Norah Mishue Topic: Teddy Roosevelt and Trustbusting 5/14/18
Hour 5 Humanities
American presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft were known as trustbusters. From 1902- 1909 they broke up a total of about 90 trusts. The most common misconception is that they were against all trusts. This is just not true. They did not break up all trusts only bad ones. These bad trusts took advantage of their workers and cheated the public. These trusts had little to no competition forcing their customers to pay higher prices for the products they were selling. Roosevelt wanted to test the governments ability and power to break up these bad trusts.
The biggest trust Roosevelt ever busted was Teddy vs. J.P. The first giant trust that Roosevelt took on was owned by the most powerful industrialist in the country… J. Pierpont Morgan. The company that J.P. Morgan owned was called the Northern Securities Company. This trust controlled competition regarding railroads. Roosevelt argued that it violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1904 the supreme court finally ruled that the Northern Securities Company had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The supreme court then demanded that the trust be broken up. The Northern Securities lawsuit was the first of many trusts to be broken up by president Roosevelt.
When word got out about the lawsuit Wall Street’s stock prices fell. One newspaper joked that;” Wall street is paralyzed at the thought that a president of the United States would sink so low as to try to enforce the law”. Meanwhile business leaders feared that regular citizens cheered the president. Other trusts he dealt with were Standard Oil and the American Tobacco Company. Eventually these trusts were also broken up. These trusts were broken up because they disabled free trade.
Another trust broken up by Roosevelt was the American Sugar Refining Company. They controlled 98% of the sugar industry. They basically had a monopoly. It was addressed in 1895 but the supreme court refused to dissolve the corporation. The only time they were called out for trade restraint was when the court ruled against a labor union.