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processes are side by side. When you find the weak sentimentality that will hesitate to hold the taker of life, the most vicious and dangerous of criminals, to accountability, you will find that inevitably there goes hand in hand with it, a readiness to resort to the brute violence of our barbarian ancestors 1,500 or 2,000 years ago, a going back to the methods of vengeance which obtained in our homes in the Old World before the light of Christianity dawned; and in condemning that brutal violence do not forget to condemn the mawkish sentimentality which partly produces it and which goes hand and hand with it.
I intend to try, not to show you, for it is hardly necessary to show you, but to state the case to you, that fundamentally the remedy for the evils which we must meet in that regard, as for all other evils which we are to meet — fundamentally the remedy is to be found in the application simply of common honesty and of common sense, and to warn you — oh, how I wish I could warn all my countrymen — against that most degrading of processes, the deification of any man for what we are pleased to term smartness, the deification of mere intellectual acuteness, wholly unaccompanied by moral responsibility, wholly without reference to whether it is exercised in accordance or not in accordance with the elementary rules of morality.
If there is one thing which I should like to eradicate from the character of every American, it is the dreadful practice of paying a certain mean admiration and homage to the man who, whether in business or politics, achieves success at the cost of sacrificing all those principles for the lack of which, in the eye of any righteous man, no possible achievement of success can in any way compensate. That applies just as much to the smart politician, who by bribery and chicanery and sharp practice, who by misuse of public office, by mendacity, by cleverness in hoodwinking the people, rises to high station, as it applies to the unscrupulous man of affairs who makes a fortune, not legitimately, but illegitimately, in some form of gambling, which is not merely gambling, but gambling with loaded dice, and who can count upon having, from no inconsiderable section of our people, the same admiring homage that would be gained by the most respected business man whose success has been even more beneficial to the community than to himself. Woe to the men who condone either form of success, and woe no less to the men who, in condemning such success, mix with their condemnation of that, condemnation of the legitimate success. Woe to the men who help to make all politicians scoundrelly by indiscriminate criticism of all alike, whether they be good or whether they be bad; and woe to the men who put a premium upon rascality in business by condemning all men of means, all successful men of business, alike, whether their success has been attained in ways of which we should all feel ashamed or whether it has been attained by working along lines which have made them the benefactors of the entire community.
The temptation is great to speak to you of other phases of our political life than merely the phase of the relations of wealth, the use and abuse of property in our political life; but I shall confine myself solely to the latter. Any man who has had to do with our legislative bodies, as Senator, as Assemblyman, as Congressman, especially if he has been a Speaker of the Lower House, knows, as I have known, as I have seen again and again during the three years that
I served with the Assembly, that, as a rule, the man who is the loudest denouncer of corporate wealth — spelling “corporate ” with a large “C”and " wealth" with a large “W”- and who is the most inflammable in his insistence, in public, that he will not permit the liberties of the country to be subverted by the men of means, is himself the very man for whom you want to look out most sharply when there comes up something which some corrupt corporation does really want and about which there is not any great popular excitement at the moment.
Now, gentlemen, I think you will all acknowledge this if you will come to think of your own acquaintances — I am very sure that my friends who have been in public life will recognize that what I have said is absolutely true. Yet there are a good many estimable citizens who entirely fail to take it into account in their practical dealings with public men; a good many estimable citizens of one class who will stand by any man without reference to his honesty if only he will denounce wealth loudly enough, and a good many estimable citizens of another class who will stand by any man, if he is only what they call “conservative,” and refrains from taking any position which will tend to make wealth bear its proper share of the burdens of the community.
A public man is bound to represent his constituents, but he is no less bound to cease to represent them when, on a great moral question of right or wrong, he feels that they are taking the wrong side. Let him go out of politics rather than stay in at the cost of doing what his own conscience forbids him to do; and, while upholding that principle in theory, do not forget to uphold it in practice.
Now, I think that among the different problems that
give us all serious concern, as we try to front them, as we try to work out some satisfactory solution from the complex difficulties of the social organization of this extreme end of the nineteenth century in our great Republic, among all those problems there is no one problem that is so difficult to deal with as the problem of how to do justice to wealth, either in the hands of the individual or the corporation, on the one hand, or, on the other, how to see that that wealth in return is used for the benefit of the whole community. The tendency, as is natural, is for men to range themselves in two extreme camps, each taking a position that, in the long run, would be almost equally fatal to the community. We have, on the one hand, the ignorant declaimer against all men of means; the man who paints his fellows who are well off as being, because of that very fact, the foes of the community as a whole, and, on the other, we find him, who, whether honestly or dishonestly, permits his fear of improper interference with property to take the form of shrinking from and avoiding all proper interference with it, who fears to take any attitude which any of his friends, any of those with whom he associates, may denounce as being an attitude hostile to men of means. Too often what I have said to you before of the relations of the politician to the reformers and the organization obtains, in even aggravated form, as to the relations of such a public man to corporations and to those who follow the lead of demagogues.
I know no general rule that can be laid down to meet all such cases. I am going to speak, as you would have the right to expect me to speak, of what affects us at the present moment here in this State, of one of those problems with which we, who are for the time being your ser
vants and representatives in public life, are trying to deal. Now, take the very question that you have seen advocated and which you will see advocated during the next ten days, the question of the taxation of franchises.
On the one hand we have the perfectly simple savage who believes that you should tax franchises to the extent of confiscating them, and that it is the duty of all railroad corporations to carry everybody free and give him a. chromo.
On the other, we have the scarcely less primitive mortal who believes that there is something sacred in a franchise and that there is no reason why it should pay its share of the public burdens at all.
Now, gentlemen, remember that the man who occupies. the last position inevitably tends to produce the man who occupies the first position, and that the worst enemy of property is the man who, whether from unscrupulousness or from mere heedlessness and thoughtlessness, takes the ground that there is something sacrosanct about all property, that the owners of it are to occupy a different position in the community from all others and are to have their burdens not increased, but diminished, because of their wealth. Oh, if I could only impress upon you, if I only had the eloquence and the power of enforcing conviction upon you to make you understand the two sides of the question — not understand it; you may do that in theory now — but to make you realize it, the two sides, that the rich man who buys a privilege from a board of aldermen for a railway which he represents, the rich man who gets a privilege through the Legislature by bribery and corruption, for any corporation, is committing an offense against the community,