The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, May 08, 1908, Page 9, Image 9

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MAY 8, i368fc
The Commoner.
The President's Latest Message to Congress
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On April 27 the president sent to congress
the following message:
"To the Senate and House of Representa
tives: In my message to congress of March 25,
1908, I outlined certain measures which I be
lieve the majority of our countrymen desire
to have enacted into law at this time. These
measures do not represent by any means all
that I would like to see done if I thought it
possible, but they do represent what I believo
can now be done if an earnest effort toward this
end is made.
"Since I wrote this message an employers'
liability law has been enacted which, it is true,
comes short of what ought to have been done,
but which does represent a real advance. Ap
parently there is good ground to hope that there
will be further legislation providing for recom
pensing all employes who suffer injury whilo
engaged in the public service; that there will
be a child labor law enacted for the District of
Columbia; that the water ways commission will
be continued with sufficient financial support
to increase the effectiveness of its preparatory
work; that steps will be taken to provide for
such investigation into tariff conditions, by the
appropriate committee of the house of repre
sentatives and by government experts in the
executive service, as will secure the full infor
mation necessary for immediate action in revis
ing the tariff at the hands of the congress
elected next fall; and finally,, that financial
legislation will be enacted providing for tem
porary measures for meeting any trouble that
may arise in the next, year or two, and for a
commission of experts who shall thoroughly in
vestigate the whole matter, both .here and in
the great commercial countries abroad, so as to
be able to recommend legislation which will put
our financial system on an efficient and perma
nent basis.
"It is much to be wished that one feature
of the financial legislation of this session should
be the establishment of postal savings banks.
Ample appropriation should be made to enable
the interstate commerce commission to carry out
the very important feature of the Hepburn
law which gives to the commission supervision
and control over the accounting systems of the
railways. Failure to provide means which will
enable the commission to examine the books of
the railways would amount to an attack on the
law at its most vital point and would benefit
as nothing else could benefit those railways
which are corruptly or incompetently managed.
Forest reserves should be established through
out the Appalachian mountain region wherever
It can be shown that they will have a direct
and real connection with the conservation and
Improvement of navigable rivers.
"There seems, however, much doubt about
two of the measures I have recommended, the
measure to do away with abuse of the power of
Injunction and the measure or group of meas
ures to strengthen and render both more effi
cient and more wise the control by the national
government over the great corporations doing
an interstate business.
"First, as to the power of injunction and of
punishment for contempt. In contempt cases,
save where immediate action is imperative, the
trial should be before another judge. As re
gards injunctions, some such legislation as that
I have previously recommended should be en-
"They are blind who fail to realize the ex
treme bitterness caused among large bodies of
worthy citizens by the use that has been repeat
edly made of the power of injunction in labor
disputes. Those in whose judgment wo have
most right to trust are of the opinion that,
while much of the complaint against the use
of the injunction is unwarranted, yet that it is
unquestionably true that in a number of cases
this power has been used to the grave inoury
of the rights of laboring men. I ask that it be
limited in some such way as that I have al
ready pointed out in my previous messages for
the very reason that I do not wish to see an
embittered effort made to destroy it.
"It is unwise stubbornly to refuse to pro
vide against a repetition of the abuses which
have caused the present unrest. In a democ
racy like ours it is idle ttf expect permanently
to thwart the determination of the great body
of our citizens. It may r be- and often is the
highest duty of a court, a legislature or an
executive to resist and defy a gust of popular
passion, and most certainly no public servant,
whatever may be the consequences to himself,
should yield to what he thinks wrong.
"But in a question which is emphatically
one of public policy, the policy which the pub
lic demands is sure In the end to be adopted;
and a persistent refusal to grant to a large
portion of our people what is right is only too
apt in the end to result in causing such irrita
tion that when the right is obtained it is ob
tained in the course of a movement so ill con
sidered and violent as to bo accompanied by
much that is wrong. The process of injunction
in labor disputes, as well as whero state laws
are involved, should be used sparingly, and only
when there is the clearest necessity for it; but
it is one so necessary to the efficient perform
ance of duty by. the court on behalf of the na
tion that it Is in the highest degreo to be re
gretted that it should be liable to reckless use;
for this reckless use tends to make honest men
desiro so to hamper its execution as to destroy
its usefulness.
"Every far-sighted patriot should protest
first of all against the growth in this country
of that evil thing which is called 'class con
sciousness.' The demagogue, the sinister or
foolish socialist visionary who strives to arouse
this feeling of class consciousness in our work
ing people does a foul and evil thing; for ho
is no true American, he Is no self-respecting
citizen of this republic, he forfeits his right to
stand with manly self-reliance on a footing of
entire equality with all other citizens, who bows
to envy and greed, who erects the doctrine of
class hatred into a shibboleth, who substitutes
loyalty to men of a particular status, whether
rich or poor, for loyalty to those eternal and
immutable principles of righteousness which
bid us treat each man on his worth as a man
without regard to his wealth or his poverty.
"But evil though the influence of these
demagogues and visionaries Is, it is no worse
in its consequences than the Influence exercised
by the man of great wealth or the man of power
and position in the Industrial world, who by his
lack of sympathy with, and lack of understand
ing of, still more by any exhibition of uncom
promising hostility to, the millions of our work
ing people, tends to unite them against their
fellow Americans who are better off in this
world's goods. It is a bad thing to teach our
working people that men of means, that men
who have the largest proportion of the substan
tial comforts of life, are necessarily greedy,
grasping and cold-hearted, and that they un
justly demand and appropriate more than their
share of the substance of the many.
"Stern condemnation should bo visited
upon demagogue and visionary who teach this
untruth, and even sterner upon those capitalists
who are in truth grasping and greedy and bru
tally dlsregardful of the rights of others, and
who by their actions teach the dreadful lesson
far more effectively than any mere preacher of
unrest. A 'class grievance' left too long with
out remedy breeds 'class consciousness' and
therefore class resentment.
"The strengthening of the anti-trust law
Is demanded upon both moral and economic
grounds. Our purpose in strengthening It Is
to secure more effective control by the national
government over the business use of the vast
masses of individual, and especially of corpor
ate, wealth, which at the present time monopo
lize most of the interstate business of the coun
try; and we believe the control can best be ex
ercised by preventing the growth of abuses,
rather than merely by trying to destroy them
when they have already grown.
"In the highest sense of the word this
movement for thorough control of the business
use of this great wealth is conservative. "We
are trying to steer a safe middle course, which
alone can save us from a plutocratic class gov
ernment on the one hand, or a socialistic class
government on the other, -either of which would
be fraught with disaster to our free Institutions,
state and national. We are trying to avoid
alike the evils which would flow from govern
ment ownership of the phblfc utilities by which
interstate commerce is' chiefly carried on, and
the evils which flow from the riot and chaos of
unrestricted individualism.
"Thero is grave danger to our freo institu
tions in tho corrupting influenco oxercisod by
great wealth suddenly concentrated in tho hands
of tho few. We should in sano manner try to
remedy this danger, in spite of the sullen opposi
tion of these few very powerful men, and with
tho full purpose to protect them in all their
rights at tho very time that wo require them to
deal rightfully with others.
"When with steam and electricity modern
business conditions went through tho astound
ing revolution which in this country began
over half a century ago, there was at first much
hesitation as to what particular governmental
agency should bo used to grapple with tho now
conditions. At almost the same time, about
twenty years since, tho effort was made to con
trol combinations by regulating them through
the interstate commerce commission, and to
abolish them by means of the anti-trust act;
the two remedies therefore being in part mutu
ally incompatible.
"The interstate commerce law has pro
duced admirable results, especially since it was
strengthened by the Hepburn law two years ago.
Tho anti-trust law, though it worked somo good,
because anything is better than anarchy and
complete absence of regulation, nevertheless has
proved in many respects not merely inadaquato
but mischiovous. Twenty years ago the misuse
of corporate power had produced almost every
conceivable form of abuse and had worked tho
gravest injury to business morality and tho pub
lic conscience. For a long time federal regula
tion of interstate commerce had boon purely
negative, the national judiciary merely acting
in isolated cases to restrain the states from ex
ercising a power which it was clearly unconsti
tutional as well as unwise for them to exercise,
but which nevertheless the national government
itself failed to exercise. Thus tho corporations
monopolizing commerce made the law for them
selves, state power and common law being in
adequate to accomplish any effective regulation,
and the national power not yet having been put
"Tho result was mischiovous In tho ex
treme, and only short-sighted and utter failure
to appreciate the grossness of the evils to which
the lack of regulation gave rise, can excuse tho
well-meaning persons who now desiro to abolish
tho anti-trust law outright, or to amend it by
simply condemning 'unreasonable' combina
tions. "Power should unquestionably be lodged
somewhere in the executive branch of the gov
ernment to permit combinations which will fur
ther the public interest; but it must always bo
remembered that, as regards the great and
wealthy combinations through which most of
the interstate business of today Is done, the bur
den of prdof should be on them to show that
they have a right to exist.
"No judicial tribunal has tho knowledge or
the experience to determine in the first place
whether a given combination is advisable or ne
cessary in the interest of the public. Some body,
whether a commission or a bureau under the
department of commerce and labor, should be
given this power. My personal belief Is that
ultimately we shall have to adopt a national in
corporation law, though I am well aware that
this may be impossible at present. Over tho
actions of the executive body In which the pow
er Is placed the courts should possess merely a
power of review analogous to that obtaining In
connection with the work of the Interstate com
merce commission at present.
"To confer this power would not bo a leap
in the dark; It would merely be to carry still
further tho theory of effective governmental
control of corporations -which was responsible
for the creation of the interstate commerce com
mission, and for the enlargement of its powers,
and for the creation of the bureau of corpora
tions. The interstate commerce legislation has
worked admirably. It has benefited the public;
it has benefited honestly managed and wisely
conducted railroads; and in spite of the fact
that the busfpess of the country lias enormously
increased, the value of this federal legislation
has been shown by the way fn which it has en
abled the federal government to correct the
most pronounced of the great' and varied abuses
(Continued on Page 12)
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