Speech at Auditorium, Chicago.
(Delivered October, 1892.)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with diffidence that I arise after the brilliant addresses to which you have just listened, and this diffidence is intensified because I am conscious of the fact that I can add neither thought nor wisdom to
300what has already been said to you by the illustrious men who have preceded me. I can only join in the chorus, which is sung by the many — the chorus of the awakened thought and the aroused conscience of the American people — proclaiming that a wrong is being done the masses of this country by an unjust economic policy.
With your permission, I will consider this subject for a short time in its relations to freedom, which is the basis of all progress and development. It was freedom of conscience that released man from the superstition and the chains of the past; that presented to him the gospels in a higher, a purer garb; that gave him a higher conception of his relations to his Maker, and of his relations to his brother man; that lifted religion to a plane that it could not occupy under the hampering restrictions of the past. Again, it was freedom of thought that released the mind of man from the myths and the darkness of the past; that developed our sciences; that gave us a new philosophy, a new literature, and gave to the world an entirely new intellectual life. Thus grew up the idea of freedom in politics, in the affairs of government. During all of the centuries that had passed no progress had been made in governments. Governments were simply great, rapacious organizations, eating the substance of a people who seemed to have been created only for the purpose of being devoured. It was the principle of freedom in civil affairs that made possible our Republic, and that is placing not only the governments but the nations of the world upon a higher plane. In all of these cases freedom acted like magic on human energies. It electrified whatever it touched. It aroused the world from a lethargy of thousands of years, and was the cause of that marvelous activity to be seen in this century in all fields of thought and of human endeavor. Finally, there was advanced by an English economist the notion of freedom of trade, for the idea of hampering and restricting trade is not modern. It is as old as superstition and as hoary as its prototype, the great wall of China. Subsequently England decided to give her people freedom of exchange; for, remember that England had a high protective tariff down to a little over forty years ago, and it was while she had this tariff that the conditions, which are still found there, arose. Vast wealth concentrated in a few hands, while the masses are in poverty. England's tariff did for her what our tariff is rapidly doing for us — enriching the few and impoverishing the many. But a little over forty years ago she opened her ports to the world, and invited the nations of the earth to trade with her. Then, again, was seen the electrifying effect of applying the principles of freedom. The energies of the English people embarked, as it were, upon a new career in every line
301of industry, enterprise and human endeavor. Her manufactories increased and flourished as they never had before, and began to supply the markets of the world. Her financial and mercantile interests crew until they are the wonder of the earth, and are now, to a great extent handling the commerce of the earth. Her population has doubled, the wages of her working people have just about doubled, and her foreign trade has increased five fold; and, we are told by Mr. Gladstone himself, that since England adopted the principle of freedom of exchange, not only have all her interests flourished but that the physical, the moral, the intellectual and the political conditions of her people have undergone a wonderful development. Another enthusiastic writer tells us that the greatness of the British Empire may almost be said to date from the time that she threw down the restrictive barriers of the ages and adopted the principle of free intercourse with the other people of the world.
In this country we had a slightly varying policy down to in the 40's. We had what was then considered a high protective tariff, though it was not one-fourth of what it is now; but in 1846 our government took a stand in favor of freedom of intercourse and it adopted a low revenue tariff. It did it against the protests of the men who were then getting the benefit of the high tariff. So great was the impetus given to all lines of industry by this application of the principle of freedom, that the ten years which then followed are among the most prosperous years we have ever seen. Even Mr. Blaine, in his book, prepared with deliberation, was forced to say that the prosperity and activity of those years had scarcely a parallel; that every business flourished; that money was plentiful; that the manufacturers themselves shared in this general prosperity until they abandoned all thought of protection; that even the economic writers who had written in favor of the protective principle, abandoned the idea of it, and that our commerce nourished until it was nearly the greatest on earth. He tells us that our foreign tonnage was greater than that of any other nation on the globe at that time. There was then not a sea or a river that would float a boat, but what the American flag could be seen upon it, floating from the tops of American masts, on American ships, that were loaded with American goods and manned by American seamen. The ship building industry became one of the greatest industries of the country. Not only was this so, but in 1857, after the operation of ten years of this policy of free intercourse, so great was the general prosperity of the country, that it was the representatives of the manufacturing industries in Congress who brought forth and carried through a measure to still further reduce the then low duties.
Then came the great war, and since then the country has seen the sowing, the growth and the ripening of Hamiltonism; the application of the principle of having the government take care of the rich and letting the rich take care of the poor; the principle of having the government build up a few favorites and having these interests in turn be the friend of the administration. For the purpose of raising revenue, duties, which were then considered intolerably high, were imposed, with the specific promise that, as soon as the war was over they should be abolished; but, instead of this, they have not only been retained under various false pretenses, but have from time to time been increased, until to-day they are about double what they were then. Whenever one false pretense was exposed the champions of this system simply advanced another. First, they talked of having an American system, but this deceived nobody, for every one of the so-called pauper labor countries of the old world has a high protective tariff, and has had for centuries, and the tariff is in inverse ratio to the wages paid — the higher the tariff, the lower the wages. In those countries, as here, it is a few privileged classes that get the benefit of this tariff, while the great body of the people is impoverished. Then they renewed the talk of protecting infant industries. Morally, this furnished no good reason for continuing these high duties, for why should you be compelled by law to pay more for what you buy, than the market price of the world, in order that some other man may make an experiment. But we have heard nothing of this for a number of years, because the infants finally became of age, and instead of wearing swaddling clothes, they wore plug hats, and, according to Ingersoll, they wore number thirteen boots and they came forth out of their nursery and proceeded to choke the life out of less favored brothers.
Then we are told that the object was to create a home market for the farmer by making manufacturing establishments so numerous that he could sell everything he raised at high prices, for home consumption. This was twenty-five years ago. At that time the farmer was selling his wheat at from $1.00 to $1.25 a bushel, and other farm products in proportion. Now, after a fourth of a century of making a home market for him, he has been selling his wheat in this State at sixty cents a bushel, and other farm products in proportion. He finds that his grain and his stock has to go to Liverpool, to be sold in the free trade markets of the world, and that he has to compete with the wheat of Russia and India, with the wheat raised by the cheapest labor in the world, but he is forbidden to buy there. If he does buy an article there and undertakes to bring it with him, he is not
303permitted to land it until he has paid a duty, which in some cases is equal to the first cost of the article.
Then we are told that they wanted to make the foreign nations pay taxes. Even McKinley has stated that he was not in favor of taxing the American people, so long as they could find some other nation to tax. The beautiful theory was held out of getting something for nothing. We are told that we could just sit still — other people of the world would have to come and furnish the money to run our government and it would not cost us a cent — that men would bring their goods here, would pay cash into the United States treasury for the privilege of landing them, and then sell the goods at the same price they sold them for before. It is not necessary to comment upon the moral principle involved in the endeavor of getting something for nothing. It is sufficient to say, that in this case it did not work. The American has yet to be found who managed to get something for nothing from the foreigner in this way — a number of individuals have managed to get a great deal for nothing, under this law, but they did not get it from the foreigner, but they got it from our own people. When it was found that the duty on some article was greater than the first cost, that, for example, the duty on plate glass was 140 per cent., and these theorists were asked whether, if a man brought a thousand dollars' worth of plate glass across the ocean and was then compelled to pay $1,400 in cash for the privilege of landing it, he would still sell the glass at $1,000, and if he did, how long he would probably keep that up, there was no reply. But the consequences of these excessively high duties soon became apparent. The foreigner, finding that he could not sell his goods in our market, stopped coming, and as he stopped coming he stopped buying to a very great extent, and the result was that our magnificent foreign trade began to vanish from the face of the earth, and as our high tariff made ship building an impossibility, so long as ships could be built free in England, it was not long until our shipping disappeared from the waters of the earth, and England got the benefit of it.
Then we were told that the purpose of the tariff was to cheapen production; that it would induce so many men to engage in the same lines of manufacture that, in competing among themselves, they would finally put the price down to a point below what it would be it there were no tariff. Now, if this had been so, then you were compelled to pay high prices while this development was going on, and until the point was reached when they began to sell cheap, you were forced to pay more money for what you needed than you would have had to pay if you were permitted to buy in a competitive market. But the
304trouble was, that the time never came when these petted industries competed with themselves. Instead of that, they met at Delmonico's, they had a wine dinner, and then they formed a trust; so that, instead of cutting each other's prices, they simply pooled their issues and formed a combination whereby they kept up prices. To be sure, there has been a decline in the price of some articles, but it is due to the great inventions of the age. So great has this been, that in most lines of manufacture it does not cost the twentieth part to-day of what it cost to manufacture twenty years ago, and the effect of the tariff is to deprive the consumer of the benefit of this invention. While some articles are sold cheaper now than formerly, they are not sold nearly as cheap as they would be if the market was competitive; and the difference in price between a competitive market and a protected market; in other words, the difference in price between what we are obliged to pay now for an article, and what we would have to pay if there were no tariff, goes not into the treasury to support our government, but goes into the pockets of these trusts and combinations. For, if there were no duties, they would be obliged to sell at the same price that the imported articles were sold. The tariff prevents foreign articles from coming in, thus enabling the home manufacturers to keep up their price, and this difference, which is paid by the American consumers, does the government no good, but simply enriches a few individuals. This is illustrated by the legislation on sugar. Formerly sugar was a shilling a pound. There was a high duty on common sugar. The processes of manufacture by degrees were so improved, both abroad and here, that sugar went down to eight cents a pound, and the protectionists told us: "You see what the tariff has done; it has reduced sugar from a shilling to eight cents a pound." But, two years ago they put common sugar on the free list, and what happened then? Why, it instantly went to five cents a pound. That is where the competitive price put it. Now, what had held it at eight cents in this country? Why, the protective tariff. The processes of sugar making had so cheapened its production that the price necessarily went down, but it did not go down as much as it would have gone had there been no tariff; for the moment the tariff was removed it fell upwards of thirty per cent.
But the last pretense advanced was that of protecting the American laborer, and if this had had in it a grain of truth I would have been a protectionist; but, like all of the other pretexts, it has proved to be false, and I tell you the laborer is finding it out. He is learning the fact by sad experience, that while duties have increased right along, his wages are steadily falling. He finds that there has been, right along, the most absolute free trade in labor; not only that,
305by combinations between the large manufacturing and mining interests and the steamship companies, the country has been flooded, not only by thousands, but by millions of laborers, who were brought over under contract from the pauper fields of Europe to supplant the American workmen. The laborer finds that he has to compete with the cheapest labor on earth right at his door; he has got to compete even with Chinamen; he finds that his wages are fixed by the law of supply and demand; that when there are two jobs of work for one workman, wages go up; but when, as has been the case now for many years, there are two workmen for one job of work, then wages go down. He finds, in other words, that he has got to sell his labor in a competitive market has got to compete with the labor from all over the world, and that for him there is no protection. He is discovering that the effect of this protection is simply to make him pay more for everything that he has got to buy than he would have to pay if he could buy in a competitive market; that it deprives him of the benefit of invention and the cheapening process of manufacture, and does this all for the benefit of a few individuals. He has found out that the government, in putting millions of dollars into the pockets of a few trusts and favored industries, did him no good. He has found out that the building of magnificent castles on the hills of Scotland does not put bread into the mouths of his children.
Not only does this restriction upon the freedom of intercourse affect the farmer and the laborer by compelling them to sell in a competitive market and buy in a protective market; not only does it affect every consumer in this country, by requiring him to pay more than he would have to pay in a competitive market, thus depriving him of the cheapening process of manufacture, but it affects all lines of business. For the articles of trade are sensitive, and a hampering restriction at one point is soon felt in a greater or less degree throughout the entire body.
Again, my fellow-citizens, so eager has been the government to protect monopolies, that it has taken up the great sugar monopoly and relieved it from competition. When a business man finds the competition severe and he cannot hold out, he is turned over to the sheriff; when the manufacturer finds that the conditions are against him he is forced into the bankruptcy court; when the farmer finds he cannot run his farm without losing money, he is obliged to mortgage it and ultimately to give it up and farm for the shares; but when the great sugar combine protested that it could make no money making sugar at competitive prices, the government at once said to it: "Be calm my child, I will give you two cents a pound bonus on every
306pound you make. We will spend ten millions of dollars a year from money collected from the whole American people in order to enable you to compete and to prosper."
Now, my fellow-citizens, we have here all of the conditions necessary to make us the most prosperous people on earth — richness of soil, vast resources, a splendid climate, an enterprising, sober and industrious people. We enjoy some degree of prosperity, and amazing as it may seem, there are men abroad in the land to-day who will tell us that we owe this prosperity to protection. At some places in the South, my fellow-citizens, where the soil is very rich and the climate salubrious, and all of the conditions favorable, there is a luxuriant vegetation; and, occasionally, you will see a tree upon which the moss, or some parasitical plant, has fastened itself and is growing in great luxuriance, until it covers the tree, sucking the sap out of it and ultimately killing it. Now, if this moss had the tongue of a McKinley, or could wield the pen of Ben Harrison, it would say to the astonished world: "Behold me! I have made this tree; it was by reason of my fastening myself upon it and sucking the blood out of it all these years that it grew and flourished." "But," says somebody, "if you will abolish the high protective tariff you cripple our industries and ruin the country." Now, it is a noteworthy fact, that whenever and wherever a great wrong was eating the substance of the people, and it was proposed to abolish it, the cry of ruin was heard. When it was proposed in England to abolish the tariff forty odd years ago, all of the privileged classes, the entire aristocracy, joined even by the clergy, united in the cry of "ruin" — that it would ruin the British Empire. But it had the opposite effect. When in 1846 it was proposed in the United States to abolish the protective tariff, again the cry of ruin was heard, and just the opposite results followed. When some years ago it was proposed to put quinine on the free list, we again were told that it would ruin all connected with that industry; but instead of that, the quinine interests to-day are five times as great as they were when there was a duty on quinine. At present some of our manufacturing establishments have only a hot-house life; the least wind chills them. Let them be put out into the open air, on the broad prairies, out into the sun; let them study the conditions necessary to success and they will acquire a healthful tone, a much more vigorous nature, a much steadier and more permanent prosperity.
It is gratifying to know, my fellow-citizens, that the conscience and the higher intelligence of the country is at last aroused, and demanding that this arbitrary and mediaeval restriction be wiped out, and
307the principle of freedom be applied here the same as in other lines of human activity.
Let me say, in conclusion, that not only is the coming election of vital importance in a national way, because it will settle the question wether we shall tend toward mediaeval restrictions and the building up of classes, or whether we shall enter upon the high plateau of freedom of the elevation of all mankind; but it is important for the people of Chicago and of the State in a local way. During the next four years questions that are vital to our city will have to be settled by the Legislature and the State Government. We have the question of drainage and pure water for Chicago; questions that may arise in connection with the Columbian Exposition; the question whether we shall have a consolidation here in Cook county of the three governments that are now overlapping each other — city, township and county; whether we shall have, if possible, less machinery and more efficiency; and then comes the great question of revenue. Our present revenue law is everywhere felt to be a patch-work and a botch. A well digested, comprehensive and just revenue system for this great city and this great State is the need of the hour, and attempts will be made to create one. Hence, it is a matter of serious import to every citizen of Illinois as to whom he supports for the Legislature, and whom he supports for Governor and Lieutenant-Governor.
There is a further question, involving, so far as it relates to the State, whether the laws shall be fearlessly and thoroughly enforced, or whether a set of officials and money making rings shall be permitted to deliberately not only disregard the law, but trample it under foot; whether our great State institutions shall continue to be mere political machines, used to control conventions and to carry elections, made homes for political mendicants, or whether they shall be lifted out of politics, lifted from the low plane of political intrigue, lifted upon that high plane, which the people intended they should occupy when they were created; whether we shall continue to pay about $130,000 a year more to take care of in the neighborhood of 9,000 objects of charity than it costs the people of Ohio to take care of an equal number of objects of charity.
During the past year some manufacturers of Chicago, whose business was being ruined by penitentiary competition, called on the Governor and asked him to enforce the law. They succeeded in getting the Commissioners and the Governor to meet them. They have Published a report as to what took place there. I will read you just a few lines from the report. They say:
"When our committee met Governor Fifer and the Commissioners,
308and explained to the Governor the wrong that was being perpetrated in the name of the State, the Governor acknowledged that he had been a stranger to the real condition of affairs at Joliet, and he, in the presence of the committee, ordered the Commissioners to remove all piece-price convicts from the cooper shop. This Commissioner Jones opposed, and when the Governor insisted that it should be done, Jones became so incensed that he put on his hat and insolently left the conference."
That was all that transpired. No change was made in the management of the penitentiary; the law was not enforced; Jones is still Penitentiary Commissioner; no relief of any kind is being given to the men who were ruined because the law was not enforced. The Penitentiary Commissioner insolently snaps his finger in the face of the Governor, and the Governor has not the courage to interfere. Now, I will say to you, that if the people of Illinois make the change this fall that from present indications they are determined to make, there will be no repetition of that scene during the next four years.
Nationally we have a ticket, both ends of which represent that high character, that patriotism, that statesmanship, that courage to do right, that alone is a guaranty that the affairs of this Nation, in their hands; will be administered for the best interests of all of the people of this country.