29 Washburn L.J. 141 (1989-1990)
The First Antitrust Statute

handle is hein.journals/wasbur29 and id is 159 raw text is: The First Antitrust Statute

David Millon*
Kansas enacted the first general antitrust law' in 1889. No less than
eleven other states passed various forms of antitrust legislation before
Congress approved the Sherman Act2 in 1890. This Symposium              thus
celebrates antitrust's true centenary. The purpose of this essay is to ex-
amine the ideological context of these earliest antitrust statutes, to give
the reader a better sense of what they meant to those who passed them.
Next, the statutes and their significance from a historical point of view
will be considered with the focus on the Kansas statute. The most im-
portant questions facing us today are not historical. They are questions
about how we should deal with economic concentration now and in the
future. Most of this Symposium is appropriately dedicated to such ques-
tions, so this essay leaves to others the task of divining whatever implica-
tions are to be drawn from this brief history lesson.
By the late 1880s virtually all of American society seemed united in
a sense of anxiety and uncertainty about the explosion of industrial activ-
ity that followed the Civil War. The rise of an increasingly urban, indus-
trial, commercial economy, linked by nationwide transportation and
communication networks severely disrupted what the historian Robert
Wiebe has described as a society of island communities3-a nation of
local, static economies based on the linkages between small town and
adjacent countryside. In the rapidly growing industrial centers, workers
and others required to deal with manufacturing and processing firms
confronted unprecedented economic power. Farmers in the West and
South reacted against what they perceived to be abusive practices of pow-
erful railroads, middlemen, providers of credit, and warehouse and grain
elevator operators. Owners of small businesses fell prey to what were
popularly perceived as cutthroat business strategies, and all Americans
felt themselves at the mercy of those from whom they bought many of
life's necessities.4
* Assistant Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University. The author gratefully ac-
knowledges financial support from the Frances Lewis Law Center, Washington and Lee University,
and research assistance from Charles Murray, Washington and Lee University School of Law, Class
of 1989.
1. Act of Mar. 9, 1989, ch. 257, 1889 Kan. Sess. Laws 389.
2. Sherman Act of 1890, ch. 647, 26 Stat. 209 (1890)(codified as amended at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-7
(1982)).
3. See generally R. WIEBE, THE SEARCH FOR ORDER, 1877-1920 (1967).
4. For discussion of the ways in which all segments of American society responded to these
changes in economic life, see L. GOODWYN, THE POPULIST MOMENT: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
AGRARIAN REVOLT IN AMERICA (1978); S. HAYS, THE RESPONSE TO INDUSTRIALISM 1885-1914
(1957); R. HOFSTADTER, THE AGE OF REFORM (1955); R. WIEBE, supra note 3.

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