Appendix Q. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 4
For a quarter of a century the courts have tried to make this law work. Yet during this very time trusts grew greater in number and power than in the whole history of the world before; and their evils flourished unhindered and unchecked. These great business concerns grew because natural laws made them grow and artificial law at war with natural law could not stop their growth. But their evils grew faster than the trusts themselves because avarice nourished those evils and no law of any kind stopped avarice from nourishing them.
Nor is this the worst. Under the shifting interpretation of the Sherman law, uncertainty and fear is chilling the energies of the great body of honest American business men. As the Sherman law now stands, no two business men can arrange their mutual affairs and be sure that they are not law-breakers. This is the main hindrance to the immediate and permanent revival of American business. If German or English business men, with all their disadvantages compared with our advantages, were manacled by our Sherman law, as it stands, they soon would be bankrupt. Indeed, foreign business men declare that, if their countries had such a law, so administered, they could not do business at all.
Even this is not all. By the decrees of our courts, under the Sherman law, the two mightiest trusts on earth have actually been licensed, in the practical outcome, to go on doing every wrong they ever committed. Under the decrees of the courts the Oil and Tobacco Trusts still can raise prices unjustly and already have done so. They still can issue watered stock and surely will do so. They still can throttle other business men and the United Cigar Stores Company now is doing so. They still can corrupt our politics and this moment are indulging in that practice.
The people are tired of this mock battle with criminal capital. They do not want to hurt business, but they do want to get something done about the trust question that amounts to something. What good does it do any man to read in his morning paper that the courts have "dissolved" the Oil Trust, and then read in his evening paper that he must thereafter pay a higher price for his oil than ever before? What good does it do the laborer who smokes his pipe to be told that the courts have "dissolved" the Tobacco Trust and yet find that he must pay the same or a higher price for the same short-weight package of tobacco? Yet all this is the practical result of the suits against these two greatest trusts in the world.
Such business chaos and legal paradoxes as American business suffers from can be found nowhere else in the world. Rival nations do not fasten legal ball and chain upon their business - no, they put wings on its flying feet. Rival nations do not tell their business men that if they go forward with legitimate enterprise the pentitentiary may be their goal. No! Rival nations tell their business men that so long as they do honest business their governments will not hinder but will help them.
But these rival nations do tell their business men that if they do any evil that our business men do, prison bars await them. These rival nations do tell their business men that if they issue watered stock or cheat the people in any way, prison cells will be their homes.
Just this is what all honest American business wants; just this is what dishonest American business does not want; just this is what the American people propose to have; just this the national Republican platform of 1908 pledged the people that we would give them; and just this important pledge the administration, elected on that platform, repudiated as it repudiated the more immediate tariff pledge.
Both these reforms, so vital to honest American business, the Progressive party will accomplish. Neither evil interests nor reckless demagogues can swerve us from our purpose; for we are free from both and fear neither.
We mean to put new business laws on our statute books which will tell American business men what they can do and what they cannot do. We mean to make our business laws clear instead of foggy - to make them plainly state just what things are criminal ana what are lawful. And we mean that the penalty for things criminal shall be prison sentences that actually punish the real offender, instead of money fines that hurt nobody but the people, who must pay them in the end.
And then we mean to send the message forth to hundreds of thousands of brilliant minds and brave hearts engaged in honest business, that they are not criminals but honorable men in their work to make good business in this Republic. Sure of victory, we even now say, "Go forward, American business men, and know that behind you, supporting you, encouraging you, are the power and approval of the greatest people under the sun. Go forward, American business men, and feed full the fires beneath American furnaces; and give employment to every American laborer who asks for work. Go forward, American business men, and capture the markets of the world for American trade; and know that on the wings of your commerce you carry liberty throughout the world and to every inhabitant thereof. Go forward, American business men, and realize that in the time to come it shall be said of you, as it is said of the hand that rounded Peter's Dome, 4he builded better than he knew.' "
The next great business reform we must have to steadily increase American prosperity is to change the method of building our tariffs. The tariff must be taken out of politics and treated as a business question instead of as a political question. Heretofore, we have done just the other thing. That is why American business is upset every few years by unnecessary tariff upheavals and is weakened by uncertainty m the periods between. The greatest need of business is certainty; but the only thing certain about our tariff is uncertainty.
What, then, shall we do to make our tariff changes strengthen business instead of weakening business? Rival protective tariff nations have answered that question. Common sense has answered it. Next to our need to make the Sherman law modern, understandable and just, our greatest fiscal need is a genuine, permanent, non-partisan tariff commission.