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Industrial Discontent
by [?]

Let us look into the other camp, where General Hardhead is so engrossed with his own greatness and power as not clearly to hear the shots on his picket line. Suppose we hypnotize him and make him open his “shut soul” to our searching. He will say something like this:

“In the first place, I claim the right to own and enclose for my own use or disuse as much of the earth’s surface as I am desirous and able to procure. I and my kind have made laws confirming us in the occupancy of the entire habitable and arable area as fast as we can get it. To the objection that this must eventually here, as it has actually done elsewhere, deprive the rest of you places upon which legally to be born, and exclude you after surreptitious birth as trespassers from all chance to procure directly the fruits of the earth, I reply that you can be born at sea and eat fish.

“I claim the right to induce you, by offer of employment, to colonize yourselves and families about my factories, and then arbitrarily, by withdrawing the employment, break up in a day the homes that you have been years in acquiring where it is no longer possible for you to procure work.

“In determining your rate of wages when I employ you, I claim the right to make your necessities a factor in the problem, thus making your misfortunes cumulative. By the law of supply and demand (God bless its expounder!) the less you have and the less chance to get more, the more I have the right to take from you in labor and the less I am bound to give you in wages.

“I claim the right to ignore the officers of the peace and maintain a private army to subdue you when you rise.

“I claim the right to make you suffer, by creating for my advantage an artificial scarcity of the necessaries of life.

“I claim the right to employ the large powers of the government in advancing my private welfare.

“As to falsehood, treachery and the other military virtues with which you threaten me, I shall go, in them, as far as you; but from arson and assassination I recoil with horror. You see you have very little to burn, and you are not more than half alive anyhow.”

That, I submit, is a pretty fair definition of the position of the wealthy man who works with his head. It seems worth while to put it on record while he is extant to challenge or verify; for the probability is that unless he mend his ways he will not much longer be wealthy, work, nor have a head.


In discussion of the misdoings at Homestead and Coeur d’ Alene it is amusing to observe all the champions of law and order gravely prating of “principles” and declaring with all the solemnity of owls that these sacred things have been violated. On that ground they have the argument all their own way. Indubitably there is hardly a fundamental principle of law and morals that the rioting laborers have not footballed out of the field of consideration. Indubitably, too, in doing so they have forfeited as they must have expected to forfeit, all the “moral support” for which they did not care a tinker’s imprecation. If there were any question of their culpability this solemn insistence upon it would lack something of the humor with which it is now invested and which saves the observer from death by dejection.

It is not only in discussions of the “labor situation” that we hear this eternal babble of “principles.” It is never out of ear, and in politics is especially clamant. Every success in an election is yawped of as “a triumph of Republican (or Democratic) principles.” But neither in politics nor in the quarrels of laborers and their employers have principles a place as “factors in the problem.” Their use is to supply to both combatants a vocabulary of accusation and appeal. All the fierce talk of an antagonist’s violation of those eternal principles upon which organized society is founded–and the rest of it–what is it but the cry of the dog with the chewed ear? The dog that is chewing foregoes the advantage of song.