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or six dollars a ton very quickly. The firm of M. A. Hanna & Co. had a large amount of business booked ahead at the higher price; and after the fall many purchasers of our iron backed out of their contracts, and many others tried to do so. Although we could not sell the product at the price, we took all the raw materials we had agreed to buy. So it had always been during the business career of Mark Hanna." Mr. Hanna adds that his brother would never do any more business with a man who repudiated his contracts.
This scrupulous business integrity was in Mr. Hanna's case something more than ordinary honesty. It was partly an expression of the instinctive loyalty which pervaded all his personal associations. The business of M. A. Hanna & Co. was based not only on a system of contracts, but also upon a group of alliances; and the substance of many of these contracts and all of these alliances consisted of a personal tie. He had confidence in other people, and he inspired it in them. His firm, although a producer itself, could not have become and remained the sales-agent of so many independent producers unless these men knew that their agent was dealing fairly with them and was not discriminating for or against any one of its customers. The consequence was an unusual permanence in the alliances, by virtue of which M. A. Hanna & Co. procured a large part of its business. Its relations with the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Canbria Iron Co., with the Schlesingers and others, began early and endured throughout and beyond Mr. Hanna's life.
His attorney, Mr. Andrew Squire, emphasizes particularly one peculiarity of Mr. Hanna's in his method of negotiating a contract. Instead of insisting upon those aspects of an agreement which might make it look attractive to his interlocutor, his method and habit was frequently to bring out and never to disguise the dubious aspects of a proposed transaction. His motive in so doing, according to Mr. Squire, was to avoid any possible future disappointment or misunderstanding, and so, even if that particular transaction was disadvantageous, to create or maintain confidential relations with the man. Mr. Squire's partner, James H. Dempsey, testifies to the same effect. "Mr. Hanna," he says, "never made his offer so small that there was no chance of the other man taking it up. In making a large contract, he usually knew exactly what it was worth to his firm and he invariably based his proposals on a live-and-letlive rule. He never sought to get something for nothing and he never drove a hard bargain." The bargain, that is, was always subordinated to the obligation of dealing fairly with the other man.
Mr. James J. Hill cites a specific instance of Mark Hanna's candor and scrupulous fairness in business negotiations which is worth quoting in detail, and which shows why his associates had implicit confidence in him. In 1870 Mr. Hill went to Cleveland to buy a considerable quantity of gas coal. His intention was to purchase Youghiogheny coal, and he stepped into the office of Rhodes & Co., met Mr. Hanna and asked for prices on that particular stock. Mr. Hanna replied that he had Youghiogheny coal for sale, but that his firm were simply agents for it. Then going to a window and pointing across the street, he said: "There is the central office of the company that mines the sort of coal you want, and my suggestion is that you deal directly with them. I have no doubt that you can buy it as cheaply as we can, and by giving them your order you will save the commission." Mr. Hill was so much impressed by Mr. Hanna's fair dealing that the result of the incident was a series of mutually advantageous business transactions. He implies that Mr. Hanna could easily either have sold him the coal he wanted on commission or else sold him some other similar coal as a substitute.
Many of his business ties were so enduring and so personal that they were rather friendships than alliances. Indeed, almost all of Mr. Hanna's close business associates became friends, for he was never satisfied until he had made a friend out of a man whom he liked and trusted. Once the friendship was formed it was rarely shattered. Mr. Hanna would not only do anything in his power to keep his friend, but he often became blind to the man's faults. Ordinarily he was a shrewd judge of other people. His clear bright brown eyes had in them a searching quality, which made the object of his inspection feel transparent and exposed. As a matter of fact, he usually put a correct estimate upon his associates and assistants — as may be inferred from his success as an organizer. But, of course, he made his mistakes in his business as well as in his political allies, and if he had come to have any friendship for a man whom he had made a mistake in trusting, it was hard to convince him of his error. He would remain faithful to the tie — even when the man had, to the satisfaction of other people, shown himself to be unworthy, not merely of loyalty, but sometimes of respect.
Inevitably a man like Mr. Hanna made enemies in business as well as friends. He had, indeed, no gift for personal quarrels as he had a gift for personal loyalties. He did not cherish grudges. There was nothing vindictive in his nature. But he liked to have his own way, and if any other man blocked a path which he believed himself entitled to travel, the obstructor might well be somewhat roughly and ruthlessly pushed aside. When he was in a fight he fought hard, and like all strong and self-willed men he enjoyed fighting. Probably he made certain unnecessary enmities. He was at times during his business career an unpleasantly plain-dealer. Certain of his associates testify, indeed, that never in their presence was he brusque or harsh; but evidently he could be harsh, when he was rubbed or had rubbed himself the wrong way. One unfavorable witness states that during his early years he "was positively indifferent to popularity."
The witness quoted above may well be exaggerating, for he admitted some measure of prejudice. But there is sufficient corrobation for the general statement that he might at times be, or appear to be, arbitrary and self-assertive. He was a quick, impulsive man, impatient of what seemed to him unnecessary and perverse opposition, and when excited he might become peremptory in manner and explosive in speech. He might in the heat of the moment blurt out his opinions without any mincing of words, and without, perhaps, very much consideration for the feelings of others. Many men who subsequently became his friends and warm admirers were, before they came to know him, prejudiced against him by his manner and local reputation.
Judge William B. Sanders, who was for many years associated with Mr. Squire and Mr. Dempsey as attorneys for Mr. Hanna, says of him: "In Mr. Hanna's business life, before he became known as a national politician, he had not learned the art of saying 'No' without offence. He was plain and quick, and frequently hurt and offended people with whom he had a difference. However, a change came over him in this respect. I remember that I was in his room in St. Louis during the Republican Convention of 1896 when a delegation of colored men, delegates representing several Southern states, came to see him. They were after money, and he knew it. In the old days he would have kicked them out of the room; but on this occasion he politely refused them without hurting their feelings." One cannot help wishing that under the circumstances he had been less diplomatic, and had ruthlessly hurt their feelings — assuming, of course, that it was their feelings which would have been chiefly hurt by the act of kicking them out of the room.
The foregoing account of Mark Hanna will, I think, justify the description of him as a business man who carried over into the period of industrial expansion the best characteristics of the pioneer. The industrial pioneer of the seventies needed qualities and methods different in certain respects from those of the early pioneers. Mr. Hanna, for instance, was a great organizer, and he could not have made his success unless he had believed both in organization and in the delegation of power and responsibility. But like them, he was an all-round man of action, whose behavior was determined chiefly by instinctive motives and external conditions, and who used his intelligence merely for the purpose of making his will effective. Like them he was performing a necessary preliminary work of economic construction, and one in which for the most part his own interest as a maker and an organizer of enterprises was coincident with the public interest. As with them, the aggressive individualism of his private business life obtained dignity from its association with an essential task of social and economic construction. And finally, as in the case of the better pioneers, he had the feelings and the outlook of a man who has done more than accumulate a fortune. His methods in business and the way in which he gave personality and humanity to his business life all tended to the fulfilment of social as well as individual purposes.
His individual social edifice had the disadvantages as well as the advantages of being wrought at the prompting of instinctive rather than conscious motives. If it had contained a larger conscious element, it probably would not have been so effective, because it would not have squared in other respects with his essentially objective disposition. But its unconsciousness always made him callous to the fact that certain phases of his business demanded essentially unsocial action — such, for instance, as influencing elections to the Common Council in the interest of his street railway company. He was, that is, a man of wholesome and varied social instincts which had a powerful and edifying effect upon his life and the life of his associates, but he was not a man of civic and social ideals — in which again he was true to his pioneer type. The fact, however, that his business methods were born of a deeply rooted American tradition and had a definite social value was salutary. It enabled him to draw for the success of his subsequent political career upon sources of energy outside of himself. In case he had become the kind of a business man that many rich Americans of his generation did become, any but an insignificant political success would have been impossible. A financier may buy or earn a politicial position, but he cannot accomplish much by means of it. Mark Hanna always remained a Cleveland merchant, and his business remained, as I have said, personal and local. He rarely, if ever, embarked in enterprises which he did not personally control. He never "set up" as a capitalist, and bought with his money other men to do his work. He put back his profits, either in the coal and iron business, or in some other local enterprise, over which he exercised personal supervision. All his enterprises were Cleveland enterprises or immediately related thereto. He was rooted in his native business soil, and his personality and his work depended for their value on local associations and responsibilities. He had too sound an instinct for the sources of his own personal dignity and power to let himself become a homeless financier. The consequence was that when he entered politics as a business man, he represented a vital and a genuinely popular American business tradition.