THE world of trade furnishes at the present time one of the most startling of modern phenomena, in the sudden and enormous extension of the dangerous principle embodied in the combinations called Trusts.
These combinations put enormous power into the hands of a few persons—a condition which is contrary to every interest of popular government.
It is essential to the success of popular government that there be an even distribution of power among the people. The people have equal rights; and every right means power. From the rights of the people springs all power that can rightfully be exercised in the government.
At the setting up of the Government of the United States special pains were taken to safeguard the rights of the people. It was feared that Congress and the Federal Government might usurp powers which it was not deemed for the popular good that they should have. Therefore it was provided in the Constitution that “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be  construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” and, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Great power was centered by the people only in the Federal Government, over which the people were to exercise control at the general elections; and this power was fenced about by safeguards in the Federal Constitution.
But in the Trusts a power of vast dimensions arises which is not centered in any organization subject to change by a popular vote, or in any way to the control of the people. This disturbs the balance of power just as certainly and as harmfully as though power to a like extent had been usurped by the Government itself.
By the Constitution extraordinary power is put in the hands of a few persons chosen by the people and subject to their control. By the Trusts extraordinary power is placed in the hands of a few persons not chosen by the people, and subject to no authority but themselves.
Whether these Trusts crowned monarchs can be made subject to the popular will or not—whether, in other words, they have power under the people or above the people—is a question that is now before the courts for decision. The Trusts defy the power of both state and national courts alike, and thus far have done so successfully.
The attorney-general of the United States has recently declared that the Federal courts have no power to deal with “any combination constituting a restraint and monopoly of trade unless such trade is what is known as interstate or international trade and commerce.” But by the provisions of the Constitution, each State in the Union is compelled to receive the products of every State, and permit the sale of the same within its borders, so that the products of a Trust in one State can be forced upon the people of every other State, under the authority and protection of Federal law, and in defiance of any power that can be exercised by a State legislature. It only needs the Trusts should find a home in some friendly State—as they have now in New Jersey—to enable them to flourish in spite of all legislation that can be enacted elsewhere, under the decision given by Attorney-General Griggs. And that the Trusts, with their unlimited riches, will not be able to buy themselves a home in some State, in view of the susceptibility of legislatures to touch of wealth, is entirely too much to expect.
This is the situation created by the Trusts to-day. The evil which they bring to the people is twofold. They drive multitudes of the smaller business concerns out of existence, thus crushing individual enterprise, reducing wages and wage earners, giving the country superior prices and inferior products, and swelling the already vast army of the unemployed; to which must be added the fearfully demoralizing influence of an example which denies that honesty is the best policy, that diligence and frugality are the parents of wealth; and declares that it is good for the public man to be led into temptation and that government exists by the consent of millions of dollars rather than of millions of men.
And this is not all, for, on the other hand, the well-known tendency of a capitalized business to “overstock,” when carried out in such huge concerns as the Trusts, threatens the country with a deluge which will sweep away the financial resources of millions who are being led to put their money into Trust securities and expect,” says Attorney-General Haines, of Maine, speaking on this point, “to see the greatest panic the … ever saw in less than five years as a result of Trusts.”
What must result from this tremendous disturbance of the balance of power so essential to the interests of republican government? What such a disturbance means in the atmospheric elements, it no less surely signifies in organized human society; it is the precursor of a storm. And the violence of that storm will be in proportion to the extent to which the powers of the people have become unbalanced. It will be, indeed, a cyclone of human passion, the hail of which will be bullets and the rain of blood.
In the year 1898 the total of authorized Trust stocks and bonds was $916,176,000; for the first two months of the present year the total is $1,106,300,000; and the estimated total for the full year, according to the Financial Chronicle, exceeds $6,000,000,000. Thus rapidly is the barometer falling, and at this rate how long will it be before nature—human nature—will precipitate the struggle for readjustment, and the recovery of the … and rights of the people?