C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.
Labor is the crown of true royalty and the splendid scepter of mans highest and noblest sovereignty. As we behold you, O ye hosts of labor, marching through our streets to-day, we hail you as the mightiest social and civic agents of modern civilization.
Workingmen are at the foundation of society. Show me that product of human endeavor in the making of which the workingman has had no share, and I will show you something that society can well dispense with.
As a nation we are shutting our own sons out of the field of American labor, thus filling our prisons and reformatories and almshouses with them, and are letting into that field, for full possession, hordes of foreigners who make it a menace to the safety of American institutions, and a constant peril to the peace and welfare of American society.
And from this we learn something of the great importance of land and labor. These two are the sources of all wealth, all well-being, and all comfort. It is the will of God that these two should be joined so as to make this world a paradise of plenty; the laws of man have parted them and made the world barren and filled it with poverty and want.
The distance between capital and labor is not a great gulf over which is swung a Niagara suspension bridge; it is only a step, and the laborers here will cross over and become capitalists and the capitalists will cross over and become laborers. Would to God they would shake hands while they are crossing, these from one side, and those from the other side.
You are a free man, and let no organization come between you and your best interests. Do not let any man, or any body of men, tell you where you shall work, or where you shall not work, when you shall work, or when you shall not work. If a man wants to belong to a labor organization, let him belong. If he does not want to belong to a labor organization, let him have perfect liberty to stay out. You own yourself. Let no man put a manacle on your hand, or foot, or head, or heart.
When one individual or class suffers, the whole body of society suffers; an injury to one is the concern of all, and the welfare of each the interest of all; and the common weal requires the improvement in the condition of wage-workers, materially, morally, and intellectually.
There has been a marvelous change in England during the last fifty years. Nowhere is labor so thoroughly organized, and nowhere has it acquired greater power. It has representatives in Parliament; has removed from the statute books many laws that were oppressive to wage-earning and tenant classes, and secured the wisest and most elaborate factory legislation to be found in the world. Trades unions are now recognized by the state as legitimate and necessary organizations. Their rights and functions are clearly defined. They are regularly incorporated; are thus made amenable to the law, and are protected by it in the exercise of their proper functions. In these respects labor organization in England is far in advance of this country. It is comparatively new here; and we have had since it began many of the excesses that characterized it during its first century in England.
There is a duty that the employer always owes to the employee, and that is to give him, by way of compensation, the full value of his labor. The disposition on the part of some rich employers to grind the faces of the poor, taking advantage of their necessities and securing their services at half what they are worth, is a shameful wrong, and it will, sooner or later ripen into revolution anywhere.
Labor organizations ought to be incorporated. Their purposes, rights, and privileges should be clearly defined by law. They should be held responsible for the conduct of their members, and be compelled to make good any losses or injuries caused by their members under penalties of forfeiting their charters, and of the prosecution and punishment of their officials. Such legislation would be a protection to organizations that are properly conducted, as well as a safeguard against lawless action, and would be an important step toward the solution of the labor problem.
We believe that as yet public sentiment is strongly in favor of the laborers and against the powerful corporations and monopolies that seek to oppress them. We are sure it is opposed to the use of private armed force to intimidate or control laborers. But we are equally sure that public sentiment is overwhelmingly opposed to the preconcerted strikes which interrupt commerce and seek to extort unreasonable conditions. If the dissatisfied prefer to quit work, let them do so; but they must not seek by force to prevent others from taking their places who are willing and anxious to do so.
It is capital which sets ten thousand looms in motion, lights the fires in the mills and factories, and starts the idle wheels of commerce. Yet, upon the other hand, capital needs labor to carry out its schemes. The two must work together, and not one against the other. Workmen should be allowed good living wages and capitalists get a fair profit. Some day this golden mean will be reached, but it lies farther in the future than the eye of man can now penetrate, and until it does come the laboring classes can gain nothing by any alliance with anarchy in any form, no matter how specious its words may be.
Again, I remark, relief will come to the laboring classes through the religious rectification of the country. Labor is appreciated and rewarded just in proportion as a country is Christianized. Show me a community that is thoroughly infidel, and I will show you a community where wages are small. Show me a community that is thoroughly Christianized, and I will show you a community where wages are comparatively large. How do I account for it? The philosophy is easy. Our religion is a democratic religion. It makes the owner of the mill understand he is a brother to all the operatives in that mill. Born of the same heavenly Father, to lie down in the same dust, to be saved by the same supreme mercy. No putting on of airs in the sepulcher or in the judgment.
When the Golden Rule becomes the law of human life all this will be changed. The employer will ask how much he can pay the worker, not how little. The workman will ask how much he can do, not how little. We may not be able to reach this condition, but the war can be restricted and its evils ameliorated. Our people are at heart of a most friendly disposition toward workingmen and women. We have our Gradgrinds, snobs, and purse-proud sons of artisan fathers, our dudes and butterflies, but the mass of the rich, as well as those of only moderate means, have a genuine hearty sympathy and fellowship with the honest sons of toil. The chief trouble is not want of heart, but to hold busy men long enough to hear the tale of wrong, and to discriminate it from false appeals for aid. On the other hand, American workmen are, as a body, intelligent, spirited, and patriotic. They will not bear patronizing, but they are hungry for fraternity. The lodges and chapters, greatly outnumbering the churches, express this longing. The working people, if we give the term its proper scope, are the civil bulk of the nation. Everythinggovernment, social order, production, commerceis borne up and along by them. They formed the great bulk of the Union army. Why cannot they be called comrades now, as during the war? Why cannot the touch of elbows and the cadenced step be had in civil life with all who love our free civil institutions? They are needed. They give strength and security as well as fellowship.