Public Choice

, Volume 174, Issue 3–4, pp 257–275 | Cite as

Revenge: John Sherman, Russell Alger and the origins of the Sherman Act

  • Patrick NewmanEmail author


This paper argues that Senator John Sherman of Ohio was motivated to introduce an antitrust bill in late 1889 partly as a way of enacting revenge on his political rival, General and former Governor Russell Alger of Michigan, because Sherman believed that Alger personally had cost him the presidential nomination at the 1888 Republican national convention. When discussing his bill on the Senate floor and elsewhere, Sherman repeatedly brought up Alger’s relationship, which in reality was rather tenuous, with the well-known Diamond Match Company. The point of mentioning Alger was to hurt Alger’s future political career and his presidential aspirations in 1892. Sherman was able to pursue his revenge motive by combining it with the broader Republican goals of preserving high tariffs and attacking the trusts. As a result, this paper reinforces previous public choice literature arguing that the 1890 Sherman Act was not passed in the public interest, but instead advanced private interests.


Antitrust Election of 1888 John Sherman Revenge Sherman Antitrust Act 

JEL Classification

N41 N82 



I would like to thank an anonymous referee, Joseph Salerno, Mark Thornton, Ennio Piano, Rosolino Candela, Christopher Coyne, Samuel DeCanio, Thomas Dilorenzo, and especially Roger Donway for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. All errors are entirely my own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Southern CollegeLakelandUSA

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