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REPORT OF THE TREASURER.
To the President and Directors of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago:
Gentlemen :—As Treasurer of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, from the 7th of January, 1896, I beg to report that—
I had on hand January 7, 1896 $ 35,716 44
I have received in sundry deposits from the Secretary of the
$ 279,125 88
I have paid 852 checks drawn by the Secretary, and duly countersigned, amounting to $ 265,214 93
Leaving a balance on hand at this date of $ 13,910 95
ERNEST A. HAMILL, January 5, 1897. Treasurer. INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF WM. T. BAKER, PRESIDENT.
Fellow members of the Board of TradeIn accepting the office to which you have a fifth time elected me, I acknowledge the obligation due you for the unusual honor, an I shall endeavor to show my appreciation of it by such fidelity and care for the interests of this Board as my limitations will permit.
I congratulate the members of this board on a fairly prosperous business during the past year, and on the prospect of still better times to come. The year has been marked by most alarming vicissitudes in all branches of business in this country, and I therefore felicitate you that failures have been almost unknown among us, and that you have closed the year generally with a balance on the right side of the ledger. I sincerely hope the improvement in business here is the harbinger of prosperity for the whole country, for we can hardly expect permanent improvement in which all branches of industry do not share. We are therefore justified in exerting our influence whenever we can do so in the direction of improving present conditions, and especially for such congressional enactments as will relieve us from the peril that has already nearly wrecked the country.
Politics and business have become so closely allied that we can scarcely discuss business concerns of the first importance to every one without inviting the imputation of partisanship. The tendency of our time forbids the hope of such an Utopian condition that merely academic discussion nf National questions will be possible. The people have so long been taught that the principal function of government is to do something for everybody, that every citizen looks to Washington with hope and fear, and it is only by frank expressions of business men that vital errors may be avoided. We owe it to ourselves, therefore, and to the business community of which we are a part, to give vigorous expression of our views on business questions on which legislation by Congress is likely or desirable. There is no place where such questions can be discussed more dispassionately than in this Board of Trade, for no member of it is or expects to be a beneficiary of any Act of Congress
further than any citizen is benefited by honest legislation for the public good. The currency question is as far from being settled as it has been at any time since the repeal of the Sherman Act. All the machinery for precipitating the country to a silver basis is in perfect order, and ready to operate whenever anything occurs to arouse suspicion or start alarm. It is crinfinal folly for business men to lapse into indifference again until the treasury surplus approaches the danger line. It is positively monstrous that the whole business fabric of this country and the honor and credit of the government should be permitted to continue at the mercy of circumstances that may arise at any time, and are as sure to arise some time in the future as they have already in the recent past. The last election barely extinguished the burning fuse that led to the mine, but the mine is still there, and the danger, though less imminent, is just as great as it has always been since our currency laws were enacted. It is the paramount duty of Congress to revise these laws, to take the government out of the banking business by retiring all its demand notes and substituting National bank notes redeemable in gold. Practically the only issue in the last campaign was the money issue. Familiar questions of political economy were either ignored or perfunctorily discussed as evidence of party consistency, but the appeal to the intelligent electorate was for honest money, and more than two millions of voters laid aside their most cherished convictions in voting with the majority to save the National honor. I believe they now have a right to demand that those with whom they voted shall be equally patriotic, and put all other party questions behind them until the currency question, on which they were agreed, is settled and settled forever. The people can afford to wait for increased taxation, but they can not afford to wait for that return of confidence which a proper reform of our currency laws will bring about, and which nothing else in the way of legislation will accomplish.
The question between the board and the elevator proprietors has reached a decision in the Circuit Court in our favor on every controverted point. The decision of Judge Tuley is so comprehensive and convincing that the elevator proprietors can hardly hope to have it reversed by the Supreme Court, though they have taken an appeal. 1 earnestly recommend that no backward step be taken by this board. There has been nothing in the events of the past year to make the elevator monopoly more endurable. Their control of the property of which they should be simply guardians or trustees, the property which does not belong to them but to the members of this board to whom they have sold it, has enabled them not only to manipulate prices, but to create intolerable obstructions to the free current of commerce which it is the most important function of this board to foster. The legitimate storage charge is no longer a prime consideration with them. Their alliance with the railroads, and the privileges and immunities enjoyed by them on this board enables them to levy tribute on producer and consumer alike, while the centralization of the control of stocks of grain in store robs the banker and the common carrier of the legitimate advantage of competition that would come with a restoration of the natural order of business. This board has never questioned the right of any of its members to deal in grain and store it in their own warehouses, but when its members elect to do such business they should not at the same time become public warehousemen with the stamp of regularity on their warehouse receipts. The opportunity to select and sell at a premium the best of a grade while offering holders of their receipts the poorest, is a manifest injustice and contrary to public policy. The market price is always based on the least desirable, while for the better qualities such a premium as the necessities or desires of consumers may warrant, is exacted by the custodians of the property who do not even pretend to be its real owners. The well-known fact that the poorest quality that is deliverable on contracts establishes the price of the entire stock in store, and to a certain extent depresses the general market, is a constant injustice to producers in all the territority tributary to our market. It is an application the of principles of the Grcsham law to the familiar operations of the grain market that must be intelligible to anybody. The integrity of the system of grain inspection in this city is of vital importance to this board. All the grain inspected in this district is marketed on our exchange, and though we have no voice in the management of the inspection department, yet our credit is impaired and our business injured by its inefficiency. When the inspection of grain was surrendered by this board to the State in compliance with the warehouse law, we had reason to expect faithful and uniform administration of the service. For many years we had no ground for serious complaint, but it has gradually become a useful part of machine
politics, and ward heelers are crowded upon the pay rolls without regard to the technical requirements of the work. The inspection department should be placed under the merit system, and the legislature should be petitioned to pass a bill to this end. An effort was made at the last meeting of the legislature to accomplish this but failed. If such an act can not be passed by the present legislature, it may be well to consider the propriety of asserting our rights under our charter and have our own inspection system.
The extermination of bucket shops should continue to be the aim of this board. It is no longer necessary to explain their practices to convince the community of their viciousness. The public has come to understand their pernicious effects and their demoralizing influence. They furnish the most attractive gambling hells in every city and village where they can effect a lodgment, and are more dangerous to public morals than other forms of gambling because of their quasi respectability and immunity from police raids. Their proprietors are without exception thieves and swindlers.
Bucket-shops and pool-rooms are twin outlaws in nearly every state in the Union. Their united corruption fund has enabled them to baffle justice by debauchery of the constituted authority for the investigation and prosecution of crime, but they could not continue in existence a day but for their alliance with the Western Union Telegraph Company. That company furnishes all the machinery and all the news on which bets are laid, and it is the only telegraph company in the United States that leases wires for the private use of bucket-shops in swindling their patrons. The spectacle of a corporation with a hundred million dollars capital paying dividends gleaned from the vice and crime of the country is one to make any American blush. Contrast this with the conduct of some of the great newspapers of this city, which cannot be hired to print the harmless appearing advertisements of bucketshops. It may be said that a great commercial organization like this has no need to concern itself with questions of morals, but the ethics of business are based on a high standard of commercial morality, which it is our duty to preach and to practice. When we see our efforts to rid ourselves of the incubus of bucket-shops embarrassed by such a condition as is here outlined, we find our self-interest exalted by our patriotic duty as citizens in striking