Speech at Galesburg to the American Railway Trainmen, May 20, 1895.
It was once said that genii travel in squads, and it has more recently been observed that the creations of men go in groups. The institutions that have grown out of modern development have a tendency to bunch together as if they courted or needed each other's society. Nature may scatter her gifts and give to one state this and to another state that advantage, but this rarely holds good in the realm
477of human activity. At the point where one man locates his shop another will want to locate his store. Where one man locates his factory another will bring in his railroad, and thus by degrees there grows up a center which constitutes a commercial and industrial heart for a large territory. The State of Illinois is a most conspicuous illustration of this fact. It is true, nature made her the greatest agricultural State in the world and gave her one of the largest coal deposits on earth and gave her a most unique geographical location, but the hand of man made her acreage of orchards greater than that of any other State in the Union; made her bee industries great, her dairy industries great, her quarrying and clay industries great, built her wonderful cities, reared her wonderful institutions, and gave her a greater diversity of factories and of industries than are found anywhere else in America; and made her the great railroad center of our country. The heart of the American railway system is in Illinois. Here the various lines begin that go to the Atlantic, to the Gulf, to the Pacific, to the far North, that go toward every point of the compass. Here in our State can be felt the heartbeats of the railroad world and the quiver of every nerve in the system. We have more miles of railroad than any other State, more money invested in railroad properties of various kinds, more men employed in the service, and more families depending on the railroads for bread than has any other State. Our people, like those of other States, have so adjusted both their domestic and business affairs that they are absolutely dependent upon the railroads, so that the continued and regular operation of the railroads is not only important to their convenience and their prosperity, but is vital to their existence. Being thus situated, feeling that the railroads with all that belongs to them constitute one of the most important institutions in our State and that our very existence is tied up with them, I need not say to you that our people feel the deepest interest in the men who operate these railroads, the men who by day and by night, in sunshine and in storm keep in motion the mighty lines of commerce. We are glad to see you here; we are glad to have you among us; we feel that we can perhaps better than others appreciate the true character of the work you are doing and its importance to the world, and we therefore feel that in some way you are kith and kin with us and belong to our family, and that those of you who have come in from other States have, as it were, gathered at a family reunion. You have come from different States of the Union and you represent a following there. You are trying to formulate measures that shall be to the interest of your order and of your families, and the people of Illinois wish you well, and knowing the inhabitants of this lively and progressive
478city of Galesburg as well as I do, I am safe in saying to you that you will be royally treated here, and that everything will be done to make your meeting not only a pleasant one, but a successful one.
Again, gentlemen, feeling as I do that not only the success, but the very existence of republican institutions in this country depends upon the men who have to struggle for a living, who have to struggle to maintain their families, and not upon the men whose souls are shriveling while they are hoarding riches, I want to say a word about some of the important questions that we must meet in the immediate future and which will vitally affect not only yourselves, but your descendants for generations, and which therefore call for the most thorough and patriotic consideration. During the last twenty-five years a spirit of combination and concentration has been at work all over the world and in all lines of human activity. Small governments give way to great ones; small stores to large ones; little factories to enormous establishments; small railroads to great consolidated lines; everywhere there is going on the process of annihilating the small and combining the great. So universal is this spirit and with such irresistible power is this force running that no human hand or agency has been able to stay it. Laws have forbidden it and courts have condemned it, but it did not even stop to notice the law or listen to the courts. It is the distinguishing feature of this century and it is not only changing all economic and commercial conditions, but it is going to force a change in some of our theories of government. For centuries the world depended on competition to regulate wages on the one hand and to regulate prices of commodities on the other. As no one employer employed many men there were hundreds of employers, and if one did not pay reasonable wages, the mechanic might at least expect to find some other one who would. So in the selling of goods, the public was protected against unreasonable prices by the fact that there were scores of dealers competing with each other. Now, owing to the great concentrations of capital, nearly all lines of industry and of commerce are passing into the control of a few hands in each line. In very many lines competition has already been entirely wiped out, especially in so far as relates to the manufacturing and to the handling in large quantities. There is scarcely a great industry in this country but what is now controlled by what they call a trust, which, while controlling practically all of the establishments in its line, is able to regulate the output arbitrarily and is able arbitrarily to fix wages on the one hand and the selling price of its commodities on the other. It is idle in these cases to say to a laboring man that if he is dissatisfied he can quit and go to some other
479employer, because there is no other employer to go to. This process of combination is still going on. It looks now as if the era of universal competition was drawing to a close and as though it would be necessary to make new adjustments, and the question will arise, if everything that the public needs is in the end to be controlled by gigantic combinations of capital, handled by a few individuals, how can labor be protected on the one hand, and how can the public be protected on the other? In other words, what can be substituted for competition? If we cannot prevent combination and monopoly, then it is idle to rant about it, and it becomes our duty to meet it as an existing fact and to restrain its power for evil. And to do this will require a strong force. It is a universal law in nature, in religion, in politics, in society, that the stronger force will destroy the weaker, and only those individuals, those agencies, and those combinations will survive that are able to maintain themselves. The government of the world is not a philanthropic affair. It is based on force, although rarely brute force as was once the case. It has become more refined in its method, but nevertheless the underlying principle is force, legal force; and this legal force is often shaped and directed by social, financial and political force. Enormous wealth when controlled by a few individuals is sometimes a very powerful factor in shaping the policy of government, because it can frequently control the press and the agencies which form public opinion; it can control fashionable society and the sentiments of many men who, although occupying high positions, are often influenced through that agency. Frequently by looking after the matter of selecting candidates it can control not only the construction of the laws, but the making and the execution of the laws. If our institutions are to undergo great change, it is vital that the men of America, and not the money, should direct the change. Money may be a blessing as a servant, but it is a curse as a master. Money never established republican institutions in the world. It has no natural affinity with them, and does not understand them. Money has neither soul nor sentiment. It does not know the meaning of liberty, and it sneers at the rights of man. It never bled on the battlefield in time of war, and it never voluntarily sought the public treasury in time of peace. To safely guide our country through important changes requires the same characteristics which were possessed by the men who founded it. There must be lofty sentiment, honesty of purpose, love of country, love of fellowman, and, above all, love of justice. Money possesses none of these virtues. Men in time acquire the nature of those things which absorb their lives. Unconsciously and invisibly they undergo a change until those things which occupy their daily thoughts seem
480actually to circulate in their veins. Consequently in all countries, in all ages, and among all peoples, it has been found that as a rule the possessors of great wealth were not the patriots. On the contrary, they seemed to care little what flag floated over them, provided it was a flag that would give them a bayonet with which to protect their gold. The men who in the late war left their millions of hoarded treasure and shouldered a musket to fight for the Union were as scarce as the camels that have passed through the eye of the needle. The soldiers' cemeteries of patriotic dead are filled with men who when alive had to struggle for a living. It is the great masses of the people who defend the government in time of war, and who bear its burdens in time of peace, and these alone know the full value of free institutions. It is therefore important that the destinies of our government should be shaped by this class, and they can be relied upon to do justice to capital. They appreciate the fact that capital is not only a convenience, but may be of the greatest possible use to man when properly directed. While money may have done a great injustice to the masses, the masses have never done an injustice to money.
Now, how will you meet these problems? Standing as individuals in the presence of mighty combinations you will be crushed and there will be no hope for you or your children. I can see no other course for you than to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, intelligently and patriotically. A great force never holds itself in check, whether in the phenomena of nature, in politics, in government, or in religion. Only a counter or resisting force will check it. If concentrated capital shall meet with no checking influence, or force, then republican institutions must come to an end, and we will have but two classes in this country, an exceedingly wealthy class on one hand, and a spiritless, crushed, poverty-stricken laboring class on the other. The hope of the country depends upon having a number of forces that will counterbalance or check each other. And in this connection let me suggest to you that the world has progressed to a point where intelligence will always defeat brute force, and any method of contest that involves violence belongs to a bygone age. The modern methods of warfare in society are of an entirely different character. You complain sometimes that you do not get a fair show, that capital controls legislation, that by selecting the candidates for the judicial offices it in many cases controls the courts and that the same is true in the execution of the laws. But you have yourselves largely to blame. You have neglected all these things, while the corporations have looked after them. They have attended to business and reaped an advantage by it. You have neglected your interests and have suffered by it. It has happened
481frequently in the past in this State and in other States that you wanted legislation which you thought was necessary and just, and you supported men for the legislature whom you believed were honest, but who as soon as they received their certificate of election crept up the rear stairway to the office of some corporation and tendered their services in the hope of obtaining some financial or other advantage. Did you afterwards spot those men as being unworthy of your confidence? Not at all. Their chances for public preferment were just as good thereafter as they were before. Again, corporations have for many years looked after the matter of selecting judges, especially of the federal courts. They realized the fact that the construction of the laws is even more important than the making of laws, and to have a friend on the bench is much more important than to have a lawmaker at the capitol. It is asserted that for a quarter of a century no man has been appointed to the federal bench unless he was either a corporation lawyer or was known to hold views which made him satisfactory to those interests, and when these judges afterwards distorted the law and usurped powers to assist corporations and smite you they were not necessarily corrupt. They were simply giving force to prejudices which they had imbibed during their former association with corporate influences. It has never happened in this country that you or any other organization of labor men or of farmers sent a delegation to wait upon the President in reference to the appointment or rejection of any particular man to any judicial office. You have not looked after your interests and you have no right to complain if you are discriminated against under these circumstances. Every man who seeks office in this country will need your support, and once let him understand that you are capable of acting intelligently and standing together, and that you insist on being honestly dealt with, and you will see a great change. Fall in with what is the spirit of the times. Practice intelligent combination. Move along the lines of law and of justice and practice foresight and you will be able to right almost any grievance.
In conclusion let me say that you and the laboring men of this country are more interested in maintaining republican institutions than any other of our people. You are more interested in making the stripes and stars stand for free institutions than any other people in this country. Wealth has always courted aristocracy and bowled to monarchy. It is manhood alone that is interested in liberty and in maintaining those conditions under which the greatest possible opportunities are opened to every citizen of the commonwealth. You cannot leave your children millions to squander. It is therefore important for you to endeavor to leave them a country in which intelligent and