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Abraham Lincoln on Freight Performance Measurement

The following text is from Internal Improvements, Speech of Mr. A. Lincoln of Illinois in the House of Representatives, June 28, 1848, Congressional Globe, 30th Congress, 1st Session, pages709-711 (1848).

Suppose that at each session, Congress shall first determine how much money can, for that year, be spared for improvements; then apportion that sum to the most important objects. So far all is easy; but how shall we determine which are the most important? On this question comes the collision of interests. I shall be slow to acknowledge that your harbor or your river is more important than mine, and vice versa. To clear this difficulty, let us have the same statistical information that the gentleman for Ohio suggested at the beginning of this session. In that information we shall have a stern, unbending basis of facts-a basis in nowise subject to whim, caprice, or local interests. The pre-limited amount of means will save us from doing too much; the statistics will save us from doing what we do, in wrong places.

… The surplus, that which is produced in one place to be consumed in another; the capacity of each locality for producing a greater surplus; the natural means of transportation, and their susceptibility for improvement; the hindrances, delays, and losses of life and property during transportation, and the causes of each, would be among the most valuable statistics in this connection. From those it would readily appear where a given amount of expenditure would do the most good. These statistics might be equally accessible, as they would be equally useful, to both the nation and the States. In this way, and by these means, let the nation take hold of the larger works, and the States the smaller ones; and thus, working in a meeting direction, discretely, but steadily and firmly, what is made unequal in one place may be equalized in another, extravagance avoided, and the whole country put on that career of prosperity, which shall correspond with the extent of territory, its natural resources, and the intelligence and enterprise of its people.

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