Revenge: John Sherman, Russell Alger and the Origins of the Sherman Act
35 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018
Date Written: December 28, 2017
This paper argues that Senator John Sherman of Ohio was motivated to introduce an antitrust bill in late 1889 partly as a way of enacting revenge on his political rival, General and former Governor Russell Alger of Michigan, because Sherman believed that Alger personally had cost him the presidential nomination at the 1888 Republican national convention. When discussing his bill on the Senate floor and elsewhere, Sherman repeatedly brought up Alger’s relationship, which in reality was rather tenuous, with the well-known Diamond Match Company. The point of mentioning Alger was to hurt Alger’s future political career and his presidential aspirations in 1892. Sherman was able to pursue his revenge motive by combining it with the broader Republican goals of preserving high tariffs and attacking the trusts. As a result, this paper reinforces previous public choice literature arguing that the 1890 Sherman Act was not passed in the public interest, but instead advanced private interests.
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