Page images

who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” This applied to black slavery then. It applies now to any wealthy corporation which fails to respect and preserve and encourage all the manhood rights of its workers and to treat them as partners; and it no less applies to any powerful labor union which shows brutality or insolent disregard for equity in dealing with the rights of any of our citizens...

Lincoln's belief in the superiority of the rights of labor to those of capital was expressed again and again, but Lincoln also stood for the rights of capital; and here again we should follow his policy. If the laboring man permits himself to put improper burdens on capital, he will bring everything down with a crash; and even if the man higher up is smashed, this will be small comfort to the man lower down if he, too, is under the ruins. Lincoln explicitly disclaimed any hostility to a man because he was wealthy. He explicitly asserted that the accumulation of individual property was "right, and for the general good.” He held up as the proper ideal, not burning down the house of another, but building up a house for one's self - a corollary to which is that it is better for the owner of a small house that another man should have a big house, rather than that neither should have any house. In other words, he believed in a constructive system which, while guarding the rights of capital, should see that the benefits were as widely diffused as possible and that all artificial obstacles to a fair start in the world, and to industrial democracy, were done away with. Finally, it is evident that, although he neither used modern terminology nor was familiar with modern industry, his ideal was a coöperative system in which each man labored and each man was to some extent an owner of the capital necessary for the work. ...

In Lincoln's day, as in our day, there were wise men and foolish men, good men and evil men, both among those who called themselves conservatives and among those who called themselves radicals; and sometimes emphasis had to be placed on the need of daring, and sometimes on the need of caution. It was the radicals who were most interested in the destruction of slavery; and in this the radicals were right; and although Lincoln held them back, and steadied them and waited until the fullness of time, yet in the end he led them to victory. But on the whole the radicals put the destruction of slavery above the preservation of the Union, and herein they were wrong; and the conservatives took the reverse view, and herein they were right, and Lincoln sided with them; and in the end they followed him when he saw that it was best to make one cause both of freeing the slave and of saving the nation. From all his record it is safe to say that if Lincoln had lived to deal with our complicated social and industrial problems he would have furnished a wisely conservative leadership; but he would have led in the radical direction.

VI I BELIEVE in a steady effort, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say in steady efforts in many different directions, to bring about a condition of affairs under which the men who work with hand or with brain, the laborers, the superintendents, the men who produce for the market

i From The Foes of Our Own Household. Copyright, 1917. George H. Doran Company, publishers.

and the men who find a market for the articles produced, shall own a far greater share than at present of the wealth they produce, and be enabled to invest it in the tools and instruments by which all work is carried on. As far as possible I hope to see a frank recognition of the advantages conferred by machinery, organization, and division of labor, accompanied by an effort to bring about a larger share in the ownership by wage-workers of railway, mill, and factory. In farming, this simply means that we wish to see the farmer own his own land; we do not wish to see the farms so large that they become the property of absentee landlords who farm them by tenants, nor yet so small that the farmer becomes like a European peasant. Again, the depositors in our savings banks now number over one-tenth of our entire population. These are all capitalists, who through the savings banks loan their money to the workers - that is, in many cases to themselves to carry on their various industries. The more we increase their number, the more we introduce the principles of coöperation into our industry. Every increase in the number of small stockholders in corporations is a good thing, for the same reasons; and where the employees are the stockholders the result is particularly good. Very much of this movement must be outside of anything that can be accomplished by legislation; but legislation can do a good deal. Postal savings banks will make it easy for the poorest to keep their savings in absolute safety. The regulation of the National highways must be such that they shall serve all people and with equal justice. Corporate finances must be supervised so as to make it far safer than at present for the man of small means to invest his money

in stocks. There must be prohibition of child labor, diminution of woman labor, shortening of hours of all mechanical labor; stock watering should be prohibited, and stock gambling so far as is possible discouraged. There should be a progressive inheritance tax on large fortunes. Industrial education should be encouraged. As far as possible we should lighten the burden of taxation on the small man. We should put a premium upon thrift, hard work, and business energy; but these qualities cease to be the main factors in accumulating a fortune long before that fortune reaches a point where it would be seriously affected by any inheritance tax such as I propose. It is eminently right that the Nation should fix the terms upon which the great fortunes are inherited. They rarely do good and they often do harm to those who inherit them in their entirety.

The above is the merest sketch, hardly even a sketch in outline, of the reforms for which we should work.

1 Message communicated to the two Houses of Congress, December 8, 1908.


Wages and other most important conditions of employment must remain largely outside of government control; must be left for adjustment by free contract between employers and wage-earners, subject — and I call your attention to the proviso - to legislation which will prevent conditions which compel men or women to accept wages representing less than will insure decent liv. ing. But to attempt to leave the question of contract between employer and employee merely to individual action means the absolute destruction of individualism; for where the individual is so weak that he, perforce, has to accept whatever a strongly organized body chooses to give him, his individual liberty becomes a mere sham and mockery. It is indispensably necessary, in order to preserve to the largest degree our system of individualism, that there should be effective and organized collective action. The wage-earners must act jointly, through the process of collective bargaining, in great industrial enterprises. Only thus can they be put upon a plane of economic equality with their corporate employers. Only thus is freedom of contract made a real thing and not a mere legal fiction. There are occasional occupations where this is not necessary; but, speaking broadly, it is necessary throughout the great world of organized industry. I believe this practice of collective bargaining, effective only through such organizations as the trades unions, to have been one of the most potent forces in the past century in promoting the progress of the wage-earn

« PreviousContinue »