Page images

the amendment, he had declared that the only remedy possible, by legislation, for the evils complained of, was equal laws. “Let us distribute the burdens of our civilization,” he said, 'equally upon labor and capital. That is all we can do. Make capital pay its share of the burdens; take from labor the burdens which have been unequally imposed upon it. Say by equal laws there shall be a great distribution of the burdens; that the burden shall no longer gall this burden-bearing back, and that labor shall have a just and equal consideration under our laws with capital. I say to my democratic friends, this bill is not in the direction they want us to go. This is not the remedy for the burdens upon oppressed labor. But there is a remedy: Let us reduce taxation. Let us go back to the old democratic doctrine of free and equal rights to all."

Upon obtaining the floor, Major McKinley said:

"Mr. Chairman: I rise to oppose the amendment of the gentleman from Kentucky. The whole purpose of the amendment is to destroy whatever of good results may be expected from the passage of this bill; and I can readily see why a gentleman who is opposed to this system of settling differences between employer and employee should offer the amendment which is here proposed. I am quite sure, Mr. Chairman, that the fervent and eloquent words of my distinguished friend, will be welcomed by the laboring men of the land as a sovereign cure for their evils and their discontent. I feel very certain that the general platitudes in which he has indulged, about the equality of all men in this country, and the dignity of labor, and the general statement that the way to help these workingmen is to reduce taxation, will be accepted by them as a never-failing remedy. I am sure every laboring man in this country will hail with acclamation, these soft words as a panacea for all his troubles.

“I am opposed to the amendment, because I believe in the principle and tendency of the bill. I would amend it in some particulars if I could. The bill confers no rights or privileges touching arbitration which are not now enjoyed by common carriers and those engaged in their service. It leaves them where it finds them, with the right of voluntary arbitration, to settle their difficulties through a peaceful and orderly tribunal of their own selection. It only follows the principle recognized in many states of the Union, notably in Ohio and Massachusetts, and gives national sanction and encouragement to a mode of settlement of grievances between employer and employee, which is approved by the best judgment of the country, and the enlightened sentiment of all civilized peoples.

“While the bill does not compel arbitration, its passage here will not be without influence as a legislative suggestion in commending the principle to both capital and labor as the best and most economic way of composing differences and settling disagreement which experience has unformly shown, in the absence of an amicable adjustment, results in loss to all classes of the community, and to none more than the workingmen themselves.

“If by the passage of this simple measure arbitration as a system shall be aided to the slightest extent, or advanced in private or public favor, or if it shall serve to attract the thoughtful attention of the people to the subject, much will have been accomplished for the good of our communities, and for the welfare and prosperity of the people.

“I am in favor of this bill for what it is, and only for what it is. It does not undertake to do impossible things, or cross the line of safety. I will regret if it shall deceive anybody, and if it is the purpose of anybody to make believe that its passage is a cure for the evils and discontent which pervade society, I must disclaim now any part or share in such purpose or expectation, for it will not, and can not, and nobody supposes it will. It simply provides that when the railroad companies operating through two or more states, or in the territories, shall agree upon and consent to an arbitration, this bill will aid, encourage and assist the parties concerned to get at the truth, to probe to the bottom, ascertain the facts of the situation, by which the board will be enabled to act intelligently and justly to all interests involved. This is the whole of it in scope and extent, and cannot and will not deceive any one.

"It is said there is no way to enforce the judgment of the arbitration, and, therefore, it is a nullity. I have the least concern on that score. I have no fear that after the railroad corporation and its employees have united in an arbitration, its judgment will be disobeyed or not acquiesced in as final and conclusive. Neither will venture, in the absence of fraud, to ignore the award of a tribunal of their own selection, in which both have voluntarily confided for the settlement of their differences. We need borrow no trouble on that account. Refusal to obey the judgment of the arbitration would be the exception and not the rule, and an award honestly reached will be sacredly observed. Nor am I troubled because there is no compulsion to arbitrate in the first instance. Either party provided for in the bill, believing it has a genuine grievance, and inviting the other to arbitrate, will occupy a vantage ground which the other can not long successfully defy. There is a sense of fair play among the people which, when crystallized into public judgment, is as potent, ay, more potent than statute or judicial decree. No railroad corporation, no labor union, no body of laboring men could long hold out against fair and equitable demand, backed by a willingness to submit the justice of that demand to a board of competent arbitrators. In any view there is no harm in trying this experiment; and in this effort, small and inconsequential as it may seem to be, I am confident we are moving in the right direction and nothing but good can result.”

In closing his remarks, Major McKinley said:

“I belicve, Mr. Chairman, in arbitration as a principle. I believe it should prevail in the settlement of international differences. It represents a higher civilization than the arbitraments of war. I believe it is in close accord with the best thought and sentiment of mankind. I believe it is the true way of settling differences between labor and capital. I believe it will bring both to a better understanding, uniting them closer in interest, and promoting better relations, avoiding force, avoiding unjust exactions and oppression, avoiding the loss of earnings to labor, avoiding disturbances to trade and transportation; and if this house can contribute in the smallest measure, by legislative expression or otherwise, to these ends, it will deserve and receive the gratitude of all men who love peace, good order, justice and fair play.”

This speech, taken in connection with Major McKinley's subsequent acts as governor of Ohio, during the acute labor disturbances of 1894, show his love of justice, and his constant effort to achieve by lawful and reasonable means, the greatest possible good to society.

His undeniable trust in the wisdom of the people was again exhibited during this congress, wher the bill concerning the presidential succession was under discussion. Fault had been found with the existing law—that framed by the founders of the republic—as being inadequate, and a committee of the house had formulated a bill, making the succession—in case of the death or disability of the president and vicepresident, run to the cabinet ministers. Major McKinley disagreei with the provisions of the bill, and offered an amendment, in the nature of a substitute, for the pending bill. In explaining the scope of his amendment, he said:

“Mr. Speaker, my substitute preserves the existing law as it was made in 1792, and leaves the presidential succession where we find it in that law; and the only new provision I propose is that we shall never be without a president pro tempore of the senate, and never be without a speaker of the house of representatives. And to this end my substitute provides that the congress shall assemble at midday on the 4th day of March succeeding the election of representatives in congress, for the purpose of electing a speaker. And it further provides, that in the event of the speakership, or the presidency pro tempore of the senate becoming vacant during the recess, the president of the United States shall forthwith assemble the house in which such vacancy exists, for the

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »