Justice or Force, Which?
Justice or Force, Which?
- Revenge and wrong bring forth their kind,
- The foul cubs like their parents are.
In a lecture delivered some time ago in Newark, Caleb Pink allowed, as only Caleb Pink can show, that the moment we leave the domain of abstract justice, that very moment we enter the domain of force; that, if we lay aside the standard of justice, we have nothing by which to decide any question but brute force. It is the old story of a " lie having no legs." Every lie needs a host of other lies to support it, and every one of the host also brings forth after its kind, and so the mass of falsehood goes on daily and hourly increasing. That this is so, no one can look about him in society today without being fully convinced. We have departed very far from the domain of justice, we have no standard of justice whereby to regulate our actions, and consequently we have war on nil sides, we have brute force called in to settle every question.
The great fundamental evils are not questioned, the right to increase without work is not questioned, for the spirit of robbery is still to a very great extent the controlling spirit of the times. When the robbery shows itself in a very huge form, when the Vanderbilts and the Goulds accumulate their millions, then arises a cry against the Vanderbilts and the Goulds, but none against the system which produces them. There is no cry against interest, profit, or rent,—that is, there is no cry against robbery in itself, but only against the amount taken.
The spirit of robbery is as strong in the trades-unions, in the Knights of Labor, as it is in the capitalists against whom they are contending. The capitalist never questioned what was due to the laborer; the laborer does not now question what is due to the capitalist; each takes all he can take. *
We can hardly blame the workingmen, whose hard physical labor and lack of mental training make it almost impossible for them to discover where the evil lies, for proposing to meet force with force, when we see the professional classes, those whose whole training consists in the cultivation of their intellects, propose nothing but force to settle the social question, seeming to think that society must always of necessity be divided into two hostile camps, the exploited and the exploiters. In a recent number of the " Christian Union," in an article by Dr. Annie S. Daniel on "Tenement-House Workers" (women), she says the average wages of women who do sewing at home, working from 5 or C A. M. to midnight, is from thirty-five to fifty cents a day. She draws a terrible picture of the lives of these women, of their wretched physical and mental condition, of the little children sacrificed to increase the family income, and then proposes as a remedy — force. She says that of the six hundred women of whom she has statistics one hundred and ninety-seven actually needed to work, — that is, had no husbands to support them. She would have the married women prohibited from working at anything except their house-work, so that they should not come into competition with the other women. This is the remedy suggested by a woman whose position would lead one to suppose that she was opposed to sexual slavery. Another law added to this one, making the marriage-bond perpetual, would be all that would be needed to make women the absolute, abject slaves of their husbands. Will this rule that a woman must not work after she is married apply to all women, professional and otherwise, — women-doctors, for instance, — or are we to have class legislation in this democratic country of ours? Then Dr. Daniel would have the tenement-house women form leagues in order to obtain higher wages from their employers. How much wages are they to have? As much as they can get, or what? What rule are they to go by? Is it to be a " game of grab " between the employers and the employees? Dr. Daniel told me some time ago that Bennett of the New York "Herald" had a right to all the property which he now possesses. Would she consider it right if Bennett's employees should unite and force him to give them higher wages? If Bennett or any other employer rightfully owns all his property, is not any combination against him unjust and immoral? And if he does not rightfully own all, how much does he rightfully own? This is the question that the practical people — trades-unionists and philanthropists (who are supposed to have a very high moral sense) — never ask themselves.
Dr. Daniel also proposes the compulsory industrial education of children, and the total abolition of tenement-house work. I am shocked to find my democratic friend, Dr. Daniel, like her patron saint, Grover Cleveland, depart so far from the democratic ideal of "that government governs best which governs least." Why, she is on the road to State Socialism. This departure from democratic principles is only another proof that all government tends toward centralization and despotism, that there never was, and cannot be, a simple government.
The ignorance that the so-called " educated classes " betray of the very first principles of political economy is somewhat extraordinary. This movement for industrial education as a solution of the labor problem is spreading all through the country with astonishing rapidity. Heber Newton, Edward E. Hale, Courtlandt Palmer, Felix Adler, and all the " philanthropic ladies," etc., are determined to make all the laborers "skilled," so that all may obtain high wages, and happiness prevail all around. They fail to see, what is patent to the most superficial observer, that the higher wages of the skilled
laborers are due entirely to the fact of their being comparatively few in number. Make all the laborers, or a majority of the laborers, skilled, and under the present system the wages must inevitably fall to those of the unskilled laborers.
What is more sad to contemplate than the excusable blindness of the working classes, and the almost inexcusable blindness of the professional classes, is the wilful closing of their eyes to the light by such men as John Swinton. John Swinton must know, if he knows anything, that the eight-hour movement can have no appreciable effect in the solution of the labor problem, and yet, in order to save his reputation as a practical man, he devotes all his time to the promotion of this movement. He says that " in our own country within the last fifteen years, the whole power of mechanism has doubled, having risen from 2,300,000 horse power to 4,500,000. By this growth there has been added to the resources of the capitalists, who own the enginery of industry, the strength of 22,000,000 of slaves." And yet the only measure that Mr. Swinton proposes for turning all this machinery to the benefit of the laborers is the eight-hour measure, though he admits that the "advance of mechanism is sure to go on with ever increasing momentum,"—that is, that the intensity of the work is sure to be increased in exact proportion to the lessening of the hours of labor, as has been proved over and over again, and that more men will not therefore be employed. But Mr. Swinton says he has not time to deal with bottom issues, and hence resorts to what all compromisers must resort to — force.
It is for the reason that I cannot see how we can in the least compromise with the truth without entering the domain of force that I entirely disagree with Mr. Appleton in the position taken (much to my surprise) by him on expediency, in a recent number of Liberty. If Mr. Appleton can show us how we can compromise without both advocating and using force. I may perhaps be induced to adopt the compromising methods.
Gertrude B. Kelly.