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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Aug. 7, 1908)
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CHARLES W. BRYAN, PUBLISHER
VOL. 8, NO. 30
Lincoln, Nebraska, August 7, 1908
Whole Number 394
. THEY ARE NOT AFRAID OF THE "BITE"
"The speech may sound somewhat-unfavorable from the railroad point of view, but Wall
Street believes that Secretary Taft's public bark does not necessarily portend a serious bite
later on' From the Stock Market Report printed in the New York fournal of Commerce
(rep.) Issue of July 28, 1908, page 3. '
THE BUSINESS MAN AND THE MASSES
By William J. Bryan
To The Commoner: My attention has been called to a pamphlet,
issued by the National Association of Manufacturers, and signed by
James W. Van Cleave. It concluded with the following statement
in black type :
"It is the duty of American business men, regardless of their
party, to bury Bryan and Bryanism under such. an avalanche of
votes in 1908 that the work will not have to be done overagainan
1912, or ever."
Mr. Van Cleave 's pamphlet contains four pages of printed mat
ter ; beginning with an explanation as to why the National Manufac
turers ' Association did not go to Denver it is devoted almost entirely
to a condemnation of the labor plank adopted at Denver. Mr. Van
Cleave insists that he is not talking party politics, that he is not
making an appeal "to either republicans or democrats as such," but
that he is "talking as a business man to business men on a subject
which has a vital concern for all of us. "
Mr. Van Cleave 's pamphlet raises two questions: First, is there
anything 'in the labor plank of the democratic platform to which
business men can justly take exception and, second, is the labor ques
tion so important to business men as to justify them in ignoring pll
Before answering the first question, it may be well to ask:
"Who are business men?" Mr. Van Cleave is the president of a
society known as the National Association of Manufacturers. Man
ufacturers are not the only business men in the country, and yet
Mr. Van Cleave 's appeal is to "business men." Every man who is
engaged in a work which is useful to society is a business man; every
man who contributes by brain or muscle to the nation's wealth and
the nation's progress is a business man. Can it be said that all who
are engaged in any honorable and helpful work have a "vital con
cern" in the defeat of the democratic party?
But suppose we narrow the definition of business men to those
who are engaged in production, distribution and transportation.
Can it be said that the labor plank of the democratic platform is a
menace to all these? Shall we so define the term "business men"
that ft will include only the employer of labor? Has the manu
facturer an interest so distinct from those vhom he employs, and
through whose labor he produces, that he has a "vital concern" in
opposing legislation beneficial to his employes? Are the interests of
the merchant so distinct from the interests of the clerks whom he
employs that the merchant has a "vital concern" in defeating legis
lation beneficial to his clerks and employes? And has the corpora
tion which is engaged in transportation interests so distinct from the
interests of those who carry on its work that it has a "vital concern"
in opposing legislation asked by the employes?
Or does Mr. Van Cleave limit his definition to big manufacturers
and big merchants and big railway corporations? It might be well
for Mr. Van Cleave to furnish plans and specifications with his ap
peal so that the public will know exactly who are included in the
phrase 'business men." Surely not all of those who are pecuniarily
interested in ' manufacturing, merchandising and railroading will
feel that they are called upon to enlist in a war against the labor
But what is this labor plank which is of such "vital concern"
to those for whom Mr. Van Cleave would speak? It asks that a
labor department be created, with a cabinet officer at its head. Does
this offend the business men? Are the wage-earnors presumptuous
or impudent in asking for , recognition in the president's council
cMmbcr?"uThose ltnown as wage-earners" constitute a considerable
percentage of the population; is it unreasonable that they should
have a special champion in the cabinet, to represent them in the
discussion of public questions? It was some time before a clepart
ment of agriculture was created ; will anybody doubt that the crea
tion of this department was wse? Will anybody dispute that this
department has been of immense advantage to the farmers of the
country? What reason have we to doubt that a department of labor
would in like manner justify its creation? We have more lately
created a department of commerce and labor, but the head of that
department has represented commerce rather than labor.
The platform draws a distinction between associations of wage
earners and producers, organized for the protection of wages and
the improvement of labor conditions, and industrial corporations
which act in restraint of trade. The difference between a labor or
ganization and a trust is so apparent that no disinterested person
will deny that they should be treated separately. To class the two
kinds of organizations together, and deal with them under one law,
is bound to do injustice to one or the other. Surely the business
men can have no "vital concern" in including the labor organiza
tions in the anti-trust laws.
The democratic platform also declares in favor of the eight-hour
day on government work and the employers' liability act, but as
these planks are also in the republican platform, they can not, of
course, be offensive to Mr. Van Cleave.
The democratic platform also favors the passage of a measure
which passed the United States senate in 1896, but which a republi
can congress has ever since refused to enact, providing for trial by
jury in cases of indirect contempt. Can this raise a question of
"vital concern" to business men? The business'man has the right
of trial by jury; every man charged with a crime has the right of
trial by jury. What public interest is there that will suffer by the
granting of this safeguard to wage earners? The right of trial by
jury in cases of indirect contempt is no reflection upon the court.
Is it a reflection upon the court if a party to the trial of a case at
law asks for a jury? Is it a reflection upm a criminal judge that he
must permit the accused to be tried before a jury of his peers?
Where the contempt is not committed in the presence of the court,
it must rest upon evidence. In such a case, the judge has no in
formation except that which he secures from witnesses, and it 'is
the special function of the jury to weigh evidence and to decide
upon the credibility of witnesses, An attempt has been made to
raise a false issue in regard to the courts and to make it appear that
-the demand for trial by jury is an assault upon the integrity of the
-ars-.i . m
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