Page images
PDF
EPUB

corporations which work out their success by means that are just and fair towards all men.

Without the adoption of a constitutional amendment my belief is that a good deal can be done by law. It is difficult to say exactly how much, because experience has taught us that in dealing with these subjects where the lines dividing the rights and duties of the States and of the nation are in doubt it has sometimes been difficult for Congress to forecast the action of the courts upon its legislation. Such legislation (whether obtainable now, or obtainable only after a constitutional amendment) should provide for a reasonable supervision, the most prominent feature of which at first should be publicity; that is, the making public both to the governmental authorities and to the people at large the essential facts in which the public is concerned. This would give us exact knowledge of many points which are now not only in doubt but the subject of fierce controversy. Moreover, the mere fact of the publication would cure some very grave evils, for the light of day is a deterrent to wrong-doing. It would doubtless disclose other evils with which for the time being we could devise no way to grapple. Finally, it would disclose others which could be grappled with and cured by further legislative action.

Remember, I advocate the action which the President can only advise, and which he has no power himself to take. Under our present legislative and constitutional limitations, the national executive can work only between narrow lines in the field of action concerning great corporations. Between those lines, I assure you that exact and even-handed justice will be dealt, and is being dealt, to all men, without regard to persons.

I wish to repeat with all emphasis that, desirable though it is that the nation should have the power I suggest, it is equally desirable that it should be used with wisdom and self-restraint. The mechanism of modern business is

tremendous in its size and complexity, and ignorant intermeddling with it would be disastrous. We should not be made timid or daunted by the size of the problem; we should not fear to undertake it; but we should undertake it with ever present in our minds dread of the sinister spirits of rancor, ignorance, and vanity. We need to keep steadily in mind the fact that besides the tangible property in each corporation there lies behind the spirit which brings it success, and in the case of each very successful corporation this is usually the spirit of some one man or set of men. Under exactly similar conditions one corporation will make a stupendous success where another makes a stupendous failure, simply because one is well managed and the other is not. While making it clear that we do not intend to allow wrong-doing by one of the captains of industry any more than by the humblest private in the industrial ranks, we must also in the interests of all of us avoid cramping a strength which, if beneficently used, will be for the good of all of us. The marvellous prosperity we have been enjoying for the past few years has been due primarily to the high average of honesty, thrift, and business capacity among our people as a whole; but some of it has also been due to the ability of the men who are the industrial leaders of the nation. In securing just and fair dealing by these men let us remember to do them justice in return, and this not only because it is our duty, but because it is our interest; not only for their sakes, but for ours. We are neither the friend of the rich man as such nor the friend of the poor man as such; we are the friend of the honest man, rich or poor; and we intend that all men, rich and poor alike, shall obey the law alike and receive its protection alike.

х

AT LOGANSPORT, INDIANA, SEPTEMBER 23, 1902

Fellow-citizens :

I am going to ask you to take what I say at its exact face value, as I like whatever I say to be taken. It is suggested by coming to this great Western State and speaking to one of its thriving cities. We believe that the American business man is of a peculiar type; and probably the qualities of energy, daring, and resourcefulness which have given him his prominence in the international industrial world find their highest development here in the West. It is the merest truism to say that in the modern world industrialism is the great factor in the growth of nations. Material prosperity is the foundation upon which every mighty national structure must be built. Of course there must be more than this. There must be a high moral purpose, a life of the spirit which finds its expression in many different ways; but unless material prosperity exists also there is scant room in which to develop the higher life. The productive activity of our vast army of workers, of those who work with head or hands, is the prime cause of the giant growth of this nation. We have great natural resources, but such resources are never more than opportunities, and they count for nothing if the men in possession have not the power to take advantage of them. You have built up in the West these cities of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes, as all the region round about them has been

built up-that is, because you had the qualities of heart and brain, the qualities of moral and physical fibre, which enabled you to use to the utmost advantage whatever you found ready to your hands. You win not by shirking difficulties, but by facing and overcoming them.

In such development laws play a certain part, but indi. vidual characteristics a stili greater part. A great and successful commonwealth like ours in the long run works under good laws, because a people endowed with honest and practical common-sense ultimately demands good laws. But no law can create industrial well-being, although it may foster and safeguard it, and although a bad law may destroy it. The prime factor in securing industrial well-being is the high average of citizenship found in the community. The best laws that the wit of man can devise would not make a community of thriftless and idle men prosperous. No scheme of legislation or of social reform will ever work good to the community unless it recognizes as fundamental the fact that each man's own individual qualities must be the prime factors in his success. Work in combination may help and the State can do a good deal in its own sphere, but in the long run each man must rise or fall on his own merits; each man must owe his success in life to whatever of hardihood, of resolution, of common-sense, and of capacity for lofty endeavor he has within his own soul. It is a good thing to act in combination for the common good, but it is a very unhealthy thing to let ourselves think for one moment that anything can ever supply the want of our own individual watchfulness and exertion.

Yet given this high average of individual ability and invention, we must ever keep in mind that it may be nullified by bad legislation, and that it can be given a chance to develop under the most favorable conditions by good legislation. Probably the most important aid which can be contributed by the National Government to

the material well-being of the country is to insure its financial stability. An honest currency is the strongest symbol and expression of honest business life. The business world must exist largely on credit, and to credit confidence is essential. Any tampering with the currency, , no matter with what purpose, if fraught with the suspicion of dishonesty in result, is fatal in its effects on business prosperity. Very ignorant and primitive communities are continually obliged to learn the elementary truth that the repudiation of debts is in the end ruinous to the debtors as a class; and when communities have moved somewhat higher in the scale of civilization they also learn that anything in the nature of a debased currency works similar damage. A financial system of assured honesty is the first essential.

Another essential for any community is perseverance in the economic policy which for a course of years is found best fitted to its peculiar needs. The question of combining such fixedness of economic policy as regards the tariff, while at the same time allowing for a necessary and proper readjustment of duties in particular schedules, as such readjustment becomes a matter of pressing importance, is not an easy one. It is, perhaps, too much to expect that from the discussion of such a question it would be possible wholly to eliminate political partisanship. Yet those who believe, as we all must when we think seriously of the subject, that the proper aim of the party system is, after all, simply to subserve the public good, cannot but hope that where such partisanship on a matter of this kind conflicts with the public good it shall at least be minimized. It is all right and inevitable that we should divide on party lines, but woe to us if we are not Americans first and party men second! What we really need in this country is to treat the tariff as a business proposition from the standpoint of the interests of the country as a whole, and not from the standpoint of the temporary

« PreviousContinue »