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Strengthening the Foundations

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STRENGTHENING THE FOUNDATIONS the Central Association announced itself, independent refiners and the producers as a body watched developments with suspicion. They had little to go on. They had no means of proving what was actually the fact that the Central Association was the Standard Oil Company working secretly to bring its competitors under control or drive them out of business. They had no way of knowing what was actually the fact that the Standard had contracts with the Central, Erie and the Pennsylvania which gave them rebates on the low est tariff which others paid. That this must be the case, however, they were convinced, and they determined early in 1876 to call on Congress for another investigation. A hearing was practically insured, for Congress since 1872 had given serious attention to the transportation troubles. The Windom Committee of 1874 had made a report, the sweeping recom mendations of which gave much encouragement to those who suffered from the practices of the railroads. Among other things this committee recommended that all rates, drawbacks, etc., be published at every point and no changes allowed in them without proper notification. It recommended the Bureau of Commerce which, in 1902, twenty-eight years later, was created. So serious did the Windom Committee consider the situation in 1874, that it made the following radical recom mendations: The only means of securing and maintaining reliable and effective competition between railways is through national or state ownership, or control of one or more lines which, being unable to enter into combinations, will serve as a regulation of other lines.

One or more double-track freight-railways honestly and thoroughly constructed, owned or controlled by the government, and operated at a low rate of speed, would doubtless be able to carry at a much less cost than can be done under the present system of operating fast and slow trains on the same road; and, being incapable of entering into combinations, would no doubt serve as a very valuable regulator of existing railroads within the range of their influence.

With Congress in such a temper the oil men felt that there might be some hope of securing the regulation of interstate commerce they had asked for in 1872. The agitation resulted in the presentation in the House of Representatives, in April, of the first Interstate Commerce Bill which promised to be effective. The bill was presented by James H. Hopkins of Pittsburg. Mr. Hopkins had before his eyes the uncanny fate of the independent oil interests of Pittsburg, some twenty-five factories in that town having been reduced to two or three in three and one-half years. He had seen the oil-refining busi ness of the state steadily reduced, and he thought it high time that something was done. In aid of his bill a House investigation was asked. It was soon evident that the Standard was an enemy of this investigation. Through the efforts of a good friend of the organisation—Congressman H. B. Payne, of Cleveland—the matter was referred to the Committee on Commerce, where a member of the house, J. N. Camden, whose refinery, the Camden Consolidated Oil Company, if it had not already gone, soon after went into the Standard Oil Alliance, appeared as adviser of the chairman! Now what Mr. Hopkins wanted was to compel the railroads to present their contracts with the Standard Oil Company. The Com mittee summoned the proper railroad officers, Messrs. Cassatt, Devereux and Rutter, and 0. H. Payne, treasurer of the Standard Oil Company. Of the railroad men, only Mr. Cas satt appeared, and he refused to answer the questions asked or to furnish the documents demanded. Mr. Payne refused also to furnish the committee with information. The two principal

witnesses of the oil men were E. G. Patterson of Titus ville, to whose energy the investigation was largely due, and Frank Rockefeller of Cleveland, a brother of John D. Rockefeller. Mr. Patterson sketched the history of the oil business since the South Improvement Company identified the Standard Oil Company with that organisation, and framed the specific complaint of the oil men, as follows : "The rail road companies have combined with an organisation of indi viduals known as the Standard Ring; they give to that party the sole and entire control of all the petroleum refining interest and petroleum shipping interest in the United States, and consequently place the whole producing interest entirely at their mercy. If they succeed they place the price of refined oil as high as they please. It is simply optional with them how much to give us for what we produce." Frank Rockefeller gave a pretty complete story of the trials of an independent refiner in Cleveland during the pre ceding four years. His testimony in regard to the South Improvement Company has already been quoted. He declared that at the moment, his concern, the Pioneer Oil Company, was unable to get the same rates as the Standard; the freight agent frankly told him that unless he could give the road the same amount of oil to transport that the Standard did - he could not give the rate the Standard enjoyed. Mr. Rocke feller said that in his belief there was a pooling arrangement between the railroads and the Standard and that the rebate given was "divided up between the Standard Oil Company and the railroad officials." He repeatedly declared to the com mittee that he did not know this to be a positive fact, that he had no proof, but that he believed such was the truth. Among the railroad officials whom he mentioned as in his opinion enjoying spoils were W. H. Vanderbilt, Thomas Scott and General Devereux. Of course the newspapers had it that he had sworn that such was the fact. Colonel Scott promptly wired the following denial: "The papers of this morning publish that a man named Rockefeller stated before your committee that myself and other officers of this company were participants in rebates made to the Standard Oil Company. So far as the statement relates to myself and the officers of this company it is unqualifiedly false, and I have to ask that you will summon the officers of the Standard Oil Company, or any other parties that may have any knowledge of that subject, in order that such villainous and unwarranted statements may be corrected." General Devereux published in the Cleveland press an equally emphatic denial. Although Mr. Rockefeller promptly declared that he had stated to the committee that he had no personal knowledge that there was such a pool as he had intimated between the railroad men and the Standard, that he had only given his suspicions, there were plenty of people to overlook his explanation and assert that he had given proof of such a division of spoils. The belief spread and is met even to-day in oil circles. Now the only basis for any such assertion was the fact that W. H. Vanderbilt, Peter H. Watson and Amasa Stone were at that time, 1876, stockholders in the Standard Oil Company. There is no evidence of which the writer knows that General Devereux or Colonel Scott ever held any stock in the concern. Indeed, in 1879, when A. J. Cassatt was under examination as to the relations of the Penn sylvania Railroad and the Standard Oil Company, his own lawyer took pains to question him on this point—an effort, no doubt, to silence the accusation which at that date was constantly repeated.

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