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April 27, 1889
Record and Guide.
DEVoTd) TO Ke^l Estate . SuiLDif/c AjtoriiTECTURE ,HousÂ£:i1old DEaoF^^TloI4.
BUsiiJess do Themes of Oe^JeivI I|(tÂ£i\es7
PRICE, PER YEAR IN ADVANCE, SIX DOLLARS.
Published every Saturday.
TELEPHONE, - . - JOHN 370.
f ommtmications should be addressed to
C. W. SWEET, 191 Broadway,
/. T. LINDSJUY, Bitsiness Maiiager.
APRIL 37, 1889.
Wiseacrea of Wall street continue to give their reasons, at lengtli,
in the daily and financial press, why the price of securities does
not advance, and why a bull speculation does not make its appearÂ¬
ance ; but the matter is a simple one. The business of the country
is in a depressed condition, and there is no immediate prospect of
its getting better. Coal and iron are slow of sale and their price
is low, which shows that our manufacttuing industries are in a bad
way; nor is there auy prospect of a revival, for, to all appearances.
Congress wil! uot meet until next December, and we will then be
plunged into a tariff debate, wiiich, while it last?, will check
industrial enterprises of all kinds. There is really only one promisÂ¬
ing factor, and that is the excellent crop prospects ; but an abunÂ¬
dance of agricultural products wiil not of tiiemselves give us good
times, if tnu- mannfactnri(ig interests remain under a cloud until
thf! tariff diSTJute is settled. It will take another year at least to
effect this. The rapid accumulation of currency, at money centres,
shows how indisposed capitalists are to invest until the tariff and
fiscal policy of the country are finally determined.
If the new administration had taken our advice and called' an
extra session of Congress to meet on May 15th, how changed
would have been the prospect. There would have been a honeful
feeling that something would come of the early session. It could
very well have been given out that the flrst duty of the new ConÂ¬
gress would be to appropriate the surplus money in the
treasury productively, to rehabilitate our merchant marine for
instance. A recess could have been taken during the hot months,
and the tariff discussion taken up by October and closed by the
holidays. But, apparently, Presideut Harrison, with the instinct
of his profession, wants to procrastinate, and his energy seems
bent upon getting the Republican machines in the several States
in good working order. But if the business of the cotmtry is
kept disorganized through tlie tardy action of the party in power,
there will be a Democratic House elected a year from next fait,
and the administration will be a failure. "Go forth my son,"
said the Sage, "and see with how little wisdom the world is
Facts and figures have recently been published to show that
speculation on all tiie exchanges of tlie country is, and has for some
time been, at a low ebb. The speculative dealings tn railroad securiÂ¬
ties have fallen off more than one-half, although there are in existÂ¬
ence twice and even three times the amount of stocks and bonds
than there were eight or ten years ago. In 1880 and 18bl dealings
in 800,000 and 900,000 shares per day were not uncommon. Recently
300,000 shares have been regarded as a good day's business. Cotton
and grain tell the same story of a falling off in dealings, and petroÂ¬
leum sees no such fluctuations or trading as was common five
years ago. The bucket shop doubtless explains in a part the falling
off in the regular exchanges, but, undoubtedly, tlie betting on
futures has resulted in equalizing prices and checking unnatural
speculation. An excited market depends on wide fluctuation in
prices, and these are discouraged by time sales.
But shrewd and experienced operators are looking for the develÂ¬
opment of speculation in some new field. The public, aa years roll
I by, is afflicted with some pet lunacy. Sometimes it is land values,
">, then railroad stocks of certain regions; and just at present the
i speculative fever is showing itself in trust stocks, some of which
Irave great merit, but which are dangerous to deal in. The history
of Tennessee coal and iron, of cotton seed oil, both excellent propÂ¬
erties in themselves, is full of warning to conservative investors.
No m;q,tter how intrinsically valuable the property may be, it seems
fated to go through a baptism of fire. Cotton seed oil stock hasrun
up from 30 to 70, then fell back to 25,and hassincesoldat about
60; yet theve was no con-ecponding change in the intrinsic value of
tlie certificatv^s. Many of our readers will recall the petroleum
excitement which broke out at about the close of the civil warâit
created a downr.;eht popular frenzy. There are some who think
that natural gas Vi-iU some day be an object of similar popular favor.
It is taking the place of coal in western Pennsylvania and in some
of the Middle States. Both as a fuel and as an illurainant it is far
preferable to any form of coal or coke. The profits on it have been
enormous; the company that supplies Pittsburg has been paying 1
per cent, per month for over forty months. Yet the stock of this
Philadelphia Company ran down from 130 to near 70. Since
then new gas strikes in some of its fields have advanced the price
of the stock to near 90. This natural gas is revolutionizing manuÂ¬
facture. The glass which is made by its use is the best in the world.
It really looks as if the speculation of the future will tium more on
industrial products, like cotton seed oil, sugar, gas(made from coal),
uatural gas, ]ietroleum and the like. The speculative temper is
only sleeping, not dead,
The priucipal denouncers of trusts and tiommercial combinations
have been the newspapers and the politicians. Both have been
blind to the real nature and meaning of the institutions they decried.
Instead of seeing that they are the natural result of tlie conditions of
modern trade they regarded them as merely the work of a few
grasping monopolists. It is only the justice which events usually
mete out to the fool that both newspapers and politicians have been
compelled by the force of the very conditions whicli created the
ti-usts to at last themselves turn foi- assistance to the principle
In combining recently to increase the price of the Sunday edition
to five cents the press of this city have done exactly what a score of
organizations that they have roundly denounced as public robbers
have done, and the New York Sun, the only paper in the city that
has not been positively rabid on the trust question, has pointed out
that the politicians are also "ti'usting" exactly as the oil men,
sugar refiners, steel rail manufacturers and others did before them.
The Republican interests in this city fire now controlled by an indeÂ¬
pendent hoard of seven persons. All power is delegated to them
just as the ti-ustees of the .Standard Oil Company control the
interests of ali the refiners in the trust. The district deleÂ¬
gates of tlie County Democracy place all authority in
a Coramittee of Twenty-four. This committee controls the
entire organization. In Tammany there is the same "trust." The
])ower of the district leaders and the heads of the City DepartÂ¬
ments over patronage has been greatly curtailed of late, and
all authority is being confered upon the Commissioners of
the Sinking Fundâthat is, the Mayor, Recorder, Comptroller,
Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Board of Aldermen
and the City Chamberlain. They form now the great political
trust whose voice in party matters is supreme, and whose power
in city affairs is almost predominant. There is nothing in
these facts to be deplored or to cause good citizens the least anxiety.
Just as the commercial trust results in greater economy, the politiÂ¬
cal trust will secure mrre efficient government. The weak point
in our municipal machinery hitherto has been the lack of a strong
controlling responsible head. As the Sinking Fund Commissioners
obtain a greater power over patronage, and exert a greater
influence in city affairs, tlie people are sure to impose more and
more upon them the responsibility for good government as well,
and thus the " political tmst" may bring about the .great reform
which iias long been needed in municipal governmentâthe repose
of all power in a few hands directly responsible to the people.
It is thus that the things we fear are often better than those we
There seems to be more popular interest in the civic parade of
Wednesday than the military display of Tuesday. And very natÂ¬
urally so. We Americans have no real military, so have uo mateÂ¬
rial for an artistic display. In England or on the Continent there
is not only a great deal of " show " about official hfe, which, howÂ¬
ever useless as it may be in the transaction of business, certainly
lends color and brilliancy to a national parade of any kind ; but
there are the regiments,each with distinctive uniforms, great horses
and brightly burnished arms. A citizens' committee working with
militia men and inexperienced iu the business cannot be expected
to create a spectacle at all comparable to the spectacles which the
experienced officials abroad can get up. This is something rather
to be proud of rather than ashamed of. We are not a military
nation ; our officials do not carry swords aud wear uniforms. We
are not in the habit of massing troops into artistic lines and groups,
for we have no troops to mass and no occasion to mass them. We
are a commercial people, and the success of our jubilee will not be
measured in terms of pomp and color, but in terms of the enthuÂ¬
siasm which is manifested for a government under which, whatever
may be its faults, we have heen prosperous and happy.
The power .of corporations in our local politics is strikingly,
shown by the attitude of , tha city government and press of
Baltimore to a horse-car company. Under a wise Maryland law
the charters of horse-car companies expire in fifteen years' time.
They are allowed two years' grace, and then, if no action, is taken
by the city government, the charter runs another fifteen years.