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TO THE BROTHERHOOD OF LOCOMOTIVE FIRE
MEN, CHATTANOOGA, TENN., SEPTEMBER
Mr. Grand Master, Governor McMillin, Mr. Mayor, my
brothers, men and women of Tennessee, my fellow
citizens : I am glad to be here to-day. I am glad to come as the guest of the Brotherhood. Let me join with you, the members of the Brotherhood of this country, in extending a most cordial welcome to our fellows from Canada and Mexico. The fact that we are good Americans only makes us all the better men, all the more desirous of seeing good fortune to all mankind. I needed no pressing to accept the invitation tendered through you, Mr. Hannahan, and through Mr. Arnold, to come to this meeting. I have always admired greatly the railroad men of the country, and I do not see how any one who believes in what I regard as the fundamental virtues of citizenship can fail to do so. I want to see the average American a good man, an honest man, and a man who can handle himself, and does handle himself, well under difficulties. The last time I ever saw General Sherman, I dined at his house, and we got to talking over the capacity of different types of soldiers, and the General happened to say that if ever there were another war, and he were to have a command, he should endeavor to get as many railway men as possible under him. I asked him why, and he said: "Because on
account of their profession they have developed certain qualities which are essential in a soldier.” In the first place, they are accustomed to taking risks. There are a great many men who are naturally brave, but who, being entirely unaccustomed to risks, are at first appalled by them. Railroad men are accustomed to enduring hardship; they are accustomed to irregular hours; they are accustomed to act on their own responsibility, on their own initiative, and yet they are acccustomed to obeying orders quick. There is not anything more soul-harrowing for a man in time of war, or for a man engaged in a difficult job in time of peace, than to give an order and have the gentleman addressed say “What?” The railroad man has to learn that when an order is issued there may be but a fraction of a second in which to obey it. He has to learn that orders are to be obeyed, and, on the other hand, that there will come plenty of crises in which there will be no orders to be obeyed, and he will have to act for himself.
Those are all qualities that go to the very essence of good soldiership, and I am not surprised at what General Sherman said. In raising my own regiment, which was raised mainly in the Southwest, partly in the Territory in which Mr. Sargent himself served as a soldier at one time -in Arizona, - I got a number of railroad men. Of course, the first requisite was that a man should know how to shoot and how to ride. We were raising the regiment in a hurry, and we did not have time to teach him, either. He had to know how to handle a horse and how to handle a rifle, to start with. But given the possession of those two qualities, I found that there was no group of our citizens from whom better men could be drawn to do a soldier's work in a tight place and at all times than the railroad men.
But, gentlemen, the period of war is but a fractional part of the life of our Republic, and I earnestly hope and
believe that it will be an even smaller part in the future than it has been in the past. It was the work that you have done in time of peace that especially attracted me to you, that made me anxious to come down here and see you, and that made me glad to speak to you, not for what I can tell you, but for the lesson it seems to me can be gained by all of our people from what you have done.
At the opening of the twentieth century we face conditions vastly changed from what they were in this country and throughout the world a century ago. Our complex industrial civilization under which progress has been so rapid, and in which the changes for good have been so great, has also inevitably seen the growth of certain tendencies that are not for good, or at least that are not wholly for good; and we in consequence, as a people, like the rest of civilized mankind, find set before us for solution during the coming century problems which need the best thought of all of us, and the most earnest desire of all to solve them well if we expect to work out a solution satisfactory to our people, a solution for the advantage of the nation. In facing these problems, it must be a comfort to every well-wisher of the nation to see what has been done by your organization. I believe emphatically in organized labor. I believe in organizations of wage-workers. Organization is one of the laws of our social and economic development at this time. But I feel that we must always keep before our minds the fact that there is nothing sacred in the name itself. To call an organization an organization does not make it a good
The worth of an organization depends upon its being handled with the courage, the skill, the wisdom, the spirit of fair dealing as between man and man, and the wise self-restraint which, I am glad to be able to say, your Brotherhood has shown. You now number close upon 44,000 members. During the two years ending
June 30th last you paid in to the general and beneficiary funds close upon a million and a half dollars. More than six and one-half millions have been paid in since the starting of the insurance clause in the Constitution-have been paid to disabled members and their beneficiaries. Over fifty per cent. of the amount paid was paid on account of accidents. Gentlemen, that is a sufficient commentary upon the kind of profession which is yours. You face death and danger in time of peace, as in time of war the men wearing Uncle Sam's uniform must face them.
Your work is hard. Do you suppose I mention that because I pity you? No; not a bit. I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does n't work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being. The law of worthy work well done is the law of successful American life. I believe in play, too-play, and play hard while you play; but don't make the mistake of thinking that that is the main thing. The work is what counts, and if a man does his work well and it is worth doing, then it matters but little in which line that work is done; the man is a good American citizen. If he does his work in slipshod fashion, then no matter what kind of work it is, he is a poor American citizen.
I speak to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, but what I say applies to all railroad men—not only to the engineers who have served an apprenticeship as firemen, to the conductors, who, as a rule, have served an apprenticeship as brakemen, but to all the men of all the organizations connected with railroad work. I know you do not grudge my saying that, through you, I am talking to all the railroad men of the country. You, in your organization as railroad men, have taught two lessons: the lesson of how much can be accomplished by organization, by mutual self-help of the type that helps another in the only way by which, in the long run, a man who is
a full-grown man really can be helped--that is, by teaching him to help himself. You teach the benefits of organization, and you also teach the indispensable need of keeping absolutely unimpaired the faculty of individual initiative, the faculty by which each man brings himself to the highest point of perfection by exercising the special qualities with which he is himself endowed. The Brotherhood has developed to this enormous extent since the days, now many years ago, when the first little band came together; and it has developed, not by crushing out individual initiative, but by developing it, by combining many individual initiatives.
The Brotherhood of Firemen does much for all firemen, but I firmly believe that the individual fireman, since the growth of the Brotherhood has been more, not less, efficient than he was twenty years ago. Membership in the Brotherhood comes, as I understand it, after a nine months' probationary period; after a man has shown his worth, he is then admitted and stands on his footing as a brother. Now, any man who enters with the purpose of letting the Brotherhood carry him is not worth much. The man who counts in the Brotherhood is the man who pulls his own weight and a little more. Much can be done by the Brotherhood. I have just hinted, in the general figures I gave you, at how much has been done, but it still remains true in the Brotherhood, and everywhere else throughout American life, that in the last resort nothing can supply the place of the man's own individual qualities. We need those, no matter how perfect the organization is outside. There is just as much need of nerve, hardihood, power to face risks and accept responsibilities, in the engineer and the fireman, whether on a flyer or a freight train, now as there ever was. Much can be done by the Association. A great deal can be accomplished by working each for all and all for each; but we must not forget that the first requisite in accom