T. Roosevelt Insists on Regulatory Legislation, 1906
I have recently had an investigation made by Commissioner Neill of the Labor Bureau and Mr. J. B. Reynolds, of the situation in Chicago packing houses. It is hideous, and it must be remedied at once. I was at first so indignant that I resolved to send in the full report to Congress. As far as the beef packers themselves are concerned I should do this now with a clear conscience, for the great damage that would befall them in consequence would be purely due to their own actions. But the damage would also come to all the stock growers of the country and the effect of such a report would undoubtedly be well-nigh ruinous to our export trade in meat for the time being, and doubtless the damaging effect would be apparent long after we had remedied the wrongs. I am there- fore going to withhold the report for the time being, and until I can also report that the wrongs have been remedied, provided that without making it public I can get the needed legislation; that is, provided we can have the meat inspection amendment that has been put on in the Senate in substance enacted into law. Of course what I am after is not to do damage even to the packers, still less to the stockmen and farmers. What I want is the immediate betterment of the dreadful conditions that prevail, and moreover the providing against a possible recurrence of these conditions. The beef packers have told me through Mr. Louis Swift that if I will not make this report public they will guarantee to remedy all the wrongs which we have found or may find to exist. This is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough, and it is absolutely necessary that we shall have legislation which will prevent the recurrence of these wrongs. I should not make the report public with the idea of damaging the packers. I should do it only if it were necessary in order to secure the remedy.