president benjamin harrison

WHILE BARACK OBAMA IS OFFICIALLY THE 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, HE IS ONLY THE 43RD PERSON TO OFFICIALLY HOLD THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT. 

GROVER CLEVELAND WAS THE 22ND PRESIDENT, BUT BENJAMIN HARRISON WAS ELECTED IN HIS STEAD AND BECAME THE 23RD PRESIDENT.

HOWEVER, WHEN HARRISON’S TIME WAS UP, CLEVELAND RAN AGAIN AND WON, MEANING THE SAME GUY WAS THE 22ND AND 24TH PRESIDENT. HE IS THE ONLY PRESIDENT TO SERVE TWO NON-CONSECUTIVE TERMS.

FUTURAMA WOULD MAKE A SUBTLE REFERENCE TO THIS IN A FEW OF THEIR EPISODES. IN THE “HALL OF PRESIDENTS,” WHERE THE HEADS OF THE FORMER PRESIDENTS ARE KEPT ALIVE AND ON DISPLAY IN JARS, THERE ARE USUALLY TWO GROVER CLEVELAND HEADS ON THE SHELF. 

"The Light Has Gone Out of My Life": Theodore Roosevelt's Heartbreaking Valentine's Day



Theodore Roosevelt was a shooting star – 5'8" of barely controlled frenzy.  An energetic workaholic, familyaholic, and lifeaholic who lived every day of his relatively short life to its fullest and savored each and every battle throughout 60 busy years on Earth.  As Thomas Riley Marshall, Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President, said, “Death had to take Roosevelt while he was sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight." 

Every milestone in Roosevelt’s life was reached at a younger age than almost anyone else in American history.  Elected to the New York State Assembly at 23; a delegate to the Republican National Convention at 25; a deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory at 26; an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of New York City at 28; appointed to the U.S. Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison at 31; elected president of the New York City Police Board to clean up corruption in the police force at the age of 37; and appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President McKinley before resigning to volunteer for the Spanish-American War and then returning from Cuba as a war hero to launch a successful campaign for Governor of New York, all before his 40th birthday in October 1898.

Initially supported by New York’s Republican party boss, Thomas Platt, Governor Roosevelt quickly distanced himself from Boss Platt by ignoring his advice and pushing through an agenda aimed at reform in government, and laws protecting worker’s rights.  After the Governor signed a new law implementing a state tax on New York’s corporations, Boss Platt worked hard to get Roosevelt nominated as Vice President on President McKinley’s ticket in 1900, mostly to get Roosevelt out of New York state politics and into an office where he couldn’t do any damage – the weak Vice Presidency of the late-19th/early-20th century.  Roosevelt was not interested in leaving Albany to take the boring job of Vice President, but changed his mind after the encouragement of his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, who felt that it would expand Roosevelt’s profile nationally and help set up a future bid for the Presidency.  McKinley and Roosevelt easily won the 1900 election, and Roosevelt kept himself occupied during the campaign by speaking in 567 cities and towns throughout 24 of the 45 states.

Less than a year later, 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, was President of the United States (and is still the youngest President in American history), thrust into the Presidency when an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz assassinated President McKinley in Buffalo.  At his side as he moved into the White House was his wife, Edith, and his six children.  Roosevelt leaped into the role of President and had fun with the job while continuing to live what he called "the strenuous life”.  For the rest of that “strenuous life” – including a “retirement” which was a retirement in name only – Roosevelt continued to practice politics, hunt, look for new challenges, write, and fight.  But there was one battle that Theodore Roosevelt could not fight and would not face – and it started on the saddest Valentine’s Day of all-time.

•••

Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a tragic day for Theodore Roosevelt.  On February 14, 1880, Roosevelt announced his engagement to Alice Hathaway Lee, a beautiful girl from Massachusetts three years younger than he was.  Theodore and Alice had met on October 18, 1878 when Theodore, a student at Harvard, encountered her at the home of Richard Saltonstall – Alice’s neighbor and Roosevelt’s classmate and friend.  Roosevelt was immediately taken by Alice’s beauty and intelligence, writing that “As long as I live, I shall never forget how sweetly she looked and how prettily she greeted me."  A month later, he was convinced that he wanted to marry her, but it took him much longer to convince her.  He proposed in June 1879 and Alice finally said yes at the beginning of 1880.  On February 13, 1880, Roosevelt spent the day and night with Alice’s family before returning home to Cambridge, Massachusetts to announce their engagement.  That night, as he often did, Roosevelt wrote in his pocket diary about his feelings for Alice:

She is so marvelously sweet, and pure and loveable and pretty that I seem to love her more and more every time I see her, though I love her so much now that I really can not love her more.  I do not think ever a man loved a woman more than I love her; for a year and a quarter now I have never (even when hunting) gone to sleep or waked up without thinking of her; and I doubt if an hour has passed that I have not thought of her.  And now I can scarcely realize that I can hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress her and love her as much as I choose.“


Theodore and Alice married on his 22nd birthday, October 27, 1880 at the home of Alice’s parents in Brookline, Massachusetts.  Among the guests in attendance was Edith Kermit Carow, who later became Roosevelt’s second wife and the nation’s First Lady.  The newly married couple spent their wedding night in Springfield, Massachusetts and a two-week honeymoon at the Roosevelt home in Oyster Bay, New York before Theodore plunged right back into his work.  Despite his busy, frenetic lifestyle, Theodore’s love for Alice never wavered.  He wrote her long, loving letters and spent as much time as possible doting on his young wife.  As his political career took off and he served in the New York State Assembly, politicians who called at his home in New York City were charmed by Alice, and Theodore’s feelings for her were as strong as they were during their courtship in Cambridge.  As the Roosevelts celebrated their third wedding anniversary in October 1883, Alice was pregnant with their first child and Roosevelt was preparing a run for Speaker of the New York State Assembly.

Running for the speakership was tough work for a 25-year-old that had spent barely two years in the Assembly, but Roosevelt and some of his supporters felt that he had the votes necessary to win the Speaker’s chair.  This campaign required Roosevelt to spend even more time in Albany lining up votes, and he would rush home whenever possible to visit his pregnant wife.  Alice felt lonely at times, but understood Theodore’s drive and ambition.  She only saw her husband on weekends and Roosevelt tried to help Alice out by having her stay with his mother, Martha "Mittie” Bulloch Roosevelt, and his sisters, Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (who had recently had a baby herself) and Anna “Bamie” Roosevelt Cowles, at the family home in New York City on West 57th Street.  It was difficult at times for Alice, but she loved her husband’s family and supported her husband’s ambitions, and tried to bear the separation cheerfully. 

The separation wasn’t easy for Roosevelt, either.  On February 6, 1884, he wrote to Alice, “How did I hate to leave my bright, sunny little love yesterday afternoon!  I love you and long for you all the time, and oh so tenderly; doubly tenderly now, my sweetest little wife.  I just long for Friday evening when I shall be with you again."  Roosevelt had lost the race for Speaker, but immediately threw himself into an investigation of corruption within the government of New York City.  In Albany on February 11, Roosevelt adjourned his committee’s investigation for a week and headed home to New York City for the birth of his first child.  Arriving there on February 12th, it appeared as if Alice was still a few days away from having the baby.  Roosevelt left her in the care of Bamie since his mother, Mittie, seemed to be suffering from a heavy cold, and then rushed back to Albany to work on a bill which proposed to give more executive power to the Mayor of New York City.  At the Capitol the next morning, Roosevelt received a telegram notifying him that Alice had given birth to a baby girl the previous night.  The telegram noted that Alice was doing "only fairly well”, but Roosevelt chalked that up to the difficulties of a young mother’s first delivery in the rough 1880’s.  Roosevelt continued to try to get some work done for a few more hours before he planned to catch a train back to New York City to greet his loving wife and his new daughter.

•••

Just a few hours later, Theodore Roosevelt was on a train heading to New York City, but the joyous visage of the brand-new father had been replaced by a worrisome and “worn” look cemented upon his face after receiving a second telegram in Albany.  The contents of this telegram are lost to history, but they caused Roosevelt to rush home to his 22-year-old wife and their newborn daughter.  In perfect weather, the train ride from Albany-to-New York City took five hours in 1884, and the weather on February 13th was not perfect.  It was foggy and cold and Roosevelt finally arrived at Grand Central Station at about 10:30 PM, rushing home through the foggy New York City streets and finding the home at 6 West 57th Street dark other than a gaslight on the third floor.

Upstairs, Theodore’s young wife and the mother of his newborn daughter, was gravely ill.  The childbirth was rough, but Alice Roosevelt was also suffering from undiagnosed Bright’s Disease, a terminal illness during the time period, and an illness which was rapidly causing Alice’s kidneys to fail.  Theodore held his  love in his arms, barely noticing the new life that she brought into the world at the risk of losing her own.  Alice fell in-and-out of consciousness, only sometimes recognizing the man at her bedside.  As a child, Theodore Roosevelt was sickly, pale, and asthmatic and through sheer willpower and, yes, “strenuous” exercise, he built his body into a strong, robust, athletic man as solid as the bust that pays tribute to him today on Mount Rushmore.  As February 14th – the fourth anniversary of his engagement to Alice – began, Theodore tried to summon that ability to conquer poor health in order to save the love of his life.

Downstairs, Theodore’s 48-year-old mother, Mittie, did not have a bad cold.  She had typhoid fever, and in his rush to attempt to help nurse his wife back to health – if only with the ineffective tools of hope – Roosevelt had hardly noticed that his mother was also near-death.  At 3:00 AM on February 14, 1884, the sadness in the Roosevelt home at 6 West 57th Street turned to devastation, when Mittie died shortly after Theodore kissed her goodbye.  Before Theodore had arrived home from Albany, his brother Elliott left their mother’s home after telling Corinne, “There is a curse on this house.  Mother is dying, and Alice is dying too."  As Theodore walked back upstairs to attend to Alice, he agreed with his brother’s statement:  "There IS a curse on this house.”

Alice tried to fight, but her kidneys had failed her, childbirth had weakened her, and the melancholy mood in the house couldn’t help to strengthen anybody’s spirits.  Theodore continued holding Alice in his arms and that’s where she was when she died at 2:00 PM on the fourth anniversary of their engagement announcement, less than two days after the birth of their still-unnamed daughter.  Since he first cast his eyes upon Alice’s face in 1878, Theodore Roosevelt had filled pages of his diary by writing about her nearly as often as he thought about her.  He noted the simplest expressions, the smallest acts of recognition, the quietest smiles, the loudest silences, and every action that resulted in a memory that they could replay again-and-again in the future that they had planned together.  In his ever-present pocket diary on February 14, 1884, Theodore Roosevelt simply wrote an “X” above one striking sentence:  “The light has gone out of my life.”

•••

Two days later, the dazed widower sat expressionless in his pew at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City as the two identical rosewood caskets of his mother and wife stood side-by-side at the altar.  The day after the deaths, the New York State Assembly paid tribute by adjourning in sympathy after speakers eulogized the women and expressed support for their stricken colleague.  In the days that followed, Theodore Roosevelt withdrew, unable to process the heavy pain he was feeling and showing no interest in his newborn baby, christened Alice Lee after her late mother.  Friends worried about Roosevelt’s mindframe and newspapers predicted that he would never recover from the blow he had suffered. 

We know now that he did recover.  Just 27 years old when he lost his wife and his mother on the same day in the same house, Roosevelt couldn’t even bear to say the name of his new daughter because it reminded him of her mother.  Instead of “Alice Lee”, he called her “Baby Lee” in her infancy and turned her care over to Bamie so that he could lose himself in the Dakota Territory.  There he remained for two years, working as a cattle rancher and deputy sheriff, writing and recovering from his sudden, tremendously heartbreaking loss.  He returned to New York in October 1886 and re-launched his political career, not stopping until he handed the Presidency over to hand-picked successor William Howard Taft in 1908.  Even then, he was still involved, challenging Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912, bolting the party when Taft was nominated and running as a third-party candidate that fall, hunting, writing books, and preparing for another run for the Presidency when he died suddenly in January 1919.

Theodore Roosevelt recovered and made history, but the pain that he felt probably never dissipated.  It was also never again mentioned.  Two days after the funeral, he wrote a short biography of Alice in his diary, ending “For joy or sorrow, my life has now been lived out."  Roosevelt’s biographer, Edmund Morris, wrote that "Like a lion obsessively trying to drag a spear from its flank, Roosevelt set about dislodging Alice Lee from his soul.  Nostalgia, a weakness to which he was abnormally vulnerable, could be indulged if it was pleasant, but if painful it must be suppressed, ‘until the memory is too dead to throb.’"  Alice Hathaway Lee’s existence may have crossed his mind or remained in his heart, but her name never again passed through his lips.  Their daughter – Alice’s namesake – entered adulthood without ever hearing her father speak of her mother.  It was simply too painful for this, probably the bravest of Presidents.  Following his Presidency, Roosevelt wrote his Autobiography, which was detailed and thorough, but he didn’t mention his first wife even once.  Letters were destroyed, photographs were were burned, and Roosevelt’s only method of coping with her absence was pretending that she was never there in the first place.  He once wrote of Alice that "I did not think I could win her, and I went nearly crazy at the mere thought of losing her."  Once he did lose her, he certainly lost a part of himself. 

Immediately following Alice’s death, Theodore told a friend that he was "beyond healing and time will never change me in that respect”.  Roosevelt remarried in 1886 and had five more children, but his silence about Alice’s impact on his life is just as striking as the words he wrote about her while she was alive.  In August 1974, President Richard Nixon – one of Roosevelt’s successors and biggest admirers – resigned from the Presidency and in his final speech as President, to White House staff gathered in the East Room, quoted from one of only two references that Roosevelt made to Alice following her death:

“She was beautiful in face and form, and lovelier still in spirit; As a flower she grew, and as a fair young flower she died. Her life had been always in the sunshine; there had never come to her a single sorrow; and none ever knew her who did not love and revere her for the bright, sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving , tender, and happy. As a young wife; when she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and when the years seemed so bright before her—then, by a strange and terrible fate, death came to her. And when my heart’s dearest died, the light went from my life forever.”


Theodore Roosevelt went on to achieve his ambitions and realize great success, but his tribute to Alice bears witness to his pain and gives extra symbolism to the lion’s last words before his heart gave out in 1919:  “Please put out the light.”

3

September 3rd 1838: Douglass escapes

On this day in 1838, famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in Maryland. Douglass was born into slavery, and when he was around twelve years old was taught the alphabet by the wife of his plantation owner. The young Douglass was soon able to read and write fluently, but had to keep his literacy a secret as slaveholders decided that an educated slave was dangerous. When it was discovered that he was teaching other slaves to read, Douglass was sent to a ‘slave breaker’, who frequently and brutally whipped him for alleged ‘insubordination’. Douglass’s education, and his experience of the horrors of enslavement, refined his critique of the institution of slavery. Douglass successfully escaped from his enslavement in September 1838, using the papers of a free sailor to board a train headed North, eventually arriving in the New York safe house of abolitionist David Ruggles. Douglass went on to become a prominent abolitionist, famous for his eloquent oratory and his intelligence, which disproved slaveholders’ claims that slaves were not intelligent enough to be free. He published multiple narratives of his life in slavery, which drew attention to the injustice of slavery in the Southern states, and campaigned for civil rights issues in the antebellum era. Douglass continued the fight for equal rights after the Civil War and emancipation, advocating the enfranchisement of African-Americans and women. In 1872, the radical Equal Rights Party nominated him for Vice-President - with feminist activist Victoria Woodhull for President - making him the first African-American nominated for the office. Frederick Douglass died in 1895, aged seventy-seven.

“On Monday, the third day of September, 1838, in accordance with my resolution, I bade farewell to the city of Baltimore, and to that slavery which had been my abhorrence from childhood.”
- from ’Life and Times of Frederick Douglass’, 1881

Five Historical Figures Who Were Really Watermelons
  • President Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States, but recent documents reveal that he never spoke, nor moved of his own volition. This in combination with his green complexion and subtle, refreshing flavor suggest he was in fact a watermelon.
  • Benedict Arnold is one of history’s most famous traitors. But did he act because he hated America, or because he was really the fruit of a vine-like flowering plant? Historical photos suggest the latter.
  • Jane Austen. Author, or watermelon? Though her body of work suggests the former, new genetic evidence from her grave reveals that she was in fact a specimen of Citrullus lanatus. Records of her autopsy revealing many small black seeds also confirms the suspicion.
  • Peter Sellers was a popular actor and comedian in the mid-20th century, but careful analysis of his films proves that he too was a watermelon. A particularly revealing close-up from the movie Being There clearly shows his green stripes and pink interior.
  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, or was he? Buzz Aldrin may have been the first man to walk on the lunar surface if new allegations of Armstrong’s watermelonhood prove correct. The most telling evidence is his famous quote, of which clearer radio recordings show he said, “One small step for a Watermel- I mean MAN, one giant leap for waterm- Er, MANkind.”

There is no way to know exactly what governed the timing of Eston Hemings’s decision to slip off his African American identity and move to Wisconsin, leaving his brother behind in Ohio. When Eston and Julia Hemings headed further northwest in 1852, their children were ages fourteen, sixteen, and seventeen. By crossing the color line in unison, before the children reached marriageable age, Eston Hemings’s family avoided the fragmentation that had occurred in his own generation, with the departures of his siblings Harriet and Beverley. The disappearing brothers who haunted succeeding generations of Madison Hemings’s descendants would not be a part of Eston Heming’s legacy, and his adoption of whiteness was successful in its probable intention - escape for his family from the economic and social subordination that prevailed under the “black laws” of Ohio. His daughter Anna married and lived as a white woman. Her brothers were both officers in white regiments in the Union army. Beverly F. Jefferson, who married a white woman, became a prosperous and respected hotel and transfer company owner, while John Wayles Jefferson moved to the South and became a wealthy cotton broker. His articles were published in Wisconsin and Tennessee newspapers, and he corresponded with President Benjamin Harrison about conditions in the postwar South. Eston H. Jefferson’s grandsons even exceeded the success of his sons, becoming lawyers and physicians, as well as prosperous businessmen.

By contrast, the children and grandchildren of Madison Hemings who remained in Ohio were bound by the restricted opportunities for blacks at the time. They were, for the most part, small farmers, storekeepers, laborers, domestic servants, or caterers. While their descendants speak above all of families of love and strength, there are stories of the breaking of the human spirit rather than its triumph, when racial prejudice blighted career expectations and dreams for children. Some lives, as we have also heard in other families descended from the Monticello enslaved community, were tinged with alcohol and anger.

A move to the other side of the color line brought its own set of costs, however. The persistent anxiety of hiding the past is shown in a newspaper account of the meeting of Eston’s son John Wayles Jefferson, then a lieutenant colonel of the 8th Wisconsin, with a citizen of Chillicothe, Ohio, his former residence. “He begged me,” recalled the writer, “not to tell the fact that he had colored blood in his veins, which he said was not suspected by any of his command.” Like Madison Hemings’s sons, John W. Jefferson remained a bachelor, as did two of his nephews, one of whom was a suspected suicide; the other walked down the railroad tracks and “vanished off the face of the earth.” The early deaths of an unusual number of Eston Hemings Jefferson’s male descendants, if not attributable to genetic factors, may be symptomatic of the pressures of passing.

—  Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness”: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
2

An Act to Protect Trade and Commerce Against Unlawful Restraints and Monopolies, 07/02/1890.

Item From: General Records of the United States Government. (04/01/1985-).

Power of the Pen. President Benjamin Harrison signed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 into law on July 2 of that year. The Sherman Act has been used in many instances, most recently against the Microsoft company.

Source: http://go.usa.gov/DyHT

I cannot always sympathize with that demand which we hear so frequently for cheap things. Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age and for a dowry for the incidents that are to follow. I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process
—  Benjamin Harrison, discussing living wages during a speech, Rutland, Vermont, August 28, 1891
Why Big Tech May Be Getting Too Big

Conservatives and liberals interminably debate the merits of “the free market” versus “the government.” Which one you trust more delineates the main ideological divide in America.

In reality, they aren’t two separate things and there can’t be a market without government. Legislators, agency heads and judges decide the rules of the game. And, over time, they change the rules.

The important question, too rarely discussed, is who has the most influence over these decisions and in that way wins the game.

Two centuries ago slaves were among the nation’s most valuable assets, and a century ago, perhaps the most valuable asset was land. Then came another shift as factories, machines, railroads and oil transformed America. By the 1920s most Americans were employees, and the most contested property issue was their freedom to organize into unions.

In more recent years, information and ideas have become the most valuable forms of property. This property can’t be concretely weighed or measured, and most of the cost of producing it goes into discovering it or making the first copy. After that, the additional production cost is often zero.

Such “intellectual property” is the key building block of the new economy. Without government decisions over what it is, and who can own it and on what terms, the new economy could not exist.

But as has happened before with other forms of property, the most politically influential owners of the new property are doing their utmost to increase their profits by creating monopolies that must eventually be broken up.

The most valuable intellectual property are platforms so widely used that everyone else has to use them, too. Think of standard operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows or Google’s Android; Google’s search engine; Amazon’s shopping system; and Facebooks’ communication network.

Google runs two-thirds of all searches in the United States. Amazon sells more than 40 percent of new books. Facebook has nearly 1.5 billion active monthly users worldwide. This is where the money is.

Despite an explosion in the number of websites over the last decade, page views are becoming more concentrated. While in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all page views in America, by 2010 the top 10 accounted for 75 percent. 

Google and Facebook are now among the first stops for many Americans seeking news — while Internet traffic to national newspapers, network television and other news gathering agencies has fallen well below 50 percent of all traffic. Meanwhile, Amazon is now the first stop for almost a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything. Talk about power.

Whenever markets become so concentrated, consumers end up paying more than they otherwise would, and innovations are squelched. Sure, big platforms let creators showcase and introduce new apps, songs, books, videos and other content. But most of the profits go to the platforms’ owners, who have all bargaining power. Which is why writers, musicians, visual artists, photographers, videographers, journalists and other content creators are receiving less and less for their work.

Contrary to the conventional view of an American economy bubbling with innovative small companies, the reality is quite different. Big Tech’s sweeping patents, standard platforms, fleets of lawyers to litigate against potential rivals and armies of lobbyists have created formidable barriers to new entrants.

This is one reason the rate that new businesses have formed in the United States has slowed markedly. Between 1978 and 2011, as the new giants gained control, that rate was nearly halved.

The patent system is crucial to this slowing of innovation. The law gives 20 years of patent protection to inventions that are “new and useful,” as decided by the Patent and Trademark Office. But the winners are big enough to game the system. They make small improvements warranting new patents, effectively making their intellectual property permanent. 

They also lay claim to whole terrains of potential innovation including ideas barely on drawing boards and flood the system with so many applications that lone inventors have to wait years. The White House intellectual property adviser, Colleen V. Chien, noted in 2012 that Google and Apple were spending more money acquiring patents (not to mention litigating them) than on doing research and development.

Antitrust laws used to fight this sort of market power. In the 1990s, the federal government accused Microsoft of illegally bundling its popular Windows operating system with its Internet Explorer browser to create an industry standard that stifled competition. Microsoft settled the case by agreeing to share its programming interfaces with other companies. But since then Big Tech has been almost immune to antitrust, even though the largest tech companies have more market power than ever.

Maybe these tech companies have actually avoided wrongdoing as they accumulate unprecedented market share. Or maybe they’ve accumulated enough political power to keep antitrust regulators at bay.

In 2012, the staff of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition submitted to the commissioners a 160-page analysis of Google’s dominance in the search and related advertising markets, and recommended suing Google for conduct that “has resulted — and will result — in real harm to consumers and to innovation.”

But the commissioners chose not to pursue a case. Investigators also found evidence that Google was pushing it’s own products ahead of competitors’ on search results, though they did not recommend a lawsuit on this point.

It’s unusual for commissioners not to accept staff recommendations, and they didn’t give a full explanation. The FTC noted a competing internal report that recommended against legal action, but another plausible reason has to do with Google’s political clout. Google is now among the largest corporate lobbyists in the United States. Around the time of the investigation the company poured money into influencing both the commissioners and the commission’s congressional overseers.

Google is heading into a major fight with antitrust officials in the European Union for some of the same reasons the F.T.C. staff went after it. Not incidentally, Europe is also investigating Amazon for allegedly stifling competition in e-books, and Apple for doing the same in music. Many on this side of the Atlantic believe Europe is taking on these tech giants because they’re American. Another possible explanation is that Google, Amazon and Apple lack as much political clout in Europe as they have here.

Economic and political power can’t be separated because dominant corporations gain political influence over how markets are maintained and enforced, which enlarges their economic power further. One of the original goals of antitrust law was to prevent this.

“The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power,” warned Edward G. Ryan, the chief justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, in 1873. Antitrust law was viewed as a means of breaking this link. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” Senator John Sherman of Ohio thundered, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale” of what the nation produced.

Sherman’s Antitrust Act passed the Senate with just a single vote against, passed the House unanimously, and was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison on July 2, 1890. Twelve years later, President Teddy Roosevelt used it against Edward H. Harriman’s giant Northern Securities Company, which dominated rail transportation in the Northwest. In 1911, President William Howard Taft broke up John D. Rockefeller’s sprawling Standard Oil empire.

The underlying issue has little to do with whether one prefers the “free market” or government. The real question is how government organizes the market, and who has the most influence over its decisions.

We are now in a new gilded age similar to the first Gilded Age, when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. As then, those with great power and resources are making the “free market” function on their behalf. Big Tech — along with the Big Pharma, giant health insurance companies, Big Agriculture, and the largest banks on Wall Street — dominate our economy and our politics.

Yet as long as we remain obsessed by the debate over the relative merits of the “free market” and “government,” we have little hope of seeing what’s occurring and taking the action that’s needed to make our economy work for the many, not the few.

[This originally appeared in the September 20 edition of the New York Times. It’s drawn from my forthcoming book “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few.”]

Each side would have been glad to defeat the other if it could do so without electing its own candidate.
—  Robert Ingersoll, on the 1892 election between President Benjamin Harrison and former President Grover Cleveland. Much like the 2016 election, American voters weren’t exactly thrilled with their party’s nominees in 1892.
I cannot always sympathize with that demand which we hear so frequently for cheap things. Things may be too cheap. They are too cheap when the man or woman who produces them upon the farm or the man or woman who produces them in the factory does not get out of them living wages with a margin for old age and for a dowry for the incidents that are to follow. I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.
—  Benjamin Harrison, President, the United States of America, Rutland, Vermont, 1891