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About Some Whales and Minnows
H. H. Broach
Taken from a reply made in a debate
All of us are more or less criminals, when you stop to reason it out; and I believe you will agree, as an attorney, that there is hardly a person in this hall but what at some time or another has committed some crime, as crime is generally understood, that would cause him to be sent to jail, if only the truth were known. About the only difference between any of us, is that some are caught, while others are not. That is all. Those in jail have simply been discovered, while we have not. Now that might sound shocking and wound the vanity of some of us; but it's about the only real distinction there is.
You know that people are not punished for what they do, but they are punished for getting caught at it. And it usually depends on what kind of a job you do, what kind of a crime you commit. If you are looked upon as a prominent citizen, if you are a "pillar of society" and occupy a front pew in the leading church, then your job of stealing, if it is big enough, is considered respectable, and that helps. But if you are just an ordinary person and have not learned how to do a worthwhile, respectable job of stealing and how to do it within the lawthen you must promptly join the “gang” and pay the price for your stupidity. Take the case of the poor fellow over in Wilmington, Delaware, who a few days ago didn't want to freeze, and so he got caught stealing 75 cents worth of coal from a railroad car, and was given fifteen lashes on his naked back and sent to prison for one year. Now the only difference between this poor, unthinking devil and the railroads, was that he did a lowdown, cheap job, while the railroads do a high-toned, expensive one in a more respectable way—in the refined fashion of bribing legislators and raising rates and getting their hands into the public treasury.
Or we might take the case of the soldier boy over in Chicago, who a couple of weeks ago got hungry and broke into a grocery store and helped himself, and was given ten years in prison. Now compare this case, and thousands of others like it, with the crimes committed by the profiteering wholesale grocery dealers of the nation. Or compare it with the recent crime committed by the coal operators, when in the dead of winter they took advantage of their positions and suddenly and unjustly raised the price of coal, thus sending thousands of babes to their graves and many of their parents to the prisons and insane asylums.
So you see it all depends on what kind of a criminal you are, whether you are just a little, cheap one, or whether you are a big one and have learned how to rob and gouge on a big scale and in the most respectable fashion. Now I do not attempt to justify the acts of the little criminals. I simply say that they have been more unfortunate in getting caught and in being punished than the big ones have; that the judicial nets are adjusted so as to catch the minnows and let the whales slip through; that most of the little ones who are in jail, are in because of conditions over which they have absolutely no control; that if given half a chance in life they would be just as good as anybody else; and I further say that the courts are not organized to promote, and do not promote justice.
If the courts, as my opponent says, were organized to promote, and did promote justice, then the little fellow would be provided with as smart a lawyer as the big one; he would be given as many detectives, stool-pigeons, policemen and other assistants to help defend him as are now used to convict him. He would be given just as fair and as long a trial as the "respectable" man of means. As it is now, all of us well know, as Clarence Darrow has pointed out, that the big fellow gets a trial of 15 to 20 days, sometimes much longer, and has every assistance at his beck and call; while the little one is usually lucky if he shows up with the cheapest kind of lawyer and gets 15 or 20 minutes. If he were given anything like an equal chance with the big fellow, his case would be taken to the appellant court when he was beaten, and if defeated there it would be carried to the State Supreme Court; and if again beaten, his case would be taken to the United States Supreme Court and he would be given an opportunity to die of old age before he reached prison.
But as things are, it's a pretty quick job for the average poor devil. He is almost known to be guilty before he faces the judge, and the officials have little or no time to fool with him, and so he is rushed on his way to join the company of the big army of other little "criminals" who had not learned how to be respectable and perform decent jobs of stealing.
So it will continue, so will the little “criminals” keep filling the jails and penitentiaries as long as the big criminals are permitted to control the resources of the country and wield such powerful influences over our law-making bodies and the courts, and bribe and dominate our public officials. Never will these shameful conditions be changed and corrected until we deal with the big criminals as well as the little ones, until men and women are given a fair chance in life, until the puppets of reaction are driven out of public office and the courts, and broad, honest men and women put in their places, until a new type of justice is enthroned in all the courts of our land.
H. H. Broach
From a short address to a group of
Men like to be flattered. They like to be told things they most want to hear, rather than things they most need to know. They like to be led to believe that they are something which they are not.
But I shall not attempt to flatter you and tell you that you are brainy men, for you know that I would be telling an untruth. I shall leave that to the quacks and office seekers. Rather I am going to speak plainly—even bluntly—and frankly tell you that there is a vast amount of ignorance in your ranks, and you must be broad enough to recognize and admit it.
There is always this difference between a sensible, useful man, and an ignorant, foolish man: The one is ignorant and knows it, while the other is ignorant and does not know it. And the thing that always marks out the sensible, useful man, his willingness to say, "I don't know, I don't know." This was the favorite remark of Socrates, the Greek philosopher, and perhaps the world's wisest man. And one of the unfailing signs of an ignorant, foolish man, one of the things that always stamps him out from the rest, is his ready desire to appear to know what he does not. He is always the cockiest and most egotistic, because he is the silliest and most ignorant. But he is always found out —to his disadvantage and sorrow.
It is very difficult to tell him anything, because he never made a mistake; he never lost an argument-and he will admit absolutely nothing. His ignorance will not permit him to, because he mistakes his ignorance for facts. So he is to be pitied -deeply pitied. It is only the humble-minded man that ever really learns—that can learn—and he does not become humbleminded until he begins to recognize his own limitations, until he begins to see that there is so much which he does not know, and until he becomes broad enough to frankly admit it.
Now most of you admire what we call head work. You pay dearly for it. You make your children study for it. You make your children study to display it. You send them to school for this purpose—to study—and yet you neglect to do the very thing that you insist upon your children doing.
Certainly you ought to be able to see the need of it without a week being set aside to remind you of it. The employer sees it.
He realizes the great value of it. He studies much of his time. He studies prices. He studies business conditions. He studies the market. He studies you. That explains why he is an employer and you an employee: it explains why you work for him instead of his working for you.
Now I well know that this kind of talk will probably not appeal to many of you. If it does, you are an exception—an exception because most men resent anything that disturbs their mental repose. They fight all mental effort. They don't want to be bothered; they want to be let alone.
It's so much easier for them to read about the doings of the Gumps, or to follow the antics of Spark Plug from day to day. They want pictures—something where the answer is always put before them without having to inquire about it, or to dig for it.
But if you are an exception, if you want to push yourselves forward and be of greater service and get the most out of life; if you want to know how you can be the most efficient, how you can make your strength count for the most, stop making wild guesses and take the trouble to inquire and investigate. When you do you will be taking the first step toward knowledge.
So start now to play square with your children. Do what you demand of them. Devote as much time as possible to study, to developing your minds and to educating yourselves in a sound way. As long as you are not too old to laugh, talk and play, you are not too old to study and learn.
Study and carefully weigh all sides to every question, and by all means stop, and stop now, reading the cheap fiction that lulls you to sleep and keeps you going around in a daze.