New Hampshire’s industrial expansion, as in the United States generally, brought new prosperity but also a shift in the relative power of public and private interests. With increasing frequency, mills and factories in New Hampshire were controlled by out-of-state owners who could use their wealth and influence to secure favorable legislation and regulatory decisions. Among the most powerful business interests in the late 1800s was the Boston and Maine Railroad, which dominated the legislature and courts that were supposed to regulate it. As a result, taxes assessed on railroad property were very low and there was little regulation of fares.
The railroad won cooperation and silenced opponents by handing out valuable free passes. By 1900 the Boston and Maine, having swallowed its weaker competition, controlled more than 95 percent of the railroad tracks in New Hampshire.
The turn of the 20th century marked the rise, in New Hampshire and elsewhere in the United States, of progressive movements dedicated to curbing abuses by governments and industry and to improving the lives of workers, immigrants, the poor, and other groups. In New Hampshire, a group within the Republican Party, including Senator William E. Chandler, Governor John McLane, the American author Winston Churchill, and Robert P. Bass, began working to break the railroad’s grip on state politics.
In 1909 they succeeded in passing a law establishing direct primary elections, which let voters rather than party bosses choose candidates. In 1910 Bass ran for governor in the state’s first direct primary election for that office. His victory effectively ended the railroad’s control. Legislation followed to regulate businesses and protect the health and welfare of workers. The state’s Republican Party remained dominant, but it split—as did the national party at the time—into progressive and conservative wings A conservation movement developed at about the same time and led to the founding in 1901 of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, an influential educational organization.
This conservation movement also led to the creation of the White Mountain National Forest, the first in the nation, in 1911. "New Hampshire" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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