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An example of such laws is the infamous tobacco legislation of 1902, which authorized the Tobacco Trust to continue to collect from the people the Spanish War tax, amounting to a score of millions of dollars, but to keep that tax instead of turning it over to the government, as it had been doing. Another example is the shameful meat legislation, by which the Beef Trust had the meat it sent abroad inspected by the government so that foreign countries would take its product and yet was permitted to sell diseased meat to our own people. It is incredible that laws like these could ever get on the Nation's statute books. The invisible government put them there; and only the universal wrath of an enraged people corrected them when, after years, the people discovered the outrages.
It is to get just such laws as these and to prevent the pa.s.sage of laws to correct them, as well as to keep off the statute books general laws which will end the general abuses of big business that these few criminal interests corrupt our politics, invest in public officials and keep in power in both parties that type of politicians and party managers who debase American politics.
Behind rotten laws and preventing sound laws, stands the corrupt boss; behind the corrupt boss stands the robber interest; and commanding these powers of pillage stands bloated human greed. It is this conspiracy of evil we must overthrow if we would get the honest laws we need. It is this invisible government we must destroy if we would save American inst.i.tutions.
Other nations have ended the very same business evils from which we suffer by clearly defining business wrong-doing and then making it a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment. Yet these foreign nations encourage big business itself and foster all honest business. But they do not tolerate dishonest business, little or big.
What, then, shall we Americans do? Common sense and the experience of the world says that we ought to keep the good big business does for us and stop the wrongs that big business does to us. Yet we have done just the other thing. We have struck at big business itself and have not even aimed to strike at the evils of big business. Nearly twenty-five years ago Congress pa.s.sed a law to govern American business in the present time which Parliament pa.s.sed in the reign of King James to govern English business in that time.
For a quarter of a century the courts have tried to make this law work.
Yet during this very time trusts grew greater in number and power than in the whole history of the world before; and their evils flourished unhindered and unchecked. These great business concerns grew because natural laws made them grow and artificial law at war with natural law could not stop their growth. But their evils grew faster than the trusts themselves because avarice nourished those evils and no law of any kind stopped avarice from nourishing them.
Nor is this the worst. Under the shifting interpretation of the Sherman law, uncertainty and fear is chilling the energies of the great body of honest American business men. As the Sherman law now stands, no two business men can arrange their mutual affairs and be sure that they are not law-breakers. This is the main hindrance to the immediate and permanent revival of American business. If German or English business men, with all their disadvantages compared with our advantages, were manacled by our Sherman law, as it stands, they soon would be bankrupt.
Indeed, foreign business men declare that, if their countries had such a law, so administered, they could not do business at all.
Even this is not all. By the decrees of our courts, under the Sherman law, the two mightiest trusts on earth have actually been licensed, in the practical outcome, to go on doing every wrong they ever committed.
Under the decrees of the courts the Oil and Tobacco Trusts still can raise prices unjustly and already have done so. They still can issue watered stock and surely will do so. They still can throttle other business men and the United Cigar Stores Company now is doing so. They still can corrupt our politics and this moment are indulging in that practice.
The people are tired of this mock battle with criminal capital. They do not want to hurt business, but they do want to get something done about the trust question that amounts to something. What good does it do any man to read in his morning paper that the courts have "dissolved" the Oil Trust, and then read in his evening paper that he must thereafter pay a higher price for his oil than ever before? What good does it do the laborer who smokes his pipe to be told that the courts have "dissolved" the Tobacco Trust and yet find that he must pay the same or a higher price for the same short-weight package of tobacco? Yet all this is the practical result of the suits against these two greatest trusts in the world.
Such business chaos and legal paradoxes as American business suffers from can be found nowhere else in the world. Rival nations do not fasten legal ball and chain upon their business--no, they put wings on its flying feet. Rival nations do not tell their business men that if they go forward with legitimate enterprise the penitentiary may be their goal. No! Rival nations tell their business men that so long as they do honest business their governments will not hinder but will help them.
But these rival nations do tell their business men that if they do any evil that our business men do, prison bars await them. These rival nations do tell their business men that if they issue watered stock or cheat the people in any way, prison cells will be their homes.
Just this is what all honest American business wants; just this is what dishonest American business does not want; just this is what the American people propose to have; just this the national Republican platform of 1908 pledged the people that we would give them; and just this important pledge the administration, elected on that platform, repudiated as it repudiated the more immediate tariff pledge.
Both these reforms, so vital to honest American business, the Progressive party will accomplish. Neither evil interests nor reckless demagogues can swerve us from our purpose; for we are free from both and fear neither.
We mean to put new business laws on our statute books which will tell American business men what they can do and what they cannot do. We mean to make our business laws clear instead of foggy--to make them plainly state just what things are criminal and what are lawful. And we mean that the penalty for things criminal shall be prison sentences that actually punish the real offender, instead of money fines that hurt n.o.body but the people, who must pay them in the end.
And then we mean to send the message forth to hundreds of thousands of brilliant minds and brave hearts engaged in honest business, that they are not criminals but honorable men in their work to make good business in this Republic. Sure of victory, we even now say, "Go forward, American business men, and know that behind you, supporting you, encouraging you, are the power and approval of the greatest people under the sun. Go forward, American business men, and feed full the fires beneath American furnaces; and give employment to every American laborer who asks for work. Go forward, American business men, and capture the markets of the world for American trade; and know that on the wings of your commerce you carry liberty throughout the world and to every inhabitant thereof. Go forward, American business men, and realize that in the time to come it shall be said of you, as it is said of the hand that rounded Peter's Dome, 'he builded better than he knew.'"
The next great business reform we must have to steadily increase American prosperity is to change the method of building our tariffs. The tariff must be taken out of politics and treated as a business question instead of as a political question. Heretofore, we have done just the other thing. That is why American business is upset every few years by unnecessary tariff upheavals and is weakened by uncertainty in the periods between. The greatest need of business is certainty; but the only thing certain about our tariff is uncertainty.
What, then, shall we do to make our tariff changes strengthen business instead of weakening business? Rival protective tariff nations have answered that question. Common sense has answered it. Next to our need to make the Sherman law modern, understandable and just, our greatest fiscal need is a genuine, permanent, non-partisan tariff commission.
Five years ago, when the fight for this great business measure was begun in the Senate the bosses of both parties were against it. So, when the last revision of the tariff was on and a tariff commission might have been written into the tariff law, the administration would not aid this reform. When two years later the administration supported it weakly, the bi-partisan boss system killed it. There has not been and will not be any sincere and honest effort by the old parties to get a tariff commission. There has not been and will not be any sincere and honest purpose by those parties to take the tariff out of politics.
For the tariff in politics is the excuse for those sham political battles which give the spoilers their opportunity. The tariff in politics is one of the invisible government's methods of wringing tribute from the people. Through the tariff in politics the beneficiaries of tariff excesses are cared for, no matter which party is "revising."
Who has forgotten the tariff scandals that made President Cleveland denounce the Wilson-Gorman bill as "a perfidy and a dishonor?" Who ever can forget the brazen robberies forced into the Payne-Aldrich bill which Mr. Taft defended as "the best ever made?" If everyone else forgets these things the interests that profited by them never will forget them.
The bosses and lobbyists that grew rich by putting them through never will forget them. That is why the invisible government and its agents want to keep the old method of tariff building. For, though such tariff "revisions" may make lean years for the people, they make fat years for the powers of pillage and their agents.
So neither of the old parties can honestly carry out any tariff policies which they pledge the people to carry out. But even if they could and even if they were sincere, the old party platforms are in error on tariff policy. The Democratic platform declares for free trade; but free trade is wrong and ruinous. The Republican platform permits extortion; but tariff extortion is robbery by law. The Progressive party is for honest protection; and honest protection is right and a condition of American prosperity.
A tariff high enough to give American producers the American market when they make honest goods and sell them at honest prices but low enough that when they sell dishonest goods at dishonest prices, foreign compet.i.tion can correct both evils; a tariff high enough to enable American producers to pay our workingmen American wages and so arranged that the workingmen will get such wages; a business tariff whose changes will be so made as to rea.s.sure business instead of disturbing it--this is the tariff and the method of its making in which the Progressive party believes, for which it does battle and which it proposes to write into the laws of the land.
The Payne-Aldrich tariff law must be revised immediately in accordance to these principles. At the same time a genuine, permanent, non-partisan tariff commission must be fixed in the law as firmly as the Interstate Commerce Commission. Neither of the old parties can do this work. For neither of the old parties believes in such a tariff; and, what is more serious, special privilege is too thoroughly woven into the fiber of both old parties to allow them to make such a tariff. The Progressive party only is free from these influences. The Progressive party only believes in the sincere enactment of a sound tariff policy. The Progressive party only can change the tariff as it must be changed.
These are samples of the reforms in the laws of business that we intend to put on the Nation's statute books. But there are other questions as important and pressing that we mean to answer by sound and humane laws.
Child labor in factories, mills, mines and sweat-shops must be ended throughout the Republic. Such labor is a crime against childhood because it prevents the growth of normal manhood and womanhood. It is a crime against the Nation because it prevents the growth of a host of children into strong, patriotic and intelligent citizens.
Only the Nation can stop this industrial vice. The States cannot stop it. The States never stopped any national wrong--and child labor is a national wrong. To leave it to the State alone is unjust to business; for if some States stop it and other States do not, business men of the former are at a disadvantage with the business men of the latter, because they must sell in the same market goods made by manhood labor at manhood wages in compet.i.tion with goods made by childhood labor at childhood wages. To leave it to the States is unjust to manhood labor; for childhood labor in any State lowers manhood labor in every State, because the product of childhood labor in any State competes with the product of manhood labor in every State. Children workers at the looms in South Carolina means bayonets at the b.r.e.a.s.t.s of men and women workers in Ma.s.sachusetts who strike for living wages. Let the States do what they can, and more power to their arm; but let the Nation do what it should and cleanse our flag from this stain.
Modern industrialism has changed the status of women. Women now are wage earners in factories, stores and other places of toil. In hours of labor and all the physical conditions of industrial effort they must compete with men. And they must do it at lower wages than men receive--wages which, in most cases, are not enough for these women workers to live on.
This is inhuman and indecent. It is unsocial and uneconomic. It is immoral and unpatriotic. Toward women the Progressive party proclaims the chivalry of the State. We propose to protect women wage-earners by suitable laws, an example of which is the minimum wage for women workers--a wage which shall be high enough to at least buy clothing, food and shelter for the woman toiler.
The care of the aged is one of the most perplexing problems of modern life. How is the workingman with less than five hundred dollars a year, and with earning power waning as his own years advance, to provide for aged parents or other relatives in addition to furnishing food, shelter and clothing for his wife and children? What is to become of the family of the laboring man whose strength has been sapped by excessive toil and who has been thrown upon the industrial sc.r.a.p heap? It is questions like these we must answer if we are to justify free inst.i.tutions. They are questions to which the ma.s.ses of people are chained as to a body of death. And they are questions which other and poorer nations are answering.
We progressives mean that America shall answer them. The Progressive party is the helping hand to those whom a vicious industrialism has maimed and crippled. We are for the conservation of our natural resources; but even more we are for the conservation of human life. Our forests, water power and minerals are valuable and must be saved from the spoilers; but men, women and children are more valuable and they, too, must be saved from the spoilers.
Because women, as much as men, are a part of our economic and social life, women, as much as men, should have the voting power to solve all economic and social problems. Votes for women are theirs as a matter of natural right alone; votes for women should be theirs as a matter of political wisdom also. As wage-earners, they should help to solve the labor problem; as property owners they should help to solve the tax problem; as wives and mothers they should help to solve all the problems that concern the home. And that means all national problems; for the Nation abides at the fireside.
If it is said that women cannot help defend the Nation in time of war and therefore that they should not help to determine the Nation's destinies in time of peace, the answer is that women suffer and serve in time of conflict as much as men who carry muskets. And the deeper answer is that those who bear the Nation's soldiers are as much the Nation's defenders as their sons.
Public spokesmen for the invisible government say that many of our reforms are unconst.i.tutional. The same kind of men said the same thing of every effort the Nation has made to end national abuses. But in every case, whether in the courts, at the ballot box, or on the battlefield, the vitality of the Const.i.tution was vindicated.
The Progressive party believes that the Const.i.tution is a living thing, growing with the people's growth, strengthening with the people's strength, aiding the people in their struggle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, permitting the people to meet all their needs as conditions change. The opposition believes that the Const.i.tution is a dead form, holding back the people's growth, shackling the people's strength but giving a free hand to malign powers that prey upon the people. The first words of the Const.i.tution are "We the people," and they declare that the Const.i.tution's purpose is "to form a perfect Union and to promote the general welfare." To do just that is the very heart of the progressive cause.
The Progressive party a.s.serts anew the vitality of the Const.i.tution. We believe in the true doctrine of states' rights, which forbids the Nation from interfering with states' affairs, and also forbids the states from interfering with national affairs. The combined intelligence and composite conscience of the American people is as irresistible as it is righteous; and the Const.i.tution does not prevent that force from working out the general welfare.
From certain sources we hear preachments about the danger of our reforms to American inst.i.tutions. What is the purpose of American inst.i.tutions?
Why was this Republic established? What does the flag stand for? What do these things mean?
They mean that the people shall be free to correct human abuses.
They mean that men, women and children shall not be denied the opportunity to grow stronger and n.o.bler.
They mean that the people shall have the power to make our land each day a better place to live in.
They mean the realities of liberty and not the academics of theory.
They mean the actual progress of the race in tangible items of daily living and not the theoretics of barren disputation.
If they do not mean these things they are as sounding bra.s.s and tinkling cymbals.
A Nation of strong, upright men and women; a Nation of wholesome homes, realizing the best ideals; a Nation whose power is glorified by its justice and whose justice is the conscience of scores of millions of G.o.d-fearing people--that is the Nation the people need and want. And that is the Nation they shall have.
For never doubt that we Americans will make good the real meaning of our inst.i.tutions. Never doubt that we will solve, in righteousness and wisdom, every vexing problem. Never doubt that in the end, the hand from above that leads us upward will prevail over the hand from below that drags us downward. Never doubt that we are indeed a Nation whose G.o.d is the Lord.
And, so, never doubt that a braver, fairer, cleaner America surely will come; that a better and brighter life for all beneath the flag surely will be achieved. Those who now scoff soon will pray. Those who now doubt soon will believe.
Soon the night will pa.s.s; and when, to the Sentinel on the ramparts of Liberty the anxious ask: "Watchman, what of the night?" his answer will be "Lo, the morn appeareth."
Knowing the price we must pay, the sacrifice we must make, the burdens we must carry, the a.s.saults we must endure--knowing full well the cost--yet we enlist, and we enlist for the war. For we know the justice of our cause, and we know, too, its certain triumph.
Not reluctantly then, but eagerly, not with faint hearts but strong, do we now advance upon the enemies of the people. For the call that comes to us is the call that came to our fathers. As they responded so shall we.