« PreviousContinue »
wages. The multitude of those demanding work, swelling apace from natural addition and from immigration, with a daily or weekly dole, just sufficient to keep the body in working condition, and with little margin for the “Rainy Day,” are confronted with a hopeless blighting poverty, which threatens, at no distant day, to overshadow them as it has for long weary years darkened the pathway of the English laborer, who, to use the strong language of Mr. Thornton, can not afford himself food and shelter nearly as good relatively as any carriage-keeping gentleman provides for his coach-horses, or every well-to-do-farmer for his cattle. Trades-unions are impotent to avert the doom which awaits the hapless dependent on daily wages; and right here government is invited to supplement their abortive efforts to regulate the remuneration of labor. This has been already done in two Western States, where, through legislation, the endeavor has been made to fix the rate of wages and to determine the hours of labor, and labor combinations, as may be seen from the workingmen's resolutions in St. Louis, on the 26th of last month, are pressing with vigor a similar interference in their behalf by the Federal Government. Nor need they despair. While it is true that they have less money than their opponents, they have votes, and the American politician is not deaf to the appeals of the man with a ballot in his hand. But the Government will be equally as unsuccessful in this undertaking as trades-unions, and for a reason, besides the one just mentioned, which it will be good to notice. A permanent increase of wages beyond the normal rate can only be brought about by one of two methods-either to cause such a re-adjustment of the elements of capital as shall expand the wages fund-that is, by diminishing the investment, say in machinery, in order to satisfy the claims of the laborer, or to reach the same result by plundering the profits of the employer. The first method is so strikingly absurd that we need not fear it will ever be directly resorted to, since an attempted improvement in the circumstances of the laborer, by such action, would have the effect to lessen production, thereby to lessen profits, thereby to lessen the means for rewarding labor—a procedure sure to be much more fatal in its issue to the workingman than to his employer. The second method is not so obviously objectionable. A mistake is made by those who do not look beyond mere appearances, in confounding the net returns on capital with the per cent of profit, thinking if the one be large the other must be large also. The state of manufacturing industry imperatively demands for fortunate results the investment of a large capital. Now, while the aggregate gains of the capitalist in the average of years are frequently enormous, they but represent the current rate of profit, say 7 per cent in France, 5 per cent in England, and 10 per cent in this country. This fact the workingman is too apt to disregard, even if he is aware of it. Splendor contrasted with comparative destitution, the modest home with humble surroundings, the frugal fare, the monotonous round of toil, only relieved by the newspaper, the magazine or the occasional lecture, devoted perhaps to telling him how miserable he is; set over against the stately mansion and the luxuries of his employer, the trip to Europe, the season at Saratoga, the refined and elevating associations of wealth, intellect and culture, within whose charmed circle he,
republican as he is, dares not so much as set his foot-all stir the pride of the workingman, hurt his vanity, plant the seed of bitter thought, and if he have longings for better things—and who has not, through his morbid imagination convert the man on whom he is dependent for his daily bread into an enemy who stands between him and fortune. It is not strange therefore, remembering what human nature is, reason being laid aside and taking counsel of his passions, that he should attempt, by an act of short-sighted injustice, to share his employer's profits. A good indication of the rate of profit is the current rate of interest. Taking one year with another, through a series of years, and comparing the different sections of the country with each other, 10 per cent will be found to be the average of interest for the use of money. Every man, then, who embarks in business, has a reasonable expectation of realizing a profit of 10 per cent on his venture, whether he does so or not. What the economists call the effective desire of accumulation is perhaps as strongly characteristic of Americans as of any other people in the civilized world. And we have good ground for believing that American enterprise would be as intense and unremitting for a reward of 5 per cent as it is at present for a gain of double that amount. The great abundance of fertile and uncultivated land, the vast mineral resources of the country, manufacturers, anticipated railroads and telegraph lines, need much capital, both home and foreign, for their development and construction, making the contingency just hinted at an affair of the distant future. We may, there. fore, conclude that ten per cent profit, although not the ultimate minimum, is the minimum which for the present and for years to come will tempt the investment of capital in uncertain and hazardous undertakings. Now, manufacturing is just such an industry, involving large outlay, attended with much risk, owing to bad sales, slow sales, the precariousness of labor, failing often when most needed—and above all, subjected to the losses incident to a competition always eager and frequently unscrupulous. The capitalist would scarcely incur the perils of manufacturing without some assurance of the current rate of profit, and that pledge is given him by the Government in the shape of protection against foreign competition. But the burden of augmented wages, in this case, must fall either upon the consumer or upon the employer. If upon the consumer, consumption will fall off in proportion to the enhanced price of the manufactured article, or, what is more likely, the effect will be to open the door wide to foreign competition, the very thing sought to be prevented by the imposition of exorbitant duties. If upon the employer, his usual profit must be sacrificed to the clamorous exactions of the em. ployed, a performance certain, instead of benefiting the laborer, to terminate disastrously to him; for no man, disturbed by apprehensions of constantly-diminishing profits, would long continue his capital in the business of manufacturing, especially when he might engage it in pursuits less exposed to the humors of a capricious humanity. Thus we see capital and labor brought together upon terms of a hard bargain, a union which promises no hope of permanent peace; we see that the conditions of modern industry require the substitution of machinery for hand-labor, allowing a 'gradually-impaired portion of capital for the subsistence of an
unchecked population, and that trades-unions oppose an ineffectual barrier to the triumph of poverty, at once the result and the shame of our boasted civilization. We see, too, the anomalous and contradictory position of government, how, in mediating between capital and labor, it is guilty of a political wrong in surpassing the limits of its strictly defined. duties; how it is guilty of an economic wrong, in arbitrarily fixing the rate of profits, and just as arbitrarily fixing the rate of wages; and how it is guilty of a moral wrong-violating the foundation principle of our social life-in taxing the many consumers to support the few producers, and afterwards in taxing the manufacturing class, in order to forward the interests of the laboring class. The truth is, our labor system is an irreconcilable conflict, not to be tranquilized by appeals to the law of supply and demand, nor by the expedients of government or trades-unions, and the sooner the people understand it the better-the better for their material interest, and the better for their stake in the perpetuity of free institutions. The idea of free government is repugnant to a régime of capital and labor, resting on supply and demand the inevitable outcome of which is a few rich and many poor. The blight consequent on the extremes of great wealth and abject poverty, the curse and disgrace of older communities, is sure, unless some way be found out of this business, to settle down on our people, and at the last destroy the happy balance between personal freedom and civil authority. And this is what I meant in saying a while ago that I had no objection to industrial progress, but that I did object to the relation in which at present the workingman stands to it.
He then concluded this branch of his subject by saying that the only way to redeem the workingman from the bondage of laboring for daily wages and forever driving the debate between capital and labor from the arena of politics was through co-operation.
DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER INSTRUCTION.
First Day's Proceedings.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 1877. The Department met at 12 M,, in the lower room of Liederkranz Hall. In the absence of President D. C. GILMAN, LL. D., President of the JohnsHopkins University, the Vice-President, Prof. Eli T. Tappan, of Kenyon College, Ohio, presided.
Prof. Wn. LEROY BROUN, LL. D., of Vanderbilt University, read the following paper, on
THE ELECTIVE SYSTEM. Dr. WAYLAND said, in an address delivered some years ago at Union College, “ Our system of instruction has been for centuries the child of authority and precedent. If those before us made it what it is by apply. ing to it the resources of earnest thought, I can see no reason why we by pursuing the same course might not improve it.
God intended us for progress, and we counteract His design when we deify antiquity and bow down and worship an opinion, not because it is either wise or true but merely because it is ancient."
In the comparison of the merits of different systems of instruction there can result only good, especially when we remember with WAYLAND, that as those before us made it what it is by earnest thought, it becomes our duty by equal earnestness to improve that which we have inherited. To admit we cannot improve the traditional met handed down to us is, in blindly following the authority of the past, to confess our inferiority and our unworthiness of the age in which we live. It is our privilege to add our own experience to the combined experience of the past, and thus in making a larger induction to arrive at more perfect methods.
Under the sanction of authority long venerated, every college student, under the restrictive system, follows the well-known macadamized road that was graded through the field of human knowledge years ago, and sometimes so carefully graded as to avoid difficult ascents, when the horizon was less extended than at present. Now in modern days when the field of human knowledge has been so extended and the dark forests of ignorance felled by the hand of science, it is worthy of examination to see if,—not obstructing the old honored road, but rather improving it,-we cannot also in the enlarged view now afforded discover a new pathway whose advantages shall be in all respects equal if not superior to those of the old.
It is very true that to the culture given by the old college curriculum, we are largely indebted for much that we have had in the past, and have now, that is excellent in oratory and literature. Yet, it is no less true that a mind, stored with that knowledge alone that was known to our fathers, is not educated in all that is requisite for modern life. As has been said, something more is needed than the Roman short-sword and Grecian shield to contend with the artillery of modern science.
It is eminently true of education that there must be an adaptation, a fitness of its character to the wants of the society for which it is intended. It must be adapted not to a limited portion of society, but to meet all its varied demands, not to the so-called learned professions only, but to all the varied avocations of life. It is a general principle, true also in matters of education, that there must exist an adaptation of the organism to its environment. This principle does not retard progressive development and compel an institution to follow in the wake of public opinion, by endeavoring to adapt itself thereto; for in education the laws of political economy are reversed, the supply is antecedent to and creates the demand.
But society with its varied wants, not the individual, is the environment to which our schools and colleges, constituting the organism of education, must be adapted. The wants of society are not those of the individual. This principle is comprehensive, and from it arises the demand for classical as well as for scientific education.
If the question is what is that education best adapted to that state of society, when accumulated wealth, representing the potential energy of former generations, gives the requisite leisure for the enjoyment of culture, we would advocate that excess of the humanities regarded by LOCKE as eminently adapted to fit one for the profession of a gentleman. But if it be what is that education of most worth to the individual, what demanded by the enlarged boundaries of human knowledge, what best adapted for those whose first care will be to provide for the physical necessities of life, what in harmony with the progressive spirit of this nineteenth century, we would advocate a large infusion of the physical sciences, so large that there might be an imbibition, or thorough absorption of scientific method and scientific energy.
It is this growth of modern science that has rendered necessary a change in our system of collegiate education. Yet it is not on the ground of socalled practical education but on that of mental discipline that the claims of science-education to at least an equality, with that of the classics, should be presented.
The characteristic discipline of the study of science is to habituate the mind to accuracy of thought by the constant effort to visualize the conception, and hence to accuracy of expression; to form habits of inductive thought, to show the little worth of an isolated fact, and to give habits of self-reliance by cultivating independence of thought. It is eminently science-training that constitutes the “euphrasy and rue by which the mental vision is purged of all prejudgments and is taught to love truth rather than victory.
Authority in science has little weight, opinions are valuable only so far as they represent generalizations of observed phenomena. It is the discipline of science that cultivates the faculty of accurate observation, not