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insist upon pulling down those who have profited most in the years of fatness, they will bury themselves in the crash of the common disaster. It is difficult to make our material condition better by the best laws, but it is easy enough to ruin it by bad laws.
The upshot of all this is that it is peculiarly incumbent upon us in a time of such material well-being, both col. lectively as a nation and individually as citizens, to show, each on his own account, that we possess the qualities of prudence, self-knowledge, and self-restraint. In our Gov. ernment we need above all things stability, fixity of economic policy, while remembering that this fixity must not be fossilization, that there must not be inability to shift our laws so as to meet our shifting national needs. There are real and great evils in our social and economic life, and these evils stand out in all their ugly baldness in time of prosperity; for the wicked who prosper are never a pleasant sight. There is every need of striving in all possible ways, individually and collectively, by combinations among ourselves and through the recognized governmental agencies, to cut out those evils. All I ask is to be sure that we do not use the knife with an ignorant zeal which would make it more dangerous to the patient than to the disease.
One of the features of the tremendous industrial development of the last generation has been the very great increase in private, and especially in corporate, fortunes. We may like this or not, just as we choose, but it is a fact nevertheless; and as far as we can see it is an inevitable result of the working of the various causes, prominent among them steam and electricity. Urban population has grown in this country, as in all civilized countries, much faster than the population as a whole during the last century.
If it were not for that, Rhode Island could not to-day be the State she is. Rhode Island has flourished as she has flourished because of the conditions which have brought about the great increase in urban life. There is evil in these conditions, but you can't destroy it unless you destroy the civilization they have brought about. Where men are gathered together in great masses, it inevitably results that they must work far more largely through combinations than where they live scattered and remote from one another. Many of us prefer the old conditions of life, under which the average man lived more to himself and by himself, where the average community was more self-dependent, and where even though the standard of comfort was lower on the average, yet there was less of the glaring inequality in worldly conditions which we now see about us in our great cities. It is not true that the
have grown poorer; but some of the rich have grown so very much richer that, where multitudes of men are herded together in a limited space, the contrast strikes the onlooker as more violent than formerly. On the whole, our people earn more and live better than ever before, and the progress of which we are so proud could not have taken place had it not been for the upbuilding of industrial centres, such as this in which I am speaking
But together with the good there has come a measure of evil. Life is not so simple as it was; and surely, both for the individual and the community, the simple life is normally the healthy life. There is not in the great cities the feeling of brotherhood which there is still in country localities, and the lines of social cleavage are far more deeply marked. For some of the evils which have attended
the good of the changed conditions we can at present see no complete remedy. For others the remedy must come by the action of men themselves in their private capacity, whether merely as individuals or by combination. For yet others some remedy can be found in legislative and executive action-national, State, or municipal, Much of the complaint against combinations is entirely unwarranted. Under present-day conditions it is as necessary to have corporations in the business world as it is to have organizations, unions, among wage workers. We have a right to ask in each case only this: that good and not harm shall follow. Exactly as labor organizations, when managed intelligently and in a spirit of justice and fair play, are of very great service not only to the wage workers but to the whole community, as has been shown again and again in the history of many such organizations; so wealth, not merely individual, but corporate, when used aright, is not merely beneficial to the community as a whole, but is absolutely essential to the upbuilding of such a series of communities as those whose citizens I am now addressing. This is so obvious that it ought to be too trite to mention, and yet it is necessary to mention it when we see some of the attacks made upon wealth, as such.
Of course a great fortune, if used wrongly, is a menace to the community. A man of great wealth who does not use that wealth decently is in a peculiar sense a menace to the community, and so is the man who does not use his intellect aright. Each talent—the talent for making money, the talent for showing intellect at the bar, or in any other way, if unaccompanied by character, makes the possessor a menace to the community. But such a fact no more warrants us in attacking wealth than it does in attacking intellect. Every man of power by the very fact of that power is capable of doing damage to his neighbors : but we cannot afford to discourage the development of such men merely because it is possible they may use their power for wrong ends. If we did so we should leave our history a blank, for we should have no great statesmen, soldiers, merchants, no great men of arts, of letters, of science. Doubtless on the average the most useful citizen to the community as a whole is the man to whom has been granted what the Psalmist asked for-neither poverty nor riches. But the great captain of industry, the man of wealth, who alone or in combination with his fellows, drives through our great business enterprises, is a factor without whom the civilization that we see round about us here could not have been built up. Good, not harm, normally comes from the upbuilding of such wealth. Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.
But there is other harm; and it is evident that we should try to do away with that. The great corporations which we have grown to speak of rather loosely as trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is in duty bound to control them wherever the need of such control is shown. There is clearly need of supervision-need to possess the power of regulation of these great corporations through the representatives of the public, wherever, as in our own country at the present time, business corporations become so very powerful alike for beneficent work and for work that is not always beneficent. It is idle to say
that there is no need for such supervision. There is, and a sufficient warrant for it is to be found in any one of the admitted evils appertaining to them.
We meet a peculiar difficulty under our system of government, because of the division of governmental power between the Nation and the States. When the industrial conditions were simple, very little control was needed, and the difficulties of exercising such control under our Constitution were not evident. Now the conditions are complicated and we find it hard to frame national legislation which shall be adequate; while as a matter of practical experience it has been shown that the States either cannot or will not exercise a sufficient control to meet the needs of the case. Some of our States have excellent laws-laws which it would be well indeed to have enacted by the national legislature. But the widespread differences in these laws, even between adjacent States, and the uncertainty of the power of enforcement, result practically in altogether insufficient control. I believe that the nation must assume this power of control by legislation; if necessary, by constitutional amendment. The immediate necessity in dealing with trusts is to place them under the real, not the nominal, control of some sovereign to which, as its creatures, the trusts shall owe allegiance, and in whose courts the sovereign's orders may be enforced.
This is not the case with the ordinary so-called “trust" to-day; for the trust nowadays is a large State corporation, which generally does business in other States, often with a tendency toward monopoly. Such a trust is an artificial creature not wholly responsible to or controllable by any legislation, either by State or Nation, and not subject to the jurisdiction of any one court. Some governmental sovereign must be given full power over these artificial, and very powerful, corporate beings. In my judgment this sovereign must be the National Government. When it has been given full power, then this full power can be used to control any evil influence, exactly as the Government is now using the power conferred upon it by the Sherman anti-trust law.
Even when the power has been granted, it would be most unwise to exercise it too much, to begin by too stringent legislation. The mechanism of modern business is as delicate and complicated as it is vast, and nothing would be more productive of evil to all of us, and especially to those least well off in this world's goods, than ignorant meddling with this mechanism-above all, med. dling in a spirit of class legislation or hatred or rancor. It is eminently necessary that the power should be had,