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The Morality of Co-operation.

No line of thought or work is isolated; no question stands alone. Interwoven through the vast fabric of human affairs the diverse threads of thought come together in varying relations; and though seeming but a tangle at close range, this wonderful weave expands to larger view into the harmonious design of evolution. The labor question is no exception to this rule. As provision for physical wants is the fundamental problem of material existence, and culture and development of the higher nature are limited to the margin of time free from the struggle for bread, this struggle so interpenetrates all other spheres of influence that it exceeds the limits of the economists and becomes a moral and religious theme for those who would uplift humanity: surely not least of all for ministers of the Christ who provided as well for the material as the spiritual needs of his hearers. He did not forget the multitude's hunger, or expect to satisfy it with hope of heaven, but supplemented lessons of love and faith with loaves and fishes. "Shall the servant be greater than his Lord?" The importance of their divine calling did not blind the Apostles to the significance of the labor problem when they said: "Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught, but wrought with labor and travail night and day that we might not be chargeable to any of you. Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us."

It is the economic condition -- the means by which men get their bread -- which, more than anything else, influences their characters, individually and nationally. The pages of history, presenting a moving picture of humanity's condition under a varying status of progress and civilization, show everywhere the imprint of the toiler's hand. Indeed, the industrial question so modifies all other features as to become the expression upon the face of life.

Never since the passage of that first labor law, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," has man so nearly worked out


his material salvation as to-day, with an abundant earth yielding food, clothing, and shelter, with rapid transportation bringing the ends of the earth together, and with the aid of increasing perfection of labor-saving machinery. But, when to the gains of science we add vast sums and improved methods for reform and charitable work, and yet fail to keep pace with increasing ignorance, degradation, and want, we seem to be "ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." Evidently our efforts to educate, uplift, and relieve are but pruning off the branches of the fault and leaving the root untouched. The discouraging failure of Christianity to Christianize, is largely influenced by the neutralizing effect of the bread-struggle upon its teachings. It is vain to preach the Golden Rule one day in the week while the competitive scramble the other six overshadows the higher teaching and becomes the accepted standard. Business men frankly assert that the Golden Rule is impracticable, forgetting that the rulings of Christ do not admit of amendment, and that faulty, changing human law must give way when it conflicts with the unalterable principles of Divine teaching. It is well to preach the law whose whole fulfilment is "loving one another;" but also to use voice and vote to establish industrial conditions wherein one can afford to love his neighbor is still better.

In abnormal social as in diseased physical conditions, confusion arises from mistaking symptoms for the organic fault; while a knowledge of the underlying principles of pathology -- as simple as comprehensive -- explains the apparent contradictions of superficial symptoms by showing they have a relative, not fundamental, value in the case, The vexed question of want in the midst of plenty is unanswered by changes in the tariff, or in the money system, or by restricted immigration, or by limiting production, or other panaceas of the politicians; it is merely a problem of simple division and just distribution. It is necessary to know the principles of simple division before attempting the higher arithmetic. If, given a definite number of people and enough to supply their wants, we fail to work out the simple problem, why wonder at failure to handle the unknown


quantities of a spiritual world with whose basic principles of love we are proved ignorant by our brother's need? The present laws of distribution are neither mathematical nor divine, and by encouraging the stronger man to take his brother's coat and cloak, without asking, they are essentially immoral. Duty demands that each man array himself positively upon the humanitarian side, for, by neutrally avoiding a decision, they "who are not for it are against it."

In this enlightened age one may no longer hope that contemplation of another world will excuse his neglect of this, Man's threefold nature requires development along the triple planes of physical, mental, and spiritual being; but he must perfect the lower nature if he would free the higher from its overwhelming influence. Vain will be the speculations about the "God whom he has not seen" until he learns to love the "brother whom he has seen." There is no question without an answer -- no problem without a solution; and the sincere need but ask to receive, and but seek to find. The problems of this world are neither beneath our notice nor beyond our comprehension, and they will wait upon our attention. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" It is not the caprice of a loving Father that produces so much material suffering, but the breaking of divine laws of love and justice. The want and injustice upon this fair green earth are made by man, and by him must they be unmade, for he "must work out his own salvation." What is life for if not to learn? And why try to evade the lesson of our day, when only by knowledge of and harmony with the divine law can we overcome suffering? Of what use are the capabilities of the human mind and heart if not to right the wrongs produced by human ignorance and selfishness? And upon what planet and at what time are they destined for use if not here and now?

The condition of the laborer has fluctuated throughout the ages, but the broad purposes of evolution are woven through all time in progressive lines. To place men in harmony with the evolutionary action is the secure course for the individual and for society, for the law of evolution is inevitable whether man wisely work with it or foolishly oppose it. His ignorance does


not lessen the suffering produced by inharmony with it, though it blinds him to the cause of his pain. To avoid learning a law offers no protection from its workings, for natural law is impartial and disregards no man, however much he ignores it.

"In the beginning," God completed the creation with man and gave him "dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and over every-living thing;" but the injunction to subdue the earth did not mean that he should subjugate his brother. Man's primal inheritance held potentially all that science and invention have or will discover; and freedom from the taskmaster, Ignorance, was to come through Knowledge, which should become an incentive, a pleasure, and a power, "Know ye the truth, and the truth shall make you free," applies alike to material and spiritual things. It is knowledge of the truth of material laws that gives the modern motive-power by chaining the lightning, harnessing Niagara, and making skilled fingers of metal and wood to do man's work. It is a knowledge of the truth that "moreover the profit of the earth is for all" that will yet free men from the unjust laws that allow a selfish minority to control the "profit of the earth" for themselves while their brothers want. And spiritually it is a realizing knowledge that "the kingdom of heaven is within" that will free the sacred silence from the cries of oppressor and oppressed.

Injustice cheats the robbed of his due and the robber in his higher nature, which gains most in loving his "neighbor as himself." Justice is the pivot, with human selfishness at one pole and divine sacrifice at the other. Man is not less bound by ties of blood to kin than by the ties of his nature to mankind. He may not separate his interests from the least of his brothers; for though he outdistance the majority intellectually, physically, and financially, it is by the loving hand of help to those below that he will uplift his own spiritual nature.

"The Holy Supper is kept indeed
In whatso we share with another's need:
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare."

One must question the design of the Deity to deny the social organism, or to suppose that any man is superfluous or of less


account man the sparrows -- or the speculators. Each individual contributes to the completion of some stage of progress, and advance to higher planes is best secured by helping advance the whole series. The struggle of souls differs not in kind if in degree. He that seeks to gain material benefit by robbing his fellow-men of opportunities to work out the possibilities of their natures stands in his own light spiritually; and the pulpit that sanctions the system quotes the Master in preaching and questions him in practise.

"Man cannot live by bread alone," and the burden of the hungry cry -- consciously or unconsciously -- is for food for the higher nature; for liberty to express himself; for a chance to be a man, not a machine bound to a master's task. What equality of opportunity may do is foreshadowed in the distorted lines of oppressed life from the Old World which have expanded under broader opportunities in the New, and to-day make up the composite of the typical American character -- head of the coming race!

No one because of his wealth is free from obligation to the worker, for, in the last analysis, all wealth is the product of labor. A man may be blinded to this truth by a selfish satisfaction with his position and a legal indorsement of it; but a review of the origin of wealth makes it apparent to any seeking mind. The earth contains the elements, which are changed and rearranged until they reach the states of grain and flesh and cotton and wool and metal and wood; but they are food, clothing, and shelter only when human labor-power has brought them into service. The force of Niagara is a fact of countless years; its value dates from the application of human labor-power, which in this generation makes it turn the wheels of the modern machine. The human labor-power embodied in the air-brake has put a value on the atmosphere, which was called the freest of things. Fortunate mining operations may pay a thousand per cent, on the capital invested, but the value of the precious metals depends upon the labor expended in seeking them; and the price is not set by the lucky finder, but is averaged by the labor of the unsuccessful miner. The workers in mills, factories, etc., add to the value of the raw material by


their labor. The inheritance of wealth does not change its origin, whether it was produced by agriculture, manufacturing, mining -- or even by the sale of slaves. The virgin soil, the closed manufactory, the unworked mine, and the idle slave prove a source of outlay rather than income; it is the active human labor-power that produces value. The salaried positions are supported by wealth originated in useful toil. The boasted independence of higher education rests upon a debt to labor, which provided students with food, clothing, shelter, and books, and kept the roads in good condition while they journeyed through college. The cocks and clothiers and carpenters and printers were too busy earning a living to go to college; nor could they afford to enjoy the best of their own products; and their wages were paid only because that much wealth had been produced by some other worker -- whether an industrial ancestor or a contemporary toiler matters not. The surgeon's knife, the teacher's pen, and the speaker's eloquence are entitled to their reward, for "the laborer is worthy of his hire;" but they are sharing, not producing, the wealth that toil has taken form the earth.

Change is the law of progress. All Nature shows the instability of material forms. The particles of mineral, taken up into the plant to be absorbed by the animal, may produce muscular power or nourish the brain; and the inert earth becomes indeed "food for thought." But the harmonious progress in Nature's kingdom, blindly following the laws and the leadership of the divine Mind, contrasts with the strife of conscious man, who uses his privilege of free-will so selfishly as to obstruct the progress of his fellow-men, Through human institutions of government, learning, religion, industry, runs the wider purpose of mankind's growth; but at every step are seen his pitiful attempts to stay its progress -- because his ignorance fills him with fear of the unknown change, The existing condition of things is neither sacred nor permanent; and the disproportion resulting from efforts to restrict society to the measures of an outgrown system produces the familiar phenomena of paralytic pain and irritability in the social organism. The antiquity of an error, instead of indorsing,


should the more condemn it. The first murderer's protest against being his "brother's keeper" is to-day no justification of a system that slays the "sweetness and light" in the lives of many toiling brothers.

The days of Roman slavery, of feudalism, of tenantry, belong to the past. The present industrial unrest means the passing away also of the wage system. Why prolong the agony of its death-struggle when a better condition of things needs but recognition to be adopted? The new mechanical power placed in competition with the workers from 1880 to 1890 was equal to the labor-power of forty million men. Every day sees other inventions and discoveries to free man from the burden of toil and give leisure for the cultivation of his higher nature; but, instead of operating as a blessing, selfishness would pervert it to a curse for the laborers. As we know to-day, men's ignorance and filth caused the old-time plagues, which were ascribed to the mysterious workings of Providence; so the modern suffering and want are due to unjust human laws, for "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." That the ever-present army of unemployed should calmly submit to starvation is unlikely; that so tremendous a force should be left unguided is unwise. Since the only remedy -- shortening the length of the labor day, and so employing all -- will never be conceded under private ownership of natural resources and instruments of production and distribution, evidently only in collective ownership can the amount of necessary labor be harmonized with human wants. And in the resulting leisure men will expand into the solution of other problems, for "love worketh no ill;" and cooperation is industrially the counterpart of the moral law, which is fulfilled in one phrase: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." It is folly to expect man's spiritual nature to increase in personal harmony while it continues in social discord.

Competition means a struggle for victory over fellow-competitors: cooperation means a united struggle for victory over toil and sorrow and ignorance -- mankind's common foes. The wonderful material progress of our day comes from a knowledge of the laws governing heat, light, sound, etc., and


Nature's secrets are traced to the fountain-head of physical force. But power is ever a responsibility; and the tremendous forces in man's hand, if used for humanity, will work miracles of good -- but equally powerful, if used selfishly they will react to his destruction. The time is ripe to adopt an industrial system that shall reckon upon the spiritual side of the case.

The pessimists say that to-day's problems are world-old; yes, but all these ages humanity has traveled, be it never so blindly, toward the truth, and the slow, sorrowful, weary journey has not been in vain. Never before has man been able to press the button of science and call upon Nature to do his drudgery. But, wonderful as the gain has been, it might be multiplied were the common ambition for the common good, instead of for the almighty dollar under a system tending to produce a homeless poor and a heartless rich. Why pray so fervently for abundant outpouring of the Spirit, and fail to prepare the favorable earthly conditions upon which it is ever ready to descend -- and never more so than now?

The law of the survival of the fittest originated in the jungle. Applied to the competitive system, it results in a preservation of the commercial adept, whose success too often depends upon the contribution to business of time, money, brains, energy, and conscience; and the survival of the financially fit may be the preservation of the morally unfit. That the survivor has done business strictly within the limits of the law but points out anew that legality is not justice, and shows that a legal indorsement of conditions that sacrifice the sentiments of humanity and justice to business success stamps both the system and the law as detrimental to the race.

The trusts and monopolies are here in their proper time and place to emphasize the wrongs of the present system and to teach the value of cooperation in a still broader way. They demonstrate that combinations of money, brains, and energy can produce at lower figures than the same capital under individual production; but that the Standard Oil Company, by controlling the supply, has made oil cheaper than ever before should confuse no one. The point is, if the company selling oil at ten cents a gallon makes multi-millionaires of its owners,


these additional millions may be used to benefit the millions of consumers under a cooperative system. The picture of richly endowed universities, much of the money coming in pennies from the poor whose children perforce must leave the common schools to begin the bread-struggle, is typical of the system whose workings continually sacrifice the interests of the helpless majority. To think that devoting a portion of the spoils to so worthy an object justifies the system is to forget that "I the Lord love Judgment: I hate robbery for burnt offering."

It is often remarked that there is "always room at the top;" but the shining example of Gould beginning as a brakeman has neither inspiration nor consolation to the unemployed brakeman unable to get work. The top of everything -- except castles in Spain -- must have adequate foundation; and, as it is not suitable or possible for the masses of the social structure to reach the top, the main problem concerns the possibilities of those below it. In saying that Gould or any other successful financier succeeded because of his own efforts, and that any other energetic man might have done the same, one forgets that the opportunity was not open to every other man or even one hundred other men; for the profitable manipulation of stocks or the controlled market for goods depends upon other men's losses: and the limitations of the market -- the demand -- could not have been extended a hundredfold by as many equally competent competitors. The market for the various lines, of goods will absorb but a certain average amount; and success of the few who control it is not to be counted as in spite of other competitors' failures but largely because of them. The growth of the large department stores is fed by the failures of the smaller concerns; the increasing acreage of the farms depends, upon the disappearance of the smaller holdings, with the significant change that the small farmer is a tenant or an employee where he had built his own hearthstone. But the new owners are not secure, for the system by which they displaced the poorer man will in time victimize them with a larger fortune: "He taketh the wise in his own craftiness." The commercially fit, whose capital of ten millions makes it survive smaller competitors today, must to-morrow give way before the capital of one hundred


millions. And so on, until all business is controlled by a few, and the many will be as free to succeed as they are free to fly; for to overcome the law of gravitation is no more difficult than to rise with the paralysis of no opportunity, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another," is a timely warning for the successful leaders of the competitive system, who give their employees but a portion of what they earn and yet hope the market -- of which the workers form the major part -- will absorb the goods produced, though the wages paid for labor are less than one-half the retail price of the goods. No wonder the scramble to produce low and sell high results in overproduction! And it grows plain that, in the interdependence of men in the complex conditions of our highly organised civilization, it is only through a system giving the greatest good to the greatest number that coöperation can bring order out of the present competitive chaos.

The labor question may no longer be regarded merely as an interesting study for economists and a personal problem for day laborers. It closely concerns all men. The idle rich, whose unearned dividends are spent to exclude the stress and strain and struggle of life, thereby lose much of its meaning; for the law of action and reaction is satisfied in a system that cheats the rich victims out of the deeper meanings of life and brotherhood, while it robs the poor sufferers of the means of living.

The children of the fortunate middle class, who graduate from college to take up some of the world's work, find it difficult to locate favorably. They are well equipped as teachers, ministers, lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, journalists, or manufacturers, but everywhere are the ranks already crowded; while ignorance, vice, injustice, disease, unsanitary buildings, poor roads, unreliable newspapers, and shabby clothing cry for relief on every hand. Here is overproduction, indeed, alike of wants and of means to supply them! And this discord can become harmony only through equality of opportunity -- opportunity for each to contribute his quota to the necessary work of the world, with no princely or beggarly idleness; opportunity for each to cease work when he has earned his living, and not toil through weary hours for another's profit; opportunity to


see and know more of the beautiful green earth, which symbolizes even better things: to see with the clear, calm gaze of health and intelligence, not dulled or brutalized or embittered by want and ignorance and oppression; opportunity for the children to come into their inheritance of the progress of all the past and to add to it; opportunity for the geniuses who starve in garrets to find better inventions, and, inspired by the poise and power of a well-nourished brain, to find ennobled ambition more responsive to the sight of the laurel than necessity had reacted to the lash-string of poverty; opportunity for all men to enrich their own natures by working for the common good; opportunity to learn that from Life, which will ever be a struggle, one may wrest more enduring and better things than mere bread.

If the competitive system is immoral, it is immoral for the employee who acquiesces in it by silently accepting less than his due; immoral for the employer who wrongs the worker and his own better self, and immoral for the preacher who talks patience and submission to one and charity, not justice, to the other.

This is not a credulous age, but, if its thinking is more broad than formerly; it is still superficial, and difficult conclusions are left to the many specialists in various lines of thought. As the interpreter of Christianity, the pastor's deductions are accepted by many hearers, and it is his high privilege to teach them aright. "Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." The struggle for bread, the cares of business, the unconscious bias of interested minds and pocket-books, and the lack of mental training make it difficult for the average parishioner clearly to see the truth of the vexed industrial problem. But the minister whose mind and heart are fitted for his sacred calling, conscious that his brain and time are free for his work of culture and inspiration and power because dulled and weary and less fortunate workers are making his bread, must, in conscience, feel the force of the truth: "Freely ye have received, freely give," and preach the gospel of righteousness, justice, and humanity in our social and industrial relations, if he would make living words of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.
Watertown, Mass.