Blundering City Fathers

February 6, 1897


John Mitchell Jr. speaks to the politics of City Council and building a bridge over the James River.


The actions of the Manchester, Va., City Council in refusing to permit the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company lower the free bridge over the James River, unless it agreed to build an entirely new structure, which would cost at least ($100,000) one hundred thousand dollars and possibly more was a blunder so stupid that we have time and again wondered who is directly responsible for it.
Here is a corporation in which can side-track Richmond at its pleasure and make a terminus at some other point, if it so desires, offering to place one to two million dollars worth of improvements in this city, and a portion of this amount of money placed here must necessarily pass into Manchester which is virtually a part of this city, and a portion of this amount of money placed here must necessarily pass into Manchester which is virtually a part of this city; and yet city legislators so far forget themselves as not only to embarrass the company but to endanger the project itself.
If bridges are built, the surface leveled, buildings erected, the labor of Manchester must necessarily be called into service and every merchant, mechanic, workman would feel the exhilarating effect of such industrial activity in our midst.
It is plainly evident too that work is what is needed; labor is suffering, and children of the laboring classes are crying for bread.
The action of this body then savors of criminality, even if it does nothing more nor less than delay the commencement of these improvements many months. What must be said of their course then should it result in the killing of the project?
Right on the heels of this insane policy comes the announcement that some “wise-acres” are endeavoring to find an excuse for bringing forward a bill for back taxes against this same company, aggregating some two-hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. This is done too in the face of the proposition to expend nearly two million dollars in improvements in this locality. Common-sense should have dictated that even of the claim were a valid one, it should be laid over for a period of time, say, five years, until the new buildings were well under way or completed.
But as it is these agitations scare away capital and paralyze industry. It is the laboring classes who primarily feel the effect of it, and it reacts upon the real-estate men, the insurance men, the groceries, the dry-goods dealers, the shoe-dealers, and lastly upon the banks themselves.
Our people have at times been rated as “simpletons,” but we challenge a comparison with any act of theirs which will surpass in stupidity and folly the ones noted.
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Lower Left Quadrant

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Brian Schrott


“Blundering City Fathers,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed December 8, 2019,