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Industrial Discontent
by [?]

“Organized discontent” in the laboring population is no new thing under the sun, but in this century and country it has a new opportunity and Omniscience alone can forecast the outcome. Of one thing we may be very sure, and the sooner the “capitalist” can persuade himself to discern it the sooner will his eyes guard his neck: the relations between those who are able to live without physical toil and those who are not are a long way from final adjustment, but are about to undergo a profound and essential alteration. That this is to come by peaceful evolution is a hope which has nothing in history to sustain it. There are to be bloody noses and cracked crowns, and the good people who suffer themselves to be shocked by such things in others will have a chance to try them for themselves. The working man is not troubling himself greatly about a just allotment of these blessings; so that the greater part go to those who do not work with their hands he will not consider too curiously any person’s claim to exemption. It would perhaps better harmonize with his sense of the fitness of things (as it would, no doubt, with that of the angels) if the advantages of the transitional period fell mostly to the share of such star-spangled impostors as Andrew Carnegie; but almost any distribution that is sufficiently objectionable as a whole to the other side will be acceptable to the distributor. In the mean time it is to be wished that the moralize, and homilizers who prate of “principles” may have a little damnation dealt out to them on account. The head that is unable to entertain a philosophical view of the situation would be notably advantaged by removal.


It is the immigration of “the oppressed of all nations” that has made this country one of the worst on the face of the earth. The change from good to bad took place within a generation–so quickly that few of us have had the nimbleness of apprehension to “get it through our heads.” We go on screaming our eagle in the self-same note of triumph that we were taught at our fathers’ knees before the eagle became a buzzard. America is still “an asylum for the oppressed;” and still, as always and everywhere, the oppressed are unworthy of asylum, avenging upon those who give them sanctuary the wrongs from which they fled. The saddest thing about oppression is that it makes its victims unfit for anything but to be oppressed–makes them dangerous alike to their tyrants, their saviors and themselves. In the end they turn out to be fairly energetic oppressors. The gentleman in the cesspool invites compassion, certainly, but we may be very well assured, before undertaking his relief without a pole, that his conception of a prosperous life is merely to have his nose above the surface with another gentleman underfoot.

All languages are spoken in Hell, but chiefly those of Southeastern Europe. I do not say that a man fresh from the fields or the factories of Europe–even of Southeastern Europe–may not be a good man; I say only that, as a matter of fact, he commonly is not. In nine instances in ten he is a brute whom it would be God’s mercy to drown on his arrival, for he is constitutionally unhappy.

Let us not deny him his grievance: he works–when he works–for men no better than himself. He is required, in many instances, to take a part of his pay in “truck” at prices of breathless altitude; and the pay itself is inadequate–hardly more than double what he could get in his own country. Against all this his howl is justified; but his rioting and assassination are not–not even when directed against the property and persons of his employers. When directed against the persons of other laborers, who choose to exercise the fundamental human right to work for whom and for what pay they please–when he denies this right, and with it the right of organized society to exist, the necessity of shooting him is not only apparent; it is conspicuous and imperative. That he and his horrible kind, of whatever nationality, are usually forgiven this just debt of nature, and suffered to execute, like rivers, their annual spring rise, constitutes the most valid of the many indictments that decent Americans by birth or adoption find against the feeble form of government under which their country groans, A nation that will not enforce its laws has no claim to the respect and allegiance of its people.