The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, February 01, 1914, Image 1

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VOL. 14, NO. 2
Lincoln, Nebraska, February, 1914 ,
.Whole Number 658
Private Monopoly Indefensible and Intolerable
So Says President Wilson in His Address to Congress, January 20, 1014
Gentlemen of the Congress: In my report
"On the state of the Union," which I had the
privilege of reading to you on the 2d of Decem
ber last, I ventured to reserve for discussion at a.
later date the subject of additional legislation
regarding the very difficult and intricate matter
of trusts and monopolies. The time now seems
opportune to turn to that great question; not
only because the currency legislation, which ab
sorbed your attention and the attention of the
country in December, is now disposed of, but
also because opinion seems to be clearing about
us with singular rapidity in this other great field
of action. In the matter of the currency it
cleared suddenly and very happily after the
much-debated act was passed; in respect of the
monopolies whch have multiplied about us and
in. regard to the various means' by which they
have been organized and maintained, it fceeins to
be coming to a clear and all but universal agree
ment in anticipation of our action, as if by way
of preparation, making the way easier to soe
and easier to set out upon with confidence and
without confusion of counsel.
Legislation lias its atmosphere like everything
else, and the atmosphere of accommodation and
mutual understanding which we now breathe
with so much refreshment is a matter of sincere
congratulation. It ought to make our task very
much less difficult and embarrassing than it
would have been had we been obliged to con
tinue to act amidst the atmosphere of suspicion
and antagonism which has so long made it im
possible to approach such questions with dis
passionate fairness. Constructive legislation,
when successful, is always the embodiment of
convincing experience and of the mature public
opinion which finally springs out of that ex
perience. Legislation is a business of interpreta
tion, not of origination, and it is now plain what
the opinion is to which we must give effect in
this matter. It is not recent or hasty opinion
It springs out of the experience of a whole gen
eration. ,It has clarified itself by long contest,
and those who for a long time battled with it'
and sought to change it are now frankly and
honorably yielding to it and seeking to conform
their actions to it. '.
The great business men who organized and"
financed monopoly and those who administered
it in actual every-day transactions have year
after year, until now, either denied its existence
or justified it as necessary for the effective- main
tenance and development of the vast business
processes of the country in the modern circura
- stances of trade and manufacture and finance;
but all the while opinion has made head against
them. The average- business man is convinced
that the ways of liberty are also the ways of
peace and the ways of success as well; and at last
the masters of business on the great scale have
begun to yield their preference and purpose,
perhaps their judgment also, in honorable sur
render. N
What we are purposing to do, therefore, is,
happily, not to hamper or interfere with" busi
ness as enlightened business men prefer to do it,
or in any sense to put it under the ban. The an
tagonism between business and government . is
over. .We are now about to give expression to the
best business judgment of America, to what we
know tbe in the business conscience and honor
of the foftfd. The government. and business men
are ready to meet each other half-way in a com
mon efforUto square business methods with bofli
public opinion and the law. The best informed
nien of the business world condemn the methods-'
and processes and consequences of monopoly as
we condemn them; and the instinctive judgment
of the vast majority of business men-everywhere
goes with them. Wo shall now be their spokes
men. That is the strength of .our '.position and
the sure prophecy of what will ensue when our
reasonable work is done.
When serfous contest ends, when men unite in
opinion and purpose, those who are to change
their ways of business joining with those who
ask for the change, it is possible to effect it in
the way in which prudent and thoughtful and
patriotic men would wish to see it brought about,
with as few, as slight, as easy and simple busi
ness readjustments as possible in the circum
stances, nothing essential disturbed, nothing torn
up by the roots, no parts rent asunder which can
be left in wholesome combination. Fortunately,
no measures of sweeping or novel change are
necessary. It will be understood that our object
is not to unsettle business or anywhere seriously
to break its established' courses athwart. On the
contrary, we desire the laws we are now about to
pass to be the bulwarks and safeguards of in-
. . AND INTOLERABLE" - -- '-
dustry against the forces that have disturbed it.
What wo have to do can bo done in a now spirit,
in 'thoughtful moderation, without revolution of
any untoward kind.
Wo are all agreed that ."private monopoly is
indefensible and intolerable," and our program
is founded upon that conviction. It will be a
comprehensive but not a radical or unacceptable
program, and these are its items, the changes
which opinion deliberately sanctions and for
which business waits:
It waits with acquiescence, in the first place,
for laws which will effectually prohibit and pre
vent such iuterlockings of the personnel of the
directorates of great corporations banks and
railroads, industrial, commercial and public serv
ice bodies as in effect result in making tho"sp
who borrow and thdse who lend practically one
and the same, those who sell and those who buy
but the same persons trading with one another
under different names and in different combina
tions, and. those who affect to compete in fact
partners and masters of some whole field of busi
ness. Sufficient time should be allowed, of
course, in which to effect these changes of or
ganization without inconvenience or confusion.
Such a prohibition will work much more than
a mere negative good by correcting the serious
evils which have arisen because, for example,
the men who have been the directing spirits of
the great investment banks have usurped the
place which belongs to independent industrial
management working in its own behoof. It will
bring new men, new energies, a new spirit of in
itiative, new blood, into the management of our
great business enterprises. It will open the field
of industrial development and origination to
scores of men who have been obliged to serve
when their abilities entitled them to direct. It
will immensely hearten the young men coming
on and will greatly enrich the business activities
of the whole country.
In the second place, business men as well as
those who direct public affairs now recognize,
and recognize with painful clearness, the great
harm and injustice which has been done to many,
if not all, of the great railroad systems of the
, country by the way in which they have been
financed and their own distinctive interests, sub
ordinated to the interests of the men who
financed them and of other business enterprises
which tnose men wished to promote. The coun
try is ready, therefore, to accept, and accept with
relief as well as approval, a law which will confer
upon the interstate commerce commission the
power to superintend and. regulate the financial
operations by which the railroads are henceforth
to be supplied with the money they need for their
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