The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, January 01, 1915, Page 13, Image 13

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The Commoner
'JANUARY, 1915
Who Owns Our Government?
v.?WeAre.Sure of One Thing, the People Do Not"-Theodore F. Thieme
' Following' Is & special report to. the Indiana
pally Timee: . , '.
Terra Haute, Ind., Oct. 16. The Federated
Commercial clubs, convention, which convened
here yesterday, is wondering, what Theo. F.
Thiemo of Ft. Wayne handed it No speaker
will cause more comment than has followed
Thieme's discussion of the movement for a new
constitution for Indiana.
The Ft. Wayne manufacturer literally "burned
up" machine rule in Indiana and showed con
clusively that industrial freedom depended upon
political freedom which in turn is only possible
through radical changes in Indiana's constitu
tion. As the most glaring example of what the peo
ple may expect under present conditions in In
diana, Mr. Thieme held up the state public ser
vice, commission, and his arraignment of that
board, coming as it does from one of the most
successful business men in Indiana, was easily
the sensation of the convention. 'Mr. Thieme
said "the. law (publicr service commission law)
was framed by public utility lawyers; it was
passed through the legislature by public utility
agents; It is executed by a commission, made up
of. .politicians and public utility lawyers. Where'
do you suppose the people's Interests come in?"
Mr. Thieme, wbo is the head of the big knit
ting mills at Ft. Wayne, spoke as follows J
. "In my work for the 'Business System of City
Government' movement in this state I was fre
quently confronted With- the statement by secre
taries of commercial clubs, 'Our organization
will not consider political questions.' While a
majority of our business organizations did disJ
cuss; arid 'called meetings in the interest of, a'
movement lfoF better city government, others,
including some of 'the large? organizations, would'
no.t permit Its discussion.
"Nearly all articles of association of com
mercial clubs contain this section:
" 'The object of said association shall be not
to promote, but to foster, protect and extend
the commercial, mercantile and manufacturing
interests of the city; to advance the growth,
beautiflcatloh'and material welfare of he com
munity:' "These clubs are organized to give expression
to public sentiment, and so should become the
public forum and mouthpiece of a community;
they should watch over the welfare of the city
and guard its privileges. And while it becomes
the duty of such organizations to consider polit
ical questions, there should be no place for par
tisan politics; while they should assist in clear
ing up and .destroying the ugly 'wigglers' in the
muddy, pool of politics, they should not plunge
Into the, pool nd become soiled and contamln-?
ated .themselves. On the other hand the con
trol of such clubs should not be 'allowed to get
into the hands of politicians; whenever they do
political questions are barred, and the real use
fulness of such a club is at an end.
"I am sorry to say that the leading clubs of
our state today are controlled by the 'political
machine.' The purpose is not only to stifle in
th club material welfare work depending on
political agitation, but by keeping silent to quiet
all apprehension and suspicion on the part of
the public.
"What Is the result? Our business and pro
fessional men, as a, body, are ignorant of the
simplest questions of government or political
policy; they are apathetic and discouraged. The
intelligent working people of the state, as a
body, are statesmen, as compared with the av
erage business man. I can vouch for this
through three years of experience.
"Our commercial clubs should be" civic edu
cational centers, to teach the' people the simple,
sound principles of government; to investigate
and report on the great political and economic
questions of the day, 'especially those directly
affecting our cities, to create enlightened citi
zenship and a community sense among our peo
ple, thereby establishing a healthy, progressive
and sound government for all the people, as a
substitute for. our present destructive, unsound,
Here are some of the statements made
to the Commercial clubs in Terro Haute,
Ind., in a speech by Theo. F. Thieme of
the Ft. Wayne knitting mills:
Our present systom of government is
rotten to the core.
Perhaps the most glaring instance of
a bold raid and an utter disregard on
the part of the machine for the rights
of the people, and especially the work
ing people, is found In the state public
utility law passod by the same notorious
legislature. Supposedly designed to pro
tect the people and the cities from the
merciless tyranny of public franchise
corporations, we find this situation: The
law was formed by public utility law
yers; it was passed through the legisla
ture by public utility agents; it is exe
cuted by a commission made up of
politicians and public utility lawyers.
Where do you suppose the people's in
terests come in?
They created the position of political
boss, who was made the confidential
agent, the go-between, of the new cap
italistic organization. Nearly every city
hap one of these bosses. Some are big,
some little; some have been admitted to
the throne room, some get their orders
in the back yard. Combined, these
bosses form the political machine. They
are bi-partisan and control both parties.
The spoils system of office furnishes the
working machinery.
I am sorry to say the leading clubs of
our state today are controlled by the
political machine.
Who owns our government? We are
sure of one thing, the people "do not."
At most, the total cost of the constitu
tional convention and special elections
would be about $650,000. That looks
like a large sum, but the governor of
Ohio makes the statement and proves it,
that the new constitution saved the state
of Ohio $4,000,000 the first year.
wasteful system for the benefit of a' few. When
we do that, gentlemen, our commercial and sim
ilar organizations will take on new life and ac
complish wonderful things for our cities. Instead
of spending our energy and money in locating
questionable enterprises, let us preserve those
we have, and make our cities so attractive to
both capital and labor as to induce others to
flock to us.
"The question may be asked, 'Why must the
commercial clubs take up these questions; what
are our government, our political parties, or
officials for?' It is my purpose to answer this
question and also show you the great political
question which should command our first atten
tion at this time, namely, a 'New Constitution
for Indiana
"Our society is made, up of two classes, the
'governed' and the 'governing.' The struggle
for supremacy between these two classes is as
old as the centuries. All power, all wealth and
privilege comes from the 'governed' the people.
The aim of the 'governed' Is to secure that
power and retain it for the conservation of
wealth and privilege that is democracy. On
the other hand, where that power Is secured by
the 'governing' class, it Insures them wealth
and privileges of the governed that is pluto
cracy. It therefore always happens that any
laws designed in the interest of the 'governed'
as against the interest of the 'governors' aro
opposed by the 'governors.'
"This struggle is universally a very unequal
one, because the 'governors are a small, com
pact body, thoroughly organized, whose business
and livelihood is governing, while the 'governed'
(the peoplo) aro a lnrge, unwieldy maws, with
out organization, whoso main business is to
make a living for themsolvos and famlllee. Thin
is especially true In a new, 'naturally rich coun
try liko the United States, with Its rapidly grow
ing population, and Inirnoniely profitable com
munity undertakings. 'K
"It must bo clear to you" thon why we, the
people, do not got, and must not expect, sup
port and assistance for any political measure
designed to protect us from tho exploitations ot
tho 'governors,' or give us relief from conditions
which retard us in our progress, or which put
unjust burdons upon us. It thorofore become
necessary for tho 'governed' to have organisa
tions for their protection, and as such our com
mercial clubs should take tho lead and carry out
the purpose of their organizations 'to advance
tho material welfare of tho people.'
"Who owns our government? We aro sure
of ono thing, the peoplo do not. They pay the
taxes, croato tho wealth and furnish the votes,
yet they do not own their government. Then
who does? Lot mo briefly toll you:
"Sixty-throo years ago, In tho year 1851, the
pooplo of Indiana adopted a new state constitu
tion to replace tho one adopted thirty-five year ,
prior to that, in 181G. Tho old instrument had,
boon outgrown, so thoy brought their funda
mental laws, or tho 'rights of tho people' up to
date. Wo will assumo that tho men who com
posed tho constitutional convention wore hon
est, and perhaps above tho average In intelli
gence, and that they wroto tho best constitution
thoy know how to wrlto and could agree upon,
according to conditions existing at that time.
However, thoy could not look' into tho future
and so could not make provision for it. They
thought so much of their work and believed i
It so thoroughly that they protected it by mak
ing It practically unamondablo. Thoy provide
that any proposed amendment must bo passed
by a majority vote of both houses of tho legist"1
lature, at two successive sessions, and then be
submitted to tho peoplo for a vote, and that it
must secure a majority of all votes cast at the
election, not a majority of tho votes cast on suck
an amendment; and whllo such an amendment
was pending, no other arnendmonts could be
proposed. 'A majority of all votes cast' wan,
rocently well illustrated by a speaker. Ho said:
'Wo will suppose a meeting of ono hundred peo
ple. A vote Is to bo taken. Tho speaker an
nounces, "All In favor of tho motion ariso" "
and fifty men rise to their feet. "Those op
posed will rise" and ton men rise. The
speaker announces, "Thoro aro fifty ayes and
ten nays, but as a majority of thoso present I
fifty-one, tho motion Is lost." That means that
thoso who do not vote aro counted against, No
body would consider that fair, yet that is the
method prescribed in our constitution. This has
proven such a' handicap that although many at
tempts have been made in the last sixty-three
years to amend our constitution, yet at no elec
tion has a majority of all votes cast been se
cured. At present thirty-five states have abol
ished this unfair provision, but Indiana still
struggles along with it, and. the agents of the
'governors' tell us boldly, 'We can secure all
reforms by amendments we don't need a new
"In 1851 tho largest city in the state had a
population of 8,000. We Iiad no city problems,
and these constitution makers could not fore
see the modern business city with its great ac
tivities, both in its development and in its main
tenance. "And what Is a city? It is the unorganized
mass of the 'governed.' The assembling of this
mass within a limited area makes the city, and
in order to create living conditions and make it
possible for this mass to 'live and let live' they
themselves must provide certain things, and un
dertake certain functions, such as street paving
sewer construction, bridge building, public
schools, fire and police departments, parks,
transportation in the city, gas, electric lights,
water, telephones, etc. Thj city has become a
huge business and manufacturing corporation",
with this unorganized mass as tax-paying stock
holders. " The carrying out of the functions of this
'city corporation' necessitates the letting of con
tracts, granting of franchises, employing of
many people, buying and selling activities in
volving the expenditure of millions of dollars,
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