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The Rights Of Labor

The Rights Of Labor image
Parent Issue
Day
24
Month
May
Year
1878
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Am I my brothcr's keeper? - Gfnesia 4: Q. I find myself, in a sense, constrained to fo! low a different line of thought this inoraing froni what I had utendcd. In the first place, it is not quite certain tha I sliall have anuther opportunity of speaking to this congregation ; and I ani unwilling to run any chance of leaving the impression tha religious truth, as I have tried to set it forth is a matter of books and theory and opinión and not rather a matter of practical interests and of working life. It would be a deep re gret to me, to leave any shadow of an im pression tltat my aim has been spcculative or controversia!, or emotional, least of al negative; and not rather serious, construc tive, and direct - a help to understand the rea laws of life, to bear its real burdens, to inlcr pret and fullil its real dutics. In the second place, I exceedingly wish to follow into some of their practical bearing;. the thoughts that camc up with the title o! last Sunday evening's discourse - "The religión of humanity," - nol on their theorctic or sentimental sidc, but as tljcy connect themselves with one of the most serious and to some minds most alarming questions of the day. It is not because I think I can give any words of very special knowledge or wisdom or help in so grave a discussion as that which lies inevitably beforc us - none of us knows how near; or that, in general, I should care to turn the business of this place into discussions of that order. Bul I wish, as distinctly as I can, to assert two things : Iirst, that social questions - that is, thosc which deal with the rights, wants, and sufferings of men on a large scale - makepart of the legilimate province of religión, and their rcligious view is to be recognized as well as their económica!, politica!, or purely scientific view ; and sec ondly, that any interpreter of religión narrows and lowers his function, whenevcr he forgets that, however good judgnient may limit the range of his own eflfort or work, the field he works in is broad enough to take in all the interests of humanity. " The field is the world ; and the good seed is the word ol God." And 1 may add, that the Catholic Church has always taken this view of its function, and, for better or worse, has found its chief sirength in it ; and that that church is said, at this moment, in California, to be the chief bulwark of society against the disorders and perils that chierly threaten it. II the phrase " religión of humanity " means anything at all, it surely means something as large and strong as the religión of Rome. Moreover, this thing was borne in upon my mind as I watched that singular and (if we think of it) very impressive procession that marched through our streets the other day. Two hundred or more laboring men - sturdy, weary, hungry, dusty with toil, carrying their heavy picks and hammers, on their way to the plain feast set by the citizens' hospitality, - that was all. Rough men to the eye, and dangerous guests to tarrv for a night, as they seemed to some; but willing, obedient, even gentle, as most of their faces looked to me. A whole battalion of strong, hardy men where did they come from, and where woulc they march to next ? Just then, they simply meant that one more of the iron links of that framework of communication, on which our great industries are stretched, had been brought near enough for us to reach out and touch it. And some oi us had noticed for ourselves the swinging stroke, the rapid blow, the steady eye, with which rod after rod of that iron highway was laid down, as it neared the town. That o itself was a significant thing to see, - the mos impressive type, after all, of our restless, en ergetic, hurrying civilization, guided by science, and putting in swift play a million wheels of industry. But how late and near a thing it is : ani yet all the pperations of modern life are bent and shaped to it ! 1 used as a child - years before therc was any railroad in this country and before the first was laid in England which revolutionized the industry of the globe - to take a boyish interest in trying U understand the plan of it, sketched in a new work 011 " Technology ": so ignorantly, that I fancied the rails must be laid crosswise likc a plank road: or, inimg better, was treatly pcrpiexea, till 1 saw [hem, now the wheels could keep the track. And at that time the settlement of the West was creeping down the Ohio valley in flat-boats, or dragginj through (orest and swamp in emigrant wagons or at best trailing along the lazy waters o the Erie Canal. And within half of a life time that great change, - abundantly trum peted by orators, and declaimed by poets, ye never enough brought home to our imagination in its reality or to our reason in its result which has created, we may say, the wealth of half the continent ! I shall not add anything to the declamation which has heralded this astonishing creation of our time. It is with quite another side o that striking spectacle, that I am dealing now That battalion of sturdy, weary, hungry men was, in all its natural elements - as Charles Kingsley has very happily described, - the same as the horde upon horde of northern barbarians that came across the Alps to the sack of Rome under Alaric or Theodoric, - the same in blood, the same in a rude humor and a sort of boyish wantonness of strength lïy rough reckoning, the immigration inlo this country, in the last fifty years, is about equa' to the number of the Goths, Vandals, anc Huns who destroyed the Roman Empire in the fifth century. One great contrast : those came to destroy, and these to créate. But one could not bul feel, involuntarily, - if for one hour the spel of discipline, of imagination, of habit, shoulc be lifted off, - how it must seem to those men as they passed the doors they must not enter ; saw signs of wealth and plenty they must nol touch ; caught the vanishing refiection oi gaieties, or the far glimmer of lamplight, that might not shine for them. The discipline and the wages of their task would keep them content while it lasted ; but when that was over, and their ranks disbanded, - what ? It is, as I think, very much worse than useless, it is to the last degree hurtful and dangerous, to dweil upon the question so raised in a sentimental, passionate, declamatory way. One touch of nature that " makes the whole world kin " we ought, however, to indulge in, so as to take in the human side of the spectacle, which has also its grave, formidable, social side. These men, banded, organized, employed, are the strong hands that lay the foundation and corner-stone of our wealth. These men, disbanded, unorganized, unemployed, are Tramps, - a name that in the last years has become the shadow and terror of lonely farm and village over all our land. These men, rebanded, organized under other leaders, are " the dangerous classes" of our great cities: crimináis, if lawless or reckless ; communists (as we cali them), when indoctrinated with a wild and impracticable social creed. But first of all they are men ; and it is the cruelest misfortune of the highly artificial state we live in, ihat it is so rare and diflicult a thing for us to meet them on the even level of our common humanity. All the more we ought to cultívate that sort of imaginative sympathy which finds fellow-men in them, and honestly try, if we may, to understand their condition, their rights, and their needs as men. Children, doubtless, they are in understanding, often in passion too, and yielding easily to le tools of a stronger will ; but men in impulses, desires, and wants. When I have chanced to talk with those whom I might have turned from my own door, but found it easier to give them a little rest and food, I have heard a story of hardship not merely plausibly but humbly told, and have found even a pathetic willingness for work. Not all are so. But, alas ! it is not a man's fault that he was bom, or that he cannot just now find any work to do. This, however, is not the side of the matter that has of late been most foreed upon our attention. The really formidable thing for us to consider, is the fact, which is brought before us with increased emphasis from day to day, that large bands of such men are said to be arming in all our largest cities, with the intention if not to attack at least to resist, with violence and bloodshtd, the legal luthority of the State. In the presence of such a fact, it is not the time to explain the causes - except as a guide what to do and what to avoid. The whole combination of those causes is very intricate, and not to be disposed of with a passing word. And again, our own feeling, or our wish ïowever generous of what might be, will not ivail us when dealing with the fact. It is tmpossibie that wc shotlld have the sympatlr and confïdence of sucb men, whcn they are once outside the ordinary restraints ; or tha they should have any belief in the sincerit; of any profession of fellow-fecling with them we inight make. We are, by comparison a least, of the sheltered, comfortable, secure class of society. All our interests, at least are identified with the general prósperity an order. Those men are, many of them, home less, out of any right relation with society with interests apparently antagonistic ; ii thcir own view, they are even its natural en emics. The vast niajority of them .are easil; enough registered and controlled iii some o the great organizations of industry, if the chance comes; and the vast majority of then are doubtless so registered and controlled But very many, again, are haggard and hope less, desperate perhaps with long waiting We cannot alter the fact ; at best, perhaps we can only try to understand it a liltle let ter, in one or two points of it. The tirst thing for us to recogmze, in thi view, is the fccblencss, in actual numbecs, o of those who stand rcady to declare thcni sclves eneinies of society. They claim, it i said, a number of onc bttndred and fift thousand all told, - that is, one in thrce hun dred of the population of the country Therc is, and perhaps nevcr was, a country whcre the actual holdcrs of property, inchul ing those whosc plain interest is in public or der, are more numcrous, intelligent, anc strong. Probably thcre is no other countr; where they are so numcrous, intelligent, am strong, as hcre. The power pi mischief anc misery in a hundred and lifty thousand armet and l)andcd men is almost incalculable: i inight inflict as much ntin at the North ab war and invasión have inflicted at the South yet of the result tlicre can be absolutely no possibility of doubt. That result would be civil order and ncw prosperity, undsr a des potic pressure of autkority that could no more be trifled ivith. The next thing whicli it sceins to ine im portant for us to sec - because, if we shouk ever be callcd on to defend by force the cause of civil order, we ought to do it with a clear conscience, - is the economical law un der which wealtíi is created in a rivilizcd country. A great revolulion bas been going on, for about a hundred ycars, in almost al the methods of production. Two incidents in this revolution are all Ihat concern us now One is that so vast a proportion of llie work that is done is taken f rom men's hands am done by machinery ; and the other, that ii consequence of this, great multitudes o people are brought together, in mining, man ufacturing, and the likc, making the nucleus of immense suffering and disorder wheneve business goes wrong. The families of pas ages were mostly surïercd among the countr population, - who generally had something to lall back on, while they were too scattered to combine; or, at any rate, in small towns com pared to our overgrown cities now. The misery may not have been less, was oftei vcry much more dreadful ; but the socia danger was next to nothing : I mean from the time the Feudal System was established dowi to ncar the time of the Krench Revolution. We may applaud or we may deplore the change, but we cannot help it. The fact fo us to note is this : that the modern organiza tion of industry, under great capitalists, is in dispensadle to the existence of the ivealth i kas created. Without that governing control and the arm of law to enlorce it, the very wealth itself which the Commune crave would perish - pass away like a drifting fog - probably more than half of it within a year It is not merely that thcre are certain priv ileged and protected classes ; but that the stringent despotism which we cali 'f rights o property " is absolutely fteeded, to maintait so large a number of human beings altre. A more equitable división, think what we wil of it, means both a much simpler state of so ciety, and a much more scattered population We may think that a better state of things I am inclín ed to, myself; but it is not a pos stble state of things. At least, if it were pos sfyle to imagine the triumph of communisin over law, with the wíder distributing o wealth and population it would bring about ït would imply the actual perishing, by vio lence or misery, of a very largc percentage o our population, probably from a third to half; and the reduction of the rest to th levcl of paupers in an almshouse, 01 at bes of operatives in a mili. That is, a lcveling process eflected by vi olence ittould necessarily mean lcveling down and could not by any possibil i ty mean lcvelinA up. The only possiblc leveling up, effectec by revolution, would be by distributing grea landcd cstates among a hard-working peas antry; and of such there is nothing whateve to speak of in this country. I should say a word here Ol Co-öperation, or joint stock labor as a remedy lor the miseries of'toi). Hu in the first place, for reasons which a practical mai easily understands, it cannot for the present cotnpet in the strugglc with the despotïc organization ot in dustry I have spoken of; and ín the second place, i cannot be made eftective, if ever, except by grea skill, patience, and end uring convictfon on tne par of those who try it. So far as we can sec, th struggle for extsteuce farces industry to a more and more despotic organization, instead of less and less The clement of greater personal power instead o less - which means greater individual wealth instea of less - is forced upon us, so far as we can sec, in the industry of the near future, as it has heen in tht near past. Wc may accept this, or rebel against it we may like it or fcar it; Dut wc are hclpless topre vin! it." Once the news of the day was told frou mouth to inouth, or passed in brief hints from ham to hand. Xow a single press, that of the New Vori Tribune will deliver in une liour, from an enormous reel of blank paper, thirty thousand jjreat ncwspn per sheets, prmted on both sides, rut and folded readv tor the reader. Onc combination of capital one directing tnind, one governing wil], must con trol this procugious maemnery - which a democrac of producers, ruling by mainritk-s, would ruin ïn a day. And further, there Ís an inexorable law of Population and its increase, taigaiast which everv scheme of revolution or of eharity must break itself in vain We must accept it as an inevitable fact that any lev elïnjE scheme, or any merely benevolent scfieme which attempts to interfere to constrain the workin of the industrial organizatioa, by pressure from out side, creates misery on a far reaier scale than i, rat possibty relieve. I say of the aid am comfort we may ffive in detail hcre and there, at our own cost, in the blessed tasks of symiathy and charitv: these are a divine and Indispensable part of tht higher cconomies of our human Hfv. Nor ctin ] press the ülustrations which this particular matter needs. I have only time to say that any attempt t( improve the general eondition of men, that does not take account of them, will bc fat worse than thrown away. I well know that this is a very sorry and imperfect, and to many will be a disheartening, pvrhups unchristian answer, to the question that touclu-s s dceply the welfare of men and the public pe;ice. It is not the whole answer, or the only answer l ought to give. But I hold that it is iinprrt;ml for us, first of all, in considering so grave a matter, to recogni7,e the points of necessity, which stake out for us, as it were, the line of our own duty in respect ol it. The points most ncedful so to recognizc, as 1 think, are these four: - 1, The certainty that civil order must triumph in the end - erhaps at tlic expense ol lilx-rtv, lmt triumph at any rate. 2. The certainty that an organizaron of industry which we may cali despoüc is necessary to créate and replenish the actual wealth which ineets men's actual wants, and keep alive the actual population. . The certiintv that no individual or associated eflf'ort, still les-s any revolutionarv change, can compete with the enormous productive force of such an organi7ition. 4. The certiinty that the law of population - the ordiuarv and normal increase oi numbèVS] bv birth or bv iinmigration - will inevitably bring to grief any srlu'ine of revolution or phüanthropv, which does not takc rigitl account of it. At the present rate of increase, this country will have, in seventy-fivc S;ars, a ojulation about equal to that of the Chinese mpire. Littlc children standing here will live to see that day. And then, there will be no new America to rolonize. A great, nay, appalUng fact like that, not a vague sentiment of wish or hope or fear, sliouUl control our thought about these maüers now. In a country likc ours, Mini is the only sovereign, and it must not abdícate. A sovcreigti's place is not Ulle, but arduous and respouslbTc. 'lhe tirst dutv of the gejverning power, Mind, is to nscertain he fa ets f the case, and tbc law by which those facts may be sel in order and determiucd. That is callrd Social Si'icncc. And the nexl dulv, is to administer that law Ín justice and mercy. Tlie motive that prompts to this UB found in what wc rightly cali .he Ileligion of Ilumanity. It ntay ii(t l)e a soft, weak, seiitiincntat tliing: ;s I s;iitl, it shoidd mean sninrtliitig :it least as large and strong as the religión of Home. It must ally itself with civil order: horror upon horror else, and destrnctton of all that nakes human life rich, tender, beauttfbi, and true, ind wortli living. And its ideal will bc what it was jf old, - the utmost attainablc good to every child of man witííin its reach; the reign of righteousness ind peace, which is the kingdom of CJoi on carth. And there is onc other thought Ín the line we have ecn ibllowing, with which, ior the present, I must close. "Am I my brother's keeper?" asks Caín. Yes," say Jesús and laul, very emphatically. In anyüiing Üiat gïves you for the tune the smallest dvantaflpe over your fellow-nian, in strength, in wealth, in intelligence, in opportunity, - whenevvr ie is in any degree at the mercy of your good-will, loucüty, kindness, or sense of justice, - you are his ' keeper " Ín tlie Christian setise, that is, the guarlia.11 of his right. You may pay a week 8 wagt:s to a l(Hiiestic, tr give a dime for a job, so as by your way of doiug it to make or break one of those inïunierable tlircads that weave the fu.br ie of our common life; so as to make or break one ot' Uiose countless links that bind the golden chain of our ïumanity. Still more, whcn you come lo deal with thpse nreat industrial forces tliat shape the lives of hunIrcds of men. Here is where, more than anvwherc elsc, the real sovereignty of our time resides. Mr. Vanderbilt acknowledged this, a year ago, in a well-mcant bhindering sort of way, in a gift outiifht of a huudred thousand dollars to the workmen )f his raUroad, saying as he did it that his interests vere one with theirs. Still, not by well-meant ca)ricious gifts here and there, not by ruinous rutes oí' vages, not by impossible hours of work - but by diectly encoufaging, nay planning and organizing, vmyi of prudence, cconomv, and self-respect among he men themselves, as is done by Üie great rail way ompanies in Krance, and is earnestly commendeu lere, - seems the true and brtter way. In nvitihff immigrant linrclea from all paf ts of the world, and ín rushmfr the work oí a century of cölonizalion inside of twenty years, we have takrn upon our hands a treinendous sorial problcm, soine of whose conditions I have heen tryinjr to state. There is no necd of poinp further tnto details, n which we should soon be bewildcrcd and lost. But we do need, in every way wc can, tp emphasize, cnforccf reiteróla the motive. It is pcrtèctly truc that no previous lorm of civili7.ation n;is frtven anythiii! líke so hijíh a standard of comfort, intellijience and frccdnni, (nr anythin like so lar;e a proportiOD of Cbose who have lived imder it. B'.it the dcsires of raen ale in.satiunlc, and the means of supplying them are Hmited. In the inniense Krwtli ni practica] setence and industrial skill, we Becm to be very fkst approaching thc Hmits of tliose means. Meanwhile, danjrerous passions - of cravin-, of rivalry, of luxurious tasles, of ill-reulatetl ambilion - spread farther and faster than the world's productive power can possiblv keep up with theni. We ean all do BOroetiunj; ti cnech those passionsin OUTSelvcSi and sometliinií to break the edjfe of them in others. And, with all the splnidnr of power, the miníeles of invention, the Inumphs of avl, it renúüns true now and always, that the messing ifi lll' íbí the stronc and rirh aml a míi , bu( íor tht)se - wliilher Artottg OT ■e:ll, Whéther rich W po(r, whether wie or ijfnonuit- 'Who are huinble tn ])ijt, mcrcifu] ín Umpcr, {eaci -maker, puní in heart, seekin f:rt ol :jll üut kingdom oí ful and bis nhu-oiisneiS. - Grand Rapids reporta lól liconsed liquor (lt)lrK. - 1.300 und expenses : tbat is the prico the Vsn Buren Couuty Agricultural Society is to pay Heury Ward Beechor for un aildross at the couiiug fair. - Au attetupt was made to luim Sherinan's plaiuing niill, at Carson City, on the lóth, but the firo wag discoveied in time to save the building. On the next night the plainitig nuil of J. G. 1-iaony was set on lire and totally deatroyed. Loss inulto hea-y and no inuranue. - Hon. J. J. Woodman, Coouuissioner to the Paris Ezposition, representing the agricultural interests of the State, left Paw Paw for bis post of duty on Bunday evening last. - Johnnie Cusick, an attaché of the Cody ooinbination show, aged 16 years, was killed in the storm of Monday noon last, by a falling tree, while hunting near Clio. 1 1 is raother lives near Saginaw City. - A house owned by Morris Ilyde Tecumsoh, was burued May 20. Lusg f 800, insured for #000. It was oocupied by Jobn Hughes, whosc furuiture was burued, - The Adrián races are set down for June 4-7, with premiums aggregating ó,000. Tbey are to be held on the new grounds of the Adrián Driving Park. - Gov. Croswell has pardoned W. H. Davis, oonvicted of burglary in the Lenawee circuit, January 30, 1877, and sentenced for a term of to years two the Detroit House of Correotion : on condition that he abstain wholly from the uao of intoxicating liquorg. - George Cassidy, of East Saginaw, nged i" years, dropped dead in the street on Sunday last.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus