During most of the period 1882-1892, Henry Villard was not only a director of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, but was president of the company, and was generally regarded as its active and responsible head. Writing in 1905, however, in his "Memoirs" and no doubt wishing to excuse himself in part for the insolvency of the company under his management, Mr. Villard said:

In 1891 Mr. Villard .... made .... his last official tour of inspection of the main line and principal branches of the Northern Pacific .... The most alarming impression of all made upon him was the revelation of the weight of the load that had been put upon the company by the purchase and construction of the longer branch lines in Montana and Washington, which he then discovered for the first time .... They represented a total investment in cash and bonds of not far from $30,000,000, which together hardly earned operating expenses. The acquisition and building of these disappointing lines had in a few years absorbed the large amount of consolidated bonds set aside for construction purposes, which had been assumed to be sufficient for all needs in that direction for a long time.*

*Quoted in Stuart Daggett's "Railroad Reorganization," pp. 286-387.

It is clear that Mr. Villard, whatever may have been his abilities and good intentions, was not devoting sufficient attention to the business of this corporation to qualify himself to direct it.