Page images

from every difficulty, but by triumphing over each as it arose and making out of it a stepping-stone to further triumph.

We must all learn the two lessons—the lesson of self-help and the lesson of giving help to and receiving help from our brother. There is not a man of us who does not sometimes slip, who does not sometimes need a helping hand; and woe to him who, when the chance comes, fails to stretch out that help ing hand. Yet, though each man can and ought thus to be helped at times, he is lost beyond redemption if he becomes so dependent upon outside help that he feels that his own exertions are secondary. Any man at times will stumble, and it is then our duty to lift him up and set him on his feet again; but no man can be permanently carried, for if he expects to be carried he shows that he is not worth carrying.

Before us loom industrial problems vast in their importance and their complexity. The last halfcentury has been one of extraordinary social and industrial development. The changes have been farreaching ; some of them for good, and some of them for evil. It is not given to the wisest of us to see into the future with absolute clearness. No man can be certain that he has found the entire solution of this infinitely great and intricate problem, and yet each man of us, if he would do his duty, must strive manfully so far as in him lies to help bring about that solution. It is not as yet possible to say what shall be the exact limit of influence allowed the State, or what limit shall be set to that right of individual initiative so dear to the hearts of the American people. All we can say is that the need has been shown on the one hand for action by the people, in their collective capacity through the State, in many matters; that in other matters much can be done by associations of different groups of individuals, as in trade-unions and similar organizations; and that in other matters it remains now as true as ever that final success will be for the man who trusts in the struggle only to his cool head, his brave heart, and his strong right arm. There are spheres in which the State can properly act, and spheres in which a free field must be given to individual initiative.

Though the conditions of life have grown so puzzling in their complexity, though the changes have been so vast, yet we may remain absolutely sure of one thing, that now, as ever in the past, and as it ever will be in the future, there can be no substitute for the elemental virtues, for the elemental qualities to which we allude when we speak of a man as not only a good man but as emphatically a man. We can build up the standard of individual citizenship and individual well-being, we can raise the national standard and make it what it can and shall be made, only by each of us steadfastly keeping in mind that there can be no substitute for the world-old, humdrum, commonplace qualities of truth, justice and courage, thrift, industry, common-sense, and genuine sympathy with and fellow-feeling for others. The nation is the aggregate of the individuals composing it, and each individual American ever raises the nation higher when he so conducts himself as to wrong no man, to suffer no wrong from others, and to show both his sturdy capacity for self-help and his readiness to extend a helping hand to the neighbor sinking under a burden too heavy for him to bear.

The one fact which all of us need to keep steadfastly before our eyes is the need that performance should square with promise if good work is to be done, whether in the industrial or in the political world. Nothing does more to promote mental dishonesty and moral insincerity than the habit either of promising the impossible, or of demanding the performance of the impossible, or finally, of failing to keep a promise that has been made; and it makes not the slightest difference whether it is a promise made on the stump or off the stump. Remember that there are two sides to the wrong thus committed. There is, first, the wrong of failing to keep a promise made, and, in the next place, there is the wrong of demanding the impossible, and therefore forcing or permitting weak or unscrupulous men to make a promise which they either know, or should know, can not be kept. No small part of our troubles in dealing with many of the gravest social questions, such as the so-called labor question, the trust question, and others like them, arises from these two attitudes. We can do a great deal when we undertake, soberly, to do the possible. When we undertake the impossible, we too often fail to do anything at all. The success of the law for the taxation of franchises recently enacted in New York State, a measure which has resulted in putting upon the assessment books nearly $200,000,000 worth of property which had theretofore escaped taxation, is an illustration of how much can be accomplished when effort is made along sane and sober lines, with care not to promise the impossible but to make performance square with promise, and with insistence on the fact that honesty is never one-sided, and that in dealing with corporations it is necessary both to do to them and to exact from them full and complete justice. The success of this effort, made in a resolute but also a temperate and reasonable spirit, shows what can be done when such a problem is approached in a sound and healthy manner. It offers a striking contrast to the complete breakdown of the species of crude and violent anti-trust legislation which has been so often attempted, and which has always failed, because of its very crudeness and violence, to make any impression upon the real and dangerous evils which have excited such just popular resentment.

I thank you for listening to me. I have come here to-day not to preach to you, but partly to tell you how these matters look and seem to me, and partly to set forth certain facts which seem to me to show the essential community that there is among all of us who strive in good faith to do our duty as American citizens. No man can do his duty who does not work, and the work may take many different shapes, mental and physical; but of this you can rest assured, that this work can be done well for the nation only when each of us approaches his separate task, not only with the determination to do it, but with the knowledge that his fello:v, when he in his turn does his task, has fundamentally the same rights and the same duties, and that while each must work for himself, yet each must also work for the common welfare of all.

On the whole, we shall all go up or go down together. Some may go up or go down further than others, but, disregarding special exceptions, the rule is that we must all share in common something of whatever adversity or whatever prosperity is in store for the nation as a whole. In the long run each section of the community will rise or fall as the community rises or falls. If hard times come to the nation, whether as the result of natural causes or

« PreviousContinue »