At the meeting of the Harvard Union last night a gavel was voted to Mr. Herman Page, who was the President of the society last year.
The question of the evening, "Resolred, That the government should suppress trusts," was opened for the affirmative by Mr. G. A. Reisner '89. He said that the object of trusts is to secure greater profits in this way. The combination of capital, by producing on a large scale, reduces the cost of production, and lowers prices, till competitors are driven out of business by being undersold. When the complete control of the market is thus secured prices are raised without any limit except the greed of the trust. The very idea of a trust is to abolish competition. Owing to the secrecy observed in regard to profits, outside capital, notoriously timid, is not attracted to the business. Trusts today are in their infancy. The Standard Oil Company has begun to absorb all the interests connected with it, such as pipe factories, coal mines, railroads, etc. The result will be one great company controlling all industries, while the whole people will be reduced to the class of wage earners.
Mr. J. A. Bailey, L. S., then spoke first on the negative. The tendency of our time is to concentration of capital into a few hands. Industry is conducted on a large scale because this is the best way. Business men and scholars alike pronounce competition a failure wherever much fixed capital is employed. Pools have been legalized abroad and should be carefully regulated, but all efforts to suppress them are footish.
Mr. E. P. Sanford, L. S; closed for the afflrmative. The inherent quality of trusts is the turning over by the owners of vast amounts of property into the hands of a few practically irresponsible men. All transactions are secret, and there is no effective method of judicial control. Pools and corporations are public contracts, and are thus under the control of the laws. A law should be passed by Congress, that all combinations giving property to trustees shall be incorporated with charters, and obliged to publish their a ccounts. Upon information filed by the attorney general of any state that any corporation is injurious to the public welfare, the charter shall be taken away. This regulation would destroy the essential character of trusts, and would amount to suppression.
Mr. A. P. Butterworth, '89, closed for the negative. Suppression is not needed. The Standard Oil Company has not raised prices, but has lowered them to the same point that competition would have done. It has adapted the supply to the demand, and has proved of incalculable benefit to the industry. The spirit of the times leads to trusts. They sprung up in all directions as a natural growth. The opposition comes from small tradesmen who have been undersold by the lowered prices, and from demagogues who wish to make political capital. Any attempt at suppression would be a blow at modern trade.
Speakers from the floor:
Affirmative.- F. B. Williams, L. S., C. T. R. Bates '92, E. E. Shoemaker '89, C. F. Ayer L. S., F. B. Lord '89, T. Woodbury '89, J. M. Perkins '92, W. C. Green '89, G. P. Costigan '92, C. Macy '92.
Negative.- J. F. Morton '92, W. Naumburg '89, W. Austin L. S., P. L. Horne '92, H. E. Oxnard L. S., A. E. Healey '91.
Vote on merits of the question: 21 affirmative; 9 negative.
Vote on principal disputants: 34 affirmative; 8 negative.
Vote on debate as a whole: 13 affirmative; 5 negative.
The question for debate at the next meeting is: Resolved, That the President of the United States should be elected directly by a majority vote of the people.