The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, February 01, 1914, Page 3, Image 3

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The Commoner
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The President's Anti-trust Message
In another part of the paper the reader will
find the president's message on the trust ques
tion. It reaches high-water mark both in the
subject treated and in the manner of treatment.
Having paved the way for the inauguration of
legislation on this subject the president has
struck a blow which has already been felt by the
combinations which have been restraining trade
and stifling commerce.
The first legislative move of the president was
in the direction of tariff reduction, and he suc
ceeded in securing the passage of a bill which
not only materially lowered import duties but
included an income tax clause, without which it
would have been difficult, if not impossible, to
make such a reduction in import duties as would
satisfy the demands of the people. Then came
the titanic struggle for currency reform. The
money power, which has for a generation held
the nation in its grip, fought desperately to re
tain its control. It required the high courage
and the persistent perseverance of the president
to win the victory. Victory was won, and the
country is free. The finger prints are still visible
upon the nation's throat, but the hand is gone
and the nation breathes a sigh of relief.
But the president's work would have been
incomplete if he had been content with tariff re
duction and currency reform. The new task
which he has set for himself, viz. : the making of
private monopoly impossible in the United States,
is the largest one he has had before him, and
currency reform made the task possible of ac
complishment. If he had undertaken a fight
against the trusts while Wall street was still in
coritrol of the nation's finances he would have
had to meet threats of panic and the discharge
of employees, for combination has been carried
so far that a handful of men were able td bring
industrial peace or panic at will. With from
eight to twelve (the exact number is not known)
financial centers linked together at Washington
and each one dependent upon the government
for its authority to act, it will be impossible for
a group of capitalists to coerce the country into
submission to its will, or to frighten the coun
try away from remedial legislation.
The text of the president's message is to be
found in the following sentence: "We are all
agreed that 'private monopoly is indefensible and
intolerable,' and our program is founded upon
that conviction." The phrase "private monopoly
is indefensible and intolerable" is to be found in
four democratic national platforms, viz.: the
platforms of 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1912. It has
three times been endorsed by more than six
millions of voters; it is the only statement of
the trust question that recognizes the source of
the trouble, the only remedy that lays the axe
at the root of the tree. When the president used
the same phrase in his letter of acceptance he
gave assurance that he understood the subject
and was prepared to favor the necessary legisla
tion. But he is not satisfied with stating the
general principles; ho proceeds to outline clearly
and specifically the measures necessary to carry
out those principles.
The president's first proposal is legislation
'which will effectually prohibit and prevent such
interlockings of the personnel of the director
ates of great corporations banks and railroads,
industrial, commercial, and public service bodies
as in effect result in making those who borrow
and those 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 combinations, and those
who affect to compete in fact partners and mas
ters of some whole field of business."
An attempt was made to include a provision
on this subject in, the currency bill, but it was
objected to on the ground that the bill had as
many good provisions as it could carry, but in
postponing the consideration of this subject until
the regular sessions the caucus directed the
judiciary committee to prepare a bill along these
The unlocking process has already com
menced. A number of prominent financiers have
retired from directorates of competing companies,
so that the very inauguration of tho movement
has gone some distance toward suppressing tho
The second remedy proposed by the president
looks to the supervision of the issue of stocks
and bonds of corporations doing interstate busi
ness, with a view to putting such corporations
upon an honest and legitimate basis. The presi
dent's position on this subject is stated in the
following sentence: "The country 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 opera
tions by which the railroads are henceforth to
be supplied with the money they need for their
proper development to meet the rapidly growing
requirements of tho country for increased and
improved facilities of transportation."
This is a much needed reform.
The president nowhere shows his understand
ing of the trust question better than in his rec
ommendation of legislation more explicitly de
fining the policy and meaning of the anti-trusL
law. He expresses himself thus: "Nothing
hampers business like uncertainty. Nothing
daunts or discourages it like the necessity to
take chances, to run the risk of falling under
the condemnation of the law before it can make
sure just what the law is. Surely we are suffi
ciently familiar with the actual processes and
methods of monopoly and of tho many hurtful
restraints of trade to make definition possible,
at any rate up to the limits of what experience
has disclosed. These practices, being now
abundantly disclosed, can be explicitly and item
by item forbidden by statute in such terms as
will practically eliminate uncertainty, the law
itself and the penalty being made equally plain."
These definitions will relieve the honest man
and make easier the punishment of the guilty.
The president asks for the creation of an ad
ministrative body to be known as the interstate
trade commission. This commission will be in
a position to supply information and give defi
nite guidance to corporations engaged in Inter
state trade. It is impossible to look far enough
ahead to prescribe in detail the work which this
Interstate trade commission can do. Its first
business, however, will be to supply information
to business men who desire to avoid a violation
of the law, but it will doubtless be entrusted
with the framing of those details which cannot
be well embodied in a statute. Experience will
show what needs to be done and what such a
commission can wisely undertake. The president
insists that the public demands such a commis
sion "as an indispensable instrument of infor
mation and publicity, as a clearing house for
the facts by which both the public mind and the
managers of great business undertakings should
bo guided, and as an instrumentality for doing
justice to business where the processes of the
courts or the natural forces of correction out
side the courts are inadequate to adjust the
remedy to the wrong in a way that will meet all
the equities and circumstances of the case."
The president rightly argues that the penal
ties and punishments should fall, not upon the
business itself but upon the individuals who use
the instrument of business to accomplish pur
poses which do not accord with public policies
and the demands of sound business principles.
Every one wlio has studied the trust question
Impartially and without bias has reached the
same conclusion. Fining a corporation is no
punishment at all; if the punishment does not
reach the individual it brings no disgrace with
it, and the fine is usually much less than the
money made by the violation of the law. The
Imprisonment of a few trust magnates would do
more to break up the trusts than any other
remedy that can be devised. The director can
laugh at the law so long as the demands of jus
tice can be met by a small contribution from the
treasury of the corporation, but it is different
when ho looks o.ut upon the situation through
prison bars.
The president also suggests that we go beyond
the abolition of the holding company and make
it impossible for an individual to vote stock in
competing companies. Ho also, advises legisla
tion which will enable private individuals to
bring suits in their own behalf where the gov
ernment has successfully established tho trust
character of a combination. Congress has al
ready taken up tho president's suggestions and
bills have been introduced embodying them.
Tho hearings are now in progress and the indi
cations are that there will be a greater unan
imity in both the sonate and the house In deal
ing with tho trust question than there has been
in dealing with tho tariff and currency ques
tions, although In both of these tho democrats
polled more than their party's strength.
The president has set his hand to tho plow
and shows no signs of turning back. Fortunate
is tho country that has at Its helm an executive
so steadfast and unyielding in his determination
to fulfill the pledges made by his party to the
country. W. J. BRYAN.
If we aro to accopt the observations of the
political exports, there aro three kinds of re
publicans who aro expected to join in the get
together movement standpat republicans, pro
gressive republicans and bull moosers. The
standpatters never moved a step, tho progressive
republicans trembling put one foot over the line,
while the bull moosers boldly stopped across.
It is now proposed to got these all in ono party
again, principally because they we're once all in
the same party. It would be a hardy soul who
would deign to prophesy that this get-together
movement will have any stay together results.
A little boy, after watching a snake charmer
handling a rattlesnake and a boa constrictor,
explained the difference in this way: "You can
take tho poison out of a rattlesnake, hut you
can't take the squeeze out of a boa constrictor."
What better illustration could there bo of the
inherent and ineradicable tendency of a private
monopoly to do harm? It is the very nature of
a monopoly to squeeze the life out of competi
tors that is what it lives for. Like the animal
that Is ferocious in nature, it cannot bo allowed
to run at large. The president recognized this
fact when he built his anti-trust policy upon the
platform declaration that "private monopoly is
indefensible and intolerable." It being impossi
ble to take the squeeze out of a private monopoly
the very existence of such organizations should
be prevented. Legitimate corporations can be
regulated; a private monopoly can not its ex
istence must be made Impossible.
The sudden change of attitude on the part of
the big bankers from frantic opposition to the
currency bill before passage to hearty approval
of It after It became a law suggests the comment
that legislation would be a less difficult and less
complex task if it were possible to get, during
the period of discussion, the honest, unselfish
opinions of men whoso real opinions are worth
The senate by a large majority has passed the
bill providing for the building of a government
railroad in Alaska. It is quite certain that the
house will also pass the measure, and the presi
dent stands ready to sign it.
The chief objection made to the project is
that it is an experiment In government owner
ship. This is hardly a fair objection, because
tho public character of the ownership Is not a
matter of choice but a matter of necessity. The
conditions which exist in the United States do
not exist in Alaska. Here there Is a certain
amount of competition in the building of rail
roads, but in Alaska it is merely a question
whether the government will construct the road
in the interests of the people of Alaska or allow
it to be constructed by a corporation Intent upon
monopolizing the country's possibilities. The
experience under government ownership in the
construction and operation of the Alaskan rail
road may be useful as a guide, but it can hardly
be taken as a precedent for government owner
ship in the body of our country.
Secretary Lane deserves credit for the formu
lation of the plan and for the legislative victory
which has been won in connection with it.
The tremendous success, both financially and
in public favor, of the parcel post as conducted
by Postmaster General Burleson, has apparently
reduced to complete silence those fearsome
gentlemen who said that the government was
engaging in socialistic enterprises.