James J. Hill–Robber Barron . . . not! PS–I love you.


Corot–Springtime of Life  Minneapolis Institute of Art

Isn’t it wonderful to find a good capitalist man of integrity? Personally, I’m THRILLED with James J. Hill railroad magnate of the 1880’s. When all of the other creeps were begging government subsidies,grabbing land grants (I didn’t realize how much I disliked Lincoln’s support of government internal improvement schemes!), and building (or not building) unprofitable, expensive trains to no where while making a fortune and bilking the public (think Jay Gould, Leland Stanford,Collis Huntington) “JJ” as I like to call him was doing it the right and true capitalist way and what a difference that made!

At 14 his father died and he dropped out of school to support his mother working for $4 a month at farming, fur trading and railroad industries. After saving money somehow, he began investing in his own enterprises, eventually buying a failed government subsidized railroad, turning it around to become the best run and safest railroad anywhere. he eventually extended the line to build his own transcontinental railroad cheaper, better and with no help from the public! Are you impressed yet?

His motto to the public was “We have got to prosper with you or we’ve got to be poor with you.”

He believed in prospering the people who voluntarily moved onto the land around his train lines, advocating crop diversification to prevent farmers from being victimized by price fluctuation.  He provided free seed grain and even cows to farmers who’d suffered under drought and depression, left wood at his depots for the farmers to stock up on and even donated land for parks, schools and churches. He transported immigrants for $10 if they promised to farm near his railroad, believing goodwill was the best thing for business. (Isn’t he a dream?)

“JJ” refused to involve himself in the railroad cartels of the day that price fixed and manipulated the public and prided himself on low rates and safe rides. Don’t you think he deserved the title of “Empire Builder”? Every bit of land he used he purchased from a willing seller. Compare this to the millions of acres Lincoln gave away to be squandered by politicians and corrupt businessmen. Oh, for more like James J. Hill!

What a bad name capitalism gets when really Jefferson was right to think governments should never have the power to subsidize or get involved in business. Free money(on the backs of the little guy) and politics don’t mix. Government programs are boondoggles then and now.

But “JJ” you outshone them all! To top it off he had ten kids with his one and only wife (a hugely romantic tale of love and devotion) and donated much of his wealth to the Catholic Church to fund charities (his wife was Catholic which I guess explains all those kids). His art collection is the foundation for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts–he had a great eye for the beautiful and sublime.


JJ on the left. PS-I Love You

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