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AT THE STATE FAIR, SYRACUSE, N. Y.,
SEPTEMBER 7, 1903
Governor Higgins ; my fellow-citizens :
In speaking on Labor Day at the annual fair of the New York State Agricultural Association, it is natural to keep especially in mind the two bodies who compose the majority of our people and upon whose welfare depends the welfare of the entire State. If circumstances are such that thrift, energy, industry, and forethought enable the farmer, the tiller of the soil, on the one hand, and the wage worker, on the other, to keep themselves, their wives, and their children in reasonable comfort, then the State is well off, and we can be assured that the other classes in the community will likewise prosper. On the other hand, if there is in the long run a lack of prosperity among the two classes named, then all other prosperity is sure to be more seeming than real. It has been our profound good fortune as a nation that hitherto, disregarding exceptional periods of depression and the normal and inevitable fluctuations, there has been, on the whole, from the beginning of our Government to the present day a progressive betterment alike in the condition of the tiller of the soil and in the condition of the man who, by his manual skill and labor, supports himself and his family, and endeavors to bring up his children so that they may be at least as well off as, and if possible better off than, he himself has been. There are, of course, exceptions,
but as a whole the standard of living among the farmers of our country has risen from generation to generation, and the wealth represented on the farms has steadily increased, while the wages of labor have likewise risen, both as regards the actual money paid and as regards the purchasing power which that money represents.
Side by side with this increase in the prosperity of the wage worker and the tiller of the soil has gone on a great increase in prosperity among the business men and among certain classes of professional men; and the prosperity of these men has been partly the cause and partly the consequence of the prosperity of farmer and wage worker. It can not be too often repeated that in this country, in the long run, we all of us tend to go up or go down together. If the average of well-being is high, it means that the average wage worker, the average farmer, and the average business man are all alike 'well off. If the average shrinks, there is not one of these classes which will not feel the shrinkage. Of course there are always some men who are not affected by good times, just as there are some men who are not affected by bad times. But speaking broadly, it is true that if prosperity comes all of us tend to share more or less therein, and that if adversity comes each of us, to a greater or less extent, feels the tension. Unfortunately, in this world the innocent frequently find themselves obliged to pay some of the penalty for the misdeeds of the guilty; and so if hard times come, whether they be due to our own fault or to our misfortune; whether they be due to some burst of speculative frenzy that has caused a portion of the business world to lose its head-a loss which no legislation can possibly supply; or whether they be due to any lack of wisdom in a portion of the world of labor-in each case the trouble once started is felt more or less in every walk of life.
It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy
national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is, not to represent any special class and promote merely that class's selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes, and to work for their interests by working for our common country.
We can keep our Government on a sane and healthy basis, we can make and keep our social system what it should be, only on condition of judging each man, not as a member of a class, but on his worth as a man, It is an infamous thing in our American life, and fundamentally treacherous to our institutions, to apply to any man any test save that of his personal worth, or to draw between two sets of men any distinction save the distinction of conduct, the distinction that marks off those who do well and wisely from those who do ill and foolishly. There are good citizens and bad citizens in every class as in every locality, and the attitude of decent people toward great public and social questions should be determined, not by the accidental questions of employment or locality, but by those deep-set principles which represent the innermost souls of men.
The failure in public and in private life thus to treat each man on his own merits, the recognition of this Gov. ernment as being either for the poor as such or for the rich as such, would prove fatal to our Republic, as such failure and such recognition have always proved fatal in the past to other republics. A healthy republican government must rest upon individuals, not upon classes or sections. As soon as it becomes government by a class or by a section it departs from the old American ideal.
It is, of course, the merest truism to say that free in
stitutions are of avail only to people who possess the high and peculiar characteristics needed to take advantage of such institutions. The century that has just closed has witnessed many and lamentable instances in which people have seized a government free in form, or have had it bestowed upon them, and yet have permitted it under the forms of liberty to become some species of despotism or anarchy, because they did not have in them the power to make this seeming liberty one of deed instead of one merely of word. Under such circumstances the seeming liberty may be supplanted by a tyranny or despotism in the first place, or it may reach the road of despotism by the path of license and anarchy. It matters but little which road is taken. In either case the same goal is reached. People show themselves just as unfit for liberty whether they submit to anarchy or to tyranny; and class government, whether it be the government of a plutocracy or the government of a mob, is equally incompatible with the principles established in the days of Washington and perpetuated in the days of Lincoln.
Many qualities are needed by a people which would preserve the power of self-government in fact as well as in name. Among these qualities are forethought, shrewdness, self-restraint, the courage which refuses to abandon one's own rights, and the disinterested and kindly good sense which enables one to do justice to the rights of others. Lack of strength and lack of courage unfit men for self-government on the one hand; and on the other, brutal arrogance, envy,-in short, any manifestation of the spirit of selfish disregard, whether of one's own duties or of the rights of others, are equally fatal.
In the history of mankind many republics have risen, have flourished for a less or greater time, and then have fallen because their citizens lost the power of governing themselves and thereby of governing their state; and in no way has this loss of power been so often and so clearly
shown as in the tendency to turn the Government into a government primarily for the benefit of one class instead of a government for the benefit of the people as a whole.
Again and again in the republics of ancient Greece, in those of mediæval Italy and mediæval Flanders, this tendency was shown, and wherever the tendency became a habit it invariably and inevitably proved fatal to the State. In the final result it mattered not one whit whether the movement was in favor of one class or of another. The outcome was equally fatal, whether the country fell into the hands of a wealthy oligarchy which exploited the poor or whether it fell under the domination of a turbulent mob which plundered the rich. In both cases there resulted violent alternations between tyranny and disorder, and a final complete loss of liberty to all citizens—destruction in the end overtaking the class which had for the moment been victorious, as well as that which had momentarily been defeated. The death-knell of the Republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.
The reason why our future is assured lies in the fact that our people are genuinely skilled in and fitted for self-government and therefore will spurn the leadership of those who seek to excite this ferocious and foolish class antagonism. The average American knows not only that he himself intends to do about what is right, but that his average fellow-countryman has the same intention and the same power to make his intention effective. He knows, whether he be business man, professional man, farmer, mechanic, employer, or wage worker, that the welfare of each of these men is bound up with the welfare of all the others; that each is neighbor to the other, is actuated by the same hopes and fears, has fundamentally