The Arena Part 3

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Further on in his paper, Mr. Lepper says: "The inevitable result of free coinage at a fixed ratio, is to expel the undervalued metal from circulation." Who taught him that? Perhaps Gresham taught him. If so, he taught him what is not true. It is incredible that intelligent people should be humbugged with such a fallacious proposition as Gresham's so-called "law." Suppose that under free coinage, gold be undervalued, and suppose that, being so, it begins to vanish--where will it go to? To the Bank of England? If so, what will be the effect on the price of gold in the Bank of England? Will not the price begin to fall at that point at which the stream of gold pours out? And will it not continue to fall as long as the outflow goes on? What, on the other hand, will be the effect on the money market at that point from which the outflow is established? Will there not be produced a stringency behind the outflow, and will not all kinds of money begin to appreciate at that point from which the flow begins? And will not this stringency become greater and greater as long as the outflow continues? And will not the prices of all kinds of money, silver in particular, begin to rise until the outflow ceases? This is to say that the price of gold, like the price of anything else whatsoever, will fall wherever it acc.u.mulates, and the price of silver will rise in every place from which the gold is drained away, until a parity of values between the two money metals shall be inevitably established. This is the _real_ law of two money metals circulating together; and Gresham's so-called "law" is only the hocus-pocus and ghost of a law that is true to begin with, and is not true to end with.

I now come to the gist of Mr. Lepper's article, and I invite particular attention to the heart and core of the matter as he presents it. He says (all the while declaring himself to be a bimetallist): "Let us a.s.sume that gold only has. .h.i.therto been used as money, that 25.8 grains thereof have been taken to be one dollar, and that it is now desired to supplement it with the use of silver." I had not supposed that any person in the world could be under the influence of a delusion to the extent of propounding three such hypotheses as the foregoing. Mr. Lepper might with equally good reason, in discussing the const.i.tution of nature, have said, "Let us a.s.sume that the world is a circular disk of tin," or rather, "Let us a.s.sume that the world has always been _regarded_ as a circular disk of tin. Let us a.s.sume that the world, being a circular disk of tin, weighs 3,820 lbs., and that it is now desired to improve its const.i.tution by adding forty pounds to its weight and by converting it into a square block." These propositions would be just as philosophical, just as useful in argument, and just as well warranted as those which he presents! His a.s.sumption is that gold _only_ has been used as money. But it is not true that gold only has been used as money. It is not true that gold princ.i.p.ally has been used as money.

It is not true that gold has been as widely used as silver. It is not true that it is as universally used to-day as silver. It is not true that it was used at as early a day as was silver. It is not true that it has been used as a standard unit of money and account in the United States as long and as universally as silver has been used. It is therefore absurd to say, "Let us a.s.sume that gold only has been used as money." It is preposterous to offer such a hypothesis. If we should grant the affirmative of such an a.s.sertion, we should rush into a region of falsehood and fanaticism identical in all particulars with that station which the goldites now occupy, and from which they send forth their clamor.

Mr. Lepper says further: "Let us a.s.sume that 25.8 grains. .h.i.therto have been taken to be one dollar." But it is not true that 25.8 grains of gold have hitherto in our American system been taken to be one dollar.

It is true that, according to our fundamental statute, and to all subsequent statutes down to the year 1873, 25.8 grains of gold were taken to be of _the value_ of a dollar; but they were not a dollar. Our gold eagles were of _the value_ of ten dollars; our half eagles were of _the value_ of five dollars; our double eagles were of _the value_ of twenty dollars; our quarter eagles were of _the value_ of two and one-half dollars; our one-dollar gold piece, of 1849, was _not_ one dollar, but was of _the value_ of a dollar! The dollar was first, last, and all the time, defined to be a coin composed of 371 1/4 grains of pure _silver_. This is the very alphabet of the matter. I have myself set forth these facts so many times that I am ashamed to repeat them; for it implies that there are still people in the United States so lacking in intelligence and information as to require the reiteration of the bottom facts and principles in our American coinage system.

Twenty-five and eight-tenths grains of gold never did compose a dollar in the United States until after the year 1873. Why, therefore, should Mr. Lepper say, "Let us a.s.sume that 25.8 grains of gold have been taken to be one dollar"? Then he goes on to say, "Let us a.s.sume that it is desired to supplement it [that is the gold dollar] with silver." Why should he speak of supplementing the use of gold with silver, any more than supplementing the use of silver with gold? There is not as good reason for the proposition to supplement gold with silver as there is to supplement silver with gold. Herein lies the trouble with those gentlemen who are trying to fix up a plan by which not to do it. They begin with a series of false hypotheses. They work along from these false a.s.sumptions until they reach some monstrous conclusion, and then show how sound the conclusion is because it is logical!

Genuine bimetallists do no such thing. They claim the coinage of gold and silver on terms of absolute equality. They do not propose to measure the silver by the gold, or the gold by the silver. They propose to have two standard units, and to use the one unit or the other unit at the option of the debtor. They do not propose that the creditor shall decide in which of these money metals a debt shall be paid or a contract made valid--simply for the reason that the two units co-exist, and every contract and engagement made among men is made in the face of this fact, and with the full knowledge of it, and with the understanding of what it implies. That understanding is that at the date of settlement, the debtor, and _not_ the creditor, shall decide in which of the two standard metal-moneys he shall discharge his obligation. The option is his--exclusively _his_. The transaction is honorable, right, and just.

Whoever challenges it is an abettor of the scheme for robbing the debtor by compelling him to transact his business, and in particular to pay his debts, according to a standard unit differing from the dollar of the law and the contract.

Of this outrageous fraud we will have no more. We spew it out of our mouths. We spit on the proposition, under whatever garb it comes, to compel the debtors of this nation to discharge their obligations in a dollar differing from the dollar of the law and the contract. We do not propose to "supplement" gold money with silver money--meaning the subordination of the silver to the gold. We do not propose to "supplement" silver money with gold money--meaning that the gold shall be absolute and the silver only token. There is no "supplement" about it. It is a simple proposition to have our money _in two kinds_, and not in one kind. It is like laying a foundation of stone and brick. The stone is not more dependent on the brick than the brick is dependent on the stone. They are both built into one abutment; they both contribute alike to its solidity and magnitude; they both enter into its composition and are part of its structure; and they both shall stay there, gentlemen of the gold craft, in spite of your efforts to take one const.i.tuent part of the abutment away!

I now come to the next essential division of Mr. Lepper's article. I call particular attention to what he proposes. He says:

"In order to make my plan as clear as possible, I shall run the risk of seeming elementary by running through, step by step, a typical transaction under it: Let us fancy that the reader, bearing a nugget of gold in his left hand and another of silver in his right, and desiring to convert them into money, repairs to the Philadelphia mint. He applies there to the proper clerk, who, for simplicity's sake, we will suppose performs all the operations. The clerk weighs and a.s.says the two pieces of metal, and finds the gold one to contain 25,800 grains of standard gold, worth precisely $1,000, which are counted out in bills. A similar operation reveals that the lump of silver weighs 35,500 grains, but the clerk is observed to consult a table before saying: 'The market equivalent of a gold dollar is to-day 710 grains; consequently your 35,500 grains are worth $50;' and he then proceeds to count out the money in bills precisely like those given in payment for the gold. Upon examining these at his leisure, the reader discovers imprinted thereon a contract running as follows: 'This note ent.i.tles the bearer on demand to [the denomination of the bill] dollars in gold or to the market equivalent thereof in silver.'"

This paragraph needs only to be critically examined in order to show forth the material of which it is builded. Mr. Lepper takes his two nuggets, the one of gold and the other of silver. He goes to the mint.

The gold nugget weighs 25,800 grains; the silver nugget weighs 35,500 grains. Mr. Lepper adroitly slips in the clause that the gold nugget is "_worth precisely a thousand dollars!_" In what units is the gold nugget worth a thousand dollars? Why, in gold units. He says that the 35,500 grains of silver are found to be worth $50. In what units is that amount of silver worth $50? Why, in gold units! That is, beginning with the gold standard, and ignoring the silver standard, Mr. Lepper reaches bimetallism! That is good. He a.s.sumes, to begin with, the thing he is trying to prove! He a.s.sumes it in his major premise, implies it in his minor premise, and reaches it in his conclusion. I say that is very good. Twenty-five thousand eight hundred grains of gold are "worth precisely $1,000," in gold dollars at the rate of 25.8 grains to the dollar. Well, I should say so. The same would be true of tin, of leather, or tree-mola.s.ses. Only a.s.sume that something is a standard, and then measure that something by itself and you will get there. Mr. Lepper gets there. Then again he a.s.sumes that the market equivalent of the gold dollar at the date referred to, is 710 grains of silver; therefore, 35,500 grains of silver are worth just $50 in gold. Forsooth, it requires a philosopher to tell us that; though a country schoolboy might make it out just as well. It is only a problem in the rule of three. We a.s.sume that silver is worth so much in gold; therefore, so much silver will be worth so much in gold! That is, gold is the standard; but we are a bimetallist, and we will write a paper on "Bimetallism Simplified"

showing how we can create a mono-bimetallic standard. The "mono" is the essence of Mr. Lepper's scheme; the bimetallic part of it is sophism and green cheese.

In his argument Mr. Lepper simply proposes to measure gold _by itself_; and to measure silver _by gold_! That is all there is in it. He seems not to know that anything measured by anything other than itself is not primary money, and cannot be. Gold, when coined and made legal tender, is primary money when measured by itself. Silver when coined and made a legal tender is also primary money when measured by itself. Anything coined and made a legal tender is primary money when measured by itself.

It is thus that Mr. Lepper creates a bimetallic system of money. He proposes to keep it up in the same manner. He simply a.s.sumes that gold is an unfluctuating, eternal standard, and that silver is a fluctuating, impossible standard. He agrees that silver may be used as money and even coined on a basis which a.s.sumes that it shall not be used as money and not be coined at all, except by the measure of gold! His fact.i.tious and absurd device is therefore not bimetallism, but monometallism on a basis of gold. He might subst.i.tute pewter for silver in his scheme, and it would be just as good; he might subst.i.tute putty or plaster of paris, and his plan would work as well.

Such a scheme is not bimetallism at all. It is monometallism pure and simple. I have, in a private way, pointed out the fact to Mr. Lepper that his plan is not what it pretends to be. I have tried to show him that what he proposes is simply a delusion of goldite hocus-pocus. As a matter of fact, THE ARENA has not the s.p.a.ce to be devoted to the dissemination of such literature as Mr. Lepper's article. I did not wish to subject the writer of "Bimetallism Simplified" to this castigation, but he would have it so. It is no doubt an entertaining business with Mr. Lepper to work his elaborate scheme for pretending to do a thing, and not doing it. Practically, I might urge upon his attention the fact that what he proposes will satisfy n.o.body; certainly it will not satisfy the McKinley administration. That administration does not propose to do _anything_. It proposes to stand still, in the midst of much bl.u.s.ter, hoping all the time that the gold standard will become more and more fixed on the American people, and that the "silver delusion" will subside.

Mr. Lepper will have his labor for his pains. His system will be laughed to scorn by all the goldites proper, and it is certainly rejected as spurious, impossible, and absurd by all genuine bimetallists. I wish to remark in this case, that the term "goldite" applied to the monometallist, is not a misnomer or an unwarranted epithet; for monometallists advocate the establishment of gold money only, as the primary money and money of ultimate redemption. On the other hand, the term "silverite" is a misnomer; if accepted, it misleads, for it implies that he who is characterized as a silverite is a believer in silver only as the primary money and money of ultimate redemption. There are no people of this cla.s.s of whom we have heard.

Bimetallists believe in the use of both moneys freely and on terms of perfect equality; they will be satisfied with nothing less. They know that they are in the majority, and that they cannot be ultimately defrauded of their purpose. They intend to restore our coinage to what it was before the Act of 1873. By such restoration they propose to break the corner on gold and to reduce the exaggerated purchasing power of that metal to the normal standard. They intend that this reduction in the purchasing power of gold shall be answered--as they know it will be--with a corresponding rise in the prices of all the products of labor. They intend in this way to achieve prosperity; they intend to wrong no man--not even the bondholder; they intend that every man shall have his rights according to the law and the contract; they intend to break faith with none; they intend to march right on to the achievement of this result; in doing so, they intend to consult themselves. They know full well that the so-called "great commercial nations" will be glad enough to trade with us, and to take our money in both kinds too.

If not, we hold the rod! If any nation under heaven proposes to discriminate against the United States of America because of our bimetallic standard of money, let that nation try it! We shall see who comes out best in that contest.

When the weak-kneed, the time-serving, and the cowardly shall be expelled from power; when American patriots are in the high places of authority; when the people's voice shall be heard as the voice of many waters,--all men shall then be a.s.sured that the great republic is able to do its own business in its own way, asking favor of none, menacing none, and fearing none! When that good day comes with the end of the century, such literature as Mr. Lepper's "Bimetallism Simplified," read in the retrospect and in the light of a better verdict of the people, will seem to the thoughtful student of history to have been the product of some humorist, indulging a sarcastical disposition at the expense of the very theory which he sets forth in his article.



What shall be done with confirmed and incorrigible offenders? For a good many thousand years the world has been wrestling with this problem, and in this year of grace it is seemingly very little nearer a rational solution than when the first fraternal brawl sent one brother into his grave, and another into exile with the perpetual brand of a murderer blazing upon his terror-stricken brow.

The savage settles the matter with a tomahawk or a war club. The remedy is at least effectual, and society in the kraal or the tepee does not bother its dusky brain about the possible reform of the offender. Any type of criminality that is inconvenient or unpopular is, therefore, summarily buried in the nearest grave.

Up to the time of the Christian era, the savage and the civilized man alike held substantially the same theories. The one idea that dominated all criminal law was punishment. The statutes of Draco and Lycurgus never harbored the thought of moral improvement, much less made provision for the reform of the criminal. Roman law and Greek law were little better. The one right which all offenders possessed was the right to be punished. Reformation was entirely a personal matter, which theoretically in rare instances was possible, to which the law, save in capital cases, interposed no special obstacles, and to which it gave no special encouragement.

With the advent of a new and more merciful dispensation, we find gradually creeping in a belief that the criminal cla.s.ses have some rights which society is bound to respect, and that not the least important of these is the right to reform. For two thousand years these not necessarily conflicting ideas of reform and punishment have travelled down the centuries in a medley of incongruous and often contradictory systems of criminal law. As the better cla.s.ses have generally made and administered the law, it is not strange that the elder and more savage idea has on the whole been dominant, and that, taking the world together, the reform of criminals is still rather a side issue than an object of far-reaching and systematic legislative enactment.

Even the most optimistic student of penology would be compelled to admit that our present methods of dealing with criminals are unsatisfactory to the last degree. Our systems of punishment do not punish in any such sense as to be a terror to evil-doers; our systems of reformation do not reform. The whole thing goes on in a vicious round of self-perpetuating infamy. The central idea of our modern penal system--and it is certainly a very venerable one--is that in some way the world will be greatly benefited by shutting up its law-breakers for a longer or shorter period, feeding them liberally, giving them a period of enforced steady habits and steady work, and after a while taking off this straight jacket of compulsory morality, and turning them loose again with improved criminal skill and sharpened appet.i.tes to prey upon society in the old way.

The actual result of this crowding of more or less confirmed vice into one concentrated aggregation, is simply to intensify the evil it was intended to remedy. The convict who enters a prison cell for the first time--perhaps as the result of some sudden and overpowering temptation--a man who at heart is no better and no worse than his neighbors, and who, if by any chance he had escaped conviction, would have finished his life as an average citizen, as a friend and advocate of the law--finds himself here in an entirely new environment.

Self-respect is gone. The old motive for honesty is gone. He enters the new and stifling atmosphere of concentrated crime, and with it comes the feeling that the world is all against him. It is his first offence, but it is by no means likely to be his last. Every man he sees, save the grim rifle-carrying guard who growls and swears at him, is a convicted criminal. Every object that his eyes fall upon intensifies the lesson that he is henceforth to be counted among the enemies of his race. Every breath that he breathes reeks with the malaria of crime. He is now an enlisted soldier in a warfare against right and law and social order.

He is in the devil's own training school. The seven other "spirits more wicked than himself" are all around him. Whatever prison rules may say, there are certain to be clandestine meetings, secret conferences, in which the novice is initiated into the higher degrees of the freemasonry of crime. Schemes of profitable law-breaking swarm in the teeming brains of these wearers of the stripes, to be turned into actual deeds in "the good time coming," when these apt pupils of the high school of depravity shall be free again to make war upon the peace and welfare of the world.

Is it any wonder that this first offender comes out of prison a confirmed criminal, and that "the last state of that man is worse than the first"?

If the same business sense were used in this matter which is ordinarily given to the management of great human concerns, we should soon find some way of improving upon this discouraging condition of affairs. No merchant in his senses would discharge a dishonest clerk for a term of ninety days with the distinct understanding that he was to spend his enforced vacation in the society of thieves and cutthroats, and at the end of the time be taken back again into his old place as though nothing had happened. The railroad president who should discharge a drunken engineer, and then after six months give him hold of his old throttle again, although it was in evidence that he had spent his retirement in a whiskey saloon, studying under competent tuition the latest methods of holding up trains, would be very apt to be bundled off at the next meeting of the board of directors to manage railroads from the inside of a lunatic asylum. Courts and judges and lawyers are about the only people on the outside that do business in that way.

Is there no help for this state of things? Must the machinery of justice go on forever grinding over the same vile grist, retrying and reimprisoning old offenders, cultivating rather than repressing the law-breaking instinct, pa.s.sing on to still lower depths of depravity the soul once caught in the meshes of crime, and at last dragging the great ma.s.ses of offenders down to one common level of hopeless and helpless hostility to social order and law?

It is, of course, much easier to point out faults than to suggest effective remedies. I am persuaded that some happy inspiration of genius will yet give us methods, probably so simple that we shall wonder that they have not always been used, by which many of the gravest evils which disgrace our present system will be effectually removed. I think the key to the whole problem will ultimately be found in one word--_segregation_. Worcester defines "to segregate" "to gather in a flock, to set apart, to separate from others."

In pursuance of this idea let us suppose, save in the case of certain crimes that disclose confirmed and hopelessly vicious tendencies, that all first offenders were counted in a cla.s.s by themselves. For these reformatories should be built, in which a complete segregation of the various cla.s.ses of law-breakers should be made, and that, too, with the same idea uppermost which prevails in modern hospital practice, that infectious cases should in all instances be especially isolated.

Criminal infection is as real and morally quite as disastrous as is physically that of cholera or smallpox. So with this predominating idea of segregation; and with a wise discrimination which might be difficult in the beginning, but which experience would more or less perfectly supply, the various cla.s.ses of first offenders should be separated into distinct and non-communicating families. Hard labor should here mean hard labor. Rigid discipline coupled with coa.r.s.e but wholesome food should emphasize the fact that this was a place, not of comfortable leisure, but of reformatory punishment. At the same time such educational and moral influences as enlightened experience could supply should be brought continuously to bear, to give new aims, inspire new motives, and impart health, strength, and soundness to morally weak but not necessarily hopelessly criminal natures.

Under enlightened management, commitment to such reformatories might be made for an indefinite period, with the same limited discretion that the law now gives to courts of justice, to be dependent largely upon the behavior of the criminal, and to be determined not before, but after his term of imprisonment began. The superintendent and board of managers should, in that case, be clothed with large discretionary powers to dismiss, to detain, to place in higher or lower cla.s.ses, as their best judgments should dictate, and as the actual and tried needs and progress of reform in each individual case might demand. The vast, costly, and architecturally imposing structures which are now denominated "reformatories," and which in many cases might be much more appropriately labelled "failures," if not discarded altogether, could be supplemented by simple and inexpensive structures, giving abundant room and light and air. With such conditions and surroundings, and under such a system intelligently administered, it is reasonable to believe that no small proportion of first offenders, who, under our present method, drift into the hopelessly, and it might in many cases be added, helplessly, criminal cla.s.ses, would be restored to moral soundness and self-respecting citizenship.

But with the most efficient system of reformation which human wisdom could devise, there would still be a large contingent of incorrigible offenders, who, from hereditary taint, bad environment, or other causes, have cut themselves off from all retreat, burned the bridges behind them, and enlisted in a life warfare against human society and law. Most second offenders and those whose brutal past points to an irredeemable future should properly be cla.s.sed as life criminals, and with these, society, while not forgetting "the quality of mercy," should deal with firm hand and inexorable justice.

As our government is not so situated that penal colonies are practicable, walled villages might be built with all the safeguards which modern science and inventive skill can supply for the absolute and permanent isolation of these "life criminals." In these penal villages, various grades and cla.s.ses should be placed each by itself. Behind these never-opening gates, and under conditions that should relieve the world at once and forever of their presence, these avowed and unrepentant enemies of social and civil order should be compelled to "work out their own salvation."

No great and costly prisons would be needed. Simple and inexpensive cottages, each with its separate plot of ground, with furniture and housekeeping arrangements on the most frugal scale, with absolute necessaries in food and clothing, at least for a time, would be required. The greatest possible liberty should be given to each individual convict. The industrious should be a.s.sured of the full benefit of their toil. Those who would not work, should find here the same penalties for idleness as obtain in the world they had left. Here might be gathered the whole round of industry--artisans, shops, manufacturers of all kinds, aided by every appliance of modern machinery. Schools, libraries, and even churches would by no means be excluded from this life-convict home. There is no reason why such a community of criminals might not ultimately become largely self-supporting and self-governing. They could have their own courts, their own lawyers, their own judges, their own system of penal law, and their own machinery for its enforcement.

To each small company of men there should be allotted a cottage, which they could call their own. As far as possible these men should be left to themselves. The outworking of social and economic laws under such conditions might sometimes be summary and savage, but it would ultimately be salutary. Though for a while, save as it was held back by the mailed hand of military power, crime might run riot, the instinct of self-preservation would at last a.s.sert itself. The murderer does not like to be murdered; the highway robber does not like to be robbed; all cla.s.ses of criminals object to taking their own medicine; and so it would come about that, even out of elements the most incongruous and unpromising, some form of social order would finally be evolved. It is needless to say that the s.e.xes should occupy separate villages. This in itself would cut off one very formidable source of new recruits for the army of crime. Indeed, it is hardly too much to predict that, if this plan of permanent segregation and isolation were carried out for even a single generation, crime would sensibly diminish, our overcrowded courts would be relieved, taxation be lessened, and the staggering shoulders of modern civilization be to some extent unburdened from one of the heaviest loads they are now condemned to bear. It may seem an ungenerous thing to say, but it is to be feared that the opposition to any such plans would be likely to come from those whose familiarity with the vices of the present system should best fit them to labor for and most earnestly to desire its improvement. Enlightened physicians gladly join in any scheme which promises to prevent or lessen disease, in spite of the fact that their living depends upon its prevalence. So, enlightened judges, lawyers, and court officers might be expected cordially to approve of any system of moral hygiene which gave promise of efficiency as a prophylactic against crime. It is to be feared, however, that there would be a numerically large contingent who, like "Demetrius the silversmith," would feel that "this our craft is in danger," and who openly or secretly would do their best, as they have in a hundred instances in the past, to prevent the lopping off of a single twig from that wide-spreading tree of evil, whose fruit brings little scruple and no small gain to the cunning craftsmen who manage the costly and complicated machinery of the courts.

If such a system as has been rudely outlined were made absolutely secure, and the power of pardoning boards removed or greatly restricted, it might be wise to abolish the death penalty altogether. Juries might then have fewer scruples, and acquittals upon technical grounds, in spite of plain and abundant evidence, become less frequent. Mob law feeds largely upon the belief that even the worst criminals stand in little danger of punishment, but that "by hook or by crook"--mostly "crook"--especially if they or their friends can command means to hire lawyers and invoke the dilatory machinery of the courts, they are almost certain to escape. Whatever, therefore, tends to render the punishment of crime more speedy and certain is a direct discouragement to these sudden and savage outbursts of popular indignation against crime.

In the cla.s.sification of offenders and their a.s.signment to different penal villages, there would, no doubt, be some so atrociously and fiendishly criminal that it would be a cruelty to others and a mistaken kindness to them to permit them ever to go beyond their present prison walls. By the plan suggested, the penitentiaries in most of the States, now so crowded, while being relieved of a large part of their present tenants, could still be utilized for the confinement of these pariahs of crime.

Of course, in the working out of the plan suggested, there is abundant room for all the skill and wisdom which past history and modern experience can supply. Whether this or some better method shall finally prevail depends on so many uncalculated and incalculable contingencies, that he would be a very venturesome prophet who should attempt to forecast the future. It does not, however, seem reasonable that, in all the upheavals of modern thought, the questioning of old methods, and the suggestions of new and better ones, which these final years of the century are bringing, the treatment of the criminal cla.s.ses shall be the one question that defies solution, or that the new aeon which is soon to open shall find us still bound to a system which is confessedly a failure. Is it too much to hope that we can greet the opening of the twentieth century with a l.u.s.trum of prison reform, which shall bring at once the n.o.blest mercy to the criminal, combined with absolute protection to society from its most avowed and most persistent foes?



It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing and which should be done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious. Turn this claim about as I may, think of it as long as I can, I cannot find that it is an exorbitant claim.--_William Morris._

On the 18th of last May, while in a small restaurant on Fifth Avenue, in Chicago, my attention was attracted by a large number of men who had congregated on both sides of the street in front of the office of the Chicago _Daily News_. In answer to my inquiry, a gentleman at my side explained that these men were waiting to see the "Want" column of the _News_, in the hope of being able to secure work. "It is an old, old story," he continued. "Day after day crowds of men gather here and anxiously wait for the _News_ to appear, as this paper contains more 'Want' advertis.e.m.e.nts than any other Chicago daily." I waited until the boys rushed from the office with the newly printed papers, and saw the men hurriedly buy copies. I noticed how scores upon scores of eyes searched the "Help Wanted" columns, and how, one by one, they started in quest of work. I noticed the countenances of the weary watchers. Among them were to be seen almost all types of faces, but all, save one, were anxious, careworn, or stolid. I shuddered as, standing inside the restaurant un.o.bserved, I beheld this sight of appalling misery and national shame. The faces of these men have haunted me ever since.

Hunger was there, hate was there, despair was hovering over more than one countenance. There were wan, dull eyes, wolfish eyes, and eyes eloquent with mute appeals for kindness. There was the hunted look of a beast at bay, and the craven expression of a broken spirit. One only among the throng seemed able to be merry, though his thin face and worn clothes indicated his wretchedness. The tragedy of these lives remains with me. I know that this awful condition is unnecessary. I know that a little more conscience, a little more love, a keener sense of justice, and a little honest concern for the rights of men and the enduring welfare of the state, a settled determination to overcome this condition and place the good of the people and the cause of justice above a shortsighted policy of selfishness, would change the whole aspect of things, now so ominous, so menacing, and so essentially unjust. This panorama of exiled industry, seeking vainly for employment, may be witnessed from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

I am not of that number who can regard these spectacles with indifference, nor can I feel, as do some others, that because the present order is essentially unjust in its practical workings it is well to turn a cold shoulder to movements calculated to arrest the downward drift of life and lessen the unfathomable misery of the poor in order that the crisis may be hastened. For while I believe that the present order is as surely outgrown as was feudalism in the sixteenth century, and though I believe most profoundly that this order must pa.s.s away or civilization perish, as have perished the civilizations of former ages, yet I also appreciate the fact, which to me is very important, that the only way to bring about the revolution peaceably is, first, to educate the brain and touch the conscience of the people; and, second, to check the growing bitterness and hate in the hearts of our unfortunates by giving them employment and treating them with justice and humanity. If a crisis is precipitated, fed by blind hate and a bitterness born of a consciousness of injustice long endured, it will a.s.sume the form of an uncontrollable storm, a blind, pa.s.sionate outburst, in which the guiding influences of reason, judgment, and conscience will be absent. It will spread devastation in all directions, destroying the innocent as well as the guilty. If, on the other hand, we push forward an intelligent educational agitation, appealing to the judgment, the conscience, and the sense of right in the people, and at the same time supply means for maintaining self-respecting manhood among the unemployed until this waiting time is over, our civilization will move onward without the crash or shock of force, the destruction of property, and the loss of life incident to all struggles in which physical force and blind pa.s.sion dominate. It is necessary to examine this problem on the side of human dignity and on the side of national life. The question of utility, though of far less concern in its ultimate effect on conditions, has also an important place in the discussion.

Only under conditions which are fundamentally unjust, and only where the finer sensibilities of man have been blinded and deadened, could it be possible to witness the spectacle of millions of men and women begging for work, and begging in vain, in a nation of fabulous wealth and almost boundless resources; and yet such a condition prevails in our republic to-day. It is, therefore, time for every patriotic citizen to lay aside all partisan contentions and face this great question as we would face any great danger which suddenly came upon the nation, not as partisans, but as patriots; not as warring factions seeking victory for some special body or party, but as men and women who have the welfare of the race at heart, and who appreciate the gravity of the situation. It is the eternal law of recompense that when justice is long denied and the rights of man are systematically ignored, though the sufferers may Samson-like crush themselves in the ruins of the temple, yet the temple and its inmates also must fall. Or if by some chance the ruin comes not through the strength of the burdened ones, it will nevertheless come with unerring certainty, and not unfrequently through the very excesses of those who have hardened their hearts against the cry of justice.

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