The Hand-Workers of the Mississippi Valley
In order to be practical we must both study and think. We must study the past, and think about the future, that we may make the best of our circumstances, and guide our steps in our daily walk.
We must know and use what comes to us from the past, and know and avoid the mistakes of those who have lived and labored before us.
The period between the sixth and sixteenth century — between ancient Rome and the time of the Reformation — is called the Dark Ages; yet, as Emerson says: "These ‘Dark Ages’ have given us ‘the feet on which we walk, the eyes with which we see,’ — the mariners' compass, and the lens for our microscope and telescope." To this period we are also indebted for printing, glass, paper, and many other things now deemed indispensable. From the Dark Ages we received the "Magna Charta," all the principles of which are by no means practically applied. Friar Roger Bacon, who was feared and hated by the populace, as one leagued with infernal associates, produced from his laboratory gunpowder, which enabled the Thrall to cope with the iron-clad Knight; and finally gun-powder abolished the feudal system.
Friar Bacon, penetrating the future even to Liverpool, New York and Chicago, predicted that the time would come when ships would be propelled by machinery faster than by many rowers, needing only a pilot to steer; and that carriages would also be driven upon the land, by the power of machinery, faster than any animal could run. He thus recognized the possibilities of the steamship and the railway. He was not a popular man in his day; he was feared and hated, as a magician and one leagued with Satan, by the ignorant masses, and was imprisoned and persecuted, as a subversionist and a dangerous character, by his superiors in office.
We are proud of
We have machinery which, if placed under society, would raise it to a higher grade, as five thousand jackscrews placed under a great hotel in Chicago raised it to a higher grade without producing any shock or disturbance of its guests, or interrupting its business. Much has been done in the nineteenth century; but for these mechanical inventions which are most conspicuous, and regarding which we feel the most pride, we are indebted to the poor and obscure Hand-Workers.
Great progress has been made in the invention of appliances for changing the raw material which Nature has supplied us with in inexhaustible abundance, into things useful to man; into
We have made little progress in the improvement of civil government, either as to efficiency or economy. We have yet to realize a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people." We now have a government of the people by a class and for a class. We do not all realize that we are governed by an oligarchy composed of professional office-holders and office-seekers, that our elections are usually merely contests between two sections of this class, and the result merely a decision as to which section of the oligarchy shall govern, and enjoy the emoluments arising from the control of government.
Neither do we sufficiently realize that a government of the people by the real representatives of all classes is practicable, and that it has been proved to be practicable by many years' experience in another country.
By the preferential vote is a system under which the majority rules, but under which the various interests, opinions and desires of all are proportionately represented; a system under which law-making bodies become society in miniature, and laws the accurate and orderly expression of public opinion.
I addressed the Illinois Farmers' Association one year ago on the subject of government and the possibilities of its improvement. I shall not, therefore, dwell upon that subject at this time, further than is necessary to illustrate the importance, in that connection, of improving the physical, intellectual and moral condition of the units which compose the State, in order to improve the State.
In a letter to a gentleman who was writing the life of Thomas Jefferson, declared that he had no sympathy for Mr. Jefferson's views, and had never expressed any, even on the hustings; on the contrary, he declared that he believed a government, by the votes of a numerical majority, composed of the poorest and most ignorant, was utterly impracticable. John Adams, Gouverneur Morris, James Otis, Stephen Hopkins, Alexander Hamilton, and other able and patriotic Americans of the Revolutionary times, doubted the ability of the people to govern themselves under a system as popular even as our existing national government. Mr. Hamilton thought the British government, just as it was in his time, the best form that had ever been devised. Hamilton, up to the time of his death, had little faith in the permanency of our constitution; he considered it too weak, too popular. He urged, in the convention, a plan which required the President to serve for life; United States Senators to serve for life; Congress to have power to legislate on all subjects without any restraint but its own pleasure and judgment; Governors of States to be appointed by the federal government, to serve during good behavior, with power of absolute veto of all laws passed by State legislatures.
Mr. Hamilton believed that the great majority of the people were poor and ignorant, and incapable of exercising the elective franchise with intelligence and freedom.
Let us keep
But why appeal to the Hand-Workers of the Mississippi Valley as having the power and responsibility to secure the solution of this great problem? My answer is, that for these purposes those who invent, make and manage mechanical machinery, are more capable than any other class of society in understanding the relations of a part to the whole, and the necessity of perfect adjustment and reciprocal action of the parts with each other, to secure results by the combined and co-operative action of all the parts; that
3the invention, making and use of mechanical machinery affords a necessary preparation for the invention, making and management of another class of machinery — machinery by which wealth is most readily or economically produced, and interchanged between producers, and by which the rights and duties of individual members of society are marked by laws, and protected by governments.
I claim for the Hand-Workers of the Mississippi Valley that they are less incapacitated for this work by poverty and ignorance than any other people in the world, and have the power also, by their numerical majority, to dictate who shall make and administer the laws of eighteen out of the thirty-eight States of the Union, and have power, moral and political, to influence the making, and administration of the laws of the nation.
Mr. Young, of the Bureau of Statistics at Washington, divides the population of the country engaged in the different pursuits into about six millions of agriculturists, three millions of wage workers, upwards of a million and a half engaged in the professions, and less than a million and a half engaged in trade and transportation, i. e., the commercial class. It is easy to see where the numerical majority resides.
The metropolitan press has, almost without exception, been controlled in the interest of
Great political convulsions, like the slavery agitation, disintegrate parties and make new divisions of their atoms; but the individuals must eventually subside into the two great parties—one contending for the welfare of the many, and the other for the aggrandizement of the few.
Your power can only be exercised when the possession of it is realized, and the necessary organization and concert of action is secured. Of your power, Hand-Workers of Illinois, under these circumstances of organization and concert of action, we have this day, and in this capital, beheld a crowning manifestation!
Two years ago you decided to organize and to bring your voting power to bear upon the political affairs of your State. Through the efforts of this and kindred associative organizations, a concert of action was secured between the farmers, miners and mechanics of the State. You nominated, voted for and elected, four members of the national House of Representatives, more than five members of the Illinois State Senate, and more than twenty members of the Illinois House of Representatives; also the superintendent of public Instruction in your State, and a judge of the Supreme Court of Illinois, as well as numerous county and municipal officers. And to-day your representatives in the General Assembly have, on joint ballot, "broken the slates" of both the "Democratic" and "Republican" politicians and elected the man of your selection Senator of the United States.
The mere use of power to secure office for ourselves or friends, for the mere sake of official emoluments, is not worth an effort. But persistent labor for the advancement of true civilization and the full development of the manhood of our people, by the removal
4of those obstacles that have been placed in the way by government, and can therefore be removed by the action of government, should command your whole energy and activity.
Without undervaluing or overlooking the advantages of our present civilization and our form of government, no thoughtful person will deny that there are great societary evils existing among us to-day, for which governments are responsible and for which they are providing no remedy. In the old world these
In England, for example, we have the monstrous paradox of a nation of enormous and growing wealth, in which a large and increasing portion of its people are ground down under the hardest poverty, to physical, intellectual and moral deformity. We behold a nation which, during its continental wars, was able to raise easily vast sums, annually, to support and subsidize armies and navies, the great majority of whose people have scarcely food to eat or clothes to wear; a nation where
It is not strange that Lord Macaulay declared a government by a numerical majority of such a people as impracticable; and it is not strange that our own people are becoming each year more and more like the people of that country in the poverty and degradation of the majority, produced by similar causes, which must be removed if representative government is to succeed here. Our English professors in colleges, and our English law makers, declare that systems of law regarding revenue and finance, which have been principally instrumental in bringing the majority of the people of Great Britain to this deplorable condition of poverty and degradation, are alone scientific and orderly, and hence desirable for this country and this people. You have entered your protest against the unphilosophical and
Mr. Fawsett estimates the amount of gold coin in Europe at $1,900,000,000, and the annual interest on public debt $1,600,000,000. There is no hard money system in any commercial country. The same authority shows that in Europe there is in use, as money, the following amounts:
|Silver and base metal||2,000,000,000|
Per capita, $21.40, which he estimates at one dollar and forty cents per capita more than we have in the United States, including coin and paper at this time, while the cry from our "political economists" and statesmen of the English school is, Contract the currency and resume that ruinous system — promises of coin that does not exist; resume a system of periodical suspensions of payment when payment is demanded in coin, and general financial and commercial collapse occurring at least once during each decade.
In the Dominion of Canada they have the English system of specie banking in its most perfect form — a system under which, in the year 1876, one man in every thirty-two doing business in Canada failed. These figures are from the commercial agency of Dunn, Winans & Co., of Montreal.
The Hand-Workers of the Mississippi Valley have declared their
5like the German, are introducing like notes in their own finances. Western anti-resumptionists were pronounced by the people in the Eastern States as ignorant,
You insisted that it was
You claimed that the government of the United States would be unable to redeem its outstanding legal-tender notes on demand in gold coin, as the coin could not be had, and that at a recent date the government did not have to exceed thirteen millions of coin which was available for redemption, while its outstanding legal-tender notes exceeded three hundred and fifty millions of dollars. That the true policy was to make the legal-tender notes convertible into United States interest-bearing bonds or certificates, which should be interchangeable.
Time is gradually proving that
The National convention of Bankers, recently held at Philadelphia, by resolution, coincided in this view, and practical bankers in the East are beginning to agree with you that these bonds offered in redemption
You saw the solution of this financial problem, because your class alone had passed to the third stage of industrial and practical education. Your knowledge of and use of machinery; your habit of instantly acting and correcting derangements and irregularities, had fitted you to detect the derangements and irregularities that have existed in financial systems for the last two hundred years, and enabled you to suggest a mode of improvement.
You realize that, in order to enjoy popular government, our people must be rescued from want and ignorance; that one of the leading causes that keep the great majority of the people in poverty and ignorance is, that the manipulation of the currency under the English system operates as
6everywhere. The excess passes through, the capillaries to the veins, thence into the lungs, where it is combined with other ingredients received from the atmosphere, and again passes into the heart, from which it is forced into every part. So great cities represent the
If the circulation of blood should cease, the man would die. If the circulation is irregular or deficient, the man is sick.
The telegraphic wires correspond to
Many small tribes or nations are, by conquest, finally consolidated and held within the second stage of industry is reached, life being comparatively secure, wars less frequent, and only a portion of the men required for the army.
Men now engage in industry and trade at first reluctantly, however; then comes division of labor, the second stage. The division of physical labor among uneducated men, people whose brains contain no pabulum, nothing to digest while at work, is stupefying and degrading. A man who is occupied all his life in making the thirteenth part of a pin, with nothing to think about, is evidently not living as he ought. Though Spinoza, while engaged in earning a scanty living by polishing spectacle glasses, worked out in his head his wonderful system of philosophy, he was educated before he went to polishing glasses.
The third stage of industry is that in which the Hand-Worker has received some education, so that while he works with his hands he builds in his head a machine to do what his hands are doing; he becomes an inventor, a machinist, and a manager of machinery. This is the stage in which you are to-day, for every farmer is now a machinist;
You all use complicated machinery; you all know when it is out of order. If you hear some unusual rattle or squeaking, you stop your machine instantly, ascertain the cause, and apply the remedy.
You have found that the governing machinery of your country and its
7share they receive of what they produce that undue competition between the member of an overcrowded commercial class have caused "business" to become a system of war or a game of chance; you find that the best merchants and the candid students and writers of England declare their financial system a failure, and the Bank of England an overloaded, overworked, and inefficient machine. That the continual raising and lowering of the rate of interest in order to keep coin in England, is continually changing the market value of all commodities, so that he who carries on a legitimate manufacturing business is subjected to all the uncertain ties and risks of gambling. That of those who engage in trade and commerce, a large majority die after a career of labor and anxiety, leaving no provision for their families, and that it is exceptional to find a merchant who has not failed at some time As you investigate, you wonder that the mercantile classes have not discovered that the
Professional men, in cities at least, are so engrossed with their special lines of thought and effort, that few give much attention to the grand machinery of society; they do not realize, like Emerson, that "Our state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters—a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man. The priest becomes a form, the attorney a statute-book, the mechanic a machine, the sailor a rope of the ship."
1st. That greenbacks shall be received for customs and all other dues to government the same as gold.
2nd. That the silver dollar shall be restored to its old rank in the list of coins, and that the products of our American silver mines shall be coined, as well as the products of the British gold mines.
3rd. You demand that if any person has greenbacks — United States notes not bearing interest — and desires to exchange them for government notes bearing interest, that the interchange should be made at the sub-treasuries, and that the holder of the interest-bearing obligation may re-exchange it for greenbacks at par and interest at his pleasure.
You demand that without suddenly disturbing existing conditions, the policy of this government shall be to supply, in the form of evidences of its own debt, the paper currency of the country, instead of farming out the privilege to corporations to supply the paper currency to consist of evidences of their debts.
While managing your ploughs, your drills, your harvesters and your threshing machines, farmers of the Mississippi Valley! you have time and opportunity to think. Your education has been sufficient to give you control of all historical and scientific facts, and while tilling your farms, you may find the proper relation of these facts and build better machinery for the social use of mankind.
8the blood of the Puritans, Cavaliers, and Huguenots, the Dutch, the Celts, the Germans and the Scandinavians, who sought this continent during the last century, and of those of later immigration. If the mingling of the blood of the most energetic specimens of the best nations can produce a superior race, we have it here.
Emigration, which for four thousand years has been flowing westward, here meets the current coming eastward. We have area enough to contain the principal countries of Europe; and we have, in forest, mine and soil, resources sufficient to shelter, feed and clothe all the inhabitants of those countries, in addition to our own.
With all these resources, with an intelligent and skilled people, the majority are poor, and nearly all are deforming body or mind, or both, in efforts to provide shelter, food, clothing, and other necessaries of civilized life, for themselves and their families.
We have sufficient raw material, and men, with skill, to make and operate machinery enough to make all those things needed, to the extent of the reasonable desires of our whole population; yet men and women able and willing to do this work are idle and suffering; machinery stands unused or works sluggishly, and this is largely owing to the want of a proper system of exchanging products and commodities. The machinery of production and of interchange stands idle for want of oil to lubricate it. The Rothchilds of the world have a monopoly of the
The Eastern people are accustomed to look eastward across the Atlantic for precedents, and to follow them closely and look for foreign applause for having done so. Let the people of the West think and act as Americans.
In this great central plain our steamboats and our railroad trains move like shuttles,
Let us change our raw material into houses, clothing, food, means of instruction and recreation, so that all shall be supplied. Let us secure a system of interchanging what is produced, so that all who produce may be supplied in exchange with what they need or desire. Let those who cannot work or will not work be placed in infirmaries.
We have received much from those who lived in past centuries; let us add our quota to the fund to be transmitted to future generations.
Six hundred years ago,
Hand-Workers of the Mississippi Valley, you have power to greatly improve your own social condition, and thereby to advance the condition of all peoples!
You are individually responsible for the full and proper use of your superior advantages! MAY YOU REALIZE YOUR POWER AND YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.