill, or some other embodying the principle of National aid will be introduced and carried to a successful issue at the next session of Congress. The sentiment of the press throughout the country is very generally in favor of the passage of such a measure, and under the circumstances the outlook is most encouraging. We are advised that other bills will be introduced at the next session differing considerably in detail but favoring the general principle of National aid. ["The National Aid Measure," Good Roads Magazine, January 1905, p. 28]

On January 19 through 21, Martin Dodge was in Jacksonville, Florida, for the NGRA's midwinter meeting. He discussed rural free delivery and its dependence on the advance of good roads. He also discussed OPRI's work in testing road materials to help communities identify the best material for road building. He acknowledged the division of opinion on the role of the national and State governments in regard to the improvement of the highways. This was, he said, a legislative issue, but that his Department would implement any law enacted.

Senator Latimer was on hand as well. Good Roads Magazine summarized his speech, in which he discussed why he supported good roads and a Federal role in their construction. He cited the appropriations for rivers and harbors:

He did not object to the appropriations because they all greatly helped the country, but he insisted that comfort and prosperity should first be given to the millions of people who are the producers of the nation. He asserted that the government had ample precedent in giving its aid to road building. He also explained the provisions of his bill now pending in Congress and said that the convicts in the various states ought to be put to work on the public roads. He declared that there is a majority in Congress which favors the bill and that the opposition comes from some of the leaders who claim that there is not money enough in the treasury. Senator Latimer, however, said he favored cutting other appropriations in order to give the people what they are justly entitled to.

The convention adopted resolutions endorsing the OPRI's work as well as Latimer Bill. ["Midwinter Convention of the N.G.R.A.," Good Roads Magazine, February 1905, p. 78-80]

Despite the agitation by the NGRA, Dodge, Powers, and many others, Congress did not approve the Latimer-Brownlow Bill during the third session of the 58th Congress, which adjourned on March 3 just before President Roosevelt's inauguration. The New York Times offered this assessment of the 58th Congress:

The Fifty-eighth Congress, which adjourned the morning of the president's inauguration, is notable for the large amount of important legislation proposed to it and the insignificant amount which it enacted. ["Congress and the President," The New York Times, March 6, 1905]

After the failure of the Latimer-Brownlow bill, dozens of bills would be introduced on roads through the mid-1910's. Many bills proposed designation and construction of a specific road or an "interstate" highway system, with the routes specified in the bills and, in some cases, given names. Most of the bills, however, proposed a Federal-aid type of program. Several proposed to distribute the surplus in the Treasury of the United States to the States, Territories, and the District of Columbia to improve their roads. Several others proposed variations of the Federal-aid concept once championed by Brownlow, Dodge, Eldridge, and Moore.

All would fail until 1916, when concerns about constitutionality, the view that the States should take responsibility for roads, and the fear that the program would grow too large were finally overcome in favor of a Federal-aid highway program that in many ways followed the Federal-aid plan outlined in the Brownlow Bill drafted by the OPRI.

Meanwhile, the 58th Congress had one last surprise for Martin Dodge.

<< Previous Contents Next >>
Updated: 10/16/2013
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000