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Captain J J Vandergrift

union, producers, oil, standard, suits and proposition

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" CAPTAIN J. J. VANDERGRIFT: My dear Sir—We are now prepared to enter into a contract to refine all the petroleum that can be sold in the markets of the world at a low price for refining. Prices of refined oil to be made by a joint committee of producers and refiners, and the profits to be de termined by these; profits to be divided equitably between both parties. This joint interest to have the lowest net rates obtainable from railroads. If your judgment ap proves, you may consult some of the producers upon this question. This would proba bly require the United Pipe Lines to make contracts and act as a clearing-house for both parties.

Very respectfully yours, Captain Vandergrift handed the letter to the executive committee of the Producers' Union. It was returned to him without a reply. The producers had tried an arrangement of this kind with Mr. Rockefeller's National Refiners' Associ ation in the winter of 1872 and 1873, and it had failed. The refiners had thrown up their contract when they found they could get all the oil they wanted at a lower price than they had contracted to pay the Producers' Union, &Om men who had not gone into that organisation. The oil country was familiar, too, with the case of the H. L. Taylor Company, whose complaint against the Standard was referred to in the last chapter. Contracts of that sort were never meant to be kept, they declared. They were meant as "sops, opiates." In November, 1878, after the testimony which had been brought out by the suit against the United Pipe Lines had been pretty well aired in the New York Sun and other papers, and one or two private suits against the railroads were creating a good deal of public discussion, an effort to secure a conference between the representatives of the Union and the Standard officials was made. The Union refused to go into it officially. A meeting was held, however, in New York on November 29, at which several well-known oil men were present. It was announced to the press in advance that it was to be an important but secret meeting between the oil producers, refin ers and Standard men ; that its object was to settle all griev ances, and to secure a withdrawal of the impending suits. As

soon as the news of this proposed meeting reached the Oil Regions, the officials of the Union promptly denied their connection with it.

Although these early efforts to get a wedge into the Pro ducers' Union and thus secure a staying of the suits had no results, the Standard was not discouraged—it never is : there is no evidence in its history that it knows what the word means. Not being able to handle the Union as a whole, the Standard began working on individuals. By March, 1879, the idea of a compromise had become particularly strong in Oil City. Indeed, one of the several reasons advanced for bringing the conspiracy suits was that such a proceeding would defeat the efforts the Oil City branch were making to bring about a settle ment with Mr. Rockefeller. Accordingly, when it became apparent to Mr. Rockefeller in the fall of 1879 that the pro ducers meant to fight through the conspiracy suit, though they might dally over the others, he notified Roger Sherman, counsel for the Union, that he wished to lay before him a proposition looking to a settlement. The president, Mr. Camp bell, was in favour of receiving the proposition. "I have no idea they will present anything we can accept," he wrote Mr. Sherman. "Still it will furnish a first-rate gauge to test how badly they are scared." And the Standard was told that the Union would consider what they had to offer. "But it is a serious question—this of settlement," replied Mr. Rockefeller. "Our trial is set for October 28. We cannot get ready for that and prepare a proposition too. Why not postpone the trial?" This was done—December Is being set. But no propo sition was made to the producers for over six weeks—then they were asked to meet the Standard men on November 29 in New York City. Piqued at the delay, the producers in formed the Standard that they could no longer consider their proposition and that the trial would• be pushed.

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