Press enter after choosing selection

Debs' Great Speech

Debs' Great Speech image
Parent Issue
Day
3
Month
February
Year
1899
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Owing to a belated train Eugene V. Debs did not arrive to begiu his lecture before the Good Governrnent Club -nutil 9 o'clock last evening. He spoke on "The Laboring Man's Interest iu Good Goveruinent. ' ' Af ter a brief word as to the cause of his uot being on time, he launched at once into his subject. He said all good citizens were interested iu good government. He said we possessed a free political government, but a despotic economical government, under which theniauwho works longest has the least to show for it. Economie couditions, he said, were snch as to arouse the concern of our citizens as to the future but he had no appeal to passion to inake. He quoted the words of the declaration of independence that all men are created equal and added to it the statement that all should be entitled to the opportunity to work. Thet present economie system deprived many of the opportunity to work. In 1890 he said there were 8,200,000 men who only had work a part of the time and 2,000,000 who had no work at all. Under this system there were raultiplied thousauds of cases of man's inhumanity to man and they were becoming more numerous. Machinery had wrought a tremendous economie revolution and under the present economie system is concentrating all power in trusts and combinations. Under the old system there were no extremely rich and no abjectly poor. There were no classes. The laborer associated and worked with his employer on terms of equality and could look forward to becoming the proprietor of a small but independent business of his own. All this has been largely changed. Now there are two classes of people - the few rich and the many poor. Out of the present economie system, he declared, had been created the tramp. He drew a pathetic picture of the method by which tramps were made and the erstwhile good citizen metamorphosed into a meoace to society. The making of tramps has gone on and on tratil the species has grown into a grand anny and become a dauger to good government He said thure was but a short step ftoi. the tramp to crime. That the abject .poverty existing among laborers who, . under the old economie sys.tem, ha4 been happy and contented citizens and the turning of tbera into tramps by the wbolesale was the most melancholy phaee of our modern civilization. The present system deprived labor of the dignity which properly belonged to it and deprived the laborer of his eelf respect He told of his visit to the coa 1 mines of West Virginia and the homes of those minera, of the bollow eyes and Bnnken cbeeks of the mothers and children whose hnsbands and fathers in man y instance labored for less than 50 cents a day. They created wealth wbich they were not permitted to enjoy. They ■were in reality life convicts and there was no pardoning power. They possess political freedom in ásense, bat are economie slaves. They produce sufficient -wealth, if it were properly distributed, to enable them to live in comfort and happiness bnt they do nöt receive their share of thefrnits of their toil. The reral't is unhappy and degraded homes, for love and poverty do not dweil together. He declared that under this boasted goverment of equality, John D. Rockefeller with bis unconnted wealth possessed more power than a million of his fellow citizens. Snch men, he said, were ensiaved by their possessions as working men were by their necessities. He depicted in fervid langu - age the evils resnlting from the cOncentration of wealth and industry, uncontrolled, in the hands of the so-called greát captains of industry. Working men, bowever, must not expect a return to the better conditions of the period of small industries. Machinery has come to stay. A way must be found for a more equitable división of the profits of the production of labor. There is abundance for all if it is properly distribnted. Bnt as industry is now organized, profits are more than human life and manufacturing is carried on pnrely for proflt and without regard to the well being of society. The great trusts are organized appetites, they have no heart, soul or conseience. They infuse this sordid spirit into everything they come in contact with. They control the minister at the altar and. even the supreme court of the United States as is illustrated by the Income Tax decisión und the words of the dissenting justices, White, Harían and Brown. If the spirit which controls these organizations could be translated to heaven, he declared it would wreek every avenue in the golden city, which would have its streets torn up for their gold and then the eommand "Thou shalt not steaP' wonld be declared unconstitutional and all for profit. Should a working man go upon the tracks and steal enough scrap iron to buy a diuner forhisstarving loved ones, he would be promptly arrested, tried and sent to the penitenfciary, but let the man with the money and cunning go iuto Wall street and teal a whole railroad and he wonld be commended and sent to the United States senate. The speaker alhided in an incidental way to the great strike in which he fignred some years ago, but without bitterness and only to point an argument. Great economie power controlled, he said, great political power and he illustrated with the case of George M. Pullman. Mr. Pullman, he said, won bis battle at that time, but iminediately thereafter he began to die. He was in conflict with bis own conscience and selflshness, he said, is moral suicide. Mr. Debs' remedy for the generally recognized evils of the present economie system is co-operation. There mnst be more heart, and soul and conscience in business. Now there is none. If you would not fail in business under present conditions, you must take no heart into it and any chauge that is made, he declared, must be for the better. Competition results in centralization, combination and trust. These shut the door upon the well being of the working man. The remedy is co-operation. Under competition the more the laborer produces the sooner he is out of employment. Therefore the more he produces the less he can buy back. The system curtails the consuming capacity of the people. When ihe purchasing capacity is equal to the producing capacity these evils would disappear. Some method must be found for controlling niachinery and the great industrial undertakings for the good of society. There is no social harmony in the present system. There is plenty for all if it is equitably distributed, but as industry is now controlled, the laborer is deprived of his just dues. His rags contrast with the silk he has produced bnt cannot wear; nis mel with the banquet he has prepared but may not taste ; his home with the palace he constructed but may not enter. In turn working men must mix thought with thelr toil and do all pqssiblë for tbèmselvés. In substitnting for competition, cooperation, thé speaker argued for the change beoanse it wonld be Better for society and because it was right. Tbére was need of heart, soul and conscience in industry and these principies carried into business would remedy the existing evils and this would be a better i way of solving the problems than ! throngh a revolution, which otherwise I was a thing to be feared. Mr. Debs throughout his talk spoke with no ranting or show of passion, but calmly and with deep feeling which carried conviction as to his honesty of ■purpose He was witty and rose to the height of eloquence in many plaoes. His closing was a beautifnl tribute to labor and what it does. There was much in bis talk, for the tboughtful man to reflect upon.