The Iron Heel
Part 2 out of 6
Jackson's arm was a fact of life. "The fact, man, the irrefragable
fact!" of Ernest's was ringing in my consciousness.
It seemed monstrous, impossible, that our whole society was based
upon blood. And yet there was Jackson. I could not get away from
him. Constantly my thought swung back to him as the compass to the
Pole. He had been monstrously treated. His blood had not been
paid for in order that a larger dividend might be paid. And I knew
a score of happy complacent families that had received those
dividends and by that much had profited by Jackson's blood. If one
man could be so monstrously treated and society move on its way
unheeding, might not many men be so monstrously treated? I
remembered Ernest's women of Chicago who toiled for ninety cents a
week, and the child slaves of the Southern cotton mills he had
described. And I could see their wan white hands, from which the
blood had been pressed, at work upon the cloth out of which had
been made my gown. And then I thought of the Sierra Mills and the
dividends that had been paid, and I saw the blood of Jackson upon
my gown as well. Jackson I could not escape. Always my
meditations led me back to him.
Down in the depths of me I had a feeling that I stood on the edge
of a precipice. It was as though I were about to see a new and
awful revelation of life. And not I alone. My whole world was
turning over. There was my father. I could see the effect Ernest
was beginning to have on him. And then there was the Bishop. When
I had last seen him he had looked a sick man. He was at high
nervous tension, and in his eyes there was unspeakable horror.
From the little I learned I knew that Ernest had been keeping his
promise of taking him through hell. But what scenes of hell the
Bishop's eyes had seen, I knew not, for he seemed too stunned to
speak about them.
Once, the feeling strong upon me that my little world and all the
world was turning over, I thought of Ernest as the cause of it; and
also I thought, "We were so happy and peaceful before he came!"
And the next moment I was aware that the thought was a treason
against truth, and Ernest rose before me transfigured, the apostle
of truth, with shining brows and the fearlessness of one of Gods
own angels, battling for the truth and the right, and battling for
the succor of the poor and lonely and oppressed. And then there
arose before me another figure, the Christ! He, too, had taken the
part of the lowly and oppressed, and against all the established
power of priest and pharisee. And I remembered his end upon the
cross, and my heart contracted with a pang as I thought of Ernest.
Was he, too, destined for a cross?--he, with his clarion call and
war-noted voice, and all the fine man's vigor of him!
And in that moment I knew that I loved him, and that I was melting
with desire to comfort him. I thought of his life. A sordid,
harsh, and meagre life it must have been. And I thought of his
father, who had lied and stolen for him and been worked to death.
And he himself had gone into the mills when he was ten! All my
heart seemed bursting with desire to fold my arms around him, and
to rest his head on my breast--his head that must be weary with so
many thoughts; and to give him rest--just rest--and easement and
forgetfulness for a tender space.
I met Colonel Ingram at a church reception. Him I knew well and
had known well for many years. I trapped him behind large palms
and rubber plants, though he did not know he was trapped. He met
me with the conventional gayety and gallantry. He was ever a
graceful man, diplomatic, tactful, and considerate. And as for
appearance, he was the most distinguished-looking man in our
society. Beside him even the venerable head of the university
looked tawdry and small.
And yet I found Colonel Ingram situated the same as the unlettered
mechanics. He was not a free agent. He, too, was bound upon the
wheel. I shall never forget the change in him when I mentioned
Jackson's case. His smiling good nature vanished like a ghost. A
sudden, frightful expression distorted his well-bred face. I felt
the same alarm that I had felt when James Smith broke out. But
Colonel Ingram did not curse. That was the slight difference that
was left between the workingman and him. He was famed as a wit,
but he had no wit now. And, unconsciously, this way and that he
glanced for avenues of escape. But he was trapped amid the palms
and rubber trees.
Oh, he was sick of the sound of Jackson's name. Why had I brought
the matter up? He did not relish my joke. It was poor taste on my
part, and very inconsiderate. Did I not know that in his
profession personal feelings did not count? He left his personal
feelings at home when he went down to the office. At the office he
had only professional feelings.
"Should Jackson have received damages?" I asked.
"Certainly," he answered. "That is, personally, I have a feeling
that he should. But that has nothing to do with the legal aspects
of the case."
He was getting his scattered wits slightly in hand.
"Tell me, has right anything to do with the law?" I asked.
"You have used the wrong initial consonant," he smiled in answer.
"Might?" I queried; and he nodded his head. "And yet we are
supposed to get justice by means of the law?"
"That is the paradox of it," he countered. "We do get justice."
"You are speaking professionally now, are you not?" I asked.
Colonel Ingram blushed, actually blushed, and again he looked
anxiously about him for a way of escape. But I blocked his path
and did not offer to move.
"Tell me," I said, "when one surrenders his personal feelings to
his professional feelings, may not the action be defined as a sort
of spiritual mayhem?"
I did not get an answer. Colonel Ingram had ingloriously bolted,
overturning a palm in his flight.
Next I tried the newspapers. I wrote a quiet, restrained,
dispassionate account of Jackson's case. I made no charges against
the men with whom I had talked, nor, for that matter, did I even
mention them. I gave the actual facts of the case, the long years
Jackson had worked in the mills, his effort to save the machinery
from damage and the consequent accident, and his own present
wretched and starving condition. The three local newspapers
rejected my communication, likewise did the two weeklies.
I got hold of Percy Layton. He was a graduate of the university,
had gone in for journalism, and was then serving his apprenticeship
as reporter on the most influential of the three newspapers. He
smiled when I asked him the reason the newspapers suppressed all
mention of Jackson or his case.
"Editorial policy," he said. "We have nothing to do with that.
It's up to the editors."
"But why is it policy?" I asked.
"We're all solid with the corporations," he answered. "If you paid
advertising rates, you couldn't get any such matter into the
papers. A man who tried to smuggle it in would lose his job. You
couldn't get it in if you paid ten times the regular advertising
"How about your own policy?" I questioned. "It would seem your
function is to twist truth at the command of your employers, who,
in turn, obey the behests of the corporations."
"I haven't anything to do with that." He looked uncomfortable for
the moment, then brightened as he saw his way out. "I, myself, do
not write untruthful things. I keep square all right with my own
conscience. Of course, there's lots that's repugnant in the course
of the day's work. But then, you see, that's all part of the day's
work," he wound up boyishly.
"Yet you expect to sit at an editor's desk some day and conduct a
"I'll be case-hardened by that time," was his reply.
"Since you are not yet case-hardened, tell me what you think right
now about the general editorial policy."
"I don't think," he answered quickly. "One can't kick over the
ropes if he's going to succeed in journalism. I've learned that
much, at any rate."
And he nodded his young head sagely.
"But the right?" I persisted.
"You don't understand the game. Of course it's all right, because
it comes out all right, don't you see?"
"Delightfully vague," I murmured; but my heart was aching for the
youth of him, and I felt that I must either scream or burst into
I was beginning to see through the appearances of the society in
which I had always lived, and to find the frightful realities that
were beneath. There seemed a tacit conspiracy against Jackson, and
I was aware of a thrill of sympathy for the whining lawyer who had
ingloriously fought his case. But this tacit conspiracy grew
large. Not alone was it aimed against Jackson. It was aimed
against every workingman who was maimed in the mills. And if
against every man in the mills, why not against every man in all
the other mills and factories? In fact, was it not true of all the
And if this was so, then society was a lie. I shrank back from my
own conclusions. It was too terrible and awful to be true. But
there was Jackson, and Jackson's arm, and the blood that stained my
gown and dripped from my own roof-beams. And there were many
Jacksons--hundreds of them in the mills alone, as Jackson himself
had said. Jackson I could not escape.
I saw Mr. Wickson and Mr. Pertonwaithe, the two men who held most
of the stock in the Sierra Mills. But I could not shake them as I
had shaken the mechanics in their employ. I discovered that they
had an ethic superior to that of the rest of society. It was what
I may call the aristocratic ethic or the master ethic.* They
talked in large ways of policy, and they identified policy and
right. And to me they talked in fatherly ways, patronizing my
youth and inexperience. They were the most hopeless of all I had
encountered in my quest. They believed absolutely that their
conduct was right. There was no question about it, no discussion.
They were convinced that they were the saviours of society, and
that it was they who made happiness for the many. And they drew
pathetic pictures of what would be the sufferings of the working
class were it not for the employment that they, and they alone, by
their wisdom, provided for it.
* Before Avis Everhard was born, John Stuart Mill, in his essay, ON
LIBERTY, wrote: "Wherever there is an ascendant class, a large
portion of the morality emanates from its class interests and its
class feelings of superiority."
Fresh from these two masters, I met Ernest and related my
experience. He looked at me with a pleased expression, and said:
"Really, this is fine. You are beginning to dig truth for
yourself. It is your own empirical generalization, and it is
correct. No man in the industrial machine is a free-will agent,
except the large capitalist, and he isn't, if you'll pardon the
Irishism.* You see, the masters are quite sure that they are right
in what they are doing. That is the crowning absurdity of the
whole situation. They are so tied by their human nature that they
can't do a thing unless they think it is right. They must have a
sanction for their acts.
* Verbal contradictions, called BULLS, were long an amiable
weakness of the ancient Irish.
"When they want to do a thing, in business of course, they must
wait till there arises in their brains, somehow, a religious, or
ethical, or scientific, or philosophic, concept that the thing is
right. And then they go ahead and do it, unwitting that one of the
weaknesses of the human mind is that the wish is parent to the
thought. No matter what they want to do, the sanction always
comes. They are superficial casuists. They are Jesuitical. They
even see their way to doing wrong that right may come of it. One
of the pleasant and axiomatic fictions they have created is that
they are superior to the rest of mankind in wisdom and efficiency.
Therefrom comes their sanction to manage the bread and butter of
the rest of mankind. They have even resurrected the theory of the
divine right of kings--commercial kings in their case.*
* The newspapers, in 1902 of that era, credited the president of
the Anthracite Coal Trust, George F. Baer, with the enunciation of
the following principle: "The rights and interests of the laboring
man will be protected by the Christian men to whom God in His
infinite wisdom has given the property interests of the country."
"The weakness in their position lies in that they are merely
business men. They are not philosophers. They are not biologists
nor sociologists. If they were, of course all would be well. A
business man who was also a biologist and a sociologist would know,
approximately, the right thing to do for humanity. But, outside
the realm of business, these men are stupid. They know only
business. They do not know mankind nor society, and yet they set
themselves up as arbiters of the fates of the hungry millions and
all the other millions thrown in. History, some day, will have an
excruciating laugh at their expense."
I was not surprised when I had my talk out with Mrs. Wickson and
Mrs. Pertonwaithe. They were society women.* Their homes were
palaces. They had many homes scattered over the country, in the
mountains, on lakes, and by the sea. They were tended by armies of
servants, and their social activities were bewildering. They
patronized the university and the churches, and the pastors
especially bowed at their knees in meek subservience.** They were
powers, these two women, what of the money that was theirs. The
power of subsidization of thought was theirs to a remarkable
degree, as I was soon to learn under Ernest's tuition.
* SOCIETY is here used in a restricted sense, a common usage of the
times to denote the gilded drones that did no labor, but only
glutted themselves at the honey-vats of the workers. Neither the
business men nor the laborers had time or opportunity for SOCIETY.
SOCIETY was the creation of the idle rich who toiled not and who in
this way played.
** "Bring on your tainted money," was the expressed sentiment of
the Church during this period.
They aped their husbands, and talked in the same large ways about
policy, and the duties and responsibilities of the rich. They were
swayed by the same ethic that dominated their husbands--the ethic
of their class; and they uttered glib phrases that their own ears
did not understand.
Also, they grew irritated when I told them of the deplorable
condition of Jackson's family, and when I wondered that they had
made no voluntary provision for the man. I was told that they
thanked no one for instructing them in their social duties. When I
asked them flatly to assist Jackson, they as flatly refused. The
astounding thing about it was that they refused in almost
identically the same language, and this in face of the fact that I
interviewed them separately and that one did not know that I had
seen or was going to see the other. Their common reply was that
they were glad of the opportunity to make it perfectly plain that
no premium would ever be put on carelessness by them; nor would
they, by paying for accident, tempt the poor to hurt themselves in
* In the files of the OUTLOOK, a critical weekly of the period, in
the number dated August 18, 1906, is related the circumstance of a
workingman losing his arm, the details of which are quite similar
to those of Jackson's case as related by Avis Everhard.
And they were sincere, these two women. They were drunk with
conviction of the superiority of their class and of themselves.
They had a sanction, in their own class-ethic, for every act they
performed. As I drove away from Mrs. Pertonwaithe's great house, I
looked back at it, and I remembered Ernest's expression that they
were bound to the machine, but that they were so bound that they
sat on top of it.
Ernest was often at the house. Nor was it my father, merely, nor
the controversial dinners, that drew him there. Even at that time
I flattered myself that I played some part in causing his visits,
and it was not long before I learned the correctness of my surmise.
For never was there such a lover as Ernest Everhard. His gaze and
his hand-clasp grew firmer and steadier, if that were possible; and
the question that had grown from the first in his eyes, grew only
the more imperative.
My impression of him, the first time I saw him, had been
unfavorable. Then I had found myself attracted toward him. Next
came my repulsion, when he so savagely attacked my class and me.
After that, as I saw that he had not maligned my class, and that
the harsh and bitter things he said about it were justified, I had
drawn closer to him again. He became my oracle. For me he tore
the sham from the face of society and gave me glimpses of reality
that were as unpleasant as they were undeniably true.
As I have said, there was never such a lover as he. No girl could
live in a university town till she was twenty-four and not have
love experiences. I had been made love to by beardless sophomores
and gray professors, and by the athletes and the football giants.
But not one of them made love to me as Ernest did. His arms were
around me before I knew. His lips were on mine before I could
protest or resist. Before his earnestness conventional maiden
dignity was ridiculous. He swept me off my feet by the splendid
invincible rush of him. He did not propose. He put his arms
around me and kissed me and took it for granted that we should be
married. There was no discussion about it. The only discussion--
and that arose afterward--was when we should be married.
It was unprecedented. It was unreal. Yet, in accordance with
Ernest's test of truth, it worked. I trusted my life to it. And
fortunate was the trust. Yet during those first days of our love,
fear of the future came often to me when I thought of the violence
and impetuosity of his love-making. Yet such fears were
groundless. No woman was ever blessed with a gentler, tenderer
husband. This gentleness and violence on his part was a curious
blend similar to the one in his carriage of awkwardness and ease.
That slight awkwardness! He never got over it, and it was
delicious. His behavior in our drawing-room reminded me of a
careful bull in a china shop.*
* In those days it was still the custom to fill the living rooms
with bric-a-brac. They had not discovered simplicity of living.
Such rooms were museums, entailing endless labor to keep clean.
The dust-demon was the lord of the household. There were a myriad
devices for catching dust, and only a few devices for getting rid
It was at this time that vanished my last doubt of the completeness
of my love for him (a subconscious doubt, at most). It was at the
Philomath Club--a wonderful night of battle, wherein Ernest bearded
the masters in their lair. Now the Philomath Club was the most
select on the Pacific Coast. It was the creation of Miss
Brentwood, an enormously wealthy old maid; and it was her husband,
and family, and toy. Its members were the wealthiest in the
community, and the strongest-minded of the wealthy, with, of
course, a sprinkling of scholars to give it intellectual tone.
The Philomath had no club house. It was not that kind of a club.
Once a month its members gathered at some one of their private
houses to listen to a lecture. The lecturers were usually, though
not always, hired. If a chemist in New York made a new discovery
in say radium, all his expenses across the continent were paid, and
as well he received a princely fee for his time. The same with a
returning explorer from the polar regions, or the latest literary
or artistic success. No visitors were allowed, while it was the
Philomath's policy to permit none of its discussions to get into
the papers. Thus great statesmen--and there had been such
occasions--were able fully to speak their minds.
I spread before me a wrinkled letter, written to me by Ernest
twenty years ago, and from it I copy the following:
"Your father is a member of the Philomath, so you are able to come.
Therefore come next Tuesday night. I promise you that you will
have the time of your life. In your recent encounters, you failed
to shake the masters. If you come, I'll shake them for you. I'll
make them snarl like wolves. You merely questioned their morality.
When their morality is questioned, they grow only the more
complacent and superior. But I shall menace their money-bags.
That will shake them to the roots of their primitive natures. If
you can come, you will see the cave-man, in evening dress, snarling
and snapping over a bone. I promise you a great caterwauling and
an illuminating insight into the nature of the beast.
"They've invited me in order to tear me to pieces. This is the
idea of Miss Brentwood. She clumsily hinted as much when she
invited me. She's given them that kind of fun before. They
delight in getting trustful-souled gentle reformers before them.
Miss Brentwood thinks I am as mild as a kitten and as good-natured
and stolid as the family cow. I'll not deny that I helped to give
her that impression. She was very tentative at first, until she
divined my harmlessness. I am to receive a handsome fee--two
hundred and fifty dollars--as befits the man who, though a radical,
once ran for governor. Also, I am to wear evening dress. This is
compulsory. I never was so apparelled in my life. I suppose I'll
have to hire one somewhere. But I'd do more than that to get a
chance at the Philomaths."
Of all places, the Club gathered that night at the Pertonwaithe
house. Extra chairs had been brought into the great drawing-room,
and in all there must have been two hundred Philomaths that sat
down to hear Ernest. They were truly lords of society. I amused
myself with running over in my mind the sum of the fortunes
represented, and it ran well into the hundreds of millions. And
the possessors were not of the idle rich. They were men of affairs
who took most active parts in industrial and political life.
We were all seated when Miss Brentwood brought Ernest in. They
moved at once to the head of the room, from where he was to speak.
He was in evening dress, and, what of his broad shoulders and
kingly head, he looked magnificent. And then there was that faint
and unmistakable touch of awkwardness in his movements. I almost
think I could have loved him for that alone. And as I looked at
him I was aware of a great joy. I felt again the pulse of his palm
on mine, the touch of his lips; and such pride was mine that I felt
I must rise up and cry out to the assembled company: "He is mine!
He has held me in his arms, and I, mere I, have filled that mind of
his to the exclusion of all his multitudinous and kingly thoughts!"
At the head of the room, Miss Brentwood introduced him to Colonel
Van Gilbert, and I knew that the latter was to preside. Colonel
Van Gilbert was a great corporation lawyer. In addition, he was
immensely wealthy. The smallest fee he would deign to notice was a
hundred thousand dollars. He was a master of law. The law was a
puppet with which he played. He moulded it like clay, twisted and
distorted it like a Chinese puzzle into any design he chose. In
appearance and rhetoric he was old-fashioned, but in imagination
and knowledge and resource he was as young as the latest statute.
His first prominence had come when he broke the Shardwell will.*
His fee for this one act was five hundred thousand dollars. From
then on he had risen like a rocket. He was often called the
greatest lawyer in the country--corporation lawyer, of course; and
no classification of the three greatest lawyers in the United
States could have excluded him.
* This breaking of wills was a peculiar feature of the period.
With the accumulation of vast fortunes, the problem of disposing of
these fortunes after death was a vexing one to the accumulators.
Will-making and will-breaking became complementary trades, like
armor-making and gun-making. The shrewdest will-making lawyers
were called in to make wills that could not be broken. But these
wills were always broken, and very often by the very lawyers that
had drawn them up. Nevertheless the delusion persisted in the
wealthy class that an absolutely unbreakable will could be cast;
and so, through the generations, clients and lawyers pursued the
illusion. It was a pursuit like unto that of the Universal Solvent
of the mediaeval alchemists.
He arose and began, in a few well-chosen phrases that carried an
undertone of faint irony, to introduce Ernest. Colonel Van Gilbert
was subtly facetious in his introduction of the social reformer and
member of the working class, and the audience smiled. It made me
angry, and I glanced at Ernest. The sight of him made me doubly
angry. He did not seem to resent the delicate slurs. Worse than
that, he did not seem to be aware of them. There he sat, gentle,
and stolid, and somnolent. He really looked stupid. And for a
moment the thought rose in my mind, What if he were overawed by
this imposing array of power and brains? Then I smiled. He
couldn't fool me. But he fooled the others, just as he had fooled
Miss Brentwood. She occupied a chair right up to the front, and
several times she turned her head toward one or another of her
CONFRERES and smiled her appreciation of the remarks.
Colonel Van Gilbert done, Ernest arose and began to speak. He
began in a low voice, haltingly and modestly, and with an air of
evident embarrassment. He spoke of his birth in the working class,
and of the sordidness and wretchedness of his environment, where
flesh and spirit were alike starved and tormented. He described
his ambitions and ideals, and his conception of the paradise
wherein lived the people of the upper classes. As he said:
"Up above me, I knew, were unselfishnesses of the spirit, clean and
noble thinking, keen intellectual living. I knew all this because
I read 'Seaside Library'* novels, in which, with the exception of
the villains and adventuresses, all men and women thought beautiful
thoughts, spoke a beautiful tongue, and performed glorious deeds.
In short, as I accepted the rising of the sun, I accepted that up
above me was all that was fine and noble and gracious, all that
gave decency and dignity to life, all that made life worth living
and that remunerated one for his travail and misery."
* A curious and amazing literature that served to make the working
class utterly misapprehend the nature of the leisure class.
He went on and traced his life in the mills, the learning of the
horseshoeing trade, and his meeting with the socialists. Among
them, he said, he had found keen intellects and brilliant wits,
ministers of the Gospel who had been broken because their
Christianity was too wide for any congregation of mammon-
worshippers, and professors who had been broken on the wheel of
university subservience to the ruling class. The socialists were
revolutionists, he said, struggling to overthrow the irrational
society of the present and out of the material to build the
rational society of the future. Much more he said that would take
too long to write, but I shall never forget how he described the
life among the revolutionists. All halting utterance vanished.
His voice grew strong and confident, and it glowed as he glowed,
and as the thoughts glowed that poured out from him. He said:
"Amongst the revolutionists I found, also, warm faith in the human,
ardent idealism, sweetnesses of unselfishness, renunciation, and
martyrdom--all the splendid, stinging things of the spirit. Here
life was clean, noble, and alive. I was in touch with great souls
who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom
the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the
pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire.
All about me were nobleness of purpose and heroism of effort, and
my days and nights were sunshine and starshine, all fire and dew,
with before my eyes, ever burning and blazing, the Holy Grail,
Christ's own Grail, the warm human, long-suffering and maltreated
but to be rescued and saved at the last."
As before I had seen him transfigured, so now he stood transfigured
before me. His brows were bright with the divine that was in him,
and brighter yet shone his eyes from the midst of the radiance that
seemed to envelop him as a mantle. But the others did not see this
radiance, and I assumed that it was due to the tears of joy and
love that dimmed my vision. At any rate, Mr. Wickson, who sat
behind me, was unaffected, for I heard him sneer aloud, "Utopian."*
* The people of that age were phrase slaves. The abjectness of
their servitude is incomprehensible to us. There was a magic in
words greater than the conjurer's art. So befuddled and chaotic
were their minds that the utterance of a single word could negative
the generalizations of a lifetime of serious research and thought.
Such a word was the adjective UTOPIAN. The mere utterance of it
could damn any scheme, no matter how sanely conceived, of economic
amelioration or regeneration. Vast populations grew frenzied over
such phrases as "an honest dollar" and "a full dinner pail." The
coinage of such phrases was considered strokes of genius.
Ernest went on to his rise in society, till at last he came in
touch with members of the upper classes, and rubbed shoulders with
the men who sat in the high places. Then came his disillusionment,
and this disillusionment he described in terms that did not flatter
his audience. He was surprised at the commonness of the clay.
Life proved not to be fine and gracious. He was appalled by the
selfishness he encountered, and what had surprised him even more
than that was the absence of intellectual life. Fresh from his
revolutionists, he was shocked by the intellectual stupidity of the
master class. And then, in spite of their magnificent churches and
well-paid preachers, he had found the masters, men and women,
grossly material. It was true that they prattled sweet little
ideals and dear little moralities, but in spite of their prattle
the dominant key of the life they lived was materialistic. And
they were without real morality--for instance, that which Christ
had preached but which was no longer preached.
"I met men," he said, "who invoked the name of the Prince of Peace
in their diatribes against war, and who put rifles in the hands of
Pinkertons* with which to shoot down strikers in their own
factories. I met men incoherent with indignation at the brutality
of prize-fighting, and who, at the same time, were parties to the
adulteration of food that killed each year more babes than even
red-handed Herod had killed.
* Originally, they were private detectives; but they quickly became
hired fighting men of the capitalists, and ultimately developed
into the Mercenaries of the Oligarchy.
"This delicate, aristocratic-featured gentleman was a dummy
director and a tool of corporations that secretly robbed widows and
orphans. This gentleman, who collected fine editions and was a
patron of literature, paid blackmail to a heavy-jowled, black-
browed boss of a municipal machine. This editor, who published
patent medicine advertisements, called me a scoundrelly demagogue
because I dared him to print in his paper the truth about patent
medicines.* This man, talking soberly and earnestly about the
beauties of idealism and the goodness of God, had just betrayed his
comrades in a business deal. This man, a pillar of the church and
heavy contributor to foreign missions, worked his shop girls ten
hours a day on a starvation wage and thereby directly encouraged
prostitution. This man, who endowed chairs in universities and
erected magnificent chapels, perjured himself in courts of law over
dollars and cents. This railroad magnate broke his word as a
citizen, as a gentleman, and as a Christian, when he granted a
secret rebate, and he granted many secret rebates. This senator
was the tool and the slave, the little puppet, of a brutal
uneducated machine boss;** so was this governor and this supreme
court judge; and all three rode on railroad passes; and, also, this
sleek capitalist owned the machine, the machine boss, and the
railroads that issued the passes.
* PATENT MEDICINES were patent lies, but, like the charms and
indulgences of the Middle Ages, they deceived the people. The only
difference lay in that the patent medicines were more harmful and
** Even as late as 1912, A.D., the great mass of the people still
persisted in the belief that they ruled the country by virtue of
their ballots. In reality, the country was ruled by what were
called POLITICAL MACHINES. At first the machine bosses charged the
master capitalists extortionate tolls for legislation; but in a
short time the master capitalists found it cheaper to own the
political machines themselves and to hire the machine bosses.
"And so it was, instead of in paradise, that I found myself in the
arid desert of commercialism. I found nothing but stupidity,
except for business. I found none clean, noble, and alive, though
I found many who were alive--with rottenness. What I did find was
monstrous selfishness and heartlessness, and a gross, gluttonous,
practised, and practical materialism."
Much more Ernest told them of themselves and of his
disillusionment. Intellectually they had bored him; morally and
spiritually they had sickened him; so that he was glad to go back
to his revolutionists, who were clean, noble, and alive, and all
that the capitalists were not.
"And now," he said, "let me tell you about that revolution."
But first I must say that his terrible diatribe had not touched
them. I looked about me at their faces and saw that they remained
complacently superior to what he had charged. And I remembered
what he had told me: that no indictment of their morality could
shake them. However, I could see that the boldness of his language
had affected Miss Brentwood. She was looking worried and
Ernest began by describing the army of revolution, and as he gave
the figures of its strength (the votes cast in the various
countries), the assemblage began to grow restless. Concern showed
in their faces, and I noticed a tightening of lips. At last the
gage of battle had been thrown down. He described the
international organization of the socialists that united the
million and a half in the United States with the twenty-three
millions and a half in the rest of the world.
"Such an army of revolution," he said, "twenty-five millions
strong, is a thing to make rulers and ruling classes pause and
consider. The cry of this army is: 'No quarter! We want all that
you possess. We will be content with nothing less than all that
you possess. We want in our hands the reins of power and the
destiny of mankind. Here are our hands. They are strong hands.
We are going to take your governments, your palaces, and all your
purpled ease away from you, and in that day you shall work for your
bread even as the peasant in the field or the starved and runty
clerk in your metropolises. Here are our hands. They are strong
And as he spoke he extended from his splendid shoulders his two
great arms, and the horseshoer's hands were clutching the air like
eagle's talons. He was the spirit of regnant labor as he stood
there, his hands outreaching to rend and crush his audience. I was
aware of a faintly perceptible shrinking on the part of the
listeners before this figure of revolution, concrete, potential,
and menacing. That is, the women shrank, and fear was in their
faces. Not so with the men. They were of the active rich, and not
the idle, and they were fighters. A low, throaty rumble arose,
lingered on the air a moment, and ceased. It was the forerunner of
the snarl, and I was to hear it many times that night--the token of
the brute in man, the earnest of his primitive passions. And they
were unconscious that they had made this sound. It was the growl
of the pack, mouthed by the pack, and mouthed in all
unconsciousness. And in that moment, as I saw the harshness form
in their faces and saw the fight-light flashing in their eyes, I
realized that not easily would they let their lordship of the world
be wrested from them.
Ernest proceeded with his attack. He accounted for the existence
of the million and a half of revolutionists in the United States by
charging the capitalist class with having mismanaged society. He
sketched the economic condition of the cave-man and of the savage
peoples of to-day, pointing out that they possessed neither tools
nor machines, and possessed only a natural efficiency of one in
producing power. Then he traced the development of machinery and
social organization so that to-day the producing power of civilized
man was a thousand times greater than that of the savage.
"Five men," he said, "can produce bread for a thousand. One man
can produce cotton cloth for two hundred and fifty people, woollens
for three hundred, and boots and shoes for a thousand. One would
conclude from this that under a capable management of society
modern civilized man would be a great deal better off than the
cave-man. But is he? Let us see. In the United States to-day
there are fifteen million* people living in poverty; and by poverty
is meant that condition in life in which, through lack of food and
adequate shelter, the mere standard of working efficiency cannot be
maintained. In the United States to-day, in spite of all your so-
called labor legislation, there are three millions of child
laborers.** In twelve years their numbers have been doubled. And
in passing I will ask you managers of society why you did not make
public the census figures of 1910? And I will answer for you, that
you were afraid. The figures of misery would have precipitated the
revolution that even now is gathering.
* Robert Hunter, in 1906, in a book entitled "Poverty," pointed out
that at that time there were ten millions in the United States
living in poverty.
** In the United States Census of 1900 (the last census the figures
of which were made public), the number of child laborers was placed
"But to return to my indictment. If modern man's producing power
is a thousand times greater than that of the cave-man, why then, in
the United States to-day, are there fifteen million people who are
not properly sheltered and properly fed? Why then, in the United
States to-day, are there three million child laborers? It is a
true indictment. The capitalist class has mismanaged. In face of
the facts that modern man lives more wretchedly than the cave-man,
and that his producing power is a thousand times greater than that
of the cave-man, no other conclusion is possible than that the
capitalist class has mismanaged, that you have mismanaged, my
masters, that you have criminally and selfishly mismanaged. And on
this count you cannot answer me here to-night, face to face, any
more than can your whole class answer the million and a half of
revolutionists in the United States. You cannot answer. I
challenge you to answer. And furthermore, I dare to say to you now
that when I have finished you will not answer. On that point you
will be tongue-tied, though you will talk wordily enough about
"You have failed in your management. You have made a shambles of
civilization. You have been blind and greedy. You have risen up
(as you to-day rise up), shamelessly, in our legislative halls, and
declared that profits were impossible without the toil of children
and babes. Don't take my word for it. It is all in the records
against you. You have lulled your conscience to sleep with prattle
of sweet ideals and dear moralities. You are fat with power and
possession, drunken with success; and you have no more hope against
us than have the drones, clustered about the honey-vats, when the
worker-bees spring upon them to end their rotund existence. You
have failed in your management of society, and your management is
to be taken away from you. A million and a half of the men of the
working class say that they are going to get the rest of the
working class to join with them and take the management away from
you. This is the revolution, my masters. Stop it if you can."
For an appreciable lapse of time Ernest's voice continued to ring
through the great room. Then arose the throaty rumble I had heard
before, and a dozen men were on their feet clamoring for
recognition from Colonel Van Gilbert. I noticed Miss Brentwood's
shoulders moving convulsively, and for the moment I was angry, for
I thought that she was laughing at Ernest. And then I discovered
that it was not laughter, but hysteria. She was appalled by what
she had done in bringing this firebrand before her blessed
Colonel Van Gilbert did not notice the dozen men, with passion-
wrought faces, who strove to get permission from him to speak. His
own face was passion-wrought. He sprang to his feet, waving his
arms, and for a moment could utter only incoherent sounds. Then
speech poured from him. But it was not the speech of a one-
hundred-thousand-dollar lawyer, nor was the rhetoric old-fashioned.
"Fallacy upon fallacy!" he cried. "Never in all my life have I
heard so many fallacies uttered in one short hour. And besides,
young man, I must tell you that you have said nothing new. I
learned all that at college before you were born. Jean Jacques
Rousseau enunciated your socialistic theory nearly two centuries
ago. A return to the soil, forsooth! Reversion! Our biology
teaches the absurdity of it. It has been truly said that a little
learning is a dangerous thing, and you have exemplified it to-night
with your madcap theories. Fallacy upon fallacy! I was never so
nauseated in my life with overplus of fallacy. That for your
immature generalizations and childish reasonings!"
He snapped his fingers contemptuously and proceeded to sit down.
There were lip-exclamations of approval on the part of the women,
and hoarser notes of confirmation came from the men. As for the
dozen men who were clamoring for the floor, half of them began
speaking at once. The confusion and babel was indescribable.
Never had Mrs. Pertonwaithe's spacious walls beheld such a
spectacle. These, then, were the cool captains of industry and
lords of society, these snarling, growling savages in evening
clothes. Truly Ernest had shaken them when he stretched out his
hands for their moneybags, his hands that had appeared in their
eyes as the hands of the fifteen hundred thousand revolutionists.
But Ernest never lost his head in a situation. Before Colonel Van
Gilbert had succeeded in sitting down, Ernest was on his feet and
had sprung forward.
"One at a time!" he roared at them.
The sound arose from his great lungs and dominated the human
tempest. By sheer compulsion of personality he commanded silence.
"One at a time," he repeated softly. "Let me answer Colonel Van
Gilbert. After that the rest of you can come at me--but one at a
time, remember. No mass-plays here. This is not a football field.
"As for you," he went on, turning toward Colonel Van Gilbert, "you
have replied to nothing I have said. You have merely made a few
excited and dogmatic assertions about my mental caliber. That may
serve you in your business, but you can't talk to me like that. I
am not a workingman, cap in hand, asking you to increase my wages
or to protect me from the machine at which I work. You cannot be
dogmatic with truth when you deal with me. Save that for dealing
with your wage-slaves. They will not dare reply to you because you
hold their bread and butter, their lives, in your hands.
"As for this return to nature that you say you learned at college
before I was born, permit me to point out that on the face of it
you cannot have learned anything since. Socialism has no more to
do with the state of nature than has differential calculus with a
Bible class. I have called your class stupid when outside the
realm of business. You, sir, have brilliantly exemplified my
This terrible castigation of her hundred-thousand-dollar lawyer was
too much for Miss Brentwood's nerves. Her hysteria became violent,
and she was helped, weeping and laughing, out of the room. It was
just as well, for there was worse to follow.
"Don't take my word for it," Ernest continued, when the
interruption had been led away. "Your own authorities with one
unanimous voice will prove you stupid. Your own hired purveyors of
knowledge will tell you that you are wrong. Go to your meekest
little assistant instructor of sociology and ask him what is the
difference between Rousseau's theory of the return to nature and
the theory of socialism; ask your greatest orthodox bourgeois
political economists and sociologists; question through the pages
of every text-book written on the subject and stored on the shelves
of your subsidized libraries; and from one and all the answer will
be that there is nothing congruous between the return to nature and
socialism. On the other hand, the unanimous affirmative answer
will be that the return to nature and socialism are diametrically
opposed to each other. As I say, don't take my word for it. The
record of your stupidity is there in the books, your own books that
you never read. And so far as your stupidity is concerned, you are
but the exemplar of your class.
"You know law and business, Colonel Van Gilbert. You know how to
serve corporations and increase dividends by twisting the law.
Very good. Stick to it. You are quite a figure. You are a very
good lawyer, but you are a poor historian, you know nothing of
sociology, and your biology is contemporaneous with Pliny."
Here Colonel Van Gilbert writhed in his chair. There was perfect
quiet in the room. Everybody sat fascinated--paralyzed, I may say.
Such fearful treatment of the great Colonel Van Gilbert was unheard
of, undreamed of, impossible to believe--the great Colonel Van
Gilbert before whom judges trembled when he arose in court. But
Ernest never gave quarter to an enemy.
"This is, of course, no reflection on you," Ernest said. "Every
man to his trade. Only you stick to your trade, and I'll stick to
mine. You have specialized. When it comes to a knowledge of the
law, of how best to evade the law or make new law for the benefit
of thieving corporations, I am down in the dirt at your feet. But
when it comes to sociology--my trade--you are down in the dirt at
my feet. Remember that. Remember, also, that your law is the
stuff of a day, and that you are not versatile in the stuff of more
than a day. Therefore your dogmatic assertions and rash
generalizations on things historical and sociological are not worth
the breath you waste on them."
Ernest paused for a moment and regarded him thoughtfully, noting
his face dark and twisted with anger, his panting chest, his
writhing body, and his slim white hands nervously clenching and
"But it seems you have breath to use, and I'll give you a chance to
use it. I indicted your class. Show me that my indictment is
wrong. I pointed out to you the wretchedness of modern man--three
million child slaves in the United States, without whose labor
profits would not be possible, and fifteen million under-fed, ill-
clothed, and worse-housed people. I pointed out that modern man's
producing power through social organization and the use of
machinery was a thousand times greater than that of the cave-man.
And I stated that from these two facts no other conclusion was
possible than that the capitalist class had mismanaged. This was
my indictment, and I specifically and at length challenged you to
answer it. Nay, I did more. I prophesied that you would not
answer. It remains for your breath to smash my prophecy. You
called my speech fallacy. Show the fallacy, Colonel Van Gilbert.
Answer the indictment that I and my fifteen hundred thousand
comrades have brought against your class and you."
Colonel Van Gilbert quite forgot that he was presiding, and that in
courtesy he should permit the other clamorers to speak. He was on
his feet, flinging his arms, his rhetoric, and his control to the
winds, alternately abusing Ernest for his youth and demagoguery,
and savagely attacking the working class, elaborating its
inefficiency and worthlessness.
"For a lawyer, you are the hardest man to keep to a point I ever
saw," Ernest began his answer to the tirade. "My youth has nothing
to do with what I have enunciated. Nor has the worthlessness of
the working class. I charged the capitalist class with having
mismanaged society. You have not answered. You have made no
attempt to answer. Why? Is it because you have no answer? You
are the champion of this whole audience. Every one here, except
me, is hanging on your lips for that answer. They are hanging on
your lips for that answer because they have no answer themselves.
As for me, as I said before, I know that you not only cannot
answer, but that you will not attempt an answer."
"This is intolerable!" Colonel Van Gilbert cried out. "This is
"That you should not answer is intolerable," Ernest replied
gravely. "No man can be intellectually insulted. Insult, in its
very nature, is emotional. Recover yourself. Give me an
intellectual answer to my intellectual charge that the capitalist
class has mismanaged society."
Colonel Van Gilbert remained silent, a sullen, superior expression
on his face, such as will appear on the face of a man who will not
bandy words with a ruffian.
"Do not be downcast," Ernest said. "Take consolation in the fact
that no member of your class has ever yet answered that charge."
He turned to the other men who were anxious to speak. "And now
it's your chance. Fire away, and do not forget that I here
challenge you to give the answer that Colonel Van Gilbert has
failed to give."
It would be impossible for me to write all that was said in the
discussion. I never realized before how many words could be spoken
in three short hours. At any rate, it was glorious. The more his
opponents grew excited, the more Ernest deliberately excited them.
He had an encyclopaedic command of the field of knowledge, and by a
word or a phrase, by delicate rapier thrusts, he punctured them.
He named the points of their illogic. This was a false syllogism,
that conclusion had no connection with the premise, while that next
premise was an impostor because it had cunningly hidden in it the
conclusion that was being attempted to be proved. This was an
error, that was an assumption, and the next was an assertion
contrary to ascertained truth as printed in all the text-books.
And so it went. Sometimes he exchanged the rapier for the club and
went smashing amongst their thoughts right and left. And always he
demanded facts and refused to discuss theories. And his facts made
for them a Waterloo. When they attacked the working class, he
always retorted, "The pot calling the kettle black; that is no
answer to the charge that your own face is dirty." And to one and
all he said: "Why have you not answered the charge that your class
has mismanaged? You have talked about other things and things
concerning other things, but you have not answered. Is it because
you have no answer?"
It was at the end of the discussion that Mr. Wickson spoke. He was
the only one that was cool, and Ernest treated him with a respect
he had not accorded the others.
"No answer is necessary," Mr. Wickson said with slow deliberation.
"I have followed the whole discussion with amazement and disgust.
I am disgusted with you gentlemen, members of my class. You have
behaved like foolish little schoolboys, what with intruding ethics
and the thunder of the common politician into such a discussion.
You have been outgeneralled and outclassed. You have been very
wordy, and all you have done is buzz. You have buzzed like gnats
about a bear. Gentlemen, there stands the bear" (he pointed at
Ernest), "and your buzzing has only tickled his ears.
"Believe me, the situation is serious. That bear reached out his
paws tonight to crush us. He has said there are a million and a
half of revolutionists in the United States. That is a fact. He
has said that it is their intention to take away from us our
governments, our palaces, and all our purpled ease. That, also, is
a fact. A change, a great change, is coming in society; but,
haply, it may not be the change the bear anticipates. The bear has
said that he will crush us. What if we crush the bear?"
The throat-rumble arose in the great room, and man nodded to man
with indorsement and certitude. Their faces were set hard. They
were fighters, that was certain.
"But not by buzzing will we crush the bear," Mr. Wickson went on
coldly and dispassionately. "We will hunt the bear. We will not
reply to the bear in words. Our reply shall be couched in terms of
lead. We are in power. Nobody will deny it. By virtue of that
power we shall remain in power."
He turned suddenly upon Ernest. The moment was dramatic.
"This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you.
When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and
purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell
and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be
couched.* We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel,
and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its
lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has
been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright.
And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those
that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the
king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it
over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
* To show the tenor of thought, the following definition is quoted
from "The Cynic's Word Book" (1906 A.D.), written by one Ambrose
Bierce, an avowed and confirmed misanthrope of the period:
"Grapeshot, n. An argument which the future is preparing in answer
to the demands of American Socialism."
"I am answered," Ernest said quietly. "It is the only answer that
could be given. Power. It is what we of the working class preach.
We know, and well we know by bitter experience, that no appeal for
the right, for justice, for humanity, can ever touch you. Your
hearts are hard as your heels with which you tread upon the faces
of the poor. So we have preached power. By the power of our
ballots on election day will we take your government away from you--"
"What if you do get a majority, a sweeping majority, on election
day?" Mr. Wickson broke in to demand. "Suppose we refuse to turn
the government over to you after you have captured it at the
"That, also, have we considered," Ernest replied. "And we shall
give you an answer in terms of lead. Power you have proclaimed the
king of words. Very good. Power it shall be. And in the day that
we sweep to victory at the ballot-box, and you refuse to turn over
to us the government we have constitutionally and peacefully
captured, and you demand what we are going to do about it--in that
day, I say, we shall answer you; and in roar of shell and shrapnel
and in whine of machine-guns shall our answer be couched.
"You cannot escape us. It is true that you have read history
aright. It is true that labor has from the beginning of history
been in the dirt. And it is equally true that so long as you and
yours and those that come after you have power, that labor shall
remain in the dirt. I agree with you. I agree with all that you
have said. Power will be the arbiter, as it always has been the
arbiter. It is a struggle of classes. Just as your class dragged
down the old feudal nobility, so shall it be dragged down by my
class, the working class. If you will read your biology and your
sociology as clearly as you do your history, you will see that this
end I have described is inevitable. It does not matter whether it
is in one year, ten, or a thousand--your class shall be dragged
down. And it shall be done by power. We of the labor hosts have
conned that word over till our minds are all a-tingle with it.
Power. It is a kingly word."
And so ended the night with the Philomaths.
It was about this time that the warnings of coming events began to
fall about us thick and fast. Ernest had already questioned
father's policy of having socialists and labor leaders at his
house, and of openly attending socialist meetings; and father had
only laughed at him for his pains. As for myself, I was learning
much from this contact with the working-class leaders and thinkers.
I was seeing the other side of the shield. I was delighted with
the unselfishness and high idealism I encountered, though I was
appalled by the vast philosophic and scientific literature of
socialism that was opened up to me. I was learning fast, but I
learned not fast enough to realize then the peril of our position.
There were warnings, but I did not heed them. For instance, Mrs.
Pertonwaithe and Mrs. Wickson exercised tremendous social power in
the university town, and from them emanated the sentiment that I
was a too-forward and self-assertive young woman with a mischievous
penchant for officiousness and interference in other persons'
affairs. This I thought no more than natural, considering the part
I had played in investigating the case of Jackson's arm. But the
effect of such a sentiment, enunciated by two such powerful social
arbiters, I underestimated.
True, I noticed a certain aloofness on the part of my general
friends, but this I ascribed to the disapproval that was prevalent
in my circles of my intended marriage with Ernest. It was not till
some time afterward that Ernest pointed out to me clearly that this
general attitude of my class was something more than spontaneous,
that behind it were the hidden springs of an organized conduct.
"You have given shelter to an enemy of your class," he said. "And
not alone shelter, for you have given your love, yourself. This is
treason to your class. Think not that you will escape being
But it was before this that father returned one afternoon. Ernest
was with me, and we could see that father was angry--
philosophically angry. He was rarely really angry; but a certain
measure of controlled anger he allowed himself. He called it a
tonic. And we could see that he was tonic-angry when he entered
"What do you think?" he demanded. "I had luncheon with Wilcox."
Wilcox was the superannuated president of the university, whose
withered mind was stored with generalizations that were young in
1870, and which he had since failed to revise.
"I was invited," father announced. "I was sent for."
He paused, and we waited.
"Oh, it was done very nicely, I'll allow; but I was reprimanded.
I! And by that old fossil!"
"I'll wager I know what you were reprimanded for," Ernest said.
"Not in three guesses," father laughed.
"One guess will do," Ernest retorted. "And it won't be a guess.
It will be a deduction. You were reprimanded for your private
"The very thing!" father cried. "How did you guess?"
"I knew it was coming. I warned you before about it."
"Yes, you did," father meditated. "But I couldn't believe it. At
any rate, it is only so much more clinching evidence for my book."
"It is nothing to what will come," Ernest went on, "if you persist
in your policy of having these socialists and radicals of all sorts
at your house, myself included."
"Just what old Wilcox said. And of all unwarranted things! He
said it was in poor taste, utterly profitless, anyway, and not in
harmony with university traditions and policy. He said much more
of the same vague sort, and I couldn't pin him down to anything
specific. I made it pretty awkward for him, and he could only go
on repeating himself and telling me how much he honored me, and all
the world honored me, as a scientist. It wasn't an agreeable task
for him. I could see he didn't like it."
"He was not a free agent," Ernest said. "The leg-bar* is not
always worn graciously."
* LEG-BAR--the African slaves were so manacled; also criminals. It
was not until the coming of the Brotherhood of Man that the leg-bar
passed out of use.
"Yes. I got that much out of him. He said the university needed
ever so much more money this year than the state was willing to
furnish; and that it must come from wealthy personages who could
not but be offended by the swerving of the university from its high
ideal of the passionless pursuit of passionless intelligence. When
I tried to pin him down to what my home life had to do with
swerving the university from its high ideal, he offered me a two
years' vacation, on full pay, in Europe, for recreation and
research. Of course I couldn't accept it under the circumstances."
"It would have been far better if you had," Ernest said gravely.
"It was a bribe," father protested; and Ernest nodded.
"Also, the beggar said that there was talk, tea-table gossip and so
forth, about my daughter being seen in public with so notorious a
character as you, and that it was not in keeping with university
tone and dignity. Not that he personally objected--oh, no; but
that there was talk and that I would understand."
Ernest considered this announcement for a moment, and then said,
and his face was very grave, withal there was a sombre wrath in it:
"There is more behind this than a mere university ideal. Somebody
has put pressure on President Wilcox."
"Do you think so?" father asked, and his face showed that he was
interested rather than frightened.
"I wish I could convey to you the conception that is dimly forming
in my own mind," Ernest said. "Never in the history of the world
was society in so terrific flux as it is right now. The swift
changes in our industrial system are causing equally swift changes
in our religious, political, and social structures. An unseen and
fearful revolution is taking place in the fibre and structure of
society. One can only dimly feel these things. But they are in
the air, now, to-day. One can feel the loom of them--things vast,
vague, and terrible. My mind recoils from contemplation of what
they may crystallize into. You heard Wickson talk the other night.
Behind what he said were the same nameless, formless things that I
feel. He spoke out of a superconscious apprehension of them."
"You mean . . . ?" father began, then paused.
"I mean that there is a shadow of something colossal and menacing
that even now is beginning to fall across the land. Call it the
shadow of an oligarchy, if you will; it is the nearest I dare
approximate it. What its nature may be I refuse to imagine.* But
what I wanted to say was this: You are in a perilous position--a
peril that my own fear enhances because I am not able even to
measure it. Take my advice and accept the vacation."
* Though, like Everhard, they did not dream of the nature of it,
there were men, even before his time, who caught glimpses of the
shadow. John C. Calhoun said: "A power has risen up in the
government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many
and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and
held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the
banks." And that great humanist, Abraham Lincoln, said, just
before his assassination: "I see in the near future a crisis
approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the
safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an
era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power
of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon
the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a
few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
"But it would be cowardly," was the protest.
"Not at all. You are an old man. You have done your work in the
world, and a great work. Leave the present battle to youth and
strength. We young fellows have our work yet to do. Avis will
stand by my side in what is to come. She will be your
representative in the battle-front."
"But they can't hurt me," father objected. "Thank God I am
independent. Oh, I assure you, I know the frightful persecution
they can wage on a professor who is economically dependent on his
university. But I am independent. I have not been a professor for
the sake of my salary. I can get along very comfortably on my own
income, and the salary is all they can take away from me."
"But you do not realize," Ernest answered. "If all that I fear be
so, your private income, your principal itself, can be taken from
you just as easily as your salary."
Father was silent for a few minutes. He was thinking deeply, and I
could see the lines of decision forming in his face. At last he
"I shall not take the vacation." He paused again. "I shall go on
with my book.* You may be wrong, but whether you are wrong or
right, I shall stand by my guns."
* This book, "Economics and Education," was published in that year.
Three copies of it are extant; two at Ardis, and one at Asgard. It
dealt, in elaborate detail, with one factor in the persistence of
the established, namely, the capitalistic bias of the universities
and common schools. It was a logical and crushing indictment of
the whole system of education that developed in the minds of the
students only such ideas as were favorable to the capitalistic
regime, to the exclusion of all ideas that were inimical and
subversive. The book created a furor, and was promptly suppressed
by the Oligarchy.
"All right," Ernest said. "You are travelling the same path that
Bishop Morehouse is, and toward a similar smash-up. You'll both be
proletarians before you're done with it."
The conversation turned upon the Bishop, and we got Ernest to
explain what he had been doing with him.
"He is soul-sick from the journey through hell I have given him. I
took him through the homes of a few of our factory workers. I
showed him the human wrecks cast aside by the industrial machine,
and he listened to their life stories. I took him through the
slums of San Francisco, and in drunkenness, prostitution, and
criminality he learned a deeper cause than innate depravity. He is
very sick, and, worse than that, he has got out of hand. He is too
ethical. He has been too severely touched. And, as usual, he is
unpractical. He is up in the air with all kinds of ethical
delusions and plans for mission work among the cultured. He feels
it is his bounden duty to resurrect the ancient spirit of the
Church and to deliver its message to the masters. He is
overwrought. Sooner or later he is going to break out, and then
there's going to be a smash-up. What form it will take I can't
even guess. He is a pure, exalted soul, but he is so unpractical.
He's beyond me. I can't keep his feet on the earth. And through
the air he is rushing on to his Gethsemane. And after this his
crucifixion. Such high souls are made for crucifixion."
"And you?" I asked; and beneath my smile was the seriousness of the
anxiety of love.
"Not I," he laughed back. "I may be executed, or assassinated, but
I shall never be crucified. I am planted too solidly and stolidly
upon the earth."
"But why should you bring about the crucifixion of the Bishop?" I
asked. "You will not deny that you are the cause of it."
"Why should I leave one comfortable soul in comfort when there are
millions in travail and misery?" he demanded back.
"Then why did you advise father to accept the vacation?"
"Because I am not a pure, exalted soul," was the answer. "Because
I am solid and stolid and selfish. Because I love you and, like
Ruth of old, thy people are my people. As for the Bishop, he has
no daughter. Besides, no matter how small the good, nevertheless
his little inadequate wail will be productive of some good in the
revolution, and every little bit counts."
I could not agree with Ernest. I knew well the noble nature of
Bishop Morehouse, and I could not conceive that his voice raised
for righteousness would be no more than a little inadequate wail.
But I did not yet have the harsh facts of life at my fingers' ends
as Ernest had. He saw clearly the futility of the Bishop's great
soul, as coming events were soon to show as clearly to me.
It was shortly after this day that Ernest told me, as a good story,
the offer he had received from the government, namely, an
appointment as United States Commissioner of Labor. I was
overjoyed. The salary was comparatively large, and would make safe
our marriage. And then it surely was congenial work for Ernest,
and, furthermore, my jealous pride in him made me hail the
proffered appointment as a recognition of his abilities.
Then I noticed the twinkle in his eyes. He was laughing at me.
"You are not going to . . . to decline?" I quavered.
"It is a bribe," he said. "Behind it is the fine hand of Wickson,
and behind him the hands of greater men than he. It is an old
trick, old as the class struggle is old--stealing the captains from
the army of labor. Poor betrayed labor! If you but knew how many
of its leaders have been bought out in similar ways in the past.
It is cheaper, so much cheaper, to buy a general than to fight him
and his whole army. There was--but I'll not call any names. I'm
bitter enough over it as it is. Dear heart, I am a captain of
labor. I could not sell out. If for no other reason, the memory
of my poor old father and the way he was worked to death would
The tears were in his eyes, this great, strong hero of mine. He
never could forgive the way his father had been malformed--the
sordid lies and the petty thefts he had been compelled to, in order
to put food in his children's mouths.
"My father was a good man," Ernest once said to me. "The soul of
him was good, and yet it was twisted, and maimed, and blunted by
the savagery of his life. He was made into a broken-down beast by
his masters, the arch-beasts. He should be alive to-day, like your
father. He had a strong constitution. But he was caught in the
machine and worked to death--for profit. Think of it. For profit-
-his life blood transmuted into a wine-supper, or a jewelled
gewgaw, or some similar sense-orgy of the parasitic and idle rich,
his masters, the arch-beasts."
THE BISHOP'S VISION
"The Bishop is out of hand," Ernest wrote me. "He is clear up in
the air. Tonight he is going to begin putting to rights this very
miserable world of ours. He is going to deliver his message. He
has told me so, and I cannot dissuade him. To-night he is chairman
of the I.P.H.,* and he will embody his message in his
* There is no clew to the name of the organization for which these
"May I bring you to hear him? Of course, he is foredoomed to
futility. It will break your heart--it will break his; but for you
it will be an excellent object lesson. You know, dear heart, how
proud I am because you love me. And because of that I want you to
know my fullest value, I want to redeem, in your eyes, some small
measure of my unworthiness. And so it is that my pride desires
that you shall know my thinking is correct and right. My views are
harsh; the futility of so noble a soul as the Bishop will show you
the compulsion for such harshness. So come to-night. Sad though
this night's happening will be, I feel that it will but draw you
more closely to me."
The I.P.H. held its convention that night in San Francisco.*
This convention had been called to consider public immorality and
the remedy for it. Bishop Morehouse presided. He was very nervous
as he sat on the platform, and I could see the high tension he was
under. By his side were Bishop Dickinson; H. H. Jones, the head of
the ethical department in the University of California; Mrs. W. W.
Hurd, the great charity organizer; Philip Ward, the equally great
philanthropist; and several lesser luminaries in the field of
morality and charity. Bishop Morehouse arose and abruptly began:
* It took but a few minutes to cross by ferry from Berkeley to San
Francisco. These, and the other bay cities, practically composed
"I was in my brougham, driving through the streets. It was night-
time. Now and then I looked through the carriage windows, and
suddenly my eyes seemed to be opened, and I saw things as they
really are. At first I covered my eyes with my hands to shut out
the awful sight, and then, in the darkness, the question came to
me: What is to be done? What is to be done? A little later the
question came to me in another way: What would the Master do? And
with the question a great light seemed to fill the place, and I saw
my duty sun-clear, as Saul saw his on the way to Damascus.
"I stopped the carriage, got out, and, after a few minutes'
conversation, persuaded two of the public women to get into the
brougham with me. If Jesus was right, then these two unfortunates
were my sisters, and the only hope of their purification was in my
affection and tenderness.
"I live in one of the loveliest localities of San Francisco. The
house in which I live cost a hundred thousand dollars, and its
furnishings, books, and works of art cost as much more. The house
is a mansion. No, it is a palace, wherein there are many servants.
I never knew what palaces were good for. I had thought they were
to live in. But now I know. I took the two women of the street to
my palace, and they are going to stay with me. I hope to fill
every room in my palace with such sisters as they."
The audience had been growing more and more restless and unsettled,
and the faces of those that sat on the platform had been betraying
greater and greater dismay and consternation. And at this point
Bishop Dickinson arose, and with an expression of disgust on his
face, fled from the platform and the hall. But Bishop Morehouse,
oblivious to all, his eyes filled with his vision, continued:
"Oh, sisters and brothers, in this act of mine I find the solution
of all my difficulties. I didn't know what broughams were made
for, but now I know. They are made to carry the weak, the sick,
and the aged; they are made to show honor to those who have lost
the sense even of shame.
"I did not know what palaces were made for, but now I have found a
use for them. The palaces of the Church should be hospitals and
nurseries for those who have fallen by the wayside and are
He made a long pause, plainly overcome by the thought that was in
him, and nervous how best to express it.
"I am not fit, dear brethren, to tell you anything about morality.
I have lived in shame and hypocrisies too long to be able to help
others; but my action with those women, sisters of mine, shows me
that the better way is easy to find. To those who believe in Jesus
and his gospel there can be no other relation between man and man
than the relation of affection. Love alone is stronger than sin--
stronger than death. I therefore say to the rich among you that it
is their duty to do what I have done and am doing. Let each one of
you who is prosperous take into his house some thief and treat him
as his brother, some unfortunate and treat her as his sister, and
San Francisco will need no police force and no magistrates; the
prisons will be turned into hospitals, and the criminal will
disappear with his crime.
"We must give ourselves and not our money alone. We must do as
Christ did; that is the message of the Church today. We have
wandered far from the Master's teaching. We are consumed in our
own flesh-pots. We have put mammon in the place of Christ. I have
here a poem that tells the whole story. I should like to read it
to you. It was written by an erring soul who yet saw clearly.* It
must not be mistaken for an attack upon the Catholic Church. It is
an attack upon all churches, upon the pomp and splendor of all
churches that have wandered from the Master's path and hedged
themselves in from his lambs. Here it is:
"The silver trumpets rang across the Dome;
The people knelt upon the ground with awe;
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
"Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head;
In splendor and in light the Pope passed home.
"My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea;
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
'Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.'"
* Oscar Wilde, one of the lords of language of the nineteenth
century of the Christian Era.
The audience was agitated, but unresponsive. Yet Bishop Morehouse
was not aware of it. He held steadily on his way.
"And so I say to the rich among you, and to all the rich, that
bitterly you oppress the Masterís lambs. You have hardened your
hearts. You have closed your ears to the voices that are crying in
the land--the voices of pain and sorrow that you will not hear but
that some day will be heard. And so I say--"
But at this point H. H. Jones and Philip Ward, who had already
risen from their chairs, led the Bishop off the platform, while the
audience sat breathless and shocked.
Ernest laughed harshly and savagely when he had gained the street.
His laughter jarred upon me. My heart seemed ready to burst with
"He has delivered his message," Ernest cried. "The manhood and the
deep-hidden, tender nature of their Bishop burst out, and his
Christian audience, that loved him, concluded that he was crazy!
Did you see them leading him so solicitously from the platform?
There must have been laughter in hell at the spectacle."
"Nevertheless, it will make a great impression, what the Bishop did
and said to-night," I said.
"Think so?" Ernest queried mockingly.
"It will make a sensation," I asserted. "Didn't you see the
reporters scribbling like mad while he was speaking?"
"Not a line of which will appear in to-morrow's papers."
"I can't believe it," I cried.
"Just wait and see," was the answer. "Not a line, not a thought
that he uttered. The daily press? The daily suppressage!"
"But the reporters," I objected. "I saw them."
"Not a word that he uttered will see print. You have forgotten the
editors. They draw their salaries for the policy they maintain.
Their policy is to print nothing that is a vital menace to the
established. The Bishop's utterance was a violent assault upon the
established morality. It was heresy. They led him from the
platform to prevent him from uttering more heresy. The newspapers
will purge his heresy in the oblivion of silence. The press of the
United States? It is a parasitic growth that battens on the
capitalist class. Its function is to serve the established by
moulding public opinion, and right well it serves it.
"Let me prophesy. To-morrow's papers will merely mention that the
Bishop is in poor health, that he has been working too hard, and
that he broke down last night. The next mention, some days hence,
will be to the effect that he is suffering from nervous prostration
and has been given a vacation by his grateful flock. After that,
one of two things will happen: either the Bishop will see the error
of his way and return from his vacation a well man in whose eyes
there are no more visions, or else he will persist in his madness,
and then you may expect to see in the papers, couched pathetically
and tenderly, the announcement of his insanity. After that he will
be left to gibber his visions to padded walls."
"Now there you go too far!" I cried out.
"In the eyes of society it will truly be insanity," he replied.
"What honest man, who is not insane, would take lost women and
thieves into his house to dwell with him sisterly and brotherly?
True, Christ died between two thieves, but that is another story.
Insanity? The mental processes of the man with whom one disagrees,
are always wrong. Therefore the mind of the man is wrong. Where
is the line between wrong mind and insane mind? It is
inconceivable that any sane man can radically disagree with one's
most sane conclusions.
"There is a good example of it in this evening's paper. Mary
McKenna lives south of Market Street. She is a poor but honest
woman. She is also patriotic. But she has erroneous ideas
concerning the American flag and the protection it is supposed to
symbolize. And here's what happened to her. Her husband had an
accident and was laid up in hospital three months. In spite of
taking in washing, she got behind in her rent. Yesterday they
evicted her. But first, she hoisted an American flag, and from
under its folds she announced that by virtue of its protection they
could not turn her out on to the cold street. What was done? She
was arrested and arraigned for insanity. To-day she was examined
by the regular insanity experts. She was found insane. She was
consigned to the Napa Asylum."
"But that is far-fetched," I objected. "Suppose I should disagree
with everybody about the literary style of a book. They wouldn't
send me to an asylum for that."
"Very true," he replied. "But such divergence of opinion would
constitute no menace to society. Therein lies the difference. The
divergence of opinion on the parts of Mary McKenna and the Bishop
do menace society. What if all the poor people should refuse to
pay rent and shelter themselves under the American flag?
Landlordism would go crumbling. The Bishop's views are just as
perilous to society. Ergo, to the asylum with him."
But still I refused to believe.
"Wait and see," Ernest said, and I waited.
Next morning I sent out for all the papers. So far Ernest was
right. Not a word that Bishop Morehouse had uttered was in print.
Mention was made in one or two of the papers that he had been
overcome by his feelings. Yet the platitudes of the speakers that
followed him were reported at length.
Several days later the brief announcement was made that he had gone
away on a vacation to recover from the effects of overwork. So far
so good, but there had been no hint of insanity, nor even of
nervous collapse. Little did I dream the terrible road the Bishop
was destined to travel--the Gethsemane and crucifixion that Ernest
had pondered about.
THE MACHINE BREAKERS
It was just before Ernest ran for Congress, on the socialist
ticket, that father gave what he privately called his "Profit and
Loss" dinner. Ernest called it the dinner of the Machine Breakers.
In point of fact, it was merely a dinner for business men--small
business men, of course. I doubt if one of them was interested in
any business the total capitalization of which exceeded a couple of
hundred thousand dollars. They were truly representative middle-
class business men.
There was Owen, of Silverberg, Owen & Company--a large grocery firm
with several branch stores. We bought our groceries from them.
There were both partners of the big drug firm of Kowalt & Washburn,
and Mr. Asmunsen, the owner of a large granite quarry in Contra
Costa County. And there were many similar men, owners or part-
owners in small factories, small businesses and small industries--
small capitalists, in short.
They were shrewd-faced, interesting men, and they talked with
simplicity and clearness. Their unanimous complaint was against
the corporations and trusts. Their creed was, "Bust the Trusts."
All oppression originated in the trusts, and one and all told the
same tale of woe. They advocated government ownership of such
trusts as the railroads and telegraphs, and excessive income taxes,
graduated with ferocity, to destroy large accumulations. Likewise
they advocated, as a cure for local ills, municipal ownership of
such public utilities as water, gas, telephones, and street
Especially interesting was Mr. Asmunsen's narrative of his
tribulations as a quarry owner. He confessed that he never made
any profits out of his quarry, and this, in spite of the enormous
volume of business that had been caused by the destruction of San
Francisco by the big earthquake. For six years the rebuilding of
San Francisco had been going on, and his business had quadrupled
and octupled, and yet he was no better off.
"The railroad knows my business just a little bit better than I
do," he said. "It knows my operating expenses to a cent, and it
knows the terms of my contracts. How it knows these things I can
only guess. It must have spies in my employ, and it must have
access to the parties to all my contracts. For look you, when I
place a big contract, the terms of which favor me a goodly profit,
the freight rate from my quarry to market is promptly raised. No
explanation is made. The railroad gets my profit. Under such
circumstances I have never succeeded in getting the railroad to
reconsider its raise. On the other hand, when there have been
accidents, increased expenses of operating, or contracts with less
profitable terms, I have always succeeded in getting the railroad
to lower its rate. What is the result? Large or small, the
railroad always gets my profits."
"What remains to you over and above," Ernest interrupted to ask,
"would roughly be the equivalent of your salary as a manager did
the railroad own the quarry."
"The very thing," Mr. Asmunsen replied. "Only a short time ago I
had my books gone through for the past ten years. I discovered
that for those ten years my gain was just equivalent to a manager's
salary. The railroad might just as well have owned my quarry and
hired me to run it."
"But with this difference," Ernest laughed; "the railroad would
have had to assume all the risk which you so obligingly assumed for
"Very true," Mr. Asmunsen answered sadly.
Having let them have they say, Ernest began asking questions right
and left. He began with Mr. Owen.
"You started a branch store here in Berkeley about six months ago?"
"Yes," Mr. Owen answered.
"And since then I've noticed that three little corner groceries
have gone out of business. Was your branch store the cause of it?"
Mr. Owen affirmed with a complacent smile. "They had no chance
"We had greater capital. With a large business there is always
less waste and greater efficiency."
"And your branch store absorbed the profits of the three small
ones. I see. But tell me, what became of the owners of the three
"One is driving a delivery wagon for us. I don't know what
happened to the other two."
Ernest turned abruptly on Mr. Kowalt.
"You sell a great deal at cut-rates.* What have become of the
owners of the small drug stores that you forced to the wall?"
* A lowering of selling price to cost, and even to less than cost.
Thus, a large company could sell at a loss for a longer period than
a small company, and so drive the small company out of business. A
common device of competition.
"One of them, Mr. Haasfurther, has charge now of our prescription
department," was the answer.
"And you absorbed the profits they had been making?"
"Surely. That is what we are in business for."
"And you?" Ernest said suddenly to Mr. Asmunsen. "You are
disgusted because the railroad has absorbed your profits?"
Mr. Asmunsen nodded.
"What you want is to make profits yourself?"
Again Mr. Asmunsen nodded.
"Out of others?"
There was no answer.
"Out of others?" Ernest insisted.
"That is the way profits are made," Mr. Asmunsen replied curtly.
"Then the business game is to make profits out of others, and to
prevent others from making profits out of you. That's it, isn't
Ernest had to repeat his question before Mr. Asmunsen gave an
answer, and then he said:
"Yes, that's it, except that we do not object to the others making
profits so long as they are not extortionate."
"By extortionate you mean large; yet you do not object to making
large profits yourself? . . . Surely not?"
And Mr. Asmunsen amiably confessed to the weakness. There was one
other man who was quizzed by Ernest at this juncture, a Mr. Calvin,
who had once been a great dairy-owner.
"Some time ago you were fighting the Milk Trust," Ernest said to
him; "and now you are in Grange politics.* How did it happen?"
* Many efforts were made during this period to organize the
perishing farmer class into a political party, the aim of which was
destroy the trusts and corporations by drastic legislation. All
such attempts ended in failure.
"Oh, I haven't quit the fight," Mr. Calvin answered, and he looked
belligerent enough. "I'm fighting the Trust on the only field
where it is possible to fight--the political field. Let me show
you. A few years ago we dairymen had everything our own way."
"But you competed among yourselves?" Ernest interrupted.
"Yes, that was what kept the profits down. We did try to organize,
but independent dairymen always broke through us. Then came the
"Financed by surplus capital from Standard Oil,* Ernest said.
* The first successful great trust--almost a generation in advance
of the rest.
"Yes," Mr. Calvin acknowledged. "But we did not know it at the
time. Its agents approached us with a club. "Come in and be fat,"
was their proposition, "or stay out and starve." Most of us came
in. Those that didn't, starved. Oh, it paid us . . . at first.
Milk was raised a cent a quart. One-quarter of this cent came to
us. Three-quarters of it went to the Trust. Then milk was raised
another cent, only we didn't get any of that cent. Our complaints
were useless. The Trust was in control. We discovered that we
were pawns. Finally, the additional quarter of a cent was denied
us. Then the Trust began to squeeze us out. What could we do? We
were squeezed out. There were no dairymen, only a Milk Trust."
"But with milk two cents higher, I should think you could have
competed," Ernest suggested slyly.
"So we thought. We tried it." Mr. Calvin paused a moment. "It
broke us. The Trust could put milk upon the market more cheaply
than we. It could sell still at a slight profit when we were
selling at actual loss. I dropped fifty thousand dollars in that
venture. Most of us went bankrupt.* The dairymen were wiped out
* Bankruptcy--a peculiar institution that enabled an individual,
who had failed in competitive industry, to forego paying his debts.
The effect was to ameliorate the too savage conditions of the fang-
and-claw social struggle.
"So the Trust took your profits away from you," Ernest said, "and
youíve gone into politics in order to legislate the Trust out of
existence and get the profits back?"
Mr. Calvinís face lighted up. "That is precisely what I say in my
speeches to the farmers. That's our whole idea in a nutshell."
"And yet the Trust produces milk more cheaply than could the
independent dairymen?" Ernest queried.
"Why shouldn't it, with the splendid organization and new machinery
its large capital makes possible?"
"There is no discussion," Ernest answered. "It certainly should,
and, furthermore, it does."
Mr. Calvin here launched out into a political speech in exposition
of his views. He was warmly followed by a number of the others,
and the cry of all was to destroy the trusts.
"Poor simple folk," Ernest said to me in an undertone. "They see
clearly as far as they see, but they see only to the ends of their
A little later he got the floor again, and in his characteristic
way controlled it for the rest of the evening.
"I have listened carefully to all of you," he began, "and I see
plainly that you play the business game in the orthodox fashion.
Life sums itself up to you in profits. You have a firm and abiding
belief that you were created for the sole purpose of making
profits. Only there is a hitch. In the midst of your own profit-
making along comes the trust and takes your profits away from you.
This is a dilemma that interferes somehow with the aim of creation,
and the only way out, as it seems to you, is to destroy that which
takes from you your profits.
"I have listened carefully, and there is only one name that will
epitomize you. I shall call you that name. You are machine-
breakers. Do you know what a machine-breaker is? Let me tell you.
In the eighteenth century, in England, men and women wove cloth on
hand-looms in their own cottages. It was a slow, clumsy, and
costly way of weaving cloth, this cottage system of manufacture.
Along came the steam-engine and labor-saving machinery. A thousand
looms assembled in a large factory, and driven by a central engine
wove cloth vastly more cheaply than could the cottage weavers on
their hand-looms. Here in the factory was combination, and before
it competition faded away. The men and women who had worked the
hand-looms for themselves now went into the factories and worked
the machine-looms, not for themselves, but for the capitalist
owners. Furthermore, little children went to work on the machine-
looms, at lower wages, and displaced the men. This made hard times
for the men. Their standard of living fell. They starved. And
they said it was all the fault of the machines. Therefore, they
proceeded to break the machines. They did not succeed, and they
were very stupid.
"Yet you have not learned their lesson. Here are you, a century
and a half later, trying to break machines. By your own confession
the trust machines do the work more efficiently and more cheaply
than you can. That is why you cannot compete with them. And yet
you would break those machines. You are even more stupid than the
stupid workmen of England. And while you maunder about restoring
competition, the trusts go on destroying you.
"One and all you tell the same story,--the passing away of
competition and the coming on of combination. You, Mr. Owen,
destroyed competition here in Berkeley when your branch store drove
the three small groceries out of business. Your combination was
more effective. Yet you feel the pressure of other combinations on
you, the trust combinations, and you cry out. It is because you
are not a trust. If you were a grocery trust for the whole United
States, you would be singing another song. And the song would be,
"Blessed are the trusts." And yet again, not only is your small
combination not a trust, but you are aware yourself of its lack of
strength. You are beginning to divine your own end. You feel
yourself and your branch stores a pawn in the game. You see the
powerful interests rising and growing more powerful day by day; you
feel their mailed hands descending upon your profits and taking a
pinch here and a pinch there--the railroad trust, the oil trust,
the steel trust, the coal trust; and you know that in the end they
will destroy you, take away from you the last per cent of your
"You, sir, are a poor gamester. When you squeezed out the three
small groceries here in Berkeley by virtue of your superior
combination, you swelled out your chest, talked about efficiency
and enterprise, and sent your wife to Europe on the profits you had
gained by eating up the three small groceries. It is dog eat dog,
and you ate them up. But, on the other hand, you are being eaten
up in turn by the bigger dogs, wherefore you squeal. And what I
say to you is true of all of you at this table. You are all
squealing. You are all playing the losing game, and you are all
squealing about it.
"But when you squeal you don't state the situation flatly, as I
have stated it. You don't say that you like to squeeze profits out
of others, and that you are making all the row because others are
squeezing your profits out of you. No, you are too cunning for
that. You say something else. You make small-capitalist political
speeches such as Mr. Calvin made. What did he say? Here are a few
of his phrases I caught: "Our original principles are all right,"
"What this country requires is a return to fundamental American
methods--free opportunity for all," "The spirit of liberty in which
this nation was born," "Let us return to the principles of our
"When he says "free opportunity for all," he means free opportunity
to squeeze profits, which freedom of opportunity is now denied him
by the great trusts. And the absurd thing about it is that you
have repeated these phrases so often that you believe them. You
want opportunity to plunder your fellow-men in your own small way,
but you hypnotize yourselves into thinking you want freedom. You
are piggish and acquisitive, but the magic of your phrases leads
you to believe that you are patriotic. Your desire for profits,
which is sheer selfishness, you metamorphose into altruistic
solicitude for suffering humanity. Come on now, right here amongst
ourselves, and be honest for once. Look the matter in the face and
state it in direct terms."
There were flushed and angry faces at the table, and withal a
measure of awe. They were a little frightened at this smooth-faced
young fellow, and the swing and smash of his words, and his
dreadful trait of calling a spade a spade. Mr. Calvin promptly
"And why not?" he demanded. "Why can we not return to ways of our
fathers when this republic was founded? You have spoken much
truth, Mr. Everhard, unpalatable though it has been. But here
amongst ourselves let us speak out. Let us throw off all disguise
and accept the truth as Mr. Everhard has flatly stated it. It is
true that we smaller capitalists are after profits, and that the
trusts are taking our profits away from us. It is true that we
want to destroy the trusts in order that our profits may remain to
us. And why can we not do it? Why not? I say, why not?"
"Ah, now we come to the gist of the matter," Ernest said with a
pleased expression. "I'll try to tell you why not, though the
telling will be rather hard. You see, you fellows have studied
business, in a small way, but you have not studied social evolution
at all. You are in the midst of a transition stage now in economic
evolution, but you do not understand it, and that's what causes all
the confusion. Why cannot you return? Because you can't. You can
no more make water run up hill than can you cause the tide of
economic evolution to flow back in its channel along the way it
came. Joshua made the sun stand still upon Gibeon, but you would
outdo Joshua. You would make the sun go backward in the sky. You
would have time retrace its steps from noon to morning.
"In the face of labor-saving machinery, of organized production, of
the increased efficiency of combination, you would set the economic
sun back a whole generation or so to the time when there were no
great capitalists, no great machinery, no railroads--a time when a
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