Page images

acquaintance were just as anxious to defeat the law, in order that they might make profit, as was the Ohio Oil Company. The attempt to defeat the law was due to the fact that business has come to be looked upon as superior to any other right, and in our devotion to business we have lost sight of the rights and interests of the people.

The social distress in our cities, our States and uation to-day can he clearly traced to our dishonest business melhods. It is not corrript politicians that have brought disaster so much as corrupt business men. The methods of business have gotten into our politics, and business, through every conceivable form of bribery and appeal to the vilest and lowest passions of human life—the passion of selfishness particularly-has made us worshippers of the god of success, with the result that we have à country in which a few people are wealthy, a few are in what may be called circumstances of reasonable comfort, the masses are on the verge of poverty, and millions are in absolute pauperism. It is said that two and a half million in the State of New York were the recipients of the nine millions of charity distributed in that State last year. According to Spabr's tables of the distribution of wealth in the United States, one-half of the people of our country own absolutely nothing, one-eighth of the population own seven-eighths of the wealth, and one per cent. of the people own 55 per cent. of the wealth. In a country that is rich beyond the dreams of avarice, we are confronted by this appalling conditioii. Our wealth is in the hands of a few people, and this result is the consequence of an endeavor to carry on the public work of the city, State and nation for the benefit of a few persons instead of for the benefit of all the people.

Nothing that I have yet heard here or elsewhere has brought me to see that the policy of granting or selling public franchises is anything other than an assault upon the very foundations of democratic government itself, and, as a matter of fact, it is only when we are sunken so low in public morality as to be unworthy to be called citizens that we are willing to make profit at the expense of our fellow-men. I have already pointed to the fact that the profits of the street railway magnates-the silks and satins and lace curtains and lambrequins and the multiplicity of sofa pillows of their wives and daughters, are purchiased with the hard-earned nickels of the toiling washerwoman, and certainly my intelligent conception of right social relativns would lead every one of these to spurn the thought of living in luxury purchased at such a price. But our attention has not been called to these things; our attention has been called to the "successful man.” Press and pulpit, public school and college, throughout the land have sounded the praise of the individual whose only claim to distinction lies in the fact that he has placed the city, State or nation under tribute to himself, and this man, who has been changed from å being created in the image of God into a monster of greed and rapacity, is just what we have made him by the processes I have just described.

The trust, the combine, the monopoly, are all legitimate products

of the same wrong system, and the futile and abortive effort of our public officials to get results from laws made to regulate, restrain and coutrol trusts, is a striking illustration of the folly of our method of procedure. We have built up a social system in which we have assumed that it was possible all might succeed, when the very success of a few is dependent upon, and can only come from, the failure of the mapy; and it is because I see that a suicidal policy of this kind can lead to nothing but “confusion worse confounded” that I protest against it.

I am not indulging in a phillipic against rich men, against trusts, combines, or monopolies. They are serving a useful purpose; they are teaching society the value of the economy of production. I point to all of these as legitimate products of a thing that we call present-day civilization. The folly of legislating against them may be easily understood when we reflect that, almost without exception, our antagonisms against trusts, combines or monopolies lie in the thought that we ourselves are not in it; once let us became sharers or partakers in the public plunder and our opposition vanishes. The reason for this is found in the fact that our opposition does not rest upon a pure basis of morality; but we are rapidly coming to see that the chances for the many to become partakers in this sort of wealth are so very linited that great masses are made moral perforce-moral because of the absolute inability to be immoral, or to become partakers of the fruits of other people's toil.

It is remarkable how rapidly the public mind is clarifying upon this question. Through close personal contact with biting poverty, the great masses of the disinherited are coming to see that, notwithstanding our oft-repeated boasts about the "wealth of the nation," the only wealth they have any share in is the Commonwealth. Though they tramp thousands of miles daily through the streets of our cities, either because they have not or cannot afford to spend the precious nickel to ride, they are still able to understand that the public streets are theirs, are common property; they may walk in them in their weary and hopeless march for the right that is inherent in every man, but which we are to-day denying to millions—that is, the right to work, the right to share in the creative effort going on about them, the right to participate in building and making a country that they are asked and expected to, and want to, love. These millions are coming to understand the source of their misery, the cause of their distress. They are coming to see that our policy of granting special privileges in the way of public franchises, contracts, and unusual opportunities for profit getting to a few, is inevitably making paupers of the many, and our only salvation from the strain of the present hour is to cease our policy of ex. ploiting all of the people for the sake of enriching the few, and to establish in its stead the purely democratic policy iu government of considering the interest of all the people as always ahead of, and superior to, the rights of any individual or set of individuals..

Henry D. Lloyd says that “wealth will remain a secret unguessed by business until it has reincorporated itself under the new law which counts as the property of each one the total of all the possessions of all of the neighbors.” This is a truth that those of who seek to solve the problem of municipal government must admit; and, further, we must set ourselves to bringing about the realization of this truth and the task of formulating it into law, so that it may have free expression in the life of our municipalities, if we are to take our place among the first of the nations of the earth. Our producers and our toilers are laden with heavy burdens; they are becoming exhausted through this press of ceaseless tribute to the profit-gatherers, and this is what has produced the anomalous distribution of wealth to which our attention has been called. It is transferred by the trickery of business from he ha ds of those who produced it into the possession of those who “toiled not, neither do they spin.” The poison root of this whole system is found in the idea of giving, granting, or selling public franchises, and closely akin to this infamy is the other iniquity of the contract system, that is a continual poison in the life of our municipalities. It is the principle that is wrong. The trouble does not arise from corrupt officials. In my short experience in public life I have learned some valuable lessons; one is that public officials are not as corrupt as they are popularly supposed to be; the second is that business is the poison that comes into the life of the public officials and seeks to corrupt it. is to somebody's business interest to get a contract; it is to somebody's business interest to get a franchise or extension of one, and the methods of business are too well known to call for any comment at my hands. While there are honorable exceptions to the rule, we know that the purpose of business is to get the advantage. The whole idea that inspires our business life is that the good business men shall get something that no other man can get and therehy possess a monopoly.

I mention this fact that we may have clearly before our minds that we will mend our system only as we mend our morals and we will riot permanently mend our system until we adopt as a principle, instead of the idea of a system that purposes to enrich a few people at the expense of the many—the system of collective ownership for every form of public utility, municipal, State or national, wherein all these heritages of the people shall be operated by and for the benefit of all of the people.

During the anti-slavery days there were many kind-hearted and worthy men who were slave owners; they sought by various systems of checks and balances to eliminate the evil from slavery; some of them by special kindness to their slaves, making provision for sickness and old age; and others by coercive legislation compelling slave owners to deal thus and so; but all this did not relieve us of the evils of slavery. The trouble was with the institution itself, and not until the foud blot of human slavery was wiped from statute books by the Emancipa

tion Proclamation did we begin to get rid of the evils of an infamy whose effects still curse our civilization. We must deal with the question of municipal franchises just as we dealt with the slavery ques tion. The giving or granting of municipal franchise or special privilege upon any terms seeks to perpetuate our bondage. It is slavery of a different kind, but slavery none the less, and slavery that, if not discontinued, will disintegrate the very structure of government itself. Already the people have manifested an unwearied patience. Calmly have the toilers submitted to exploitation at the hands of the profit gatherers, and with longing eyes and eager hearts they are turning their attention to us, who essay to be their leaders, for relief from their burdens.

I know of no better way for this League to study the municipal problem than for it to adjourn, and go in a body to tbe City Hall, where we will come face to face with the municipal problem as Mayor Taggart sees it, and as every other city official in this and every large city of our country sees it day after day. It is the problem of the unemployed. I was there yesterday morning, and I saw the same sights that I see in my own city, that are duplicated in the corridors and public offices of every city in our country. Scores of hungry-looking men upon whose faces are plainly written the lines of hopeless despair. And what special privilege or grant or franchise do they ask? Only the privilege that is, as I have already said, the inherent right of every man—the right to work. When this right is once secured and the place where a man may work is as easily found as the place where a man may vote, our problems will be solved, for this is our municipal problem. It is our State problem. It is our national problem. Of infinitely more importance to the people than the question of national finance or revenue, or even of our foreign policy and what to do with the Philippines. When the right to work is as well established as the right to vote, the dream of democracy will he realized. Democracy has not failed. Like Christianity, it has not yet been tried. We must first know what it is before we can begin to practice it. Let us take Walt Whitman's conception as the ideal towards which we will strive.

“I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy. By God, I will have nothing that all cannot have their counterpart of, on equal terms."

I hail with delight the signs that I discern that the long night of bondage is passing away. The morning, when liberty shall be proclaimed throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof, is dawning. I see it in a score of unmistakable signs. The discontent and unrest of the great masses with the conditions that I have but faintly de scribed is a promising sign of the hetter day. To be contented with social conditions that threaten the overthrow of the Republic itself would be blasphemy against Almighty God, as well as treason to the Republic.

The municipality is the nucleus of government. The State and the pation look to the municipality for their ideal. Let those of us who have a conception of a loftier and better patriotism sound the keynote of a new municipal program that shall proclaim emancipation to the enslaved people who are to-day the mere tools of the profit gatherers. Let us announce the purpose of municipal government to be that of ministering in every possible way to the social needs of the people of the municipality, and let us proclaim as an unalterable principle toward that end, public ownership of all public utilities. No grant or extension of municipal franchise. No special privilege to any man or set of men under the sun to exploit the people for the sake of enriching the few.

THE CHAIRMAN: The discussion will be continued by Lucius B. Swift, Esq., of Indianapolis.

Mr. Swift delivered the following remarks:

ADDRESS OF LUCIUS B. SWIFT. When I rashly accepted an invitation to discuss this question I did not think the typewriter was to be such a factor in this discussion until it was too late for me to prepare my paper.

I have never belonged to those who believe that the world is going to the bow-wows; I think the world is a better place to live in 10-day than ever was before; and I think it is going to be better in the future than it is now. I do not quite subscribe to the doctrine that the rich are going to gobble up all of the good things in this world; I bave seen too many men in this town who have worked by the day, starting without a dollar, build and pay for their own homes. I know literally hundreds of workmen in and about this town who have done that; and I want to say that they do not go to the City Hall for a job, although they are often out of work. I am afraid that the gentleman who spoke last has been somewhat misled. I have seen the gathering in the basement of the Court House, and I think I can safely say that they are composed of "the boys,” hoping to get an easy job at the expense of the city; and I can also safely say, judging the future by the past, that they are likely, sooner or later, to succeed.

I am one of those who are squarely on the side of the public operation of franchises. I range myself on this side because I recognize the trend of the times; the world is going that way. I aiso put myself on this side for a second and more immediately beneficial reason--because of the great public benefit which will result from it.

In this city we had a street railroad known as the "mule line” that was sold out for eleven hundred thousand dollars. The property was really worth nothing. The electric line was put in and then the railway was sold for thirty-two hundred thousand dollars and a fraction. Now the property was worth at that time probably two million dollars; the present company issued stock to the amount of five million dollars,

« PreviousContinue »