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New York Legislature. It is the only market to which all the world goes to trade. Orders to buy and sell come to it daily from London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cork, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Zurich, Havre, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg.
No other farmer has such a market as this which mobilizes and cashes the crops of the Mississippi valley. Its scores of railroads fetch and carry. Its banks, stretching from the Zuyder Zee to the Yellowstone, bring the capital of the Bank of England and of the Hopes of Amsterdam to meet the farmer when he drives up to the country station with a wagon-load of grain to sell. Its telegraph wires inform him of the prices, the weather, the supply and demand of the world. Its every opinion of value is substantiated by cash. Its warehouses will hold two days' rations for every man, woman, and child in Europe and America. Packing-houses that can, singly, kill ten thousand hogs a day in summer and twenty thousand a day in winter, are there to receive all the live-stock that the prairies may forward. A cargo of grain lately sold in Liverpool on Chicago account had to be disposed of on six months' time. Chicago, whether in harvest-time or midwinter, will any day buy all that any one may wish to sell, and sell all that any one may wish to buy. Liverpool is, in comparison, an awkward country market, where every consignment of grain must be handled and sold as a separate parcel. But here the State inspects all the grain that arrives at Chicago, and gives a ticket of quantity and quality which is a negotiable security, and passes into commerce to be sold and bought, and borrowed upon, while the wheat itself is run with more of the same kind into the graded bins of the elevators.
Farmers and country grain buyers who want to take advantage of high prices, but are too busy to ship their wheat to market, can telegraph a broker on the Board to sell for future delivery. The miller, if wheat looks cheap, can buy for future delivery. These contracts are “futures.” It is by their agency alone that the strain on the banks for money to move the crops is so distributed that we do not have a commercial crisis every fall. The fellah of Egypt and the slav of Bulgaria habitually sell their growing crops while green in the field. The distance between their misery, at the mercy of their own ignorance and
the greed of the usurer, and the affluence of our own farmer is as good a measure as any of the unapproachable superiority of the market which fate has given to the American farmer alone of all the tillers of the soil, but which the greed of the cornering syndicates threatens to destroy.
Wheat Adam Smith declares to be the least liable of all commodities to be engrossed “by the power of a few great capitals which buy it all up,” because its owners can never be collected in one place." But that, impossible once, is easily done now by the Board of Trade. By the perfection of its apparatus and the magnitude of its transactions, it is now possible for a clique, almost in one day, to obtain speculative possession of the surplus of a crop, and to insist that it all be delivered to them within an impossible time under a ruinous penalty, or to put it out of reach, and then demand an impossible delivery under a ruinous penalty. Every "future” bushel sold must be made good by the delivery of a real bushel when the buyer calls for it, and every purchaser of a “future” bushel must take and pay for a real bushel when the seller brings it to him. In olden times, when it was a prison offence all over Europe to buy wheat to sell again, it was the buyer who was mobbed and jailed. Nowadays, by a strange reversal of public sentiment, it is the seller who is treated with violence, that is, the “future" seller, the man who, in order to realize present prices, sells the wheat that he is holding in the country awaiting shipment, or which he expects to receive in the regular course of trade. It is obvious that, in the debate on prices on the Boards and Exchanges, both sides must be represented. There cannot be cash buyers without cash sellers; there cannot be buyers of “futures” without sellers of “futures”; there cannot be prices made, stocks accumulated, and crops moved without both, and without all this there could be no Board of Trade. Cornering commodities is only half the modern corner. The better half is cornering contracts. Most of the profit of corners is made up of the damages extorted in the shape of fictitious prices from the country shippers and from the traders on the Board, for not fulfilling contracts which the syndicates have made with them, intending to render them impossible of performance. And every such fictitious price so made within the Board is a real price to the consumers in the world beyond the Board.
The market is in these days no longer the mystery of the few; it is the mystery of the many. After giving men crop reports, market advices, banks, telegraphs, and brokers, it is too late to tell them not to try to use them for their legitimate profit. If the buyer helps the farmer, the seller helps the consumer, and in the world of commerce the consumer is just as good a man as the producer. The “future” seller is the offspring of the modern facilities for business. It is only in a highly organized market, with its supplies of commodities steadily flowing to him, that he could live. A highly organized market could not exist without him. No aspect of the corner is more ominous than that it aims at crippling the seller as well as the bread-eater, and with them the market in which they are as important personages as the farmer.
The "wealthy criminal classes ” have been quick to seize on the Exchanges, at the risk of breaking them down, as the best of all instruments for depredation. With the machinery of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange a year ago they stopped fifteen million spindles and took away the livelihood of thousands of men, women, and children. Hardly a month passes on the New York Produce Exchange, one of the witnesses said before the Legisla tive Committee investigating corners, without a corner or a squeeze. But it is the Chicago Board of Trade which offers the largest and the favorite field for the cornerer. It is willing to give or take unlimited quantities at the figures it makes. It can put the combination of rich men in instant possession of the crop that is in market and of contracts for all that is to come. The morale of the Board permits the millionaires who have solicited these contracts, and “forestalled” the market for the purpose of making others break them, to put prices to any height in order to exact fatal damages from their victims. It is the code of honor among wolves that no high-minded lamb will squeal. The same class that administers trusts for the trustee, runs corporations to wreck the small capitals they were intended to consolidate, and finds only a private use in public franchises, is burrowing into the Board of Trade to kill trade. The passion for enslaving, forbidden by a squeamish civilization to buy men, finds a vent in capturing the raw material of human life.
Corners used to come on the Board of Trade once in a year or two. Now there are corners almost all the time. The Chicago corner used to be the venture of some local Titan, and was felt
Produce Exchange investigating cornet of Trade whip
only within the then provincial jurisdiction of the Board. Now, it is often the cosmopolitan work of the combined capitalists of half a dozen cities, and its effects, as the London “Times” said of the pork corner of 1880, are felt in advancing prices all over the world. When six million bushels of wheat were handled by a syndicate, ten years ago, it was felt in predatory circles that the civilization of the nineteenth century had about reached its grandest heights; but sixty million bushels of corn and twenty million bushels of wheat are now pocketed almost without exciting remark. Corners generally used to fail; but the accumulated experience of many collapses has not been in vain. Such mistakes are not now made as that of the wheat corner of 1872, which was begun in the face of the harvest and was drowned out by the rush of wheat from the farmers, who dropped all other work and dried their green wheat in stoves, pots, tin cans, anything in which it could be heated, with the result of forcing down prices on themselves forty-seven cents in twenty-four hours. Now, while the farmers are selling the markets are kept down. It is after the crops are out of their hands that the manipulators put prices up. The corner of last July followed upon the smallest surplus the farmers have had in their hands for many years. The Board has sometimes had rules to prevent corners, but with the beginning of this year the corner rule was abolished through the influence of the wealthy operators. The radius of the combinations of capital to corner the crops is lengthening year by year. The great corner is still to come.
The late disastrous shortages of the crops of Europe caused the machinery of the Board to be promptly set in motion. A series of corners in wheat, pork, and other articles began, which have not yet ceased, and have produced almost every kind of evil. The wheat corner of 1879 was commanded by a New Yorker. It began with an inspired chorus of prophecies of low prices, which continued as long as the clique were buying of the farmers. The price was run down to eighty-one and a half cents a bushel. When all the wheat and wheat contracts to be had were obtained, the price was raised to one dollar and thirty-three cents. In every way the results of this corner were deplorable. The markets were crazed. The cliques held, according to their own statement, twenty million bushels, and, according to the estimate of close observers in the trade, seventy million bushels.
cks, intentioned by the farm could afford to Bastindies,
At one time, their wheat was piled up in the elevators and on the railroad tracks, intentionally stopping the way, so that no other wheat could be got to market by the farmers and dealers. Wheat was refused to exporters at prices they could afford to pay. The English buyers went to Bombay and Calcutta; and the East Indies, which sent their first sample to Liverpool not ten years ago, have, in consequence, taken a place next only to us in supplying the British market. During the winter, four hundred vessels lay for months in New York harbor, the owners pleading for wheat, even at ruinously low rates. Many of them ran into debt, and the majority of them finally had to sail away to seek cargoes elsewhere. When the time came to despatch this wheat from Chicago and New York to Europe, to put it out of the way, the head of the clique said to the railroads: “I will give you so many million bushels to carry; if you do not take it at my rate, I will ship it all by lake in the spring.” The cutting of rates which ensued was one of the irritating causes of the war that followed among the trunk lines. In the same way syndicates have repeatedly forced the navigators of the lakes to take such rates as they chose to pay, for there was no one to compete with the engrossing shipper. Transportation, overtasked at one time and at another idle, is hopelessly deranged; and all the banking and other business that must attend the movement of the crops goes by fits and starts. Three out of every four flouring mills of the country were kept idle for over two months. One of the oldest members of the Produce Exchange prepared for the Legislature an estimate that this syndicate, by not selling, and by not letting others sell, and by fleecing those who had been inveigled into dealing with them, and by the injury that had been done to the millers, the shipping interest, the exporters, and the consumers of flour, had caused a loss to the country of not less than three hundred million dollars.
The pork corner, which came at the same time as this in wheat, was described as follows by the London “Times”: “Amid the turmoil of the Presidential election, there has been closed one of the largest and most successful speculations which has ever excited the brain of Chicago, the Armour pork corner. Its influence in advancing prices was felt in every part of the world. A Chicago dispatch of November 5th, says: 'In July, 1879, after one member of the firm of Armour & Co. had returned from