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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10497/veto-of-the-texas-seed-bill/

Veto of the Texas Seed Bill

August 20, 2009 by

Of President Grover Cleveland’s 584 vetoes, that of the “Texas Seed Bill” (February 16, 1887) may be the most famous. Members of Congress wanted to help suffering farmers in the American West, but Cleveland rejected their bill, citing the limited mission of the general government and arguing that private charity and already-existing government programs should furnish the necessary aid. FULL ARTICLE


Kevin Hall August 20, 2009 at 9:18 am

One of my heroes because of this veto! The I learned about Cleveland, the more I liked him. How rare to find a president with an understanding of the proper role of government. Thanks for posting this!

Charlie August 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

I would be more impressed by this if Cleveland hadn’t been perfectly fine using the force of government to intervene on the behalf of capital to suppress strikes. Whatever your view on the merits of the workers’ position, it was undoubtedly a subsidy to the railroads when he dispatched federal troops on their behalf in the Pullman Strike of 1894 (itself a dubiously constitutional decision).

Is he better than any politician around today? No doubt, if for his anti-imperial views alone. But let’s remember: he was still a politician.

(8?» August 20, 2009 at 10:52 am

Charlie, strikers are aggressors against private property and the right of other workers to freely replace them without risk of harm. A limited government that is supposed to protect these rights should always move to the aid of the oppressed.

Charlie August 20, 2009 at 11:10 am

Hilarious. So you think the railroads — which last I checked benefitted from substantial government subsidies and eminent domain — were “the oppressed”? How exactly can a corporation which benefitted from such government force claim to even hold title to their stolen property?

Greg August 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”

He should have ended this sentence with the word “suffering”. By adding the condition that follows, he gives me the impression that he believes government does have unlimited power if it determines that a particular action is related to the public service or benefit. This is similar to the idea of the general welfare clause granting unlimited power.

geoih August 20, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Quote from Charlie: “Hilarious. So you think the railroads — which last I checked benefitted from substantial government subsidies and eminent domain — were “the oppressed”?”

How about you stick to one topic. I doubt many libertarians would support the government largesse to railroads in the way of land grants, but this thread is about the Pullman Strike.

Is your position that a union has the right to block access to private property, to destroy private property, to threaten and inflict violence on non-union workers, and to refuse to work, yet keep their jobs, all in an effort to extort higher wages than the employer wished to pay?

Kevin Hall August 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

“I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.”

He should have ended this sentence with the word “suffering”. By adding the condition that follows, he gives me the impression that he believes government does have unlimited power if it determines that a particular action is related to the public service or benefit. This is similar to the idea of the general welfare clause granting unlimited power.

Greg, I think that is a pretty interesting interpretation and one I did not see. Makes me re-think just a bit…

prettyskin August 20, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Cleveland was a politician. A cockeyed notion that he was above “politicians” is a bunch of spew.

E. Harding August 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm

“After 1873, Drexel, Morgan and its dominant figure J.P. Morgan became by far the leading investment firm in the U.S. If Cooke had been a “Republican” bank, Morgan, while prudently well connected in both parties, was chiefly influential among the Democrats. The other great financial interest powerful in the Democratic Party was the mighty European investment-banking house of the Rothschilds, whose agent, August Belmont, was treasurer of the national Democratic party for many years.

The enormous influence of the Morgans on the Democratic administrations of Grover Cleveland (1884–88, 1892–96) may be seen by simply glancing at their leading personnel. Grover Cleveland himself spent virtually all his life in the Morgan ambit. He grew up in Buffalo as a railroad lawyer, one of his major clients being the Morgan-dominated New York Central Railroad. In between administrations, he became a partner of the powerful New York City law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracey, and MacVeagh. This firm, by the late 1880s, had become the chief legal firm of the House of Morgan, largely because senior partner Charles B. Tracey was J.P. Morgan’s brother-in-law. After Tracey died in 1887, Francis Lynde Stetson, an old and close friend of Cleveland’s, became the firm’s dominant partner, as well as the personal attorney for J.P. Morgan. (This is now the Wall St. firm of Davis, Polk, and Wardwell.)

Grover Cleveland’s cabinets were honeycombed with Morgan men, with an occasional bow to other bankers. Considering those officials most concerned with foreign policy, his first Secretary of State, Thomas F. Bayard, was a close ally and disciple of August Belmont; indeed, Belmont’s son, Perry, had lived with and worked for Bayard in Congress as his top aide. The dominant Secretary of State in the second Cleveland Administration was the powerful Richard Olney, a leading lawyer for Boston financial interests, who have always been tied in with the Morgans, and in particular was on the Board of the Morgan-run Boston and Maine Railroad, and would later help Morgan organize the General Electric Company.

The War and Navy departments under Cleveland were equally banker-dominated. Boston Brahmin Secretary of War William C. Endicott had married into the wealthy Peabody family. Endicott’s wife’s uncle, George Peabody, had established a banking firm which included J.P. Morgan’s father as a senior partner; and a Peabody had been best man at J.P.’s wedding. Secretary of the Navy was leading New York City financier William C. Whitney, a close friend and top political advisor of Cleveland’s. Whitney was closely allied with the Morgans in running the New York Central Railroad.

Secretary of War in the second Cleveland Administration was an old friend and aide of Cleveland’s, Daniel S. Lamont, previously an employee and protégé of William C. Whitney. Finally, the second Secretary of the Navy was an Alabama Congressman, Hilary A. Herbert, an attorney for and very close friend of Mayer Lehman, a founding partner of the New York mercantile firm of Lehman Brothers, soon to move heavily into investment banking. Indeed, Mayer’s son, Herbert, later to be Governor of New York during the New Deal, was named after Hilary Herbert.

The great turning point of American foreign policy came in the early 1890s, during the second Cleveland Administration. It was then that the U.S. turned sharply and permanently from a foreign policy of peace and non-intervention to an aggressive program of economic and political expansion abroad. At the heart of the new policy were America’s leading bankers, eager to use the country’s growing economic strength to subsidize and force-feed export markets and investment outlets that they would finance, as well as to guarantee Third World government bonds. The major focus of aggressive expansion in the 1890s was Latin America, and the principal Enemy to be dislodged was Great Britain, which had dominated foreign investments in that vast region.

In a notable series of articles in 1894, Bankers’ Magazine set the agenda for the remainder of the decade. Its conclusion: if “we could wrest the South American markets from Germany and England and permanently hold them, this would be indeed a conquest worth perhaps a heavy sacrifice.”

Long-time Morgan associate Richard Olney heeded the call, as Secretary of State from 1895 to 1897, setting the U.S. on the road to Empire. After leaving the State Department, he publicly summarized the policy he had pursued. The old isolationism heralded by George Washington’s Farewell Address is over, he thundered. The time has now arrived, Olney declared, when “it behooves us to accept the commanding position… among the Power of the earth.” And, “the present crying need of our commercial interests,” he added, “is more markets and larger markets” for American products, especially in Latin America.

Good as their word, Cleveland and Olney proceeded belligerently to use U.S. might to push Great Britain out of its markets and footholds in Latin America. In 1894, the United States Navy illegally used force to break the blockade of Rio de Janeiro by a British-backed rebellion aiming to restore the Brazilian monarchy. To insure that the rebellion was broken, the U.S. Navy stationed war-ships in Rio harbor for several months.

During the same period, the U.S. government faced a complicated situation in Nicaragua, where it was planning to guarantee the bonds of the American Maritime Canal Company, to build a canal across the country. The new regime of General Zelaya was threatening to revoke this canal concession; at the same time, an independent reservation, of Mosquito Indians, protected for decades by Great Britain, sat athwart the eastern end of the proposed canal. In a series of deft maneuvers, using the Navy and landing the Marines, the U.S. managed to bring Zelaya to heel and to oust the British and take over the Mosquito territory.

In Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) France was the recipient of the American big stick. In the Santo Domingo Improvement Company, in 1893, a consortium of New York bankers purchased the entire debt of Santo Domingo from a Dutch company, receiving the right to collect all Dominican customs revenues in payment of the debt. The French became edgy the following year when a French citizen was murdered in that country, and the French government threatened to use force to obtain reparations. Its target for reparations was the Dominican customs revenue, at which point the U.S. sent a warship to the area to intimidate the French.

But the most alarming crisis of this period took place in 1895–96, when the U.S. was at a hair’s breadth from actual war with Great Britain over a territorial dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana. This boundary dispute had been raging for forty years, but Venezuela shrewdly attracted American interest by granting concessions to Americans in gold fields in the disputed area.

Apparently, Cleveland had had enough of the “British threat,” and he moved quickly toward war. His close friend Don Dickinson, head of the Michigan Democratic Party, delivered a bellicose speech in May 1895 as a surrogate for the President. Wars are inevitable, Dickinson declared, for they arise out of commercial competition between nations. The United States faces the danger of numerous conflicts, and clearly the enemy was Great Britain. After reviewing the history of the alleged British threat, Dickinson thundered that “we need and must have open markets throughout the world to maintain and increase our prosperity.”

In July, Secretary of State Olney sent the British an insulting and tub-thumping note, declaring that “the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” President Cleveland, angry at the British rejection of the note, delivered a virtual war message to Congress in December, but Britain, newly occupied in problems with the Boers in South Africa, decided to yield and agree to a compromise boundary settlement. Insultingly, the Venezuelans received not a single seat on the agreed-upon arbitration commission.

In effect, the British, occupied elsewhere, had ceded dominance to the United States in Latin America. It was time for the U.S. to find more enemies to challenge.

The next, and greatest, Latin American intervention was of course in Cuba, where a Republican Administration entered the war goaded by its jingo wing closely allied to the Morgan interests, led by young Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt and by his powerful Boston Brahmin mentor, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. But American intervention in Cuba had begun in the Cleveland-Olney regime.

In February 1895, a rebellion for Cuban independence broke out against Spain. The original U.S. response was to try to end the threat of revolutionary war to American property interests by siding with Spanish rule modified by autonomy to the Cubans to pacify their desires for independence. Here was the harbinger of U.S. foreign policy ever since: to try to maneuver in Third World countries to sponsor “third force” or “moderate” interests which do not really exist. The great proponent of this policy was the millionaire sugar grower in Cuba, Edwin F. Atkins, a close friend of fellow-Bostonian Richard Olney, and a partner of J.P. Morgan and Company.

By the fall of 1895, Olney concluded that Spain could not win, and that, in view of the “large and important commerce between the two countries” and the “large amounts of American capital” in Cuba, the U.S. should execute a 180-degree shift and back the rebels, even unto recognizing Cuban independence. The fact that such recognition would certainly lead to war with Spain did not seem worth noting. The road to war with Spain had begun, a road that would reach its logical conclusion three years later.

Ardently backing the pro-war course was Edwin F. Atkins, and August Belmont, on behalf of the Rothschild banking interests. The House’ of Rothschild, which had been long-time financiers to Spain, refused to extend any further credit to Spain, and instead under-wrote Cuban Revolutionary bond issues, and even assumed full obligation for the unsubscribed balance.

During the conquest of Cuba in the Spanish-American War, the United States also took the occasion to expand its power greatly in Asia, seizing first the port of Manila and then all of the Philippines, after which it spent several years crushing the revolutionary forces of the Philippine independence movement.”-Murray N. Rothbard, Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy.

(8?» August 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Charlie said: ‘Hilarious. So you think the railroads — which last I checked benefitted from substantial government subsidies and eminent domain — were “the oppressed”?’

My comment was in no way supportive of railroad subsidies, or the government boondoggles that corrupted these companies. It was in reference solely to the alleged responsibility of a government limited to the defense of individual property rights. The fact that these companies have received favorable treatment at others’ expense in no way diminishes the legitimacy of the government’s efforts to protect ANY property owner.

As I see it, Charlie, you are mixing multiple issues in order to come up a moral calculation of what’s “fair.” In this case focusing on my usage of ‘oppressed’ to describe the aggression against property owners, who in this case happened to own a railroad.

To deny one legitimate (constitutional) protection because you feel they do not warrant it, is to deny the right of anyone to have it, lest they pass your morality test first. Given the polarizing nature of divide and conquer politics, surely you can see how this ultimately leads to the erosion of the entire constitutional structure, as there is no single area of government action that does not pit one group against another, each unfairly seeking to gain at the others’ expense in order to set things “right.”

If you want to talk about the destructive nature of the corruption centering around the railroads, you’ll get little argument here. To use it as an excuse to undermine property rights though, is to empower the very criminals who created this railroad mess to begin with, as that entire affair was nothing but a violation of property rights. Moral relativism is a dangerous policy tool in the hand of the propagandists, especially when the public cries out “do something!” creating the mandate for the political class to bandwagon upon, with the goal being restoration of the magical state of “fair” (you know, that four letter F-word).

Did you ever stop to wonder how unfair actions can create a fair society? Or why the government always does unfair things in order to restore a balance of fairness? Or are you too busy trying to implement your own to notice the contradiction?

If one wants a coherent state, one must first have a coherent state of mind.

(8?» August 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Charlie, to address your question “How exactly can a corporation which benefitted from such government force claim to even hold title to their stolen property?” I have to say once again you are mixing ideologies around the topic of fairness, making the question nonsensical.

First off, laws (and actions taken under them) are legal. Not moral, not fair, but legal.

Government enforces property contracts (legitimizes titles in a legal setting).

Government steals property from one and gives it to another (legitimizes theft in a legal setting).

How can a company railroad claim legitimate title for stolen land? By the force of government, obviously.

Jaycephus August 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Regarding unions, why is it NOT OK for a group of companies to band together, collude with one another, to force prices for their labors to be higher than the market would have set, but it is FINE for workers to band together to force companies to pay twice the rate for THEIR labors than what the market has set.

The companies so afflicted will obviously have to pass on the costs of their fine union workforce to their customers, causing them to lose market share to companies not so afflicted. The predictable outcome is that unions will dissappear if they do not replicate to other companies and are not more protected by the federal and state governments than the average endangered species (& they will STILL have to have the government step in to ‘save’ their company).

This is what we have seen. The US non-governmental union membership has been steadily declining, and with the final destruction of the US auto-industry, they should have seen a reduction in numbers, but that day has been temporarily postponed.

Total union membership has dropped over the last 25 years almost linearly from 20% of the workforce to 12%, but have just started growing again to the tune of +400,000 additional members in ’08.

Of course, this growth is from the ‘government unions’. From a pro-union website:

“Most of that growth was due to an increase in the number of federal, state and city government workers who joined unions. Current law makes it easier for government workers to join unions than private-sector employees, whose employers tend to be more aggressive in blocking employees from forming a union. The rate of union membership for government workers was nearly five times higher than that of non-government workers in 2008.”

skeptical citizen March 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Of course it is wrong for Cleveland to order U.S. troops to murder striking workers–who, incidentally, were U.S. voters and taxpayers. I guess the government can kill whoever they want.

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