The Pacific Coast, in 1904, still suffered from transportation problems of great complexity. The railroads, whose terminals were here, were few and extraordinarily powerful and had, heretofore, controlled rail traffic, to a large extent, in their own interest. They wanted no regulation or interference from the Interstate Commerce Commission and no Pacific Coast representative on that Commission. The fruit, wheat, and lumber producers of the Western Coast, on the other hand, felt the need of a strong representative to protect their interests against the railroads, and to stabilize freight rates. Lane’s record for independence of sinister control, his legal training and energy made him the natural choice of the shippers for this position.
Benjamin Ide Wheeler, President of the University of California, was a friend of Lane’s and also a friend of President Roosevelt’s. While in the East, in the spring of 1904, Wheeler had a talk with Roosevelt, about Lane’s qualifications for the Interstate Commerce appointment. He told Roosevelt why the producers in California needed a man that they could trust to be fair to their interests on the Commission. Roosevelt heartily concurred, and promised to name Lane for the next vacancy.
When the vacancy occurred, however, just after an overwhelming Republican victory, Roosevelt impulsively gave the appointment to an old friend—Senator Cockrill of Missouri, a Democrat. Wheeler at once telegraphed the President reminding him of the oversight, and to this Roosevelt telegraphed this reply:—
“Am exceedingly sorry, had totally forgotten my promise about Lane and have nothing to say excepting that I had totally forgotten it when Senator Cockrill was offered the position. I can only say now that I shall put him in some good position suitable to his great talents and experience when the chance occurs. Of course when I made the promise about Lane the idea of getting Cockrill for the position could not be in any one’s head. This does not excuse me for breaking the promise, which I should never have done, and of course, if I had remembered it I should not have offered the position to Cockrill. I am very sorry. But as fortunately I have another term, I shall make ample amends to Lane later.”
In September, 1905, while matters were in this position, Lane went to Mexico, as legal adviser for a western rubber company. In October, Roosevelt announced his intention to place Lane on the Interstate Commerce Commission, to fill the annual vacancy that occurred in December. The announcement caused much newspaper comment, especially in the more partisan Republican press, as the coming vacancy would leave two Republicans and two Democrats on the Commission.
When Lane reached the United States he wrote:—