« PreviousContinue »
Run, and a lot of those same people who a fortnight before had been yelling “On to Richmond at once," turned around and said the war was over. All the hysteric brotherhood said so. But you did n't think so. The war was not over. It was not over for three years and nine months, and then it was over the other way.
And you got it over by setting your faces steadily toward the goal, by not relying upon anything impossible, but by each doing everything possible that came in his line to do, by each man doing his duty. You did not win by any patent device; you won by the generalship of Grant and Sherman and Thomas and Sheridan, and, above all, by the soldiership of the men who carried the muskets and the sabres. It did not come as quick as you wanted, and the men who said it would come at once did not help you much either.
In dealing with any great problem in civil life, be it the trusts or anything else, you are going to get along in just about the same fashion. There is not any patent remedy for all the ills. All we can do is to make up our minds definitely that we intend to find some method by which we shall be able to tell, in the first place, what are the real evils and what of the alleged evils are imaginary; in the next place, what of those real evils it is possible to cure by legislation, and then to cure them by legislation and by an honest administration of the laws after they have been enacted. That statement of the problem will never be attractive to the man who thinks that somehow, by turning your hand, you are going to get a complete solution at once.
Grant's plan of fighting it out on that line, if it took all summer, was not attractive to the men who wanted it done in a week. But it was the only plan that won. The only way we can ever work out even an approximately satisfactory solution of these great industrial problems, of which this so-called problem of the trusts is but
one, is by approaching them in a spirit which shall combine equally sanity and self-restraint on the one hand and resolute purpose on the other.
It is not given to me or to any one else to promise a perfect solution. It is not given to me or to any one else to promise you even an approximately perfect solution in a short time. But I think that we can work out a very great improvement over the present conditions, and the steps taken must, I am sure, be along these lines—along the lines, in the first place, of getting power somewhere so that we shall be able to say, the nation has power, let it use that power—and not as it is at present, where it is out of the question to say exactly where the power is.
We must get power first, then use that power fearlessly, but with moderation. Let me say that again — with moderation, with sanity, with self-restraint. The mechanism of modern business is altogether too delicate and too complicated for us to sanction for one moment any intermeddling with it in a spirit of ignorance, above all in a spirit of rancor. Something can be done, something is being done now. Much more can be done if our people resolutely but temperately will that it shall be done. But the certain way of bringing greatest harm upon ourselves, without in any way furthering the solution of the problem, but, on the contrary, deferring indefinitely its proper solution, would be to act in a spirit of ignorance, of violence, of rancor, in a spirit which would make us tear down the temple of industry in which we live because we are not satisfied with some of the details of its management.
I want you to think of what I have said, because it represents all of the sincerity and earnestness that I have, and I say to you here, from this platform, nothing that I have not already stated in effect, and nothing I would not say at a private table with any of the biggest corporation managers in the land.
AT WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA, SEPTEMBER 6,
My friends and fellow-citizens :
It is a pleasure to come here to your city. I wish to thank the Mayor, and through the Mayor all of your citizens, for the way in which, upon your behalf, he has greeted me; and I wish to state that it is a special pleasure to be introduced by my friend, Senator Scott. I have known the Senator for some time, and I like him, because when he gives you his word you don't have to think about it again.
I am glad to have the chance of saying a few words here in this great industrial centre in one of those regions which have felt to a notable degree the effects of the period of prosperity through which we are now passing. Probably never before in our history has the country been more prosperous than it is at this moment; and it is a prosperity which has come alike to the tillers of the soil and to those connected with our great industrial enterprises.
Every period has its own troubles and difficulties. A period of adversity, of course, troubles us all; but there are troubles in connection with a period of prosperity also. When all things flourish it means that there is a good chance for things that we don't like to flourish also, just exactly as for things that we do like. A period of great national material well-being is inevitably one in which men's minds are turned to the way in which those flourish
who are interested in the management of the gigantic capitalistic corporations, whose growth has been so noted a feature of the last half-century—the corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts—accepting the word in its usual and common significance as a big corporation usually doing business in several States at least, besides the State in which it is incorporated, and often, though not always, with some element of monopoly in it.
It seems to me that in dealing with this problem of the trusts perhaps it would be more accurate to say the group of problems which come into our minds when we think of the trusts—we have two classes of our fellowcitizens whom we have to convert or override. One is composed of those men who refuse to admit that there is any action necessary at all. The other is composed of those men who advocate some action so extreme, so foolish, that it would either be entirely non-effective or, if effective, would be so only by destroying everything, good and bad, connected with our industrial development.
In every governmental process the aim that a people capable of self-government should steadfastly keep in mind is to proceed by evolution rather than revolution. On the other hand, every people fit for self-government must beware of that fossilization of mind which refuses to allow of any change as conditions change. Now, in dealing with the whole problem of the change in our great industrial civilization - in dealing with the tendencies which have been accentuated in so extraordinary a de. gree by steam and electricity and by the tremendous upbuilding of industrial centres which steam and electricity have been the main factors in bringing about-I think we must set before ourselves the desire not to accept less than the possible, and at the same time not to bring ourselves to a complete standstill by attempting the impossible. It is a good deal as it is in taking care, through
the engineers, of the lower Mississippi River.
No one can dam the Mississippi. If the nation started to dam it, the nation would waste its time. It would not hurt the Mississippi, but it would not only throw away its own means, but would incidentally damage the population along the banks. You can't dam the current. You can build levees to keep the current within bounds and to shape its direction. I think that is exactly what we can do in connection with these great corporations known as trusts. We cannot reverse the industrial tendency of the age. If you succeed in doing it, then all cities like Wheeling will have to go out of business. Remember that. You cannot put a stop to or reverse the industrial tendencies of the age, but you can control and regulate them and see that they do no harm.
A flood comes down the Mississippi-you can't stop it. If you tried to build a dam across it, it would not hurt the flood, and it would not benefit you. You can guide it between levees so as to prevent its doing injury, and so as to insure its doing good. Another thing; you don't build those levees in a day or in a month. A man who told you that he had a patent device by which in sixty days he would solve the whole question of the floods along the lower Mississippi would not be a wise man; but he would be a perfect miracle of wisdom compared to the man who tells you that by any one patent remedy he can bring the millennium in our industrial and social affairs.
We can do something; I believe we can do a good deal, but our accomplishing what I expect to see accomplished is conditioned upon our setting to work in a spirit as far removed as possible from hysteria - a spirit of sober, steadfast, kindly-I want to emphasize that--kindly determination not to submit to wrong ourselves and not to wrong others, not to interfere with the great business development of the country, and at the same time so to