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porations shall be taxed, but the tax shall not be a persecution, and, second, that they shall bear a just part of the public burden. I want to tax these franchises as the reali estate through which they run is taxed. But I don't want. any more reduction for debts made in one case than in another.
Now in this matter I want to say that I want your help and your advice. I don't need anybody's advice about the general lines of the bill, but I want to tell you how you can help me in other ways. I want some 'men from this club who are good lawyers to come up to Albany and talk over the question of municipal franchises with me. I have this night asked Prof. E. R. A. Seligman of Columbia and Judge Cohen to do this, and I now ask you, Mr. Wheeler, to come up yourself and bring with you two or three other gentlemen whom you may select that I may have your suggestion and advice on the matter.
And this leads me to say that I noticed in one of the papers the other day that I had been consulting with corporation lawyers. I did consult with them, and I'll do it again, because I want their side of this matter. I should be disgusted with myself and with my office if I were afraid they would influence me too much by what they said. I want this State to lead the Union on the question of municipal taxation. I see men here who have given me help and advice, and I want it again.
Now, understand that a man who gives me advice doesn't have a mortgage on my opinion. Of course, my own judgment must govern me in the end, and I want that understood. I am grateful to this club for the watch it has kept on legislation, but I know of some instances where you have rendered snap judgment. Now, it is be
cause your influence is so great in large matters that I don't want you to mar it by mistakes.
Bills have come to me this winter that were not what I wanted them to be, but I felt that they were steps in the right direction and I approved them. I found out, and you must find out, that if you are going to accomplish things you must yield something of your own wishes to the wishes of others, else you will get nowhere.
Take the Labor law, for instance. That had much that was crude in it and many things that were good. I believe we should, as fast as we can, elevate labor. Don't applaud what is a self-evident fact, gentlemen. Everybody believes that we should help our fellow men and I have tried to find out since I have been in public life how our fellow countrymen could best be helped. I have found that there is a kind of help which is no help at all and some which offers a temporary benefit. But because the Labor law contained some bad features along with its good ones, should I have vetoed it? That bill in its basis is all right. So with the Drug Clerk bill. I am in doubt whether I should sign that bill or not. I know we should work for humanity, but I also know that it is dangerous to interfere with relations between employer and enployed.
Now, my friends, we should cultivate the habit of speaking the truth about evils that threaten us through our public servants. There is a greater temptation for legislators to rail against corporations than to support them, and the danger here is that the man, generally speaking, who will yield quickest to the undue influence of corporations is the man who will cry out loudest against them and inveigh against the “Money Power,” spelled with a capital M and a capital P. Gentlemen, you should watch your representatives in their handling of public measures that come before them. The line of cleavage between the honest man and the dishonest man is not the line which divides the man with means from the man without means. The line does not run that way. Rather it is that virtue and the lack of virtue are divided by a line that runs perpendicular to comparative fortunes. Each measure must stand on its merits. There is nothing good or bad in standing for or against a corporation any more than there is anything good or bad in standing for or against a man. A corporation is simply a collection of men, who may do well or who may do ill. The thing to do is to make them understand that if they do well you are with them, but if they do ill you are ever and always against them.
I hope no party will make a direct issue against corporations. There is as much harm in making an issue of this kind as there is in standing for things that are vicious. The thing to do is to be sure your public men live up to the professions they make. Make the man who says he is for the corporations see to it that he doesn't give those corporations undue protection, and let the man who is against corporate wealth remember that he has no right to pillage a corporate treasury.
Now, gentlemen, don't be content with mere effervescent denunciation of one thing or another. Evil can't be done away with through one spasm of virtue. We must cultivate the habit of clean living, and we must cultivate the habit of standing always for clean government. We may have made mistakes at Albany this winter, but no laws are on the statute books, and none will be there, that shouldn't be. We have got a sound Civil Service law, the Amsterdam avenue question has been settled as it
should have been, and we have investigated the affairs of this city in such a way as to justify the course of those who started it and those who carried it on. We have started a tax on public franchises, which means that corporations must pay a fair share of the public burdens. We have worked along party lines when it was expedient to do so, and when we thought the party wanted to go wrong we wouldn't let it.
AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE, NEW YORK CITY,
MAY 30, 1899 LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND You MEN OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC: Men whom I should have called comrades if I didn't feel that your war was too big for ours to be set beside it; we of this generation, looking at your records who have fought the wars of the past, can say one thing: that we have the spirit, anyway, and if we had been called upon to perform such a task as yours we should have tried our best to do it. We have learned aright, I hope the lesson taught in the great years of the republic; the days of Lincoln and Grant and Sherman and Farragut, and while our war didn't last long enough to bring the strain upon our strength and endurance, and while our task was over so quickly that we had no time to develop men who should stand, in point of deeds done, beside the great Captains of the civil war, we did add lustre to the arms of the republic almost as great as was added in that war. I won't say that there is any one who can quite come beside Farragut, but Dewey presses him mighty hard: and, ladies and gentlemen — comrades, if you'll allow it— when I say that Dewey presses Farragut hard, I only say what every sailor who served under Farragut would agree to.
The men who went to the war last year went with the wholesome feeling that they would be ashamed to come back unless they fought as you had fought. It is no small thing to teach a nation such a lesson. Besides the victory you left the memory. You have made it indeed difficult for the country ever to fall short of its duty, and have put it under the greatest possible burden of obligation, the obligation to be true to the best purposes of our national life. When you had won the victory you came back once more to your useful pursuits and served your country in peace as you had in war. This, too, is a necessary of a nation's greatness: that her citizens should be thrifty and industrious; further, that they should have a high standard of personal honor and of civic honor. The man who would feel an honest pride in his country must be as sensitive to an attack upon the national honor as to an attack upon his own. In our republic our well-being must correspond to the way in which the average citizen performs his everyday duties.
One of the musical numbers on your program is the “ Blue and Gray." What an augury that a gathering such as yours to-night, of men who fought under Grant and Sherman, should select as one of your tunes a commemoration of the foes who fought bravely for what they considered the right, and that last year when we fought an alien nation the sons of the men who wore blue and the sons of the men who wore gray, fought shoulder to shoulder under those very men who wore the blue and those very men who wore the gray, showing the whole world that North and South and East and West, in every class of society, when it came to the call to arms, are Americans — nothing more and nothing less.