The New Anti-Trust Law

Republican editor Edward Rosewater accuses the Democratic Congress and Democratic candidates of attempting to gain political advantages from passing an "anti-trust" piece of legislation. He also criticizes the Democratic administration for failure to enforce anti-trust acts.

Bryan is still speaking on "well-known topics." Can't Bryan give the people something new?


The new anti-trust law, described by one of the democratic leaders in the house of representatives as "the most stringent law against trusts ever enacted in this country," is comprised in sections 73, 74, 75, 76 and 77 of the tariff act of 1894. it declares to be contrary to the public policy, illegal and void every combination, conspiracy, trust, agreement or contract made by or between two or more persons or corporations, either of whom is engaged in importing any article from any foreign country into the United States, and when such combination, conspiracy, trust, agreement or contract is intended to operate in restraint of lawful trade, or free competition in lawful trade or commerce, or to increase the market price in any part of the United States of any articles imported or intended to be imported, or of any article enters or is intended to enter. Every person violating this section, or combining or conspiring with another to violate it, is guilty or a misdemeanor, the punishment for which, on conviction, shall be a fine of not less than $100 an not exceeding $5,000, with imprisonment, in the discretion of the court, for a term not less than three months nor exceeding twelve months.

The circuit courts of the United States are invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of the law, and it is made the duty of United States district attorneys, under the direction of the attorney general, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations. The courts are authorized to summon any person whose testimony may be deemed necessary, whether they reside in the district in which the court is held before which proceedings are instituted or not. Property owned by any combination or trust in violation of the law may be seized while in course of transportation from one state to another and condemned. Any person injured in his business or property by reason of anything forbidden or declared to be unlawful by this act may bring suit in any federal circuit court and recover threefold the damages sustained, with costs of suit and a reasonable attorney's fee.

There is really no very essential difference between this and the anti-trust law placed on the statue books by the last republican congress, pronounced defective and inadequate by Attorney General Olney, and "mild and gingerly" by Representative McMillin. The amendment to the present tariff law relating to trusts and combinations was framed by Senator Morgan of Alabama, and that senator voted for the anti-trust law of 1890. But comparison of the merits of the two acts is not important. The claim of the democrats is that the amendment to the tariff law against combinations and trusts "carries into law the most effective means ever yet devised for controlling and curbing the power of trusts," and what the people desire is a prompt and honest effort to enforce this law. Simply pointing to the fact of its enactment amounts to nothing. It does not disturb the trusts nor lessen their exactions from the people. It does not deter the combination from carrying out their policy of restraining free competition in lawful trade and of increasing the market price of articles which they control. It is of no more consequence than the numerous fulminations of Mr. Cleveland against the trusts, which have produced not the least effect upon them. What the country wants is evidence that in enacting this statue the democratic party intended to give it effect. "The democratic party," said Mr. McMillin, speaking as the mouthpiece of the house democrats, "was pledged to the enactment of more stringent legislation against trusts. It has kept this pledge, and offers this as fulfillment." But fulfillment is not complete with the mere act of legislation. Until the law is enforced or an honest attempt is made to enforce it the party will not have made good its pledge.

It is perfectly obvious that the anti-trust amendment to the new tariff law was especially designed to reach the sugar refining monopoly. Can there be any doubt or question that this powerful trust is carrying on its operations in violation of this law? If it be admitted that such is the fact, no clearer case for instituting proceedings under the law could be desired. The democratic boast of having passed the most stringent law against trusts ever enacted in this country will carry no weight so long as a democratic administration neglects to do anything to make the law effective. The sincerity of such legislation can only be determined by an earnest and honest effort to enforce it. Of this there is yet no sign or symptom.

About this Document

  • Source: Omaha Daily Bee
  • Citation: 4
  • Date: September 14, 1894