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The Standard Oil Company and Politics

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THE STANDARD OIL COMPANY AND POLITICS cases described in the last two chapters naturally aroused intense interest in the Oil Regions. The two in Ohio demonstrated afresh the chief grievances which the oil men had against the Standard Oil Company since 1872—that they were securing rebates on their own shipments and drawbacks on those of their competitors. The Buffalo case demonstrated that when their ordinary advantages failed to get a rival out of the way they winked at methods which a jury called criminal. It was fresh proof of what the oil men had always claimed, that the Standard Oil Company was a conspiracy! At the same time that these cases were arousing their indignation anew there occurred in Ohio an affair which gave them new evidence of their old charge that the Standard was steadily intrenching itself in state and national politics in order to direct the course of legislation to suit itself. There had been many evidences of this, satisfactory enough to the initiated. There was no doubt that the investigation of 1876 and the first bill to regulate in terstate commerce introduced at that time had been squelched largely through the efforts of two members of Congress, one of them directly and the other indirectly interested in the Standard—these were J. N. Camden of West Virginia, head of the Camden Consolidated Oil Company, now one of the constituent companies of the Standard Oil Trust, and H. B. Payne of Ohio, the father of the treasurer of the Standard, Oliver H. Payne. It had certainly used its influence to oppose the free pipe-line bill which the independent oil men had been fighting for since the early days of the industry. In 1878 and 1879, during the prosecution of the suits against the railroads and the Standard by the Petroleum Producers' Union, there had been incessant charge of the use of political influence to secure delay. It was a matter of constant com ment in Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania that the Stand ard was active in all elections, and that it "stood in" with every ambitious young politician, that rarely did an able young lawyer get into office who was not retained by the Standard. The company seems to have taken a hand in poli

tics even before the days of the South Improvement Com pany, for Mr. Payne once said in the United States Senate that when he was a candidate for the House of Representa tives in 1871, "no association, no combination" in his district did more to bring about his defeat or spent so much money to accomplish it as the Standard Oil Company! * But all of the examples they quoted were more or less poor in evidence. Of no one of them perhaps could they have produced satisfactory proof. Now, however, simultaneously with the three cases outlined in the last two chapters there came a case of bribery in an election which they held estab lished their charge. The case was the familiar one of the election of H. B. Payne of Ohio to the United States Senate in January, 1884. Mr. Payne was at the time of his election the aristocrat par excellence of Cleveland, Ohio. He had birth and education, distinction of manner and mind. His fine old mansion still remains one of the most distinguished houses in a city of beautiful homes. He had been active in Demo cratic politics for many years—a member of the state Senate and a member of Congress, and he had been mentioned as the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 188o, receiving eighty-one votes on the first ballot. At the time of his election to the Senate he was a man seventy-four years old. Now Mr. Payne's son, Oliver H. Payne, was one of the thirteen orig inal members of the South Improvement Company, and one of the rare Cleveland refiners who had a strong enough stomach to go into the Standard Oil Company when it swept up the oil trade of Cleveland in 187, and he had gathered in his share of the spoils of that raid. Oliver Payne was proud of his father, and it was well known that he wanted to see him in the Senate of the United States, but there had been no movement to nominate him, and in 1883 he seems to have made up his mind to see what he could do.

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