William Lloyd Garrison.

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The second in a series of letters issued by the New England
Free TFade League.





If any evidence were needed to prove the failure of protective
tariffs, the recent colossal combinations of capital, known as
"trusts," would furnish it. Had it been possible for tariffs alone to
secure that monopoly to special interests, always the prime motive
of their enactment, many of the so-called trusts would have been
unborn. Mr. Havemeyer was right in declaring the tariff to be their
fruitful mother.

Against natural combinations of capital for purposes of economy
and efficiency, no objection can be made so long as they are not
removed from the field of competition by artificial laws. No matter
how ambitious their purpose, how skilful their organization, they can
harm only the projectors if unsuccessful. They are subject to the
crucial test of the world's rivalry, and must live on their merits
or die. No matter how well intentioned their managers, disaster
awaits them unless the laws of trade are scrupulously obeyed.
When these laws are observed,, society yams by the enterprise.


Discrimination must precede denunciation. The great depart-
ment stores, which it is the fashion to decry, are not a menace but
a boon to the community. They flourish because they supply a
natural want, have little or no exemption from competition, and,
while enriching their owners, if well managed, also enrich their cus-
tomers by reducing the cost of goods. They are not menacing
combinations, and are not buttressed by unjust legislation.

Co-operation in production and distribution is perfectly legitimate,
and deserves encouragement, while ability, skill, foresight, and other
valuable human qualities are relied upon, and when no element of
special privilege is allowed to enter. Far otherwise is it with
government-fed monopolies, when the law of equal rights and ser-
vices is throttled. The protective tariff, shutting out foreign com-
peting products, overstimulates domestic industries and gluts the
limited market. Consequently, retribution is always in waiting.
Woolen mills, for instance, multiply their output when the tax on

foreign goods shuts out importations. By home competition the
temporary advantage is soon lost. Both producer and consumer
surfer in the end, the one by decreased consumption, the other by
high prices, by this stupid defiance of the natural law of trade.
Resolved into a trust, however, manufacturers can again utilize the
tariff for more undeserved profits.

Each tariff must be more drastic than its predecessor, calling for
increased stimulant. Its purpose is constantly neutralized by the
active law j]f_reedom, which it disregards. The Dingley tariff, the
latest and most outrageous of the many despotic acts of a democracy,
early developed signs of failure ; and a foreign war was precipitated
largely to cover high tariff shortcomings and justify new edicts for
revenue. But, the higher the tariff wall, the more internal monopo-
lies are fostered. '


The chief reasons put forward to defend trusts are hollow and
delusive. Economy, cheapness, and public advantage are not the
true motives of these combinations. The single object is the enrich-
ment of their promoters. To hide this naked selfishness, the pre-
tence of public benefit is used as a cloak. The economies made
accrue to the trusts, seldom to the people, although the occasional
lowering of prices, owing to improved methods and new inventions,
is unscrupulously claimed as a result of consolidation. So far are
tariff-protected trusts from benefiting the American people, it is the
foreigners who are favored at our expense, the surplus product being
marketed at low prices abroad to maintain high prices at home.

To try to correct these evils by special legislation is "ascidian
folly." As well attempt to " create a soul under the ribs of death."
Courts, legislatures, and the ablest legal talent are subordinated to
these vast and powerful interests. To evade penalty, a trust can
change its form in a twinkling, when hard pressed. Laws can be
construed to favor any violation, and the representatives of every
artificial trust are ably represented in legislative and administrative
departments. No congress or tribunal is impartial or independent.

Already the promoters of ill-timed trusts are trembling. The
public have declined their bait, and in a money pinch the banks will
question and throw out unmarketed securities. Many of the
schemes are still-born. The undertaker knows that his services will
soon be wanted. The most bitter opponent of trusts, if he possesses
his soul in peace, will find a more complete punishment meted out
to them than he can plan.


Emerson wisely announced the law: "Wealth brings its own
checks and balances. The basis of political economy is non-inter-
ference. Do not legislate. Meddle, and you snap the sinews with
your sumptuary laws. Give no bounties : make equal laws. . . .
The level of the sea is not more surely kept than is the equilibrium
of value in society by the demand and supply : artifice or legislation
punishes itself by reactions, gluts, and bankruptcies."

The true safeguard against trusts is not new enactments, but the
repeal of old ones which have established inequality and injustice.
Land monopolies, public franchises appropriated to private uses,
trade restrictions for individual interest, these are the roots of the
injurious combinations of capital. Until they are extirpated, it is
absurd to waste time in pruning the branches of the evil.

In the coming Presidential struggle, both parties will make large
professions of enmity to trusts, both platforms will have alluring
planks ; but, if new anti-trust legislation is the sole weapon of attack,
no life insurance company can find risks half as favorable. The
shrewd managers will smile undisturbed, and only the voter will
take the humbug seriously.


If, however, it is seriously proposed to knock out the underpinning
of the trusts by repealing all tariff duties laid upon their products,
the monopolistic smile will change to an expression of rage and the
fight be full of meaning and desperation.

.It will be averred that my conclusion is erroneous because trusts
flourish in free-trade England. The statement is not true. Com-
binations exist because justified by skill, ability, and public service,
though doubtless there are some favored by land and franchise privi-
leges. But trusts, like the bulk of our American conspiracies, hav-
ing the power to mark up their prices at will, because legally exempt
from foreign competition, do not exist. In Great Britain an arti-
ficial advance of price at once invites unlimited importations from
all competing countries, and cannot be maintained. The protective
tariff is the breeder of trusts, and the practical and efficient way to
abolish them is to demolish it.

BOSTON, Oct. 5, 1899.


Online LibraryWilliam Lloyd GarrisonTrusts and tariffs → online text (page 1 of 1)