Front Page Titles (by Subject) PART FIVE: Reform Movements - The American Nation: Primary Sources
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PART FIVE: Reform Movements - Bruce Frohnen, The American Nation: Primary Sources 
The American Nation: Primary Sources, ed. Bruce Frohnen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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This section includes documents related to a variety of reform movements—some centered on particular issues, such as women’s suffrage, and some advocating a more general program of reform, such as Populism, seen as necessary to protect fundamental values and interests endangered by self-interested groups. Most of these movements had their real legal and constitutional impact after the start of the twentieth century. But their roots lay at the beginnings of the republic, and beyond. Moreover, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there were deep connections among those seeking reform, and the reforms they sought. Those seeking the abolition of slavery, the prohibition of intoxicating spirits, the extension of greater rights to women, and economic reforms intended to care for the poor often were the same people. At times there were conflicts, as when some former abolitionists split with those seeking voting rights for African Americans in order to argue that white women should have those rights. Moreover, there were substantial differences among those seeking reforms of the American system and those who brought into public discourse theories and assumptions regarding economic class and industrialism originally more connected with European radicalism. But the results—particularly as measured by constitutional reforms—changed the very structure of American public life.
American farmers and ranchers repeatedly formed movements aimed at protecting themselves against powerful interests they believed were profiting from corrupt policies that hurt people who worked the land. These interests varied, depending on the era and the agrarians involved, but generally included bankers and large industrial corporations—especially railroad companies. In 1892 agrarian forces coalesced to form the People’s Party, more generally referred to as the Populist Party. At its first national convention, the party nominated James K. Weaver for president and adopted the platform reproduced here. Many of its proposals, aimed at fighting concentrations of wealth and power, found their way into later reform movements.
National People’s Party Platform, adopted at Omaha, Neb., July 4, 1892
Assembled upon the 116th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the People’s Party of America, in their first national convention, invoking upon their action the blessing of Almighty God, put forth in the name and on behalf of the people of this country, the following preamble and declaration of principles:
The conditions which surround us best justify our co-operation; we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling places to prevent universal intimidation and bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauperized labor beats down their wages, a hireling standing army, unrecognized by our laws, is established to shoot them down, and they are rapidly degenerating into European conditions. The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of those, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.
The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bondholders; a vast public debt payable in legal tender currency has been funded into gold-bearing bonds, thereby adding millions to the burdens of the people.
Silver, which has been accepted as coin since the dawn of history, has been demonetized to add to the purchasing power of gold by decreasing the value of all forms of property as well as human labor, and the supply of currency is purposely abridged to fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise, and enslave industry. A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forebodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute despotism.
We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggles of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon the suffering people. We charge that the controlling influences dominating both these parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them. Neither do they now promise us any substantial reform. They have agreed together to ignore, in the coming campaign, every issue but one. They propose to drown the outcries of a plundered people with the uproar of a sham battle over the tariff, so that capitalists, corporations, national banks, rings, trusts, watered stock, the demonetization of silver and the oppressions of the usurers may all be lost sight of. They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives, and children on the altar of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires.
Assembled on the anniversary of the birthday of the nation, and filled with the spirit of the grand general and chief who established our independence, we seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of “the plain people,” with which class it originated. We assert our purposes to be identical with the purposes of the National Constitution; to form a more perfect union and establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
We declare that this Republic can only endure as a free government while built upon the love of the whole people for each other and for the nation; that it cannot be pinned together by bayonets; that the civil war is over, and that every passion and resentment which grew out of it must die with it, and that we must be in fact, as we are in name, one united brotherhood of free men.
Our country finds itself confronted by conditions for which there is no precedent in the history of the world; our annual agricultural productions amount to billions of dollars in value, which must, within a few weeks or months, be exchanged for billions of dollars’ worth of commodities consumed in their production; the existing currency supply is wholly inadequate to make this exchange; the results are falling prices, the formation of combines and rings, the impoverishment of the producing class. We pledge ourselves that if given power we will labor to correct these evils by wise and reasonable legislation, in accordance with the terms of our platform.
We believe that the power of government—in other words, of the people—should be expanded (as in the case of the postal service) as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually cease in the land.
While our sympathies as a party of reform are naturally upon the side of every proposition which will tend to make men intelligent, virtuous, and temperate, we nevertheless regard these questions, important as they are, as secondary to the great issues now pressing for solution, and upon which not only our individual prosperity but the very existence of free institutions depend; and we ask all men to first help us to determine whether we are to have a republic to administer before we differ as to the conditions upon which it is to be administered, believing that the forces of reform this day organized will never cease to move forward until every wrong is remedied and equal rights and equal privileges securely established for all the men and women of this country.
We declare, therefore—
First.—That the union of the labor forces of the United States this day consummated shall be permanent and perpetual; may its spirit enter into all hearts for the salvation of the Republic and the uplifting of mankind.
Second.—Wealth belongs to him who creates it, and every dollar taken from industry without an equivalent is robbery. “If any will not work, neither shall he eat.” The interests of rural and civic labor are the same; their enemies are identical.
Third.—We believe that the time has come when the railroad corporations will either own the people or the people must own the railroads, and should the government enter upon the work of owning and managing all railroads, we should favor an amendment to the Constitution by which all persons engaged in the government service shall be placed under a civil-service regulation of the most rigid character, so as to prevent the increase of the power of the national administration by the use of such additional government employés.
FINANCE.—We demand a national currency, safe, sound, and flexible, issued by the general government only, a full legal lender for all debts, public and private, and that without the use of banking corporations, a just, equitable, and efficient means of distribution direct to the people, at a tax not to exceed 2 per cent. per annum, to be provided as set forth in the sub-treasury plan of the Farmers’ Alliance, or a better system; also by payments in discharge of its obligations for public improvements.
1. We demand free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1.
2. We demand that the amount of circulating medium be speedily increased to not less than $50 per capita.
3. We demand a graduated income tax.
4. We believe that the money of the country should be kept as much as possible in the hands of the people, and hence we demand that all State and national revenues shall be limited to the necessary expenses of the government, economically and honestly administered.
5. We demand that postal savings banks be established by the government for the safe deposit of the earnings of the people and to facilitate exchange.
TRANSPORTATION.—Transportation being a means of exchange and a public necessity, the government should own and operate the railroads in the interest of the people. The telegraph, telephone, like the post-office system, being a necessity for the transmission of news, should be owned and operated by the government in the interest of the people.
LAND.—The land, including all the natural sources of wealth, is the heritage of the people, and should not be monopolized for speculative purposes, and alien ownership of land should be prohibited. All land now held by railroads and other corporations in excess of their actual needs, and all lands now owned by aliens should be reclaimed by the government and held for actual settlers only.
Expression of Sentiments
Your Committee on Platform and Resolutions beg leave unanimously to report the following:
Whereas, Other questions have been presented for our consideration, we hereby submit the following, not as a part of the Platform of the People’s Party, but as resolutions expressive of the sentiment of this Convention:
1. RESOLVED, That we demand a free ballot and a fair count in all elections, and pledge ourselves to secure it to every legal voter without Federal intervention, through the adoption by the States of the unperverted Australian or secret ballot system.
2. RESOLVED, That the revenue derived from a graduated income tax should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation now levied upon the domestic industries of this country.
3. RESOLVED, That we pledge our support to fair and liberal pensions to ex-Union soldiers and sailors.
4. RESOLVED, That we condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor under the present system, which opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world and crowds out our wage-earners; and we denounce the present ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further restriction of undesirable emigration.
5. RESOLVED, That we cordially sympathize with the efforts of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of labor, and demand a rigid enforcement of the existing eight-hour law on Government work, and ask that a penalty clause be added to the said law.
6. RESOLVED, That we regard the maintenance of a large standing army of mercenaries, known as the Pinkerton system, as a menace to our liberties, and we demand its abolition; and we condemn the recent invasion of the Territory of Wyoming by the hired assassins of plutocracy, assisted by Federal officers.
7. RESOLVED, That we commend to the favorable consideration of the people and the reform press the legislative system known as the initiative and referendum.
8. RESOLVED, That we favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President and Vice-President to one term, and providing for the election of Senators of the United States by a direct vote of the people.
9. RESOLVED, That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation for any purpose.
10. RESOLVED, That this convention sympathizes with the Knights of Labor and their righteous contest with the tyrannical combine of clothing manufacturers of Rochester, and declare it to be a duty of all who hate tyranny and oppression to refuse to purchase the goods made by the said manufacturers, or to patronize any merchants who sell such goods.
Few issues fostered more debate and rancor during the last quarter of the nineteenth century than the popular demand to remonetize silver. Supporters of the gold standard, mostly from the business class and centered in the Northeast, adamantly opposed this drive to restore silver to its former role as the standard by which the value of the nation’s currency would be determined. But remonetization, aimed at increasing the supply of money, gained wide support among farmers primarily in the South and West. In 1894 William Hope Harvey (1851-1936) published Coin’s Financial School, calling for the free and unlimited coinage of silver. Harvey had held numerous jobs, including lawyer, real estate salesman, and silver-mine operator, before opening a publishing business linked to his campaign for free silver. Published during the worst depression in American history, Harvey’s book sold nearly one million copies. It showcased Professor “Coin,” who argued that London businessmen had worked in the shadows to orchestrate the “Crime of’73” in the U.S. Congress—the demonetization of silver. The result, Coin argued, was deflation, which impoverished American farmers and workers. Coin’s references to the English House of Rothschild’s complicity in demonetization hinted at Jewish conspiracy.
Coin’s Financial School
The Money Unit
“In money there must be a unit. In arithmetic, as you are aware, you are taught what a unit is. Thus, I make here on the blackboard the figure 1. That, in arithmetic, is a unit. All countings are sums or multiples of that unit. A unit, therefore, in mathematics, was a necessity as a basis to start from. In making money it was equally as necessary to establish a unit. The constitution gave the power to Congress to ‘coin money and regulate the value thereof.’ Congress adopted silver and gold as money. It then proceeded to fix the unit.
“That is, it then fixed what should constitute one dollar, the same thing that the mathematician did when he fixed one figure from which all others should be counted. Congress fixed the monetary unit to consist of 371¼ grains of pure silver, and provided for a certain amount of alloy (baser metals) to be mixed with it to give it greater hardness and durability. This was in 1792, in the days of Washington and Jefferson and our revolutionary forefathers, who had a hatred of England, and an intimate knowledge of her designs on this country.
“They had fought eight long years for their independence from British domination in this country, and when they had seen the last red-coat leave our shores, they settled down to establish a permanent government, and among the first things they did was to make 371¼ grains of silver the unit of values. That much silver was to constitute a dollar. And each dollar was a unit. They then provided for all other money to be counted from this unit of a silver dollar. Hence, dimes, quarters and half-dollars were exact fractional parts of the dollar so fixed.
“Gold was made money, but its value was counted from these silver units or dollars. The ratio between silver and gold was fixed at 15 to 1, and afterward at 16 to 1. So that in making gold coins their relative weight was regulated by this ratio.
“This continued to be the law up to 1873. During that long period, the unit of values was never changed and always contained 371¼ grains of pure silver. While that was the law it was impossible for any one to say that the silver in a silver dollar was only worth 47 cents, or any other number of cents less than 100 cents, or a dollar. For it was itself the unit of values. While that was the law it would have been as absurd to say that the silver in a silver dollar was only worth 47 cents, as it would be to say that this figure 1 which I have on the blackboard is only forty-seven one-hundredths of one.
“When the ratio was changed from 15 to 1 to 16 to 1 the silver dollar or unit was left the same size and the gold dollar was made smaller. The latter was changed from 24.7 grains to 23.2 grains pure gold, thus making it smaller. This occurred in 1834. The silver dollar still remained the unit and continued so until 1873.
“Both were legal tender in the payment of all debts, and the mints were open to the coinage of all that came. So that up to 1873, we were on what was known as a bimetallic basis, but what was in fact a silver basis, with gold as a companion metal enjoying the same privileges as silver, except that silver fixed the unit, and the value of gold was regulated by it. This was bimetallism.
“Our forefathers showed much wisdom in selecting silver, of the two metals, out of which to make the unit. Much depended on this decision. For the one selected to represent the unit would thereafter be unchangeable in value. That is, the metal in it could never be worth less than a dollar, for it would be the unit of value itself. The demand for silver in the arts or for money by other nations might make the quantity of silver in a silver dollar sell for more than a dollar, but it could never be worth less than a dollar. Less than itself.
“In considering which of these two metals they would thus favor by making it the unit, they were led to adopt silver because it was the most reliable. It was the most favored as money by the people. It was scattered among all the people. Men having a design to injure business by making money scarce, could not so easily get hold of all the silver and hide it away, as they could gold. This was the principal reason that led them to the conclusion to select silver, the more stable of the two metals, upon which to fix the unit. It was so much handled by the people and preferred by them, that it was called the people’s money.
“Gold was considered the money of the rich. It was owned principally by that class of people, and the poor people seldom handled it, and the very poor people seldom ever saw any of it.”
The Crime of 1873
“We now come to the act of 1873,” continued Coin. “On February 12, 1873, Congress passed an act purporting to be a revision of the coinage laws. This law covers 15 pages of our statutes. It repealed the unit clause in the law of 1792, and in its place substituted a law in the following language:
“That the gold coins of the United States shall be a one-dollar piece which at the standard weight of twenty-five and eight-tenths grains shall be the unit of value.
“It then deprived silver of its right to unrestricted free coinage, and destroyed it as legal tender money in the payment of debts, except to the amount of five dollars.
“At that time we were all using paper money. No one was handling silver and gold coins. It was when specie payments were about to be resumed that the country appeared to realize what had been done. The newspapers on the morning of February 13, 1873, and at no time in the vicinity of that period, had any account of the change. General Grant, who was President of the United States at that time, said afterwards, that he had no idea of it, and would not have signed the bill if he had known that it demonetized silver.
“In the language of Senator Daniel of Virginia, it seems to have gone through Congress ‘like the silent tread of a cat.’
“An army of a half million of men invading our shores, the warships of the world bombarding our coasts, could not have made us surrender the money of the people and substitute in its place the money of the rich. A few words embraced in fifteen pages of statutes put through Congress in the rush of bills did it. The pen was mightier than the sword.
“But we are not here to deal with sentiment. We are here to learn facts. Plain, blunt facts.
“The law of 1873 made gold the unit of values. And that is the law to-day. When silver was the unit of value, gold enjoyed free coinage, and was legal tender in the payment of all debts. Now things have changed. Gold is the unit and silver does not enjoy free coinage. It is refused at the mints. We might get along with gold as the unit, if silver enjoyed the same right gold did prior to 1873. But that right is now denied to silver. When silver was the unit, the unlimited demand for gold to coin into money, made the demand as great as the supply, and this held up the value of gold bullion.”
Here Victor F. Lawson, Jr., of the Chicago Evening News, interrupted the little financier with the statement that his paper, the News, had stated time and again that silver had become so plentiful it had ceased to be a precious metal. And that this statement believed by him to be a fact had more to do with his prejudice to silver than anything else. And he would like to know if that was not a fact?
“There is no truth in the statement,” replied Coin. “On page 21 of my Handbook you will find a table on this subject, compiled by Mulhall, the London statistician. It gives the quantity of gold and silver in the world both coined and uncoined at six periods—at the years 1600, 1700, 1800, 1848, 1880, and 1890. It shows that in 1600 there were 27 tons of silver to one ton of gold. In 1700, 34 tons of silver to one ton of gold. In 1800, 32 tons of silver to one ton of gold. In 1848, 31 tons of silver to one ton of gold. In 1880, 18 tons of silver to one ton of gold. In 1890, 18 tons of silver to one ton of gold.
“The United States is producing more silver than it ever did, or was until recently. But the balance of the world is producing much less. They are fixing the price on our silver and taking it away from us, at their price. The report of the Director of the Mint shows that since 1850 the world has produced less silver than gold, while during the first fifty years of the century the world produced 78 per cent more silver than gold. Instead of becoming more plentiful, it is less plentiful. So it is less, instead of more.
“Any one can get the official statistics by writing to the treasurer at Washington, and asking for his official book of statistics. Also write to the Director of the Mint and ask him for his report. If you get no answer write to your Congressman. These books are furnished free and you will get them.
“At the time the United States demonetized silver in February, 1873, silver as measured in gold was worth $1.02. The argument of depreciated silver could not then be made. Not one of the arguments that are now made against silver was then possible. They are all the bastard children of the crime of 1873.
“It was demonetized secretly, and since then a powerful money trust has used deception and misrepresentations that have led tens of thousands of honest minds astray.”
William Henry Smith, Jr., of the Associated Press, wanted to know if the size of the gold dollar was ever changed more than the one time mentioned by Coin, viz., in 1834.
“Yes,” said Coin. “In 1837 it was changed from 23.2 to 23.22. This change of 2/100ths was for convenience in calculation, but the change was made in the gold coin—never in the silver dollar (the unit) till 1873.
“We have seen,” replied Coin, “how the commercial value of the two metals were parted. By the same laws that produced this result, silver was made redeemable in gold, and ceased to be redemption money. Silver now circulates like paper money, both redeemable in gold. It is now subsidary coin or token money.
“Strictly speaking, nothing is money but redemption money—all other forms of so called money are money only in the sense that certified checks are money.
“In the sense in which you say silver is money, nickel and copper are money, but they form no part of our stock of redemption money. Gold now takes the place formerly occupied by both gold and silver, and is our only redemption money. Silver, as now treated, cuts no figure in our currency that could not be substituted by paper or other metals. What is meant by demonetization is, that silver has been destroyed as primary money.
“We are now on a single gold standard, and have come to it through a period of limping bimetallism.”
“We express values in dollars, the unit of our monetary system. That unit is now the gold dollar of twenty-three and two-tenths grains of pure gold, or twenty-five and eight-tenths grains of standard gold. If we were to cut this amount in two and make eleven and six-tenths grains pure gold a unit or dollar, we would thereby double the value of all the property in the United States, except debts.
“If we were to double the weight of the unit or dollar by putting forty-six and four-tenths grains in it, we would thus reduce the value of all the property in the world, as expressed in dollars, except debts, as they call for so many dollars.
“If you don’t understand this proposition as I have stated it, you will by enlarging the scale. Keep on adding gold to the dollar, till it takes one hundred grains—five hundred grains—one thousand grains—to make a legal unit or dollar. Go on making it larger till you have all of the gold in the world in one thousand units, or dollar pieces.
“Who could give up property enough to buy one of them? To buy a single dollar? Suppose you owed a note calling for $100.00 payable in gold, one-tenth the gold of the world—how could you pay it? Think of the property that would have to be slaughtered to get it.
“Carry the illustration still further and put all the gold in the world in one dollar. A note for one dollar would require all the gold to pay it. When you reduce the number of primary dollars, you reduce the value of property as expressed in dollars accordingly, and make it that much more difficult for debtors to pay their debts.
“And yet this is the kind of injustice that was committed when silver was demonetized. It struck down one-half the number of dollars that made up our primary money and standard of values for measuring the values of all property. It reduced the average value of silver and all other property one-half, except debts.
“It is commonly known as the crime of 1873. A crime, because it has confiscated millions of dollars worth of property. A crime, because it has made thousands of paupers. A crime, because it has made tens of thousands of tramps. A crime, because it has made thousands of suicides. A crime, because it has brought tears to strong men’s eyes, and hunger and pinching want to widows and orphans. A crime, because it is destroying the honest yeomanry of the land, the bulwark of the nation. A crime, because it has brought this once great republic to the verge of ruin, where it is now in imminent danger of tottering to its fall. [Applause.]
“Pardon me for an expression of feeling. We are not here to comment on the effects of demonetization, but “I now think we understand,” said Coin, “what to learn what money is, and wherein our financial system has been changed.”
The little speaker, without intending it, through a feeling of honest indignation, had burst forth in a recital of this catalogue of crimes. It had a perceptible effect on the audience. His earnest eloquence was melting hearts that never before had thawed to the presentation of the subject.
It is one of the wonders of the world—how the people have been so slow in grasping the financial problem—in learning what it is that measures values, and that the lesson should have to be learned through an experience so bitter.
A physician, psychologist, and self-trained philosopher, William James (1842-1910) is best known as the principal founder and exponent of the philosophical school of Pragmatism. This school was highly influential in the United States for several decades and helped shape the Progressive tradition in politics. It quickly became known as a particularly American philosophy because of its emphasis on analyzing particular concepts by looking at their concrete, practical consequences or “cash value.” James also published highly influential works on human psychology and the nature of religious experience. The essay reprinted here is one of eight lectures dedicated to the English utilitarian John Stuart Mill and published in Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.
Lecture II: What Pragmatism Means
Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I returned from a solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel—a live squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree’s opposite side a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The resultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrel or not? He goes round the tree, sure enough, and the squirrel is on the tree; but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Every one had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the numbers on both sides were even. Each side, when I appeared therefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Mindful of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a contradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately sought and found one, as follows: “Which party is right,” I said, “depends on what you practically mean by ‘going round’ the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him, for he occupies these successive positions. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then behind him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as obvious that the man fails to go round him, for by the compensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction, and there is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the verb ‘to go round’ in one practical fashion or the other.”
Although one or two of the hotter disputants called my speech a shuffling evasion, saying they wanted no quibbling or scholastic hair-splitting, but meant just plain honest English ‘round,’ the majority seemed to think that the distinction had assuaged the dispute.
I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly simple example of what I wish now to speak of as the pragmatic method. The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. Is the world one or many?—fated or free?—material or spiritual?—here are notions either of which may or may not hold good of the world; and disputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to any one if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle. Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some practical difference that must follow from one side or the other’s being right.
A glance at the history of the idea will show you still better what pragmatism means. The term is derived from the same Greek word πράγμα, meaning action, from which our words ‘practice’ and ‘practical’ come. It was first introduced into philosophy by Mr. Charles Peirce in 1878. In an article entitled ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear,’ in the ‘Popular Science Monthly’ for January of that year1 Mr. Peirce, after pointing out that our beliefs are really rules for action, said that, to develop a thought’s meaning, we need only determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for us its sole significance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no one of them so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve—what sensations we are to expect from it, and what reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these effects, whether immediate or remote, is then for us the whole of our conception of the object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all.
This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism. It lay entirely unnoticed by any one for twenty years, until I, in an address before Professor Howison’s philosophical union at the university of California, brought it forward again and made a special application of it to religion. By that date (1898) the times seemed ripe for its reception. The word ‘pragmatism’ spread, and at present it fairly spots the pages of the philosophic journals. On all hands we find the ‘pragmatic movement’ spoken of, sometimes with respect, sometimes with contumely, seldom with clear understanding. It is evident that the term applies itself conveniently to a number of tendencies that hitherto have lacked a collective name, and that it has ‘come to stay.’
To take in the importance of Peirce’s principle, one must get accustomed to applying it to concrete cases. I found a few years ago that Ostwald, the illustrious Leipzig chemist, had been making perfectly distinct use of the principle of pragmatism in his lectures on the philosophy of science, though he had not called it by that name.
“All realities influence our practice,” he wrote me, “and that influence is their meaning for us. I am accustomed to put questions to my classes in this way: In what respects would the world be different if this alternative or that were true? If I can find nothing that would become different, then the alternative has no sense.”
That is, the rival views mean practically the same thing, and meaning, other than practical, there is for us none. Ostwald in a published lecture gives this example of what he means. Chemists have long wrangled over the inner constitution of certain bodies called ‘tautomerous.’ Their properties seemed equally consistent with the notion that an instable hydrogen atom oscillates inside of them, or that they are instable mixtures of two bodies. Controversy raged, but never was decided. “It would never have begun,” says Ostwald, “if the combatants had asked themselves what particular experimental fact could have been made different by one or the other view being correct. For it would then have appeared that no difference of fact could possibly ensue; and the quarrel was as unreal as if, theorizing in primitive times about the raising of dough by yeast, one party should have invoked a ‘brownie,’ while another insisted on an ‘elf’ as the true cause of the phenomenon.”2
It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes collapse into insignificance the moment you subject them to this simple test of tracing a concrete consequence. There can be no difference anywhere that doesn’t make a difference elsewhere—no difference in abstract truth that doesn’t express itself in a difference in concrete fact and in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow, somewhere, and somewhen. The whole function of philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me, at definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that world-formula be the true one.
There is absolutely nothing new in the pragmatic method. Socrates was an adept at it. Aristotle used it methodically. Locke, Berkeley, and Hume made momentous contributions to truth by its means. Shadworth Hodgson keeps insisting that realities are only what they are ‘known as.’ But these forerunners of pragmatism used it in fragments: they were preluders only. Not until in our time has it generalized itself, become conscious of a universal mission, pretended to a conquering destiny. I believe in that destiny, and I hope I may end by inspiring you with my belief.
Pragmatism represents a perfectly familiar attitude in philosophy, the empiricist attitude, but it represents it, as it seems to me, both in a more radical and in a less objectionable form than it has ever yet assumed. A pragmatist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers. He turns away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power. That means the empiricist temper regnant and the rationalist temper sincerely given up. It means the open air and possibilities of nature, as against dogma, artificiality, and the pretence of finality in truth.
At the same time it does not stand for any special results. It is a method only. But the general triumph of that method would mean an enormous change in what I called in my last lecture the ‘temperament’ of philosophy. Teachers of the ultra-rationalistic type would be frozen out, much as the courtier type is frozen out in republics, as the ultramontane type of priest is frozen out in protestant lands. Science and metaphysics would come much nearer together, would in fact work absolutely hand in hand.
Metaphysics has usually followed a very primitive kind of quest. You know how men have always hankered after unlawful magic, and you know what a great part in magic words have always played. If you have his name, or the formula of incantation that binds him, you can control the spirit, genie, afrite, or whatever the power may be. Solomon knew the names of all the spirits, and having their names, he held them subject to his will. So the universe has always appeared to the natural mind as a kind of enigma, of which the key must be sought in the shape of some illuminating or power-bringing word or name. That word names the universe’s principle, and to possess it is after a fashion to possess the universe itself. ‘God,’ ‘Matter,’ ‘Reason,’ ‘the Absolute,’ ‘Energy,’ are so many solving names. You can rest when you have them. You are at the end of your metaphysical quest.
But if you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot look on any such word as closing your quest. You must bring out of each word its practical cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less as a solution, then, than as a program for more work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed.
Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest. We don’t lie back upon them, we move forward, and, on occasion, make nature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work. Being nothing essentially new, it harmonizes with many ancient philosophic tendencies. It agrees with nominalism for instance, in always appealing to particulars; with utilitarianism in emphasizing practical aspects; with positivism in its disdain for verbal solutions, useless questions and metaphysical abstractions.
All these, you see, are anti-intellectualist tendencies. Against rationalism as a pretension and a method pragmatism is fully armed and militant. But, at the outset, at least, it stands for no particular results. It has no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method. As the young Italian pragmatist Papini has well said, it lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next some one on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third a chemist investigating a body’s properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms.
No particular results then, so far, but only an attitude of orientation, is what the pragmatic method means. The attitude of looking away from first things, principles, ‘categories,’ supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts.
So much for the pragmatic method! You may say that I have been praising it rather than explaining it to you, but I shall presently explain it abundantly enough by showing how it works on some familiar problems. Meanwhile the word pragmatism has come to be used in a still wider sense, as meaning also a certain theory of truth. I mean to give a whole lecture to the statement of that theory, after first paving the way, so I can be very brief now. But brevity is hard to follow, so I ask for your redoubled attention for a quarter of an hour. If much remains obscure, I hope to make it clearer in the later lectures.
One of the most successfully cultivated branches of philosophy in our time is what is called inductive logic, the study of the conditions under which our sciences have evolved. Writers on this subject have begun to show a singular unanimity as to what the laws of nature and elements of fact mean, when formulated by mathematicians, physicists and chemists. When the first mathematical, logical, and natural uniformities, the first laws, were discovered, men were so carried away by the clearness, beauty and simplification that resulted, that they believed themselves to have deciphered authentically the eternal thoughts of the Almighty. His mind also thundered and reverberated in syllogisms. He also thought in conic sections, squares and roots and ratios, and geometrized like Euclid. He made Kepler’s laws for the planets to follow; he made velocity increase proportionally to the time in falling bodies; he made the law of the sines for light to obey when refracted; he established the classes, orders, families and genera of plants and animals, and fixed the distances between them. He thought the archetypes of all things, and devised their variations; and when we rediscover any one of these his wondrous institutions, we seize his mind in its very literal intention.
But as the sciences have developed farther, the notion has gained ground that most, perhaps all, of our laws are only approximations. The laws themselves, moreover, have grown so numerous that there is no counting them; and so many rival formulations are proposed in all the branches of science that investigators have become accustomed to the notion that no theory is absolutely a transcript of reality, but that any one of them may from some point of view be useful. Their great use is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones. They are only a man-made language, a conceptual shorthand, as some one calls them, in which we write our reports of nature; and languages, as is well known, tolerate much choice of expression and many dialects.
Thus human arbitrariness has driven divine necessity from scientific logic. If I mention the names of Sigwart, Mach, Ostwald, Pearson, Milhaud, Poincaré, Duhem, Ruyssen, those of you who are students will easily identify the tendency I speak of, and will think of additional names.
Riding now on the front of this wave of scientific logic Messrs. Schiller and Dewey appear with their pragmatistic account of what truth everywhere signifies. Everywhere, these teachers say, ‘truth’ in our ideas and beliefs means the same thing that it means in science. It means, they say, nothing but this, that ideas (which themselves are but parts of our experience) become true just in so far as they help us to get into satisfactory relation with other parts of our experience, to summarize them and get about among them by conceptual short-cuts instead of following the interminable succession of particular phenomena. Any idea upon which we can ride, so to speak; any idea that will carry us prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part, linking things satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying, saving labor; is true for just so much, true in so far forth, true instrumentally. This is the ‘instrumental’ view of truth taught so successfully at Chicago, the view that truth in our ideas means their power to ‘work,’ promulgated so brilliantly at Oxford.
Messrs. Dewey, Schiller and their allies, in reaching this general conception of all truth, have only followed the example of geologists, biologists and philologists. In the establishment of these other sciences, the successful stroke was always to take some simple process actually observable in operation—as denudation by weather, say, or variation from parental type, or change of dialect by incorporation of new words and pronunciations—and then to generalize it, making it apply to all times, and produce great results by summating its effects through the ages.
The observable process which Schiller and Dewey particularly singled out for generalization is the familiar one by which any individual settles into new opinions. The process here is always the same. The individual has a stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new experience that puts them to a strain. Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that they contradict each other; or he hears of facts with which they are incompatible; or desires arise in him which they cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it as he can, for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So he tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they resist change very variously), until at last some new idea comes up which he can graft upon the ancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the latter, some idea that mediates between the stock and the new experience and runs them into one another most felicitously and expediently.
This new idea is then adopted as the true one. It preserves the older stock of truths with a minimum of modification, stretching them just enough to make them admit the novelty, but conceiving that in ways as familiar as the case leaves possible. An outrée explanation, violating all our preconceptions, would never pass for a true account of a novelty. We should scratch round industriously till we found something less eccentric. The most violent revolutions in an individual’s beliefs leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect, nature and history, and one’s own biography remain untouched. New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of continuity. We hold a theory true just in proportion to its success in solving this ‘problem of maxima and minima.’ But success in solving this problem is eminently a matter of approximation. We say this theory solves it on the whole more satisfactorily than that theory; but that means more satisfactorily to ourselves, and individuals will emphasize their points of satisfaction differently. To a certain degree, therefore, everything here is plastic.
The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the part played by the older truths. Failure to take account of it is the source of much of the unjust criticism levelled against pragmatism. Their influence is absolutely controlling. Loyalty to them is the first principle—in most cases it is the only principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconception is to ignore them altogether, or to abuse those who bear witness for them.
You doubtless wish examples of this process of truth’s growth, and the only trouble is their superabundance. The simplest case of new truth is of course the mere numerical addition of new kinds of facts, or of new single facts of old kinds, to our experience—an addition that involves no alteration in the old beliefs. Day follows day, and its contents are simply added. The new contents themselves are not true, they simply come and are. Truth is what we say about them, and when we say that they have come, truth is satisfied by the plain additive formula.
But often the day’s contents oblige a rearrangement. If I should now utter piercing shricks and act like a maniac on this platform, it would make many of you revise your ideas as to the probable worth of my philosophy. ‘Radium’ came the other day as part of the day’s content, and seemed for a moment to contradict our ideas of the whole order of nature, that order having come to be identified with what is called the conservation of energy. The mere sight of radium paying heat away indefinitely out of its own pocket seemed to violate that conservation. What to think? If the radiations from it were nothing but an escape of unsuspected ‘potential’ energy, pre-existent inside of the atoms, the principle of conservation would be saved. The discovery of ‘helium’ as the radiation’s outcome, opened a way to this belief. So Ramsay’s view is generally held to be true, because, although it extends our old ideas of energy, it causes a minimum of alteration in their nature.
I need not multiply instances. A new opinion counts as ‘true’ just in proportion as it gratifies the individual’s desire to assimilate the novel in his experience to his beliefs in stock. It must both lean on old truth and grasp new fact; and its success (as I said a moment ago) in doing this, is a matter for the individual’s appreciation. When old truth grows, then, by new truth’s addition, it is for subjective reasons. We are in the process and obey the reasons. That new idea is truest which performs most felicitously its function of satisfying our double urgency. It makes itself true, gets itself classed as true, by the way it works; grafting itself then upon the ancient body of truth, which thus grows much as a tree grows by the activity of a new layer of cambium.
Now Dewey and Schiller proceed to generalize this observation and to apply it to the most ancient parts of truth. They also once were plastic. They also were called true for human reasons. They also mediated between still earlier truths and what in those days were novel observations. Purely objective truth, truth in whose establishment the function of giving human satisfaction in marrying previous parts of experience with newer parts played no rôle whatever, is nowhere to be found. The reasons why we call things true is the reason why they are true, for ‘to be true’ means only to perform this marriage-function.
The trail of the human serpent is thus over everything. Truth independent; truth that we find merely; truth no longer malleable to human need; truth incorrigible, in a word; such truth exists indeed superabundantly—or is supposed to exist by rationalistically minded thinkers; but then it means only the dead heart of the living tree, and its being there means only that truth also has its paleontology, and its ‘prescription,’ and may grow stiff with years of veteran service and petrified in men’s regard by sheer antiquity. But how plastic even the oldest truths nevertheless really are has been vividly shown in our day by the transformation of logical and mathematical ideas, a transformation which seems even to be invading physics. The ancient formulas are reinterpreted as special expressions of much wider principles, principles that our ancestors never got a glimpse of in their present shape and formulation.
Mr. Schiller still gives to all this view of truth the name of ‘Humanism,’ but, for this doctrine too, the name of pragmatism seems fairly to be in the ascendant, so I will treat it under the name of pragmatism in these lectures.
Such then would be the scope of pragmatism—first, a method; and second, a genetic theory of what is meant by truth. And these two things must be our future topics.
What I have said of the theory of truth will, I am sure, have appeared obscure and unsatisfactory to most of you by reason of its brevity. I shall make amends for that hereafter. In a lecture on ‘common sense’ I shall try to show what I mean by truths grown petrified by antiquity. In another lecture I shall expatiate on the idea that our thoughts become true in proportion as they successfully exert their go-between function. In a third I shall show how hard it is to discriminate subjective from objective factors in Truth’s development. You may not follow me wholly in these lectures; and if you do, you may not wholly agree with me. But you will, I know, regard me at least as serious, and treat my effort with respectful consideration.
You will probably be surprised to learn, then, that Messrs. Schiller’s and Dewey’s theories have suffered a hailstorm of contempt and ridicule. All rationalism has risen against them. In influential quarters Mr. Schiller, in particular, has been treated like an impudent schoolboy who deserves a spanking. I should not mention this, but for the fact that it throws so much sidelight upon that rationalistic temper to which I have opposed the temper of pragmatism. Pragmatism is uncomfortable away from facts. Rationalism is comfortable only in the presence of abstractions. This pragmatist talk about truths in the plural, about their utility and satisfactoriness, about the success with which they ‘work,’ etc., suggests to the typical intellectualist mind a sort of coarse lame second-rate makeshift article of truth. Such truths are not real truth. Such tests are merely subjective. As against this, objective truth must be something non-utilitarian, haughty, refined, remote, august, exalted. It must be an absolute correspondence of our thoughts with an equally absolute reality. It must be what we ought to think unconditionally. The conditioned ways in which we do think are so much irrelevance and matter for psychology. Down with psychology, up with logic, in all this question!
See the exquisite contrast of the types of mind! The pragmatist clings to facts and concreteness, observes truth at its work in particular cases, and generalizes. Truth, for him, becomes a class-name for all sorts of definite working-values in experience. For the rationalist it remains a pure abstraction, to the bare name of which we must defer. When the pragmatist undertakes to show in detail just why we must defer, the rationalist is unable to recognize the concretes from which his own abstraction is taken. He accuses us of denying truth; whereas we have only sought to trace exactly why people follow it and always ought to follow it. Your typical ultra-abstractionist fairly shudders at concreteness: other things equal, he positively prefers the pale and spectral. If the two universes were offered, he would always choose the skinny outline rather than the rich thicket of reality. It is so much purer, clearer, nobler.
I hope that as these lectures go on, the concreteness and closeness to facts of the pragmatism which they advocate may be what approves itself to you as its most satisfactory peculiarity. It only follows here the example of the sister-sciences, interpreting the unobserved by the observed. It brings old and new harmoniously together. It converts the absolutely empty notion of a static relation of ‘correspondence’ (what that may mean we must ask later) between our minds and reality, into that of a rich and active commerce (that any one may follow in detail and understand) between particular thoughts of ours, and the great universe of other experiences in which they play their parts and have their uses.
But enough of this at present! The justification of what I say must be postponed. I wish now to add a word in further explanation of the claim I made at our last meeting, that pragmatism may be a happy harmonizer of empiricist ways of thinking with the more religious demands of human beings.
Men who are strongly of the fact-loving temperament, you may remember me to have said, are liable to be kept at a distance by the small sympathy with facts which that philosophy from the present-day fashion of idealism offers them. It is far too intellectualistic. Old fashioned theism was bad enough, with its notion of God as an exalted monarch, made up of a lot of unintelligible or preposterous ‘attributes’; but, so long as it held strongly by the argument from design, it kept some touch with concrete realities. Since, however, darwinism has once for all displaced design from the minds of the ‘scientific,’ theism has lost that foothold; and some kind of an immanent or pantheistic deity working in things rather than above them is, if any, the kind recommended to our contemporary imagination. Aspirants to a philosophic religion turn, as a rule, more hopefully nowadays towards idealistic pantheism than towards the older dualistic theism, in spite of the fact that the latter still counts able defenders.
But, as I said in my first lecture, the brand of pantheism offered is hard for them to assimilate if they are lovers of facts, or empirically minded. It is the absolutistic brand, spurning the dust and reared upon pure logic. It keeps no connexion whatever with concreteness. Affirming the Absolute Mind, which is its substitute for God, to be the rational presupposition of all particulars of fact, whatever they may be, it remains supremely indifferent to what the particular facts in our world actually are. Be they what they may, the Absolute will father them. Like the sick lion in Esop’s fable, all footprints lead into his den, but nulla vestigia retrorsum. You cannot redescend into the world of particulars by the Absolute’s aid, or deduce any necessary consequences of detail important for your life from your idea of his nature. He gives you indeed the assurance that all is well with Him, and for his eternal way of thinking; but thereupon he leaves you to be finitely saved by your own temporal devices.
Far be it from me to deny the majesty of this conception, or its capacity to yield religious comfort to a most respectable class of minds. But from the human point of view, no one can pretend that it doesn’t suffer from the faults of remoteness and abstractness. It is eminently a product of what I have ventured to call the rationalistic temper. It disdains empiricism’s needs. It substitutes a pallid outline for the real world’s richness. It is dapper, it is noble in the bad sense, in the sense in which to be noble is to be inapt for humble service. In this real world of sweat and dirt, it seems to me that when a view of things is ‘noble,’ that ought to count as a presumption against its truth, and as a philosophic disqualification. The prince of darkness may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman. His menial services are needed in the dust of our human trials, even more than his dignity is needed in the empyrean.
Now pragmatism, devoted though she be to facts, has no such materialistic bias as ordinary empiricism labors under. Moreover, she has no objection whatever to the realizing of abstractions, so long as you get about among particulars with their aid and they actually carry you somewhere. Interested in no conclusions but those which our minds and our experiences work out together, she has no a priori prejudices against theology. If theological ideas prove to have a value for concrete life, they will be true, for pragmatism, in the sense of being good for so much. For how much more they are true, will depend entirely on their relations to the other truths that also have to be acknowledged.
What I said just now about the Absolute, of transcendental idealism, is a case in point. First, I called it majestic and said it yielded religious comfort to a class of minds, and then I accused it of remoteness and sterility. But so far as it affords such comfort, it surely is not sterile; it has that amount of value; it performs a concrete function. As a good pragmatist, I myself ought to call the Absolute true ‘in so far forth,’ then; and I unhesitatingly now do so.
But what does true in so far forth mean in this case? To answer, we need only apply the pragmatic method. What do believers in the Absolute mean by saying that their belief affords them comfort? They mean that since, in the Absolute finite evil is ‘overruled’ already, we may, therefore, whenever we wish, treat the temporal as if it were potentially the eternal, be sure that we can trust its outcome, and, without sin, dismiss our fear and drop the worry of our finite responsibility. In short, they mean that we have a right ever and anon to take a moral holiday, to let the world wag in its own way, feeling that its issues are in better hands than ours and are none of our business.
The universe is a system of which the individual members may relax their anxieties occasionally, in which the don’t-care mood is also right for men, and moral holidays in order,—that, if I mistake not, is part, at least, of what the Absolute is ‘known-as,’ that is the great difference in our particular experiences which his being true makes, for us, that is his cash-value when he is pragmatically interpreted. Farther than that the ordinary lay-reader in philosophy who thinks favorably of absolute idealism does not venture to sharpen his conceptions. He can use the Absolute for so much, and so much is very precious. He is pained at hearing you speak incredulously of the Absolute, therefore, and disregards your criticisms because they deal with aspects of the conception that he fails to follow.
If the Absolute means this, and means no more than this, who can possibly deny the truth of it? To deny it would be to insist that men should never relax, and that holidays are never in order.
I am well aware how odd it must seem to some of you to hear me say that an idea is ‘true’ so long as to believe it is profitable to our lives. That it is good, for as much as it profits, you will gladly admit. If what we do by its aid is good, you will allow the idea itself to be good in so far forth, for we are the better for possessing it. But is it not a strange misuse of the word ‘truth,’ you will say, to call ideas also ‘true’ for this reason?
To answer this difficulty fully is impossible at this stage of my account. You touch here upon the very central point of Messrs. Schiller’s, Dewey’s and my own doctrine of truth, which I can not discuss with detail until my sixth lecture. Let me now say only this, that truth is one species of good, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and coordinate with it. The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons. Surely you must admit this, that if there were no good for life in true ideas, or if the knowledge of them were positively disadvantageous and false ideas the only useful ones, then the current notion that truth is divine and precious, and its pursuit a duty, could never have grown up or become a dogma. In a world like that, our duty would be to shun truth, rather. But in this world, just as certain foods are not only agreeable to our taste, but good for our teeth, our stomach, and our tissues; so certain ideas are not only agreeable to think about, or agreeable as supporting other ideas that we are fond of, but they are also helpful in life’s practical struggles. If there be any life that it is really better we should lead, and if there be any idea which, if believed in, would help us to lead that life, then it would be really better for us to believe in that idea, unless, indeed, belief in it incidentally clashed with other greater vital benefits.
‘What would be better for us to believe’! This sounds very like a definition of truth. It comes very near to saying ‘what we ought to believe’: and in that definition none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe what it is better for us to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, permanently apart?
Pragmatism says no, and I fully agree with her. Probably you also agree, so far as the abstract statement goes, but with a suspicion that if we practically did believe everything that made for good in our own personal lives, we should be found indulging all kinds of fancies about this world’s affairs, and all kinds of sentimental superstitions about a world hereafter. Your suspicion here is undoubtedly well founded, and it is evident that something happens when you pass from the abstract to the concrete that complicates the situation.
I said just now that what is better for us to believe is true unless the belief incidentally clashes with some other vital benefit. Now in real life what vital benefits is any particular belief of ours most liable to clash with? What indeed except the vital benefits yielded by other beliefs when these prove incompatible with the first ones? In other words, the greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths. Truths have once for all this desperate instinct of self-preservation and of desire to extinguish whatever contradicts them. My belief in the Absolute, based on the good it does me, must run the gauntlet of all my other beliefs. Grant that it may be true in giving me a moral holiday. Nevertheless, as I conceive it,—and let me speak now confidentially, as it were, and merely in my own private person,—it clashes with other truths of mine whose benefits I hate to give up on its account. It happens to be associated with a kind of logic of which I am the enemy, I find that it entangles me in metaphysical paradoxes that are inacceptable, etc., etc. But as I have enough trouble in life already without adding the trouble of carrying these intellectual inconsistencies, I personally just give up the Absolute. I just take my moral holidays; or else as a professional philosopher, I try to justify them by some other principle.
If I could restrict my notion of the Absolute to its bare holiday-giving value, it wouldn’t clash with my other truths. But we can not easily thus restrict our hypotheses. They carry supernumerary features, and these it is that clash so. My disbelief in the Absolute means then disbelief in those other supernumerary features, for I fully believe in the legitimacy of taking moral holidays.
You see by this what I meant when I called pragmatism a mediator and reconciler and said, borrowing the word from Papini, that she ‘unstiffens’ our theories. She has in fact no prejudices whatever, no obstructive dogmas, no rigid canons of what shall count as proof. She is completely genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, she will consider any evidence. It follows that in the religious field she is at a great advantage both over positivistic empiricism, with its anti-theological bias, and over religious rationalism, with its exclusive interest in the remote, the noble, the simple, and the abstract in the way of conception.
In short, she widens the field of search for God. Rationalism sticks to logic and the empyrean. Empiricism sticks to the external senses. Pragmatism is willing to take anything, to follow either logic or the senses and to count the humblest and most personal experiences. She will count mystical experiences if they have practical consequences. She will take a God who lives in the very dirt of private fact—if that should seem a likely place to find him.
Her only test of probable truth is what works best in the way of leading us, what fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity of experience’s demands, nothing being omitted. If theological ideas should do this, if the notion of God, in particular, should prove to do it, how could pragmatism possibly deny God’s existence? She could see no meaning in treating as ‘not true’ a notion that was pragmatically so successful. What other kind of truth could there be, for her, than all this agreement with concrete reality?
In my last lecture I shall return again to the relations of pragmatism with religion. But you see already how democratic she is. Her manners are as various and flexible, her resources as rich and endless, and her conclusions as friendly as those of mother nature.
A prominent union organizer and five-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) was twice jailed for his activities—the first time for his American Railway Union’s role in the bloody Pullman strike of 1894 (Debs was convicted of interfering with delivery of the U.S. mail), and the second time for speaking against American involvement in World War I. In 1920 Debs, while still in prison, ran for president for the fifth time, receiving 913,664 votes, 3.4 percent of the total. The speech reproduced here was delivered by Debs during his first run for the presidency. It presents Debs’s views of the Republican and Democratic parties as well as the role of voting in fostering solidarity among workers.
The Socialist Party and the Working Class
Opening Speech Delivered as Candidate of the Socialist Party for President, at Indianapolis, Ind., September 1, 1904
Mr. Chairman, Citizens and Comrades:
There has never been a free people, a civilized nation, a real republic on this earth. Human society has always consisted of masters and slaves, and the slaves have always been and are today, the foundation stones of the social fabric.
Wage-labor is but a name; wage-slavery is the fact.
The twenty-five millions of wage-workers in the United States are twenty-five millions of twentieth century slaves.
This is the plain meaning of what is known as
The Labor Market
And the labor market follows the capitalist flag.
The most barbarous fact in all Christendom is the labor market. The mere term sufficiently expresses the animalism of commercial civilization.
They who buy and they who sell in the labor market are alike dehumanized by the inhuman traffic in the brains and blood and bones of human beings.
The labor market is the foundation of so-called civilized society. Without these shambles, without this commerce in human life, this sacrifice of manhood and womanhood, this barter of babes, this sales of souls, the capitalist civilizations of all lands and all climes would crumble to ruin and perish from the earth.
Twenty-five millions of wage-slaves are bought and sold daily at prevailing prices in the American Labor Market.
This is the
in the present national campaign.
Let me say at the very threshold of this discussion that the workers have but the one issue in this campaign, the overthrow of the capitalist system and the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery.
The capitalists may have the tariff, finance, imperialism and other dust-covered and moth-eaten issues entirely to themselves.
The rattle of these relics no longer deceives workingmen whose heads are on their own shoulders.
They know by experience and observation that the gold standard, free silver, fiat money, protective tariff, free trade, imperialism and anti-imperialism all mean capitalist rule and wage-slavery.
Their eyes are open and they can see; their brains are in operation and they can think.
The very moment a workingman begins to do his own thinking he understands the paramount issue, parts company with the capitalist politician and falls in line with his own class on the political battlefield.
The political solidarity of the working class means the death of despotism, the birth of freedom, the sunrise of civilization.
Having said this much by way of introduction I will now enter upon the actualities of my theme.
The Class Struggle
We are entering tonight upon a momentous campaign. The struggle for political supremacy is not between political parties merely, as appears upon the surface, but at bottom it is a life and death struggle between two hostile economic classes, the one the capitalist, and the other the working class.
The capitalist class is represented by the Republican, Democratic, Populist and Prohibition parties, all of which stand for private ownership of the means of production, and the triumph of any one of which will mean continued wage-slavery to the working class.
As the Populist and Prohibition sections of the capitalist party represent minority elements which propose to reform the capitalist system without disturbing wage-slavery, a vain and impossible task, they will be omitted from this discussion with all the credit due the rank and file for their good intentions.
The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.
With either of these parties in power one thing is always certain and that is that the capitalist class is in the saddle and the working class under the saddle.
Under the administration of both these parties the means of production are private property, production is carried forward for capitalist profit purely, markets are glutted and industry paralyzed, workingmen become tramps and criminals while injunctions, soldiers and riot guns are brought into action to preserve “law and order” in the chaotic carnival of capitalistic anarchy.
Deny it as may the cunning capitalists who are clear-sighted enough to perceive it, or ignore it as may the torpid workers who are too blind and unthinking to see it, the struggle in which we are engaged today is a class struggle, and as the toiling millions come to see and understand it and rally to the political standard of their class, they will drive all capitalist parties of whatever name into the same party, and the class struggle will then be so clearly revealed that the hosts of labor will find their true place in the conflict and strike the united and decisive blow that will destroy slavery and achieve their full and final emancipation.
In this struggle the workingmen and women and children are represented by the Socialist party and it is my privilege to address you in the name of that revolutionary and uncompromising party of the working class.
Attitude of the Workers
What shall be the attitude of the workers of the United States in the present campaign? What part shall they take in it? What party and what principles shall they support by their ballots? And why?
These are questions the importance of which are not sufficiently recognized by workingmen or they would not be the prey of parasites and the service tools of scheming politicians who use them only at election time to renew their masters’ lease of power and perpetuate their own ignorance, poverty and shame.
In answering these questions I propose to be as frank and candid as plain-meaning words will allow, for I have but one object in this discussion and that object is not office, but the truth, and I shall state it as I see it, if I have to stand alone.
But I shall not stand alone, for the party that has my allegiance and may have my life, the Socialist party, the party of the working class, the party of emancipation, is made up of men and women who know their rights and scorn to compromise with their oppressors; who want no votes that can be bought and no support under any false pretense whatsoever.
The Socialist party stands squarely upon its proletarian principles and relies wholly upon the forces of industrial progress and the education of the working class.
The Socialist party buys no votes and promises no offices. Not a farthing is spent for whiskey or cigars. Every penny in the campaign fund is the voluntary offerings of workers and their sympathizers and every penny is used for education.
What other parties can say the same?
Ignorance alone stands in the way of socialist success. The capitalist parties understand this and use their resources to prevent the workers from seeing the light.
Intellectual darkness is essential to industrial slavery.
Capitalist parties stand for Slavery and Night.
The Socialist party is the herald of Freedom and Light.
Capitalist parties cunningly contrive to divide the workers upon dead issues.
The Socialist party is uniting them upon the living issue:
Death to Wage Slavery!
When industrial slavery is as dead as the issues of the Siamese capitalist parties the Socialist party will have fulfilled its mission and enriched history.
And now to our questions:
First, all workingmen and women owe it to themselves, their class and their country to take an active and intelligent interest in political affairs.
The ballot of united labor expresses the people’s will and the people’s will is the supreme law of a free nation.
The ballot means that labor is no longer dumb, that at last it has a voice, that it may be heard and if united shall be heeded.
Centuries of struggle and sacrifice were required to wrest this symbol of freedom from the mailed clutch of tyranny and place it in the hand of labor as the shield and lance of attack and defense.
The abuse and not the use of it is responsible for its evils.
The divided vote of labor is the abuse of the ballot and the penalty is slavery and death.
The united vote of those who toil and have not will vanquish those who have and toil not, and solve forever the problem of democracy.
The Historic Struggle of Classes
Since the race was young there have been class struggles. In every state of society, ancient and modern, labor has been exploited, degraded and in subjection.
Civilization has done little for labor except to modify the forms of its exploitation.
Labor has always been the mudsill of the social fabric—is so now and will be until the class struggle ends in class extinction and free society.
Society has always been and is now built upon exploitation—the exploitation of a class—the working class, whether slaves, serfs or wage-laborers, and the exploited working class in subjection have always been, instinctively or consciously, in revolt against their oppressors.
Through all the centuries the enslaved toilers have moved slowly but surely toward their final freedom.
The call of the Socialist party is to the exploited class, the workers in all useful trades and professions, all honest occupations, from the most menial service to the highest skill, to rally beneath their own standard and put an end to the last of the barbarous class struggles by conquering the capitalist government, taking possession of the means of production and making them the common property of all, abolishing wage-slavery and establishing the co-operative commonwealth.
The first step in this direction is to sever all relations with
They are precisely alike and I challenge their most discriminating partisans to tell them apart in relation to labor.
The Republican and Democratic parties are alike capitalist parties—differing only in being committed to different sets of capitalist interests—they have the same principles under varying colors, are equally corrupt and are one in their subservience to capital and their hostility to labor.
The ignorant workingman who supports either of these parties forges his own fetters and is the unconscious author of his own misery. He can and must be made to see and think and act with his fellows in supporting the party of his class and this work of education is the crowning virtue of the socialist movement.
The Republican Party
Let us briefly consider the Republican party from the worker’s standpoint. It is capitalist to the core. It has not and can not have the slightest interest in labor except to exploit it.
Why should a workingman support the Republican party?
Why should a millionaire support the Socialist party?
For precisely the same reason that all the millionaires are opposed to the Socialist party, all the workers should be opposed to the Republican party. It is a capitalist party, is loyal to capitalist interests and entitled to the support of capitalist voters on election day.
All it has for workingmen is its “glorious past” and a “glad hand” when it wants their votes.
The Republican party is now and has been for several years, in complete control of government.
What has it done for labor? What has it not done for capital?
Not one of the crying abuses of capital has been curbed under Republican rule.
Not one of the petitions of labor has been granted.
The eight hour and anti-injunction bills, upon which organized labor is a unit, were again ruthlessly slain by the last congress in obedience to the capitalist masters.
David M. Parry has greater influence at Washington than all the millions of organized workers.
Read the national platform of the Republican party and see if there is in all its bombast a crumb of comfort for labor. The convention that adopted it was a capitalist convention and the only thought it had of labor was how to abstract its vote without waking it up.
In the only reference it made to labor it had to speak easy so as to avoid offense to the capitalists who own it and furnish the boodle to keep it in power.
The labor platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties are interchangeable and non-redeemable. They both favor “justice to capital and justice to labor.” This hoary old platitude is worse than meaningless. It is false and misleading and so intended. Justice to labor means that labor shall have what it produces. This leaves nothing for capital.
Justice to labor means the end of capital.
The old parties intend nothing of the kind. It is false pretense and false promise. It has served well in the past. Will it continue to catch the votes of unthinking and deluded workers?
What workingmen had part in the Republican national convention or were honored by it?
The grand coliseum swarmed with trust magnates, corporation barons, money lords, stock gamblers, professional politicians, lawyers, lobbyists and other plutocratic tools and mercenaries, but there was no room for the horny-handed and horny-headed sons of toil. They built it, but were not in it.
Compare that convention with the convention of the Socialist party, composed almost wholly of working men and women and controlled wholly in the interest of their class.
But a party is still better known by its chosen representatives than by its platform declarations.
Who are the nominees of the Republican party for the highest offices in the gift of the nation and what is their relation to the working class?
First of all, Theodore Roosevelt and Charles W. Fairbanks, candidates for President and Vice-President, respectively, deny the class struggle and this almost infallibly fixes their status as friends of capital and enemies of labor. They insist that they can serve both; but the fact is obvious that only one can be served and that one at the expense of the other. Mr. Roosevelt’s whole political career proves it.
The capitalists made no mistake in nominating Mr. Roosevelt. They know him well and he has served them well. They know that his instincts, associations, tastes and desires are with them, that he is in fact one of them and that he has nothing in common with the working class.
The only evidence to the contrary is his membership in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen which seems to have come to him co-incident with his ambition to succeed himself in the presidential chair. He is a full fledged member of the union, has the grip, signs and passwords; but it is not reported that he is attending meetings, doing picket duty, supporting strikes and boycotts and performing such other duties as his union obligation imposes.
When Ex-President Grover Cleveland violated the constitution and outraged justice by seizing the state of Illinois by the throat and handcuffing her civil administration at the behest of the crime-stained trusts and corporations, Theodore Roosevelt was among his most ardent admirers and enthusiastic supporters. He wrote in hearty commendation of the atrocious act, pronounced it most exalted patriotism and said he would have done the same himself had he been president.
And so he would and so he will!
How impressive to see the Rough Rider embrace the Smooth Statesman! Oyster Bay and Buzzard’s Bay! “Two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one.”
There is also the highest authority for the statement charging Mr. Roosevelt with declaring about the same time he was lauding Cleveland that if he was in command he would have such as Altgeld, Debs and other traitors lined up against a dead wall and shot. The brutal remark was not for publication but found its way into print and Mr. Roosevelt, after he became a candidate, attempted to make denial, but the words themselves sound like Roosevelt and bear the impress of his savage visage.
Following the Pullman strike in 1894 there was an indignant and emphatic popular protest against “government by injunction,” which has not yet by any means subsided.
Organized labor was, and is, a unit against this insidious form of judicial usurpation as a means of abrogating constitutional restraints of despotic power.
Mr. Roosevelt with his usual zeal to serve the ruling class and keep their slaves in subjection, vaulted into the arena and launched his tirade upon the “mob” that dared oppose the divine rule of a corporation judge.
“Men who object to what they style ‘government by injunction,’ ” said he, “are, as regards the essential principles of government, in hearty sympathy with their remote skin-clad ancestors, who lived in caves, fought one another with stoneheaded axes and ate the mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. They are dangerous whenever there is the least danger of their making the principles of this age-buried past living factors in our present life. They are not in sympathy with men of good minds and good civic morality.”
In direct terms and plain words Mr. Roosevelt denounces all those who oppose “Government by Injunction” as cannibals, barbarians and anarchists, and this violent and sweeping stigma embraces the whole organized movement of labor, every man, woman and child that wears the badge of union labor in the United States.
It is not strange in the light of these facts that the national congress, under President Roosevelt’s administration, suppresses anti-injunction and eight-hour bills and all other measures favored by labor and resisted by capital.
No stronger or more convincing proof is required of Mr. Roosevelt’s allegiance to capital and opposition to labor, nor of the class struggle and class rule which he so vehemently denies; and the workingman who in the face of these words and acts, can still support Mr. Roosevelt, must feel himself flattered in being publicly proclaimed a barbarian, and sheer gratitude, doubtless, impels him to crown his benefactor with the highest honors.
If the working class are barbarians, according to Mr. Roosevelt, this may account for his esteeming himself as having the very qualities necessary to make himself Chief of the Tribe.
But it must be noted that Mr. Roosevelt denounced organized labor as savages long before he was a candidate for president. After he became a candidate he joined the tribe and is today, himself, according to his own dictum, a barbarian and the enemy of civic morality.
The labor union to which President Roosevelt belongs and which he is solemnly obligated to support, is unanimously opposed to “Government by Injunction.” President Roosevelt knew it when he joined it and he also knew that those who oppose injunction rule have the instincts of cannibals and are a menace to morality, but his proud nature succumbed to political ambition, and his ethical ideas vanished as he struck the trail that led to the tribe and, after a most dramatic scene and impressive ceremony, was decorated with the honorary badge of international barbarism.
How Theodore Roosevelt, the trade-unionist, can support the presidential candidate who denounced him as an immoral and dangerous barbarian, he may decide at his leisure, and so may all other union men in the United States who are branded with the same vulgar stigma, and their ballots will determine if they have the manhood to resent insult and rebuke its author, or if they have been fitly characterized and deserve humiliation and contempt.
The appointment of Judge Taft to a cabinet position is corroborative evidence, if any be required, of President Roosevelt’s fervent faith in Government by Injunction. Judge Taft first came into national notoriety when, some years ago, sitting with Judge Ricks, who was later tried for malfeasance, they issued the celebrated injunction during the Toledo, Ann Arbor & North Michigan railroad strike that paralyzed the Brotherhoods of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and won for them the gratitude and esteem of every corporation in the land. They were hauled to Toledo, the headquarters of the railroad, in a special car, pulled by a special engine, on special time, and after hastily consulting the railroad magnates and receiving instructions, let go the judicial lightning that shivered the unions to splinters and ended the strike in total defeat. Judge Taft is a special favorite with the trust barons and his elevation to the cabinet was ratified with joy at the court of St. Plutus.
Still again did President Roosevelt drive home his archenmity to labor and his implacable hostility to the trade-union movement when he made Paul Morton, the notorious union hater and union wrecker, his secretary of the navy. That appointment was an open insult to every trade-unionist in the country and they who lack the self-respect to resent it at the polls may wear the badge, but they are lacking wholly in the spirit and principles of union labor.
Go ask the brotherhood men who were driven from the C. B. & Q. and the striking union machinists on the Santa Fe to give you the pedigree of Mr. Morton and you will learn that his hate for union men is equalled only by his love for the scabs who take their places.
Such a man and such another as Sherman Bell, the military ferret of the Colorado mine owners, are the ideal patriots and personal chums of Mr. Roosevelt, and by honoring these he dishonors himself and should be repudiated by the ballot of every working man in the nation.
Mr. Fairbanks, the Republican candidate for Vice-President, is a corporation attorney of the first class and a plutocrat in good and regular standing. He is in every respect a fit and proper representative of his party and every millionaire in the land may safely support him.
The Democratic Party
In referring to the Democratic party in this discussion we may save time by simply saying that since it was born again at the St. Louis convention it is near enough like its Republican ally to pass for a twin brother.
The former party of the “common people” is no longer under the boycott of the plutocracy since it has adopted the Wall street label and renounced its middle class heresies.
The radical and progressive element of the former Democracy have been evicted and must seek other quarters. They were an unmitigated nuisance in the conservative counsels of the old party. They were for the “common people” and the trusts have no use for such a party.
Where but to the Socialist party can these progressive people turn? They are now without a party and the only genuine Democratic party in the field is the Socialist party, and every true Democrat should thank Wall street for driving him out of a party that is democratic in name only and into one that is democratic in fact.
The St. Louis convention was a trust jubilee. The Wall street reorganizers made short work of the free silver element. From first to last it was a capitalistic convocation. Labor was totally ignored. As an incident, two thousand choice chairs were reserved for the Business Men’s League of St. Louis, an organization hostile to organized labor, but not a chair was tendered to those whose labor had built the convention hall, had clothed, transported, fed and wined the delegates and whose votes are counted on as if they were so many dumb driven cattle, to pull the ticket through in November.
As another incident, when Lieutenant Richmond Hobson dramatically declared that President Cleveland had been the only president who had ever been patriotic enough to use the federal troops to crush union labor, the trust agents, lobbyists, tools and clackers screamed with delight and the convention shook with applause.
The platform is precisely the same as the Republican platform in relation to labor. It says nothing and means the same. A plank was proposed condemning the outrages in Colorado under Republican administration, but upon order from the Parryites it was promptly thrown aside.
The editor of American Industries, organ of the Manufacturers’ Association, commented at length in its issue of July 15 on the triumph of capital and the defeat of labor at both Republican and Democratic national conventions. Among other things he said: “The two labor lobbies, partly similar in makeup, were, to put it bluntly, thrown out bodily in both places.” And that is the simple fact and is known of all men who read the papers. The capitalist organs exult because labor, to use their own brutal expression, was kicked bodily out of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
What more than this is needed to open the eyes of workingmen to the fact that neither of these parties is their party and that they are as strangely out of place in them as Rockefeller and Vanderbilt would be in the Socialist party?
And how many more times are they to be “kicked out bodily” before they stay out and join the party of their class in which labor is not only honored but is supreme, a party that is clean, that has conscience and convictions, a party that will one day sweep the old parties from the field like chaff and issue the Proclamation of Labor’s Emancipation?
Judge Alton B. Parker corresponds precisely to the Democratic platform. It was made to order for him. His famous telegram in the expiring hour removed the last wrinkle and left it a perfect fit.
Thomas W. Lawson, the Boston millionaire, charges that Senator Patrick McCarren, who brought out Judge Parker for the nomination, is on the pay roll of the Standard Oil Company as political master mechanic at twenty thousand dollars a year, and that Parker is the chosen tool of Standard Oil. Mr. Lawson offers Senator McCarren one hundred thousand dollars if he will disprove the charge.
William Jennings Bryan denounced Judge Parker as a tool of Wall street before he was nominated and declared that no self-respecting Democrat could vote for him, and after his nomination he charged that it had been dictated by the trusts and secured by “crooked and indefensible methods.” Mr. Bryan also said that labor had been betrayed in the convention and need look for nothing from the Democratic party. He made many other damaging charges against his party and its candidates, but when the supreme test came he was not equal to it, and instead of denouncing the betrayers of the “common people” and repudiating their made-to-order Wall street program, he compromised with the pirates that scuttled his ship and promised with his lips the support his heart refused and his conscience condemned.
The Democratic nominee for President was one of the Supreme Judges of the State of New York who declared the eight-hour law unconstitutional and this is an index of his political character.
In his address accepting the nomination he makes but a single allusion to labor and in this he takes occasion to say that labor is charged with having recently used dynamite in destroying property and that the perpetrators should be subjected to “the most rigorous punishment known to the law.” This cruel intimation amounts to conviction in advance of trial and indicates clearly the trend of his capitalistically trained judicial mind. He made no such reference to capital, nor to those ermined rascals who use judicial dynamite in blowing up the constitution while labor is looted and starved by capitalistic freebooters who trample all law in the mire and leer and mock at their despoiled and helpless victims.
It is hardly necessary to make more than passing reference to Henry G. Davis, Democratic candidate for Vice-President. He is a coal baron, railroad owner and, of course, an enemy to union labor. He has amassed a great fortune exploiting his wage-slaves and has always strenuously resisted every attempt to organize them for the betterment of their condition. Mr. Davis is a staunch believer in the virtue of the injunction as applied to union labor. As a young man he was in charge of a slave plantation and his conviction is that wage-slaves should be kept free from the contaminating influence of the labor agitator and render cheerful obedience to their master.
Mr. Davis is as well qualified to serve his party as is Senator Fairbanks to serve the Republican party and wage-workers should have no trouble in making their choice between this pernicious pair of plutocrats, and certainly no intelligent workingman will hesitate an instant to discard them both and cast his vote for Ben Hanford, their working class competitor, who is as loyally devoted to labor as Fairbanks and Davis are to capital.
The Socialist Party
In what has been said of other parties I have tried to show why they should not be supported by the common people, least of all by workingmen, and I think I have shown clearly enough that such workers as do support them are guilty, consciously or unconsciously, of treason to their class. They are voting into power the enemies of labor and are morally responsible for the crimes thus perpetrated upon their fellow-workers and sooner or later they will have to suffer the consequences of their miserable acts.
The Socialist party is not, and does not pretend to be, a capitalist party. It does not ask, nor does it expect the votes of the capitalist class. Such capitalists as do support it do so seeing the approaching doom of the capitalist system and with a full understanding that the Socialist party is not a capitalist party, nor a middle class party, but a revolutionary working class party, whose historic mission it is to conquer capitalism on the political battle-field, take control of government and through the public powers take possession of the means of wealth production, abolish wage-slavery and emancipate all workers and all humanity.
The people are as capable of achieving their industrial freedom as they were to secure their political liberty, and both are necessary to a free nation.
The capitalist system is no longer adapted to the needs of modern society. It is outgrown and fetters the forces of progress. Industrial and commercial competition are largely of the past. The handwriting blazes on the wall. Centralization and combination are the modern forces in industrial and commercial life. Competition is breaking down and co-operation is supplanting it.
The hand tools of early times are used no more. Mammoth machines have taken their places. A few thousand capitalists own them and many millions of workingmen use them.
All the wealth the vast army of labor produces above its subsistence is taken by the machine owning capitalists, who also own the land and the mills, the factories, railroads and mines, the forests and fields and all other means of production and transportation.
Hence wealth and poverty, millionaires and beggars, castles and caves, luxury and squalor, painted parasites on the boulevard and painted poverty among the red lights.
Hence strikes, boycotts, riots, murder, suicide, insanity, prostitution on a fearful and increasing scale.
The capitalist parties can do nothing. They are a part, an iniquitous part, of the foul and decaying system.
There is no remedy for the ravages of death.
Capitalism is dying and its extremities are already decomposing. The blotches upon the surface show that the blood no longer circulates. The time is near when the cadaver will have to be removed and the atmosphere purified.
In contrast with the Republican and Democratic conventions, where politicians were the puppets of plutocrats, the convention of the Socialist party consisted of workingmen and women fresh from their labors, strong, clean, wholesome, self-reliant, ready to do and dare for the cause of labor, the cause of humanity.
Proud indeed am I to have been chosen by such a body of men and women to bear aloft the proletarian standard in this campaign, and heartily do I endorse the clear and cogent platform of the party which appeals with increasing force and eloquence to the whole working class of the country.
To my associate upon the national ticket I give my hand with all my heart. Ben Hanford typifies the working class and fitly represents the historic mission and revolutionary character of the Socialist party.
These are stirring days for living men. The day of crisis is drawing near and Socialists are exerting all their power to prepare the people for it.
The old order of society can survive but little longer. Socialism is next in order. The swelling minority sounds warning of the impending change. Soon that minority will be the majority and then will come the co-operative commonwealth.
Every workingman should rally to the standard of his class and hasten the full-orbed day of freedom.
Every progressive Democrat must find his way in our direction and if he will but free himself from prejudice and study the principles of Socialism he will soon be a sturdy supporter of our party.
Every sympathizer with labor, every friend of justice, every lover of humanity should support the Socialist party as the only party that is organized to abolish industrial slavery, the prolific source of the giant evils that afflict the people.
Who with a heart in his breast can look upon Colorado without keenly feeling the cruelties and crimes of capitalism! Repression will not help her. Brutality will only brutalize her. Private ownership and wage-slavery are the curse of Colorado. Only Socialism will save Colorado and the nation.
The overthrow of capitalism is the object of the Socialist party. It will not fuse with any other party and it would rather die than compromise.
The Socialist party comprehends the magnitude of its task and has the patience of preliminary defeat and the faith of ultimate victory.
The working class must be emancipated by the working class.
Woman must be given her true place in society by the working class.
Child labor must be abolished by the working class.
Society must be reconstructed by the working class.
The working class must be employed by the working class.
The fruits of labor must be enjoyed by the working class.
War, bloody war, must be ended by the working class.
These are the principles and objects of the Socialist party and we fearlessly proclaim them to our fellowmen.
We know our cause is just and that it must prevail.
With faith and hope and courage we hold our heads erect and with dauntless spirit marshal the working class for the march from Capitalism to Socialism, from Slavery to Freedom, from Barbarism to Civilization.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or “Wobblies,” were formed in Chicago in 1905 at a convention of radical trade unionists. These unionists sought a worldwide union that would abolish all wage and class systems and implement a form of democracy in every workplace. The IWW sought “direct action” through strikes and boycotts to overthrow the capitalist system, eschewing the methods of Eugene Debs and other socialist political leaders. It also rejected collective bargaining contracts on the grounds that they would hobble rank-and-file attempts to further workers’ interests through unannounced work stoppages. At its height during the 1910s and early 1920s IWW membership reached the tens of thousands, and the organization was involved in numerous strikes and other industrial actions. A series of confrontations with police, the military, and local citizens eventually brought membership down, and a series of legal actions aimed at foreign-born radicals and Communist party influence left the IWW a shadow of its former self.
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the political, as well as on the industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their labor through an economic organization of the working class without affiliation with any political party.
The rapid gathering of wealth and the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands make the trades unions unable to cope with the ever-growing power of the employing class, because the trades unions foster a state of things which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. The trades unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.
These sad conditions can be changed and the interests of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries, if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.
Pacifist, labor advocate, child welfare reformer, and social worker, Jane Addams (1860-1935) centered her activities on Hull House, a “settlement” in a Chicago immigrant neighborhood. A prolific writer and organizer, she headed what became known as the “settlement house movement” through which numerous local programs were established to provide medical care, education, daycare, training, employment services, and other forms of support, particularly for immigrants and working mothers. Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her pacifist activism, Addams secured state laws regulating child labor and was active in the women’s suffrage movement. The material reproduced here originally was delivered as a lecture to various philanthropic societies. In it Addams emphasizes the need for comprehensive local involvement on the part of social workers—living among rather than simply serving those in need.
The Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements
Hull House, which was Chicago’s first Settlement, was established in September, 1889. It represented no association, but was opened by two women, backed by many friends, in the belief that the mere foothold of a house, easily accessible, ample in space, hospitable and tolerant in spirit, situated in the midst of the large foreign colonies which so easily isolate themselves in American cities, would be in itself a serviceable thing for Chicago. Hull House endeavors to make social intercourse express the growing sense of the economic unity of society. It is an effort to add the social function to democracy. It was opened on the theory that the dependence of classes on each other is reciprocal; and that as “the social relation is essentially a reciprocal relation, it gave a form of expression that has peculiar value.”
This paper is an attempt to treat of the subjective necessity for Social Settlements, to analyze the motives which underlie a movement based not only upon conviction, but genuine emotion. Hull House of Chicago is used as an illustration, but so far as the analysis is faithful, it obtains wherever educated young people are seeking an outlet for that sentiment of universal brotherhood which the best spirit of our times is forcing from an emotion into a motive.
I have divided the motives which constitute the subjective pressure toward Social Settlements into three great lines: the first contains the desire to make the entire social organism democratic, to extend democracy beyond its political expression; the second is the impulse to share the race life, and to bring as much as possible of social energy and the accumulation of civilization to those portions of the race which have little; the third springs from a certain renaissance of Christianity, a movement toward its early humanitarian aspects.
It is not difficult to see that although America is pledged to the democratic ideal, the view of democracy has been partial, and that its best achievement thus far has been pushed along the line of the franchise. Democracy has made little attempt to assert itself in social affairs. We have refused to move beyond the position of its eighteenth-century leaders, who believed that political equality alone would secure all good to all men. We conscientiously followed the gift of the ballot hard upon the gift of freedom to the negro, but we are quite unmoved by the fact that he lives among us in a practical social ostracism. We hasten to give the franchise to the immigrant from a sense of justice, from a tradition that he ought to have it, while we dub him with epithets deriding his past life or present occupation, and feel no duty to invite him to our houses. We are forced to acknowledge that it is only in our local and national politics that we try very hard for the ideal so dear to those who were enthusiasts when the century was young. We have almost given it up as our ideal in social intercourse. There are city wards in which many of the votes are sold for drinks and dollars; still there is a remote pretence, at least a fiction current, that a man’s vote is his own. The judgment of the voter is consulted and an opportunity for remedy given. There is not even a theory in the social order, not a shadow answering to the polls in politics. The time may come when the politician who sells one by one to the highest bidder all the offices in his grasp, will not be considered more base in his code of morals, more hardened in his practice, than the woman who constantly invites to her receptions those alone who bring her an equal social return, who shares her beautiful surroundings only with those who minister to a liking she has for successful social events. In doing this is she not just as unmindful of the common weal, as unscrupulous in her use of power, as is any city “boss” who consults only the interests of the “ring”?
In politics “bossism” arouses a scandal. It goes on in society constantly and is only beginning to be challenged. Our consciences are becoming tender in regard to the lack of democracy in social affairs. We are perhaps entering upon the second phase of democracy, as the French philosophers entered upon the first, somewhat bewildered by its logical conclusions. The social organism has broken down through large districts of our great cities. Many of the people living there are very poor, the majority of them without leisure or energy for anything but the gain of subsistence. They move often from one wretched lodging to another. They live for the moment side by side, many of them without knowledge of each other, without fellowship, without local tradition or public spirit, without social organization of any kind. Practically nothing is done to remedy this. The people who might do it, who have the social tact and training, the large houses, and the traditions and custom of hospitality, live in other parts of the city. The club-houses, libraries, galleries, and semi-public conveniences for social life are also blocks away. We find working-men organized into armies of producers because men of executive ability and business sagacity have found it to their interests thus to organize them. But these working-men are not organized socially; although living in crowded tenement-houses, they are living without a corresponding social contact. The chaos is as great as it would be were they working in huge factories without foreman or superintendent. Their ideas and resources are cramped. The desire for higher social pleasure is extinct. They have no share in the traditions and social energy which make for progress. Too often their only place of meeting is a saloon, their only host a bartender; a local demagogue forms their public opinion. Men of ability and refinement, of social power and university cultivation, stay away from them. Personally, I believe the men who lose most are those who thus stay away. But the paradox is here: when cultivated people do stay away from a certain portion of the population, when all social advantages are persistently withheld, it may be for years, the result itself is pointed at as a reason, is used as an argument, for the continued withholding.
It is constantly said that because the masses have never had social advantages they do not want them, that they are heavy and dull, and that it will take political or philanthropic machinery to change them. This divides a city into rich and poor; into the favored, who express their sense of the social obligation by gifts of money, and into the unfavored, who express it by clamoring for a “share”—both of them actuated by a vague sense of justice. This division of the city would be more justifiable, however, if the people who thus isolate themselves on certain streets and use their social ability for each other gained enough thereby and added sufficient to the sum total of social progress to justify the withholding of the pleasures and results of that progress from so many people who ought to have them. But they cannot accomplish this. “The social spirit discharges itself in many forms, and no one form is adequate to its total expression.” We are all uncomfortable in regard to the sincerity of our best phrases, because we hesitate to translate our philosophy into the deed.
It is inevitable that those who feel most keenly this insincerity and partial living should be our young people, our socalled educated young people who accomplish little toward the solution of this social problem, and who bear the brunt of being cultivated into unnourished, over-sensitive lives. They have been shut off from the common labor by which they live and which is a great source of moral and physical health. They feel a fatal want of harmony between their theory and their lives, a lack of co-ordination between thought and action. I think it is hard for us to realize how seriously many of them are taking to the notion of human brotherhood, how eagerly they long to give tangible expression to the democratic ideal. These young men and women, longing to socialize their democracy, are animated by certain hopes.
These hopes may be loosely formulated thus: that if in a democratic country nothing can be permanently achieved save through the masses of the people, it will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the people themselves crave; that it is difficult to see how the notion of a higher civic life can be fostered save through common intercourse; that the blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation can be made universal and must be made universal if they are to be permanent; that the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.
These hopes are responsible for results in various directions, pre-eminently in the extension of educational advantages. We find that all educational matters are more democratic in their political than in their social aspects. The public schools in the poorest and most crowded wards of the city are inadequate to the number of children, and many of the teachers are ill-prepared and overworked; but in each ward there is an effort to secure public education. The schoolhouse itself stands as a pledge that the city recognizes and endeavors to fulfil the duty of educating its children. But what becomes of these children when they are no longer in public schools? Many of them never come under the influence of a professional teacher nor a cultivated friend after they are twelve. Society at large does little for their intellectual development. The dream of transcendentalists that each New England village would be a university, that every child taken from the common school would be put into definite lines of study and mental development, had its unfulfilled beginning in the village lyceum and lecture courses, and has its feeble representative now in the multitude of clubs for study which are so sadly restricted to educators, to the leisure class, or only to the advanced and progressive wage-workers.
The University Extension movement—certainly when it is closely identified with Settlements—would not confine learning to those who already want it, or to those who, by making an effort, can gain it, or to those among whom professional educators are already at work, but would take it to the tailors of East London and the dock-laborers of the Thames. It requires tact and training, love of learning, and the conviction of the justice of its diffusion to give it to people whose intellectual faculties are untrained and disused. But men in England are found who do it successfully, and it is believed there are men and women in America who can do it. I also believe that the best work in University Extension can be done in Settlements, where the teaching will be further socialized, where the teacher will grapple his students, not only by formal lectures, but by every hook possible to the fuller intellectual life which he represents. This teaching requires distinct methods, for it is true of people who have been allowed to remain undeveloped and whose faculties are inert and sterile, that they cannot take their learning heavily. It has to be diffused in a social atmosphere. Information held in solution, a medium of fellowship and goodwill can be assimilated by the dullest.
If education is, as Froebel defined it, “deliverance,” deliverance of the forces of the body and mind, then the untrained must first be delivered from all constraint and rigidity before their faculties can be used. Possibly one of the most pitiful periods in the drama of the much-praised young American who attempts to rise in life is the time when his educational requirements seem to have locked him up and made him rigid. He fancies himself shut off from his uneducated family and misunderstood by his friends. He is bowed down by his mental accumulations and often gets no farther than to carry them through life as a great burden. Not once has he had a glimpse of the delights of knowledge. Intellectual life requires for its expansion and manifestation the influence and assimilation of the interests and affections of others. Mazzini, that greatest of all democrats, who broke his heart over the condition of the South European peasantry, said: “Education is not merely a necessity of true life by which the individual renews his vital force in the vital force of humanity; it is a Holy Communion with generations dead and living, by which he fecundates all his faculties. When he is withheld from this Communion for generations, as the Italian peasant has been, we point our finger at him and say, ‘He is like a beast of the field; he must be controlled by force.’ ” Even to this it is sometimes added that it is absurd to educate him, immoral to disturb his content. We stupidly use again the effect as an argument for a continuance of the cause. It is needless to say that a Settlement is a protest against a restricted view of education, and makes it possible for every educated man or woman with a teaching faculty to find out those who are ready to be taught. The social and educational activities of a Settlement are but differing manifestations of the attempt to socialize democracy, as is the existence of the settlement itself.
I find it somewhat difficult to formulate the second line of motives which I believe to constitute the trend of the subjective pressure toward the Settlement. There is something primordial about these motives, but I am perhaps over-bold in designating them as a great desire to share the race life. We all bear traces of the starvation struggle which for so long made up the life of the race. Our very organism holds memories and glimpses of that long life of our ancestors which still goes on among so many of our contemporaries. Nothing so deadens the sympathies and shrivels the power of enjoyment as the persistent keeping away from the great opportunities for helpfulness and a continual ignoring of the starvation struggle which makes up the life of at least half the race. To shut one’s self away from that half of the race life is to shut one’s self away from the most vital part of it; it is to live out but half the humanity which we have been born heir to and to use but half our faculties. We have all had longings for a fuller life which should include the use of these faculties. These longings are the physical complement of the “Intimations of Immortality” on which no ode has yet been written. To portray these would be the work of a poet, and it is hazardous for any but a poet to attempt it.
You may remember the forlorn feeling which occasionally seizes you when you arrive early in the morning a stranger in a great city. The stream of laboring people goes past you as you gaze through the plate-glass window of your hotel. You see hard-working men lifting great burdens; you hear the driving and jostling of huge carts. Your heart sinks with a sudden sense of futility. The door opens behind you and you turn to the man who brings you in your breakfast with a quick sense of human fellowship. You find yourself praying that you may never lose your hold on it all. A more poetic prayer would be that the great mother breasts of our common humanity, with its labor and suffering and its homely comforts, may never be withheld from you. You turn helplessly to the waiter. You feel that it would be almost grotesque to claim from him the sympathy you crave. Civilization has placed you far apart, but you resent your position with a sudden sense of snobbery. Literature is full of portrayals of these glimpses. They come to shipwrecked men on rafts; they overcome the differences of an incongruous multitude when in the presence of a great danger or when moved by a common enthusiasm. They are not, however, confined to such moments, and if we were in the habit of telling them to each other, the recital would be as long as the tales of children are, when they sit down on the green grass and confide to each other how many times they have remembered that they lived once before. If these tales are the stirring of inherited impressions, just so surely is the other the striving of inherited powers.
“There is nothing after disease, indigence, and a sense of guilt so fatal to health and to life itself as the want of a proper outlet for active faculties.” I have seen young girls suffer and grow sensibly lowered in vitality in the first years after they leave school. In our attempt then to give a girl pleasure and freedom from care we succeed, for the most part, in making her pitifully miserable. She finds “life” so different from what she expected it to be. She is besotted with innocent little ambitions, and does not understand this apparent waste of herself, this elaborate preparation, if no work is provided for her. There is a heritage of noble obligation which young people accept and long to perpetuate. The desire for action, the wish to right wrong and alleviate suffering, haunts them daily. Society smiles at it indulgently instead of making it of value to itself. The wrong to them begins even farther back, when we restrain the first childish desires for “doing good” and tell them that they must wait until they are older and better fitted. We intimate that social obligation begins at a fixed date, forgetting that it begins with birth itself. We treat them as children who, with strong-growing limbs, are allowed to use their legs but not their arms, or whose legs are daily carefully exercised that after awhile their arms may be put to high use. We do this in spite of the protest of the best educators, Locke and Pestalozzi. We are fortunate in the mean time if their unused members do not weaken and disappear. They do sometimes. There are a few girls who, by the time they are “educated,” forget their old childish desires to help the world and to play with poor little girls “who haven’t playthings.” Parents are often inconsistent. They deliberately expose their daughters to knowledge of the distress in the world. They send them to hear missionary addresses on famines in India and China; they accompany them to lectures on the suffering in Siberia; they agitate together over the forgotten region of East London. In addition to this, from babyhood the altruistic tendencies of these daughters are persistently cultivated. They are taught to be self-forgetting and self-sacrificing, to consider the good of the Whole before the good of the Ego. But when all this information and culture show results, when the daughter comes back from college and begins to recognize her social claim to the “submerged tenth,” and to evince a disposition to fulfil it, the family claim is strenuously asserted; she is told that she is unjustified, ill-advised in her efforts. If she persists the family too often are injured and unhappy, unless the efforts are called missionary, and the religious zeal of the family carry them over their sense of abuse. When this zeal does not exist the result is perplexing. It is a curious violation of what we would fain believe a fundamental law—that the final return of the Deed is upon the head of the Doer. The Deed is that of exclusiveness and caution, but the return instead of falling upon the head of the exclusive and cautious, falls upon a young head full of generous and unselfish plans. The girl loses something vital out of her life which she is entitled to. She is restricted and unhappy; her elders, meanwhile, are unconscious of the situation, and we have all the elements of a tragedy.
We have in America a fast-growing number of cultivated young people who have no recognized outlet for their active faculties. They hear constantly of the great social maladjustment, but no way is provided for them to change it, and their uselessness hangs about them heavily. Huxley declares that the sense of uselessness is the severest shock which the human system can sustain, and that, if persistently sustained, it results in atrophy of function. These young people have had advantages of college, of European travel and economic study, but they are sustaining this shock of inaction. They have pet phrases, and they tell you that the things that make us all alike are stronger than the things that make us different. They say that all men are united by needs and sympathies far more permanent and radical than anything that temporarily divides them and sets them in opposition to each other. If they affect art, they say that the decay in artistic expression is due to the decay in ethics, that art when shut away from the human interests and from the great mass of humanity is self-destructive. They tell their elders with all the bitterness of youth that if they expect success from them in business, or politics, or in whatever lines their ambition for them has run, they must let them consult all of humanity; that they must let them find out what the people want and how they want it. It is only the stronger young people, however, who formulate this. Many of them dissipate their energies in so-called enjoyment. Others, not content with that, go on studying and go back to college for their second degrees, not that they are especially fond of study, but because they want something definite to do, and their powers have been trained in the direction of mental accumulation. Many are buried beneath mere mental accumulation with lowered vitality and discontent. Walter Besant says they have had the vision that Peter had when he saw the great sheet let down from heaven, wherein was neither clean nor unclean. He calls it the sense of humanity. It is not philanthropy nor benevolence. It is a thing fuller and wider than either of these. This young life, so sincere in its emotion and good phrases and yet so undirected, seems to me as pitiful as the other great mass of destitute lives. One is supplementary to the other, and some method of communication can surely be devised. Mr. Barnett, who urged the first Settlement,—Toynbee Hall, in East London,—recognized this need of outlet for the young men of Oxford and Cambridge, and hoped that the Settlement would supply the communication. It is easy to see why the Settlement movement originated in England, where the years of education are more constrained and definite than they are here, where class distinctions are more rigid. The necessity of it was greater there, but we are fast feeling the pressure of the need and meeting the necessity for Settlements in America. Our young people feel nervously the need of putting theory into action, and respond quickly to the Settlement form of activity.
The third division of motives which I believe make toward the Settlement is the result of a certain renaissance going forward in Christianity. The impulse to share the lives of the poor, the desire to make social service, irrespective of propaganda, express the spirit of Christ, is as old as Christianity itself. We have no proof from the records themselves that the early Roman Christians, who strained their simple art to the point of grotesqueness in their eagerness to record a “good news” on the walls of the catacombs, considered this “good news” a religion. Jesus had no set of truths labelled “Religious.” On the contrary, his doctrine was that all truth is one, that the appropriation of it is freedom. His teaching had no dogma to mark it off from truth and action in general. He himself called it a revelation—a life. These early Roman Christians received the Gospel message, a command to love all men, with a certain joyous simplicity. The image of the Good Shepherd is blithe and gay beyond the gentlest shepherd of Greek mythology; the hart no longer pants, but rushes to the water brooks. The Christians looked for the continuous revelation, but believed what Jesus said, that this revelation to be held and made manifest must be put into terms of action; that action is the only medium man has for receiving and appropriating truth. “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.”
That Christianity has to be revealed and embodied in the line of social progress is a corollary to the simple proposition that man’s action is found in his social relationships in the way in which he connects with his fellows, that his motives for action are the zeal and affection with which he regards his fellows. By this simple process was created a deep enthusiasm for humanity, which regarded man as at once the organ and object of revelation; and by this process came about that wonderful fellowship, that true democracy of the early Church, that so captivates the imagination. The early Christians were pre-eminently non-resistant. They believed in love as a cosmic force. There was no iconoclasm during the minor peace of the Church. They did not yet denounce, nor tear down temples, nor preach the end of the world. They grew to a mighty number, but it never occurred to them, either in their weakness or their strength, to regard other men for an instant as their foes or as aliens. The spectacle of the Christians loving all men was the most astounding Rome had ever seen. They were eager to sacrifice themselves for the weak, for children and the aged. They identified themselves with slaves and did not avoid the plague. They longed to share the common lot that they might receive the constant revelation. It was a new treasure which the early Christians added to the sum of all treasures, a joy hitherto unknown in the world—the joy of finding the Christ which lieth in each man, but which no man can unfold save in fellowship. A happiness ranging from the heroic to the pastoral enveloped them. They were to possess a revelation as long as life had new meaning to unfold, new action to propose.
I believe that there is a distinct turning among many young men and women toward this simple acceptance of Christ’s message. They resent the assumption that Christianity is a set of ideas which belong to the religious consciousness, whatever that may be, that it is a thing to be proclaimed and instituted apart from the social life of the community. They insist that it shall seek a simple and natural expression in the social organism itself. The Settlement movement is only one manifestation of that wider humanitarian movement which throughout Christendom, but pre-eminently in England, is endeavoring to embody itself, not in a sect, but in society itself. Tolstoï has reminded us all very forcibly of Christ’s principle of non-resistance. His formulation has been startling and his expression has deviated from the general movement, but there is little doubt that he has many adherents, men and women who are philosophically convinced of the futility of opposition, who believe that evil can be overcome only with good and cannot be opposed. If love is the creative force of the universe, the principle which binds men together, and by their interdependence on each other makes them human, just so surely is anger and the spirit of opposition the destructive principle of the universe, that which tears down, thrusts men apart, and makes them isolated and brutal.
I cannot, of course, speak for other Settlements, but it would, I think, be unfair to Hull House not to emphasize the conviction with which the first residents went there, that it would simply be a foolish and an unwarrantable expenditure of force to oppose or to antagonize any individual or set of people in the neighborhood; that whatever of good the House had to offer should be put into positive terms; that its residents should live with opposition to no man, with recognition of the good in every man, even the meanest. I believe that this turning, this renaissance of the early Christian humanitarianism, is going on in America, in Chicago, if you please, without leaders who write or philosophize, without much speaking, but with a bent to express in social service, in terms of action, the spirit of Christ. Certain it is that spiritual force is found in the Settlement movement, and it is also true that this force must be evoked and must be called into play before the success of any Settlement is assured. There must be the over-mastering belief that all that is noblest in life is common to men as men, in order to accentuate the likenesses and ignore the differences which are found among the people whom the Settlement constantly brings into juxtaposition. It may be true, as Frederic Harrison insists, that the very religious fervor of man can be turned into love for his race and his desire for a future life into content to live in the echo of his deeds. How far the Positivists’ formula of the high ardor for humanity can carry the Settlement movement, Mrs. Humphry Ward’s house in London may in course of time illustrate. Paul’s formula of seeking for the Christ which lieth in each man and founding our likenesses on him seems a simpler formula to many of us.
If you have heard a thousand voices singing in the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s “Messiah,” you have found that the leading voices could still be distinguished, but that the differences of training and cultivation between them and the voices of the chorus were lost in the unity of purpose and the fact that they were all human voices lifted by a high motive. This is a weak illustration of what a Settlement attempts to do. It aims, in a measure, to lead whatever of social life its neighborhood may afford, to focus and give form to that life, to bring to bear upon it the results of cultivation and training; but it receives in exchange for the music of isolated voices the volume and strength of the chorus. It is quite impossible for me to say in what proportion or degree the subjective necessity which led to the opening of Hull House combined the three trends: first the desire to interpret democracy in social terms; secondly, the impulse beating at the very source of our lives urging us to aid in the race progress; and, thirdly, the Christian movement toward Humanitarianism. It is difficult to analyze a living thing; the analysis is at best imperfect. Many more motives may blend with the three trends; possibly the desire for a new form of social success due to the nicety of imagination, which refuses worldly pleasures unmixed with the joys of self-sacrifice; possibly a love of approbation, so vast that it is not content with the treble clapping of delicate hands, but wishes also to hear the bass notes from toughened palms, may mingle with these.
The Settlement, then, is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city. It insists that these problems are not confined to any one portion of a city. It is an attempt to relieve, at the same time, the over-accumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other; but it assumes that this over-accumulation and destitution is most sorely felt in the things that pertain to social and educational advantage. From its very nature it can stand for no political or social propaganda. It must, in a sense, give the warm welcome of an inn to all such propaganda, if perchance one of them be found an angel. The one thing to be dreaded in the Settlement is that it lose its flexibility, its power of quick adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment may demand. It must be open to conviction and must have a deep and abiding sense of tolerance. It must be hospitable and ready for experiment. It should demand from its residents a scientific patience in the accumulation of facts and the steady holding of their sympathies as one of the best instruments for that accumulation. It must be grounded in a philosophy whose foundation is on the solidarity of the human race, a philosophy which will not waver when the race happens to be represented by a drunken woman or an idiot boy. Its residents must be emptied of all conceit of opinion and all self-assertion, and ready to arouse and interpret the public opinion of their neighborhood. They must be content to live quietly side by side with their neighbors until they grow into a sense of relationship and mutual interests. Their neighbors are held apart by differences of race and language which the residents can more easily overcome. They are bound to see the needs of their neighborhood as a whole, to furnish data for legislation, and use their influence to secure it. In short, residents are pledged to devote themselves to the duties of good citizenship and to the arousing of the social energies which too largely lie dormant in every neighborhood given over to industrialism. They are bound to regard the entire life of their city as organic, to make an effort to unify it, and to protest against its over-differentiation.
Our philanthropies of all sorts are growing so expensive and institutional that it is to be hoped the Settlement movement will keep itself facile and unincumbered. From its very nature it needs no endowment, no roll of salaried officials. Many residents must always come in the attitude of students, assuming that the best teacher of life is life itself, and regarding the Settlement as a classroom. Hull House from the outside may appear to be a cumbrous plant of manifold industries, with its round of clubs and classes, its day nursery, diet kitchen, library, art exhibits, lectures, statistical work and polyglot demands for information, a thousand people coming and going in an average week. But viewed as a business enterprise it is not costly, for from this industry are eliminated two great items of expense—the cost of superintendence and the cost of distribution. All the management and teaching are voluntary and unpaid, and the consumers—to continue the commercial phraseology—are at the door and deliver the goods themselves. In the instance of Hull House, rent is also largely eliminated through the courtesy of the owner.
Life is manifold and Hull House attempts to respond to as many sides as possible. It does this fearlessly, feeling sure that among the able people of Chicago are those who will come to do the work when once the outline is indicated. It pursues much the same policy in regard to money. It seems to me an advantage—this obligation to appeal to business men for their judgment and their money, to the educated for their effort and enthusiasm, to the neighborhood for their response and co-operation. It tests the sanity of an idea, and we enter upon a new line of activity with a feeling of support and confidence. We have always been perfectly frank with our neighbors. I have never tried so earnestly to set forth the gist of the Settlement movement, to make clear its reciprocity, as I have to them. At first we were often asked why we came to live there when we could afford to live somewhere else. I remember one man who used to shake his head and say it was “the strangest thing he had met in his experience,” but who was finally convinced that it was not strange but natural. I trust that now it seems natural to all of us that the Settlement should be there. If it is natural to feed the hungry and care for the sick, it is certainly natural to give pleasure to the young and to minister to the deep-seated craving for social intercourse that all men feel. Whoever does it is rewarded by something which, if not gratitude, is at least spontaneous and vital and lacks that irksome sense of obligation with which a substantial benefit is too often acknowledged. The man who looks back to the person who first put him in the way of good literature has no alloy in his gratitude.
I remember when the statement seemed to me very radical that the salvation of East London was the destruction of West London; but I believe now that there will be no wretched quarters in our cities at all when the conscience of each man is so touched that he prefers to live with the poorest of his brethren, and not with the richest of them that his income will allow. It is to be hoped that this moving and living will at length be universal and need no name. The Settlement movement is from its nature a provisional one. It is easy in writing a paper to make all philosophy point one particular moral and all history adorn one particular tale; but I hope you forgive me for reminding you that the best speculative philosophy sets forth the solidarity of the human race; that the highest moralists have taught that without the advance and improvement of the whole no man can hope for any lasting improvement in his own moral or material individual condition. The subjective necessity for Social Settlements is identical with that necessity which urges us on toward social and individual salvation.
One of the central features of the Progressive movement in America was opposition to “machine politics.” These “machines” were organizations of immigrant leaders who took control of neighborhood and city government. “Boss Tweed” in New York City was merely the most infamous head of a citywide organization that received votes in exchange for favors like help in securing work. Efficient city government was not a goal of such bosses, and violence was a part of maintaining discipline in the organization. Here Addams illustrates the source of “boss” power in carefully nurtured patron-client relationships.
Why the Ward Boss Rules
Primitive people, such as the South Italian peasants who live in the Nineteenth Ward, deep down in their hearts admire nothing so much as the good man. The successful candidate must be a good man according to the standards of his constituents. He must not attempt to hold up a morality beyond them, nor must he attempt to reform or change the standard. If he believes what they believe, and does what they are all cherishing a secret ambition to do, he will dazzle them by his success and win their confidence. Any one who has lived among poorer people cannot fail to be impressed with their constant kindness to each other; that unfailing response to the needs and distresses of their neighbors, even when in danger of bankruptcy themselves. This is their reward for living in the midst of poverty. They have constant opportunities for self-sacrifice and generosity, to which, as a rule, they respond. A man stands by his friend when he gets too drunk to take care of himself, when he loses his wife or child, when he is evicted for non-payment of rent, when he is arrested for a petty crime. It seems to such a man entirely fitting that his Alderman should do the same thing on a larger scale—that he should help a constituent out of trouble just because he is in trouble, irrespective of the justice involved.
The Alderman, therefore, bails out his constituents when they are arrested, or says a good word to the police justice when they appear before him for trial; uses his “pull” with the magistrate when they are likely to be fined for a civil misdemeanor, or sees what he can do to “fix up matters” with the State’s attorney when the charge is really a serious one.
Because of simple friendliness, the Alderman is expected to pay rent for the hard-pressed tenant when no rent is forthcoming, to find jobs when work is hard to get, to procure and divide among his constituents all the places which he can seize from the City Hall. The Alderman of the Nineteenth Ward at one time made the proud boast that he had two thousand six hundred people in his ward upon the public pay-roll. This, of course, included day-laborers, but each one felt under distinct obligations to him for getting the job.
If we recollect, further, that the franchise-seeking companies pay respectful heed to the applicants backed by the Alderman, the question of voting for the successful man becomes as much an industrial as a political one. An Italian laborer wants a job more than anything else, and quite simply votes for the man who promises him one.
The Alderman may himself be quite sincere in his acts of kindness. In certain stages of moral evolution, a man is incapable of unselfish action the results of which will not benefit some one of his acquaintances; still more, of conduct that does not aim to assist any individual whatsoever; and it is a long step in moral progress to appreciate the work done by the individual for the community.
The Alderman gives presents at weddings and christenings. He seizes these days of family festivities for making friends. It is easiest to reach people in the holiday mood of expansive good will, but on their side it seems natural and kindly that he should do it. The Alderman procures passes from the railroads when his constituents wish to visit friends or to attend the funerals of distant relatives; he buys tickets galore for benefit entertainments given for a widow or a consumptive in peculiar distress; he contributes to prizes which are awarded to the handsomest lady or the most popular man. At a church bazaar, for instance, the Alderman finds the stage all set for his dramatic performance. When others are spending pennies he is spending dollars. Where anxious relatives are canvassing to secure votes for the two most beautiful children who are being voted upon, he recklessly buys votes from both sides, and laughingly declines to say which one he likes the best, buying off the young lady who is persistently determined to find out, with five dollars for the flower bazaar, the posies, of course, to be sent to the sick of the parish. The moral atmosphere of a bazaar suits him exactly. He murmurs many times, “Never mind; the money all goes to the poor,” or, “It is all straight enough if the church gets it.”
There is something archaic in a community of simple people in their attitude towards death and burial. Nothing so easy to collect money for as a funeral. If the Alderman seizes upon festivities for expressions of his good will, much more does he seize upon periods of sorrow. At a funeral he has the double advantage of ministering to a genuine craving for comfort and solace, and at the same time of assisting at an important social function.
In addition to this, there is among the poor, who have few social occasions, a great desire for a well-arranged funeral, the grade of which almost determines their social standing in the neighborhood. The Alderman saves the very poorest of his constituents from that awful horror of burial by the county; he provides carriages for the poor, who otherwise could not have them; for the more prosperous he sends extra carriages, so that they may invite more friends and have a longer procession; for the most prosperous of all there will be probably only a large “flower-piece.” It may be too much to say that all the relatives and friends who ride in the carriages provided by the Alderman’s bounty vote for him, but they are certainly influenced by his kindness, and talk of his virtues during the long hours of the ride back and forth from the suburban cemetery. A man who would ask at such a time where all this money comes from would be considered sinister. Many a man at such a time has formulated a lenient judgment of political corruption and has heard kindly speeches which he has remembered on election day. “Ah, well, he has a big Irish heart. He is good to the widow and the fatherless.” “He knows the poor better than the big guns who are always about talking civil service and reform.”
Indeed, what headway can the notion of civic purity, of honesty of administration, make against this big manifestation of human friendliness, this stalking survival of village kindness? The notions of the civic reformer are negative and impotent before it. The reformers give themselves over largely to criticisms of the present state of affairs, to writing and talking of what the future must be; but their goodness is not dramatic; it is not even concrete and human.
Such an Alderman will keep a standing account with an undertaker, and telephone every week, and sometimes more than once, the kind of outfit he wishes provided for a bereaved constituent, until the sum may roll up into hundreds a year. Such a man understands what the people want, and ministers just as truly to a great human need as the musician or the artist does. I recall an attempt to substitute what we might call a later standard.
A delicate little child was deserted in the Hull House nursery. An investigation showed that it had been born ten days previously in the Cook County Hospital, but no trace could be found of the unfortunate mother. The little thing lived for several weeks, and then, in spite of every care, died. We decided to have it buried by the county, and the wagon was to arrive by eleven o’clock. About nine o’clock in the morning the rumor of this awful deed reached the neighbors. A half-dozen of them came, in a very excited state of mind, to protest. They took up a collection out of their poverty with which to defray a funeral. We were then comparatively new in the neighborhood. We did not realize that we were really shocking a genuine moral sentiment of the community. In our crudeness, we instanced the care and tenderness which had been expended upon the little creature while it was alive; that it had had every attention from a skilled physician and trained nurse; we even intimated that the excited members of the group had not taken part in this, and that it now lay with us to decide that the child should be buried, as it had been born, at the county’s expense. It is doubtful whether Hull House has ever done anything which injured it so deeply in the minds of some of its neighbors. We were only forgiven by the most indulgent on the ground that we were spinsters and could not know a mother’s heart. No one born and reared in the community could possibly have made a mistake like that. No one who had studied the ethical standards with any care could have bungled so completely.
Last Christmas our Alderman distributed six tons of turkeys, and four or more tons of ducks and geese; but each luckless biped was handed out either by himself or one of his friends with a “Merry Christmas.” Inevitably, some families got three or four apiece, but what of that? He had none of the nagging rules of the charitable societies, nor was he ready to declare that, because a man wanted two turkeys for Christmas, he was a scoundrel, who should never be allowed to eat turkey again.
The Alderman’s wisdom was again displayed in procuring from down-town friends the sum of three thousand dollars wherewith to uniform and equip a boys’ temperance brigade which had been formed in the ward a few months before his campaign. Is it strange that the good leader, whose heart was filled with innocent pride as he looked upon these promising young scions of virtue, should decline to enter into a reform campaign?
The question does, of course, occur to many minds, Where does the money come from with which to dramatize so successfully? The more primitive people accept the truthful statement of its sources without any shock to their moral sense. To their simple minds he gets it “from the rich,” and so long as he again gives it out to the poor, as a true Robin Hood, with open hand, they have no objections to offer. Their ethics are quite honestly those of the merry-making foresters. The next less primitive people of the vicinage are quite willing to admit that he leads “the gang” in the City Council, and sells out the city franchises; that he makes deals with the franchise-seeking companies; that he guarantees to steer dubious measures through the Council, for which he demands liberal pay; that he is, in short, a successful boodler. But when there is intellect enough to get this point of view, there is also enough to make the contention that this is universally done; that all the Aldermen do it more or less successfully, but that the Alderman of the Nineteenth Ward is unique in being so generous; that such a state of affairs is to be deplored, of course, but that that is the way business is run, and we are fortunate when a kind-hearted man who is close to the people gets a large share of the boodle; that he serves these franchised companies who employ men in the building and construction of their enterprises, and that they are bound in return to give jobs to his constituency. Even when they are intelligent enough to complete the circle, and to see that the money comes, not from the pockets of the companies’ agents, but from the street-car fares of people like themselves, it almost seems as if they would rather pay two cents more each time they ride than give up the consciousness that they have a big, warm-hearted friend at court who will stand by them in an emergency. The sense of just dealing comes apparently much later than the desire for protection and kindness. The Alderman is really elected because he is a good friend and neighbor.
During a campaign a year and a half ago, when a reform league put up a candidate against our corrupt Alderman, and when Hull House worked hard to rally the moral sentiment of the ward in favor of the new man, we encountered another and unexpected difficulty. Finding that it was hard to secure enough local speakers of the moral tone which we desired, we imported orators from other parts of the town, from the “better element,” so to speak. Suddenly we heard it rumored on all sides that, while the money and speakers for the reform candidate were coming from the swells, the money which was backing our corrupt Alderman also came from a swell source; it was rumored that the president of a street-car combination, for whom he performed constant offices in the City Council, was ready to back him to the extent of fifty thousand dollars; that he, too, was a good man, and sat in high places; that he had recently given a large sum of money to an educational institution, and was, therefore, as philanthropic, not to say good and upright, as any man in town; that our Alderman had the sanction of the highest authorities, and that the lecturers who were talking against corruption, and the selling and buying of franchises, were only the cranks, and not the solid business men who had developed and built up Chicago.
All parts of the community are bound together in ethical development. If the so-called more enlightened members of the community accept public gifts from the man who buys up the Council, and the so-called less enlightened members accept individual gifts from the man who sells out the Council, we surely must take our punishment together.
Another curious experience during that campaign was the difference of standards between the imported speakers and the audience. One man, high in the council of the “better element,” one evening used as an example of the philanthropic politician an Alderman of the vicinity, recently dead, who was devotedly loved and mourned by his constituents. When the audience caught the familiar name in the midst of the platitudes, they brightened up wonderfully. But, as the speaker went on, they first looked puzzled, then astounded, and gradually their astonishment turned to indignation. The speaker, all unconscious of the situation, went on, imagining, perhaps, that he was addressing his usual audience, and totally unaware that he was perpetrating an outrage upon the finest feelings of the people who were sitting before him. He certainly succeeded in irrevocably injuring the chances of the candidate for whom he was speaking. The speaker’s standard of ethics was upright dealing in positions of public trust. The standard of ethics held by his audience was, being good to the poor and speaking gently of the dead. If he considered them corrupt and illiterate voters, they quite honestly held him a blackguard.
If we would hold to our political democracy, some pains must be taken to keep on common ground in our human experiences, and to some solidarity in our ethical conceptions. And if we discover that men of low ideals and corrupt practice are forming popular political standards simply because such men stand by and for and with the people, then nothing remains but to obtain a like sense of identification before we can hope to modify ethical standards.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was central to the Progressive movement as president and, afterwards, as a political activist and, in 1912, a third-party candidate for the presidency. Roosevelt, who served as president from 1901 to 1909, had sought increased federal regulation of large corporations and had brought suits aimed at breaking up various corporate trusts. Dissatisfied with the policies of his less activist successor, William Howard Taft, Roosevelt eventually determined to oppose Taft’s nomination for a second term. Taft, however, controlled the party machinery. And the modern primary system, with its emphasis on popular votes, did not yet exist. Defeated for the nomination, Roosevelt formed his own, the Progressive Party. The platform of that party embodied the reformist impulses and policies of the era. Industrial regulation, women’s suffrage, popular election of U.S. senators, child labor regulations, and a series of other reforms aimed at more direct citizen participation in mass political action all were set forth as needed policies. Roosevelt lost to the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson (who also termed himself a Progressive) but outpolled Taft.
Declaration of Principles of the Progressive Party
August 7, 1912
The conscience of the people, in a time of grave national problems, has called into being a new party, born of the nation’s awakened sense of justice. We of the Progressive party here dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the duty laid upon us by our fathers to maintain that government of the people, by the people and for the people whose foundations they laid.
We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice, to secure which this government was founded and without which no republic can endure.
This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest.
It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.
The Old Parties
Political parties exist to secure responsible government and to execute the will of the people.
From these great tasks both of the old parties have turned aside. Instead of instruments to promote the general welfare, they have become the tools of corrupt interests which use them impartially to serve their selfish purposes. Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.
To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
The deliberate betrayal of its trust by the Republican party, and the fatal incapacity of the Democratic party to deal with the new issues of the new time, have compelled the people to forge a new instrument of government through which to give effect to their will in laws and institutions.
Unhampered by tradition, uncorrupted by power, undismayed by the magnitude of the task, the new party offers itself as the instrument of the people to sweep away old abuses, to build a new and nobler commonwealth.
A Covenant with the People
This declaration is our covenant with the people, and we hereby bind the party and its candidates in state and nation to the pledges made herein.
The Rule of the People
The Progressive party, committed to the principle of government by a self-controlled democracy expressing its will through representatives of the people, pledges itself to secure such alterations in the fundamental law of the several states and of the United States as shall insure the representative character of the government.
In particular, the party declares for direct primaries for the nomination of state and national officers, for nation-wide preferential primaries for candidates for the presidency, for the direct election of United States senators by the people; and we urge on the states the policy of the short ballot, with responsibility to the people secured by the initiative, referendum and recall.
Amendment of Constitution
The Progressive party, believing that a free people should have the power from time to time to amend their fundamental law so as to adapt it progressively to the changing needs of the people, pledges itself to provide a more easy and expeditious method of amending the federal constitution.
Nation and State
Up to the limit of the constitution, and later by amendment of the constitution, if found necessary, we advocate bringing under effective national jurisdiction those problems which have expanded beyond reach of the individual states.
It is as grotesque as it is intolerable that the several states should by unequal laws in matter of common concern become competing commercial agencies, barter the lives of their children, the health of their women and the safety and well-being of their working people for the profit of their financial interests.
The extreme insistence on states’ rights by the Democratic party in the Baltimore platform demonstrates anew its inability to understand the world into which it has survived or to administer the affairs of a union of states which have in all essential respects become one people.
Social and Industrial Justice
The supreme duty of the nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice. We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in state and nation for:
Effective legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment, and other injurious effects incident to modern industry;
The fixing of minimum safety and health standards for the various occupations, and the exercise of the public authority of state and nation, including the federal control over interstate commerce and the taxing power, to maintain such standards;
The prohibition of child labor;
Minimum wage standards for working women, to provide a living scale in all industrial occupations;
The prohibition of night work for women and the establishment of an eight-hour day for women and young persons;
One day’s rest in seven for all wage-workers;
The eight-hour day in continuous twenty-four-hour industries;
The abolition of the convict contract labor system; substituting a system of prison production for governmental consumption only; and the application of prisoners’ earnings to the support of their dependent families;
Publicity as to wages, hours and conditions of labor; full reports upon industrial accidents and diseases, and the opening to public inspection of all tallies, weights, measures and check systems on labor products;
Standards of compensation for death by industrial accident and injury and trade diseases which will transfer the burden of lost earnings from the families of working people to the industry, and thus to the community;
The protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use;
The development of the creative labor power of America by lifting the last load of illiteracy from American youth and establishing continuation schools for industrial education under public control and encouraging agricultural education and demonstration in rural schools;
The establishment of industrial research laboratories to put the methods and discoveries of science at the service of American producers.
We favor the organization of the workers, men and women, as a means of protecting their interests and of promoting their progress.
We believe that true popular government, justice and prosperity go hand in hand, and, so believing, it is our purpose to secure that large measure of general prosperity which is the fruit of legitimate and honest business, fostered by equal justice and by sound progressive laws.
We demand that the test of true prosperity shall be the benefits conferred thereby on all the citizens not confined to individuals or classes and that the test of corporate efficiency shall be the ability better to serve the public; that those who profit by control of business affairs shall justify that profit and that control by sharing with the public the fruits thereof.
We therefore demand a strong national regulation of interstate corporations. The corporation is an essential part of modern business. The concentration of modern business, in some degree, is both inevitable and necessary for national and international business efficiency. But the existing concentration of vast wealth under a corporate system, unguarded and uncontrolled by the nation, has placed in the hands of a few men enormous, secret, irresponsible power over the daily life of the citizen—a power insufferable in a free government and certain of abuse.
This power has been abused, in monopoly of national resources, in stock watering, in unfair competition and unfair privileges, and finally in sinister influences on the public agencies of state and nation. We do not fear commercial power, but we insist that it shall be exercised openly, under publicity, supervision and regulation of the most efficient sort, which will preserve its good while eradicating and preventing its evils.
To that end we urge the establishment of a strong federal administrative commission of high standing, which shall maintain permanent active supervision over industrial corporations engaged in interstate commerce, or such of them as are of public importance, doing for them what the government now does for the national banks, and what is now done for the railroads by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Such a commission must enforce the complete publicity of those corporation transactions which are of public interest; must attack unfair competition, false capitalization and special privilege, and by continuous trained watchfulness guard and keep open equally to all the highways of American commerce.
Thus the business man will have certain knowledge of the law, and will be able to conduct his business easily in conformity therewith; the investor will find security for his capital; dividends will be rendered more certain, and the savings of the people will be drawn naturally and safely into the channels of trade.
Under such a system of constructive regulation, legitimate business, freed from confusion, uncertainty and fruitless litigation, will develop normally in response to the energy and enterprise of the American business man.
The time has come when the federal government should co-operate with manufacturers and producers in extending our foreign commerce. To this end we demand adequate appropriations by Congress, and the appointment of diplomatic and consular officers solely with a view to their special fitness and worth, and not in consideration of political expediency.
It is imperative to the welfare of our people that we enlarge and extend our foreign commerce. We are preeminently fitted to do this because as a people we have developed high skill in the art of manufacturing; our business men are strong executives, strong organizers. In every way possible our Federal Government should co-operate in this important matter. Anyone who has had opportunity to study and observe first-hand Germany’s course in this respect must realize that their policy of co-operation between Government and business has in comparatively few years made them a leading competitor for the commerce of the world. It should be remembered that they are doing this on a national scale and with large units of business, while the Democrats would have us believe that we should do it with small units of business, which would be controlled not by the National Government but by forty-nine conflicting sovereignties. Such a policy is utterly out of keeping with the progress of the times and gives our great commercial rivals in Europe—hungry for international markets—golden opportunities of which they are rapidly taking advantage.
We believe in a protective tariff which shall equalize conditions of competition between the United States and foreign countries, both for the farmer and the manufacturer and which shall maintain for labor an adequate standard of living.
Primarily the benefit of any tariff should be disclosed in the pay envelope of the laborer. We declare that no industry deserves protection which is unfair to labor or which is operating in violation of federal law. We believe that the presumption is always in favor of the consuming public.
We demand tariff revision because the present tariff is unjust to the people of the United States. Fair-dealing toward the people requires an immediate downward revision of those schedules wherein duties are shown to be unjust or excessive.
We pledge ourselves to the establishment of a non-partisan scientific tariff commission, reporting both to the President and to either branch of Congress, which shall report, first, as to the costs of production, efficiency of labor, capitalization, industrial organization and efficiency and the general competitive position in this country and abroad of industries seeking protection from Congress; second, as to the revenue-producing power of the tariff and its relation to the resources of government; and, third, as to the effect of the tariff on prices, operations of middlemen, and on the purchasing power of the consumer.
We believe that this commission should have plenary power to elicit information, and for this purpose to prescribe a uniform system of accounting for the great protected industries. The work of the commission should not prevent the immediate adoption of acts reducing those schedules generally recognized as excessive.
We condemn the Payne-Aldrich bill as unjust to the people. The Republican organization is in the hands of those who have broken, and cannot again be trusted to keep, the promise of necessary downward revision. The Democratic party is committed to the destruction of the protective system through a tariff for revenue only—a policy which would inevitably produce widespread industrial and commercial disaster.
We demand the immediate repeal of the Canadian reciprocity act.
High Cost of Living
The high cost of living is due partly to world-wide and partly to local causes; partly to natural and partly to artificial causes. The measures proposed in this platform on various subjects such as the tariff, the trusts and conservation, will of themselves tend to remove the artificial causes.
There will remain other elements such as the tendency to leave the country for the city, waste, extravagance, bad system of taxation, poor methods of raising crops and bad business methods in marketing crops.
To remedy these conditions requires the fullest information and based on this information, effective government supervision and control to remove all the artificial causes. We pledge ourselves to such full and immediate inquiry and to immediate action to deal with every need such inquiry discloses.
We believe there exists imperative need for prompt legislation for the improvement of our national currency system. We believe the present method of issuing notes through private agencies is harmful and unscientific.
The issue of currency is fundamentally a government function and the system should have as basic principles soundness and elasticity. The control should be lodged with the government and should be protected from domination or manipulation by Wall Street or any special interests.
We are opposed to the so-called Aldrich currency bill, because its provisions would place our currency and credit system in private hands, not subject to effective public control.
The natural resources of the nation must be promptly developed and generously used to supply the people’s needs, but we cannot safely allow them to be wasted, exploited, monopolized, or controlled against the general good. We heartily favor the policy of conservation, and we pledge our party to protect the national forests without hindering their legitimate use for the benefit of all the people.
Agricultural lands in the national forests are, and should remain, open to the genuine settler. Conservation will not retard legitimate development. The honest settler must receive his patent promptly, without needless restrictions or delays.
We believe that the remaining forests, coal and oil lands, water powers and other natural resources still in state or national control (except agricultural lands) are more likely to be wisely conserved and utilized for the general welfare if held in the public hands.
In order that consumers and producers, managers and workmen, now and hereafter, need not pay toll to private monopolies of power and raw material, we demand that such resources shall be retained by the state or nation, and opened to immediate use under laws which will encourage development and make to the people a moderate return for benefits conferred.
In particular we pledge our party to require reasonable compensation to the public for water-power rights hereafter granted by the public.
We pledge legislation to lease the public grazing lands under equitable provisions now pending which will increase the production of food for the people and thoroughly safeguard the rights of the actual homemaker. Natural resources, whose conservation is necessary for the national welfare, should be owned or controlled by the nation.
The rivers of the United States are the natural arteries of this continent. We demand that they shall be opened to traffic as indispensable parts of a great nation-wide system of transportation in which the Panama canal will be the central link, thus enabling the whole interior of the United States to share with the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in the benefit derived from the canal.
It is a national obligation to develop our rivers, and especially the Mississippi and its tributaries, without delay, under a comprehensive general plan covering each river system from its source to its mouth, designed to secure its highest usefulness for navigation, irrigation, domestic supply, water power and the prevention of floods.
We pledge our party to the immediate preparation of such a plan, which should be made and carried out in close and friendly co-operation between the nation, the states and the cities affected.
Under such a plan, the destructive floods of the Mississippi and other streams, which represent a vast and needless loss to the nation, would be controlled by forest conservation and water storage at the headwaters, and by levees below; land sufficient to support millions of people would be reclaimed from the deserts and the swamps, water power enough to transform the industrial standing of whole states would be developed, adequate water terminals would be provided, transportation by river would revive, and the railroads would be compelled to co-operate as freely with the boat lines as with each other.
The equipment, organization and experience acquired in constructing the Panama canal soon will be available for the Lakes-to-the-Gulf deep waterway and other portions of this great work, and should be utilized by the nation in co-operation with the various states, at the lowest net cost to the people.
The Panama canal, built and paid for by the American people, must be used primarily for their benefit.
We demand that the canal shall be so operated as to break the transportation monopoly now held and misused by the trans-continental railroads by maintaining sea competition with them; that ships directly or indirectly owned or controlled by American railroad corporations shall not be permitted to use the canal, and that American ships engaged in coastwise trade shall pay no tolls.
The Progressive party will favor legislation having for its aim the development of friendship and commerce between the United States and Latin-American nations.
The coal and other natural resources of Alaska should be opened to development at once. They are owned by the people of the United States, and are safe from monopoly, waste or destruction only while so owned.
We demand that they shall neither be sold nor given away, except under the homestead law, but while held in government ownership shall be opened to use promptly upon liberal terms requiring immediate development.
Thus the benefit of cheap fuel will accrue to the government of the United States and to the people of Alaska and the Pacific coast; the settlement of extensive agricultural lands will be hastened; the extermination of the salmon will be prevented, and the just and wise development of Alaskan resources will take the place of private extortion or monopoly.
We demand also that extortion or monopoly in transportation shall be prevented by the prompt acquisition, construction, or improvement by the government of such railroads, harbor and other facilities for transportation as the welfare of the people may demand.
We promise the people of the territory of Alaska the same measure of local self-government that was given to other American territories, and that federal officials appointed there shall be qualified by previous bona-fide residence in the territory.
The Progressive party, believing that no people can justly claim to be a true democracy which denies political rights on account of sex, pledges itself to the task of securing equal suffrage to men and women alike.
We pledge our party to legislation that will compel strict limitation on all campaign contributions and expenditures, and detailed publicity of both before as well as after primaries and elections.
Publicity and Public Service
We pledge our party to legislation compelling the registration of lobbyists; publicity of committee hearings except on foreign affairs, and recording of all votes in committee; and forbidding federal appointees from holding office in state or national political organizations, or taking part as officers or delegates in political conventions for the nomination of elective state or national officials.
The Progressive party demands such restriction of the power of the courts as shall leave to the people the ultimate authority to determine fundamental questions of social welfare and public policy. To secure this end, it pledges itself to provide:
1. That when an act, passed under the police power of the state, is held unconstitutional under the state constitution, by the courts, the people, after an ample interval for deliberation, shall have an opportunity to vote on the question whether they desire the act to become a law, notwithstanding such decision.
2. That every decision of the highest appellate court of a state declaring an act of the legislature unconstitutional on the ground of its violation of the federal constitution shall be subject to the same review by the Supreme Court of the United States as is now accorded to decisions sustaining such legislation.
Administration of Justice
The Progressive party, in order to secure to the people a better administration of justice and by that means to bring about a more general respect for the law and the courts, pledges itself to work unceasingly for the reform of legal procedure and judicial methods.
We believe that the issuance of injunctions in cases arising out of labor disputes should be prohibited when such injunctions would not apply when no labor disputes existed.
We also believe that a person cited for contempt in labor disputes, except when such contempt was committed in the actual presence of the court or so near thereto as to interfere with the proper administration of justice, should have a right to trial by jury.
Department of Labor
We pledge our party to establish a Department of Labor with a seat in the cabinet, and with wide jurisdiction over matters affecting the conditions of labor and living.
The development and prosperity of country life are as important to the people who live in the cities as they are to the farmers. Increase of prosperity on the farm will favorably affect the cost of living and promote the interests of all who dwell in the country, and all who depend upon its products for clothing, shelter and food.
We pledge our party to foster the development of agricultural credit and co-operation, the teaching of agriculture in schools, agricultural college extension, the use of mechanical power on the farm, and to re-establish the Country Life Commission, thus directly promoting the welfare of the farmers, and bringing the benefits of better farming, better business and better living within their reach.
We favor the union of all the existing agencies of the federal government dealing with the public health into a single national health service without discrimination against or for any one set of therapeutic methods, school of medicine, or school of healing with such additional powers as may be necessary to enable it to perform efficiently such duties in the protection of the public from preventable diseases as may be properly undertaken by the federal authorities; including the executing of existing laws regarding pure food; quarantine and cognate subjects; the promotion of appropriate action for the improvement of vital statistics and the extension of the registration area of such statistics, and co-operation with the health activities of the various states and cities of the nation.
We pledge ourselves to the enactment of a patent law which will make it impossible for patents to be suppressed or used against the public welfare in the interests of injurious monopolies.
Interstate Commerce Commission
We pledge our party to secure to the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to value the physical property of railroads. In order that the power of the commission to protect the people may not be impaired or destroyed, we demand the abolition of the Commerce Court.
We recognize the vital importance of good roads and we pledge our party to foster their extension in every proper way, and we favor the early construction of national highways. We also favor the extension of the rural free delivery service.
Inheritance and Income Tax
We believe in a graduated inheritance tax as a national means of equalizing the obligations of holders of property to government, and we hereby pledge our party to enact such a federal law as will tax large inheritances, returning to the states an equitable percentage of all amounts collected.
We favor the ratification of the pending amendment to the constitution giving the government power to levy an income tax.
Peace and National Defense
The Progressive party deplores the survival in our civilization of the barbaric system of warfare among nations with its enormous waste of resources even in time of peace, and the consequent impoverishment of the life of the toiling masses. We pledge the party to use its best endeavors to substitute judicial and other peaceful means of settling international differences.
We favor an international agreement for the limitation of naval forces. Pending such an agreement, and as the best means of preserving peace, we pledge ourselves to maintain for the present the policy of building two battleships a year.
We pledge our party to protect the rights of American citizenship at home and abroad. No treaty should receive the sanction of our government which discriminates between American citizens because of birthplace, race, or religion, or that does not recognize the absolute right of expatriation.
Through the establishment of industrial standards we propose to secure to the able-bodied immigrant and to his native fellow workers a larger share of American opportunity.
We denounce the fatal policy of indifference and neglect which has left our enormous immigrant population to become the prey of chance and cupidity.
We favor governmental action to encourage the distribution of immigrants away from the congested cities, to rigidly supervise all private agencies dealing with them and to promote their assimilation, education and advancement.
We pledge ourselves to a wise and just policy of pensioning American soldiers and sailors and their widows and children by the federal government. And we approve the policy of the southern states in granting pensions to the ex-Confederate soldiers and sailors and their widows and children.
We pledge our party to the immediate creation of a parcels post, with rates proportionate to distance and service.
We condemn the violations of the civil service law under the present administration, including the coercion and assessment of subordinate employees, and the President’s refusal to punish such violation after a finding of guilty by his own commission; his distribution of patronage among subservient congressmen, while withholding it from those who refuse support of administration measures; his withdrawal of nominations from the Senate until political support for himself was secured, and his open use of the offices to reward those who voted for his renomination.
To eradicate these abuses, we demand not only the enforcement of the civil service act in letter and spirit, but also legislation which will bring under the competitive system postmasters, collectors, marshals and all other non-political officers, as well as the enactment of an equitable retirement law, and we also insist upon continuous service during good behavior and efficiency.
Government Business Organization
We pledge our party to readjustment of the business methods of the national government and a proper co-ordination of the federal bureaus, which will increase the economy and efficiency of the government service, prevent duplications and secure better results to the taxpayers for every dollar expended.
Government Supervision Over Investments
The people of the United States are swindled out of many millions of dollars every year, through worthless investments. The plain people, the wage-earner and the men and women with small savings, have no way of knowing the merit of concerns sending out highly colored prospectuses offering stock for sale, prospectuses that make big returns seem certain and fortunes easily within grasp.
We hold it to be the duty of the government to protect its people from this kind of piracy. We, therefore, demand wise, carefully thought out legislation that will give us such governmental supervision over this matter as will furnish to the people of the United States this much-needed protection, and we pledge ourselves thereto.
On these principles and on the recognized desirability of uniting the Progressive forces of the nation into an organization which shall unequivocally represent the Progressive spirit and policy we appeal for the support of all American citizens, without regard to previous political affiliations.
THE INCOME TAX
Congress enacted the first federal income tax in 1861, as a means of securing funding for the Civil War. That tax was repealed ten years later. In 1894 Congress enacted a new income tax. But this tax was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because it taxed people directly, without the amount collected being apportioned according to the population of each state. As with many issues, President William Howard Taft sought a moderate position, arguing for the income tax’s constitutionality, but eschewing more radical calls for a tax that would seek to combat the concentration of wealth by imposing increasingly higher rates as incomes increased. Principled opposition to the income tax soon dissipated. By the end of 1913 Congress had passed the first tax on individual incomes, imposing a rate of 1 percent on incomes over $3,000 per year ($4,000 for married couples) with a surtax ranging from 1 to 6 percent on higher incomes.
Speech on Constitutionality of an Income Tax
June 16, 1909
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
It is the constitutional duty of the President from time to time to recommend to the consideration of Congress such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. In my inaugural address, immediately preceding this present extraordinary session of Congress, I invited attention to the necessity for a revision of the tariff at this session, and stated the principles upon which I thought the revision should be effected. I referred to the then rapidly increasing deficit and pointed out the obligation on the part of the framers of the tariff bill to arrange the duty so as to secure an adequate income, and suggested that if it was not possible to do so by import duties, new kinds of taxation must be adopted, and among them I recommended a graduated inheritance tax as correct in principle and as certain and easy of collection. The House of Representatives has adopted the suggestion, and has provided in the bill it passed for the collection of such a tax. In the Senate the action of its Finance Committee and the course of the debate indicate that it may not agree to this provision, and it is now proposed to make up the deficit by the imposition of a general income tax, in form and substance of almost exactly the same character as that which in the case of Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company (157 U.S., 429) was held by the Supreme Court to be a direct tax, and therefore not within the power of the Federal Government to impose unless apportioned among the several States according to population. This new proposal, which I did not discuss in my inaugural address or in my message at the opening of the present session, makes it appropriate for me to submit to the Congress certain additional recommendations.
The decision of the Supreme Court in the income-tax cases deprived the National Government of a power which, by reason of previous decisions of the court, it was generally supposed that Government had. It is undoubtedly a power the National Government ought to have. It might be indispensable to the Nation’s life in great crises. Although I have not considered a constitutional amendment as necessary to the exercise of certain phases of this power, a mature consideration has satisfied me that an amendment is the only proper course for its establishment to its full extent. I therefore recommend to the Congress that both Houses, by a two-thirds vote, shall propose an amendment to the Constitution conferring the power to levy an income tax upon the National Government without apportionment among the States in proportion to population.
This course is much to be preferred to the one proposed of reenacting a law once judicially declared to be unconstitutional. For the Congress to assume that the court will reverse itself, and to enact legislation on such an assumption, will not strengthen popular confidence in the stability of judicial construction of the Constitution. It is much wiser policy to accept the decision and remedy the defect by amendment in due and regular course.
Again, it is clear that by the enactment of the proposed law the Congress will not be bringing money into the Treasury to meet the present deficiency, but by putting on the statute book a law already there and never repealed will simply be suggesting to the executive officers of the Government their possible duty to invoke litigation. If the court should maintain its former view, no tax would be collected at all. If it should ultimately reverse itself, still no taxes would have been collected until after protracted delay.
It is said the difficulty and delay in securing the approval of three-fourths of the States will destroy all chance of adopting the amendment. Of course, no one can speak with certainty upon this point, but I have become convinced that a great majority of the people of this country are in favor of vesting the National Government with power to levy an income tax, and that they will secure the adoption of the amendment in the States, if proposed to them.
Second, the decision in the Pollock case left power in the National Government to levy an excise tax, which accomplishes the same purpose as a corporation income tax and is free from certain objections urged to the proposed incometax measure.
I therefore recommend an amendment to the tariff bill imposing upon all corporations and joint stock companies for profit, except national banks (otherwise taxed), savings banks, and building and loan associations, an excise tax measured by 2 per cent on the net income of such corporations. This is an excise tax upon the privilege of doing business as an artificial entity and of freedom from a general partnership liability enjoyed by those who own the stock.
I am informed that a 2 per cent tax of this character would bring into the Treasury of the United States not less than $25,000,000.
The decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Spreckels Sugar Refining Company against McClain (192 U.S., 397) seems clearly to establish the principle that such a tax as this is an excise tax upon privilege and not a direct tax on property, and is within the federal power without apportionment according to population. The tax on net income is preferable to one proportionate to a percentage of the gross receipts, because it is a tax upon success and not failure. It imposes a burden at the source of the income at a time when the corporation is well able to pay and when collection is easy.
Another merit of this tax is the federal supervision which must be exercised in order to make the law effective over the annual accounts and business transactions of all corporations. While the faculty of assuming a corporate form has been of the utmost utility in the business world, it is also true that substantially all of the abuses and all of the evils which have aroused the public to the necessity of reform were made possible by the use of this very faculty. If now, by a perfectly legitimate and effective system of taxation, we are incidentally able to possess the Government and the stockholders and the public of the knowledge of the real business transactions and the gains and profits of every corporation in the country, we have made a long step toward that supervisory control of corporations which may prevent a further abuse of power.
I recommend, then, first, the adoption of a joint resolution by two-thirds of both Houses, proposing to the States an amendment to the Constitution granting to the Federal Government the right to levy and collect an income tax without apportionment among the States according to population; and, second, the enactment, as part of the pending revenue measure, either as a substitute for, or in addition to, the inheritance tax, of an excise tax upon all corporations, measured by 2 per cent of their net income.
Wm. H. Taft.
The White House,June 16, 1909.
U.S. Constitution, Sixteenth Amendment
February 3, 1913
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
DIRECT ELECTION OF U.S. SENATORS
The American Constitution originally required that U.S. senators be appointed by their state legislatures. This provision was intended to protect the rights of states and the independence of senators from electoral pressures. Beginning in the 1850s there were a number of instances of legislative deadlock resulting in vacant Senate seats, as well as a number of bribery scandals related to the choosing of senators. While proposals for direct election had been made as early as 1826, they made little headway until the late nineteenth century, and resistance among senators remained especially fierce. In 1893 the House of Representatives passed a resolution favoring direct election of senators. Senator George Hoar of Massachusetts successfully led opposition to the resolution. After federal reforms failed, states began enacting laws providing for increasing participation of the general public in the election of senators, as well as petitioning Congress for reform. Over time the focus of resistance shifted from direct election itself to the question of whether the federal government should be allowed to control the means of senators’ selection; Southern senators in particular protested the possibility of federal troops at the polls enforcing federal regulations. A version of the amendment was passed by the Senate in April 1912 and sent to the states for ratification, which was achieved the next year, with Delaware and Utah the only states refusing to ratify.
Resolution Opposing Direct Election of Senators
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
April 3, 1893.—Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Hoar submitted the following RESOLUTION:
Resolved, That it is inexpedient that the resolution sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives during the last Congress providing for an amendment of the Constitution securing the election of Senators by the people of the several States be adopted;
Such a method of election would essentially change the character of the Senate as conceived by the convention that framed the Constitution and the people who adopted it;
It would transfer, practically, the selection of the members of this body from the legislatures, who are intrusted with all legislative powers of the States, to bodies having no other responsibilities, whose election can not be regulated by law, whose members act by proxy, whose tenure of office is for a single day, whose votes and proceedings are not recorded, who act under no personal responsibility, whose mistakes, ordinarily, can only be corrected by the choice of Senators who do not represent the opinions concerning public measures and policies of the people who choose them;
It requires the substitution of pluralities for majorities in the election;
It will transfer the seat of political power in great States, now distributed evenly over their territory, to the great cities and masses of population;
It will create new temptation to fraud, corruption, and other illegal practices, and, in close cases, will give rise to numerous election contests, which must tend seriously to weaken the confidence of the people in the Senate;
It will absolve the larger States from the constitutional obligation which secures the equal representation of all the States in the Senate by providing that no State shall be deprived of that equality without its consent;
It implies what the whole current of our history shows to be untrue, that the Senate has during the past century failed to meet the just expectations of the people, and that the State legislatures have proved themselves unfit to be the depositaries of the power of electing Senators;
The reasons which require this change, if acted upon and carried to their logical result, will lead to the election by the direct popular vote, and by popular majorities, of the President and of the Judiciary, and will compel the placing of these elections under complete national control;
It will result in the overthrow of the whole scheme of the Senate and, in the end, of the whole scheme of the National Constitution as designed and established by the framers of the Constitution and the people who adopted it.
U.S. Constitution, Seventeenth Amendment
May 31, 1913
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
The demand for alcohol on the frontier, where there was little by way of law or material comforts, conflicted with the self-denying Calvinist roots of American religious life. Temperance societies, committed to the closing of saloons and the outlawing of strong drink, were powerful by early in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was for decades a leader in the women’s temperance movement, as well as in movements for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Stanton, who worked closely with the suffragist Susan B. Anthony for decades, consistently argued that social and political progress required temperance and that the banning of alcoholic beverages would reduce crime, poverty, and the costs of government. Opponents of prohibition had been painted as enemies of progress, and their statements tended to question the wisdom, not of prohibition itself, but rather of the placement of prohibition in a federal constitutional amendment. States’rights arguments failed, and the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. Within a few years, however, even former supporters were calling for the repeal of prohibition on the grounds that the “noble experiment” had not yielded the desired results—indeed, had produced increased crime, poverty, and government expense. It should be noted that repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment merely undid the national policy of prohibition, leaving the states to decide what policy to take in regard to alcoholic beverages.
First Annual Meeting of the Woman’s State Temperance Society
Rochester, June 1 and 2, 1853
Mrs. Stanton’s Address
A little more than one year ago, in this same hall, we formed the first Woman’s State Temperance Society. We believed that the time had come for woman to speak on this question, and to insist on her right to be heard in the councils of Church and State. It was proposed at that time that we, instead of forming a society, should go en masse into the Men’s State Temperance Society. We were assured that in becoming members by paying the sum of $1, we should thereby secure the right to speak and vote in their meetings.
We who had watched the jealousy with which man had ever eyed the slow aggressions of woman, warned you against the insidious proposition made by agents from that Society. We told you they would no doubt gladly receive the dollar, but that you would never be allowed to speak or vote in their meetings. Many of you thought us suspicious and unjust toward the temperance men of the Empire State. The fact that Abby Kelly had been permitted to speak in one of their public meetings, was brought up as an argument by some agent of that Society to prove our fears unfounded. We suggested that she spoke by favor and not right, and our right there as equals to speak and vote, we well knew would never be acknowledged. A long debate saved you from that false step, and our predictions have been fully realized in the treatment our delegates received at the annual meeting held at Syracuse last July, and at the recent Brick Church meeting in New York.
In forming our Society, the mass of us being radical and liberal, we left our platform free; we are no respecters of persons, all are alike welcome here without regard to sect, sex, color, or caste. There have been, however, many objections made to one feature in our Constitution, and that is, that although we admit men as members with equal right to speak in our meetings, we claim the offices for women alone. We felt, in starting, the necessity of throwing all the responsibility on woman, which we knew she never would take, if there were any men at hand to think, act, and plan for her. The result has shown the wisdom of what seemed so objectionable to many. It was, however, a temporary expedient, and as that seeming violation of man’s rights prevents some true friends of the cause from becoming members of our Society, and as the officers are now well skilled in the practical business of getting up meetings, raising funds, etc., and have fairly learned how to stand and walk alone, it may perhaps be safe to raise man to an entire equality with ourselves, hoping, however, that he will modestly permit the women to continue the work they have so successfully begun. I would suggest, therefore, that after the business of the past year be disposed of, this objectionable feature of our Constitution be brought under consideration.
Our experience thus far as a Society has been most encouraging. We number over two thousand members. We have four agents who have traveled in various parts of the State, and I need not say what is well known to all present, that their labors thus far have given entire satisfaction to the Society and the public. I was surprised and rejoiced to find that women, without the least preparation or experience, who had never raised their voices in public one year ago, should with so much self-reliance, dignity, and force, enter at once such a field of labor, and so ably perform the work. In the metropolis of our country, in the capital of our State, before our Legislature, and in the country school-house, they have been alike earnest and faithful to the truth. In behalf of our Society, I thank you for your unwearied labors during the past year. In the name of humanity, I bid you go on and devote yourselves humbly to the cause you have espoused. The noble of your sex everywhere rejoice in your success, and feel in themselves a new impulse to struggle upward and onward; and the deep, though silent gratitude that ascends to Heaven from the wretched outcast, the wives, the mothers, and the daughters of brutal drunkards, is well known to all who have listened to their tales of woe, their bitter experience, the dark, sad passages of their tragic lives.
I hope this, our first year, is prophetic of a happy future of strong, united, and energetic action among the women of our State. If we are sincere and earnest in our love of this cause, in our devotion to truth, in our desire for the happiness of the race, we shall ever lose sight of self; each soul will, in a measure, forget its own individual interests in proclaiming great principles of justice and right. It is only a true, a deep, and abiding love of truth, that can swallow up all petty jealousies, envies, discords, and dissensions, and make us truly magnanimous and self-sacrificing. We have every reason to think, from reports we hear on all sides, that our Society has given this cause a new impulse, and if the condition of our treasury is a test, we have abundant reason to believe that in the hearts of the people we are approved, and that by their purses we shall be sustained.
It has been objected to our Society that we do not confine ourselves to the subject of temperance, but talk too much about woman’s rights, divorce, and the Church. It could be easily shown how the consideration of this great question carries us legitimately into the discussion of these various subjects. One class of minds would deal with effects alone; another would inquire into causes; the work of the former is easily perceived and quickly done; that of the latter requires deep thought, great patience, much time, and a wise self-denial. Our physicians of the present day are a good type of the mass of our reformers. They take out cancers, cut off tonsils, drive the poison which nature has wisely thrown to the surface, back again, quiet unsteady nerves with valerian, and by means of ether infuse an artificial courage into a patient that he may bravely endure some painful operation. It requires but little thought to feel that the wise physician who shall trace out the true causes of suffering; who shall teach us the great, immutable laws of life and health; who shall show us how and where in our every-day life, we are violating these laws, and the true point to begin the reform, is doing a much higher, broader, and deeper work than he who shall bend all his energies to the temporary relief of suffering. Those temperance men or women whose whole work consists in denouncing rum-sellers, appealing to legislatures, eulogizing Neal Dow, and shouting Maine Law, are superficial reformers, mere surface-workers. True, this outside work is well, and must be done; let those who see no other do this, but let them lay no hindrances in the way of that class of mind, who, seeing in our present false social relations the causes of the moral deformities of the race, would fain declare the immutable laws that govern mind as well as matter, and point out the true causes of the evils we see about us, whether lurking under the shadow of the altar, the sacredness of the marriage institution, or the assumed superiority of man.
1. We have been obliged to preach woman’s rights, because many, instead of listening to what we had to say on temperance, have questioned the right of a woman to speak on any subject. In courts of justice and legislative assemblies, if the right of the speaker to be there is questioned, all business waits until that point is settled. Now, it is not settled in the mass of minds that woman has any rights on this footstool, and much less a right to stand on an even pedestal with man, look him in the face as an equal, and rebuke the sins of her day and generation. Let it be clearly understood, then, that we are a woman’s rights Society; that we believe it is woman’s duty to speak whenever she feels the impression to do so; that it is her right to be present in all the councils of Church and State. The fact that our agents are women, settles the question of our character on this point.
Again, in discussing the question of temperance, all lecturers, from the beginning, have made mention of the drunkards’ wives and children, of widows’ groans and orphans’ tears; shall these classes of sufferers be introduced but as themes for rhetorical flourish, as pathetic touches of the speaker’s eloquence; shall we passively shed tears over their condition, or by giving them their rights, bravely open to them the doors of escape from a wretched and degraded life? Is it not legitimate in this to discuss the social degradation, the legal disabilities of the drunkard’s wife? If in showing her wrongs, we prove the right of all womankind to the elective franchise; to a fair representation in the government; to the right in criminal cases to be tried by peers of her own choosing, shall it be said that we transcend the bounds of our subject? If in pointing out her social degradation, we show you how the present laws outrage the sacredness of the marriage institution; if in proving to you that justice and mercy demand a legal separation from drunkards, we grasp the higher idea that a unity of soul alone constitutes and sanctifies true marriage, and that any law or public sentiment that forces two immortal, high-born souls to live together as husband and wife, unless held there by love, is false to God and humanity; who shall say that the discussion of this question does not lead us legitimately into the consideration of the important subject of divorce?
But why attack the Church? We do not attack the Church; we defend ourselves merely against its attacks. It is true that the Church and reformers have always been in an antagonistic position from the time of Luther down to our own day, and will continue to be until the devotional and practical types of Christianity shall be united in one harmonious whole. To those who see the philosophy of this position, there seems to be no cause for fearful forebodings or helpless regret. By the light of reason and truth, in good time, all these seeming differences will pass away. I have no special fault to find with that part of humanity that gathers into our churches; to me, human nature seems to manifest itself in very much the same way in the Church and out of it. Go through any community you please—into the nursery, kitchen, the parlor, the places of merchandise, the market-place, and exchange, and who can tell the church member from the outsider? I see no reason why we should expect more of them than other men. Why, say you, they lay claim to greater holiness; to more rigid creeds; to a belief in a sterner God; to a closer observance of forms. The Bible, with them, is the rule of life, the foundation of faith, and why should we not look to them for patterns of purity, goodness, and truth above all other men? I deny the assumption. Reformers on all sides claim for themselves a higher position than the Church. Our God is a God of justice, mercy, and truth. Their God sanctions violence, oppression, and wine-bibbing, and winks at gross moral delinquencies. Our Bible commands us to love our enemies; to resist not evil; to break every yoke and let the oppressed go free; and makes a noble life of more importance than a stern faith. Their Bible permits war, slavery, capital punishment, and makes salvation depend on faith and ordinances. In their creed it is a sin to dance, to pick up sticks on the Sabbath day, to go to the theater, or large parties during Lent, to read a notice of any reform meeting from the altar, or permit a woman to speak in the church. In our creed it is a sin to hold a slave; to hang a man on the gallows; to make war on defenseless nations, or to sell rum to a weak brother, and rob the widow and the orphan of a protector and a home. Thus may we write out some of our differences, but from the similarity in the conduct of the human family, it is fair to infer that our differences are more intellectual than spiritual, and the great truths we hear so clearly uttered on all sides, have been incorporated as vital principles into the inner life of but few indeed.
We must not expect the Church to leap en masse to a higher position. She sends forth her missionaries of truth one by one. All of our reformers have, in a measure, been developed in the Church, and all our reforms have started there. The advocates and opposers of the reforms of our day, have grown up side by side, partaking of the same ordinances and officiating at the same altars; but one, by applying more fully his Christian principles to life, and pursuing an admitted truth to its legitimate results, has unwittingly found himself in antagonism with his brother.
Belief is not voluntary, and change is the natural result of growth and development. We would fain have all church members sons and daughters of temperance; but if the Church, in her wisdom, has made her platform so broad that wine-bibbers and rum-sellers may repose in ease thereon, we who are always preaching liberality ought to be the last to complain. Having thus briefly noticed some of the objections to our movement, I will not detain the audience longer at this time.
Peterboro, May 7, 1853.
Mr. Speaker, government is but the organized forces of the union formed for strengthening its power and advancing its life. Its highest aim is to suppress those agencies which have a tendency to sap and weaken the nation’s strength, to suppress vice and crime in order that the nation may, unrestrained by these evils, go forward in its efforts for greater liberty, freedom, and achievement; that it may raise itself into a higher civilization more nearly approaching our ideal of a perfect government.
The use of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes has long attracted the attention of our leading statesmen, and with great unanimity has been condemned as one of the greatest agencies for evil and crime that is now retarding our national growth.
The right to make and use intoxicating beverages has so long been enjoyed, and this right so long licensed and sanctioned by Federal taxing laws, that the ignorant have come to the conclusion that it is one of the inalienable rights of man which the Government should not interfere with. Those with broader mental horizons insist that the long-continued toleration of this evil has given those who claim it a vested right to carry on their business or enjoy their beverage; a kind of immunity from any interference by the Government to aid humanity. The one is as fallacious as the other. Either would deprive the Government of one of its chief reasons to exist.
The resolution now under consideration would submit to the States of the Union the one question, whether the Federal Government shall prohibit “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.”
The submission and ratification of the proposed amendment by the required number of States would be no invasion of States’ rights. It would be but the orderly and legal granting of this power to the Federal Government by the legislatures of the several States in the way the sovereign people of the States have provided for amending their constitution.
The people of the United States, when they ordained and established the Constitution for the United States of America, stating in the preamble that it was “to promote the general welfare” and other objects, realized that in order to accomplish their aims it would become necessary to add to the powers granted, from time to time, as the nation grew in wealth and population, and as the Government from necessity became more complex, that unforeseen conditions and problems would arise and require solution.
In order to meet such conditions and problems the framers of the Constitution wisely provided in Article V:
That Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution . . . which . . . shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.
The adoption of the amendment here proposed would not be a move to tear down or weaken this ancient landmark, but would be in keeping with the plan of its framers to add to it a power for “the general welfare” of the people.
If we should hold it too sacred to be changed, we make of it a dead monument to its fathers. Like the “Old Ironsides” that now floats in Boston Harbor, it would still be revered for the splendid service it has performed, but it would not be equipped to meet the modern problems.
If we give it a liberal construction which will afford a reasonable opportunity to amend it as provided for in the fifth article, then like the trees of the forest which add new cells to their structure each recurring season to perpetuate their life and strength, you will make of the Constitution a viral power adapted to this and succeeding generations.
Senator Blair, in a favorable report made to the Senate on a similar resolution in 1888, is authority for the statement that:
It is well known that but for the belief in the conventions of the States that the opportunity to amend the Constitution would be most liberally afforded by Congress in accordance with the forms provided in that instrument, the original ratification never would have been obtained.
The question of the expediency of passing this resolution is primarily addressed to the Members of Congress. It is only after it has been favorably acted upon by Congress that it is passed out to the States for their ratification.
In passing upon this question I think Congress should view it from two angles: First, whether there is such a public sentiment back of it as to justify Congress in submitting it to the States; and, second, whether we, in our wisdom, approve this grant of power.
I do not believe it is the duty of Congress to submit every proposition that might be offered to the States for their ratification. Aside from the merits which the proposition might possess, such a course, would result in a continuous agitation in the States which could not be justified by Congress.
On the other hand, any great question vitally affecting the life of the people that the wisdom of Congress might approve which has found sufficient public favor to lead Congress to believe might be adopted by the requisite number of States should be submitted in order that the sovereign people might pass upon it.
Senator Blair, in 1880, in favorably reporting to the Senate a resolution to amend the Constitution and provide for national prohibition, similar to the one under consideration, says:
When any considerable and respectable portion of the American people desire to plead their cause in the great tribunal of sovereigns, who, in a free country, decide every fundamental issue [in the last] (sic) resort, it is the duty of Congress to enact such preliminary legislation as is here proposed, so that under the forms of the Constitution they can be heard on the question of its own amendment. To deny this is of the very essence of despotism, and for Congress unreasonably to refuse the hearing is just cause of revolution. The people will demand a hearing for every large and respectable minority, and to grant this opportunity is the purpose of this resolution. Whatever may be the result, all must abide by it. But there can be no justification of a denial of the right to be heard.
In 1800 Senator Blair, in making a favorable report to the Senate upon a similar resolution, sums up the duty of Congress as he sees it in the following extract from his report:
It being the fact that a very large proportion of the American people are anxious that the National Constitution be amended in accordance with the resolution, we believe that they have a right to be heard in the forum of the State legislatures, where alone the question can be decided whether the National Constitution shall be amended. That Constitution points out definitely the manner in which a change in its provisions may be effected. The Constitution of the country must be amended from time to time to correspond with the evolution of the Nation itself, for it is impossible to fetter the growth of the Nation in any direction. It will grow, peacefully or otherwise. The Constitution must yield here and there, corresponding to the necessities of the times and of the people, and the necessary changes be peacefully made, in accordance with the methods of amendment pointed out in the Constitution itself, or revolution and bloodshed will perform their work. The Constitution and the spirit of the age must be one. Whenever any considerable and respectable portion of the American people (and no considerable number can fail to be respectable) desire change in the fundamental law and ask respectful consideration of their propositions by the Nation at large, we hold it to be the duty of Congress to give them a status in the court provided by the Constitution for its own amendment.
I do not think this Congress can fail to find, beyond question, that this proposition is backed by a public sentiment of such strength and character as to not only justify, but require us to submit it to the States for ratification.
This movement is not of a temporary, spasmodic character, which may pass away with the summer, but has received the careful thought and approval of the moral and commercial forces of the Nation.
This and preceding Congresses have been overwhelmed by letters and petitions asking and pleading with Congress to submit this question to the States. These requests come from our highest type of law-abiding Christian men and women, who have their country’s welfare closest to their hearts.
As further proof of the strength of this sentiment, it is not improper for me to call attention to the fact that during this Congress the Senate, on the 1st day of August, by a vote of 65 to 20, passed this resolution.
In 1907 only Kansas, North Dakota, and Maine had prohibition laws. Up to September 1, 1914, six additional States had been added. To-day we have legislative prohibition in 27 States of the Union, comprising a population of 61,000,000. Of the [2,597] counties in the United States, 2,238 are dry and only 355 counties in the entire Nation are wet. Over half of the world to-day is dry territory.
In my opinion the time has come when Congress can not fail to recognize the overwhelming demands that are being made from every section of this Nation and from all classes of her people to submit this proposition to the States for their ratification. The aim of the prohibition advocates is that the leaven that has been at work and brought good to the local districts, townships, counties, and finally States, may be permitted to leaven the whole Nation. With such an overwhelming sentiment, making new conquests at each new encounter, is it not reasonable to suppose that this sentiment would be reflected in the action which the several legislatures would take, and that this amendment would be ratified by them?
I appeal to the Members of this House to follow the lead of the Senate and give this proposed amendment your hearty approval as a wise and beneficial policy for this Government to pursue.
The use of alcoholic liquors for beverage purposes has long been regarded as a great national evil, which physically, mentally, and morally unfits man for his greatest usefulness.
The fact has been established by carefully compiled statistics that intemperate use of alcoholic beverages by parents weakens the vitality of their offspring, increases their death rate, increases the number of feeble-minded and defective children, and renders them more susceptible and less able to resist disease.
Alcoholic beverages impair the skill, lessen the power of endurance, increase accidents, and shorten the life of those addicted to its use. Alcoholism claims more victims than does either typhoid fever or smallpox. Drink is one cause of over 66,000 deaths every year in the United States. One insane person out of every four owes his affliction to its use, and it is given credit for breaking up over 9,000 happy homes each year.
The religious world has found it undermines the morals of the Nation. The business world has found that it weakens the intellect and has set the stamp of disapproval upon the use of such beverage by men it employs. The courts of the country find it the cause of crime, and justify this conclusion by the records of their criminal courts.
Such being its established reputation, it is not surprising to find the moral and religious forces of the Nation up in arms against it and trying to crush it by whatever means they have.
Is it not time for us to become aroused to the necessity of using the strong arm of the National Government to help suppress this great source of national weakness? This Government can be no stronger than the combined strength and vitality of the people. The Government can not serve its people better than by helping to preserve its people’s strength and life.
It would be hard to understand why a National Government that has, with a lavish hand, reached out into the domain of the State and for the sake of protecting property smote down upon the cattle tick and the boll weevil and stopped the ravages of the foot-and-mouth disease, or that strained its power to regulate the commerce from the great manufacturing industries of the Nation in order to cure a practice that might weaken the vitality of the people, would then hesitate to lend its helping hand to meet and blot out the greatest agency for the destruction of property, life, and morals known to man.
The problem of suppressing the use of alcohol as a beverage is bigger than a county or a State. It is a national problem. Local regulations have been of great help in curbing the evil but they are not adequate. It has been demonstrated by an honest effort to regulate the traffic that one wet county in a State will inflict this evil upon the rest of the State. The same is true of a wet State in relation to the other States of the Union. You can not, by regulations, localize the bad effects that flow from this national evil.
Aside from the great difficulty in preventing the transportation of alcoholic beverages from a place where they can be legally made and sold into the dry territory, there would be no local boundary line to stop the degenerates, inebriates, weak-minded criminals, and diseased persons whom it had produced, and keep them within the political division of the country that had permitted the manufacture and sale of the poison that had caused their sad condition. These would travel faster and with less restraint than the cattle tick, the boll weevil, or the cattle disease, and would become a menace to the health and morals of, and perhaps a public charge upon, some community that maybe had pleaded for an opportunity to help blot out these sore spots in our body politic.
Those engaged in fighting this great national evil think that this Government should cease to be a partner of the liquor manufacturer and seller by licensing such business in return for the tax which such a policy is made to pay. It is estimated that for every dollar collected by the Government in the shape of a tax $20 is paid into the pockets of the men carrying on this business by the poor, diseased slaves of drink. The Government can not afford to pursue this policy for the sake of the revenue it derives, when by doing so it puts it within the power of the liquor interests to collect for their own pockets many times this tax, and often from those who deprive their families of comforts and necessities to pay it. There is no way to accurately estimate the cost to the Government of accidents, crimes, and diseases caused by the traffic, but it must be appalling, and if it could be accurately stated in figures, I feel safe in predicting that no man, in opposition to this resolution would ever have the temerity to speak or vote against its adoption on account of the incidental loss of taxes that might result from its ratification by the States.
Other solutions have been attempted to solve this liquor problem, but with only partial success. Opponents of the prohibition cause tell us our fight is all wrong; that it is a moral issue and we should appeal to the individual to restrain himself.
This disease of alcoholism is of stealthy character. It stimulates its victim into hilarity while it creeps upon him and binds him as its slave before he feels its grasp, even while the poor victim still boasts of his strength and power to resist it. They are to be pitied, for they need help to free themselves from its bondage. These victims should be able to look to their Government for protection against so dangerous an enemy.
We have already tried moral suasion. Godly men for all these years have preached temperance to the people and have saved many a poor soul from a drunkard’s grave, but they still find that their weaker wards stumble on their journey through life and succumb to this frailty of humanity when faced by the alluring invitation of an open bar room, licensed, protected, and taxed, if not encouraged, by this Government of ours. Since we have not been successful in keeping our weaker brother from whisky, let us try keeping whisky from our weaker brother.
Here is a note I have just received from Miss Gordon:
Congressman Webb: It is an honor to present to you, and through you, to the House of Representatives, the appeal of 500,000 members of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, praying for the passage of the joint resolution providing for a referendum to the States on national constitutional prohibition. This appeal comes from a host of home-loving women who with untiring energy and unstinted devotion have wrought marvelously for the moral and spiritual advancement of our country. This appeal comes from half a million patriots who answered promptly the call to the colors. The nobility of woman’s sacrifice, the fine quality of her patriotic service, her keen discernment in the adjustment of industrial conditions for women and children, her tender ministrations at home and on the battlefield should entitle her to the granting by the Congress of this appeal.
In addition to the petition of women members of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, I beg to present a huge petition of the indorsers of the joint resolution for a referendum to the States on national constitutional prohibition secured through the efforts of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and representing 8,000,000 men and women of our Republic. Adding to these the petitions sent directly to Members of Congress it is safe to say that our appeal is backed by more than 11,000,000 people. If these petitioners could be massed in solid phalanx in our Capital City you would see more than thirty times the population of the District of Columbia. Unquestionably it is an appeal for an act of true democracy, an appeal for a patriotic measure. Autocracy and alcohol must both be overthrown. “Speed up” is the urgent cry echoing back to us from the awful battle fronts of Europe. Speed up on the prohibition legislation is the respectful appeal of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to the Congress of the United States. We pray that in this crucial time of a stupendous world crisis the House of Representatives will rise to this exalted opportunity and give to the legislatures of the various States the chance to deal with a question so enormously vital to the economic and moral interests of our Republic. When the war is over and a righteous peace has been secured, only the clear brain of a sober Nation can be intrusted with the solution of the mighty problems that will then confront the greatest democracy on earth—the United States of America.
Anna A. Gordon
Mr. Small. Mr. Speaker, this resolution proposes an amendment to the Federal Constitution which prohibits the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors, or the importation thereof, into the United States. I am constrained upon my conscience and in the exercise of my best judgment to vote against this proposed amendment. I shall not discuss the merits or demerits of prohibition. The attitude of a citizen or a Member of the House upon that question should not determine his vote upon this resolution. There are those who gravely doubt whether the attempt to enforce throughout the country total abstinence is the best solution. Many believe that the discouragement of the manufacture and use of distilled liquors and the encouragement of the use of light beers and wines would best subserve the interests of genuine temperance and good citizenship. But, as I have just stated, total prohibition, or partial prohibition, is not the issue before us. We are called upon to determine whether we will propose an amendment to the Constitution depriving the States of their present exclusive jurisdiction to regulate and control intoxicating liquors and transfer the same in whole or in part to the Federal Government.
I am opposed to this resolution because it proposes to incorporate into our organic law a proposition which is distinctly legislative. There have been 17 amendments to our Constitution and not one of them invaded the field of legislative action. They all relate to the Bill of Rights or the instruments of government itself, or, in other words, they relate to the form of government or the powers of Congress. If the Constitution is to forbid the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors there is no reason why in the future, in response to reformers, it should not forbid the manufacture and consumption of other products which may be deemed deleterious to humanity. The Constitution has been the great charter of our liberties. It describes the powers of our Federal Government and fixes the fine balance between the States and the Central Government. It has been the cohesive bond which has bound together the sovereign States into one indestructible union. We should not mar this great instrument by making it the receptacle of prohibitive or permissive legislation and thus mar this fine structure and bring it into disrepute.
I am opposed to this amendment because it proposes to take away from the States an essential right of local self-government. It proposes to impair the police power of the States. This is concededly true, else this amendment would not be proposed. If Congress had jurisdiction to regulate or prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors it would not be necessary to incorporate this legislative provision into the Constitution. The perpetuity of this Republic is based on the maintenance of the right of local self-government in each of the States of the Union. If the time ever comes when the States are shorn of the right to govern themselves in all local matters and are deprived of the right to exercise their untrammeled police powers in the enforcement of the same we will see the beginning of the end of this Republic. When all government is centralized at Washington there will come local and State disaffection, loyalty to the Central Government will be impaired, and ultimately revolution will stalk abroad throughout the land. It may be said that this invasion of the right of the States constitutes only one instance and that other invasions will not necessarily follow. In a matter of such supreme import even one invasion of local self-government may not be justified, but unfortunately this is only one of a number which are now being pressed by zealous reformers. The first error will make easier subsequent efforts. When we have once weakened the fine balance of powers between the States and the Federal Government we will have endangered the stability of the entire structure.
The Constitution was framed to protect the States in the right of local self-government. It was particularly intended to protect the small States. All the early efforts to amend the Constitution were prohibitions against the Federal Government and in favor of the integrity of the States. In the first 10 amendments which were adopted soon after the original Constitution, their provisions were so basic and fundamental that they have been universally denominated as the “Bill of Rights.” So jealous were our fathers that some of the reserved and essential rights of the States might be impaired that in the tenth amendment it was provided that—
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
They thought they had settled for all time any possibility that the right of local self-government reserved to the States should ever be successfully attacked.
This amendment is not necessary to enable any State to control or prohibit the manufacture, sale, consumption, or importation into such State of intoxicating liquors. Each State has the power, to use a familiar expression, to make itself “bone dry.” Not only may each State pass laws prohibiting within its borders the manufacture, sale, or consumption of intoxicating liquors in any form, but under the Webb law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States, it may prevent the importation of any intoxicating liquors into such State. Through its administrative officers and by its own courts each State may literally enforce such laws. The statement may be emphasized that each State now has the exclusive power over intoxicating liquors.
It may be asked, then, What is the necessity of this amendment to the Constitution? Is it to enable one State in combination with others to exercise power over another State? To express it baldly, the purpose of this amendment is to enable the legislature of one State to join with the legislatures of 36 other States and impose absolute prohibition over the remaining 12 unwilling States. If the subject of prohibition is now a matter of local self-government with each State, which will be admitted, then it may be stated with equal force that it was never intended in our scheme of government that three-quarters of the States should take away from the remaining one-quarter any reserved right of local self-government. My own State of North Carolina, which is dry, can not consistently claim the right to join with 36 other States and impose prohibition upon the States of New York or Massachusetts or Wisconsin against the will of the people of those States. Such a result would be resented by the people of those States who are not yet ready to adopt prohibition. Let me give a concrete illustration. In 1881 there was a referendum in North Carolina upon the question of State-wide prohibition. There were cast for Prohibition 48,000 votes and against prohibition 166,000 votes, an adverse majority of 118,000 votes. So long as the majority of the people of North Carolina were opposed to prohibition, I ask in all good faith what impression would have been made on the people of that State if 36 other States in a proposition to amend the Federal Constitution had decreed that North Carolina should be dry, contrary to the solemn vote of the electorate of the State? The question answers itself. There would have followed resentment, and the people of the State would have felt that they had been deprived of a sovereign right to settle this question for themselves. In 1908, 27 years later, North Carolina had another referendum upon prohibition, at which time a majority was recorded in its favor. May I ask if this change in the attitude of the people of the State toward a sumptuary law necessarily changes the fundamental proposition involved? If the people of North Carolina would have resented in 1882 the action of 36 other States in imposing upon them prohibition against their will, are the people of that State justified in 1917 in trying to impose prohibition upon the people of an unwilling State simply because the people of North Carolina have reversed themselves upon this question? The query answers itself.
It is contended that national prohibition is necessary in the interest of good morals. The leaders of the Anti-Saloon League say that they can not await the slow process of adopting prohibition State by State, and that they prefer the summary method of imposing it upon all of the States without having to undergo the trouble of discussion and education, in order to effect a change of public opinion in each of the States. I submit that the maintenance of the basis and the fundamentals of our Government is superior to the virtues of prohibition, even if we concede all its blessings by the most enthusiastic advocates. I confess that I deem it of more importance to defend the integrity of the States and to assume the perpetuity of our Republic than to anticipate the will of the people and to attempt to force prohibition by this summary process upon unwilling States.
There have been 17 amendments to our Constitution. Each one of these amendments dealt with the fundamentals of government and did not attempt to invade the reserved right of local self-government in the States except the fifteenth amendment. This amendment forbade any State to deny the right of suffrage to any citizen on account of race or color. It was intended to compel the Southern States to give to the negro equal rights of franchise with the whites. I shall not combat the righteous motives which actuated the advocates of that amendment. But I do submit these comments. Until the fifteenth amendment the right of the States to fix and regulate the qualifications of the franchise was not denied. It has always been conceded that the right to vote comes as a privilege from the States and not from the Federal Government. This amendment was an attempt to control this right of the States in so far as the negro was concerned by giving him equality of suffrage. It was contended by the white citizens of the South that the negroes as a whole were not qualified for the suffrage, and that to give literal effect to this amendment would imperil their civilization and make possible bad government. It is unnecessary to describe the results of the amendment. Reconstruction followed in its wake, racial disturbances were frequent, progress was checked, and evil government prevailed. The fifteenth amendment still remains, but by common consent in all sections of the country, the intelligence and the civic virtues of those who are qualified to ordain and preserve good government are left in the several States to settle this matter in the light of their consciences and their responsibilities.
In the face of the result of this attempt to invade the rights of the States to fix the qualifications of suffrage, I am left to inquire, What ought to be the attitude of the Members of this House from the Southern States in the consideration of this proposed amendment? Simply because most of the Southern States have adopted prohibition, shall they favor an amendment which would deprive other States of settling for themselves this question of prohibition? If they vote for this amendment, they will be doing an act which they would openly resent if an attempt was made by other States to invade their rights of local self-government. Very soon this House may be called upon to vote for another amendment to the Federal Constitution for woman suffrage. It so happens that in most of the Southern States public opinion does not yet favor equal suffrage, and they will vote against such an amendment. Why not be consistent? As a great fundamental of government, is the right of local self-government upon any one question to be determined by the attitude of the voters of a particular State upon that question?
The very fact that an amendment proposed by Congress is to be ratified by the legislatures of the several States rather than by the popular vote throughout the country indicates the firm attitude of the fathers in preserving the rights of the small States against the encroachments of the large States. It never occurred to the framers of the Constitution that Delaware and Rhode Island, or Nevada, would join in depriving the people of the State of New York of any essential and reserved right of local self-government. The fear was that New York and Pennsylvania and Virginia might unite with other large States and deprive Delaware and Rhode Island of some essential local power. Therefore, they provided in the ratification of an amendment that the vote of Delaware and of Rhode Island should count just as much as the vote of New York and Pennsylvania.
What is the duty of a Member of this House? A high official of the Anti-Saloon League recently made this statement:
The Anti-Saloon League is not asking any Member of Congress to declare that he is in favor of national prohibition, but simply that he shall not become an avowed exponent and protector of the liquor traffic by refusing to vote to allow the people of the Nation, by States, through their representatives, to determine this question in the manner provided therefor by the framers of the Constitution.
This has been a familiar form of expression by some of the advocates of this amendment. In other words, they contend it is the duty of a Member of Congress to vote for any proposed amendment if a considerable number of the voters of the country appear to favor same. There can be no more solemn duty imposed upon a Member than in determining his attitude toward a proposition to amend the Federal Constitution. Congress must initiate the amendment, and each Member must consider it in the light of his intelligence and patriotic judgment. We are not mere automatons to register the will of the Anti-Saloon League or any other organization of reformers. We are sworn to defend the Constitution as it stands, and it is our solemn duty to avoid any action which will impair or imperil the foundations of our Government. Any Member who votes for or against this amendment solely actuated by fear of his political fortunes has little comprehension of the fundamentals of our Government and is elevating his political preferment above the preservation of the essentials of sound democracy. There has already been too much of intimidation and coercion. The highest ideal is to discharge one’s duty, and if one is to adopt the personal view it is also the best politics.
We are engaged in a great war. The President, in his recent epochal address before Congress, invoked unity upon the part of all the people. He declared that we should mobilize every resource, material and spiritual, in the successful prosecution of this war. The adoption of this amendment will thrust before the people a mooted question upon which there are strong differences. In the famous “Shannon” letter of the President in 1911, while he was governor of New Jersey, he referred to the acute divisions in public sentiment which followed the injection of the liquor question into any party organization. This proposition ought not to have been brought into Congress at this supreme moment in the national life. Congress has heretofore enacted all necessary legislation regarding intoxicating liquors for the period of the war. The further production of distilled liquors has been forbidden. The President, under the authority of law, has decreased the production of beer and the percentage of alcoholic contents. The great body of the people are satisfied. For patriotic reasons alone we would be justified in defeating this measure at this inopportune time. [Applause.]
U.S. Constitution, Eighteenth Amendment
January 16, 1919
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
U.S. Constitution, Twenty-first Amendment
December 5, 1933
The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
The right of women to vote was a contentious issue in the United States from its very beginnings. Immediately following independence from Great Britain a number of states allowed women to vote, then, beginning in 1777, rescinded that right. Movements to establish women’s rights, and the right to vote in particular, grew steadily over the course of the nineteenth century. In 1869 the Wyoming Territory granted women suffrage. A number of states, especially in the West, followed. Such victories were the result of decades of organizing and campaigning on the part of women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Anna Howard Shaw—all of them also active in peace and temperance movements. Shaw (1847-1919) was a Methodist minister, physician, and, for fifteen years, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Her speech reproduced here insists on the inconsistency of a democracy, supposedly founded on the rule of the people, refusing to recognize the right to vote of one-half its population. Opponents, as shown by the congressional debate reproduced here, focused on two issues: perceived differences between the sexes and their proper duties, and the need to maintain state control over issues as important as the franchise. By the time of World War I, with women already working in jobs and industries once reserved for men, President Woodrow Wilson proposed, as a “war measure,” an amendment by which the federal government would recognize women’s right to vote. Passed by the House of Representatives, the amendment was defeated by the Senate in 1918, achieving passage by both houses only in June 1919.
The Fundamental Principle of a Republic
June 21, 1915
When I came into your hall tonight, I thought of the last time I was in your city. Twenty-one years ago I came here with Susan B. Anthony, and we came for exactly the same purpose as that for which we are here tonight. Boys have been born since that time and have become voters, and the women are still trying to persuade American men to believe in the fundamental principles of democracy, and I never quite feel as if it was a fair field to argue this question with men, because in doing it you have to assume that a man who professes to believe in a Republican form of government does not believe in a Republican form of government, for the only thing that woman’s enfranchisement means at all is that a government which claims to be a Republic should be a Republic, and not an aristocracy. The difficulty with discussing this question with those who oppose us is that they make any number of arguments but none of them have anything to do with Woman’s Suffrage; they always have something to do with something else, therefore the arguments which we have to make rarely ever have anything to do with the subject, because we have to answer our opponents who always escape the subject as far as possible in order to have any sort of reason in connection with what they say.
Now one of two things is true: either a Republic is a desirable form of government, or else it is not. If it is, then we should have it, if it is not then we ought not to pretend that we have it. We ought at least to be true to our ideals, and the men of New York have, for the first time in their lives, the rare opportunity, on the second day of next November, of making the state truly a part of a Republic. It is the greatest opportunity which has ever come to the men of the state. They have never had so serious a problem to solve before, they will never have a more serious problem to solve in any future year of our Nation’s life, and the thing that disturbs me more than anything else in connection with it is that so few people realize what a profound problem they have to solve on November 2. It is not merely a trifling matter; it is not a little thing that does not concern the state, it is the most vital problem that we could have, and any man who goes to the polls on the second day of next November without thoroughly informing himself in regard to this subject is unworthy to be a citizen of this state, and unfit to cast a ballot.
If Woman’s Suffrage is wrong, it is a great wrong; if it is right, it is a profound and fundamental principle, and we all know, if we know what a Republic is, that it is the fundamental principle upon which a Republic must rise. Let us see where we are as a people; how we act here and what we think we are. The difficulty with the men of this country is that they are so consistent in their inconsistency that they are not aware of having been inconsistent; because their consistency has been so continuous and their inconsistency so consecutive that it has never been broken, from the beginning of our Nation’s life to the present time. If we trace our history back we will find that from the very dawn of our existence as a people, men have been imbued with a spirit and a vision more lofty than they have been able to live; they have been led by visions of the sublimest truth, both in regard to religion and in regard to government that ever inspired the souls of men from the time the Puritans left the old world to come to this country, led by the Divine ideal which is the sublimest and supremest ideal in religious freedom which men have ever known, the theory that a man has a right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, without the intervention of any other man or any other group of men. And it was this theory, this vision of the right of the human soul which led men first to the shores of this country.
Now, nobody can deny that they are sincere, honest and earnest men. No one can deny that the Puritans were men of profound conviction, and yet these men who gave up everything in behalf of an ideal, hardly established their communities in this new country before they began to practice exactly the same sort of persecutions on other men which had been practiced upon them. They settled in their communities on the New England shores and when they formed their compacts by which they governed their local societies, they permitted no man to have a voice in the affairs unless he was a member of the church, and not a member of any church, but a member of the particular church which dominated the particular community in which he happened to be. In Massachusetts they drove the Baptists down to Rhode Island; in Connecticut they drove the Presbyterians over to New Jersey; they burned the Quakers in Massachusetts and ducked the witches, and no colony, either Catholic or Protestant allowed a Jew to have a voice. And so a man must worship God according to the conscience of the particular community in which he was located, and yet they called that religious freedom, they were not able to live the ideal of religious liberty, and from that time to this the men of this government have been following along the same line of inconsistency, while they too have been following a vision of equal grandeur and power.
Never in the history of the world did it dawn upon the human mind as it dawned upon your ancestors, what it would mean for men to be free. They got the vision of a government in which the people would be the supreme power, and so inspired by this vision men wrote such documents as were sent from the Massachusetts legislature, from the New York legislature and from the Pennsylvania group over to the Parliament of Great Britain, which rang with the profoundest measures of freedom and justice. They did not equivocate in a single word when they wrote the Declaration of Independence; no one can dream that these men had not got the sublimest ideal of democracy which had ever dawned upon the souls of men. But as soon as the war was over and our government was formed, instead of asking the question, who shall be the governing force in this great new Republic, when they brought those thirteen little territories together, they began to eliminate instead of include the men who should be the great governing forces, and they said, who shall have the voice in this great new Republic, and you would have supposed that such men as fought the Revolutionary war would have been able to answer that every man who has fought, every one who has given up all he has and all he has been able to accumulate shall be free, it never entered their minds. These excellent ancestors of yours had not been away from the old world long enough to realize that man is of more value than his purse, so they said every man who has an estate in the government shall have a voice; and they said what shall that estate be? And they answered that a man who had property valued at two hundred and fifty dollars will be able to cast a vote, and so they sang “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” And they wrote into their Constitution, “All males who pay taxes on $250 shall cast a vote,” and they called themselves a Republic, and we call ourselves a Republic, and they were not quite so much of a Republic as we are and we are not quite so much of a Republic that we should be called a Republic yet. We might call ourselves angels, but that wouldn’t make us angels, you have got to be an angel before you are an angel, and you have got to be a Republic before you are a Republic. Now what did we do? Before the word “male” in the local compacts they wrote the word “church-members”; and they wrote in the word “tax-payer.” Then there arose a great Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, who looked down into the day when you and I are living and saw that the rapidly accumulated wealth in the hands of a few men would endanger the liberties of the people, and he knew what you and I know, that no power under heaven or among men is known in a Republic by which men can defend their liberties except by the power of the ballot, and so the Democratic party took another step in the evolution of a Republic out of a monarchy and they rubbed out the word “tax-payer” and wrote in the word “white,” and then the Democrats thought the millenium had come, and they sang “The land of the free and the home of the brave” as lustily as the Republicans had sung it before them and spoke of the divine right of motherhood with the same thrill in their voices and at the same time they were selling mother’s babies by the pound on the auction block, and mothers apart from their babies. Another arose who said a man is not a good citizen because he is white, he is a good citizen because he is a man, and the Republican party took out that progressive evolutionary eraser and rubbed out the word “white” from before the word “male” and could not think of another word to put in there—they were all in, black and white, rich and poor, wise and otherwise, drunk and sober; not a man left out to be put in, and so the Republicans could not write anything before the word “male,” and they had to let that little word “male” stay alone by itself.
And God said in the beginning, “It is not good for man to stand alone.” That is why we are here tonight, and that is all that woman’s suffrage means; just to repeat again and again that first declaration of the Divine, “It is not good for man to stand alone,” and so the women of this state are asking that the word “male” shall be stricken out of the constitution altogether and that the constitution stand as it ought to have stood in the beginning and as it must before this state is any part of a Republic. Every citizen possessing the necessary qualifications shall be entitled to cast one vote at every election, and have that vote counted. We are not asking, as our Anti-Suffrage friends think we are, for any of the awful things that we hear will happen if we are allowed to vote: we are simply asking that that government which professes to be a Republic shall be a Republic and not pretend to be what it is not.
Now what is a Republic? Take your dictionary, encyclopedia, lexicon or anything else you like and look up the definition and you will find that a Republic is a form of government in which the laws are enacted by representatives elected by the people. Now when did the people of New York ever elect their representatives? Never in the world. The men of New York have, and I grant you that men are people, admirable people, as far as they go, but they only go half way. There is still another half of the people who have not elected representatives, and you never read a definition of a Republic in which half of the people elect representatives to govern the whole of the people. That is an aristocracy and that is just what we are. We have been many kinds of aristocracies. We have been a hierarchy of church members, [then] an oligarchy of sex.
There are two old theories which are dying today. Dying hard but dying. One of them is dying on the plains of Flanders and the Mountains of Galicia and Austria, and that is the theory of the divine right of kings. The other is dying here in the state of New York and Massachusetts and New Jersey and Pennsylvania and that is the divine right of sex. Neither of them had a foundation in reason, or justice or common sense.
Now I want to make this proposition, and I believe every man will accept it. Of course he will if he is intelligent. Whenever a Republic prescribes the qualifications as applying equally to all the citizens of the Republic, when the Republic says in order to vote, a citizen must be twenty-one years of age, it applies to all alike, there is no discrimination against any race or sex. When the government says that a citizen must be a native born citizen or a naturalized citizen, that applies to all; we are either born or naturalized, somehow or other we are here. Whenever the government says that a citizen, in order to vote, must be a resident of a community a certain length of time, and of the state a certain length of time and of the nation a certain length of time, that applies to all equally. There is no discrimination. We might go further and we might say that in order to vote the citizen must be able to read his ballot. We have not gone that far yet. We have been very careful of male ignorance in these United States. I was much interested, as perhaps many of you, in reading the Congressional Record this last winter over the debate over the immigration bill, and when that illiteracy clause was introduced into the immigration bill, what fear there was in the souls of men for fear we would do injustice to some of the people who might want to come to our shores, and I was much interested in the language in which the President vetoed the bill, when he declared that by inserting the clause we would keep out of our shores a large body of very excellent people. I could not help wondering then how it happens that male ignorance is so much less ignorant than female ignorance. When I hear people say that if women were permitted to vote a large body of ignorant people would vote, and therefore because an ignorant woman would vote, no intelligent women should be allowed to vote. I wonder why we have made it so easy for male ignorance and so hard for female ignorance.
When I was a girl, years ago, I lived in the back woods and there the number of votes cast at each election depended entirely upon the size of the ballot box. We had what was known as the old tissue ballots and the man who got the most tissue in was the man elected. Now the best part of our community was very much disturbed by this method, . . . but they did not know what to do in order to get a ballot both safe and secret; but they heard that over in Australia, where the women voted, they had a ballot which was both safe and secret, so we went over there and we got the Australian ballot and brought it here. But when we got it over we found it was not adapted to this country, because in Australia they have to be able to read their ballot. Now the question was how could we adapt it to our conditions? Someone discovered that if you should put a symbol at the head of each column, like a rooster, or an eagle, or a hand holding a hammer, that if a man has intelligence to know the difference between a rooster and an eagle he will know which political party to vote for, and when the ballot was adapted it was a very beautiful ballot, it looked like a page from Life.
Now almost any American woman could vote that ballot, or if she had not that intelligence to know the difference between an eagle and a rooster, we could take the eagle out and put in the hen. Now when we take so much pains to adapt the ballot to the male intelligence of the United States, we should be very humble when we talk about female ignorance. Now if we should take a vote and the men had to read their ballot in order to vote it, more women could vote than men. But when the government says not only that you must be twenty-one years of age, a resident of the community and native born or naturalized, those are qualifications, but when it says that an elector must be a male, that is not a qualification for citizenship; that is an insurmountable barrier between one half of the people and the other half of the citizens and their rights as citizens. No such nation can call itself a Republic. It is only an aristocracy. That barrier must be removed before that government can become a Republic, and that is exactly what we are asking now, that the last step in this evolutionary process shall be taken on November 2d, and that this great state of New York shall become in fact, as it is in theory, a part of a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Men know the inconsistencies themselves; they realize it in one way while they do not realize it in another, because you never heard a man make a political speech when he did not speak of this country as a whole as though the thing existed which does not exist and that is that the people were equally free, because you hear them declare over and over again on the Fourth of July “Under God, the people rule.” They know it is not true but they say it with a great hurrah, and they repeat over and over again that clause from the Declaration of Independence, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and then they see how they can prevent half of us from giving our consent to anything, and then they give it to us on the Fourth of July in two languages, so if it is not true in one it will be in the other, “vox [populi], vox Dei.” “The voice of the people is the voice of God,” and the orator forgets that in the people’s voice there is a soprano as well as a bass. If the voice of the people is the voice of God, how are we ever going to know what God’s voice is when we are content to listen to a bass solo. Now if it is true that the voice of the people is the voice of God, we will never know what the Deity’s voice in government is until the bass and soprano are mingled together, the result of which will be the divine harmony. Take any of the magnificent appeals for freedom which men make, and rob them of their universal application and you take the very life and soul out of them.
Where is the difficulty? Just in one thing and one thing only, that men are so sentimental. We used to believe that women were the sentimental sex, but they cannot hold a tallow candle compared with the arc light of the men. Men are so sentimental in their attitude about women that they cannot reason about them. Now men are usually very fair to each other. I think the average man recognizes that he has no more right to anything at the hands of the government than has every other man. He has no right at all to anything to which every other man has not an equal right with himself. He says why have I a right to certain things in the government; why have I a right to life and liberty; why have I a right to this or this? Does he say because I am a man? Not at all, because I am human, and being human I have a right to everything which belongs to humanity, and every right which any other human being has, I have. And then he says of his neighbor, and my neighbor he also is human, therefore every right which belongs to me as a human being, belongs to him as a human being, and I have no right to anything under the government to which he is not equally entitled. And then up comes a woman, and then they say now she’s a woman; she is not quite human, but she is my wife, or my sister, or my daughter or an aunt, or my cousin. She is not quite human, she is only related to a human, and being related to a human a human will take care of her. So we have had that care taking human being to look after us and they have not recognized that women too are equally human with men. Now if men could forget for a minute—I believe the anti-suffragists say that we want men to forget that we are related to them, they don’t know me—if for a minute they could forget our relationship and remember that we are equally human with themselves, then they would say—yes, and this human being, not because she is a woman, but because she is human is entitled to every privilege and every right under the government which I, as a human being am entitled to. The only reason men do not see as fairly in regard to women as they do in regard to each other is because they have looked upon us from an altogether different plane than what they have looked at men; that is because women have been the homemakers while men have been the so-called protectors, in the period of the world’s civilization when people needed to be protected. I know that they say that men protect us now and when we ask them what they are protecting us from the only answer they can give is from themselves. I do not think that men need any very great credit for protecting us from themselves. They are not protecting us from any special thing from which we could not protect ourselves except themselves. Now this old time idea of protection was all right when the world needed this protection, but today the protection in civilization comes from within and not from without.
What are the arguments which our good Antis friends give us? We know that lately they have stopped to argue and call suffragettes all sorts of creatures. If there is anything we believe that we do not believe, we have not heard about them, so the cry goes out of this; the cry of the infant’s mind; the cry of a little child. The anti-suffragists’ cries are all the cries of little children who are afraid of the unborn and are forever crying, “The goblins will catch you if you don’t watch out.” So that anything that has not been should not be and all that is is right, when as a matter of fact if the world believed that we would be in a statical condition and never move, except back like a crab. And so the cries go on.
When suffragettes are feminists, and when I ask what that is no one is able to tell me. I would give anything to know what a feminist is. They say, would you like to be a feminist? If I could find out I would, you either have to be masculine or feminine and I prefer feminine. Then they cry that we are socialists, and anarchists. Just how a human can be both at the same time, I really do not know. If I know what socialism means it means absolute government and anarchism means no government at all. So we are feminists, socialists, anarchists and mormons or spinsters. Now that is about the list. I have not heard the last speech. Now as a matter of fact, as a unit we are nothing, as individuals we are like all other individuals.
We have our theories, our beliefs, but as suffragettes we have but one belief, but one principle, but one theory and this is the right of a human being to have a voice in the government under which he or she lives, on that we agree, if on nothing else. Whether we agree or not on religion or politics we are not concerned. A clergyman asked me the other day, “By the way, what church does your official board belong to,” I said I don’t know. He said, “Don’t you know what religion your official board believes.” I said, “Really it never occurred to me, but I will hunt them up and see, they are not elected to my board because they believe in any particular church.[”] We had no concern either as to what we believe as religionists or as to what we believe as women in regard to theories of government, except that one fundamental theory in the right of democracy. We do not believe in this fad or the other, but whenever any question is to be settled in any community, then the people of that community shall settle that question, the women people equally with the men people. That is all there is to it, and yet when it comes to arguing our case they bring up all sorts of arguments, and the beauty of it is they always answer all their own arguments. They never make an argument but they answer it. When I was asked to answer one of their debates I said, “What is the use? Divide up their literature and let them destroy themselves.” . . .
I remember hearing Rev. Dr. Abbot speak before the anti-suffrage meeting in Brooklyn and he stated that if women were permitted to vote we would not have so much time for charity and philanthropy, and I would like to say, “Thank God, there will not be so much need of charity and philanthropy.” The end and aim of the suffrage is not to furnish an opportunity for excellent old ladies to be charitable. There are two words that we ought to be able to get along without, and they are charity and philanthropy. They are not needed in a Republic. If we put in the word “opportunity” instead, that is what Republics stand for. Our doctrine is not to extend the length of our bread lines or the size of our soup kitchens, what we need is the opportunity for men to buy their own bread and eat their own soup. We women have used up our lives and strength in fool charities, and we have made more paupers than we have ever helped by the folly of our charities and philanthropies; the unorganized methods by which we deal with the conditions of society, and instead of giving people charity we must learn to give them an opportunity to develop and make themselves capable of earning the bread; no human being has the right to live without toil; toil of some kind, and that old theory that we used to hear “The world owes a man a living” never was true and never will be true. This world does not owe anybody a living, what it does owe to every human being is the opportunity to earn a living. We have a right to the opportunity and then the right to the living thereafter. We want it. No woman, any more than a man, has the right to live an idle life in this world, we must learn to give back something for the space occupied and we must do our duty wherever duty calls, and the woman herself must decide where her duty calls, just as a man does.
Now they tell us we should not vote because we have not the time, we are so burdened that we should not have any more burdens. Then, if that is so, I think we ought to allow the women to vote instead of the men, since we pay a man anywhere from a third to a half more than we do women it would be better to use up the cheap time of the women instead of the dear time of the men. And talking about time you would think it took about a week to vote. . . .
Now what does it matter whether the women will vote as their husbands do or will not vote; whether they have time or have not; or whether they will vote for prohibition or not. What has that to do with the fundamental question of democracy, no one has yet discovered. But they cannot argue on that; they cannot argue on the fundamental basis of our existence so that they have to get off on all these side tricks to get anything approaching an argument. So they tell you that democracy is a form of government. It is not. It was before governments were; it will prevail when governments cease to be; it is more than a form of government; it is a great spiritual force emanating from the heart of the Infinite, transforming human character until some day, some day in the distant future, man by the power of the spirit of democracy, will be able to look back into the face of the Infinite and answer, as man cannot answer today, “One is our Father, even God, and all we people are the children of one family.” And when democracy has taken possession of human lives no man will ask for him to grant to his neighbor, whether that neighbor be a man or a woman; no man will then be willing to allow another man to rise to power on his shoulders, nor will he be willing to rise to power on the shoulders of another prostrate human being. But that has not yet taken possession of us, but some day we will be free, and we are getting nearer and nearer to it all the time; and never in the history of our country had the men and women of this nation a better right to approach it than they have today; never in the history of the nation did it stand out so splendidly as it stands today, and never ought we men and women to be more grateful for anything than that there presides in the White House today a man of peace.
And so our good friends go on with one thing after another and they say if women should vote they will have to sit on the jury and they ask whether we will like to see a woman sitting on a jury. I have seen some juries that ought to be sat on and I have seen some women that would be glad to sit on anything. When a woman stands up all day behind a counter, or when she stands all day doing a washing she is glad enough to sit; and when she stands for seventy-five cents she would like to sit for two dollars a day. But don’t you think we need some women on juries in this country? You read your paper and you read that one day last week or the week before or the week before a little girl went out to school and never came back; another little girl was sent on an errand and never came back; another little girl was left in charge of a little sister and her mother went out to work and when she returned the little girl was not there, and you read it over and over again, and the horror of it strikes you. You read that in these United States five thousand young girls go out and never come back, don’t you think that the men and women, the vampires of our country who fatten and grow rich on the ignorance and innocence of children would rather face Satan himself than a jury of mothers. I would like to see some juries of mothers. I lived in the slums of Boston for three years and I know the need of juries of mothers.
Then they tell us that if women were permitted to vote that they would take office, and you would suppose that we just took office in this country. There is a difference of getting an office in this country and in Europe. In England a man stands for Parliament and in this country he runs for Congress, and so long as it is a question of running for office I don’t think women have much chance, especially with our present hobbles. There are some women who want to hold office and I may as well own up, I am one of them. I have been wanting to hold office for more than thirty-five years. Thirty-five years ago I lived in the slums of Boston and ever since then I have wanted to hold office. I have applied to the mayor to be made an officer; I wanted to be the greatest office holder in the world, I wanted the position of the man I think is to be the most envied, as far as ability to do good is concerned, and that is a policeman. I have always wanted to be a policeman and I have applied to be appointed policeman and the very first question that was asked me was, “Could you knock a man down and take him to jail?” That is some people’s idea of the highest service that a policeman can render a community. Knock somebody down and take him to jail. My idea is not so much to arrest criminals as it is to prevent crime. That is what is needed in the police force of every community. When I lived for three years in the back alleys of Boston, I saw there that it was needed to prevent crime and from that day to this I believe there is no great public gathering of any sort whatever where we do not need women on the police force; we need them at every moving picture show, every dance house, every restaurant, every hotel and every great store with a great bargain counter and every park and every resort where the vampires who fatten on the crimes and vices of men and women gather. We need women on the police force and we will have them there some day.
If women vote will they go to war? They are great on having us fight. They tell you that the government rests on force, but there are a great many kinds of force in this world, and never in the history of man were the words of the Scriptures proved to the extent that they are today, that the men of the nation that lives by the sword shall die by the sword. When I was speaking in North Dakota from an automobile with a great crowd and a great number of men gathered around a man who had been sitting in front of a store whittling a stick called out to another man and asked if women get the vote will they go over to Germany and fight the Germans? I said, “Why no, why should we go over to Germany and fight Germans?” “If Germans come over here would you fight?” I said, “Why should we women fight men, but if Germany should send an army of women over here, then we would show you what we would do.[”] We would go down and meet them and say, “Come on, let’s go up to the opera house and talk this matter over.” It might grow wearisome but it would not be death.
Would it not be better if the heads of the governments in Europe had talked things over? What might have happened to the world if a dozen men had gotten together in Europe and settled the awful controversy which is today decimating the nations of Europe? We women got together over there last year, over in Rome, the delegates from twenty-eight different nations of women, and for two weeks we discussed problems which had like interests to us all. They were all kinds of Protestants, both kinds of Catholics, Roman and Greek, three were Jews and Mohamedans, but we were not there to discuss our different religious beliefs, but we were there to discuss the things that were of vital importance to us all, and at the end of the two weeks, after the discussions were over we passed a great number of resolutions. We discussed white slavery, the immigration laws, we discussed the spread of contagious and infectious diseases; we discussed various forms of education, and various forms of juvenile criminals, every question which every nation has to meet, and at the end of two weeks we passed many resolutions, but two of them were passed unanimously. One was presented by myself as Chairman on the Committee on Suffrage and on that resolution we called upon all civilizations of the world to give to women equal rights with men and there was not a dissenting vote.
The other resolution was on peace. We believed then and many of us believe today, notwithstanding all the discussion that is going on, we believe and we will continue to believe that preparedness for war is an incentive to war, and the only hope of permanent peace is the systematic and scientific disarmament of all the nations of the world, and we passed a resolution and passed it unanimously to that effect. A few days afterward I attended a large reception given by the American Ambassador and there was an Italian diplomat there and he spoke rather superciliously and said, “You women think you have been having a very remarkable convention, and I understand that a resolution on peace was offered by the Germans, the French women seconded it, and the British presiding officer presented it and it was carried unanimously.” We none of us dreamed what was taking place at that time, but he knew and we learned it before we arrived home, that awful, awful thing that was about to sweep over the nations of the world. The American ambassador replied to the Italian diplomat and said, “Yes Prince, it was a remarkable convention, and it is a remarkable thing that the only people who can get together internationally and discuss their various problems without acrimony and without a sword at their side are the women of the world, but we men, even when we go to The Hague to discuss peace, we go with a sword dangling at our side.” It is remarkable that even at this age men cannot discuss international problems and discuss them in peace.
When I turned away from that place up in North Dakota that man in the crowd called out again, just as we were leaving, and said, “Well, what does a woman know about war anyway?” I had read my paper that morning and I knew what the awful headline was, and I saw a gentleman standing in the crowd with a paper in his pocket, and I said, “Will that gentleman hold the paper up,” and he held it up, and the headline read, “250,000 Men Killed Since the War Began.” I said, “You ask me what a woman knows about war? No woman can read that line and comprehend the awful horror; no woman knows the significance of 250,000 dead men, but you tell me that one man lay dead and I might be able to tell you something of its awful meaning to one woman.[”] I would know that years before a woman whose heart beat in unison with her love and her desire for motherhood walked day by day with her face to an open grave, with courage, which no man has ever surpassed, and if she did not fill that grave, if she lived and if there was laid in her arms a tiny little bit of helpless humanity, I would know that there went out from her soul such a cry of thankfulness as none save a mother could know. And then I would know, what men have not yet learned, that women are human; that they have human hopes and human passions, aspirations and desires as men have, and I would know that that mother had laid aside all those hopes and aspirations for herself, laid them aside for her boy, and if after years had passed by she forgot her nights of sleeplessness and her days of fatiguing toil in her care of her growing boy, and when at last he became a man and she stood looking up into his eyes and beheld him, bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh, for out of her woman’s life she had carved twenty beautiful years that went into the making of a man; and there he stands, the most wonderful thing in all the world; for in all the Universe of God there is nothing more sublimely wonderful than a strong limbed clean hearted, keen brained, aggressive young man, standing as he does on the border line of life, ready to reach out and grapple with its problems. O, how wonderful he is, and he is her’s. She gave her life for him, and in an hour this country calls him out and in an hour he lies dead; that wonderful, wonderful thing lies dead; and sitting by his side, that mother looking into the dark years to come knows that when her son died her life’s hope died with him, and in the face of that wretched motherhood, what man dare ask what a woman knows of war. And that is not all. Read your papers, you cannot read it because it is not printable; you cannot tell it because it is not speakable, you cannot even think it because it is not thinkable, the horrible crimes perpetrated against women by the blood drunken men of the war.
You read your paper again and the second headline reads, “It Costs Twenty Millions of Dollars a Day,” for what? To buy the material to slaughter the splendid results of civilization of the centuries. Men whom it has taken centuries to build up and make into great scientific forces of brain, the flower of the manhood of the great nations of Europe, and we spend twenty millions of dollars a day to blot out all the results of civilization of hundreds and hundreds of years. And what do we do? We lay a mortgage on every unborn child for a hundred and more years to come. Mortgage his brain, his brawn, every pulse of his heart in order to pay the debt, to buy the material to slaughter the men of our country. And that is not all, the greatest crime of war is the crime against the unborn. Read what they are doing. They are calling out every man, every young man, every virile man from seventeen to forty-five or fifty years old, they are calling them out. All the splendid scientific force and energy of the splendid virile manhood are being called out to be food for the cannon, and they are leaving behind the degenerate, defective imbecile, the unfit, the criminals, the diseased to be the fathers of the children yet to be born. The crime of crimes of the war is the crime against the unborn children, and in the face of the fact that women are driven out of the home shall men ask if women shall fight if they are permitted to vote.
No we women do not want the ballot in order that we may fight, but we do want the ballot in order that we may help men to keep from fighting, whether it is in the home or in the state, just as the home is not without the man, so the state is not without the woman, and you can no more build up homes without men than you can build up the state without women. We are needed everywhere where human life is. We are needed everywhere where human problems are to be solved. Men and women must go through this world together from the cradle to the grave, it is God’s way and it is the fundamental principle of a Republican form of government.
Debate on Women’s Suffrage
May 21, 1919
Mr. Little. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Moore] suggests that the ladies who are not in favor of woman suffrage are taken unawares. To register surprise at the appearance of propositions of a certain welcome, friendly, complimentary, and anticipated tenor is one of the most highly valued privileges of that charming sex, which no gentleman, even in the heat of debate, would ask them to surrender for any political right, however important. The ladies are certainly no more surprised than I am, because it is scarce 30 minutes since notification from the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Mann], chairman of the Woman Suffrage Committee and author of the resolution at issue, whose rare parliamentary sagacity and unrivaled parliamentary leadership made this day’s work possible, that I was to open this debate. This is a good time to bring it up.
Five years ago Julius Caesar, after 19 centuries, challenged Jesus Christ to a final contest. The Kaiser threw down the gantlet and the friends of Christian civilization took it up. The tide of war turned in favor of the Son of Bethlehem and against the Prussian; and, if anything has been decided, it has been decided that now right, not might, shall rule the world. [Applause.] Unless our sons and our billions have been sacrificed in vain, the world is about ready to substitute the rule of reason for the rule of force in the government of reasoning creatures. What better expression of that could there be than to say now that the mothers who risked their lives to bring into the world the four millions of soldiers we mustered shall have some word to say about the destinies of their sons? [Applause.] The British House of Commons voted, I think, 7 to 1, and recently, I believe, the French Chamber of Deputies voted 7 to 1, for woman suffrage. The time is opportune for marking an era’s close. Civilization has reached a state, a period, a moment, when we can ring the liberty bell again and announce that this great step forward has been taken.
They tell us that woman should not vote merely because she is a female. No other reason has been advanced except that form which says that she can not bear arms. Every mother who bears a son to fight for the Republic takes the same chance of death that a son takes when he goes to arms. The fact that she is a woman is a reason for, not against, the utilization of every force for the advancement of society. Ninety-nine per cent of the murderers in the world are men. Ninety-nine per cent of the burglars are men. Ninety-nine per cent of the gamblers are men. Ninety-nine per cent of counterfeiters are men. Ninety-nine per cent of all the thieves, outlaws, forgers, pickpockets, bank robbers, train robbers, pirates, and drunkards in the world are men. Ninety-nine per cent of all criminals are men.
Ninety-nine per cent of all diseases inherited by reason of evil lives of parents come down from the male side. For every courtesan there is a seducer and panderer and a thousand customers. When one considers the character of the two sexes, he better appreciates the power of the instinct of race preservation which nature has planted in the human kind, which certainly is all that has induced women to remain on the same continent with man for 60 centuries. If the world were open and the best character of votes were the dominating factor, women would control the ballot entirely. If good character were the basis for the franchise, most of the voters would probably have been women long ago.
In the last analysis those who oppose woman suffrage simply ignore everything except brute force. They discard brains, scholarship, character, and simply seek to enforce the law of the herd, that the biggest bull is the boss. Under their theories Napoleon Bonaparte was a greater man than Abraham Lincoln; John L. Sullivan a more useful citizen than Thomas Edison. I challenge all such claims as unworthy of the citizens of a Christian and cultured land. Carried to their logical conclusion those theories have dominated and guided and wrecked and ruined the great Empire of Germany perhaps for centuries to come, and at the very moment when they had attained the rounded summit of a successful, brutal, despotic development of brute force. If during the last 40 years the women had held absolute control of Germany, that mighty State would now be rich, happy, contented, and yet there are still those who will tell you woman should not rule because she can not fight.
They told us last year the determination of this issue should be relegated to the States. One of the fundamental privileges under the Constitution is to amend it. If three-fourths of the States wish it, there is no authority under the Constitution that endows any State with the privilege of denying. They suggest they wanted a referendum vote. The Constitution prescribes, orders, another method. When the women come here and ask for the ballot, they simply invoke the methods by which the Constitution has always been amended. Any other system would be illegal. If you say to them that you are not willing to abide by those rules under which every amendment has been made, you simply plead the baby act; and when the mother of a soldier comes here to demand the privilege of the ballot you should not do that.
Men have argued here for 50 years that woman suffrage would break up the home. But in the Western States, where we have had woman suffrage in one form and another for years, we know of no family that has ever been disrupted by quarrel over politics. We know of no fireside that has burned more dimly because of any difference of opinion about the use of the ballot. To permit the mothers of this country to express their views on important issues will not injure the homes. As I reflect now I realize that every time I followed my mother’s advice I did well. Generally when I did not list to her I lived to regret it. She was a thoughtful and prudent woman. The long and short of the whole matter is that for centuries you have treated woman as a slave, dragged her over the pages of history by the hair, and then you pretend to think she is an angel, too good to interfere in the affairs of men. Give her now a fixed, reasonable status, as becomes a rational human being like yourself.
I wish there were a home for every woman. But our civilization has developed in another direction. During this great war it has been determined that women are to take part in every vocation of human life. There is no place they have not filled with ability. The increase in population, the complex demands of a complicated civilization, have made it absolutely essential that many women shall come away from the fireside and go to work for a living and fight and struggle with men.
In the streets of Strasburg I have myself seen women assisted by dogs hitched in harness pulling carts and selling milk at the homes along the streets. My friends and I traveling the path through an Egyptian field were suddenly accosted by a woman, who rose with her sickle from among the wheat to cry in Arabic, “In your great country, sir, women do not thus toil in the field.” But now, in my great country, women throng the shops, the offices, the factories, in their strife with men to earn a living. In uncivilized nations they still treat her as a slave and as an angel. Your great civilization gives woman the glorious privilege that man has to battle for a livelihood if she will do so for small wages, but denies her the use of the ballot in her struggle. What are you afraid of? The Burmese women handle all the business of that country. Is this, then, a Burmese peril which menaces you?
The gentleman who leads the opposition to-day said once that she could not have the rights of a man and the privileges of a woman. Why can she not? That can not be true. If we are going to be the gentlemen we assume to be, why should she not have the rights of a man and the privileges of a woman? Men retained all the male privileges of drinking whisky, playing poker, and racing horses when they cast the ballot. Why can not she still retain the privilege of being treated like a lady, a wife, a mother, even if she votes? God Almighty placed upon her certain duties from which you escape, and you are wonderfully fortunate that you do, and every time you think of it you should blush for shame that you would deny any rights you have because of the responsibility that God has placed upon her.
It has been a source of profound regret to me this morning that I did not have some notice that would enable me to present this subject more thoroughly. The women of the Republic come here and say to you that they want the ballot. Gentlemen, God Almighty has made you strong; they have made your Republic great and made you statesmen of this great Republic. They have given you infinite powers, mighty responsibilities. Now, the mother who bore you, the wife who brought your son into the world, and those who have gone before reach out and ask that you apply to them the rules of common sense, and no more, no less.
If you should throw 200 people upon an island, why should any particular member or set of members there for any reason have the power to say what should be done? Why should not a sensible, God-fearing, intelligent woman have just as good a right to have her say about what goes on in any nation as any man that walks the earth?
As I have said to you, she takes the same risk that every soldier did. Which of you is there who has taken the same chance on any battle field that a mother has taken every time a child comes into the world? Who are you that you should say to the mothers of America that they can not vote as you do?
The world must progress according to the methods of Julius Caesar or the theories of Jesus Christ. During the last five years that ancient contest came to a head and the cross of Christ must henceforth and forever be made the standard of civilization instead of the crown of Julius Caesar. For the second time in this House I appeal from the rule of force to the rule of reason. The conquering armies camped on the Rhine have fought to establish the fact that civilization is better civilized than barbarism. If common sense is more potent than the sword, if men have determined that that is their sober intention and their law, woman should now be accorded the same opportunity to take part in the life that men have always had.
When I am laid away on the hillside, Bert Berry, my orderly in the Philippines, will bring the bugle he blew for me at Marilao, Guiguinto, and San Fernando and sound taps above my last earthly resting place, and I trust I shall hear no more of wars for all eternity. I hope, as my dear wife holds my hand for the last time as I pass out into the starlight, and as my dear mother extends her sainted hand to me as the trumpets sound the reveille on the other side, both will know that the sons for whom they went down into the valley of the shadow have granted to the mothers of this most august and stateliest Republic of all time the same power, authority, and opportunity to fashion and preserve the lives of their sons that is possessed by their fathers. [Applause.] . . .
Mr. MacCRATE. Mr. Speaker and gentlemen, I realize thoroughly that a man only three days in Congress should hold his tongue, but coming as I do from a district which has equal suffrage, and being a member of the Committee on Woman Suffrage, I felt it obligatory to say why we from our section believe this national resolution or amendment should be submitted to the States for the States to decide in the constitutional way whether it shall be adopted. Now, whether you consider the franchise a right or a privilege, the women of America deserve the right, or they have earned the privilege. Everywhere you went during the past two years you saw women in uniform. You saw them in the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the Knights of Columbus, the Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, and other allied war activities. Whether you were at home or whether you were abroad, and like myself had the privilege of seeing the streets of London and Liverpool in January of this year, you realized that American womanhood had met the last argument that men have given for denying them the suffrage privilege, namely, that no one who is not a potential soldier is entitled to the franchise. I submit to your fairness and judgment that the women of America have been as potential soldiers during the past war as have been the men of America. [Applause.] And if potentiality for military service is the last objection, then certainly with the men who avoided the draft, or with the slackers, the women of America ought never be compared; and more certainly if men who continued in agricultural pursuits to win the war, if men who continued in shipyards to win the war, if men who continued in other branches of activities to win the war are entitled to the franchise, the women who maintained equal industrial and agricultural burdens and high moral burdens to win the war are entitled to the franchise. [Applause.] Not only that, but this resolution seems to me to be in perfect harmony with the Constitution itself. The preamble of the Constitution declares its purpose to be “to form a more perfect Union.” This amendment will help us perfect the Union. It does not go into the homes of the country and tell the people what they shall put on or what they shall eat or what they shall drink. It does not say to the men and women of America they shall not do this or they shall not do that, but it does recognize a fundamental of our Government that rights and privileges shall be equal, and declares that sex alone shall not deprive women of the right or privilege of voting. I submit to you that this resolution is in harmony with the spirit of the Constitution itself. [Applause.]
Mr. MANN. Mr. Speaker, I now renew my request that all Members have leave to extend their remarks in the Record on this subject for five legislative days.
The SPEAKER. The gentleman from Illinois asks unanimous consent that all Members may be permitted to extend their remarks in the Record on this subject—
Mr. RAGSDALE. I object, Mr. Speaker.
The SPEAKER. The gentleman from South Carolina objects.
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield five minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania. [Mr. Focht.]
Mr. FOCHT. Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask unanimous consent to extend by remarks in the Record.
The SPEAKER. Is there an objection?
Mr. FERRIS. Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, I do not think it fair to let in any more extensions unless we let in those who did not have a chance to speak, and so I object—of course, without any discourtesy whatever to the gentleman.
Mr. FOCHT. Mr. Speaker, we all realize that this is a transcendent and far-reaching question. It has been decided in Pennsylvania more than once what the people there think about it. It has been decided in many, many States what they think about it there. It has been brought to Congress for decision. In Pennsylvania the last time the test was made the amendment was defeated by 50,000 majority, and it is conceded it would have been 250,000 majority or 300,000 majority had the question been voted on separately instead of in connection with four other amendments.
In my own district in Pennsylvania, comprised of eight counties, which are typical of the Christianity, civilization, and the chivalry of America, every last county went against it after a full discussion of the question. I dare say, if it were submitted again, yes or no on its merits, it would go double what it was the last time against it. I appreciate the tribute that has been paid here, very tenderly and, I might say, patriotically, to womanhood. How could any of us do otherwise than pay high tribute to the mother or wife or daughter? These gentlemen say that those of us who are opposed to this amendment are denying the women something; that we are defeating them in a high and laudable purpose. I challenge that statement and that argument. My proposition is that those mothers of the soldier boys do not ask for this thing. I need not dwell upon the greatness of Pennsylvania, or her glory, or the soldiers she sent to the front, or the money she gave to back them up, but it is well that you be reminded that Pennsylvania’s only vote of record is against woman suffrage. In the time I have here I want to enter the protest of one Member from Pennsylvania against going too far afield at this particular time in this uncharted matter, simply because a few States out West have adopted the suffrage program. And with all respect for the Members who come from those States where they have had woman suffrage, I do not believe many appeals come to them or much concern is felt for the franchise by most women. I do not believe a vast majority of women want the vote, nor do they need it for their protection.
Furthermore, let me say that in the State of Pennsylvania 20 years ago we had better laws for the protection of womanhood than they have in the States where they have had woman suffrage for 25 years, and we have better laws there now; hence it is to be seen that it is not necessary for women to engage in the conflict and asperities of politics to secure more than equality of protection with men. Formerly it was contended that the vote for women was necessary to win the war and to further prohibition, but the fallacy of these arguments was made manifest by subsequent events.
Mr. HICKS. Will the gentleman yield for a moment?
Mr. FOCHT. I can not, having but a few minutes’ time. I know where your heart is. You are really not for this. [Laughter.] There is no Member here, either from the States of New York, Pennsylvania, or Ohio, who down in his heart is for this sort of thing.
Another reason why women in their good sense are not here appealing for the vote and sphere of political activity may be that they have a better conception of the biological and physiological laws than some gentlemen who will vote in the affirmative on account of coming from States where women now vote—laws ordained by God, and which the vote of Congress nor an amendment to the Constitution can not change or set aside. [Applause.]
In conclusion I will submit a letter I received this morning from Mrs. Horace Brock, president of the Pennsylvania Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, and which includes some salient points on this question:
By the submission of the question of woman suffrage to the voters of the State in 1915 Pennsylvania declared against Federal interference and for the right of the electorate to decide this question. There is a bill now before the State senate, which has passed the house, providing for a resubmission to the people. We opposed this bill in the house, for, while we agree a referendum to the people is the only democratic and just way of deciding this issue, we know there is no increased demand for woman suffrage, but rather increased opposition to it. Since the passage of the bill in the house, however, we have made no further opposition and are making our opposition to the passage of an amendment to the Federal Constitution, which would deprive the State of the right to decide its own electorate.
A Federal amendment to the Constitution is a serious matter, because it is irrevocable. The voters of New York State, men and women, finding double suffrage increases taxes and the socialist vote, are planning a resubmission of this question to the voters before long. If the Federal amendment is not passed, this will certainly be done.
A noisy minority are demanding votes for women as a reward for their war work, but the majority of women war workers, who have been largely antisuffragists desiring no reward, object to being penalized and given this added burden because of their work. Moreover, because a woman is efficient in Red Cross and industrial work, it does not follow she would be efficient in Congress. Also, it is not advisable to legislate for normal times extraordinary measures that may be useful and necessary in abnormal times.
I therefore ask you, in justice to your State and its electorate, to vote against the Federal woman-suffrage amendment.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Fess). The time of the gentleman from North Carolina has again expired.
Mr. CLARK of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield five minutes to the gentleman from Texas [Mr. Black].
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. BLACK. Mr. Speaker, of course there is no dispute upon the proposition that Congress by a two-thirds vote of both Houses may submit any amendment which it sees fit, and when such amendment is ratified by three-fourths of the legislatures of the several States it would become a part of the Constitution and binding upon all the States. There is no controversy upon that point. And since the right of a State to peaceably secede from the Union has forever been settled in the negative, there can no longer be any sound contention that any amendment which is adopted in the constitutional manner violates any of the rights of the other States. The minority States must, of course, yield to the will of the majority.
But this very fact makes all the more important that Congress should be careful in submitting amendments, and the States should be slow in ratifying those which delegate power to the Federal Government hitherto reserved to the States and exercised by their own legislative machinery.
Article I, section 2, of our Federal Constitution provides—
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several States. . . . And the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.
Thus it will be seen that the framers of our Constitution, recognizing the State as the sovereign unit of government, deemed it wise to reserve to the States the right to regulate their own suffrage and provided in affirmative terms that the House of Representatives should be chosen by electors having the same qualifications as those who should choose the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
And when 123 years later the seventeenth amendment was adopted, which provided for the election of United States Senators by direct vote of the people, this same provision was carried which prescribed that the electors should have the same qualifications as those required for electing the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
Now, the amendment which we have under consideration proposes to change all of this and turn over to the Federal Government one of the most essential elements of State sovereignty; that is, to limit and control the States in their right to determine and prescribe the qualifications of their own electors.
And while I concede that the method by which it is proposed to be done is a perfectly legal one, the question is, Should it be done as a matter of wise government policy?
Is suffrage such a question as should be snatched from the control of the States and lodged in a rapidly centralizing government? That is a question which I consider myself called upon to answer as the elected Representative of the people from the district which I have the honor to represent in this body.
When I consider the principles which underlie the structure of our republican form of government, with its “indissoluble Union of indestructible States”; when I consider the fact that I am a Democratic Representative and owe at least some allegiance to the historic principles of the party and some degree of obedience to its most recent national platform, then I am not in doubt as to how I should vote.
I should vote against the submission of the amendment and leave each State free to regulate and control the matter of its own suffrage.
Therefore I will vote that way I think and believe.
If my own State—Texas—for instance, wants to grant full suffrage to women, it has a perfectly simple method of doing it. On next Saturday, May 24, the people of our State will vote upon a constitutional amendment which has for its object this very purpose.
In the submission of this State amendment the voters get a real referendum. If they adopt it, they will have no need of this Federal amendment. If they do not adopt it, then why should I vote for a Federal amendment which would impose it upon them against their own will.
The committee at the last session of Congress who reported this resolution made this remarkable statement on page 4 of their report. I would not refer to it now except for the fact that it is illustrative of much of the logic used by the proponents of this amendment. The language was:
To deny the States the opportunity to establish woman suffrage if they wish to do so is an act of autocratic injustice which would certainly be misunderstood abroad and would deeply incense the millions of women who are voters, as well as the millions more who are petitioning for the vote.
That is a very remarkable statement. I would like to inquire what provision there is in the Federal Constitution which in the slightest degree prohibits the States from granting full suffrage to their women whenever they desire to do so? And if there is no such prohibition, then what possible power is there anywhere which can prevent a State from doing so?
Every schoolboy knows that all the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people. If that report had said, instead of the language which I have quoted, that “To deny the States the opportunity to control their own suffrage, if they wish to do so, is an act of autocratic injustice,” then it would have been a statement, as I understand it, of the doctrine which the Democratic Party has championed for more than a hundred years and which has been so ably defended by many of the party’s greatest leaders. I do not think that the matter has been more clearly stated anywhere than by President Wilson in a statement to a delegation of suffragists January 6, 1917:
I am tied to a conviction which I have had all my life, that changes of this sort ought to be brought State by State. It is a deeply matured conviction on my part, and therefore I would be without excuse to my own constitutional principles if I lent my support to this very important movement for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Of course it will be conceded that the President has expressed some contrary opinions since then, but the newest is not always the best. The date or luster of the coin does not determine its true value, and “he who chooses without a proper test may perish, both a pauper and a fool.”
When we put these different statements of the President to the test of Democratic principles, as interpreted throughout the history of our party and by our recent Democratic platforms, I am compelled to choose his option, as expressed on January 6, 1917, as the soundest and wisest one, rather than that of these more recent days.
Our platform at St. Louis in 1916 contained this declaration:
We recommend the extension of the franchise to the women of the country by the States on the same terms as to men.
If the party had intended to take the position that woman suffrage is a Federal and not a State matter, then the platform would have recommended that Congress take action on the question instead of making its recommendation to the several States of the Union. There is no declaration in the platform anywhere for the submission of a national woman suffrage amendment, and no Democratic national convention in the history of the party has ever declared for it.
On the contrary, it is perfectly well known that the attitude of the party has long been that the regulation of suffrage belongs to the States, and that as a matter of proper public policy it should be left there.
It is for these reasons, and not because I am opposed to woman suffrage by State action, that I will vote against the submission of this amendment. [Applause.]
U.S. Constitution, Nineteenth Amendment
August 26, 1920
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
[1. ] Translated in the Revue Philosophique for January, 1879 (vol. vii).
[2. ] ‘Theorie und Praxis,’ Zeitsch. des Oesterreichischen Ingenieur u. Architecten-Vereines, 1905, Nr. 4 u. 6. I find a still more radical pragmatism than Ostwald’s in an address by Professor W. S. Franklin: “I think that the sickliest notion of physics, even if a student gets it, is that it is ‘the science of masses, molecules, and the ether.’ And I think that the healthiest notion, even if a student does not wholly get it, is that physics is the science of the ways of taking hold of bodies and pushing them!” (Science, January 2, 1903.)