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The independent. [volume] (Lincoln, Neb.) 1902-1907, December 04, 1902, Image 1

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KH 1 II II 111 I
Vol. XIV.
LINCOLN, NEB., DEC. 4, 1902.
No. 28.
A Very Mild Document from the Facile Pen of the Past Master
of Strenuity. -
President Roosevelt's annual mess
age to congress was read Tuesday to
the. senate and house of representa
tives. The Independent will not at
tempt to give the full text of the mess
age, but will quote the points of most
importance to its readers.
"We still continue in a period of
unbounded prosperity," says the pres
ident in his opening sentence, but no
attempt is made to define what he
means by "we." If trusts, yes. If
railroads,, yes. If eastern farmers, no.
If western farmers, yes, if he will cut
out the "unbounded." If small busi
ness men, no.
"This prosperity is not the creature
of law," he continues, but adds, by way
of nullification, "but undoubtedly the
laws under which we work have been
instrumental in creating the conditions
which made it possible, and by unwise
legislation it would be easy enough to
destroy it" Certainly the laws un
der which we work have been instru
mental in " creating the conditions
which made it possible for the Stand
ard Oil trust to slaughter its competi
tors and to declare fabulous dividends
to its stockholders; "unwise" legisla
tion might destroy some of that pros
perity and yet not injure the nation.
These same laws have made it possible
for the several hundred other trusts
to be built up and 'thousands of small
business ' establishments to be de
stroyed. "L hey have made it possible
for the railroads to rob the public of
millions upon millions of dollars in ex
cess of wh.:,L would have been a fair
return for the services rendered; and
"unwise" legislation might destroy
some of this trust and railroad pros
perity without the slightest injury to
the public generally, but on the con
trary to their great benefit
The president thinks there "will un
doubtedly be periods of depression."
but attempts no explanation other than
that "the wave will recede." He does
not even say that the depression will
not be the creature of law.
"No country has ever occupied a
higher plane of material well-being
than ours at the present moment. This
well-being is due to no sudden or ac
cidental causes, but to the play of
the economic feces in this country
for over a century; to our laws our
sustained and continuous policies;
above all, to the high individual aver
age of our citizenship. Great fortunes
have been won by those who have
taken the lead in this phenomenal in
dustrial development, and most of
these fortunes have been won not by
doing evil, but as an incident to action
Wiiich has beneLted the community as
a whole. Never before has material
w.ul-being been so widely diffused
among our people. Great fortunes have
been accumulated, and yet in the ag
gregate these fortunes are small in
deed when compared to the wealth of
the people as a whole. The plain peo
ple are better off. than they have ever
been before. The insurance compa
nies, wh!ch are practically mutual
benefit societies especially helpful to
men of moderate means represent ac
cumulations of capital which are
, among the largest, in this country.
There are more deposits in the sav
ings banks, more owners of farms,
more well-paid wage-worVers in this
country now than ever before in our
history. Of course, when the condi
tions have favored the growth of so
much that was good, they have also
favored somewhat the growth of what
was evil. It is eminently' necessary
that we should endeavor to cut out this
evil, but let us keep a due sense of
. proportion; let us not in fixing our
gaze upon the lesser evil forget the
greater good. The evils are real and
some of them are menacing, but they
are the outgrowth, not of misery or
decadence, but of prosperity of the
progress of our gigantic industrial de
velopment. -This industrial develop
ment must not be checked, but side by
side with it should go such progressive
regulation as will diminish the evils.
We should fail in our duty if we did
not try to remedy the evils, but we
shall succeed only if we proceed pa
tiently, with practical common sense
as well as resolution, separating the
good from the bad and holding on to
the former while endeavoring to get
rid of the latter."
The president might have said that
there are more people in the United
States than ever before in our history,
and that would have been the explan
ation of his statement that there are
"more owners of farms." The aggre
gate number of farm owners is larger,
but relatively very much less than it
was twenty years ago. In 1880 farm
owners operated 74.5 per cent of the
farms; 71.6 per cent in 1890; and only
64.7 per cent in 1900. la other words,
notwithstanding the increase in actual
numbers of farm owners, because of
increase in the number of farms and
owners, there has been a decrease of
over 13 per cent in farm ownership in
twenty years an increase of 13 per
cent in farm tenantry in that time.
"In my message to the present con
gress at its first session I discussed at
length the question of the regulation
of those big corporations commonly
doing an interstate business, often
with some tendency to monopoly,
which are popularly known as trusts.
The experience of the past year has
emphasized in my opinion the desira
bility of the steps I then proposed. A
fundamental requisite of social effi
ciency is a high standard of individual
energy and excellence;, but this is in
no wise inconsistent with power to
act. in combination for aims which
cannot so well be achieved by the in
dividual acting alone. A fundamental
base of civilization is the inviolability
of property; but this is in no wise in
consistent with the right of society to
regulate the exercise of the artificial
powers which it confers upon the own
ers of property, under the name of cor
porate franchises, in such a way as
to prevent the misuse of these powers.
Corporations, and especially combi
nations of corporations, should be
managed under public regulation. Ex
perience has shown that under our
system of government the necessary
supervision cannot be obtained by
state action. It must therefore be
achieved by national action. Our aim
is not to do away with corporations;
on the contrary, these big aggrega
tions are an inevitable development of
modern industrialism, and the effort
tf destroy them would be futile unless
accomplished in ways that would
work the utmost mischief to the en
tire body politic.
We can do nothing of good in the
way of regulating and supervising
these corporations until we fix clearly
in our minds that we are not attacking
the corporations, but endeavoring to
do away with any evil in them. We
are not hostile to them; we are merely
determined that they shall be so han
dled as to subserve the public good.
We draw the line against misconduct,
not against wealth. The capitalist
who, alone or in conjunction with his
fellows, performs some great industrial
feat by which he wins money is a
well-doer, not a wrong-doer, provided
only he works in proper and legitimate
lines. We wish to favor such a man
when he does well. We wish to su
pervise and control his actions only to
prevent him from doing ill. Publicity
can do no harm to the honest corpora
tion; and we need not be overtender
about sparing the dishonest corpora
tion. In curbing and regulating the com
binations of capital which are or may
become injurious to the public we must
be careful not to stop the great enter
prises which have legitimately re
duced the cost of production, not to
abandon the place which our country
has won in the leadership of the in
ternational industrial world, not to
strike down wealth with the result of
closing factories and mines, of turn
ing the wage-worker idle in the streets
and leaving the farmer without a
market for what he grows. Insistence
upon the impossible means delay in
achieving the possible, exactly as, on
the other hand, the stubborn defense
alike of what i3 good and what is bad
in the existing system, the resolute ef
fort to obstruct any attempt at bet
terment", betrays blindness to the his
toric truth that wise evolution is the
sure safeguard against revolution.
No more important subject can
come before the congress than this of
the regulation of interstate business.
This country cannot afford to sit su
pine on the plea that under our pe
culiar system of government we are
helpless in the presence of new condi
tions, and unable to grapple with them
or to cut out whatever of evil has
arisen in connection with them.
The power of congress to regulate
interstate commerce is an absolute and
unqualified grant, and without limita
tions other than those prescribed by
the constitution. The congress i
constitutional authority to make all
laws necessary and proper for execut
ing thi3 power, and I am satisfied that
this power has not been exhausted by
any legislation now on the statute
books. It is evident, therefore, that
evils restrictive of commercial free
dom and entailing restraint upon na
tional commerce fall within the reg
ulative power of congress, and that a
wise and reasonable law -would be .a
necessaf;' and proper exercise of con
gressional authority to the end that
such evils should be eradicated.
I believe that monopolies, unjust
discriminations, which prevent or crip
ple competition, fraudulent overcapi
talization, and other evils in trust or
ganizations and practices which in
juriously affect interstate trade can be
prevented under the power of con
gress to "regulate commerce with for
eign nations and among the several
states" through regulations and re
quirements operating directly upon
such commerce, the instrumentalities
thereof, and those engaged therein. .
I earnestly recommend this subject
to the consideration of the congress
with a view to the passage of a law
reasonable in its provisions and ef
fective in its operations, upon which
the questions can be finally adjudi
cated that now raise doubts as to the
necessity of constitutional amend
ment If it prove impossible to ac
complish the purposes above set forth
by such a law, then, assuredly, we
should not shrink from amending the
constitution so as to secure beyond
peradventure the power sought.
The congress has not heretofore
made any appropriation for the bet
ter enforcement of the anti-trust law
as it now stands. Very much has been
done by the department of justice in
securing the enforcement of this law,
but much more could be done if con
gress would make a special appropria
tion for this purpose, to be expended
under the direction of the attorney
One proposition advocated has been
the reduction of the tariff as a means
of reaching the evils of the trusts
which fall within the category I have
described. Not merely would this be
wholly ineffective, but the diversion of
our efforts in such a direction would
mean the abandonment of all Intelli
gent attempt to do away with these
evils. Many of the largest corpora
tions, many of those which should
certainly be !ncluded in any proper
scheme of regulation, would not be
j affected in the slightest degree by a
cnange in me tarin, save as such
change interfered with the general
prosperity of the country. The only
relation of the tariff to big corpora
tions as a whole is that the tariff
makes manufactures profitable, and
the tariff remedy proposed would be
in effect simply to make manufactures
unprofitable. To remove the tariff as
a punitive measure directed against
trusts would inevitably result in ruin i
to the weaker competitors who are
struggling against them. Our aim
should be not by unwise tariff changes
to give foreign products the advantage
over domestic products, but by proper
regulation to give domestic compete
tion a fair chance; and this end cannot
be reached by any tariff changes which
would affect unfavorably all domestic ,
competitors, good and bad alike. The , 1
question of regulation of the trusta . ,
stands apart from the question of tar
iff revision.
Stability of economic policy must al
ways be the prime economic need of
this country. This stability should
not be fossilization. The country has
acquiesced In the wisdom of the pro
tective tariff principle. It is exceed
ingly undesirable that this system
should be destroyed or that ther9
should be violent and radical changes
therein. Our past experience shows
that great prosperity in this country
has always come under a protective
tariff; and that the country cannot
prosper under fitful tariff changes at
short intervals. Moreover, if the tariff
laws as a whole work well, and if
business has prospered under them and
is prospering, it is better to endure
for a time slight inconveniences and
inequalities in some schedules than to
upset business by too quick and too
radical changes. It is most earnestly
to be wished that we could treat the
tariff from the standpoint solely of our
business needs. It is, perhaps, too
much to hope that partisanship may
be entirely excluded from considera
tion of the subject, but at least it can
be made secondary to the business in
terests of the country that is, to the
interest! of our people as a whole.
Unquestionably these business inter
ests will best be served if together
with fixity of principle as regards the
tariff we combine a system which will
permit us from time to time to make
the necessary reapplication pf - the
principle' to. the shifting national
needs. We must take scrupulous care
that the reapplication shall be made in
such a way, that it will not amount
to a dislocation of our system, the
mere threat of which (not to speak of
the performance) would produce par
alysis in the business energies of the
community. The first consideration
in making these changes would, of
course, be to preserve the principle
which underlies our whole tariff sys
temthat is, the principle of putting
American business interests at least
on a full equality with interests
abroad, and of always allowing a suf
ficient rate of duty to more than cover
the difference between the labor cost
here and abroad. The well-being of
the wage-worker, like the well-being of
the tiller of the soil, should be treated
as an essential in shaping our whole
economic policy. There must never
be any change which will jeopardize
the standard of comfort, the standard
of wages of the American wage-worker.
One way in which the readjustment
sought can be reached is by reciprocity
treaties. It is greatly to be desired
that such treaties may be adopted.
They can be used to widen our
markets and to give a greater field for
the activities of our producers on the
one hand, and on the other hand to
secure in practical shape the lowering
of duties when they are no longer
needed for protection among our own
people, or when the minimum of dam
age done may be disregarded for the
sake of the maximum of good accom
plished. If it prove impossible to
ratify the pending treaties, and if
there seem to be no warrant for the
endeavor to execute others, or to
amend the pending treaties so that
they can be ratified, then the same end
to secure reciprocity should be met
by direct legislation.
Whenever the tariff conditions are
such that a needed change cannot with.
advantage be made by the application
of the reciprocity idea, then it can
be made outright by a lowering of du
ties on a given product. If possible,
such change should be made only af
ter the fullest consideration hy practi
cal experts, who should approach the
subject from a business standpoint,
having in view both the particular in
terests affected and the commercial
well-being of the people as a whole.
The machinery for providing such
careful investigation can readily be
supplied. The executive department
has already at its disposal methods of

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