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and have kept out of the penitentiary in spite of the means they have adopted to acquire it, of more than one half of the entire accumulated wealth of the country.
That is not the worst, Mr. President. It has been chiefly acquired by men who have contributed little to the material welfare of the country, and by processes that I do not care in appropriate terms to describe; by the wrecking of the fortunes of innocent men, women, and children; by jugglery, by book-keeping, by financiering, by what the senator from Ohio calls speculation,”—and this
process is going on with frightful and constantly accelerating rapidity.
The entire industry of this country is passing under the control of organized and confederated capital. More than fifty of the necessaries of life to-day, without which the cabin of the farmer and the miner cannot be lighted, or his children fed or clothed, have passed absolutely under the control of syndicates and trusts and corporations composed of speculators, and, by means of these combinations and confederations, competition is destroyed; small dealings are rendered impossible; competence can no longer be acquired, for it is superfluous and unnecessary to say that if, under a system where the accumulations distributed per capita would be less than a thousand dollars, 31,000 obtained possession of more than half of the accumulated wealth of the country, it is impossible that others should have a competence or an independence.
So it happens, Mr. President, that our society is becoming rapidly stratified-almost hopelessly stratified-into the condition of superfluously rich and helplessly poor. accustomed to speak of this as the land of the free and the home of the brave. It will soon be the home of the rich and the land of the slave.
We point to Great Britain and we denounce aristocracy, and privileged and titled classes and landed estates. We thought, when we had abolished primogeniture and entail, that we had forever forbidden and prevented these enormous and dangerous accumulations; but, sir, we had forgotten that capital could combine; we were unaware of the yet undeveloped capacity of corporations; and so, as I say, it happens upon
the threshold and in the vestibule of our second century, with all its magnificent record behind us, with this tremendous achievement in the way of wealth, population, invention, opportunity for happiness, we are in a condition compared with which the accumulated fortunes of Great Britain are puerile and insignificant.
It is no wonder, Mr. President, that the laboring, industrial, and agricultural classes, who have been made intelligent under the impulse of universal education, have at last awakened to this tremendous condition and are inquiring whether or not this experiment has been successful. And, sir, the speculators must beware. They have forgotten that the conditions, political and social, here are not a reproduction of the conditions under which these circumstances exist in other lands. Here is no dynasty; here is no privilege or caste or prerogative; here are no standing armies; here are no hereditary bondsmen, but every atom in our political system is quick, instinct, and endowed with life and power.
His ballot at the box is the equivalent of the ballot of the richest speculator. Thomas Jefferson, the great apostle of modern democracy, taught the lesson to his followers-and they have profited well by his instruction—that under a popular democratic representative government wealth, culture, intelligence were ultimately no match for numbers.
Orations. Vol. 22–19
The numbers in this country, Mr. President, have learned at last the power of combination, and the speculators should not forget that, while the people of this country are generous and just, they are jealous also, and that, when discontent changes to resentment, and resentment passes into exasperation, one volume of a nation's history is closed and another will be opened.
The speculators, Mr. President! The cotton product of this country, I believe, is about 6,000,000 bales.
[Mr. Butler: Seven million bales.]
Seven million bales, I am told. The transactions of the New York Cotton Exchange are 40,000,000 bales, representing transactions speculative, profitable, remunerative, by which some of these great accumulations have been piled up, an inconceivable burden upon the energies and industries of the country.
The production of coal oil, I believe, in this country has averaged something like 20,000,000 barrels a year. The transactions of the New York Petroleum Exchange year by year average 2,000,000,000 barrels, fictitious, simulated, the instruments of the gambler and the speculator, by means of which, through an impost upon the toil and labor and industry of every laborer engaged in the production of petroleum, additional difficulties are imposed.
It is reported that the coal alone that is mined in Pennsylvania, indispensable to the comfort of millions of men, amounts in its annual product to about $40,000,000 of which one third is profit over and above the cost of production and a fair return for the capital invested.
That is “speculation,” Mr. President, and every dollar over and above the cost of production, with a fair return upon the capital invested, every dollar of that fifteen or six
teen millions is filched, robbed, violently plundered out of the earnings of the laborers and operatives and farmers who are compelled to buy it; and yet it goes by the euphemistic name of “speculation," and is declared to be legitimate; it is eulogized and defended as one of those practices that is entitled to respect and approbation.
Nor is this all, Mr. President. The hostility between the employers and the employed in this country is becoming vindictive and permanently malevolent. Labor and capital are in two hostile camps to-day. Lockouts and strikes and labor difficulties have become practically the normal condition of our system, and it is estimated that during the year that has just closed, in consequence of these disorders, in consequence of this hostility and this warfare, the actual loss in labor, in wages, in the destruction of perishable commodities by the interruption of railway traffic, has not been less than $300,000,000.
Mr. President, this is a serious problem. It may well engage the attention of the representatives of the States and of the American people. I have no sympathy with that school of political economists which teaches that there is an irreconcilable conflict between labor and capital, and which demands indiscriminate, hostile, and repressive legislation against men because they are rich, and corporations because they are strong. Labor and capital should not be antagonists, but allies rather. They should not be opponents and enemies, but colleagues and auxiliaries whose co-operating rivalry is essential to national prosperity. But I cannot forbear to affirm that a political system under which such des: potic power can be wrested from the people and vested in a few is a democracy only in name.
A financial system under which more than half of the
enormous wealth of the country, derived from the bounty of nature and the labor of all, is owned by a little more than thirty thousand people, while one million American citizens able and willing to toil are homeless tramps, starving for bread, requires readjustment.
A social system which offers to tender, virtuous, and dependent women the alternative between prostitution and suicide as an escape from beggary is organized crime for which some day unrelenting justice will demand atonement and expiation.
Mr. President, the man who loves his country and the man who studies her history will search in vain for any natural cause for this appalling condition. The earth has not forgotten to yield her increase. There has been no general failure of harvests. We have'had benignant skies and the early and the latter rain. Neither famine nor pestilence has decimated our population or wasted its energies. Immigration is flowing in from every land, and we are in the lusty prime of national youth and strength, with unexampled resources and every stimulus to their development; but, sir, the great body of the American people are engaged to-day in studying these problems that I have suggested in this morning hour. They are disheartened with misfortunes. They are weary with unrequited toil. They are tired of the exactions of the speculators. They desire peace and rest. They are turning their attention to the great industrial questions which underlie their material prosperity.
osperity. They are indifferent to party. They care nothing for Republicanism nor for Democracy as such. They are ready to say, “A plague on both your houses,” and they are ready also, Mr. President, to hail and to welcome any organization, any measure, any leader that promises them relief from the profitless strife of politi