A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
Herein We Meet Our Fairy Prince

WHILE the first Roosevelt revolution was in progress, the forces of conservatism were not entirely upon the defensive, though their defense sector was as busy as the pie venders at a fair. Behind the lines of the progressive attack, capital was entrenching itself. While Coolidge was entering Massachusetts politics, the holding company was forming in American finance. Those pole climbers stringing wires across country, whom he saw in the landscape as he rode to and from Boston, meant something new in the world, a new capital structure for the electric industry. The Holding company bought the stocks of competing companies to throttle competition. The sale of stocks and bonds became a primary interest of the holding company. Service to consumers was an incidental concern of the manipulators of remote and frequently irresponsible corporations. The Northern Securities Company holding the stock of the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern, two competing parallel railroads running from the Great Lakes toward the Pacific, was the classical instance of the holding company. President Roosevelt, through his department of justice attacked and dissolved the Northern Securities trust. Yet over America, and particularly in Senator Coolidge's New England, capital still was concentrating. Railroads were getting together; public utilities merging under secret common ownership. In Massachusetts one of the vital issues in the days of Coolidge's legislative service, was the mergers and combinations of the New Haven Railroad. Rumors of the pernicious anti-social activities of Charles Mellen fogged the air. Mellen, a New England product, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, a high school graduate from Concord, New Hampshire, rose in his profession, went west, learned financial magic, came east. And finally the elder J. P. Morgan adopted Mellen, made him president of the

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