Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/646

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

adopt with the conspiracies whose aim is nothing but the artificial raising of prices and impoverishment of the public. To cite two examples: Under "trust" control refined sugar is one half to three quarters of a cent per pound dearer in comparison with raw sugar than before the "trust" was formed. Raw linseed-oil, on the establishment of a "trust" was immediately advanced from thirty-eight to fifty-six cents a gallon. Against such extortion the remedy is first and chiefly competition. With capital for profitable investment abundant and cheap, no "trust" is secure in its control of the market. So rapidly and suddenly have the great majority of "trusts" arisen, that competition with them has not yet had time fully to manifest itself. To build and equip a sugar refinery demands a million dollars and takes a year's time. In an industry such as that of sugar-refining, in which trust-control has been assumed only recently, such independent competitors as remain unincluded derive no little advantage from the "trust's" existence. They are free from regulation of their output, and find a ready market for all they manufacture by keeping their prices a mere fraction below the "trust's"—a condition of things certainly attractive to competition.

To curb and punish the plunderers who, turning their talons from their rivals, direct them upon the public, a variety of legal remedies have been sought. The most important recent decision affecting predatory "trusts" was that delivered by Judge Barrett in the Supreme Court of New York, January 10, 1889, in the suit of the people of the State against the North River Sugar-Refining Company, to dissolve the company and declare its charter forfeited for entering the Sugar Trust.

Judge Barrett's decision declared the charter forfeited and the company dissolved. The grounds of his judgment were that a corporation is liable to be dissolved by the abuse of its powers, or if it has exercised privileges or franchises not conferred upon it by law. He held that the directors of the corporations composing the "trust" had acted illegally in abdicating their direction in favor of the trust-board, to whom all shares of capital stock had been transferred. While corporations have no legal power to consolidate, the "trust" was practically a consolidation, which legally had no existence nor responsibility. He declared, further, that resting upon the inherent right of sovereignty, franchises are granted by the State on condition that corporate privileges shall not be abused, shall not antagonize the safety and welfare of the community. It was held proved that the Sugar Trust had not been formed for protection against ruinous competition, but for the illegal purpose of artificially enhancing the cost of a necessary article of commerce; that the "trust," by virtue of its combined capital and control, had power to crush any rival who, without