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The Capitalist And The Laborer

The Capitalist And The Laborer image
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[Dr. J. Q. Holland, in October Scribner.] We had occasion, somo months ago, to alinde to the examples of immorality furnished by men of money to men of labor, in endeavoring to account, in some measure, for the brutal excesses of the latter. It was a plain case, that hardly needed arguing. The notorious facts, in conneetion with the moneyed classes for the last ten years, are those which relate to the betrayal of trusts, the watering of stocks, gambling in grain and other necessaries of life, the wrecking of insurance companiea, the bursting of savings banks throngh stealing and reckless management, the running of railroads in the interest of directors rather thun in that of stockholders and the public, etc, etc. Poor people havo looked on, and feit all the power of tliis degrading example. ïhe way in which capital has been managed and mismanaged in this country has been utterly demoralizing. The poor have seen capitalista stealing from one another in a tliousand ways, and even stealiiig their own hard-earned savings. The gambling in stocks, the gambling in grain, the defalcations among men who have been universiilly trusted, the nuilversation of persons high in the ohurch, the great "game of grab," played so generally among thosc supposed to have money, and among the great corporations - all these have tended to break down the public morality; and, if the poor have been apt to learn the lessons of life from "the superior classes," they have simply learned to steal. What wonder that trades-unioiis thriveV What wonder that we have a "commune?" What wonder that we have unreasonable mobs? If stealing is to be the order of the day, the poor want their chance with the rest ! The old saying i,s that eorttorations have no BOuls; and we suspect that, added to the inrluences we have reeouiited, téHdiag to fill the poor with discontent and to array them against capita], is the soulless character of Corporation life. A corporation combines the capital of a certain nimiber, oran ïmcertain number, of persons. It is a combination for the simple purpose of making money. It does not take along with it the niornlities, the amenities, the sympathies, the bcnevolences, of the stockholders. As a fule, any individual stockholder has very littlo influence. He is simply concerned, therefore, to get his regular drvüends ; and the directors who manage everything are mainly interested in so directing their affairs as to be able to fulfill his expectation. It is not for them to take the morality, the health, the comfort, the competent wages of their employés into account. It is not for them to provide church and school privileges for their operatives, to look after them in siekness, to pension them in old ige, to fumisli them with reading-róoms and anmsenients. To a corporation, a workman is a machine, running by vital power, to be supported at the lowest cost, that he may help to pay a dividend. So there riever can be, un til the policy of the world changes, any affectionate relations between a corporation and its operatives. It is not recognized by its operatives as hoving a soul. It is nothing toward which they can exercise the sentiment of gratitiule, or love, or loyalty. It is simply their task-master and the agency throngh which they receive their just or unjust wages. Few people are aware of the ovorshadowing power of corporations in this country. They have grown with the country's growth, until they control, directly or indirectly, all our industries. The railroad corporations represent enormous capital and enormous power. Mining and manufacturing corporations employ. an immense amount of labor. Literaïly, milh'ons of men are the servants of corporations, and wherever a mob starts up it will be found to have some sort of conneetion with a corporation. These servants, or operatives, never regard the pro]jerty of a corporation as they regard the property of a man. To them there soems to be no owner for it who has a better right to it than themselves. They entertain the saine feeling toward it that richer men feel toward the Government. If they watch Congress they will flnd that body voting appropriations for objects which are entirely illegitimate. Every Congress steals from the Government in one way or another, and suffers no compuncions of conscience. The Government has no soul. Congress would not vote away an individual's money, but it will vote away the nation's money, and laugh over it as a good joke. Bieh and good people are caught smuggling without a thought that they are doing wrong. The wrong consists entirely in being found out. So we say that a great company of ignorant work-people who never seo anything in a corporation but its power - a power without a heart - a power without a conscience - a power of money only - will not, when excited by real or fanoied wrong, respect its property. It is graply prophesied in high newspaper (juarters tliat before the time in wliich this article will seethe light slioll arrivo there will be an uprising of the "commune," or violence and rioting among workmen in different parts of (lic country. We trust that the foreboding is groundless, but we may bc sure that we shall alwnys be liable l these uprisings until the rich sliall set a better example in the management of their trusts and in the conduct of their business, and until something more human and more Christianshall enter into the relations between corporations and the men and women in their employ. There are private mamifactories in this country in which an uprising or a strike would be simply impossible - in wliich the relations between the employers and the employed are so respectful and affectionate, and in which the interests of the latter are so carefully and conscientiously regarded, that no misunderstanding can oceur. The work-people feel that their employers are their friends, and in this friendship their self-respect and their integrity are nourished. There' must come, sooner or later, in this country, a change in the principies or policy of corporatiou management. Corporationx must reeognize the fact that workmen have souls - that their self-respeet must be strengthened, that their minde must be fed, and that they have a moral right to a part of the wealth which their labor, combined with the brains and the money invested, produces. In short, corporations must liave souls, and rëcognize the souls, and the wants of the souls, in their employ. The time is gone by when men can be treated simply as brutee without dangerously arousing the brutal element in them. Men want a chance for their wives and children. They want a chance for better homes, or for privileges which will make their lives more significant. They are shortsighted, and cannot reason it all out. They have worked hard, and they have had nothing but bread and poor shelter. They feel as if they onght to have more ; so they take the suicidal short-cut, yield to their brutal impulses, and work mischief to themselves and to all society. We speak of them as ignorant, but, after all, they are no more ignorant than the managers of eorporations who have not yet learned that a man is a man, and that he cannot be treated simply as an animal or a machine, either economically to themselves or with safety to the country. And the rich everywhere are ignorant if they suppose that they eau harmlessly set the poor an example of treachery to trust, of greed without conscience, and of a policy that constantly subverts the golden rule.


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Michigan Argus