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8. Theodore Roosevelt: The First Progressive, Part II

1. The Meat Packing Myth

One of the earliest acts of Progressive regulation of the economy was the Meat Inspection Act, which passed in June 1906.  The orthodox myth holds that the action was directed against the “beef trust” of the large meat packers, and that the federal government was driven to this anti-business measure by popular outcry generated by the muckraking novel, The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, which exposed unsanitary conditions in the Chicago meat-packing plants.1

Unfortunately for the myth, the drive for federal meat inspection actually began more than two decades earlier and was launched mainly by the big meat packers themselves. The spur was the urge to penetrate the European market for meat, something which the large meat packers thought could be done if the government would certify the quality of meat and thereby make American meat more highly rated abroad. Not coincidentally, as in all Colbertist mercantilist legislation over the centuries, a governmentally-coerced upgrading of quality would serve to cartelize — to lower production, restrict competition, and raise prices to the consumers. It, furthermore, socializes the cost of inspection to satisfy consumers, by placing the burden upon the taxpayers instead of on the producers themselves.2

More specifically, the meat packers were concerned to with combating the restrictionist legislation of European countries, which, in the late 1870s and early 1880s, began to prohibit the import of American meat. The excuse was to safeguard the European consumer against purportedly diseased meat; the probable major reason was to act as a protectionist device for European meat production.

Partly at the behest of the major meat packers, Chicago and other cities imposed and then strengthened a system of meat inspection, and the Secretary of the Treasury, on his own and without Congressional authorization, set up an inspection organization to certify exported cattle as free of pleuropneumonia in 1881. Finally, after Germany prohibited the importation of American pork, ostensibly because of the problem of disease, Congress, responding to the pressure of the large meatpackers, reacted in May 1884 by establishing a Bureau of Animal Industry within the Department of Agriculture “to prevent the exportation of diseased cattle” and to try to eliminate contagious diseases among domesticated animals.

But this was not enough, and the Department of Agriculture kept agitating for additional federal regulation to improve meat exports. Then, in response to the hog cholera epidemic in the United States in 1889, Congress, again pressured by the big meat packers, passed a law in the summer of 1890 compelling the inspection of all meat intended for export. But the European governments, claiming to be unsatisfied because live animals at the time of slaughter remained uninspected, continued their prohibitions of American meat. As a result, Congress, in March 1891, passed the first important compulsory federal meat inspection law in American history. The Act provided that all live animals must be inspected, and it managed to cover most animals passing through interstate commerce. Every meat packer involved in any way whatever in export had to be inspected in detail by the Department of Agriculture, and violations were punishable by imprisonment as well as fine.

This rigid inspection law satisfied European medicine, and European countries swiftly removed their prohibition on American pork. But the European meat packers were upset in proportion as their physicians were satisfied. Quickly, the European packers began discovering ever higher “standards” of health — at least as applied to imported meat — and European governments responded by reimposing import restrictions. The American meat industry felt it had no other choice but escalating its own compulsory inspection — as the minuet of ever higher and hypocritical standards continued. The Department of Agriculture inspected more and more meat and maintained dozens of inspection stations. In 1895, the department was able to get Congress to strengthen meat inspection enforcement. By 1904, the Bureau of Animal Industry was inspecting 73% of the entire U.S. beef kill.3

The big problem for the large packers was their smaller competitors, who were able to avoid government inspection. This meant that their smaller rivals were outside the attempted cartelization and benefited by the advantage of being able to ship uninspected meat. To succeed, the cartel had to be extended to, and imposed upon, the small packers.

The much publicized “beef trust,” or cartel among the major packers to agree on prices and restrict production and competition, had indeed been in existence since the mid-1880s. But in an industry with free entry and numerous small producers, and with meat growing in the hands of thousands of stock raisers, the beef trust had no impact on meat prices. Moreover, the competition from small meat packers was increasing. During the 1880s, the number of meat packing establishments in the United States had increased sharply from 872 in 1879 to 1,367 ten years later. Under the impact of federal cartelization, the number of firms declined to 1,080 in 1899, but then competitive pressure increased, with the number of firms rising to 1,641 in 1909, an increase of 52% in the first decade of the 20th century. Another gauge is that the meat packers other than the three largest firms accounted for 65% of meat production in 1905, and the percentage rose to 78% in 1909.

In March 1904, responding to pressure from organized livestock growers, the House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the Bureau of Corporations to investigate the alleged impact of the beef trust on prices and meatpacking profits. The Bureau’s report, issued one year later, angered the muckrakers, populists, and livestock interests by pointing out, quite accurately, that the meatpacking industry was substantially competitive, and that the packer cartel had no particular impact on meat prices.

Until early 1906, all the popular agitation against the meat industry was focused on the alleged monopoly, and scarcely at all on sanitary conditions. Articles in English and American magazines in the previous two years attacking sanitary conditions in meatpacking houses had no impact on the public. In February 1906, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published and revealed many alleged horrors of the meat packing industry. Shortly thereafter, Roosevelt sent two Washington bureaucrats, Commissioner of Labor Charles P. Neill and civil service lawyer James B. Reynolds, to investigate the Chicago industry. The famous “Neill-Reynolds” report that apparently confirmed Sinclair’s findings, in fact, only revealed the ignorance of the officials, as later congressional hearings indicated that they poorly understood how slaughterhouses worked and confused their inherently foul nature with unsanitary conditions.

Shortly after The Jungle came out, J. Ogden Armour, owner of one of the biggest packing firms, wrote an article in the Saturday Evening Post defending government inspection of meat and insisting that the large packers had always favored and pushed for inspection. Armour wrote:

Attempt to evade it [government inspection] would be, from the purely commercial viewpoint, suicidal. No packer can do an interstate or export business without Government inspection. Self-interest forces him to make use of it. Self-interest likewise demands that he shall not receive meats or by-products from any small packer, either for export or other use, unless that small packer’s plant is also “official” — that is, under United States Government inspection.

     This government inspection thus becomes an important adjunct of the packer’s business from two viewpoints. It puts the stamp of legitimacy and honesty upon the packer’s product and so is to him a necessity. To the public it is insurance against the sale of diseased meats.4

Government meat inspection which also lures the public into always thinking the food is safe and reduces competitive pressures to improve meat quality.

In May, Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, a leading Progressive Republican and old friend of Morgan partner George W. Perkins, introduced a bill for strengthening the compulsory inspection of all meat, including meat products and preservatives, passing through interstate commerce, as well as fixing standards for sanitation within the meatpacking plants. The bill was vigorously supported by Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson. The funds appropriated for federal inspection were quadrupled compared to the existing law, from $800,000 to $3 million. The Beveridge bill passed both houses of Congress nearly unanimously at the end of June.

The large meat packers were enthusiastically in favor of the bill, designed as it was to bring the small packers under federal inspection. The American Meat Producers’ Association endorsed the bill. At the hearings of the House Committee of Agriculture on the Beveridge bill, Thomas E. Wilson, representing the large Chicago packers, put their support succinctly:

We are now and have always been in favor of the extension of the inspection, also to the adoption of the sanitary regulations that will insure the very best possible conditions. ... We have always felt that Government inspection, under proper regulations, was an advantage to the live stock and agricultural interests and to the consumer ...5

One advantage to imposing uniform sanitary conditions on all meatpackers is that the burden of the increased costs would fall more heavily on the smaller than on the bigger plants, thereby crippling the smaller competitors even further.

The major battle over the Beveridge bill was who was to pay for the increased government inspection. The big packers, naturally enough, wanted the taxpayers to keep paying the costs as they had in the past. They also objected to the bill’s provision to compel canning dates placed on meat products, for fear of discouraging consumer purchases of cans stamped at more remote dates. The packers’ objections were embodied in amendments by James W. Wadsworth, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, amendments which were drafted by Samuel H. Cowan, attorney of the National Live Stock Association. When President Roosevelt attacked the Wadsworth amendments after approving them privately earlier, Wadsworth answered him with “I told you ... that the packers insisted before our committee on having a rigid inspection law passed. Their life depends on it, and the committee will bear me out in the statement that they placed no obstacle whatever in our way ...”6

The House passed the Wadsworth bill and the Senate the Beveridge original, but the House stood firm, and the big packers got all that they had wanted, the bill being signed by the president at the end of June. The cans would not be dated, and the taxpayers would pay the entire cost of inspection. George W. Perkins was delighted, and he wrote to J.P. Morgan that the new law “will certainly be of very great advantage when the thing once gets into operation and they are able to use it all over the world, as it will practically give them a government certificate for their goods ...”

The opposition to the Wadsworth amendment was scarcely based on anti-business views. Beveridge himself declared, quite sensibly, that “an industry which is infinitely benefited by the Government inspection ought to pay for that inspection instead of the people paying for it.” The same position was advanced by the New York Journal of Commerce.

The leftish opponents of business were not fooled by the Beveridge-Wadsworth law. Senator Knute Nelson realized that the law was a meat packer’s bonanza: “Three objects have been sought to be accomplished — first, to placate the packers; next, to placate the men who raise the range cattle, and, third, to get a good market for the packers abroad.” Even Upton Sinclair himself was not fooled; he realized that the new law was designed to benefit the packers; the intention of his expose, in any case, was not to impose higher standards for meat as it was to improve the living conditions of the packinghouse workers, which he himself admitted was scarcely accomplished by the new law. Hence his famous quote: “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” Sinclair looked back on the event:

I am supposed to have helped clean up the yards and improve the country’s meat supply — though this is mostly delusion. ... But nobody even pretends to believe that I improved the conditions of the stockyard workers.

Neither was Secretary of Agriculture Wilson under any delusions who favored or opposed the new law. Meeting with the large packers shortly after the bill passed, Wilson told them: “... the great asset that you gentlemen are going to have when we get this thing to going will be the most rigid and severe inspection on the face of the earth.” To which the packers responded with “loud applause.” Swift & Co. and the other large meat packers took out giant ads trumpeting the new law asserting that its purpose “is to assure the public that only sound and wholesome meat and meat food products may be offered for sale. ...  It is a wise law. Its enforcement must be universal and uniform.”

During the next few years, Senator Beveridge tried to restore the idea of the packers paying for their inspection, but he got no support from Roosevelt and opposition from his Secretary of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the packers continued to defend the Bureau of Animal Industry and its inspections, and they even sought unsuccessfully to strengthen inspection further.7

2. Harvey W. Wiley and the Pure Food and Drug Act

Neither was the Pure Food and Drug Act, passed on the same day as the Meat Inspection Act, a triumph of the “people” over the “interests.” The pure food agitation had been carried on for years by business interests in general, and specifically by large food companies anxious to use the government in a mercantilist way to cartelize, restrict competition, and impose higher relative costs on small business competitors.

In the early 1880s, the leadership of the drive for pure food legislation was taken by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, the leading food chemist for the federal Department of Agriculture. Wiley combined in his person the leading forces making for Progressivism and statism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: an amalgam of pietism, of a technocratic drive by new corps of “experts,” and of powerful business interests.

Harvey W. Wiley was born an Indiana farm boy to a father of Ulster Scot background who was a lay preacher in the pietistic Campbellite sect.8 But more important than the specific sect to the Wiley home was a non-sectarian and pietistic devotion to strict adherence to the Sabbath. At Hanover College in Indiana, young Wiley began his lifelong obsession with “purity,” and began discoursing on the importance of purity of body, mind, and soul. He was early convinced that tobacco and pork were foul “impurities” that marred the perfection of one’s body.

In his commencement address at Hanover in 1867, the 23-year old Wiley combined the themes of purity, pietism, and supposedly value-free medicine in ways that would foreshadow his later career. He declared that man must preserve his God-like “purity” of body and mind, and he exalted the nobility of the physicians, men who “guard the holy covenant God made with man.” The physician, Wiley conceded, may not be able to make man immortal, but “he may help to make the probation state [man’s life on earth] a proper place of preparation for the precious life that beckons from beyond the misty hills ...”9

Wiley then went to tutor in languages at Northwestern Christian University, a Campbellite university in Indianapolis, after which Wiley went to Indiana Medical College, acquiring an M.D. in 1871. Wiley then shifted to chemistry, becoming a professor of chemistry at Indiana Medical School the following year, then obtaining a B.S. in chemistry at Harvard, after which he became professor of chemistry at Northwestern Christian in 1873, followed by a professorship of chemistry at the newly founded Purdue University in the following year.

Five years later, Dr. Wiley studied medicine, chemistry, and physics at the University of Berlin, where he was inspired by Dr. Sell’s government laboratory for the detecting of impurities in food and drink. It was at Berlin that Wiley picked up his lifelong interest in sugar chemistry and began his permanent alliance with the sugar industry and government in the U.S.

In 1881, Wiley began to agitate for the government’s protection of the consumer from adulterated sugar products in the state of Indiana. Specifically, he called for a state requirement that sugar and syrup products be required to carry labels detailing their composition. The compulsory labelling law would have had several significant effects. By requiring compulsory publicity, it would cripple trade and brand-name secrets, thereby helping to restrict competition and cartelize the sugar industry. The law would also have the Colbertist or mercantilist effect of cartelizing through allegedly higher “quality” imposed on the consumer by coercion.

In addition, Wiley cemented his alliance with the sugar industry by agitating for the notion that the United States should be self-sufficient in sugar, and therefore that imported sugar should be kept out of the United States by a prohibitively high tariff. His alliance with government began in 1881 when Indiana passed a law regulating the manufacturer and sale of commercial fertilizers and named Dr. Wiley as the “state chemist” in charge of testing these products.

During the early 1880s, Wiley launched several abortive attempts to go into the sugar manufacturing business himself. He tried to buy a defunct beet-sugar plant in Boston to make glucose, a new product which he had lauded, and to organize a glucose plant in Indiana. Both of these failed. He also hoped to make sugar from sorghum cane, and organized a small Indiana company to make preliminary investigations on the subject, and he was happy enough with his results to believe it would be successful in the future.

In an address before the Indiana State Board of Agriculture in January 1883, Dr. Wiley, by now one of America’s leading sugar chemists, made clear the extent to which he was wedded to sugar. “Let me make the sweets of the nation and I don’t care who makes the laws. ... The consumption of sugar is a measure of progress in civilization,” Wiley thundered, “Childhood without candy would be Heaven without harps.”10 Wiley added, with no trace of irony, that “nothing is ever gained for a cause by an overstatement of its claims.” He also commended the possibilities for profit in the manufacture of sugar from sorghum.

At this point, the federal Commissioner of Agriculture fired as the department chemist the obstreperous and notoriously pro-sorghum Dr. Peter Collier. To appease the politically powerful sorghum growers, the Commissioner was forced to appoint the notoriously pro-sorghum Harvey Wiley in 1883 as chief chemist.

Wiley leaped to his new role, agitating at length for a protective tariff to keep out efficient foreign sugar and to subsidize a domestic sugar industry into being. As a lifelong Republican in a Republican administration, Wiley was simply singling out his own favorite tariff in a party wedded to the concept of keeping out imports in competition with American industry. Free trade, Wiley opined, was but “the tender tropical nursling of the college hot-houses and professional dilettantism.” When asked what would happen to foreign sugar growers put out of work by an American protective tariff, Wiley displayed the arrogant attitude toward Third World people typical of the Progressive. The native, Wiley opined, “sullenly lolling in the sun ... can look up and see cocoanuts and bananas; he will not starve nor freeze.”11

In his scientific work for the Department of Agriculture, Wiley also devoted much time and energy to subsidizing the sugar industry, specifically a search for economic methods of producing sugar from sorghum, cane, and beet — especially sorghum. Despite his eminence in the field, Wiley’s sorghum experiments during the 1880s were consistent flops. Congressional appropriations for these schemes, however, were repeatedly salvaged by the Republican Senator Preston B. Plumb of Kansas, who was subject to pressure by Kansas agriculturalists looking for salvation by sorghum. Even Wiley’s seemingly successful diffusion process for Louisiana sugarcane turned out to be a failure. Wiley, however, continued to be enthusiastic about government subsidizing of sugar manufacture, and he also advocated a governmental school to teach people the ways of sugar production.

Neither consistent failure nor the changes in government, however, seemed to deter the federal government from continuing to finance and even expand Dr. Wiley’s activities. For one thing, Wiley proved early to be an expert maneuverer in the corridors of power. Although a Republican, Wiley was not ousted by the Cleveland administration in 1885 because he managed to persuade Cleveland to appoint his old friend, farm editor Norman J. Colman, as the Commissioner of Agriculture. Then, when Jeremiah Rusk, former governor of Wisconsin, became Secretary of Agriculture under the Harrison administration, Wiley was able to work very closely with the new Secretary.

The following year, 1890, Wiley and Rusk worked closely together with wealthy Philadelphia financier Hamilton Disston. Disston had bought a million acres of swamp and wetlands in Florida for the production of sugar cane, organizing the Florida Sugar Cane Co. for that purpose. Disston then successfully lobbied through Congress a grant to the Department of Agriculture of funds for research in improving sugar cane production. The grateful Rusk and Wiley promptly constructed their experimental station on a site on Disston’s soil, only four miles from his sugar factory. Disston, of course, was only too happy to lease the land for free to the Department of Agriculture, since the station could only boost the market for Disston’s sugar and his entire acreage.

By the mid-1890s, it was clear to everyone that the idea of any sort of economic production of sugar from sorghum was a total failure, and that furthermore there was no real domestic sugar industry of any consequence. Wiley, of course, blamed the misfires neither on his grandiloquent attempts at subsidy nor on his consistent string of research failures; no, he charged, the problem was that the sugar tariff was not yet high enough.12

If one of Dr. Wiley’s lifelong passions was the promotion of American sugar, the other was the outlawry of food or farm products that he considered “impure.” In the decades after the Civil War, municipal boards of health had issued ordinances on pure milk and meat. More to the point, dairy interests forced through protective laws in some states against competing milk or butter products, e.g. against such “adulterated” competitors as oleo-margarine. Farmers in many states tried to stop “adulterated fertilizers,” and we have seen that Dr. Wiley was enlisted in Indiana’s crusade as early as 1881. There were a few state food and drug laws, but they were enforced only in Massachusetts.

On the federal level, there was only a pre-Civil War law banning the importation of adulterated drugs. In the mid-1880s, Dr. Wiley took the lead in agitating for a food and drug law on the federal level. In 1884, Wiley and several state chemists had organized the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists, which issued its reports in the Department of Agriculture’s Bulletins. Two years later, when Wiley was president of the Association, he induced it to expand its scope from commercial fertilizers to the entire area of agricultural chemistry, including the adulteration of food.

It should be noted that Wiley’s primary interest in this field was not in safeguarding the public health; it was in outlawing all changes in the definition of a product, since he considered all such changes in name as fraud. In short, Wiley sough to freeze the composition of all products in their original mold. It should be clear that such a law would not only cartelize industry and impose Colbertian mercantilism, but it would also cripple competition from new and imaginative innovators and freeze the status quo in industry. That the motivation for this drive was economic was admitted by Agricultural Commissioner Colman, who wanted to eradicate food adulteration by means of tough state and federal laws. His “chief concern,” Anderson stated, “was the plight of the honest producer faced with the competition of adulterated” products.13

The Department of Agriculture, Division of Chemistry, kicked off its campaign against impure food in its Bulletin #13, issued in 1887. To popularize its findings among the public, Wiley hired Alexander J. Wedderburn, farm editor, pure food enthusiast, and secretary of the legislative committee of the farm lobby group the Virginia Grange, to write Bulletin #25 in 1890. The Bulletin saw fraud everywhere, and particularly worried about the export markets which were being injured by the poor reputation of American food. Wedderburn’s Bulletin called for national legislation to remedy the evil.

Public agitation for a national pure food law, however, was not launched first by Wiley and the Department of Agriculture. It was begun by Francis B. Thurber, a leading wholesale grocer in New York City. In the summer of 1880, Thurber got his brother-in-law, Major Henry C. Meyer, editor of the Plumber and Sanitary Engineer, to persuade the National Board of Trade, the leading organization of merchants, to sponsor a $1000 contest in the PSE for the best essay drafting legislation against food adulteration.

The winner of the contest was Professor G.W. Wigner, president of the Engineering Society of Public Analysts; the judges of the contest then drafted a model bill along Wigner’s lines, a bill then endorsed by the National Board of Trade and many local boards. While the bill failed to pass, it served as the model for numerous state laws during the 1880s.

In late 1886, the American Society for the Prevention of the Adulteration of Food, a Philadelphia-based outfit, called a national convention in Washington for January 1887 to draft pure food legislation. The convention, representing commercial organizations, trade journal and boards of health, endorsed the 1880 Board of Trade bill. A larger convention the following year included food manufacturers and distributors and also endorsed legislation against harmful adulteration and compelling the labelling of the composition of products. The 1888 convention was led by the organized grocers, frankly, in order “to protect the honest businessmen from the competition of the adulterator and to build public confidence,” but it was also, as Anderson notes, “an attempt to capture the initiative to the end that any legislation enacted would in objectives and details conform to the business point of view.”14 Also heavily involved in the convention were numerous agricultural interests. There were the dairy producers, who wanted protection from such “fraud” as oleomargarine, corn and hog growers, who wanted protection against adulterated lard and inspection of slaughtered animals for export in order to prevent Europe from discriminating against them. As stated earlier, they succeeded with the 1891 law. And there were, of course, the public health professionals who wanted an expansion of their jobs and prestige.

Specific agricultural interests managed to obtain governmental crippling of their competitors. In 1886, the dairy interests won a federal tax against the manufacture and sale of oleomargarine. A bill crippling the production of “adulterated” lard passed the House in 1890 but failed in the Senate because of the opposition of the cottonseed oil interests, who were successfully making composed lard, lard mixed with cottonseed oil.

More generally, Congress passed a bill in 1888 prohibiting the manufacture and sale of adulterated food and drugs in the District of Columbia, which of course has always been conceded to be constitutionally under federal control. But the first important general federal bill mandating pure food and drugs was submitted in 1890 by Senator Algernon S. Paddock of Nebraska, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. The Committee reported out of the bill to protect consumers and producers against adulteration and, most significantly, to raise the reputation of American food products in export markets abroad. The bill mandated labeling of components and outlawed adulteration, as well as prohibiting allegedly injurious ingredients. The following year, Wiley induced Paddock to amend the bill to tighten up enforcement and place responsibility for enforcement in a food section within his own division of chemistry. In early 1892, Senator Paddock delivered a speech hailing his bill as protecting the pocketbook as well as the health of consumers, and as helping the farmer by strengthening our export markets.

Lobbying for the Paddock bill were many farm organizations, including the Alliance and the Grange, state legislatures, boards of trade, and wholesale grocery and drug associations. Opposed to it were the cottonseed oil producers, as well as the manufacturers of other new and mixed products, which would be first in line to be attacked as an “adulteration” from the “purity” of the original definition of any particular product. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House, facing as it did a public which was either apathetic or positively opposed to a pure food and drug act as an illegitimate and paternalistic intervention of government into their lives.

Speaking for the Paddock bill before the Franklin Institute, Dr. Wiley conceded that only a small part of food adulteration injured the consumers. He was more worried about them spending their money in ways that he considered unwise; the poor were purchasing food that was “ostensibly pure and nutritious, but in reality valueless.”15 His concern for the consumer’s pocketbook, however, was conveniently forgotten when he pointed out to his colleagues in the Department of Agriculture that if adulteration were outlawed, the farmers’ markets would broaden, and food prices would rise. Or, to put it in starker terms, competition in food products would be crippled, supply would therefore be reduced, and food and farm prices would rise. Which was perhaps the point of the whole enterprise.

The second Cleveland administration was a difficult time for Wiley, for Secretary of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton insisted on spending cuts and bureaucratic dismissals in the department. However, the food and drug crusade pressed on. Most states enacted pure food and drug laws during the 1890s; the initiative came from industrial and merchant groups anxious to protect themselves against competition. In the late 1890s, the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists launched reports, studies, and addresses against adulteration. Heading the Associations’ committee on food standards, and therefore spearheading this drive, was Dr. Harvey Wiley. By 1897, Wiley urged the Paddock bill as a model law for all states and got his proposed bill introduced in the House by Republican Representative Marriott Brosius of Pennsylvania. The Brosius bill outlawed adulteration, compelled the labelling of food contents, and barred poisonous ingredients. Wiley’s Division of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture was to examine samples of food and to regulate products in interstate commerce.

Favoring the bill were the National Grange and Farmers’ National Congress, interested in cartelizing the food industry. Particularly advocating the bill was a new overall organization designed to lobby for a pure food and drug law, the National Pure Food and Drug Congress, which was set up at a convention in March 1898. The Congress, consisting of 150 delegates from 24 states, was called by a group including health officers and wholesale grocers of the District of Columbia. The Congress was the idea of Alexander J. Wedderburn, former propagandist in the service of Dr. Wiley and now master of the State Grange of Virginia. Wiley was the chairman of the Congress’s advisory committee, and later chairman of its legislative committee, which got Brosius to revise his bill.16

Wiley’s concern for “purity” was designed to put competitive innovation into a straitjacket. Thus, Wiley vigorously opposed adding blends to straight whiskey and harshly criticized rectified whiskey because he though it “fraudulent” to call it “whiskey,” and he felt that such an “impure” product had to be injurious to the health.

Subsequent pure food and drug bills, shepherded by Dr. Wiley, were strongly backed by farmers’ groups, such as the National Grange, by commercial organizations such as the National Board of Trade, the National Retail Grocers’ Association, the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association, the National Retail Liquor Dealers’ Association, the Proprietary Association of America, and, last but not least, the American Pharmaceutical and American Medical Association. Soon, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Baking Powder Association, and many individual companies contributed heavy support for a pure food and drug bill, drawn up by Dr. Wiley and submitted to the House by Representative William P. Hepburn. Finally, under the impact of the meat packing excitement, Wiley’s bill passed the Congress almost unanimously in 1906, with Theodore Roosevelt giving the measure at least passive support. Wiley acknowledged that the “great majority” of food manufacturers supported the bill.17

The Pure Food and Drug Act was a continuation of previous congressional bills and legislations on the state level. It prohibited “adulteration” (to be decided by bureaucrats and the special interests they represented), which cracked down on certain forms of competition, and required “honest labeling,” which added additional costs on firms that did not previously do so. At the helm was Dr. Wiley and his Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture.18

Wiley’s passion for pure food and drugs dovetailed neatly, after the passage of the law, with his equally dominant lifelong passion for sugar. After the frustrations of the Democratic Cleveland administration, the Republican McKinley administration gladdened Wiley’s heart by restoring and expanding Wiley’s sugar beet experiments. For a domestic sugar beet industry had now been made viable by the Dingley Tariff Act of 1897, which doubled the duty on imported sugar. Wiley’s studies and subsidized experiments now greatly aided the beet sugar industry. At the first annual convention of the American Beet Sugar Association in 1904, Dr. Wiley was introduced with the encomium that “We have had no more loyal and staunch friend.”

Harvey W. Wiley, as befitting a Progressive, was an ardent imperialist, and he vigorously supported the American annexations of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. But his devotion to American sugar took precedence over imperial concerns, and he opposed President Roosevelt, whom he had generally supported, over T.R.’s desire to import Cuban sugar for free or at reduced duties after it had become our virtual protectorate.

If Harvey Wiley was ruthless with foreign sugar, he was even more bitterly opposed to any competitive substitute for sugar, especially if he could also stigmatize it as “artificial” and “impure,” in contrast to his favorite commodity. Teddy Roosevelt soon broke with the spiritual mentor of the Pure Food and Drug law, and the issue was the problem of saccharin. Wiley did his best to outlaw saccharin, thereby gladdening the hearts of his friends and associates in the sugar industry. Wiley denounced saccharin as a “deception” because it provided a cheap substitute for sugar; since it was devoid of food value, according to Wiley, it must therefore be harmful. The solicitor and associate chemist of the Department of Agriculture, appointed by the president as a check upon the obstreperous Wiley, pronounced saccharin harmless and should therefore be permitted in food if labelled as such. Finally, in January 1908, T.R. appointed a higher board in the Department to pass on differences of opinion over adulterated food and thereby to overrule Wiley; as a special dig at Wiley, the board was headed by Ira Remsen, the distinguished discoverer of saccharin.

It is no accident that the emotional T.R. should have broken with Wiley over the saccharin question, for Roosevelt was accustomed to take saccharin in his daily coffee and was therefore convinced that Wiley was hopelessly addled in his attempt to deprive the president of his favorite sweetener.19

Wiley’s biographer perceptively summed up the man whose crusading passion had shifted from pietist Christianity to the new salvation of mankind by science or, more particularly, by scientists, professionals, and technocrats in the name of value-free science. As Anderson puts it: “Science filled the void left by the loss of faith. ... Perhaps [Wiley’s] views ... stemmed from his heritage of evangelical Christianity, a heritage whose theological superstructure had lost its meaning for him but whose burning zeal for social justice remained.”20

3. Theodore Roosevelt and the Conservation Crusade

The conservation movement, past and present, has generally been painted in sweetness and light, as disinterested nature lovers leading the “people” in war against corporate interests who wished to exploit and plunder natural resources. The actual facts were quite different. As Professor Samuel P. Hays, the pioneering revisionist historian of the conservation movement, has declared:

The crusading quality of the conservation movement has given it an enviable reputation as a defender of spiritual values and national character. ... [But] conservation neither arose from a broad popular outcry, nor centered its fire primarily upon the private corporation. Moreover, the corporations often supported conservation policies, while the “people” just as frequently opposed them. In fact, it becomes clear that one must discard completely the struggle against corporations as the setting in which to understand conservation history ...21

As in so many other aspects of the progressive movement, conservation constituted a shift of control or ownership of natural resources from private to governmental hands in order to subsidize and cartelize private interests in that area. In the name of “scientific” management, government intervention took two forms: either subsidize research and development in natural sources or withhold resources indefinitely from use, thereby cartelizing the resource, and raising prices for private producers and increasing the capital value of resources already in private hands. Thus, as in so much of the Progressive Era, professionals and technocrats formed a congenial alliance with private interests.

We have already noted Theodore Roosevelt’s early interest in forest conservation and his close friendship with the man who was to become the unquestioned leader of the forest conservation movement, Gifford Pinchot. After training in forestry in France and Germany, the wealthy young Pinchot became a consultant for private forest owners, advocating European techniques of “scientific forestry.” In 1895, President Cleveland’s Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith, responding to growing pressure by Eastern nature lovers, appointed Harvard Professor Charles S. Sargent to a National Forestry Committee, of which Pinchot was a member. The committee’s report deplored the pro-use attitude of the cities of the West and urged a systematic permanent withdrawal and reserving of forest land by the federal government. Responding to the committee, President Cleveland created 21.3 million acres of forest reserves in early 1897, making 39.0 million acres of total reserves. In 1898, Gifford Pinchot became Chief of the Division of Forestry and, in 1900, head of the new Bureau of Forestry — by 1905 called the Forest Service— in the Department of Agriculture. The previous head of the Division, the German-American and German-trained Bernhard Fernow, had been relatively harmless, confining himself to the study of individual trees and to dispensing technical information. Fernow had not been a crusader.

Pinchot, however, set out the convert the nation to scientific forestry. He rapidly formed an alliance with private timber companies, proselytizing and aiding them in forestry techniques. Some of the largest timber owners in the country had sought his assistance, including the Kirby Lumber Company of Texas, the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company in the Pacific Northwest. By 1905, Pinchot had aided the owners of three million acres of timber and had helped manage almost 200,000 acres. In 1901, Pinchot and his colleagues in scientific forestry formed the Society of American Foresters, and in a few years they were able to convert the older group, the American Forestry Association, from an aesthetic admiration of forests and arbors into an organization on behalf of the new scientific forestry. As a result of Pinchot’s efforts, private lumbermen joined the AFA, and by 1909, the Association had an advisory board including representatives of nine lumbermen’s organizations.

When Congress failed to appropriate money for a clerk in the Bureau of Forestry, the private lumbermen raised the funds for three years in a row; furthermore, they endowed a chair in forestry at Yale, assisted forestry students in field training, and formed lobbying groups in behalf of Pinchot and his Forest Bureau in Congress.

As soon as Roosevelt became president, he began reserving more and more parts of the public domain from private homesteading and into the permanently governmental national forests. In his first year as president, Roosevelt created 13 new forests totaling 15.5 million acres. When in 1907, Congress, in alarm at Roosevelt’s grabbing new forest reserves, revoked his authority to create new reserves in six Western states, T.R. spitefully rushed to set aside 75 million additional acres of forests before the bill became law, bringing the grand total up to 151 million acres. In late 1905, Roosevelt transferred control of the national forests from the Department of the Interior to his friend Pinchot and the Forest Service. Furthermore, Roosevelt and Pinchot gave the impetus to a bill finally passed in 1911 as the Weeks Act, which purchased large areas of private land in the East to be set aside by the Forest Service as national forest.

How did the private timber interests stand on this policy of sequestering forests under permanent government ownership? Roosevelt himself answered this question by announcing that “The great users of timber are themselves forwarding the movement for forest preservation.” J.H. Cox has pointed to the great support of this Progressive forest reservation policy by the timber interests and lumber manufacturers of the Northwest:

lumber manufacturers and timber owners ... had arrived at a harmonious understanding with Gifford Pinchot as early as 1903. ... In other words the government by withdrawing timber lands from entry and keeping them off the market would aid in appreciating the value of privately owned timber.22

The American Lumberman, official journal of the lumbering industry, as well as the National Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, expressed similar approval during this period.

In addition to the timber owners, the lumber users also weighed in for compulsory conservation in the interests of preserving their future supplies. Hardwood users were particularly eager to set aside the Appalachian mountain range as a hardwood area, and they became active in the AFA as well as backing Pinchot in the Forest Service. Hardwood users who joined the advisory board of the AFA by 1909 included the Tight Barrel Stave Manufacturers’ Association, the National Association of Box Manufacturers, the Carriage Builders’ National Association, and the National Slack Cooperage Manufacturers’ Association.

The timber interests were, of course, all too aware that compulsory sequestering of forest lands by the federal government would raise the prices and value of their timber. The alliance between industry and bureaucrats for higher prices was nowhere more stark than in the drive for higher tariffs on foreign lumber. If conservation of domestic resources had truly been their primary aim, then the “scientific” foresters in the federal bureaucracy should have been fervently eager to import foreign timber in order to slow down domestic production. Instead, the foresters joined the timber industry in advocating higher tariffs.

Until the 1890s, American policy had been to allow public lands, including timber, to pass into private ownership as soon as they were homesteaded by private users. The beginning of the end of homesteading came with the General Land Law Revision Act of 1891, which granted the president power to create national forest reserves by mere proclamation. This power was installed by the political pressure of the American Forestry Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, aided by President Harrison.

The impetus for the 1891 measure had been upper-class “preservationist,” a romantic desire to use government to preserve pristine forests and game animals intact. But Pinchot and Roosevelt were “scientific” cartelists and were soon able to elbow the preservationists aside. In the inter-bureaucratic maneuvering that won control for his Forest Service as against the Department of the Interior, Pinchot was able to use his powerful political allies, the Western stockmen, who were anxious to lease the forests to graze their animals. So fond were the stockmen of Pinchot’s policies that the American National Livestock Association, from 1901 onward, passed resolutions endorsing Pinchot and the transfer of the national forests to his control. Thus Pinchot was able to keep Eastern game preservationist organizations from converting the national forests from all commercial use into game preserves. Roosevelt and Pinchot even turned against their old colleagues in the Boone and Crockett Club and managed to squash the Club’s proposal to reserve game areas in the national forests.

Grazing under lease, indeed, soon became a far more important commercial use of the national forests than lumbering, thus cementing still further the alliance between the Roosevelt administration and the Western stockmen. This happy partnership between government as the owner and private firms as users or leasers of the land demonstrates that private firms do not necessarily oppose government ownership.

The Western grazing range had long been a mess, the direct result of the antiquated homesteading law which had governed U.S. land policy since the Civil War. The maximum homesteading acreage of 160 was well suited to the wet agriculture of the lands east of the Mississippi; but on the dry land of the Western prairie, 160 acres was an absurdly small technological unit for a farm. But since the 160-acre maximum still remained in force, the result, for decades, was a vast “open range,” owned by the federal government, but used in common on a first-come, first-served basis by private users. The result of this “land communism” in the West was that the private users had a strong incentive to use up the soil or land as rapidly as possible, before their competitors could use it, and then to move onto the rest of the range. On the other hand, there was a negative incentive for maintaining or improving the soil, since any person or firm who invested in the soil could not keep other users from looting these improvements. The result was destruction of the soil and grassland, as well as a failure to maintain or restore, let alone improve, these resources.23

Many private firms favored this system, since they could operate with little capital and without the burden of maintaining the land. But the result was not only destruction of the soil, but also chaos, conflict, and the “range wars” between competing users of the land familiar to fans of Western films. All this from the failure of the federal government to allow private property in the Western range.

Samuel Hays writes:

Moving their livestock from the higher alpine ranges during the summer to the lower grazing lands in the winter, cattle and sheepmen could operate profitability with little capital and no privately owned land. Chaos and anarchy, however, predominated on the open range. Congress had never provided legislation regulating grazing or permitting stockmen to acquire range lands. Cattle and sheepmen roamed the public domain, grabbing choice grazing areas before others could reach them first. Cattlemen fenced range for their exclusive use, but competitors cut the wire. Resorting to force and violence, sheepherders and cowboys “solved” their disputes over grazing lands by slaughtering rival livestock and murdering rival stockmen. Armed bands raided competing herds and flocks and patrolled choice areas to oust interlopers. Absence of the most elementary institutions of property law created confusion, bitterness, and destruction.

      Amid this turmoil the public range rapidly deteriorated. Originally plentiful and lush, the forage supply was subjected to intense pressure by increasing use. The number of Western cattle grew rapidly after the Civil War; a rising sheep industry claimed its right to share in the public range; and settlers transformed grazing lands into more valuable cropland. The public domain became stocked with more animals than the range could support. Since each stockman feared that others would beat him to the available forage, he grazed early in the year and did not permit the young grass to mature and reseed. Under such conditions the quality and quantity of available forage rapidly decreased; vigorous perennials gave way to annuals and annuals to weeds.24

By the end of the 19th century, the Department of Agriculture estimated that overgrazing had reduced the capacity of public grazing lands by 50% in the previous ten years.25

Cattlemen, sheepmen, and farmer-settlers formed three groups that used both governmental and private violence to try to keep their competitors off the public range. State and community boosters, favoring a growing population, sided with the farmers. These farm groups established state immigration commissions to encourage migrants from the East and strongly opposed any private homesteading or fencing by cattlemen or leasing by grazers. Cattlemen tried to do the reverse and, to discourage settlement. Often, cattlemen would buy up all the water rights in an area to deny farmers the use of water. Sheepmen were hated by the cattlemen, because sheep, guided by herders, were more mobile and could forage more quickly. Furthermore, cattle would often refuse to graze where sheep had previously been. Cattlemen managed to obtain state laws to prohibit sheep grazing near villages or to tax sheep entering from another state.

Cattlemen originally tried to amend the homestead laws to enable them to homestead cattle ranches, but Congress refused. Then, cattlemen simply fenced portions of the open range, but Congress banned that practice in 1885. On railroad or state-owned lands, cattlemen were permitted to lease. And so, in default of the private ownership option, cattlemen from the 1880s on agitated for Congress to lease the public range to the stockmen. For, in that, at least land communism would be eliminated, and cattle would be assured, at least for certain periods, of lands that they could graze exclusively.

The scientific foresters and agriculturalists also favored leasing for grazing, for then, they felt, the soil and grass of the public domain could be at least partially restored. And in contrast to private ownership, the government and its forest and agricultural technologists could regulate the cattle and sheep and the use of the land. Both interests, then — that of the stockmen and of the scientific bureaucracy — would be fostered by a leasing program.

Gifford Pinchot and his fellow scientific foresters waged a successful battle, from the turn of the century on, against the preservationist policy of the Department of the Interior during the 1890s. In 1894, the Secretary of the Interior prohibited all grazing in the national forests. But in 1897, Congress passed the Forest Management Act, which paved the way for the Interior Department to allow grazing. From then on, Pinchot was able eventually to gain the upper hand, and grazing won out, aided by the head of Pinchot’s Division of Grazing, a prominent Arizona sheepman and founder of the Arizona Wool Growers’ Association, Albert F. Potter.

Apart from the national forests, what of the rest of the public domain? Why not apply livestock grazing leasing there as well? Roosevelt and Pinchot formed an alliance with the Western cattlemen who had long agitated for leasing, but they realized they were stirring up a political hornets’ nest. The first leasing bill, introduced into the House in 1901, was defeated by the Western settlers, whose only concession was to expand the allowed homesteading acreage to 640 in western Nebraska, still an absurdly small acreage for cattle ranches.

T.R. set up a Public Lands Commission in 1903–04, that, predictably, reported in favor of grazing leases on the public domain. But T.R. moved slowly, waiting until after his re-election in 1904, and finally introduced a leasing bill in 1907, aided by James R. Garfield, who had become Secretary of the Interior in March. The House defeated the bill, however, and Congress continued to defeat Pinchot’s efforts for the next decade, until he finally abandoned hope.

The accession of James Garfield to the Secretary of the Interior’s office was a bureaucratic triumph for Gifford Pinchot. The previous Secretary, Ethan A. Hitchcock, was a preservationist; now this son of former president Garfield, a cartelizing ally of T.R.’s in the new Bureau of Corporations, was to be a firm Pinchot ally in the new concept of “scientific” conservation.

Theodore Roosevelt’s setting aside of 75 million acres for forest reserves in early 1907, in defiance of Congressional will, particularly angered the bulk of the West anxious to use the sequestered land. There was particularly bitter hatred against Gifford Pinchot, the originator and inspirer of T.R.’s forest policy and, since 1905, in total control of the national forests. In response, the governor of Colorado called a Public Lands Convention of Westerners to protest against “Pinchotism.”

In reaction against this growth of opposition, T.R., once again at the suggestion of Pinchot, whipped up a nationwide “Conservation Movement” as a supposedly grassroots crusade. The movement was proposed at the convention of the Deep Waterways Association in the fall of 1907 and officially launched at the Conference of Governors held at the White House in May 1908. Roosevelt managed to line up in support of the conservation crusade not only many members of his Cabinet and of the Supreme Court, but also 38 state governors, William Jennings Bryan, soon to be the Democratic presidential standard-bearer for the third time. intellectuals and magazine editors, and such industrialists as Andrew Carnegie and railroad magnate James J. Hill.

Such was the propaganda barrage of this Roosevelt-created movement that not only the Republican platform, but also the Democrats, in 1908 endorsed the new fad. Most of the enthusiasts for forest conservation in the West were, of course, urban Easterners, many of them dilettantes and statist reformers in other areas. Such prominent and wealthy Chicago urban reformers as Alfred N. Baker and Walter L. Fisher now joined enthusiastically in the conservation movement.26 Such women’s groups as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and especially the Daughters of the American Revolution now became particularly enthusiastic about conservation, the DAR maintaining a special Committee on Conservation, headed by Pinchot’s mother, Mrs. James Pinchot. Pinchot himself fawned on the DAR as spelling “only another name for the highest form of conservation, that of vital force and intellectual energy.”27

These reformers disliked the big cities growing up around them, seemingly replacing the values of pietist religion, sobriety, and thrift with secularism, immorality, and profligacy. Conservation, on the other hand, seemed to promise preservation of the beauties of nature and the maintenance of rural values. Many of the wealthy conservation crusaders prided themselves on having abandoned “materialism” on behalf of such higher, nonmaterial ideals as parks and forests. A women’s representative declared at a meeting of the National Conservation Congress that “We feel that it is for us, who are not wholly absorbed in business, to preserve ideals that are higher than business ...” And one enthusiast exulted that “National Parks represent opportunities for worship through which one comes to understand more fully certain of the attributes of nature and its Creator.”28

We have seen, however, that many groups concerned with business also supported the conservation crusade, notably the private timber interests and the Western cattlemen. Thus, Leonard Bronson, manager of the National Lumber Manufacturers Association, was quite frank about the reason that the lumber industry favored forest reserves. As he wrote to the progressive Republican Senator Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana: “from a selfish standpoint alone the heavy timber owners of the West are heartily in favor of the reserves; for the mere establishment of these reserves has increased the value of their holdings very heavily by withdrawing from the market timber which otherwise would be competitive.”29 And then there were the railroads. Recall that the land-grant railroads had received vast subsidies of land from the government: not only rights-of-way for their roads, but 15-mile tracts on either side of the line. Government reservation of public lands greatly raised the price received by the railroads when they later sold this land to new inhabitants of the area. The railroads were not ignorant of the monopolistic advantages that would be conferred upon them by conservation laws; in fact, the railroads were the financial “angel” of the entire conservation movement. James J. Hill, as we have seen, was an ardent conservationist. The Western railroads, it turns out, paid $45,000 annually in secret subsidy to a leading conservationist magazine, Maxwell’s Talisman, and financed the Washington conservation lobby. Clearly, one reason was that subsidized irrigation, Maxwell’s major concern, would stimulate farm settlement and transportation. But another was, as shown above, that if the federal government reserved its public domain or forests from use, settlers would be forced instead on railroad grant land, and the value of their lands, as well as the traffic on their railroads, would increase. Thus, the National Irrigation Congress, the most vigorous advocate of the Roosevelt conservation program — particularly federal irrigation subsidies — was financed by the transcontinental and the Burlington and Rock Island railroads, to the tune of $39,000 out of their annual budget of $50,000. The railroads were led, in this subsidy, by James J. Hill.30

Subsidized irrigation was a frankly developmental part of the new “conservation” program. The program had begun in 1888, when Congress authorized the first water resources investigation by the U.S. Geological Survey. Young engineer Frederick Haynes Newell organized this work and continued it as chief hydrographer; Newell also served as secretary of the National Geographic Society during the 1890s. From the beginning, private corporations, interested in developing water and irrigation, enthusiastically encouraged the socialization of their research costs through the Geological Survey and lobbied for ever-larger congressional appropriations.

Private irrigation in the West proved to be a bust in the Depression of 1893, after which the private irrigators turned to the federal government to finance these uneconomic ventures for them. The Carey Act of 1894, sponsored by Senator Robert Carey (R., Wyo.), granted a million acres of federal land to each Western state to allow the states to finance irrigation. But this, too, was not enough, so in the late 1890s, Newell and other federal officials joined with private Western interests to demand outright federal financing.

The propaganda campaign for federal financing was led by a young northern California lawyer, George H. Maxwell, who was inspired by a quixotic vision of depopulating urban centers and settling urban types on the land. The crusader Maxwell first converted the National Irrigation Congress, in 1896, to the idea of federal financing, a conversion which must not have been very difficult. He then converted private business groups by arguing that federal irrigation would increase Western farm population and broaden Western markets for Eastern business. Probably even more influential was the opportunity of subsidy to all forms of agri-business. In their annual conventions in 1898, the National Board of Trade, the National Business Men’s League, and the National Association of Manufacturers all endorsed federal aid to irrigation and continued to do so thereafter. The following year, the indefatigable Maxwell organized his own National Irrigation Association to lobby for the cause; the NIA published his own monthly Maxwell’s Talisman. By 1900, the propaganda coalition had done its work so well that both major parties adopted federal irrigation plans in their platforms.

The major booster of federal irrigation in Congress was a Representative Francis G. Newlands (D., Nev.), a wealthy silver mine owner. After the bimetallic cause lost out, Newlands shifted to emphasize irrigation, pushing a Reclamation Act through Congress in 1902. The Reclamation Act provided a new device to finance federal irrigation projects in the West:  all receipts from the sale of public land in the West go to a special fund for irrigation works in those states. The Reclamation Act also delighted conservationists by giving maximal power to finance projects to the Secretary of the Interior so that he would not have to be restricted by the necessity of getting annual appropriations from the people’s representatives in Congress. In this way, scientific expertise would replace taxpayer and democratic control.

Eastern Republicans were understandably critical of the reclamation bill for subsidizing Western farmers at the expense of Eastern competition; but the West was able to spring a tu quoque by attacking the Rivers and Harbors bills that had long subsidized Eastern lands. But the main force behind the passage of the Reclamation Act was Theodore Roosevelt, who had enthusiastically backed federal irrigation in the 1900 campaign, and had long been personally influenced by both Pinchot and Newell. In his first message to Congress, the new president asked for the advice of these two men, and he then drove through the Reclamation Act. It was not surprising that T.R. appointed Frederick Newell to be head of the new Reclamation Service, which later became a Bureau directly under the Secretary of the Interior in 1907.

Federal irrigation of course boosted the prices of the subsidized land. Much of the land was owned by speculators, who had either homesteaded the land originally or purchased it from homesteaders, and these speculators were mainly men of moderate means. The higher land prices, which both government irrigators and large corporate developers were now obliged to pay, irritated these powerful groups. The private ditch and reservoir companies found, too, that the speculator-settlers were not interested in immediate development and therefore had no interest in the purchase of their water. For their poor forecasting of demand, the private irrigation companies often went bankrupt. To try to shore up the companies, the Carey Act of 1894 provided that any settlers who bought land in the new irrigation projects would be forced to purchase water rights from the private company that had constructed the irrigation works. Carey himself had experienced financial difficulties in previous irrigation schemes, which he had promoted, and tried to eliminate them in the future by this tie-in plan. The Reclamation Act of 1902 extended this compulsory tie-in of land and water rights from state to federal projects. Not only that: in the same act, the federal government took up the entire burden by retaining title to all irrigation reservoirs and large ditches and agreeing to maintain and operate them forever. Bankruptcy of uneconomic private irrigation projects would no longer be a stumbling-block to excessive and hasty development through subsidized irrigation; for now, the federal government and the taxpayer would take on the task.

But the comforting umbrella of the Reclamation Service applied only to ditch, reservoir, and farming sites after it had approved a certain project. The compulsory tie-in provisions did not apply if settlers already owned the sites. And speculator-settlers had usually been alerted by many years of boosterism and agitation for the particular project. The next step, then, was accomplished in the Reclamation Act: for both government and corporate developers to pressure the Congress to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw all land from homesteading that might be capable of being irrigated. Under the pressure of Frederick H. Newell, Chief of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Secretary agreed to withdraw any lands from possible private use as long as the Bureau felt it might irrigate them at some time in the future. Here was an important example of large private land developers joining enthusiastically with bureaucrats and technocrats in urging the federal government to keep land off the market and out of the hands of homesteaders and settlers. Moreover, they agitated for the repeal of the Desert Land Act of 1877, under which a private settler could homestead 320 acres of federal desert land if he irrigated the land himself. This sort of private competition was scarcely welcome to the large corporate irrigators who yearned for a federal-state irrigation partnership.

The West generally favored rapid private settlement and development through the broadest possible homesteading of the public lands. They strongly opposed any such reservation of the public domain as was pushed by Roosevelt’s forest conservation or Reclamation Bureau irrigation policy. And yet so greedy was the West for public subsidy that they were willing to swallow the reservation clauses in order to pass the Reclamation Act of 1902. In pushing through the bill, Teddy Roosevelt spoke grandly of helping the noble homesteader, whose interests he was quick to suppress in his forest and irrigation reservation programs. The West was so lured by subsidy and the rhetoric of homesteading that it supported the bill.

So the Reclamation Act was passed by a coalition of subsidized Westerners, technocrats, and Eastern businessmen and manufacturers sensing increased Western markets for their products. Understandably bitterly opposed were the Midwestern farmers, who saw the competition of Western farmers subsidized by themselves along with other taxpayers. The Midwestern Democracy took the lead in the opposition. One of the most trenchant attacks was levelled by Representative John S. Snook (D., Oh.), who pointed out that the pioneer-farmer in the Midwest had accomplished his survival and prosperity by his own efforts:

He accomplished all this by his own efforts. ... He overcame all these difficulties unaided and alone. He never received, yea, more than that, he never asked, for a cent of government aid. And now you propose to tax him and the fruits of his unaided toil to build up a great farming section where products will be raised to compete with those he raises ...31

As is typical of men who wish to force others to sacrifice in their own behalf, the Western leaders accused the Midwesterners of following their “narrow and selfish local and personal interest.” The advocates of irrigation subsidies, in contrast, were men of “Americanism” and of “broad-minded statesmanship.”32 To which Representative William P. Hepburn (R., Iowa) made the proper reply:

If I were not one of the most amiable and polite men in this House, I would take the liberty of saying that the proposition involved in this bill is the most insolent and impudent attempt at larceny that I have ever seen embodied in a legislative proposition. These gentlemen simply do what? They ask us ... to give away an empire in order that their private property may be made valuable.

With the Reclamation Act safely passed, the technocrat-large developer-transcontinental railroad coalition lobbied vigorously during the Roosevelt administration for the repeal of the Desert Land Act, repeal of the Timber and Stone Act of 1878, which permitted homesteading of public land valuable for timber and stone, and generally to constrict private homesteading in the West to the technologically absurd maximum of 160 acres. Accordingly, on October 22, 1903, President Roosevelt appointed a three-man Public Lands Commission, consisting of Pinchot, Newell, and chairman William A. Richards, former governor of Wyoming and now Commissioner of the General Land Office in the Department of Interior. The following year, the Commission’s report duly pushed for the conservationist program, including: greater reservation of public land from private use, the repeal of the Timber and Stone Act, and the reduction of the Desert Land Act entries to 160 acres.

The Public Lands Commission report quickly met with the hearty approval of the president of the National Board of Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Business League of America, and the National Irrigation Association.33 George Maxwell mobilized his entire propaganda machine, including the transcontinental railroads and manufacturing organizations, behind the commission report.

Despite this formidable pressure and the repeated pleas of the president, Congress, led by the citizens of the West themselves, blocked passage of the commission’s measures. In particular, they saw that repression of homesteading, especially through the reservation of lands and forests, would cripple development of the West. As E. Louise Peffer writes about the Roosevelt period:

It appears ironical that, in a period of such heart-felt sympathy for the homesteader and concern over preserving for his benefit all the remaining good land, every effort seemed to be aimed at cutting down his opportunities. Back in the 1880s, when there was still desirable land left, he could legitimately acquire under the various land laws enough land to make up quite sizable holdings. By 1905, when by general admission there remained very little of the type upon which a man could make a living on the area permitted, the administration was doing everything to cut down the amount that one man could legally acquire to the 160 acres allowed by the Homestead Law. The West argued that it was humanly impossible to succeed under those circumstances. ... To succeed on such undesirable land, the entryman had to have double or more the acreage allowed by the Homestead Law.34

Superficially, it may seem inconsistent for Roosevelt and his conservation program to stress reservation and withdrawal on some occasions, and subsidized development on others. But there is a deeper consistency to all parts of the program. In every case, land and natural resources are taken out of free, private settlement and development and converted to State regulation and control, in partnership with a relatively few privileged private interests. Where government takes resources off the market, the aim is to restrict and cartelize lands or resource industries. Where government subsidizes development, it is carefully limited to a partnership with selected private interests instead of left open to the competition of the free market. Statism — corporate statism — was the key. Thus, the members and colleagues of the Public Lands Commission continued to meet informally after its formal existence was over, and, as Hays writes, a common theme underlay their efforts: “The old practice of disposing of nonagricultural lands to private owners, Pinchot and others argued, must give way to public ownership and public management.”35

The consistency of the conservation program was greatly aided by the fact that the various wings of conservationists generally worked in tandem. As we have indicated, forest reservationists and irrigationists assiduously promoted each other’s cause. This collaboration was greatly aided by the forest cover-flood control mythology that had been adopted by the conservationists. The familiar argument ran that forests were essential in absorbing rainfall, retarding stream runoff, checking soil erosion, and therefore preventing floods and preserving uniformity of the water supply. Irrigationists, private power and water supply corporations, municipal water departments, and forest and worker scientists joined in this seemingly powerful and “scientific” argument for forest reservation. The alliance began as early as the Harrison administration in the early 1890s, when the president was prevailed upon by southern California groups, panicky over forest cover flood and soil erosion, to create the San Bernardino National Forest. The major lobbyist for this National Forest was General Adolph Wood, president of the Arrowhead Reservoir Company, a private corporation engaged in storing water for power, irrigation, and general domestic use. Wood was understandably interested in turning to state and federal government to subsidize the long-run supply of his water.36

By the latter years of the Roosevelt administration, the T.R. conservationists had expanded the irrigation program and the irrigation-forestry alliance into a comprehensive statist program for federal “multiple-purpose river development.” The multiple-purpose concept grew also out of a dozen years of enthusiasm for governmental subsidies to river navigation. The river development movement arose throughout the country in the late 1890s, led invariably by urban merchants and manufacturers, anxious to force the general taxpayer to subsidize river transport. One problem is that shippers, after 1898, faced a continuing rise in railroad freight rates, reversing the trend of previous decades. Part of a counter-drive was to lobby government to promote inland navigation for a cheaper form of transportation — cheaper for themselves, of course, not for the taxpayers. Local merchants and manufacturers easily persuaded local and regional booster groups that federal funds in their area would promote that area as against competing towns and regions.

For many years, the enthusiasts for the expensive “new waterway” boondoggles were thwarted by Congress, led by the shrewd representative Theodore E. Burton (R., Ohio), chairman of the House Rivers and Harbors Committee. Burton, a lawyer, banker, and water transportation expert, argued that the proposed river improvements and inland canals were far too expensive and would have little effect on railway rates. In frustration, the waterway agitators formed the National Rivers and Harbors Congress in 1901, regrouping five years later to become the most powerful lobby for the waterway movement. It urged a $50 million annual federal river development program and, at its December 1908 meeting, endorsed a vast $500 million federal bond issue for waterway development, as well as a permanent commission whose task would be to propose new projects.

In 1907, Roosevelt’s conservationist leaders gathered all these conservationist threads together to formulate the concept of multiple-purpose river basin development. Forests would be reserved for their own sake and also to regulate stream flow of water, reservoirs would be built to control floods, promote irrigation, and generate hydroelectric power, and rivers would be developed for navigation and all these other functions. The vast expense involved meant federal funds and federal control; not only had local and private funding proved inadequate for the irrigation desired by the new planners, but rivers, after all, run interstate, and therefore, if they are to be planned by government, require federal operation and control. Newell, Pinchot, and Garfield were crucial to formulating and pushing for the new concept. So too was W.J. McGee, the chief theoretician and organizer of the new multiple-purpose river basin movement. A self-taught geologist and anthropologist from Iowa, and at this point assistant head of the Bureau of Ethnology in the Roosevelt administration, McGee worked tirelessly to persuade all branches of the conservation movement of the new dispensation. Daily he peppered Roosevelt, Pinchot, and Garfield with ideas and suggestions; he drew up presidential messages and organized conferences. McGee pushed Newell into expanding irrigation projects to their effects on river flows, and he urged Newell on the new National Rivers and Harbors Congress.

In February 1907, McGee urged upon T.R. the creation of a federal Inland Waterways Commission. Roosevelt accepted the idea the following month, including on the Commission, appointing Pinchot and Newell to it and giving McGee the critical post of Commission Secretary. From that point on, multiple-purpose river development became a leading conservation policy of President Roosevelt. A crucial figure aiding the commission was Marshall O. Leighton, Chief Hydrographer for the U.S. Geological Survey, who had worked on flood control problems. As advisory hydrographer to the Inland Waterways Commission, Leighton drew up the practical engineering plans for a mammoth development scheme for the Ohio River System, consisting of no less than one hundred reservoirs for flood control, from which the federal government would produce and sell the power for the alleged self-financing of the project.

In December 1907 Senator Francis Newlands presented a bill incorporating the findings of the Commission, establishing the Inland Waterways Commission as a permanent body with the power not only to investigate, but also to decide upon water projects, with Congress providing a permanently available fund of $50 million for their financing. That is, the president could replenish the fund when it fell sharply below the $50 million level.

Despite the enthusiastic support of Roosevelt, this leap into statism was successfully blocked by the opposition of Representative Burton and the Army Corps of Engineers, who wished to confine water projects to navigation aid only, and who stoutly denied the theory that forest cover retarded the runoff of water. While the comprehensive multiple-purpose concept failed, it proved a harbinger of the future. As Hays puts it: “Although Congress approved few of its proposals, the Roosevelt administration for the first time worked out the general principles and specific elements of the multiple-purpose approach to river development which the New Deal put into practice over two decades later.”37

As we have pointed out, the forest stream-flow theory was critical to the allegedly scientific basis for the technocratic enthusiasm for integrated multi-purpose development. Unfortunately, the scientific basis of this well-known theory was shaky at best. Oddly enough, for alleged scientists, their enthusiasm for the theory waxed not in proportion to the evidence behind it, but to the political popularity of forest conservation and multiple-purpose development. Though tentative at first, confidence of the conservationists in the theory swelled after the conservationist victories from 1902 on, reaching a peak in the struggles over the Inland Waterways Commission proposals six years later.

From the counterattack by the Army Corps of Engineers came scientific arguments which punctured the new forest cover myth. Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Martin Chittenden, a veteran of river control, delivered an influential paper before the American Society of Civil Engineers in September 1908 which set up a devastating barrage against the myth. Chittenden pointed out that there was no quantitative evidence of any impact of deforestation on river flow. Furthermore, the existence of forests can cut both ways, for forest litter accumulates water and thereby adds to floods. As for soil erosion, wrote Chittenden, it is caused by poor agricultural practices rather than deforestation. Other Corps engineers did quantitative studies that showed no correlation between forested or deforested conditions on particular rivers with the incidence of floods. Willis Moore, head of the U.S. Weather Bureau, argued also that floods are caused by excessive precipitation period, and that water runoff is not materially affected by any other factor; “high waters are not higher and the low waters are not lower than formerly,” i.e., than before deforestation.

The devastating attacks of Chittenden and Moore began the inexorable decline, at least in scientific circles, of the forest cover stream-flow theory.

Professor Gordon Dodds sums up his illuminating discussion of the stream-flow controversy as follows:

The stream-flow controversy not only illustrates the emotionalism of the conservation movement and its misrepresentations of science but also reveals much about the contemporary concepts of science itself. ... Pressed by their critics who were proposing the new quantitative methodology [in contrast to casual observation], the forestry advocates, some of whom were privately aware of their own methodological weaknesses, fell back upon enthusiasm, and, on occasion, duplicity. Their commitment was to a cause, not to scientific evidence if the evidence contravened the cause. ... Although their evidence for the forest-stream-flow theory was dubious, the conservationists, as progressives were wont to do, framed their arguments in moralistic terms by stigmatizing their enemies as militarists, monopolists, traditionalists, and other opprobrious creatures ...

     Men like Chittenden, who fought the conservationists, were as dedicated to the public interest ... as Pinchot and his followers. They were, in addition, more successful as scientists in pointing the way to rewarding studies of forest influences. Yet their services to science and their assistance in saving the taxpayers vast expenditures of public money for reforestation for flood control have gone unrecognized in historical studies, whereas the conservationists appear as farsighted guardians of the national estate.38

Despite the setbacks to the multiple-purpose river concept, Theodore Roosevelt had launched a modern movement that was already on the way to long-run triumph. In the fair-sounding name of “conservation,” he set the pace for the accelerating future withdrawal of vast parts of the federal domain from ownership, production, or use, and for federal control of the natural resources of the nation.39

  • 1. Even as perceptive an analyst as Simon Whitney was taken in by the myth. See Whitney, Antitrust Policies, p. 35. [Editor’s remarks] Consumer protection, such as food regulation, was one of the main planks of Roosevelt’s famous “Square Deal,” the others being corporate regulation and conservation of natural resources. In his two terms as president, Roosevelt made great advances toward these cartelizing goals and later championed a “New Nationalism” that advocated similar progressive measures. Although there were differences in emphasis, Woodrow Wilson’s “New Freedom” was a similar program that stressed tax reform, federal regulation of business, and monetary reform. Like Roosevelt, Wilson carried out all of these during his presidency.
  • 2. [Editor’s footnote] Rothbard is referring to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, economic czar of France under the reign of Louis XIV. He supported extremely mercantilist policies that created a system of cartels through artificially high “standards of quality.” See Murray Rothbard, An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought: Economic Thought Before Adam Smith (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, 2006 [1995]), vol. 1, pp. 216–20, 246–49.
  • 3. [Editor’s footnote] Smaller local butchers, resentful of the competitive power of the Chicago packers, also falsely charged that they were selling diseased meat in order to underprice them. This gave credibility to the European governments who said that American meat was diseased. Gary D. Libecap, “The Rise of the Chicago Packers and the Origins of Meat Inspection and Antitrust,” Economic Inquiry 30 (April, 1992): 242–62.
  • 4. J. Ogden Armour, “The Packers and the People,” Saturday Evening Post 178 (March 10, 1906): 6, italics in original. Quoted in Kolko, Triumph of Conservatism, p. 102. This entire section is based on Kolko’s account in ibid., pp. 98–108; also see ibid., pp. 51–53, 75, 81–82.
  • 5. Quoted in ibid., p. 105.
  • 6. Washington Post, June 15, 1906. In ibid., p. 106.
  • 7. Ibid., 107–08. [Editor’s remarks] See also Jim Powell, Bully Boy: The Truth about Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy (New York: Crown Forum, 2006), pp. 158–69. For a different account from Kolko similar to the traditional narrative, see James Harvey Young, Pure Food: Securing the Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 221–52. The packers were naturally disturbed at the flagrant lies Sinclair wrote slandering their industry, and also at the original Beveridge bill. Against this, and Roosevelt’s threat to release the similarly untruthful Neill-Reynolds report, they even offered to enact their own voluntary regulations. However, they supported new regulation if the taxpayers were forced to pay and if smaller firms were also included. As documented above, they were successfully able to steer the new legislation according to their desires.
  • 8. See the definitive, though overly laudatory, biography of Wiley and his crusade, in Oscar E. Anderson, Jr., The Health of a Nation: Harvey W. Wiley and the Fight for Pure Food (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).
  • 9. [Editor’s footnote] Ibid., pp. 2–9.
  • 10. Ibid., p. 28. [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 9–16, 20–23, 26–28.
  • 11. Ibid., pp. 35–36, 39.
  • 12. [Editor’s footnote] Ibid., pp. 36–39, 56, 59–60, 65.
  • 13. Ibid., p. 71. [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 68–71.
  • 14. Ibid., p. 76. [Editor’s remarks] pp. 71–76.
  • 15. Ibid., p. 80. [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 76–80.
  • 16. [Editor’s footnote] Ibid., pp. 121–23.
  • 17. [Editor’s footnote] Ibid., p. 133; Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism, pp. 109–10.
  • 18. [Editor’s footnote] The Bureau of Chemistry would eventually morph into the Food and Drug Administration in the 1920s and 1930s. Rothbard planned to elaborate on the cartelization of the drug industry and the medical profession further, but unfortunately did not do so. The drug industry and medical profession were believed to be vastly unsafe until government regulation, with unsuspecting consumers buying addicting and dangerous medicines and medical treatments from quack salesmen and heterodox doctors. While sensational for the media, addiction and death were overblown and, in fact, partially caused by prior regulations. In addition, the mainstream medical profession also practiced treatments that would be considered dangerous and ineffective by today’s standards. In 1910, the Flexner Report, written by Abraham Flexner, brother of Simon Flexner, head of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, proposed a licensing system for medical schools and hospitals that artificially raised quality and blocked out many black, female, and Jewish doctors as well as proprietary hospitals and alternative forms of medicine. See, among others, Murray Rothbard, “Government Medical Insurance,” in Making Economic Sense (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, 1995), pp. 76–77; Mark Thornton, The Economics of Prohibition (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1991), pp. 52–65; Dale Steinreich, “100 Years of Medical Fascism,” Mises Daily (April, 2010).
  • 19. [Editor’s footnote] Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism, p. 110; Anderson, Health of a Nation, pp. 99–103, 209–11.
  • 20. Ibid., p. 85. [Editor’s remarks] See also Powell, Bully Boy, pp. 152–57, 168–82. Powell notes that food quality was going up through improvements such as canned and frozen food, better preservatives, and improved railroad transportation (including refrigeration of dressed meats). See also Clayton A. Coppin and Jack High, The Politics of Purity: Harvey Washington Wiley and the Origins of Federal Food Policy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999). It is worth quoting several passages (pp. 31, 167–68) from the authors on the entire matter:
    A striking fact about the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, a fact with which every interpretation of the act must come to terms, is that urban workers and families did not agitate for its passage or enforcement. No general outbreak of disease or death from food in the cities was recorded. No epidemic of malnutrition swept through the urban populace. No public outcry over food was ever heard from the working classes. The movement for a national food law came from food commissioners, agricultural chemists, manufacturers of expensive foods, representatives from rural agricultural states, and a small number of middle-class women. The rhetoric of regulation was “pure food for the mass consumer,” but its impetus came from the professional classes ...
         When the patina of public-spirited reform is removed, we find that the cumulative interaction of commercial and bureaucratic competition led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906. These two competitive forces, rather than consumer health or business fraud, also account for Wiley’s actions as a regulator of food and drugs. ... His enforcement of the act did not improve the health of the consumer, the plane of competition among producers, or the honesty and integrity of government officials. If anything, Wiley’s enforcement worsened the ability of consumers to make informed judgements about food and drugs. His claims about the healthfulness of various foods and preservatives were not well-founded. ... The firms that Wiley opposed were not shady operations designed to bilk the consumer. They were reputable firms that were as forthright in their commercial and political dealings as the firms that Wiley supported.
  • 21. Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency: The Progressive Conservation Movement, 1890–1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), pp. 1–2.
  • 22. J.H. Cox, “Organization of the Lumber Industry in the Pacific Northwest, 1889–1914,” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, department of history, University of California, 1937), pp. 174–77; quoted in E. Louise Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain: Disposal and Reservation Policies, 1900–50 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1951), p. 57. On Roosevelt’s statement, see ibid., p. 56. [Editor’s remarks] See ibid., pp. 16–17; Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency, pp. 29–30, 47–48.
  • 23. [Editor’s footnote] In contrast to overconsumption from public ownership, under a system of private ownership firms have an incentive to maximize profits by only harvesting a fraction of the resource (such as timber, soil, animals, or fish) at a time to allow the resource to replenish for future use. In addition, over time firms innovate in technologies that allow for more efficient utilization of resources. Entrepreneurs use the price system to estimate whether or not a resource is more highly demanded in the present or the future. For more on the economics of conservation, see Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, pp. 1122–33.
  • 24. Hays, Conservation, pp. 50–51. [Editor’s remarks] See ibid., pp. 31, 33–34, 36, 40–41; Peffer, Public Domain, pp. 12–14.
  • 25. Peffer, Public Domain, p. 27. By 1944, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that the range lands in the public domain had been depleted by two-thirds from their original virgin condition. Hays, Conservation, p. 50n. On the dust storms of the 1930s as the result of previous overgrazing and public land policies, see Peffer, Public Domain, p. 220.
  • 26. Pinchot induced Fisher in 1908 to become president of the Conservation League of America, which Pinchot had newly formed to be an umbrella group for 20 national conservation associations. The CLA proved ineffectual, and after that Pinchot dedicated his organizing efforts among the public to the National Conservation Association, which he formed a year later.
  • 27. At the convention of the National Conservation Congress, 1911. Quoted in Hays, Conservation, p. 142. [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 36–38, 51–58, 60–63, 99–102.
  • 28. Quoted in ibid., p. 145.
  • 29. See Fisher, “The Evolution of the Conservation Cartel,” pp. 89–90, 117–18; James Penick, Jr., Progressive Politics and Conservation: The Ballinger-Pinchot Affair (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), p. 36. Leading supporters of the forest conservation movement included N.W. McLeod, president of the National Lumber Manufacturers Association, George K. Smith, secretary of the Association; R.A. Long, president of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers Association; and F.J. Hagenbarth, president of the National Livestock Association. Also backing the national forest movement were the National Board of Trade, the National Business League, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
  • 30. The effectiveness of the National Irrigation Congress was destroyed when a congressional investigation revealed this hidden railroad financing. See below; also see Hays, Conservation, pp. 10, 178; Peffer, Closing of the Public Domain, p. 54; H.C. Hansbrough, The Wreck: An Historical and Critical Study of the Administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft (1913), p. 52. [Editor’s remarks] The U.S. land grant system can be seen as a case of “land-engrossment.” The U.S. government “owned” a vast amount of land that was either unappropriated land not homesteaded or previously appropriated land acquired through conquest. To the extent that the government sold unappropriated land directly to settlers or gave that land to the railroads, which they sold, settlers were forced to pay a price, or a tax, for free land. See Rothbard, Ethics of Liberty, pp. 63–75.
  • 31. Quoted in Peffer, Public Domain, p. 36. Another leader against the Reclamation Act was Representative James M. Robinson (D., Ind.). [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 33–35; Hays, Conservation, pp. 6–7, 10–12, 14–15, 18, 21.
  • 32. See the outpouring by Senator Clarence D. Clark (R., Wyo.), in Peffer, Public Domain, pp. 36–37.
  • 33. See ibid., pp. 46, 47n.
  • 34. Ibid., pp. 54–55.
  • 35. Hays, Conservation, p. 69.
  • 36. Ibid., pp. 22–26.
  • 37. Ibid., p. 91. [Editor’s remarks] Ibid., pp. 93–94, 102–03.
  • 38. Gordon B. Dodds, “The Stream-Flow Controversy: A Conservation Turning Point,” Journal of American History (June, 1969): 67–69.
  • 39. [Editor’s footnote] For more on the conservation policies of Theodore Roosevelt, see Powell, Bully Boy, pp. 13–16, 183–210, 256–62. Powell chronicles the various ways in which subsidized irrigation systems and dams, eagerly supported by Western politicians, led to inefficiency and a misallocation of resources.