The Common Sense of Socialism - A Series of Letters Addressed to Jonathan Edwards, of Pittsburg
by John Spargo
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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Author of "The Bitter Cry of the Children," "Socialism: A Summary and Interpretation of Socialist Principles," "The Socialists: Who They Are and What They Stand For," "Capitalist and Laborer," Etc., Etc., Etc.

























Socialism is undoubtedly spreading. It is, therefore, right and expedient that its teachings, its claims, its tendencies, its accusations and promises, should be honestly and seriously examined.—Prof. Flint.

My Dear Mr. Edwards: I count it good fortune to receive such letters of inquiry as that which you have written me. You could not easily have conferred greater pleasure upon me than you have by the charming candor and vigor of your letter. It is said that when President Lincoln saw Walt Whitman, "the good, Gray Poet," for the first time he exclaimed, "Well, he looks like a man!" and in like spirit, when I read your letter I could not help exclaiming, "Well, he writes like a man!"

There was no need, Mr. Edwards, for you to apologize for your letter: for its faulty grammar, its lack of "style" and "polish." I am not insensible to these, being a literary man, but, even at their highest valuation, grammar and literary style are by no means the most important elements of a letter. They are, after all, only like the clothes men wear. A knave or a fool may be dressed in the most perfect manner, while a good man or a sage may be poorly dressed, or even clad in rags. Scoundrels in broadcloth are not uncommon; gentlemen in fustian are sometimes met with.

He would be a very unwise man, you will admit, who tried to judge a man by his coat. President Lincoln was uncouth and ill-dressed, but he was a wise man and a gentleman in the highest and best sense of that much misused word. On the other hand, Mr. Blank, who represents railway interests in the United States Senate, is sleek, polished and well-dressed, but he is neither very wise nor very good. He is a gentleman only in the conventional, false sense of that word.

Lots of men could write a more brilliant letter than the one you have written to me, but there are not many men, even among professional writers, who could write a better one. What I like is the spirit of earnestness and the simple directness of it. You say that you have "Read lots of things in the papers about the Socialists' ideas and listened to some Socialist speakers, but never could get a very clear notion of what it was all about." And then you add "Whether Socialism is good or bad, wise or foolish, I want to know."

I wish, my friend, that there were more working men like you; that there were millions of American men and women crying out: "Whether Socialism is good or bad, wise or foolish, I want to know." For that is the beginning of wisdom: back of all the intellectual progress of the race is the cry, I want to know! It is a cry that belongs to wise hearts, such as Mr. Ruskin meant when he said, "A little group of wise hearts is better than a wilderness full of fools." There are lots of fools, both educated and uneducated, who say concerning Socialism, which is the greatest movement of our time, "I don't know anything about it and I don't want to know anything about it." Compared with the most learned man alive who takes that position, the least educated laborer in the land who says "I want to know!" is a philosopher compared with a fool.

When I first read your letter and saw the long list of your objections and questions I confess that I was somewhat frightened. Most of the questions are fair questions, many of them are wise ones and all of them merit consideration. If you will bear with me, Mr. Edwards, and let me answer them in my own way, I propose to answer them all. And in answering them I shall be as honest and frank with you as I am with my own soul. Whether you believe in Socialism or not is to me a matter of less importance than whether you understand it or not.

You complain that in some of the books written about Socialism there are lots of hard, technical words and phrases which you cannot properly understand, even when you have looked in the dictionary for their meaning, and that is a very just complaint. It is true that most of the books on Socialism and other important subjects are written by students for students, but I shall try to avoid that difficulty and write as a plain, average man of fair sense to another plain, average man of fair sense.

All your other questions and objections, about "stirring up class hatred," about "dividing-up the wealth with the lazy and shiftless," trying to "destroy religion," advocating "free love" and "attacking the family," all these and the many other matters contained in your letter, I shall try to answer fairly and with absolute honesty.

I want to convert you to Socialism if I can, Mr. Edwards, but I am more anxious to have you understand Socialism.



It seems to me that people are not enough aware of the monstrous state of society, absolutely without a parallel in the history of the world, with a population poor, miserable and degraded in body and mind, as if they were slaves, and yet called freemen. The hopes entertained by many of the effects to be wrought by new churches and schools, while the social evils of their conditions are left uncorrected, appear to me utterly wild.—Dr. Arnold, of Rugby.

The working-classes are entitled to claim that the whole field of social institutions should be re-examined, and every question considered as if it now arose for the first time, with the idea constantly in view that the persons who are to be convinced are not those who owe their ease and importance to the present system, but persons who have no other interest in the matter than abstract justice and the general good of the community.—John Stuart Mill.

I presume, Mr. Edwards, that you are not one of those persons who believe that there is nothing the matter with America; that you are not wholly content with existing conditions. You would scarcely be interested in Socialism unless you were convinced that in our existing social system there are many evils for which some remedy ought to be found if possible. Your interest in Socialism arises from the fact that its advocates claim that it is a remedy for the social evils which distress you—is it not so?

I need not harrow your feelings, therefore, by drawing for you pictures of dismal misery, poverty, vice, crime and squalor. As a workingman, living in Pittsburg, you are unhappily familiar with the evils of our present system. It doesn't require a professor of political economy to understand that something is wrong in our American life today.

As an industrial city Pittsburg is a notable example of the defective working of our present social and industrial system. In Pittsburg, as in every other modern city, there are the extremes of wealth and poverty. There are beautiful residences on the one hand and miserable, crowded tenement hovels upon the other hand. There are people who are so rich, whose incomes are so great, that their lives are made miserable and unhappy. There are other people so poor, with incomes so small, that they are compelled to live miserable and unhappy lives. Young men and women, inheritors of vast fortunes, living lives of idleness, uselessness and vanity at one end of the social scale are driven to dissipation and debauchery and crime. At the other end of the social scale there are young men and women, poor, overburdened with toil, crushed by poverty and want, also driven to dissipation and debauchery and crime.

You are a workingman. All your life you have known the conditions which surround the lives of working people like yourself. You know how hard it is for the most careful and industrious workman to properly care for his family. If he is fortunate enough never to be sick, or out of work, or on strike, or to be involved in an accident, or to have sickness in his family, he may become the owner of a cheap home, or, by dint of much sacrifice, his children may be educated and enabled to enter one of the professions. Or, given all the conditions stated, he may be enabled to save enough to provide for himself and wife a pittance sufficient to keep them from pauperism and beggary in their old age.

That is the best the workingman can hope for as a result of his own labor under the very best conditions. To attain that level of comfort and decency he must deny himself and his wife and children of many things which they ought to enjoy. It is not too much to say that none of your fellow-workmen in Pittsburg, men known to you, your neighbors and comrades in labor, have been able to attain such a condition of comparative comfort and security except by dint of much hardship imposed upon themselves, their wives and children. They have had to forego many innocent pleasures; to live in poor streets, greatly to the disadvantage of the children's health and morals; to concentrate their energies to the narrow and sordid aim of saving money; to cultivate the instincts and feelings of the miser.

The wives of such men have had to endure privations and wrongs such as only the wives of the workers in civilized society ever know. Miserably housed, cruelly overworked, toiling incessantly from morn till night, in sickness as well as in health, never knowing the joys of a real vacation, cooking, scrubbing, washing, mending, nursing and pitifully saving, the wife of such a worker is in truth the slave of a slave.

At the very best, then, the lot of the workingman excludes him and his wife and children from most of the comforts which belong to modern civilization. A well-fitted home in a good neighborhood—to say nothing of a home beautiful in itself and its surroundings—is out of the question; foreign travel, the opportunity to enjoy the rest and educative advantages of occasional journeys to other lands, is likewise out of the question. Even though civic enterprise provides public libraries and art galleries, museums, lectures, concerts, and other opportunities of recreation and education, there is not the leisure for their enjoyment to any extent. For our model workman, with all his exceptional advantages, after a day's toil has little time left for such things, and little strength or desire, while his wife has even less time and even less desire.

You know that this is not an exaggerated account. It may be questioned by the writers of learned treatises who know the life of the workers only from descriptions of it written by people who know very little about it, but you will not question it. As a workman you know it is true. And I know it is true, for I have lived it. The best that the most industrious, thrifty, persevering and fortunate workingman can hope for is to be decently housed, decently fed, decently clothed. That he and his family may always be certain of these things, so that they go down to their graves at last without having experienced the pangs of hunger and want, the worker must be exceptionally fortunate. And yet, my friend, the horses in the stables of the rich men of this country, and the dogs in their kennels, have all these things, and more! For they are protected against such overwork and such anxiety as the workingman and the workingman's wife must endure. Greater care is taken of the health of many horses and dogs than the most favored workingman can possibly take of the health of his boys and girls.

At its best and brightest, then, the lot of the workingman in our present social system is not an enviable one. The utmost good fortune of the laboring classes is, properly considered, a scathing condemnation of modern society. There is very little poetry, beauty, joy or glory in the life of the workingman when taken at its very best.

But you know very well that not one workingman in a hundred, nay, not one in a thousand, is fortunate enough never to be sick, or out of work, or on strike, or to be involved in an accident, or to have sickness in his family. Not one worker in a thousand lives to old age and goes down to his grave without having known the pangs of hunger and want, both for himself and those dependent upon him. On the contrary, dull, helpless, poverty is the lot of millions of workers whose lines are cast in less pleasant places.

Mr. Frederic Harrison the well-known conservative English publicist, some years ago gave a graphic description of the lot of the working class of England, a description which applies to the working class of America with equal force. He said:

"Ninety per cent of the actual producers of wealth have no home that they can call their own beyond the end of a week, have no bit of soil, or so much as a room that belongs to them; have nothing of value of any kind except as much as will go in a cart; have the precarious chance of weekly wages which barely suffice to keep them in health; are housed for the most part in places that no man thinks fit for his horse; are separated by so narrow a margin from destruction that a month of bad trade, sickness or unexpected loss brings them face to face with hunger and pauperism."[1]

I am perfectly willing, of course, to admit that, upon the whole, conditions are worse in England than in this country, but I am still certain that Mr. Harrison's description is fairly applicable to the United States of America, in this year of Grace, nineteen hundred and eight.

At present we are passing through a period of industrial depression. Everywhere there are large numbers of unemployed workers. Poverty is rampant. Notwithstanding all that is being done to ease their misery, all the doles of the charitable and compassionate, there are still many thousands of men, women and children who are hungry and miserable. You see them every day in Pittsburg, as I see them in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and elsewhere. It is easy to see in times like the present that there is some great, vital defect in our social economy.

Later on, if you will give me your attention, Jonathan, I want you to consider the causes of such cycles of depression as this that we are so patiently enduring. But at present I am interested in getting you to realize the terrible shortcomings of our industrial system at its best, in normal times. I want to have you consider the state of affairs in times that are called "prosperous" by the politicians, the preachers, the economists, the statisticians and the editors of our newspapers. I am not concerned, here and now, with the exceptional distress of such periods as the present, but with the ordinary, normal, chronic misery and distress; the poverty that is always so terribly prevalent.

Do you remember the talk about the "great and unexampled prosperity" in which you indulged during the latter part of 1904 and the following year? Of course you do. Everybody was talking about prosperity, and a stranger visiting the United States might have concluded that we were a nation of congenital optimists. Yet, it was precisely at that time, in the very midst of our loud boasting about prosperity, that Robert Hunter challenged the national brain and conscience with the statement that there were at lease ten million persons in poverty in the United States. If you have not read Mr. Hunter's book, Jonathan, I advise you to get it and read it. You will find in it plenty of food for serious thought. It is called Poverty, and you can get a copy at the public library. From time to time I am going to suggest that you read various books which I believe you will find useful. "Reading maketh a full man," provided that the reading is seriously and wisely done. Good books relating to the problems you have to face as a worker are far better for reading than the yellow newspapers or the sporting prints, my friend.

When they first read Mr. Hunter's startling statement that there were ten million persons in the United States in poverty, many people thought that he must be a sensationalist of the worst type. It could not be true, they thought. But when they read the startling array of facts upon which that estimate was based they modified their opinion. It is significant, I think, that there has been no very serious criticism of the estimate made by any reputable authority.

Do you know, Jonathan, that in New York of all the persons who die one in every ten dies a pauper and is buried in Potter's Field? It is a pity that we have not statistics upon this point covering most of our cities, including your own city of Pittsburg. If we had, I should ask you to try an experiment. I should ask you to give up one of your Saturday afternoons, or any day when you might be idle, and to take your stand at the busiest corner in the city. There, I would have you count the people as they pass by, hurrying to and fro, and every tenth person you counted I would have you note by making a little cross on a piece of paper. Think what an awful tally it would be, Jonathan. How sick and weary at heart you would be if you stood all day counting, saying as every tenth person passed, "There goes another marked for a pauper's grave!" And it might happen, you know, that the fateful count of ten would mark your own boy, or your own wife.

We are a practical, hard-headed people. That is our national boast. You are a Yankee of the good old Massachusetts stock, I understand, proud of the fact that you can trace your descent right back to the Pilgrim Fathers. But with all our hard-headed practicality, Jonathan, there is still some sentiment left in us. Most of us dread the thought of a pauper's grave for ourselves or friends, and struggle against such fate as we struggle against death itself. It is a foolish sentiment perhaps, for when the soul leaves the body a mere handful of clod and marl, the spark of divinity forever quenched, it really does not matter what happens to the body, nor where it crumbles into dust. But we cherish the sentiment, nevertheless, and dread having to fill pauper graves. And when ten per cent, of those who die in the richest city of the richest nation on earth are laid at last in pauper graves and given pauper burial there is something radically and cruelly wrong.

And you and I, with our fellows, must try to find out just what the wrong is, and just how we can set it right. Anything less than that seems to me uncommonly like treason to the republic, treason of the worst kind. Alas! Alas! such treason is very common, friend Jonathan—there are many who are heedless of the wrongs that sap the life of the republic and careless of whether or no they are righted.


[1] Report of the Industrial Remuneration Conference, 1886, p. 429.



Mankind are divided into two great classes—the shearers and the shorn. You should always side with the former against the latter.—Talleyrand.

All men having the same origin are of equal antiquity; nature has made no difference in their formation. Strip the nobles naked and you are as well as they; dress them in your rags, and you in their robes, and you will doubtless be the nobles. Poverty and riches only discriminate betwixt you.—Machiavelli.

Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not be stolen from.Thomas Carlyle.

I want you to consider, friend Jonathan, the fact that in this and every other civilized country there are two classes. There are, as it were, two nations in every nation, two cities in every city. There is a class that lives in luxury and a class that lives in poverty. A class constantly engaged in producing wealth but owning little or none of the wealth produced and a class that enjoys most of the wealth without the trouble and pain of producing it.

If I go into any city in America I can find beautiful and costly mansions in one part of the city, and miserable, squalid tenement hovels in another part. And I never have to ask where the workers live. I know that the people who live in the mansions don't produce anything; that the wealth producers alone are poor and miserably housed.

Republican and Democratic politicians never ask you to consider such things. They expect you to let them do all the thinking, and to content yourself with shouting and voting for them. As a Socialist, I want you to do some thinking for yourself. Not being a politician, but a simple fellow-citizen, I am not interested in having you vote for anything you do not understand. If you should offer to vote for Socialism without understanding it, I should beg you not to do it. I want you to vote for Socialism, of course, but not unless you know what it means, why you want it and how you expect to get it. You see, friend Jonathan, I am perfectly frank with you, as I promised to be.

You will remember, I hope, that in your letter to me you made the objection that the Socialists are constantly stirring up class hatred, setting class against class. I want to show you now that this is not true, though you doubtless believed that it was true when you wrote it. I propose to show you that in this great land of ours there are two great classes, the "shearers and the shorn," to adopt Talleyrand's phrase. And I want you to side with the shorn instead of with the shearers, because, if I am not sadly mistaken, my friend, you are one of the shorn. Your natural interests are with the workers, and all the workers are shorn and robbed, as I shall try to show you.

You work in one of the great steel foundries of Pittsburg, I understand. You are paid wages for your work, but you have no other interest in the establishment. There are lots of other men working in the same place under similar conditions. Above you, having the authority to discharge you if they see fit, if you displease them or your work does not suit them, are foremen and bosses. They are paid wages like yourself and your fellow workmen. True, they get a little more wages, and they live in consequence in a little better homes than most of you, but they do not own the plant. They, too, may be discharged by other bosses above them. There are a few of the workmen who own a small number of shares of stock in the company, but not enough of them to have any kind of influence in its management. They are just as likely to be turned out of employment as any of you.

Above all the workers and bosses of one kind and another there is a general manager. Wonderful stories are told of the enormous salary he gets. They say that he gets more for one week than you or any of your fellow workmen get for a whole year. You used to know him well when you were boys together. You went to the same school; played "hookey" together; bathed in the creek together. You used to call him "Richard" and he always used to call you "Jon'thun." You lived close to each other on the same street.

But you don't speak to each other nowadays. When he passes through the works each morning you bend to your work and he does not notice you. Sometimes you wonder if he has forgotten all about the old days, about the games you used to play up on "the lots," the "hookey" and the swimming in the creek. Perhaps he has not forgotten: perhaps he remembers well enough, for he is just a plain human being like yourself Jonathan; but if he remembers he gives no sign.

Now, I want to ask you a few plain questions, or, rather, I want you to ask yourself a few plain questions. Do you and your old friend Richard still live on the same street, in the same kind of houses like you used to? Do you both wear the same kind of clothes, like you used to? Do you and he both go to the same places, mingle with the same company, like you used to in the old days? Does your wife wear the same kind of clothes than his wife does? Does his wife work as hard as your wife does? Do they both belong to the same social "set" or does the name of Richard's wife appear in the Social Chronicle in the daily papers while your wife's does not? When you go to the theater, or the opera, do you and your family occupy as good seats as Richard and his family in the same way that you and he used to occupy "quarter seats" in the gallery? Are your children and Richard's children dressed equally well? Your fourteen-year-old girl is working as a cash-girl in a store and your fifteen-year-old boy is working in a factory. What about Richard's children? They are about the same age you know: is his girl working in a store, his boy in a factory? Richard's youngest child has a nurse to take care of her. You saw her the other day, you remember: how about your youngest child—has she a nurse to care for her?

Ah, Jonathan! I know very well how you must answer these questions as they flash before your mind in rapid succession. You and Richard are no longer chums; your wives don't know each other; your children don't play together, but are strangers to one another; you have no friends in common now. Richard lives in a mansion, while you live in a hovel; Richard's wife is a fine "lady" in silks and satins, attended by flunkeys, while your wife is a poor, sickly, anaemic, overworked drudge. You still live in the same city, yet not in the same world. You would not know how to act in Richard's home, before all the servants; you would be embarrassed if you sat down at his dinner table. Your children would be awkward and shy in the presence of his children, while they would scorn to introduce your children to their friends.

You have drifted far apart, you two, my friend. Somehow there yawns between you a great, impassable gulf. You are as far apart in your lives as prince and pauper, lord and serf, king and peasant ever were in the world's history. It is wonderful, this chasm that yawns between you. As Shakespeare has it:

Strange it is that bloods Alike of colour, weight and heat, pour'd out together, Would quite confound distinction, yet stand off In differences so mighty.

I am not going to say anything against your one-time friend who is now a stranger to you and the lord of your life. I have not one word to say against him. But I want you to consider very seriously if the changes we have noted are the only changes that have taken place in him since the days when you were chums together. Have you forgotten the Great Strike, when you and your fellow workers went out on strike, demanding better conditions of labor and higher wages? Of course you have not forgotten it, for that was when your scanty savings were all used up, and you had to stand, humiliated and sorrowful, at the relief station, or in the "Bread Line," to get food for your little family.

Those were the dark days when your dream of a little cottage in the country, with hollyhocks and morning-glories and larkspurs growing around it, melted away like the mists of the morning. It was the dream of your young manhood and of your wife's young womanhood; it was the dream of your earliest years together, and you both worked and saved for that little cottage in the suburbs where you would spend the sunset hours of life together. The Great Strike killed your beautiful dream; it killed your wife's hopes. You have no dream now and no hope for the sunset hours. When you think of them you become bitter and try to banish the thought. I know all about that faded dream, Jonathan.

Why did you stay out on strike and suffer? Why did you not remain at work, or at least go back as soon as you saw how hard the fight was going to be? "What! desert my comrades, and be a traitor to my brothers in the fight?" you say. But I thought you did not believe in classes! I thought you were opposed to the Socialists because they set class to fight class! You were fighting the company then, weren't you; trying to force them to give you decent conditions? You called it a fight, Jonathan, and the newspapers, you remember, had great headlines every day about the "Great Labor War."

It wasn't the Socialists who urged you to go out on strike, Jonathan. You had never heard of Socialism then, except once you read something in the papers about some Socialists who were shot down by the Czar's Cossacks in the streets of Warsaw. You got an idea then that a Socialist was a desperado with a firebrand in one hand and a bomb in the other, madly seeking to burn palaces and destroy the lives of rich men and rulers. No, it was not due to Socialist agitation that you went out on strike.

You went out on strike because you had grown desperate on account of the wanton, wicked, needless waste of human life that went on under your very eyes, day after day. You saw man after man maimed, man after man killed, through defects in the machinery, and the company, through your old chum and playmate, refused to make the changes necessary. They said that it would "cost too much money," though you all knew that the shareholders were reaping enormous profits. Added to that, and the fact that you went hourly in dread of similar fate befalling you, your wife had a hard time to make both ends meet. There was a time when you could save something every week, but for some time before the strike there was no saving. Your wife complained; your comrades said that their wives complained. Finally you all agreed that you could stand it no longer; that you would send a committee to interview the manager and tell him that, unless you got better wages and unless something was done to make your lives safer you would go out on strike.

When you and the manager were chums together he was a kind, good-hearted, generous fellow, and you felt certain that when the Committee explained things it would be all right. But you were mistaken. He cursed at them as though they were dogs, and you could scarcely believe your own ears. Do you remember how you spoke to your wife about it, about "the change in Dick"?

You went out on strike. The manager scoured the country for men to take your places. Ruffianly men came from all parts of the country; insolent, strife-provoking thugs. More than once you saw your fellow-workmen attacked and beaten by thugs, and then the police were ordered to club and arrest—not the aggressors but your comrades. Then the manager asked the mayor to send for the troops, and the mayor did as he was bidden do. What else could he do when the leading stockholders in the company owned and controlled the Republican machine? So the Republican mayor wired to the Republican Governor for soldiers and the soldiers came to intimidate you and break the strike. One day you heard a rifle's sharp crack, followed by a tumult and they told you that one of your old friends, who used to go swimming with you and Richard, the manager, had been shot by a drunken sentry, though he was doing no harm.

You were a Democrat. Your father had been a Democrat and you "just naturally growed up to be one." As a Democrat you were very bitter against the Republican mayor and the Republican Governor. You honestly thought that if there had been a good Democrat in each of those offices there would have been no soldiers sent into the city; that your comrade would not have been murdered. You spoke of little else to your fellows. You nursed the hope that at the next election they would turn out the Republicans and put the Democrats in.

But that delusion was shattered like all the rest, Jonathan, when, soon after, the Democratic President you were so proud of, to whom you looked up as to a modern Moses, sent federal troops into Illinois, over the protest of the Governor of that Commonwealth, in defiance of the laws of the land, in violation of the sacred Constitution he had sworn to protect and obey. Your faith in the Democratic Party was shattered. Henceforth you could not trust either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party.

I don't want to discuss the strike further. That is all ancient history to you now. I have already gone a good deal farther afield than I wanted to do, or than I intended to do when I began this letter. I want to go back—back to our discussion of the great gulf that divides you and your former chum, Richard.

I want you to ask yourself, with perfect candor and good faith, whether you believe that Richard has been so much better than you, either as workman, citizen, husband or father, that his present position can be regarded as a just reward for his virtue and ability? I'll put it another way for you, Jonathan: in your own heart do you believe that you are so much inferior to him as a worker or as a citizen, so much inferior in mentality and in character that you deserve the hard fate which has come to you, the ill-fortune compared to his good fortune? Are you and your family being punished for your sins, while he and his family are being rewarded for his virtues? In other words, Jonathan, to put the matter very plainly, do you believe that God has ordained your respective states in accordance with your just deserts?

You know that is not the case, Jonathan. You know very well that both Richard and yourself share the frailties and weaknesses of our kind. Infinite mischief has been done by those who have given the struggle between the capitalists and the workers the aspect of a conflict between "goodness" on the one side and "wickedness" upon the other. Many things which the capitalists do appear very wicked to the workers, and many things which the workers do, and think perfectly proper and right, the capitalists honestly regard as improper and wrong.

I do not deny that there are some capitalists whose conduct deserves our contempt and condemnation, just as there are some workingmen of whom the same is true. Still less would I deny that there is a very real ethical measure of life; that some conduct is anti-social while other conduct is social. I simply want you to catch my point that we are creatures of our environment, Jonathan; that if the workers and the capitalists could change places, there would be a corresponding change in their views of many things. I refuse to flatter the workers, my friend: they have been flattered too much already.

Politicians seeking votes always tell the workers how greatly they admire them for their intelligence and for their moral excellencies. But you know and I know that they are insincere; that, for the most part, their praise is lying hypocrisy. They practice what you call "the art of jollying the people" because that is an important part of their business. The way they talk to the working class is very different from the way they talk of the working class among themselves. I've heard them, my friend, and I know how most of them despise the workers.

The working men and women of this country have many faults and failings. Many of them are ignorant, though that is not quite their own fault. Many a workingman starves and pinches his wife and little ones to gamble, squandering his money, yes, and the lives of his family, upon horse races, prize-fights, and other brutal and senseless things called "sport." It is all wrong, Jonathan, and we know it. Many of our fellow workmen drink, wasting the children's bread-money and making beasts of themselves in saloons, and that is wrong, too, though I do not wonder at it when I think of the hells they work in, the hovels they live in and the dull, soul-deadening grind of their daily lives. But we have got to struggle against it, got to conquer the bestial curse, before we can get better conditions. Men who soak their brains in alcohol, or who gamble their children's bread, will never be able to make the world a fit place to live in, a place fit for little children to grow in.

But the worst of all the failings of the working class, in my humble judgment, is its indifference to the great problems of life. Why is it, Jonathan, that I can get tens of thousands of workingmen in Pittsburg or any large city excited and wrought to feverish enthusiasm over a brutal and bloody prize-fight in San Francisco, or about a baseball game, and only a man here and there interested in any degree about Child Labor, about the suffering of little babies? Why is it that the workers, in Pittsburg and every other city in America, are less interested in getting just conditions than in baseball games from which all elements of honest, manly sport have been taken away; brutal slugging matches between professional pugilists; horseraces conducted by gamblers for gamblers; the sickening, details of the latest scandal among the profligate, idle rich?

I could get fifty thousand workingmen in Pittsburg to read long, disgusting accounts of bestiality and vice more easily than I could get five hundred to read a pamphlet on the Labor Problem, on the wrongfulness of things as they are and how they might be made better. The masters are wiser, Jonathan. They watch and guard their own interests better than the workers do.

If you owned the tools with which you work, my friend, and whatever you could produce belonged to you, either to use or to exchange for the products of other workers, there would be some reason in your Fourth of July boasting about this

Blest land of Liberty.

But you don't. You, and all other wage-earners, depend upon the goodwill and the good judgment of the men who own the land, the mines, the factories, the railways, and practically all other means of producing wealth for the right to live. You don't own the raw material, the machinery or the railways; you don't control your own jobs. Most of you don't even own your own miserable homes. These things are owned by a small class of, people when their number is compared with the total population. The workers produce the wealth of this and every other country, but they do not own it. They get just enough to keep them alive and in a condition to go on producing wealth—as long as the master class sees fit to have them do it.

Most of the capitalists do not, as capitalists, contribute in any manner to the production of wealth. Some of them do render services of one kind and another in the management of the industries they are connected with. Some of them are directors, for example, but they are always paid for their services before there is any distribution of profits. Even when their "work" is quite perfunctory and useless, mere make-believe, like the games of little children, they get paid far more than the actual workers. But there are many people who own stock in the company you work for, Jonathan, who never saw the foundries, who were never in the city of Pittsburg in their lives, whose knowledge of the affairs of the company is limited to the stock quotations in the financial columns of the morning papers.

Think of it: when you work and produce a dollar's worth of wealth by your labor, it is divided up. You get only a very small fraction. The rest is divided between the landlords and the capitalists. This happens in the case of every man among the thousands employed by the company. Only a small share goes to the workers, a third, or a fourth, perhaps, the remainder being divided among people who have done none of the work. It may happen, does happen in fact, that, an old profligate whose delight is the seduction of young girls, a wanton woman whose life would shame the harlot of the streets, a lunatic in an asylum, or a baby in the cradle, will get more than any of the workers who toil before the glaring furnaces day after day.

These are terrible assertions, Jonathan, and I do not blame you if you doubt them. I shall prove them for you in a later letter.

At present, I want you to get hold of the fact that the wealth produced by the workers is so distributed that the idle and useless classes get most of it. People will tell you, Jonathan, that "there are no classes in America," and that the Socialists lie when they say so. They point out to you that your old chum, Richard, who is now a millionaire, was a poor boy like yourself. They say he rose to his present position because he had keener brains than his fellows, but you know lots of workmen in the employ of the company who know a great deal more about the work than he does, lots of men who are cleverer than he is. Or they tell you that he rose to his present position because of his superior character, but you know that he is, to say the least, no better than the average man who works under him.

The fact is, Jonathan, the idle capitalists must have some men to carry on the work for them, to direct it and see that the workers are exploited properly. They must have some men to manage things for them; to see that elections are bought, that laws in their interests are passed and not laws in the interests of the people. They must have somebody to do the things they are too "respectable" to do—or too lazy. They take such men from the ranks of the workers and pay them enormous salaries, thereby making them members of their own class. Such men are really doing useful and necessary work in managing the business (though not in corrupting legislators or devising swindling schemes) and are to that extent producers. But their interests are with the capitalists. They live in palaces, like the idlers; they mingle in the same social sets; they enjoy the same luxuries. And, above all, they can invest part of their large incomes in other concerns and draw enormous profits from the labors of other toilers, sometimes even in other lands. They are capitalists and their whole influence is on the side of the capitalists against the workers.

I want you to think over these things, friend Jonathan. Don't be afraid to do your own thinking! If you have time, go to the library and get some good books on the subject and read them carefully, doing your own thinking no matter what the authors of the books may say. I suggest that you get W.J. Ghent's Mass and Class to begin with. Then, when you have read that, I shall be glad to have you read Chapter VI of a book called Socialism: A Summary and Interpretation of Socialist Principles. It is not very hard reading, for I wrote the book myself to meet the needs of just such earnest, hard-working men as yourself.

I think both books will be found in the public library. At any rate, they ought to be. But if not, it would be worth your while to save the price of a few whiskies and to buy them for yourself. You see, Jonathan, I want you to study.



It is easy to persuade the masses that the good things of this world are unjustly divided—especially when it happens to be the exact truth.—J.A. Froude.

The growth of wealth and of luxury, wicked, wasteful and wanton, as before God I declare that luxury to be, has been matched step by step by a deepening and deadening poverty, which has left whole neighborhoods of people practically without hope and without aspiration.—Bishop Potter.

At present, all the wealth of Society goes first into the possession of the Capitalist.... He pays the landowner his rent, the labourer his wages, the tax and tithe-gatherer their claims, and keeps a large, indeed, the largest, and a constantly augmenting share of the annual produce of labour for himself. The Capitalist may now be said to be the first owner of all the wealth of the community, though no law has conferred on him the right of this property.... This change has been effected by the taking of interest on Capital ... and it is not a little curious that all the lawgivers of Europe endeavoured to prevent this by Statutes—viz., Statutes against usury.—Rights of Natural and Artificial Property Contrasted (An Anonymous work, published in London, in 1832).—Th. Hodgskin.

You are not a political economist, Jonathan, nor a statistician. Most books on political economy, and most books filled with statistics, seem to you quite unintelligible. Your education never included the study of such books and they are, therefore, almost if not quite worthless to you.

But every working man ought to know something about political economy and be familiar with some statistics relating to social conditions. So I am going to ask you to study a few figures and a little political economy. Only just a very little, mind you, just to get you used to thinking about social problems in a scientific way. I think I can set the fundamental principles of political economy before you in very simple language, and I will try to make the statistics interesting.

But I want to warn you again, Jonathan, that you must use your own commonsense. Don't trust too much to theories and figures—especially figures. Somebody has said that you can divide the liars of the world into three classes—liars, damned liars and statisticians. Some people are paid big salaries for juggling with figures to fool the American people into believing what is not true, Jonathan. I want you to consider the laws of political economy and all the statistics I put before you in the light of your own commonsense and your own practical experience.

Political economy is the name which somebody long ago gave to the formal study of the production and distribution of wealth. Carlyle called it "the dismal science," and most books on the subject are dismal enough to justify the term. Upon my library shelves there are some hundreds of volumes dealing with political economy, and I don't mind confessing to you that some of them I never have been able to understand, though I have put no little effort and conscience into the attempt. I have a suspicion that the authors of these books could not understand them themselves. That the reason why they could not write so that a man of fair intelligence and education could understand them was the fact that they had no clear ideas to convey.

Now, in the first place, what do we mean by Wealth? Why, you say, wealth is money and money is wealth. But that is only half true, Jonathan. Suppose, for example, that an American millionaire crossing the ocean be shipwrecked and find himself cast upon some desert island, like another Robinson Crusoe, without food or means of obtaining any. Suppose him naked, without tool or weapon of any kind, his one sole possession being a bag containing ten thousand dollars in gold and banknotes to the value of as many millions. With that money, in New York, or any other city in the world, he would be counted a rich man, and he would have no difficulty in getting food and clothing.

But alone upon that desert island, what could he do with the money? He could not eat it, he could not keep himself warm with it? He would be poorer than the poorest savage in Africa whose only possessions were a bow and arrow and an assegai, or spear, wouldn't he? The poor kaffir who never heard of money, but who had the simple weapons with which to hunt for food, would be the richer man of the two, wouldn't he?

I think you will find it useful, Jonathan, to read a little book by John Ruskin, called Unto This Last. It is a very small book, written in very simple and beautiful language. Mr. Ruskin was a somewhat whimsical writer, and there are some things in the book which I do not wholly agree with, but upon the whole it is sane, strong and eternally true. He shows very clearly, according to my notion, that the mere possession of things, or of money, is not wealth, but that wealth consists in the possession of things useful to us. That is why the possession of heaps of gold by a man living alone upon a desert island does not make him wealthy, and why Robinson Crusoe, with weapons, tools and an abundant food supply, was really a wealthy man, though he had not a dollar.

In a primitive state of society, then, he is poor who has not enough of the things useful to him, and he who has them in abundance is rich, or wealthy.

Note that I say this of "A primitive state of society," Jonathan, for that is most important. It is not true of our present capitalist state of society. This may seem a strange proposition to you at first, but a little careful thought will convince you that it is true.

Consider a moment: Mr. Carnegie is a wealthy man and Mr. Rockefeller is a wealthy man. They are, each of them, richer than most of the princes and kings whose wealth astonished the ancient world. Mr. Carnegie owns shares in many companies, steelmaking companies, railway companies, and so on. Mr. Rockefeller, owns shares in the Standard Oil Company, in railways, coal mines, and so on. But Mr. Carnegie does not personally use any of the steel ingots made in the works in which he owns shares. He uses practically no steel at all, except a knife or two. Mr. Rockefeller does not use the oil-wells he owns, nor a hundred-millionth part of the coal his shares in coal-mines represent.

If one could get Mr. Carnegie into one of the works in which he is interested and stand with him in front of one of the great furnaces as it poured forth its stream of molten metal, he might say: "See! that is partly mine. It is part of my wealth!" Then, if one were to ask "But what are you going to do with that steel, Mr. Carnegie—is it useful to you?" Mr. Carnegie would laugh at the thought. He would probably reply, "No, bless your life! The steel is useless to me. I don't want it. But somebody else does. It is useful to other people."

Ask Mr. Rockefeller, "Is this oil refinery your property, Mr. Rockefeller?" and he would reply: "It is partly mine. I own a big share in it and it represents part of my wealth." Ask him next: "But, Mr. Rockefeller, what are you going to do with all that oil? Surely, you cannot need so much oil for your own use?" and he, like Mr. Carnegie, would reply: "No! The oil is useless to me. I don't want it. But somebody else does. It is useful to other people."

To be rich in our present social state, Jonathan, you must not only own an abundance of things useful to you, but also things useful only to others, which you can sell to them at a profit. Wealth, in our present society, then consists in the possession of things having an exchange value—things which other people will buy from you. So endeth our first lesson in political economy.

And here beginneth our second lesson, Jonathan. We must now consider how wealth is produced.

The Socialists say that all wealth is produced by labor applied to natural resources. That is a very simple answer, which you can easily remember. But I want you to examine it well. Think it over: ask yourself whether anything in your experience as a workingman confirms or disproves it. Do you produce wealth? Do your fellow workers produce wealth? Do you know of any other way in which wealth can be produced than by labor applied to natural resources? Don't be fooled, Jonathan. Think for yourself!

The wealth of a fisherman consists in an abundance of fish for which there is a good market. But suppose there is a big demand for fish in the cities and that, at the same time, there are millions of fish in the sea, ready to be caught. So long as they are in the sea, the fish are not wealth. Even if the sea belonged to a private individual, as the oil-wells belong to Mr. Rockefeller and a few other individuals, nobody would be any the better off. Fish in the sea are not wealth, but fish in the market-places are. Why, because labor has been expended in catching them and bringing them to market.

There are millions of tons of coal in Pennsylvania. President Baer said, you will remember, that God had appointed him and a few other gentlemen to look after that coal, to act as His trustees. And Mr. Baer wasn't joking, either. That is the funny part of the story: he was actually serious when he uttered that foolish blasphemy! There are also millions of people who want coal, whose very lives depend upon it. People who will pay almost any price for it rather than go without it.

The coal is there, millions of tons of it. But suppose that nobody digs for it; that the coal is left where Nature produced it, or where God placed it, whichever description you prefer? Do you think it would do anybody any good lying there, just as it lay untouched when the Indian roved through the forests ignorant of its presence? Would anybody be wealthier on account of the coal being there? Of course not. It only becomes wealth when somebody's labor makes it available. Every dollar of the wealth of our coal-mining industry, as of the fishing industries, represents human labor.

I need not go through the list of all our industries, Jonathan, to make this truth clear to you. If it pleases you to do so, you can easily do that for yourself. I simply wanted to make it clear that the Socialists are stating a great universal truth when they say that labor applied to natural resources is the true source of all wealth. As Sir William Petty said long ago: "Labor is the father and land is the mother of all wealth."

But you must be careful, Jonathan, not to misuse that word "labor." Socialists don't mean the labor of the hands only, when they speak of labor. Take the case of the coal-mines again, just for a moment: There are men who dig the coal, called miners. But before they can work there must be other men to make tools and machinery for them. And before there can be machinery made and fixed in its proper place there must be surveyors and engineers, men with a special education and capacity, to draw the plans, and so on. Then there must be some men to organize the business, to take orders for the coal, to see that it is shipped, to collect the payment agreed upon, so that the workers can be paid, and so on through a long list of things requiring mental labor.

Both kinds of labor are equally necessary, and no one but a fool would ever think otherwise. No Socialist writer or lecturer ever said that wealth was produced by manual labor alone applied to natural resources. And yet, I hardly ever pick up a book or newspaper article written against Socialism in which that is not charged against the Socialists! The opponents of Socialism all seem to be lineal descendants of Ananias, Jonathan!

For your special, personal benefit I want to cite just one instance of this misrepresentation. You have heard, I have no doubt, of the English gentleman, Mr. W.H. Mallock, who came to this country last year to lecture against Socialism. He is a very pleasant fellow, personally—as pleasant a fellow as a confirmed aristocrat who does not like to ride in the street cars with "common people" can be. Mr. Mallock was hired by the Civic Federation and paid out of funds which Mr. August Belmont contributed to that body, funds which did not belong to Mr. Belmont, as the investigation of the affairs of the New York Traction Companies conducted later by the Hon. W.M. Ivins, showed. He was hired to lecture against Socialism in our great universities and colleges, in the interests of people like Mr. Belmont. And there was not one of those universities or colleges fair enough to say: "We want to hear the Socialist side of the argument!" I don't think the word "fairplay," about which we used to boast as one of the glories of our language, is very much liked or used in American universities, Jonathan. And I am very sorry. It ought not to be so.

I should have been very glad to answer Mr. Mallock's silly and unjust attacks; to say to the professors and students in the universities and colleges: "I want you to listen to our side of the argument and then make up your minds whether we are right or whether truth is on the side of Mr. Mallock." That would have been fair and honest and manly, wouldn't it? There were several other Socialist lecturers, the equals of Mr. Mallock in education and as public speakers, who would have been ready to do the same thing. And not one of us would have wanted a cent of anybody's money, let alone money contributed by Mr. August Belmont.

Mr. Mallock said that the Socialists make the claim that manual labor alone creates wealth when applied to natural objects. That statement is not true. He even dared say that a great and profound thinker like Karl Marx believed and taught that silly notion. The newspapers of America hailed Mr. Mallock as the long-looked-for conqueror of Marx and his followers. They thought he had demolished Socialism. But did they know that they were resting their case upon a lie, I wonder? That Marx never for a moment believed such a thing; that he went out of his way to explain that he did not?

I don't want you to try to read the works of Marx, my friend—at least, not yet: Capital, his greatest work, is a very difficult book, in three large volumes. But if you will go into the public library and get the first volume in English translation, and turn to page 145, you will read the following words:

"By labor power or capacity for labor is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises when he produces a use-value of any description."[2]

I think you will agree, Jonathan, that that statement fully justifies all that I have said concerning Mr. Mallock. I think you will agree, too, that it is a very clear and intelligible definition, which any man of fair sense can understand. Now, by way of contrast, I want you to read one of Mr. Mallock's definitions. Please bear in mind that Mr. Mallock is an English "scholar," by many regarded as a very clear thinker. This is how he defines labor:

"Labor means the faculties of the individual applied to his own labor."

I have never yet been able to find anybody who could make sense out of that definition, Jonathan, though I have submitted it to a good many people, among them several college professors. It does not mean anything. The fifty-seven letters contained in that sentence would mean just as much if you put them in a bag, shook them up, and then put them on paper just as they happened to fall out of the bag. Mr. Mallock's English, his veracity and his logic are all equally weak and defective.

I don't think that Mr. Mallock is worthy of your consideration, Jonathan, but if you are interested in reading what he said about Socialism in the lectures I have been referring to, they are published in a volume entitled, A Critical Examination of Socialism. You can get the book in the library: they will be sure to have it there, because it is against Socialism. But I want you to buy a little book by Morris Hillquit, called Mr. Mallock's "Ability," and read it carefully. It costs only ten cents—and you will get more amusement reading the careful and scholarly dissection of Mallock than you could get in a dime show anywhere. If you will read my own reply to Mr. Mallock, in my little book Capitalist and Laborer, I shall not think the worse of you for doing so.

Now, let us look at the division of the wealth. It is all produced by labor of manual workers and brain workers applied to natural objects which no man made. I am not going to weary you with figures, Jonathan, because you are not a statistician. I am going to take the statistics and make them as simple as I can for you—and tell you where you can find the statistics if you ever feel inclined to try your hand upon them.

But first of all I want you to read a passage from the writings of a very great man, who was not a "wicked Socialist agitator" like your humble servant. Archdeacon Paley, the great English theologian, was not like many of our modern clergymen, afraid to tell the truth about social conditions; he was not forgetful of the social aspects of Christ's teaching. Among many profoundly wise utterances about social conditions which that great and good teacher made more than a century ago was the passage I now want you to read and ponder over. You might do much worse than to commit the whole passage to memory. It reads:

"If you should see a flock of pigeons in a field of corn, and if (instead of each picking where and what it liked, taking just as much as it wanted, and no more) you should see ninety-nine of them gathering all they got into a heap, reserving nothing for themselves but the chaff and the refuse, keeping this heap for one, and that the weakest, perhaps worst, pigeon of the flock, sitting round and looking on, all the winter, whilst this one was devouring, throwing about and wasting it; and if a pigeon, more hardy or hungry than the rest, touched a grain of the hoard, all the others instantly flying upon it, and tearing it to pieces; if you should see this, you would see nothing more than what is every day practised and established among men.

"Among men you see the ninety-and-nine toiling and scraping together a heap of superfluities for one (and this one, too, oftentimes the feeblest and worst of the set, a child, a woman, a madman or a fool), getting nothing for themselves, all the while, but a little of the coarsest of the provision which their own industry produces; looking quietly on, while they see the fruits of all their labor spent or spoiled; and if one of their number take or touch a particle of the hoard, the others joining against him, and hanging him for theft."

If there were many men like Dr. Paley in our American churches to-day, preaching the truth in that fearless fashion, there would be something like a revolution, Jonathan. The churches would no longer be empty almost; preachers would not be wondering why workingmen don't go to church. There would probably be less show and pride in the churches; less preachers paid big salaries, less fashionable choirs. But the churches would be much nearer to the spirit and standard of Jesus than most of them are to-day. There is nothing in connection with modern religious life quite so glaring as the infidelity of the Christian ministry to the teachings of Christ.

A lady once addressed Thomas Carlyle concerning Jesus in this fashion: "How delighted we should all be to throw open our doors to him and listen to his divine precepts! Don't you think so, Mr. Carlyle?" The bluff old puritan sage answered: "No, madam, I don't. I think if he had come fashionably dressed, with plenty of money, and preaching doctrines palatable to the higher orders, I might have had the honor of receiving from you a card of invitation, on the back of which would be written, 'To meet our Saviour.' But if he came uttering his sublime precepts, and denouncing the pharisees, and associating with publicans and the lower orders, as he did, you would have treated him as the Jews did, and cried out, 'Take him to Newgate and hang him.'"

I sometimes wonder, Jonathan, what really would happen if the Carpenter-preacher of Gallilee could and did visit some of our American churches. Would he be able to stand the vulgar show? Would he be able to listen in silence to the miserable perversion of his teachings by hired apologists of social wrong? Would he want to drive out the moneychangers and the Masters of Bread, to hurl at them his terrible thunderbolts of wrath and scorn? Would he be welcomed by the churches bearing his name? Would they want to listen to his gospel? Frankly, Jonathan, I doubt it. A few Socialists would be found in nearly every church ready to receive him and to call him "Comrade," but the majority of church-goers would shun him and pass him by.

I should not be surprised, Jonathan, if the President of the United States called him an "undesirable citizen," as he surely would call Archdeacon Paley if he were alive.

I wanted you to read Paley's illustration of the pigeons before going into the unequal distribution of wealth. It will help you to understand another illustration. Suppose that from a shipwreck one hundred men are fortunate enough to save themselves and to make their way to an island, where, making the best of conditions, they establish a little community, which they elect to call "Capitalia." Luckily, they have all got food and clothing enough to last them for a little while, and they are fortunate enough to find on the island a supply of tools, evidently abandoned by some former occupants of the island.

They set to work, cultivating the ground, building huts for themselves, hunting for game, and so on. They start out to face the primeval struggle with the sullen forces of Nature as our ancestors did in the time long past. Their efforts prosper, every one of the hundred men being a worker, every man working with equal will, equal strength and vigor. Now, then, suppose that one day, they decide to divide up the wealth produced by their labor, to institute individual property in place of common property, competition in place of co-operation. What would you think if two or three of the strongest members said, "We will do the dividing, we will distribute the wealth according to our ideas of justice and right," and then proceeded to give 55 per cent. of the wealth to one man, to the next eleven men 32 per cent. and to the remaining eighty-eight men only 13 per cent. between them?

I will put it in another way, Jonathan, since you are not accustomed to thinking in percentages. Suppose that there were a hundred cows to be divided among the members of the community. According to the scheme of division just described, this is how the division would work out:

1 Man would get 55 Cows for himself 11 Men would get 32 Cows among them 88 Men would get 13 Cows among them

When they had divided the cows in this manner they would proceed to divide the wheat, the potato crops, the land, and everything else owned by the community in the same unequal way. I ask you again, Jonathan, what would you think of such a division?

Of course, being a fair-minded man, endowed with ordinary intelligence at least, you will admit that there would be no sense and no justice in such a plan of division, and you doubt if intelligent human beings would submit to it. But, my friend, that is not quite so bad as the distribution of wealth in America to-day is. Suppose that instead of all the members of the little island community being workers, all working equally hard, fairly sharing the work of the community, one man absolutely refused to do anything at all, saying, "I was the first one to get ashore. The land really belongs to me. I am the landlord. I won't work, but you must work for me." And suppose that eleven other men said in like manner. "We won't work. We found the tools, we brought the seeds and the food out of the boats when we came. We are the capitalists and you must do the work in the fields. We will superintend you, give you orders where to dig, and when, and where to stop. You eighty-eight common fellows are the laborers who must do the hard work while we use our brains." And suppose that they actually carried out that plan and then divided the wealth in the way I have described, that would be a pretty good illustration of how the wealth produced in America under our existing social system is divided.

And I ask you what you think of that, Jonathan Edwards. How do you like it?

These are not my figures. They are not the figures of any rabid Socialist making frenzied guesses. They are taken from a book called The Present Distribution of Wealth in the United States, by the late Dr. Charles B. Spahr, a book that is used in most of our colleges and universities. No serious criticism of the figures has ever been attempted and most economists, even the conservative ones, base their own estimates upon Spahr's work. It would be worth your while to get the book from the library, Jonathan, and to read it carefully.

In the meantime, look over the following table which sets forth the results of Dr. Spahr's investigation, Jonathan, and remember that the condition of things has not improved since 1895, when the book was written, but that they have, on the contrary, very much worsened.


=================================================== No. of Per Average Aggregate Per Class Families Cent Wealth Wealth Cent - - - Rich 125,000 1.0 $263,040 32,880,000,000 54.8 Middle 1,362,500 10.9 14,180 29,320,000,000 32.2 Poor 4,762,500 38.1 1,639 7,800,000,000 13.0 Very Poor 6,250,000 50.0 - - - Total 13,500,000 100.0 $4,800 $60,000,000,000 100.0 - - -

Now, Jonathan, although I have taken a good deal of trouble to lay these figures before you, I really don't care very much for them. Statistics don't impress me as they do some people, and I would far rather rely upon your commonsense than upon any figures. I have not quoted these figures because they were published by a very able scholar in a very wise book, nor because scientific men, professors of political economy and others, have accepted them as a fair estimate. I have used them because I believe them to be true and reliable.

But don't you rest your whole faith upon them, Jonathan. If some fine day a Republican spellbinder, or a Democratic scribbler, tries to upset you and prove that Socialists are all liars and false prophets, just tell him the figures are quite unimportant to you, that you don't care to know just exactly how much of the wealth the richest one per cent. gets and how little of it the poorest fifty per cent. gets. A few millions more or less don't trouble you. Pin him down to the one fact which your own commonsense teaches you, that the wealth of the country is unequally distributed. Tell him that you know, regardless of figures, that there are many idlers who are enormously rich and many honest, industrious workers who are miserably poor. He won't be able to deny these things. He dare not, because they are true.

Ask any such apologist for capitalism what he would think of the father or mother who took his or her eight children and said: "Here are eight cakes, as many cakes as there are boys and girls. I am going to distribute the cakes. Here, Walter, are seven of the cakes for you. The other cake the rest of you can divide among yourselves as best you can." If the capitalist defender is a fair-minded man, if he is neither fool nor liar nor monster, he will agree that such a parent would be brutally unjust.

Yet, Jonathan, that is exactly how our national wealth is divided up. One-eighth of the families in the United States do get seven-eights of the wealth, and, being, I hope, neither fool, liar nor monster, I denounce the system as brutally unjust. There is no sense and no morality in mincing matters and being afraid to call spades spades.

It is because of this unjust distribution of the wealth of modern society that we have so much social unrest. That is the heart of the whole problem. Why are workingmen organized into unions to fight the capitalists, and the capitalists on their side organized to fight the workers? Why, simply because the capitalists want to continue exploiting the workers, to exploit them still more if possible, while the workers want to be exploited less, want to get more of what they produce.

Why is it that eminently respectable members of society combine to bribe legislators—to buy laws from the lawmakers!—and to corrupt the republic, a form of treason worse than Benedict Arnold's? Why, for the same reason: they want to continue the spoliation of the people. That is why the heads of a great life insurance company illegally used the funds belonging to widows and orphans to contribute to the campaign fund of the Republican Party in 1904. That is why, also, Mr. Belmont used the funds of the traction company of which he is president to support the Civic Federation, which is an organization specially designed to fool and mislead the wage-earners of America. That is why every investigation of American political or business life that is honestly made by able and fearless men reveals so much chicanery and fraud.

You belong to a union, Jonathan, because you want to put a check upon the greed of the employers. But you never can expect through the union to get all that rightfully belongs to you. It is impossible to expect that the union will ever do away with the terrible inequalities in the distribution of wealth. The union is a good thing, and the workers ought to be much more thoroughly organized into unions than they are. Socialists are always on the side of the union when it is engaged in an honest fight against the exploiters of labor.

Later on, I shall take up the question of unionism and discuss it with you, Jonathan. Meanwhile, I want to impress upon your mind that a wise union man votes as he strikes. There is not the least bit of sense in belonging to a union if you are to become a "scab" when you go to the ballot-box. And a vote for a capitalist party is a scab vote, Jonathan.


[2] Note: In the American edition, published by Kerr, the page is 186.



Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufactures, and others, to make large fortunes.—John Stuart Mill.

Most people imagine that the rich are in heaven, but as a rule it is only a gilded hell. There is not a man in the city of New York with brains enough to own five millions of dollars. Why? The money will own him. He becomes the key to a safe. That money will get him up at daylight; that money will separate him from his friends; that money will fill his heart with fear; that money will rob his days of sunshine and his nights of pleasant dreams. He becomes the property of that money. And he goes right on making more. What for? He does not know. It becomes a kind of insanity.—R.G. Ingersoll.

Is it well that, while we range with Science, glorying in the time, City children soak and blacken soul and sense in City slime? There, among the gloomy alleys, Progress halts on palsied feet, Crime and Hunger cast our maidens by the thousand on the street. There the master scrimps his haggard seamstress of her daily bread, There a single sordid attic holds the living and the dead; There the smouldering fire of fever creeps across the rotted floor, In the crowded couch of incest, in the warrens of the poor. —Tennyson.

When you and I were boys going to school, friend Jonathan, we were constantly admonished to study with admiration the social economy of the bees. We learned to almost reverence the little winged creatures for the manner in which they

Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower.

We were taught, you remember, to honor the bees for their hatred of drones. It was the great virtue of the bees that they always drove the drones from the hive. For my part, I learned the lesson so well that I really became a sort of bee-worshipper. But since I have grown to mature years I have come to the conclusion that those old lessons were not honestly meant, Jonathan. For if anybody proposes to-day that we should drive out the drones from the human hive, he is at once denounced as an Anarchist and an "undesirable citizen."

It is all very well for bees to insist that there must be no idle parasites, that the drones must go, but for human beings such a policy won't do! It savors too much of Socialism, my friend, and is unpleasantly like Paul's foolish saying that "If any man among you will not work, neither shall he eat." That is a text which is out of date and unsuited to the twentieth century!

"Allah! Allah!" cried the stranger, "Wondrous sights the traveller sees; But the greatest is the latest, Where the drones control the bees!"

Every modern civilized nation rewards its drones better than it rewards its bees, and in every land the drones control the bees.

I want you to consider, friend Jonathan, the lives of the people. How the workers live and how the shirkers live; now the bees live and how the drones live, if you like that better. You can study the matter for yourself, right in Pittsburg, much better than you can from books, for God knows that in Pittsburg there are the extremes of wealth and poverty, just as there are in New York, Chicago, St. Louis or San Francisco. There are gilded hells where rich drones live and squalid hells where poor bees live, and the number of truly happy people is sadly, terribly, small.

Ten millions in poverty! Don't you think that is a cry so terrible that it ought to shame a great nation like this, a nation more bounteously endowed by Nature than any other nation in the world's history? Men, women and children, poor and miserable, with not enough to eat, nor clothes to keep them warm in the cold winter nights; with places for homes that are unfit for dogs, and these not their own; knowing not if to-morrow may bring upon them the last crushing blow. All these conditions, and conditions infinitely worse than these, are contained in the poverty of those millions, Jonathan.

If people were poor because the land was poor, because the country was barren, because Nature dealt with us in niggardly fashion, so that all men had to struggle against famine; if, in a word, there was democracy in our poverty, so that none were idle and rich while the rest toiled in poverty, it would be our supreme glory to bear it with cheerful courage. But that is not the case. While babies perish for want of food and care in dank and unhealthy hovels, there are pampered poodles in palaces, bejeweled and cared for by liveried flunkies and waiting maids. While men and women want bread, and beg crusts or stand shivering in the "bread lines" of our great cities, there are monkeys being banqueted at costly banquets by the profligate degenerates of riches. It's all wrong, Jonathan, cruelly, shamefully, hellishly wrong! And I for one, refuse to call such a brutalized system, or the nation tolerating it, civilized.

Good old Thomas Carlyle would say "Amen!" to that, Jonathan. Lots of people wont. They will tell you that the poverty of the millions is very sad, of course, and that the poor are to be pitied. But they will remind you that Jesus said something about the poor always being with us. They won't read you what he did say, but you can read it for yourself. Here it is: "For ye have the poor always with you, and whensoever ye will ye can do them good."[3] And now, I want you to read a quotation from Carlyle:

"It is not to die, or even to die of hunger, that makes a man wretched; many men have died; all men must die,—the last exit of us all is in a Fire-Chariot of Pain. But it is to live miserable we know not why; to work sore and yet gain nothing; to be heart-worn, weary, yet isolated, unrelated, girt-in with a cold universal Laissezfaire: it is to die slowly all our life long, imprisoned in a deaf, dead, Infinite Injustice, as in the accursed iron belly of a Phalaris' Bull! This is and remains forever intolerable to all men whom God has made."

"Miserable we know not why"—"to die slowly all our life long"—"Imprisoned in a deaf, dead, Infinite Injustice"—Don't these phrases describe exactly the poverty you have known, brother Jonathan?

Did you ever stop to think, my friend, that poverty is the lot of the average worker, the reward of the producers of wealth, and that only the producers of wealth are poor? Do you know that, because we die slowly all our lives long, the death-rate among the working-class is far higher than among other classes by reason of overwork, anxiety, poor food, lack of pleasure, bad housing, and all the other ills comprehended in the lot of the wage-worker? In Chicago, for example, in the wards where the well-to-do reside the death-rate is not more than 12 per thousand, while it is 37 in the tenement districts.

Scientists who have gone into the matter tell us that of ten million persons belonging to the well-to-do classes the annual deaths do not number more than 100,000, while among the very best paid workers the number is not less than 150,000 and among the very poorest paid workers at least 350,000. To show you just what those proportions are, I have represented the matter in a little diagram, which you can understand at a glance:

There are some diseases, notably the Great White Plague. Consumption, which we call "diseases of the working-classes" on account of the fact that they prey most upon the wearied, ill-nourished bodies of the workers. Not that they are confined to the workers entirely, but because the workers are most afflicted by them. Because the workers live in crowded tenement hovels, work in factories laden with dust and disease germs, are overworked and badly fed, this and other of the great scourges of the human race find them ready victims.

Here is another diagram for you, Jonathan, showing the comparative mortality from Consumption among the workers engaged in six different industrial occupations and the members of six groups of professional workers.

[Illustration: DIAGRAM Showing Relative Mortality From Tuberculosis.

Deaths per 100,000 living in the same occupation

Marble and stone cutters. 540 Cigar makers and tobacco workers. 476 Compositors, printers, pressmen. 435 Barbers and hairdressers. 334 Masons (brick and stone). 294 Iron and steel workers. 236 Physicians and Surgeons. 168 Engineers and Surveyors. 145 School teachers. 144 Lawyers. 140 Clergymen. 123 Bankers, brokers, officials of companies, etc. 92]

I want you to study this diagram and the figures by which it is accompanied, Jonathan. You will observe that the death rate from Consumption among marble and stone cutters is six times greater than among bankers and brokers and directors of companies. Among cigar makers and tobacco workers it is more than five times as great. Iron and steel workers do not suffer so much from the plague as some other workers, according to the death-rates. One reason is that only fairly robust men enter the trade to begin with. Another reason is that a great many, finding they cannot stand the strain, after they have become infected, leave the trade for lighter occupations. I think there can be no doubt that the true mortality from Consumption among iron and steel workers is much higher than the figures show. But, taking the figures as they are, confident that they understate the extent of the ravages of the disease in these occupations, we find that the mortality is more than two and a half times greater than among capitalists.

Now, these are very serious figures, Jonathan. Why is the mortality so much less among the capitalists? It is because they have better homes, are not so overworked to physical exhaustion, are better fed and clothed, and can have better care and attention, far better chances of being cured, if they are attacked. They can get these things only from the labor of the workers, Jonathan.

In other words, they buy their lives with ours. Workers are killed to keep capitalists alive.

It used to be frequently charged that drink was the chief cause of the poverty of the workers; that they were poor because they were drunken and thriftless. But we hear less of that silly nonsense than we used to, though now and then a Prohibitionist advocate still repeats the old and long exploded myth. It never was true, Jonathan, and it is less true to-day than ever before. Drunkenness is an evil and the working class suffers from it to a lamentable degree, but it is not the sole cause of poverty, it is not the chief cause of poverty, it is not even a very important cause of poverty at all.

It is true that intemperance causes poverty in some cases, it is also true that drunkenness is very frequently caused by poverty. They act and react upon each other, but it is not doubted by any student of our social conditions whose opinion carries any weight that intemperance is far more often the result of poverty and bad conditions of life and labor than the cause of them.

The International Socialist Congress which met at Stuttgart last summer very rightly decided that Socialists everywhere should do all in their power to combat alcoholism, to end the ravages of intemperance among the working classes of all nations. For drunken voters are not very likely to be either wise or free voters: we need sober, earnest, clear-thinking men to bring about better conditions, Jonathan. But the Socialists, while they adopt this position, do not mistake results for causes. They know from actual experience that Solomon was right when he attributed intemperance to ill conditions. Hunt out your Bible and turn to the Book of Proverbs, chapter 31, verse 7. There you will read: "Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."

That is not very good advice to give a workingman, but it is exactly what many workingmen do. There was a wise English bishop who said a few years ago that if he lived in the slums of any of the great cities, under conditions similar to those in which most of the workers live, he would probably be a drunkard, and when I see the conditions under which millions of men are working and living I wonder that we have not more drunkenness than we have.

A good many years ago, "General" Booth, head of the Salvation Army, declared that "nine-tenths" of the poverty of the people was due to intemperance. Later on, "Commissioner" Cadman, one of the "General's" most trusted aides, made an investigation of the causes of poverty among all those who passed through the Army shelters for destitute men and women. He found that among the very lowest class, the "submerged tenth," where the ravages of drink are most sadly evident, depression in trade counted for much more than drink as a cause of poverty. The figures were:

Depression in trade 55.8 per cent. Drink and Gambling 26.6 per cent. Ill-health 11.6 per cent. Old Age 5.8 per cent.

Even among the very lowest class of the social wrecks of our great cities, who have long since abandoned hope, depression in trade was found to count for more than twice as much as drink and gambling combined as a producer of poverty.

That is in keeping with all the investigations that have ever been made in a scientific spirit. Professor Amos Warner, in his valuable study of the subject, published in his book, American Charities, shows how false the notion that nearly all the poverty of the people is due to their intemperance proves to be when an intelligent investigation of the facts is made.

Dr. Edward T. Devine, of Columbia University, editor of Charities and the Commons, is probably as competent an authority upon this question as any man living. He is not likely to be called a Socialist by anybody. Yet I find him writing in his magazine, at the end of November, 1907: "The tradition which many hold that the condition of poverty is ordinarily and as a matter of course to be explained by personal faults of the poor themselves is no longer tenable. Strong drink and vice are abnormal, unnatural and essentially unattractive ways of spending surplus income." Dr. Devine very frankly and bravely admits that poverty is an unnecessary evil, "a shocking, loathsome excrescence on the body politic, an intolerable evil which should come to an end." What else, indeed, could a sane man think of it?

As a conservative man, I say without reservation that accidents incurred in the course of employment, and sickness brought on by industrial conditions, such as overwork accompanied by under nourishment, exposure to extremes of temperature, unsanitary workshops and factories and the inhalation of contaminated atmosphere, are far more important causes of poverty among the workers than intemperance. Every investigation ever made goes to prove this true. I wish that every one who seeks to blame the poverty of the poor upon the victims themselves would study a few facts, which I am going to ask you to study, without prejudice or passion. They would readily see then how false the belief is.

Last year there was a Committee of very expert investigators in New York which made a careful inquiry into the relation of wages to the standard of living. They were not Socialists, these gentlemen, or I should not submit their testimony. I am anxious to base my case against our present social system upon evidence that is not in any way biased in favor of Socialism. Dr. Lee K. Frankel was Chairman of the Committee. He is Director of the United Hebrew Charities of New York City, an able and sincere man, but not a Socialist. Dr. Devine, another able and sincere man who is by no means a Socialist, was a member of the Committee. Among the other members were also such persons as Bishop Greer, of New York, Reverend Adolph Guttman, president of the Hebrew Relief Society, Syracuse, New York, Mrs. William Einstein, president of Emanu El Sisterhood, New York; Mr. Homer Folks, Secretary State Charities Aid Association and Reverend William J. White, of Brooklyn, Supervisor of Catholic Charities. The Committee was deputed to make the investigation by the New York State Conference of Charities and Corrections, and made its report in November, 1907, at Albany, N.Y.

I think you will agree, Jonathan, that it would be very hard to imagine a more conservative body, less inoculated with the virus of Socialism than that. From their report to the Conference I note that the Committee reported that as a result of their work, after going carefully into the expenditure of some 322 families, they had come to the conclusion that the lowest amount upon which a family of five could be supported in decency and health in New York City was about eight hundred dollars a year. I am quite sure, Jonathan, that there is not one of the members of that Committee who would think that even that sum would be enough to keep their families in health and decency; not one who would want to see their children living under the best conditions which that sum made possible. They were philanthropists you see, Jonathan, "figuring out" how much the "Poor" ought to be able to live on. And to help them out they got Professor Chapin, of Beloit College and Professor Underhill, of Yale. Professor Underhill being an expert physiological chemist, could advise them as to the sufficiency of the expenditures upon food among the families reported.

But the total income of thousands of families falls very short of eight hundred dollars a year. There are many thousands of families in which the breadwinner does not earn more than ten dollars a week at best. Making allowance for time lost through sickness, holidays, and so on, it is evident that the total income of such families would not exceed four hundred and fifty dollars a year at best. Even the worker with twenty dollars a week, if there is a brief period of sickness or unemployment, will find himself, despite his best efforts, on the wrong side of the line, compelled either to see his family suffer want or to become dependent on "that cold thing called Charity." And Dr. Devine, writing in Charities and the Commons, admits that the charitable societies cannot hope to make up the deficit, to add to the wages of the workers enough to raise their standards of living to the point of efficiency. He admits that "such a policy would tend to financial bankruptcy."

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