AN ACCOUNT OF THE
IN THE NEW YORK MUNICIPAL
ELECTION OF 1886
LOUIS F. POST and FRED C. LEUBUSCHER
Reprinted by the
HENRY GEORGE SCHOOL
50 EAST 69th STREET
New York 21, N. Y.
This version annotated by Wyn Achenbaum
New York’s mayoralty campaign of 1886 was one of the most interesting in American history. Students are attracted to it again and again, as it seems to mark a turning-point, a new awakening of a civic and social conscience. Around the figure of Henry George were rallied the new voices of protest against corruption, and demands for reform. It turned out to be one of the most exciting contests ever waged.
Louis F. Post and Fred C. Leubuscher wrote their account of the campaign shortly after the election, when plans were still being made for future campaigns. Necessarily lacking in historical perspective, it does capture the immediacy of the event, its excitement and vitality. And it still remains the most thorough study of the 1886 campaign.
Extremely scarce and long out of print, the yellowed copy in the Henry George School library has been in steady demand. In order to preserve this document and make it most readily available to students, we have reproduced the Post-Leubuscher account from the original edition published by John W. Lovell Company in 1887, and we present it herewith.
HENRY GEORGE SCHOOL
OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
New York, May 1961
The late municipal election in the city of New York was the first serious contest at the polls between those who aim to eradicate social injustice and those who profit or hope to profit by its perpetuation — between reformers of society and “saviors of society.”1 Henry George stood as the candidate of men who believe that we must live by the sweat of our own brows; Abram S. Hewitt was the candidate of a class that depends for a living upon the sweat of other men’s brows.
The time for writing a history of the campaign has not arrived. Until the movement of which, in its beginning, Mr. George was the representative, will have spread over the country and given birth to a new national party — perhaps until its principles shall have been crystallized into law — it will be impossible to write a history of that campaigns. Any attempt, in so far as it was not speculative, would be no more than a chronicle of events in which the trivial and the important would be upon an equality. But, though a history cannot be written, and a mere chronicle might not be worth writing, it is believed that an account of certain prominent features of the campaign will be both interesting and valuable.
The circumstances out of which Mr. George’s nomination grew, and the issues it represented, and which Mr. Hewitt accepted in opposition, we have been at considerable pains to give in detail and with accuracy. The most prominent feature of the campaign, however, was the correspondence between Mr. George and Mr. Hewitt, in which the former challenged the latter to a public debate. The letters constituting this correspondence, appearing in the daily press at intervals and at a time of great political excitement as they did, were not read so critically as they may be in this volume, where they are presented together in a single chapter. The subject-matter of the letters gives to the correspondence a permanent value which campaign correspondence seldom possesses.
Next in importance were the speeches of Mr. George, for his opinions were made the chief object of attack by his adversary. It is impossible, however, to publish all of Mr. George’s speeches. He delivered more than a hundred, many of which were not reported at all, and very few with accuracy. But his principal speeches embodied all the sentiments that were expressed in the others, and a perusal of them will give a good idea of the line of opinion and argument he pursued throughout the campaign. For his speech of acceptance we are indebted to the stenographer who reported it for the Irish World. His other speeches, published here, were reported stenographically by Mr. Leubuscher, and are given precisely as they were delivered, without even verbal revision.
Although Mr. Hewitt’s speeches are of little permanent value, since he made no effort to meet the arguments of his adversary, but relied upon appeals to the ignorance and fears of the well-to-do, they were a marked feature of the campaign, and we have collected them. They are given as they were published in the leading newspapers that favored the election of Mr. Hewitt.
While we make no pretense to historical authorship, we have endeavored to embody in this account of the campaign all the leading facts which will be useful when the history of the campaign comes to be written, and which are of interest at the present time. Care has been taken to report impartially and fully the utterances of each of the leading candidates, If the Republican candidate does not figure in this account, it is because he did not figure the campaign except as the regular candidate of a party machine. The only issues involved in the election were between Mr. George and Mr. Hewitt. Mr. Roosevelt was, not only with respect to his vote, but also with respect to the importance of his candidacy, only a third party candidate.
As the campaign was but the beginning of a national political movement, we report what was done after election to perfect and extend the organization that conducted it.
LOUIS F. POST
FREDERICK C. LEUBUSCHER.
New York, December 18, 1886.
Editor’s Note: the page numbers here are those in the original publication.
PREFATORY NOTE iii
THE NOMINATION OF HENRY GEORGE 3
History of the Nomination. — Mr. George’s Letter to the Labor Conference. — The Platform. — The Formal Nomination. — The Chickering Hall Meeting.
HENRY GEORGE ACCEPTS THE NOMINATION 17
Chairman McMackin’s Presentation of the Nomination. — Mr. George’s Speech of Acceptance. — The Executive Committee.
THE OPPOSITION 31
Nomination of Mr. Hewitt by Tammany Hall. — Endorsement by the County Democracy. — The Joint Committee. — Mr. Hewitt’s Letter of Acceptance. — Mr. Hewitt’s Speech at Cooper Union. — The Republican Candidate.
THE GEORGE-HEWITT CORRESPONDENCE 45
- GEORGE’S “ANARCHY” DISSECTED72
Mr. George Declares his Position and Answers Questions at Chickering Hall.
- HEWITT’S MEETINGS AND SPEECHES91
Speech at Tammany Hall. — Speech at Steinway Hall. — Speech at German Meeting at Cooper Union. — Speech at Worth Street.
- GEORGE’S MEETINGS AND SPEECHES105
The “Tail-board” Campaign. — Open-air Meetings. — The Protestant Monk. — Horny-handed Philosophers. — Speech at St. Cecilia’s. — Speech to the Waiters’ Union. — Speech before Eight Thousand in the Open Air. — In the Eighteenth District — Speech from the Steps of an Elevated Railway Station. — At the “First Voters” Meeting. — Speech to the Irish-American Independents. — Letters from Colonel Ingersoll. — Speech of Mr. Powderly.
IRVING HALL 124
Resolutions. — Endorsement of the Labor Candidate. — Mr. George’s Speech.
FATHER MCGLYNN 128
His Part in the Campaign. — An Interview. — The Preston-O’Donohue Correspondence. — Archbishop Corrigan’s Pastoral Letter. — Henry George’s Letter to the Archbishop.
THE PARADE 150
THE ELECTION 155
Official Canvass of the Vote. — Mr. George’s Midnight Speech.
PERMANENT ORGANIZATION 171
George’s Congratulatory Speech at Cooper Union. — Declaration. — Temporary National Committee.
Review by Mr. Post of the Principles Advocated by Henry George.
THE NOMINATION OF HENRY GEORGE.
The nomination of Henry George for Mayor of New York was formally made by a conference or convention of local trades unions and labor clubs. But the real nomination, a nomination in the truest sense democratic, had a broader basis; it was tendered by thirty-four thousand four hundred and sixty individual voters who, under their signatures, requested him to stand as a candidate and pledged him their votes.
The movement originated with the Central Labor Union, a body of delegates from labor organizations established in the winter of 1881-82, which grew out of a mass meeting held in Cooper Union for the purpose of expressing the sympathy of New York working-men with the poor of Ireland in their revolt against landlordism. A committee of delegates from different labor organizations had been appointed to manage the mass meeting, and upon their recommendation a permanent central body was organized, which, under the name of the Central Labor Union, has flourished ever since.
The delegates to this body were soon convinced that in the United States political action was the prime means of promoting the best interests of the laboring masses. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1882, the Central Labor Union nominated candidates for Congress, the Assembly, and the Board of Aldermen. It was believed that working-men would follow the lead of the central body; but this expectation was doomed to disappointment. The labor organizations, having created the Central Labor Union for industrial purposes only, repudiated its unauthorized entry into politics, and the labor vote in the election of 1882 was so trifling as to excite derision. From that time the Central Labor Union confined its work to industrial affairs.
The idea that political action was imperative was, however, unofficially propagated by the central body and encouraged by the more advanced subordinate organizations; it spread slowly — for party ties are strong — until the labor prosecutions of last spring and summer, so vindictive and cruel and pressed so vigorously by the representatives of both political parties, aroused the masses to a realization of the helpless condition to which they had been reduced, and made the common mind receptive to new political and social doctrines. The necessity for political action became obvious, while its possibilities inspired the workers in the country with higher hopes and grander aspirations. They had battled blindly in strikes and boycotts, feeling the touch of a hostile hand they could not see; but the prosecutions came to them like a flash of light in the darkness, revealing the source of their oppression in the law and the all-potent remedy in the ballot. Before the summer was over it was evident that the industrial masses of New York were bent on making their power felt at the polls. But it was not evident that they could succeed. They had no political machinery; their organizations were committed exclusively to industrial methods — the discussion, even, of politics being prohibited at the meetings; they had no funds that could be applied to a political movement, their previous efforts had failed ignominiously, and there was no known leader under whom they could concentrate. Against them were three compact organizations, officered by skilled partisans and capable of obtaining unlimited funds — organizations that had contended with one another for mastery, time and again, each appealing to the labor vote, but which would have a common interest in making common cause against any independent labor movement in politics. This was the situation when Henry George was proposed as labor’s candidate for mayor.
At its regular meeting on July 11, 1886, the Central Labor Union appointed a committee to prepare a plan of political action. The report of that committee was subsequently adopted, and a call for a conference issued in accordance with its recommendations. The experience in politics of the Central Labor Union four years before, had made it cautious to take no step beyond the limits of its unquestioned authority, and to give its sanction to no political movement which was not also sanctioned by the subordinate organizations themselves. It determined, wisely, to permit and encourage, rather than to manage, a political campaign. The committee report which gave birth to what is rapidly becoming a national party is destined to be a document of historic interest and importance, and we give the text in full:
Being appointed by your honorable body to devise a plan whereby the workmen of the City and County of New York may take independent political action in the coming election, and believing that in order to bring about the desired results a plan of action must be agreed upon whereby the wage-workers, of whatever calling, whether connected with the Central Labor Union or not, shall be united in one grand political organization whose objects shall be the redemption of our city government from the hands of plunderers whose acts of spoliation have brought disgrace upon our city, and through whom the administration of justice has become a farce; and believing that by united action on the part of the workers honest men can be elected to administer the affairs of government and the laws can be enforced for rich and poor alike — your committee, after carefully considering the various propositions laid before them, respectfully submit the following for your consideration: That every trade and labor organization six months in existence prior to the call of the conference or connected with some central body, send a delegate for every hundred members to a conference, with credentials and instructions from their body and power to call a convention. All delegates must be bona fide working-men.
The conference was called to meet on August 5th. When it assembled four hundred and two delegates were present, representing one hundred and sixty-five labor organizations, with a membership of fifty thousand people. John Devitt, of the Painters, called the assemblage to order, and John Morrison, of the Carpet Weavers, was made temporary chairman, with James P. Archibald, of the Paper Hangers, as temporary secretary. Immediately after the temporary organization was effected it was resolved to discuss the policy of independent political action. After a long debate a vote was taken, when three hundred and sixty-two delegates expressed themselves in favor of independent political action, and only forty against it. The conference adjourned to August 19th, and upon reassembling a committee of seven on permanent organization was chosen, consisting of Frank Farrell, of the Eccentric Engineers; Henry Emrich of the Furniture Workers; John J. Bealin, of the Americus Labor Club; Patrick A. Doody, of the Excelsior Labor Club; Thomas Ford, of the Brass Workers; Ernest Bogue, of the Excelsior Labor Club; and Reuben Silverbrandt, of the Cooks and Pastry Cooks. This committee reported, for permanent chairman, John McMackin, of the Painters, and for permanent secretary, James P. Archibald, of the Paper Hangers. At a later date Mr. Archibald resigned the secretaryship, and George G. Block, of the Bakers, was elected in his place.
At both of these meetings Mr. George’s name was frequently mentioned by delegates in the course of debate, and every time received with such enthusiasm as to leave no doubt of the high regard in which he was held by the laboring classes of New York, and to clearly indicate that he was their first choice for Mayor. Assured of this, Mr. Archibald, the secretary of the conference, waited upon Mr. George prior to the third meeting of that body, to ask him whether, if nominated, he would accept. Mr. George’s doubts, which had been many before, were doubled now. As a practical man he could not ignore the disastrous failures in which previous labor movements in politics had culminated, nor overlook the wo[e]ful lack of political organization and experience in the ranks of those who proposed to make him their leader; neither was he ignorant of the power of money and partisan machinery that would be arrayed against him. He saw, too, that the whole labor movement might be advanced or retarded by the result of his candidacy. A trifling vote for him would add another to the list of failures; a large vote would permanently introduce into American politics the questions to which his life had been devoted. It was a critical moment. Upon his decision depended, in great degree, the future of a vast but, as yet, chaotic movement. One man, whose name had never before been heard of outside a labor organization, and another, whose fame was chiefly that of an economic author, were making political history.
The practical qualities of Mr. George’s mind solved the problem for him. A convention might or might not have the support of a constituency of sufficient numerical strength to give dignity to its action; but there could be no doubt of the import of a nomination made by the people themselves. He determined, therefore, to make his acceptance conditional upon a nomination by thirty thousand voters, and wrote to Mr. Archibald the following letter:
New York, August 26, 1886.
James P. Archibald, Esq., Secretary, Conference Labor Associations.
Dear Sir :— You ask me whether, if the Labor Associations of New York were to nominate me for Mayor, I would accept.
My personal inclinations are to say “No.” I have no wish to hold office, and my hopes of usefulness have run in another line. But there are considerations which, under certain conditions, would compel me to say “Yes.”
I have long believed that the labor movement could accomplish little until carried into politics, and that working-men must make their ballots felt before they can expect any real attention to their needs, or any real respect for their rights — before we can hope to alter those general conditions which, despite the fact that labor is the producer of all wealth, make the term “working-man” synonymous with poor man.
Since the question of chattel slavery was finally settled I have acted with the Democratic party in the hope that, dead issues being buried, the living issue of industrial slavery might come to the front. The time has now arrived when the old party lines have lost their meaning, and old party cries their power, and when men are ready to turn from quarrels of the past to grapple with the questions of the present. The party that shall do for the question of industrial slavery what the Republican party did for the question of chattel slavery must, by whatever name it shall be known, be a working-man’s party — a party that shall reassert the principles of Thomas Jefferson in their application to the questions of the present day, and be Democratic in aim as well as in name.
I have seen the promise of the coming of such a party in the growing discontent of labor with unjust social conditions, and in the increasing disposition to pass beyond the field of trades-associations into the larger sphere of political action. With this disposition I am in full sympathy. I see in political action the only way of abolishing that injustice which robs labor of its natural reward and makes the very “leave to toil” a boon — that monstrous injustice which crowds families into tenement-rooms of our cities and fills even our new States with tramps; that turns human beings into machines, robs childhood of joy, manhood of dignity, and old age of repose; that slaughters infants more ruthlessly than did Herod’s swordsmen; that fosters greed, begets corruption, breeds vice and crime, and condemns children yet unborn to the brothel and the penitentiary. Seeing this, I welcome any movement to carry the vital questions of our day into politics, and will do whatever I can to help it on.
It seems to me, moreover, that a fitting and hopeful place for such a movement to begin is in our municipalities, where we may address ourselves to what lies nearest at hand, and avoid dissensions that, until the process of economic education has gone further, might divide us on national issues. The foundation of our system is in our local governments.
Nor is there any part of our country in which there is greater need of an earnest effort to make politics mean more than a struggle for office than in the City of New York. In this great city, the metropolis of the Western Hemisphere, municipal government has reached a pitch of corruption that, the world over, throws a slur and a doubt upon free institutions. Politics has become a trade, and the management of elections a business. The organizations that call themselves political parties are little better than joint-stock companies for assessing candidates and dividing public plunder, and even judicial positions are virtually bought and sold.
With unsurpassed natural advantages — the gateway of a continental commerce — New York is behind in all else that the citizen might justly be proud of. In spite of the immense sums constantly expended, her highways, her docks, her sanitary arrangements, are far inferior to those of first-class European cities; the great mass of her people must live in tenement houses, and human beings are here packed together more closely than anywhere else in the world; and though the immense values created by the growth of population might, without imposing any burden upon production, be drawn upon to make New York the most beautiful and healthful of cities, she is dependent upon individual benevolence for such institutions as the Astor Library and the Cooper Institute, and private charity must be called upon for “fresh-air funds” to somewhat lessen the horrible infant mortality of the tenement districts. Such parks as we have are beyond the reach of the great mass of the population who, living in contracted rooms, have no other place than the drinking-saloon for the gratification of social instincts, while hundreds of thousands of children find their only playground in crowded streets.
Hitherto all movements for municipal reform in New York have sprung from political “halls,” or have originated with wealthy citizens, whose sole and futile remedy for civic corruption has been the election of respectabilities to office. They have aimed at effects rather than at causes, at outgrowths rather than at the root, and they have accomplished nothing radical or lasting.
It is time for the great body of the citizens of New York to take some step to show that they have a deeper interest in the government of this great city than whether this or that set of politicians shall divide the spoils, and to demonstrate their power in a way to make their influence felt in every branch of administration. And in the American city where monstrous wealth and monstrous want make their most shocking contrast is a fitting place to begin a movement which shall aim at the final assertion of the natural and unalienable rights of man.
A movement begun by the Labor Associations in this spirit, and with these aims, would not be a class movement. It would in reality be a movement of “the masses against the rule of the classes.” It would draw strength from that great body of citizens who, though not working-men in the narrow sense of the term, feel the bitterness of the struggle for existence as much as does the manual laborer, and are as deeply conscious of the corruptions of our politics and the wrongs of our social system. In its broad political sense the term “working man” does not refer to particular occupations, but divides those who have to work that others may enjoy from those who can appropriate the produce of others’ work. There is and there can be an idle class only where there is a disinherited class. Where all men stood on an equality with regard to the use of the earth and the enjoyment of the bounty of their Creator, all men would belong to the working class. ‘‘He who will not work, neither shall he eat” is not merely the injunction of the Apostle, it is the mandate of Nature which yields wealth to Labor, and to Labor alone.
Feeling on these matters as I have said, my sense of duty wou1d not permit me to refuse any part assigned me by the common consent of earnest men really bent upon carrying into politics the principles I hold dear. Yet before I can accept the nomination of which you speak I wish to have it clearly shown that the working-men of New York want me to be a candidate and will support me with their votes. I have no dread of finding myself in the minority; but enough so-called labor movements have proved failures. Another failure would hurt the very cause we wish to help.
Such a movement as is now proposed ought not to be lightly entered into. The working-men of New York have it in their power to elect whom they please, and to open a new era in American politics; but to do this they must be united, must be earnest, and must have faith in themselves. Outside of the ranks of organized labor there are thousands and thousands heartily sick of the corruptions of machine politics who would join in a movement for principle that gave fair promise of success. But without this promise of success an independent movement could not command even the votes of those who wished it well. For the majority of men, though they may applaud his nomination, will not vote for a third candidate whose election seems hopeless. Therefore it is that any political movement such as you propose must manifest strength at the outset if it is to prove formidable at the polls.
It is both the right and duty of working-men to turn to political action for the redress of grievances. Whatever excuse there may be for violence in countries where aristocratic political institutions yet exist, and standing armies prevent expression of the popular will, here, where manhood suffrage prevails and the people are the source of political power, the ballot is the proper means of protest, and the only instrument of reform. And it is only by its intelligent use that social disaster can be avoided.
For this reason it seems to me that the only condition on which it would be wise in a Labor Convention to nominate me, or on which I should be justified in accepting such a nomination, would be that at least thirty thousand citizens should, over their signatures, express the wish that I should become a candidate, and pledge themselves in such case to go to the polls and vote for me. This would be a guaranty that there should be no ignominious failure, and a mandate that I could not refuse. On this condition I would accept the nomination if tendered to me.
Such a condition, I know, is an unusual one; but something unusual is needed to change the habitual distrust and contempt with which working-men’s nominations have come to be regarded, into the confidence that is necessary to success. It may be harder to get thirty thousand signatures in advance than, with the confidence thus inspired, to bring several times that number of votes to the polls; but unless there is in the movement earnestness enough to do hard things, it is idle to enter upon the work.
With this frank statement of my views and feelings, I put the matter, through you, in the hands of the Conference and of the Labor Organizations.
This letter was hailed with delight by the working masses. The parade of Labor Day (September 6, 1886), which Mr. George reviewed, was an ovation to him. In every city where the day was observed, Henry George was hailed as Labor’s candidate. In Newark, N. J., where he spoke on that day, he was gravely nominated “by the working-men of Newark for Mayor of New York.” The proposed nomination lost all local significance in the national interest and sympathy it attracted.
But the letter excited activity as well as enthusiasm. Copies of it were circulated broadcast, and pledges in accordance with its terms were carried from association to association, from shop to shop, from house to house, by devoted men and women. Day by day the roll of signatures grew, and with it grew the hopes and confidence of Labor’s host, until at last nearly five thousand more than the requisite number of signatures had been obtained. There was no longer among the friends of Henry George a doubt of his political sagacity and practical qualities of mind, nor any question of the success of the movement into which he had agreed to enter.
At the meeting of the conference on August 26th Mr. George’s letter was read; but, with this exception, nothing important was done either at that meeting or at the next one, held early in September. The final meeting, at which the formal nomination was made, was held at Clarendon Hall, on Thirteenth Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, on the evening of the 23d of September. One hundred and seventy-five labor organizations were represented by four hundred and nine delegates.
In the afternoon information reached the officers that an attempt to “pack” the hall would be made by several professional “working-men” whose services are annually sold to the political party or faction which will pay most for them. This was to be accomplished by means of forged delegate-cards. To defeat this conspiracy the officers ordered new cards, printed on white instead of blue paper, and required all blue cards to be surrendered in the ante-room. As a blue card was given up the delegate’s right to it was tested by reference to the original credentials, and, if sustained, a white card was given to him and he was admitted into the hall. This precaution prevented the “packing” of the convention, and at the same time secured admission to every bona fide delegate who presented himself.
When the conference was called to order Frank Farrell, Chairman of the Committee on Platform, reported the following declaration, which was adopted:
The delegates of the trade and labor organizations of New York, in conference assembled, make this declaration:
1.Holding that the corruptions of government and the impoverishment of labor result from neglect of the self-evident truths proclaimed by the founders of this Republic that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, we aim at the abolition of the system which compels men to pay their fellow-creatures for the use of God’s gifts to all, and permits monopolizers to deprive labor of natural opportunities for employment, thus filling the land with tramps and paupers, and bringing about an unnatural competition which tends to reduce wages to starvation rates and to make the wealth producer the industrial slave of those who grow rich by his toil.
2.Holding, moreover, that the advantages arising from social growth and improvement belong to society at large, we aim at the abolition of the system which makes such beneficent inventions as the railroad and telegraph a means for the oppression of the people, and the aggrandizement of an aristocracy of wealth and power. We declare the true purpose of government to be the maintenance of that sacred right of property which gives to everyone opportunity to employ his labor and security that he shall enjoy its fruits; to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, and the unscrupulous from robbing the honest; and to do for the equal benefit of all such things as can be better done by organized society than by individuals; and we aim at the abolition of all laws which give to any class of citizens advantages, either judicial, financial, industrial, or political, that are not equally shared by all others.
3.We further declare that the people of New York City should have full control of their own local affairs; that the practice of drawing grand jurors from one class should cease, and the requirements of a property qualification for trial jurors should be abolished; that the procedure of our courts should be so simplified and reformed that the rich shall have no advantage over the poor; that the officious intermeddling of the police with peaceful assemblages should be stopped; that the laws for the safety and sanitary inspection of buildings should be enforced; that in public work the direct employment of labor should be preferred to the system which gives contractors opportunity to defraud the city while grinding their workmen, and that in public employment equal pay should be accorded to equal work without distinction of sex.
- We declare the crowding of so many of our people into narrow tenements at enormous rents, while half the area of the city is yet unbuilt upon to be a scandalous evil, and that to remedy this state of things all taxes on buildings and improvements should be abolished, so that no fine shall be put upon the employment of labor in increasing living accommodations, and that taxes should be levied on land irrespective of improvements, so that those who are now holding land vacant shall be compelled either to build on it themselves, or give up the land to those who will.
- We declare, furthermore, that the enormous value which the presence of a million and a half of people gives to the land of this city belongs properly to the whole community; that it should not go to the enrichment of individuals and corporations, but should be taken in taxation and applied to the improvement and beautifying of the city, to the promotion of the health, comfort, education, and recreation of its people, and to the providing of means of transit commensurate with the needs of a great metropolis. We also declare that existing means of transit should not be left in the hands of corporations which, while gaining enormous profits from the growth of population, oppress their employees and provoke strikes that interrupt travel and imperil the public peace, but should by lawful process be assumed by the city and operated for public benefit.
- To clear the way for such reforms as is impossible without it, we favor a Constitutional Convention, and since the ballot is the only method by which in our Republic the redress of political and social grievances is to be sought, we especially call for such changes in our elective methods as shall lessen the need of money in elections, discourage bribery, and prevent intimidation.
- And since in the coming most important municipal election independent political action affords the only hope of exposing and breaking up the extortion and peculation by which a standing army of professional politicians corrupt the public whom they plunder, we call on all citizens who desire honest government to join us in an effort to secure it, and to show for once that the will of the people may prevail even against the money and organization of banded spoilsmen.
The platform having been adopted, nominations were declared in order, and three names were presented: Henry George, James J. Coogan, and William S. Thorn. The vote was taken by a show of cards, and was as follows: For Mr. George, 360; for Mr. Coogan, 31; and for Mr. Thorne, 18. Mr. Thorne’s nomination was intended to be complimentary. He, as Superintendent of the Second Avenue Railroad Company, had won the esteem of his employees, who voted for him in the conference in acknowledgment of his friendly attitude during the surface-car strikes.
The preliminary work of the labor organizations was now done. By adopting a platform of principles and naming a candidate for Mayor they had taken the first formal step toward the ballot-box. But a large class of working-men had not yet given expression to their views, except as individual signers of the pledge to vote for Henry George — men who belonged to no labor organization, and whom the vulgar do not classify with working-men. These were physicians, clergymen, lawyers, teachers, and working employers, among whom were thousands that had watched with sympathetic interest the step that organized labor had taken.
A meeting of such working-men was held at Chickering Hall on the 2d of October. Long before the doors were opened a crowd had gathered in Fifth Avenue, where it awaited with good-natured patience admission to the hall. At half-past seven the doors were thrown open, and in less than ten minutes every seat was occupied, and the aisles, lobbies, and stairways were packed from the platform to the street with one of the most intelligent “middle class” audiences that ever gathered in a New York hall.
The Rev. Dr. John W. Kramer was elected to preside, and the speakers were the Rev. R. Heber Newton, Professor Thomas Davidson, Daniel De Leon, Ph.D., of Columbia College; Mr. Charles F. Wingate, Professor David B. Scott, of the College of the City of New York; and the Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn. These speeches, unfortunately, were not preserved, but the fact that the audience — those who stood as well as those who were seated — remained until the close, almost midnight, amply testifies to the interest they excited. When Father McGlynn, who spoke last, had closed his address, the following resolution was adopted by the meeting:
Resolved: That this meeting cordially indorses the nomination of Henry George for mayor by the conference of the trade and labor organizations of this city, and that the chairman appoint a committee to co-operate with the executive committee of that convention.
Henry George was now the chosen candidate of the working-men — of every class that earns a living by labor — and his platform of principles was theirs. Organized Labor had nominated him, working business men and the professions had indorsed him, and over thirty thousand individual voters, in all grades of society, had requested him to stand, and pledged to him their votes. It remained for him to formally accept.
HENRY GEORGE ACCEPTS THE NOMINATION.
On the night of October 5, 1886, Cooper Union was packed as it had seldom been before. Every seat was occupied, and stage, aisles, corridors, and committee-room were crowded. On the open street multitudes gathered around trucks from which speakers addressed them. Near the front of the platform, in the hall, huge rolls containing the signatures and tied with blue ribbon were stacked in a pyramid in full view of the vast audience. The object of the gathering was to present to Henry George the nomination for Mayor, and to receive his acceptance. Throughout the proceedings the utmost enthusiasm consistent with good order was exhibited.
When John McMackin, Chairman of the Executive Committee, had opened the meeting, he was addressed by the Rev. John W. Kramer, D.D., Chairman of the Chickering Hall meeting, who formally presented the resolution of that gathering, and assured organized labor of the cooperation of those whom he represented, in its efforts to secure good government and industrial emancipation by political methods. This done, Mr. McMackin spoke as follows:
Mr. Henry George, on behalf of the organized labor of this city and on behalf of those gentlemen who, at the Chickering Hall meeting, determined to assist the toilers to reform this government of ours, I stand here tonight to tender you the nomination that has been extended, a nomination such as never has been presented to any candidate in this country before. The labor organizations of this city have hitherto done the bidding of the political parties. The only difference that occurred this year is that we have made the selection of the candidate, and that we intend to vote for him. In selecting that candidate we have selected one who is the political peer of any man. We have selected one whose genius has done more to bring lustre to the American name than any other statesman since the days of Washington. We have selected a candidate that centres about himself today the entire forces of labor. We have selected a candidate that, no matter what are the preferences, what are the predilections of any body of men, unites in one the favor of every working-man. It has been insinuated that the promises of organized labor do not amount to much. I stand here, my friends, though a humble member of labor myself, yet willing to risk my life itself in the pledge that organized labor will stand together. It might be well to state here that this is the first time that organized labor has selected any man as a candidate for public office. It might be stated here that this is the only time when our word and honor have been pledged to elect a man to office. Mr. George stated that he required the request of thirty thousand citizens before becoming a candidate. We have summed the lists, and in this great bundle here you see a part only of the thirty-four thousand six hundred and forty that have been counted. Several thousand have come in since, and we intend to keep this signature business going until we sign the death-knell of political-ring rule in New York.
It remains for the friends of labor and laborers, too, to select this distinguished gentleman for chief magistrate of this city. I ask those men who are not in the ranks of labor, whose business and calling bring them into other spheres, is it not well, I ask, that this vast power of labor has selected such a conservative man as Mr. George to direct and carry out this social reformation that we believe to be necessary to the just administration of our government? Nay, my friends, have we not done better than any of the old parties? There can be no question that the administration of the Government, of the Judiciary, of the Legislature, has been slowly passing into the control of certain classes of the country. Is it not well for organized labor to try the efficacy of ability and honesty in the city government? If these questions are not quietly disposed of by this great machinery of the franchise, then, I ask, how are they to be settled? How are we to stop this discontent? How is this Republic to be saved if the ballot is to be disregarded or its just verdict set aside? How is the Republic to live if certain classes only of its citizens are to be looked after and their interests protected, while the rules and laws made by this class keep a large class of honest men and women under the thumb of the aristocrat?
Ladies and gentlemen, in presenting this nomination to Mr. George, I feel it in my soul, I feel it in every fibre and muscle of my body, that this man will be the next Mayor of New York City. And, my friends, like that shot fired at Concord, it will be heard around the world. The nomination and election of Mr. Henry George, while it will mean the elevation of a just man to be Mayor here, will lift the hearts of millions throughout the world, and they will turn again to this country as the great land where all men can exercise equal rights and opportunities.
Mr. George, I have the honor to tender you the nomination of organized labor and the indorsement of the business and professional men of New York.
As he spoke the last words Mr. McMackin led the candidate to the front of the platform. For five minutes the applause and cheers, over and over again renewed, made it impossible to be heard. When quiet was restored, Mr. George said:
The step I am about to take has not been entered upon lightly. When my nomination for Mayor of New York was first talked of I regarded it as a nomination which was not to be thought about. I did not desire to be Mayor of New York. I have had in my time political ambition, but years ago I gave it up. I saw what practical politics meant; I saw that under the conditions as they were a man who would make a political career must cringe and fawn and intrigue and flatter, and I resolved that I would not so degrade my manhood. Another career opened to me; the path that I had laid before me — that my eyes were fixed upon — was rather that of a pioneer — that of the men who go in advance of politics, the men who break the road that after they have gone will be trod by millions. It seemed to me that there lay duty and that there lay my career, and since this nomination has been talked about my friends here and through the country and beyond the seas have sent me letter after letter, asking me not to lower, as they are pleased to term it, the position I occupied by running for a municipal office. But I believe, and have long believed, that working-men ought to go into politics. I believe, and I have long believed, that through politics was the way, and the only way, by which anything real and permanent could be secured for labor. In that path, however, I did not expect to tread. That, I thought, would devolve upon others, but when the secretary of this nominating convention came to me and said, “You are the only man upon whom we can unite, and I want you to write me a letter either accepting or refusing to accept, and giving your reasons,” that put a different face on the matter. When it came that way I could not refuse. But I made my conditions. I asked for a guarantee of good faith; I asked for some tangible evidence that my fellow-citizens of New York really wanted me to act. That evidence you have given me. All I asked, and more.
Then turning to the chairman and grasping his hand, Mr. George continued impressively:
John McMackin, Chairman of the Convention of Organized Labor, I accept your nomination, and in grasping your hand I grasp in spirit the hand of every man in this movement. From now henceforward let us stand together.
Working-men of New York — organized laborers of New York, I accept your nomination. For weal or for woe, for failure or for success, henceforward I am your candidate. I am proud of it from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for the compliment you have paid me. Never in my time has any American citizen received from his fellow-citizens such a compliment as has been consummated tonight; never shall any act of mine bring discredit upon that compliment.
Then dropping the chairman’s hand, and coming to the front of the platform again, Mr. George said, with much solemnity:
Working-men of New York, I am your candidate; now it devolves upon you to elect me. In your name I solicit the suffrages of all citizens, rich or poor, white or black, native or foreign-born; if any organization of citizens sees fit to indorse your nomination, well and good; but as you have asked me for no pledges, so you may rely on me; I will make no pledge to any man. As you have nominated me unsolicited, I will solicit the indorsement of no other party. Whoever accepts me must accept me as the candidate of organized labor standing alone. And now it devolves upon you to elect me. You can; but look in the face what is against us. This, in my opinion, will be one of the fiercest contests that ever took place in this or any other American city. If money can beat me, I shall be beaten. Every influence that can be arrayed against me will be used. There will be falsehood and slanders, everything that money and energy and political knowledge and experience can command. Don’t imagine that those who have their hands in the pockets of this city through their control of the municipal departments will give up easily; don’t imagine that the politicians will allow the working-men to smash their machines without trying their utmost to prevent it. But I do believe, as your chairman has said, that we shall win in spite of all. And I believe it because I see, in this gathering enthusiasm — a power that is stronger than money, more potent than trained politicians; something that will meet and throw them aside like chaff before a gale.
Standing now as your candidate for the Mayoralty of New York City, it is meet and fitting that I should say something with regard to the office to which you propose to elect me. It is an important office; it is a powerful position, but any man who obtains it will be fettered by a system which is bad. Our system of government here is very bad. What we should have is one similar to that of the United States — one executive, responsible to the people, and the heads of the various departments appointed by him removable at his pleasure and responsible to him. Then you will have somebody to call to account. Under our present system you have dual commissions, commissions of three, or four, or five persons, and the consequence is you can fix no responsibility anywhere. These men have to provide for their friends, and therefore there are all sorts of trading and dickering. Nevertheless the Mayor of New York has large powers, he has absolute power in appointing commissioners, though he has no power, as he ought to have, to remove them, with the exception of two very important commissioners — the Commissioners of Accounts; these he may appoint and remove at pleasure. Their business is to go through the departments and see that everything is all correct. But the Mayor has a greater power, the power of visitation and inquisition, finding out how things are going; and he has another great power, that of appealing to public opinion. If elected, as I believe I shall be elected, Mayor, I will do my utmost to discharge its duties faithfully and well — I will do my utmost to give you an honest and a clean government. I will do my utmost to bring about such changes in legislation as will remedy defects which have been proved, and I will enforce the laws.
I want this to be distinctly understood — that when I take the oath of office as Mayor of New York I will be Mayor of the whole city. I will preserve order at all risks; I will enforce the law against friends as fully as against enemies. But there are some things that, if I am Mayor of New York, I shall stop if I can prevent them. There will be no more policemen acting as censors of what shall be said at public meetings. I will support to the utmost of my power and my influence the peace officers of the city, but if it is in my power to put a stop to it I will put a stop to the practice which seems to be common among many of the hoodlums of the force, of turning themselves into judge, jury, and executioner, and clubbing anybody who they think ought to be clubbed. Without fear and without favor I will try to do my duty. I will listen as readily to the complaint of the richest man in this city as I will to the complaint of the poorest. (A voice — “The rich have nothing to complain of.”) Some of them are under the impression that if I am elected they may have. No; you are right about it. The rich in this city have very little to complain of. Corrupt government always is and always must be the government of the men who have money. Under our republican forms, while we profess to believe in the equality of all men, the rich have virtually ruled the administration of the law. It reminds me of an old fable I used to read in a French book. There was a terrible pestilence among the animals once upon a time. The lion made proclamation and called all the beasts together. They were suffering for their sins, he said, and ought to investigate who it was that provoked the wrath of Heaven, and then offer him up as a sacrifice. And so all the animals met. They elected the fox as chairman. The lion said he was a great sinner; that he had eaten many flocks of sheep, and even once eaten a shepherd. The fox said to the lion that the sheep ought to feel complimented to be eaten by his majesty, and as for the shepherd, it served him right, “for evidently,” went on the fox, “he had been throwing stones at your majesty.” And then the wolf and the hyena and the tiger and so on confessed their several sins, until it came to the fox, who said he had eaten a great many chickens, but they crowed so in the morning that they disturbed him very much. Lastly came the donkey, who said that as he was carrying a load of hay to the market for his master he turned around and took a mouthful. “Wicked monster,” cried the fox. “But I was hungry,” continued the ass; “he had forgotten to give me my breakfast.” “That makes no difference,” cried the fox, and it was unanimously decided that it was the sin of the ass that brought the pestilence, and all the animals fell on him and tore him to pieces by way of sacrifice. It is so with many rich criminals. The Theiss boycotters are still in prison. Is there not something in the State of New York that recalls that battle of the animals?
The politicians whom you have disturbed by your nomination, and a good many of the respectable journals, think very poorly of this movement, because they term it, “class movement.” They dislike to see class movements in our politics; they would rather you would go on in the old way voting for Tammany Hall, or the County Democracy, or the Republicans. Class movement! What class is it? The working class! Do you ever ask yourselves how it is that the working-men came to constitute a class? In the beginning all men had to work. Is it not the dictate of Scripture: “Thou shalt earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow?” Nature gives to man nothing. Without work nothing can be produced. Work is the producer of all wealth. How, then, is it that there came to be distinctively a working class? How is it that that working class is everywhere the poorer class? It is that some men devise schemes by which they can live without working, by throwing the burden of their work upon their fellows. An English writer has divided all men into three classes — working-men, beggar-men, and thieves — and this is correct. There are only three ways of getting the product of labor — by working for it, by having it given to you, and by stealing it. If this is a class movement, then it is a movement of the working class against the beggar-men and the thieves. A class movement! No. It is what Gladstone said of that great movement on the other side of the water — it is a movement of the masses against robbery by the classes, and is it not time that there should be in this city of New York some such movement as this? The political condition of this city is a reproach in all the monarchies of Europe. Go on the other side and venture to say one word against their aristocratic institutions, and see how quickly you will be met with the reproach that there is nowhere such open-faced corruption as in the City of New York. This government of New York City — our whole political system — is rotten to the core. It needs no investigation to discover it. An assemblyman ordinarily “puts up” more than he can honestly expect to get back in salary. The ordinary expenditure of a candidate for Congress, I am told, is about $10,000, and he can make the expenses of his campaign go as high as $80,000. Even our judges pay some $20,000 for the privilege of running. It is well understood that a candidate for Mayor must be prepared to spend $75,000, and it is said that, in a recent campaign, the candidate spent something like $200,000. Look how money flows everywhere. This morning we read of Alderman Divver barbecuing an ox and letting beer run like water — and this distance from election, too! Is this vast amount of money thrown out for simple salaries? The money that is habitually spent in campaigning in this city is put in as a business investment — money out to get money in. Corruption! Just consider, for a moment, the contemptuous manner in which this movement of our working class is treated. And why? Just because they think we haven’t the “sinews of war.” Because, as Mr. “Fatty” Walsh says, “Those labor fellows ain’t got no inspectors of election.” And, under the beautiful system of local politics here, one rogue is turned out and another let in. Does that improve things? Do you suppose that Mr. Rollin M. Squire was a sinner above all other office-holders in this city? Is not the present incumbent applying the same old official axe — chopping off Tammany heads and putting in County Democrats in the same good old fashion? Is it not well understood that without some such deal tickets cannot be got up nor candidates run? Look at the outcry that has gone up over this movement. The cry of alarm, “The Democracy must unite,” is heard everywhere. How has the party of Jefferson and of Jackson fallen when its two local wings must be called upon to unite, and even the power of the National Administration brought in to help that unity! And against what? Against the working-man! Why don’t they unite, then, when the obligation is so imperative? Because the difficulty lies in parceling out the spoils — in giving out the offices and getting the proper kind of pledges. As to the principle of the thing, they care nothing for that. Isn’t it time that fresh breath was infused into this corruption?
In this movement of ours there is hope of better things. In a city where it has long been held that a man must be rich, very rich, to hold its highest office, you have put up a poor man. In a city where it is a standing rule that a candidate must disburse money, you propose to furnish your own money. And you have a candidate who is free from pledges. Can your Johnny O’Briens say that when their candidate is nominated? If the much hoped for union of Tammany Hall and Irving Hall and the County Democracy does take place, can it be said of their candidate that he stands free of pledges as to how he will parcel out the jobs in his gift? Remember that until you can elect men who are free you cannot expect an unfettered administration. This movement aims at political reform; but that is not all. That is not the entire significance of my candidacy. We aim, too, at social reform. As declared in the platform you heard here tonight we aim at equal rights for all men. Chattel slavery is dead, but there devolves upon us the task of removing industrial slavery. That is the meaning of our movement. This is at once a revolt against political corruption and social injustice. Look over our vast city, and what do we see? On one side a very few men richer by far than it is good for men to be, and on the other side a great mass of men and women struggling and worrying and wearying to get a most pitiful living. In this big metropolis in this year of grace 1886, we have a vast surging class of so-called free and independent citizens, with none of whom the wild, Red Indian, in anything like his native state, could afford to exchange. We have hordes of citizens living in want and in vice borne of want, existing under conditions that would appall a heathen. Is this by the will of our Divine Creator? No. It is the fault of men, and as men and citizens on us devolves the duty of removing this wrong; and in that platform that the convention has adopted and on which I stand the first step is taken. Why should there be such abject poverty in this city? There is one great fact that stares in the face anyone who chooses to look at it. That fact is that the vast majority of men and women and children in New York have no legal right to live here at all. Most of us — 99%, at least — must pay the other 1% by the week or month or quarter for the privilege of staying here and working like slaves. See how we are crowded here. London has a population of 15,000 to the square mile. Canton, in crowded China, has 35,000 inhabitants within the same area. New York has 54,000 to the square mile, and leaving out the uninhabited portion it has a population of 85,000 to the square mile. In the Sixth Ward there is a population of 149,000 to the square mile; in the Tenth Ward, 276,000; in the Thirteenth, 224,000, including roads, yards, and all open places. Why, there is one block in this city that contains 2,500 living beings and every room in it a workshop. Nowhere else in the civilized world are men and women and children packed together so closely. As for children, they die almost as soon as they enter the world. In the district known as the Mulberry Bend, according to Commissioner Wingate’s report, there is an infant death-rate of 65%, and in the tenement district he says that a large percentage of the children die before they are five years of age. Now, is there any reason for such overcrowding? There is plenty of room on this island. There are miles and miles and miles of land all around this nucleus. Why cannot we take that and build houses upon it for our accommodation? Simply because it is held by dogs in the manger who will not use it themselves, nor allow anybody else to use it, unless they pay an enormous price for it — because what the Creator intended for the habitation of the people whom He called into being is held at an enormous rent or an enormous price. Did you ever think, men of New York, what you pay for the privilege of living in this country? I do not ask what you pay for bricks and mortar and wood, but for rent; and the rent is mainly the rent of the land. Bricks and mortar and wood are of no greater value here than they are in Long Island or in Iowa. When what is called real estate advances it is the land that is getting more valuable; it is not the houses. All this enormous value that the growth of population adds to the land of this city is taken by the few individuals and goes for the benefit of the idle rich, who look down upon those who earn their living by their labor.
But what do we propose to do about it? We propose, in the first place, as our platform indicates, to make the buildings cheaper by taking the tax off buildings. We propose to put that tax on land exclusive of improvements so that a man who is holding land vacant will have to pay as much for it as if he was using it, just upon the same principle that a man who goes to a hotel and hires a room and takes the key and goes away would have to pay as much for it as if he occupied the room and slept in it. In that way we propose to drive out the dog in the manger who is holding from you what he will not use himself. We propose in that way to remove this barrier and open the land to the use of labor in putting up buildings for the accommodation of the people of the city. I am called a Socialist. I am really an individualist. I believe that every individual man ought to have an individual wife, and is entitled to an individual home. I think it is monstrous, such a state of society as exists in this city. Why, the children, thousands and thousands, have no place to play. It is a crime for them to play ball in the only place in which they can play ball. It is an offence for them to fly their kites. The children of the rich can go up to Central Park, or out into the country in the summer time; but the children of the poor, for them there is no playground in the city but the streets; it is some charity excursion which takes them out for a day, only to return them again to the same sweltering condition. There is no good reason whatever why every citizen of New York should not have his own separate house and home; and the aim of this movement is to secure it. We hold that the land belongs to the entire people. We hold that the value of the land of this city, by reason of the presence of this great population, belongs to us to apply to the welfare of the people. Everyone should be entitled to share in it. It should be for the use of the whole people, and for the beautifying and adornment of the city, for providing public accommodations, playgrounds, schools, and facilities for education and recreation. Why, here is this building in which we are assembled, the Cooper Institute; its superintendent told me only a little while ago they accommodated only about one-tenth of the young people who are flocking here to get an education to enable them to make a livelihood. Instead of relying upon the beneficence of individuals, we, the people of New York, ought to furnish the institutions ourselves. We ought to have in this city of New York twenty such institutions as this. What the platform aims at is the taking for the use of the people all that value and benefit which result from social growth. We believe that the railroads of this city ought to be taken properly and legally by the people and run for the benefit of the people of New York. Why should it not be so? Any individual putting up a big building, such as the Morse building, the Cyrus Field building, the Western Union building, puts in an elevator. But he does not put in that elevator a man with a bell-punch strung around his neck to collect fares. He gains the advantage in the increased value of his building. So we could take their railroads and run them. We could take those railroads and run them free, let everybody ride who would, and we could pay for it out of the increased value of the people’s property in consequence. These are but steps, but the aim of this movement, and this is its significance, is the assertion of the equal rights of man — the assertion of his equal and inalienable right to life and to all the elements that the Creator has furnished for the maintenance of that life.
Here is the heart of the labor question, and until we address ourselves to that the labor question never can be solved. These little children who die in our tenement districts, have they no business here? Do they not come into life with equal rights from their Creator? In the early days of New Zealand, when the English colonists bought land from the natives, they encountered a great difficulty. After they had bought and paid for a piece of land, the women would come with babes in their arms and would say: “We want something for these babes.” The reply was: “We paid you for your land!” Then they who had parted with the land answered “Yes, yes, yes, but you did not pay these babes. They were not born then.”
I expect, my friends, to meet you many times during this campaign, and expect to make my voice heard in all parts of this city. I am ready to meet any questions that may be addressed to me, and to do whatever in me lies for the success of our ticket. I am your candidate for Mayor of New York. It is something that a little while ago I never dreamt of. Years ago I came to this city from the West, unknown, knowing nobody, and I saw and recognized for the first time the shocking contrast between monstrous wealth and debasing want. And here I made a vow, from which I have never faltered, to seek out and remedy, if I could, the cause that condemned little children to lead such a life as you know them to lead in the squalid districts. It is because of that that I stand before you tonight, presenting myself for the chief office of your city — espousing the cause, not only of your rights but of those who are weaker than you. Think of it! Little ones dying by thousands in this city; a veritable slaughter of the innocents before their time has come. Is it not our duty as citizens to address ourselves to the adjustment of social wrongs that force out of the world those who are called into it almost before they are here — that social wrong that forces girls upon the streets and our boys into the grog-shops and then into penitentiaries? We are beginning a movement for the abolition of industrial slavery, and what we do on this side of the water will send its impulse across the land and over the sea, and give courage to all men to think and act. Let us, therefore, stand together. Let us do everything that is possible for men to do from now until the second of next month, that success may crown our efforts, and that to us in this city may belong the honor of having led the van in this great movement.
At the conclusion of his speech Mr. George retired from the hall and made a short address from each of the trucks to the crowds in the street. When all was over the assemblage dispersed, to enter upon the more practical work of the campaign, well-assured, come victory or defeat, that the common people had already made an effective beginning in the great work of rescuing republican government from the despoiler and ridding labor of its parasites by means of the ballot.
The Executive Committee to manage the campaign consisted of John McMackin, Chairman; George G. Block, Secretary; B. J. Hawkes, Treasurer; and Henry Emrich, of Cabinet Makers’ Union No. 7; Joseph Wilkinson, of the National Custom-Tailors’ Union; Hugh Whoriskey, of the United Order of American Carpenters and Joiners; John Devitt, of the Operative Painters; James H. Casserly, of the Carpenters’ Union; Thomas Moran, of the Excelsior Labor Club; Ludwig Jablinowski, of Cigarmakers’ International Union No. 90; Joseph Geis, of the United Clothing Cutters; Matthew Barr, of the Tin and Sheet Iron Workers; James P. Archibald, of the Paper Hangers’ Union; and Thomas J. Ford, of the United Brass Workers. To this committee was added the committee provided for at the Chickering Hall meeting, consisting of James Redpath, editor; Charles F. Wingate, sanitary engineer; Edward Johnston, dry goods; and Gideon J. Tucker, lawyer.
On October 11th Tammany Hall held its convention. Part of the rank and file of this organization favored the nomination of Henry George, and that sentiment was reflected in some degree by the delegates. But the candidate was not to be chosen by the rank and file, nor by the delegates. When the convention gathered not a dozen men knew what it would do. The word had not yet been given. When it came it commanded the nomination of Abram S. Hewitt, and the command was perfunctorily obeyed by the delegates.
Mr. Hewitt is widely known as a member of the business firm of Cooper, Hewitt & Co., and as the son-in-law of that venerated philanthropist, the late Peter Cooper. He had been several times a Member of Congress, and held a seat in that body at the time of his nomination for Mayor. His brother-in-law, Edward Cooper, was at one time Mayor of New York, and both were identified with the local faction of the party known as the County Democracy.
That Tammany Hall should step out of its own ranks to select a candidate was unexpected, but that it should go into the ranks of its bitter enemy caused a shock of surprise which was felt throughout the city. It had the effect, however, of forcing a union upon Tammany’s candidate. The County Democracy, even if it had not agreed in advance upon the candidate, could not reject him.
The first impression Mr. Hewitt’s nomination made upon the politicians was, that it would put an end to the “George boom.” Such an impression was impossible with those who understood the nature of the labor movement, but ignorance of the nature of that movement was very dense among politicians. It was supposed that, upon a union of the Democratic factions, the working-men would return to their party allegiance, either from a sense of loyalty or hopeless of success against such overwhelming odds. It is due to Mr. Hewitt, however, to say that he did not share in this feeling. From the first he regarded the nomination of Mr. George as a menace to the existing order of things, by which the “better classes” of society flourish at the expense of the “lower classes.” To his mind society itself was in danger, and it was to “save it” that he consented to be a candidate.
After the County Democracy had indorsed his nomination, Mr. Hewitt was visited, at his own request, by a joint committee, consisting of the following individuals:
County Democracy — Frederick R. Coudert, M. C. Murphy, Thomas P. Walsh, Daniel O’Reilly, Charles Reilly, Philip E. Donlin, Timothy J. Campbell, Lawrence Wells, Daniel Patterson, John R. Voorhees, William P. Mitchell, J. Henry Ford, Patrick Keenan, John J. Joralemon, James Daly, Thomas Costigan, James Fitzgerald, Henry Murray, John McCartney, John R. Fellows, Patrick H. Kirwin, James J. Kelso, Henry C. Hard, Andrew J. White, James Mooney, Henry D. Purroy.
Tammany Hall — Patrick G. Duffy, Patrick Divver, James J. Slevin, Edward T. Fitzpatrick, Michael Norton, Edward F. Reilly, Bernard F. Martin, George Hall, James Fitzpatrick, P. Henry Dugro, John J. Scannell, Daniel Hanley, James Barker, John Reilly, Richard J. Sullivan, F. B. Spinola, George W. Plunkett, Richard Croker, Hugh J. Grant, James A. Flack, James J. Martin, John McQuade, Charles Welde, E. T. Wood.
The purpose of the visit was to hear read the following letter of acceptance:
GENTLEMEN: After careful deliberation I have decided to accept the nomination for Mayor, tendered to me with such remarkable unanimity by conventions of the Democratic organizations of this city, over which you presided. My personal preference has been, and is, to continue in the sphere of action in which, as a Representative in Congress, I have labored for many years to promote the substantial interests of New York, which are identified with the prosperity of the whole country. But the circumstances under which this nomination is made would seem to make my duty clear. I do not underestimate the honor of the high position to which I am invited, nor am I insensible to the bearing of the union between the Democratic organizations in this city upon the fortunes of the party in the State and nation; but I am free to say that neither the personal honor on the one hand, nor the political consequences to the Democratic party on the other hand, would have moved me from the line of work which I have been pursuing, and which now gives promise of practical results.
A new issue has, however, been suddenly sprung upon this community. An attempt is being made to organize one class of our citizens against all other classes, and to place the Government of the city in the hands of men willing to represent the special interests of this class, to the exclusion of the just rights of the other classes. The idea which underlies this moment is at war with the fundamental principles upon which our Government was organized and rests. The American Revolution was a protest against class government, then represented by the aristocracy of Great Britain, and when independence was achieved provision was made in the Constitution against the growth and existence of an aristocratic class in this country. The American idea is essentially democratic. Under existing checks against hasty action the will of the majority is to prevail, and happily for this country no special class or interest has a numerical majority of the whole people, although the agricultural interest, owning a larger portion of the total area of the land, comprises nearly one-half of the total population, while a large majority of all classes are owners of property, either real or personal. Any attack upon the right of property is therefore directed by a small minority against the great majority. Where universal suffrage prevails there is no excuse for such a movement on the part of any class, and when its nature and consequences are investigated and understood, such a movement must inevitably fail if free government is to be preserved. But error is always injurious, and in this particular case if the result should show that the movement possesses any considerable strength, the consequences would be pernicious, if not disastrous, to the interests of the country and the stability of our institutions. The injurious effects arising from the conclusion that any considerable portion of our people desire to substitute the ideas of Anarchists, Nihilists, Communists, Socialists, and mere theorists for the democratic principle of individual liberty, which involves the right to private property, would react with the greatest severity upon those who depend upon their daily labor for their daily bread, and who are looking forward to a better condition for themselves and their children by the accumulation of capital through abstinence arid economy. If the dreams of these theorists could be realized, the chief sufferers would be the workmen whose condition they propose and undoubtedly hope to improve.
The ideas they propound are not new. They have even been reduced to practice, for a short time, at long intervals in the history of the world. The horrors of the French Revolution and the atrocities of the Commune offer conclusive proof of the dreadful consequences of doctrines which can only be enforced by revolution and bloodshed, even when reduced to practice by men of good intentions and blameless private life.
The experience of the world has shown that social improvement, by which I mean the physical, mental, and moral growth of the mass of mankind, is only achieved by slow and patient steps. Evils are not corrected until they are acknowledged to be evils by the majority, and it is the chief merit of government by the majority that the remedy for grievances is prompt and effective. While the present century has witnessed a rapid improvement in society, no one denies that great evils remain to be overcome. In the discussion of the rights of man the pretence that vested rights may arrest the just claims of society has received a fatal b1ow. Privilege can no longer be pleaded successfully against the demands of progress. In this day it only remains for the majority to formulate remedies for admitted wrong and put them into operation through the machinery of legislation. But when one class in the community undertakes to usurp the functions of the majority, a direct attack is made upon social order, which is the foundation of all progress and prosperity.
The right of special trades or classes to organize for the improvement of their condition is not disputed. On the contrary, organization is essential for their protection and welfare. The working classes, as they are called, have gained immensely by the formation of trades-union and other labor organizations. This movement should be encouraged so that their grievances and demands may be submitted to public judgment, and met by appropriate legislative remedies. Such organizations possess vast power for good, but when this power is abused the evils become intolerable, and the community is compelled to impose checks upon its exercise. Whatever abuse of this power may have occurred in the past is due mostly to inexperience in dealing with the newly found forces developed by the principle of association. With more experience and better education the evils of strikes, lock-outs, and boycotts will pass away. Conciliation and arbitration will take the place of denunciation and hostility. Between capital and labor there never is, and never can be, any antagonism. They are natural and inseparable allies. But between capitalists, or those who control capital, and laborers, there may be a conflict of interests, which, like all other disputes, must be adjusted by mutual concessions, or by the operation of law. All means of throwing greater light upon the situation, so that the law, which is the parent of progress, may be wisely amended, should be encouraged. The organized movement, now made for the first time against the methods of political action approved by the experience of a century of steady progress, and under which this country has enjoyed a measure of prosperity heretofore unknown to the human race, must be clearly sustained or emphatically condemned by the people of this city, which is as much the metropolis of the United States as Athens was the “eye of Greece.” This is the issue, which as I understand the action of the Democratic party in placing me in nomination, has forced its leading organizations to a patriotic union which might otherwise have been impossible. This decision appears to me to be timely and necessary, and I feel it to be my duty to take my allotted part as the candidate of the citizens who are in favor of law, order, and progress, according to the methods approved by our past experience, against the advocates of the policy miscalled progress, which can only lead to universal poverty and general ruin.
From the nature of this issue, and the unusual manner in which my nomination has been made, no pledges to any party or set of men have been asked, nor under any circumstances would I make any other pledge than that which I now freely give: that if elected I will discharge the duties of the office according to law to the best of my strength and ability, keeping in view the interests of the whole people without distinction of party and class, and in strict conformity to the spirit of the legislation affecting the civil service, and the just demands of the great mass of the people for the removal of abuses which impose taxation without corresponding benefit.
The issue, then, as I understand it, in the coming election for Mayor, may thus be summed up. On both sides it is contended and conceded that reform and progress are desirable and necessary. The question in difference is solely as to the methods to be pursued in order to procure the needed social amelioration. On the side of the Democratic party, which has placed me in nomination, it is believed that our system of Government, founded by the wisest men who have ever dealt with political problems, is not only adequate for the proper disposition of every social question, but affords the best possible machinery for carrying into effect the will of the people.
The other side proposes a radical departure from the existing methods of free government by political parties composed of citizens in every walk of life, and ask us to substitute not merely new ideas as to the nature of property, but new modes of government through the organizations of special classes of the community. The issue is thus between the democratic idea of the founders of the Republic, and the socialistic views of mere theorists, who have never had any experience in the practical business of life, generated in an atmosphere foreign to our habits and modes of thought, and based largely upon grievances which have no existence under our form of government.
In this contest there is happily no personal issue involved and no room for a canvass based on past differences of opinion, as to measures which have heretofore divided the great political parties. Whatever the result may be, therefore, there will be no personal humiliation to the vanquished candidate, and no room for personal rejoicing by the victor, except that the principles in which he believes have been indorsed by the people, who are alone concerned in the result of the great argument now, for the first time, submitted to their decision.
If I have not exaggerated the gravity of the situation, it behooves the people of this city to pass sentence of condemnation in no uncertain tones upon the effort to array class against class and to unsettle the foundations upon which its business and its security rest. The judgment to be pronounced does not concern me more than any other citizen. The cause and not the man appeals for such action as will prove that, in the presence of social danger, past differences disappear and patriotism reigns supreme.
I shall therefore make no personal canvass. My record has been made by long public service, and I have neither the power nor the wish to change it. My opinions upon the social questions affecting capital and labor have been maturely formed, and deliberately expressed as long ago as 1878, in a paper upon “The Mutual Relations of Capital and Labor,” read to the Church Congress held in Cincinnati, and in a speech on “The Emancipation of Labor,” delivered in the House of Representatives, on April 30, 1884. Several hundred thousand of these documents have heretofore been circulated, and I shall endeavor to make the substance of them accessible to every citizen who, during the present canvass, may desire further knowledge of my views. I believe that in this country of universal suffrage the average condition of the working classes has steadily improved, and that they will continue to receive by means of the judicious and not difficult application of the principle of association, an increasing share of an ever increasing product, provided the right to individual liberty, which necessarily carries with it the right to private property, is preserved, and the democratic idea of government by the majority, and not by any class, or combination of classes, is sternly asserted and firmly maintained.
In conclusion, I desire to make my grateful acknowledgments for the manner in which my nomination has been received by the public press, and to the numerous citizens, many of them former political opponents, recognizing that in the pending contest old party questions have no place, who have urged me to accept the nomination, and thus have given me courage to assume a duty which, I will frankly say, I have at no time seen my way clear to decline. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your fellow-citizen,
Abram S. Hewitt.
Frederick R. Coudert, Esq.,
To Jos. J. O’Donohue, Esq.,Chairman.
October 16, 1886.
The sentiments of this letter were reiterated and expanded by Mr. Hewitt at the united Democratic ratification meeting in Cooper Union on the evening of October 22d, when, after being introduced by Mayor Grace, he delivered the following speech:
Mr. Mayor and Fellow-citizens: In my letter of acceptance I said that I should make no personal canvass. I am here tonight for the simple purpose of letting my fellow-citizens see the decrepit old man whom the politicians of Tammany Hall and the County Democracy have rescued from the grave. I am encouraged by the applause with which you have received me to live a little longer, in order to disappoint the anticipations of the Republican editors who are so tender in regard to my health and comfort. I also said that in this canvass there was no room for personalities or personal issues. I said it in the innocence of my heart, and yet I find that I am met by a storm of calumny which has opened my eyes to what a hideous monster the Democratic party has suddenly discovered.
The opposing candidate attacks me because, as he says, I am a rich man, and he asks your suffrages because he is a poor man. In New York we have long been familiar, unfortunately, with the beggar in the streets. We know that poor, old, blind Belisarius stood with hat in hand begging an obolus in the streets of the capital he had saved; but never before in a free country has a man passed around his hat and begged for your suffrages, alleging as his chief reason that he is a poor man. He says that I owe my riches, such as they are, to a series of “happy accidents.” I have never paraded my personal history before the people of this city. I hesitate to say anything about it tonight; but, under all the circumstances, I have concluded that perhaps some good may be done to some struggling young man if some of these “happy accidents” were recorded.
The first of these “happy accidents” was one which I couldn’t help — my birth. If Henry George had then discovered his wonderful self-cure humanity, that “accident” might not have happened. But he was not on hand, and so I was born of a mother who was a farmer’s daughter and a father who was a mechanic. They were of good, steady, honest stock — and I wasn’t brought up on the bottle.
You see I show some signs of my early nurture even yet. The next “happy accident” was that they were not rich, but poor, honest people, who earned their daily bread and brought up their children to reverence God and give an equivalent for what they received. My education — the next “happy accident” — was in the public schools of the City of New York. There I learned to meet my equals and to measure my capacities with those who began life with equal advantages — an honest mind in a sound body. The next “accident” was that Columbia College gave two scholarships free to the competition of the boys in the public schools. There were twenty thousand of us went up for those two scholarships. One of them was given to me. I was admitted to the college, and I was obliged to support myself from the day I entered to the day I graduated by teaching those whom I could find who would take me. Not one dollar of burden did my education impose upon my parents, who, anxious as they might be to give me an education, were too poor to do so. And perhaps it was by another “happy accident” that I passed through college at the head of my class.
It was certainly through another “accident” that about this time I became nearly blind.
I was compelled to pass a year in Europe, during which I lived upon the little money I had saved by my teaching. Another accident was that the ship in which I was went to the bottom, and I was saved in one of the small boats, in company with a man who has been my friend and brother, and will be to the end of my life. I landed at New York in midwinter in a borrowed suit of sailor’s clothing, and I had three silver dollars in my pocket, my entire worldly wealth.
I was then twenty-two years old, and that “accident” was the turning-point of my life. It taught me for the first time that I could stand in the face of death without fear and without flinching. It taught me another thing — that my life, which had been miraculously rescued, belonged not to me, and from that hour I gave it to the work which from that time has been in my thoughts — the welfare of my fellow-citizens. For thirty years I have never turned aside from that task. The task which I had set for myself was to contribute, as far as I could, to the employment of men, so that they could help themselves and not be made the subjects of public charity. Self-help is the remedy for all the evils of which men complain. I have had to help myself from the earliest year I can remember, and every struggling young man who chooses to follow the same rule, who will help himself and not become dependent on public or private charity, can achieve a measure of success that will satisfy every independent citizen.
The circumstances in which I was placed have compelled me to study the relations of capital and labor. I am not going to deal with that question tonight. I have, in the course of three letters which I have been unexpectedly called upon to write, given to the people what I regard as the essence of the question on which corporate and private individual property have their foundations. There is no man in this community who can have any true interest in destroying the property of his neighbor. There is no man who can have any interest except to promote the prosperity of his neighbor. Whatever a capitalist may own, it gives him no benefit unless it benefits the poorer man who has to earn the rent or the income which it produces. So far as my life is concerned, the riches which I have accumulated have been used in giving employment to labor, and — let the record go down — every dollar that I own today, without exception, is employed in giving occupation to men who are willing to work for their living. Does this experience make me insensible to the fact that the world is not yet a paradise — that there are no wrongs to be corrected? The record of my public life shows that that question has been the dominant idea in my mind and the key to my every speech and vote. Has Mr. George ever formulated this question, as I put it in a speech in Congress, from which I read this extract:
“What are the best means, consistent with equity and justice, for bringing about a more equal division of the accumulated wealth of the world and a more equal division of the daily products of industry between capital and labor, so that it may become possible for all to enjoy a fair share of material comfort and intellectual culture; possible for all to lead a dignified life, and less difficult for all to lead a good life?”
If men worked more and talked less there would not be half the trouble. As Chief Arthur, of the Locomotive Engineers, says, there is no antagonism between capital and labor, but there is between work and idleness. Beware of the talking men who live upon the hard-earned money of those who work. Beware of the professional agitator and talker, the man who never did a day’s work in his life, and who yet seeks to lead the working-men. Distrust the men who make it their business to prate of the rights of men. It is a very convenient stepping-stone for such people to the property of other men. It pays to be a demagogue.
What has this to do with the question whether a man is a Democrat or a Republican? The question is not whether Mr. George, Mr. Roosevelt, or Mr. Hewitt can best administer the business of New York. I scorn to make that the issue in this campaign. I can be a good Mayor. I am not dead, as you see. I can understand the law. I know the nature of an oath. I know the limitations of a public functionary. I have not spent these sixty years of mine in vain. One paper remarked that I had said that the City of New York was a sealed book to me. I have lived here for more than sixty years, and no great event in this city during the most of that time has passed without my knowledge. I was active in the campaign that put Daniel S. Tiemann in the chair of the Mayor in 1856.
I honestly tell you that I did not want to be Mayor. I had never asked to be. I was called to the work of removing the fetters from industry, to take off the chains which were bound around a destructive and pernicious tariff, every dollar of the revenue from which is taken out of the earnings of the laboring man. I felt that that was my mission; that mission will be followed by someone else. Truth is mighty and will prevail. The intelligence of this country will not allow this imposition and this unjust deduction to be made from the earnings of labor.
Therefore, when this greater and higher question, which involves the liberty of the working-man and the keeping of the reward of that labor in their own pockets, came up, I gave up the work of my life and entered upon this campaign, and shall not give up the fight until the image of Socialism, Anarchy and Nihilism is shattered into fragments. They say that it will kill me. I welcome death in such a cause. This issue I have tried to make the people see as I see it.
I am told that I ought to make promises about the administration of the Mayor’s office. I have heard from your honored Mayor tonight the condition in which the affairs of the city now stand, and the reason I do not make any promises is because I understand the question just as he stated it. I will never lie to my fellow-citizens. I will never tell them that I am going to have reforms that I have no power to make. If I find a rogue in office, I will take him by the throat and choke him in the presence of his fellow-citizens. I don’t believe that the taxes of the City of New York can or ought to be reduced. There are many things in this city crying out for expenditure today, in order that the working-classes of the city may have a purer water, and a better supply of it, more recreation, and all the things which go to make up our growing and progressive life, with renewed and better modes of living. The rich people of New York ought to pay for these things, and they are willing to pay for them if they know that the money is not going to be stolen.
I am told that I am a kind of millionaire and I saw it stated by Mr. George; I think that I saw it in his letter, certainly in a speech of his, that the millionaires of the city were willing to supply an unlimited amount of money for this canvass. I have not yet seen or heard from any of these millionaires. But if this fight is to be fought as it ought to be fought so as to lead to a glorious victory, then every millionaire ought to put up the cash. I will take all the dollars anyone will send me, and at the end of the campaign I will tell them through the daily papers what has been done with the money. I will not allow two dollars a head to be given for any George voters, either. This is a higher-priced audience than that, I know.
I am told that I am in a deal also. Well, I am in a deal of a hurry to have this campaign over and these enemies of civilization and social order defeated. I did not even know that I was to be nominated by Tammany Hall. No man came to me from the County Democracy to ask me if I would take their indorsement. Not a human being has ever asked me to give him a pledge or asked me to consent to any personal arrangement whatever. Yet I am in a mysterious deal! Will the men who hold the cards come and show me what they are going to deal out? They are experts, these gentlemen who say I am in a deal. They know how to turn up trumps every time — and now they are going to turn up a trump by electing George and running Mr. Roosevelt and me. Is there any contest between Roosevelt and George? There is not a man in this city who thinks that Roosevelt has any chance against him. It is not a fight between the Republican and the Democrat. This fight is between Henry George and Abram S. Hewitt. Have you heard Mr. Roosevelt, rich and well-born, highly educated and an absolutely honest man, raise his voice against Henry George and his doctrines? Does his letter of acceptance touch upon it? Does Henry George make any war upon the Republican nominee? No. These rich Republicans and these rich millionaires — nay, have they not at the Union League Club indorsed Mr. Roosevelt? Yet I am a candidate of the millionaires! No; I know whose candidate I am. I am the candidate of every honest man in New York and of every respectable man who supports his family, who has a home of his own, and of every good woman who is training her children to be good citizens, worthy to live in the land of liberty in which they were born. If this city is sound at the core there will be no uncertain sound given at the polls.
I say to you, my fellow-citizens, that every vote that is registered on the second day of November must be accounted for before the bar of that Almighty Father who has made this nation what it is, who holds it in the hollow of His hand, and which nation is, I believe, an example to the world, a refuge for the oppressed of all lands, and is to be the land where there will be a solution of the great questions between capital and labor, that shall result in universal love, brotherhood, and harmony.
It was made clear at the meeting at which the above speech was delivered, as well as at the Tammany meeting held later, that Mr. Hewitt’s theory of the contest was accepted by his principal supporters. The Democratic party of New York, with Abram S. Hewitt at its head, had planted itself squarely upon a platform of antagonism to Labor in politics. It denounced those working-men who declared their intention of voting independently, as Anarchists bent on the destruction of society; and, having assumed the role of an organized defender of social order, as it did when property-rights in slaves were menaced thirty years before, it invited the Republicans to unite their voting strength with what remained of its own. As a party, the Republicans did not accept the invitation. They nominated Theodore Roosevelt, a young man of aristocratic antecedents and considerable ability. Strong efforts were made throughout the campaign to draw the aristocratic Republican vote over to Mr. Hewitt, on the ground that he alone could defeat the working-men, and that a vote cast for Mr. Roosevelt would be thrown away. This policy does not appear to have succeeded. Mr. Roosevelt fell about twenty-five thousand behind the usual Republican vote, but that was little, if any, more than the number of Republican votes which were thrown for George.
The Republican candidate, however much he may have sympathized with Mr. Hewitt’s views regarding the danger to society which was involved in the labor movement, did not raise the issue against that movement as Mr. Hewitt did. Some of his principal supporters, like Chauncey M. Depew, denounced it as tending to anarchy, but neither the candidate nor the party assumed that attitude of bitter hostility which characterized the conduct of Mr. Hewitt and his supporters. What they might have done if Mr. Hewitt had not raised the issue first may be inferred from the well-known sentiments toward Labor of the men who manipulate Republican party machinery. But the united Democrats made the most of their opportunity. Mr. Hewitt’s letters and speeches, given in full elsewhere, sufficiently exhibit his antagonism to working-men. The speeches and interviews of his lieutenants were tuned to the key that he had struck, while the resolutions of both factions officially expressed the hostile sentiments of the united party as an organization.
THE GEORGE-HEWITT CORRESPONDENCE.
To Mr. Hewitt’s violent attack upon the movement which Mr. George represented we are indebted for that extraordinary correspondence between the two candidates which attracted universal attention at the time, and which will be read with interest long after the ordinary incidents of the campaign are forgotten. Upon reading Mr. Hewitt’s acceptance Mr. George opened the correspondence with the following letter:
New York, October 18, 1886.
To The Hon. Abram S. Hewitt.
Dear Sir: I have gone over with some surprise the letter which, on Saturday last, you read to the committee that waited upon you to tender you the Mayoralty nomination of two of the factions of the New York Democracy. I find in it no references whatever to the crying evils which mark the administration of our municipal government, nor any word of censure for the corrupt political system which has made Democratic institutions in New York a byword and reproach. On the contrary, I find that the sole reason you assign for abandoning a political career agreeable to your taste and inclinations in order to accept this nomination, is your desire to prevent my election and to defeat the movement that has put me in the field. To judge from your letter, this seems to be the paramount duty of the hour, by the side of which all consideration of honest politics and efficient government sink out of sight.
The burden of your letter is that “an attempt is being made to organize one class of our citizens against all other classes of our citizens;” that “the idea which underlies this movement is at war with the fundamental principles upon which our Government was organized and rests;” that it is at war with the rights of property, and is, therefore, “directed by a small minority against the great majority;” in short, that my election as Mayor of this city involves the submersion of the Democratic principle, the overthrow of the foundation upon which the security of business rests, the arraying of class against class, and the popular indorsement of doctrines which must lead to a repetition of the horrors of the French Revolution and the atrocities of the Commune, and that it is to save society from all this that you patriotically sacrifice your personal inclinations and consent to become a candidate of the associations represented by the committees that waited upon you.
With a high opinion of your intellectual ability, I do not question your sincerity, and I am confident that in a cooler frame of mind the phantoms which now affright your imagination would shrink into the ridiculous scare-crows that they really are; but feeling that your present spiritual condition can only be explained by the insidious influence of wily politicians, who seek to use you as a cat’s-paw to draw their cherished chestnuts out of the fire, I should like to ask you soberly to consider what are the issues represented on the one side by myself and on the other side by you.
We are both Democrats — that is to say, if we are true Democrats we both believe that political power should emanate from the people, and that in all matters that do not involve the inalienable rights of man the majority should rule. How, then, can you think that such disasters as you predict could follow the election of any man who was the free choice of a majority of the citizens of New York?
I am well aware that popular suffrage has in this city become, in a large degree, a farce, and that under the forms of Democratic government men have been placed in positions of power and trust by what, though seemingly a popular vote, was really procured by bribery, by intimidation, and by ballot-box stuffing. But I cannot be elected by such influences. I can only be elected against them. A poor man myself, I am the candidate of poor men. Instead of contributing from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars as a political assessment upon my candidature, as has been customary, I have not contributed a cent and have not been asked for a cent. The contractors and office-holders and spoilsmen who contribute so largely to the vast sums usually disbursed in New York political campaigns are not with me. The Police Department, with its influence upon the votes of the criminal class and the coercion which it can apply to the fifteen thousand saloon-keepers of this city, is not with me. The Excise Commission, the Aqueduct Commission, the Dock Commission, the Park Commission, the Charity Commission, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the patronage of the Federal Administration and of the State Administration are not with me. It is needless for me to say whom they are for; but you know, as I know, that they are not for me. If elected, I must be elected by the votes of citizens who can neither be bought nor coerced into voting against their best judgment. Let me ask you, as a Democrat, whether there can really be any danger to society in the election of a man thus supported?
Your notion that the movement which I represent springs from a “desire to substitute the ideas of Anarchists, Nihilists, Communists, Socialists, and mere theorists for the Democratic principle of individual liberty which involves the right to private property,” is founded upon a gross misapprehension, which will be dissipated in your mind if you will read the platform of the convention which nominated me. That platform is expressly based upon the great charter of American political rights, the Declaration of Independence, and contains this clause, which I especially commend to your attention:
“We declare the true purpose of government to be the maintenance of that sacred right of property which gives to everyone opportunity to employ his labor and security that he shall enjoy its fruits; to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, and the unscrupulous from robbing the honest; and to do for the equal benefit of all such things as can be better done by organized society than by individuals; and we aim at the abolition of all laws which give to any class of citizens advantages, either judicial, financial, industrial, or political, that are not equally shared by all others.”
Is there in this anything un-American or un-Democratic — anything dangerous to individual liberty or menacing to the just rights of property? So far from meditating any change in the structure of government, I, and the men whose representative I am, fully agree with you “that our system of government, founded by the wisest men who have dealt with political problems, is not only adequate to the proper disposition of every social question, but affords the best possible machinery for carrying into effect the will of the people.” So far as we propose to treat social questions, it is solely through and by that system, and our main effort in this election is to cleanse that machinery of the corruptions that have clogged it, and which in this city have practically prevented it from serving its ends.
The great bugbear in your mind seems, however, to be that this is “a class movement,” which, because it is “a class movement,” is “a direct attack upon social order.” In this you do injustice to your own intelligence, and your usually good judgment seems to have been misled by the jingle of a phrase. You have heard so much of the working-class that you evidently forget that “the working class” is in reality not a class, but the mass, and that any political movement in which they engage is not that of one class against other classes, but, as an English statesman has happily phrased it, a movement of the “masses against the classes.” The men who earn their bread by manual toil are, in this as in every community, the vast majority. Their interests must be the interest of the community at large. They cannot profit by unjust, corrupt, or inefficient governments; on the contrary, it is they who must suffer most by bad laws and unjust administration. But I do not stand as the candidate of hand-workers alone. Among the men who have given me the most truly democratic nomination given to an American citizen in our time are not only hand-workers, but working-men of all kinds — editors, reporters, teachers, clergymen, artists, authors, physicians, store-keepers, merchants — in short, representatives of all classes of men who earn their living by the exertion of hand or head. The only class not represented among them is that class who live by appropriating the proceeds of the toil of others.
On the other hand, let me ask you to consider who they are that have put you forward to head off what you term “a class movement?” The names of the committees who waited upon you by invitation, and to whom you read your letter denouncing class movements in American politics, were, according to newspaper reports, as follows:
County Democracy — Frederick R. Coudert, Senator M. C. Murphy, ex-Alderman Thomas P. Walsh, Police Justice Daniel O’Reilly, Commissioner of Jurors Charles Reilly, Alderman Philip E. Donlin, Congressman Timothy J. Campbell, Lawrence Wells, Daniel Patterson, Police Commissioner John R. Voorhis, William P. Mitchell, Police Justice J. Henry Ford, ex-County Clerk Patrick Keenan, John Joralemon, Senator James Daly, Thomas Costigan, ex-Senator James Fitzgerald, Police Justice Henry Murray, James McCartney, Assistant District Attorney John R. Fellows, Patrick H. Kerwin, James J. Kelso, Henry C. Hard, Police Justice Andrew J. White, Alderman James Mooney, and Commissioner Henry D. Purroy.
Tammany Hall — Police Justice P. G. Duffy, Alderman, Patrick Divver, James J. Slevin, Edward T. Fitzpatrick, Civil Justice Michael Norton, Senator Edward F. Reilly, Bernard F. Martin, George Hall, James Fitzpatrick, P. Henry Dugro, John J. Scannell, Daniel Hanley, James Barker, John Reilly, Richard J. Sullivan, General F. B. Spinola, Senator George W. Plunkitt, Commissioner Richard Croker, Sheriff Hugh J. Grant, County Clerk James A. Flack, James J. Martin, ex-Judge John McQuade, Police Justice Charles Welde, and Colonel E. T. Wood.
With a single exception — the respectable figurehead at the top of the list — every one of these names is that of a professional politician. These committees are made up of men who have lived and expect to live on the spoils of office. You will not find among them a single “mere theorist,” but you will find among them notorious corruptionists, keepers of gambling-houses, officials smirched with the mire of Tweed, contractors who have grown rich by fat jobs, leaders of “Dead Rabbits,” and even, in more than one case, men who have been tried for their lives upon the charge of murder. I call your attention to the composition of this committee because it is not accidental. On the contrary, it fairly represents the class of men who, under Republican forms and in the name of Democracy, have hitherto ruled in this city, and against whom the common working-people have at last risen in their might.
The movement which has placed me in the front is indeed to men of this stamp a “dangerous movement,” but what is danger to this class is the hope of honest citizens. Surely when you declare your candidacy to be in defense of the “methods approved by our past experience” you did not mean the political methods which have made such men as these the arbiters of who shall and who shall not present himself for the suffrages of his fellow-citizens. And yet that is precisely the position in which you stand. On my side are the Democratic masses, while the spoilsmen of both factions which have hitherto disgraced the Democratic name, seeing in this revolt an end of their influence, have “pooled” their quarrels over the division of spoils, and, repeating their old trick of getting a reputable citizen to act as their figurehead, have placed you in their front. Whether or not your true place is with them is not for me to say. I wish merely to point out that the less said about class movements by the nominee of such a class the better.
But while the issues between us are not such as you seem to imagine, there are undoubtedly differences of principles. The platform on which I stand (and which I wish you would compare with the platform upon which you stand) contains, among other things to which you would probably not object, a declaration to which I infer you do object, viz.: that all taxation upon buildings and improvements ought to be abolished, and that taxes should be levied on the value of land irrespective of improvements. The office to which we both aspire gives its occupant no power to carry this principle into practice, but it is true, as you intimate, that what a man stands for as well as what he can do is a legitimate subject of consideration in his election. I, for my own part, rejoice that my candidacy has not only forced the nomination of such estimable citizens as yourself and Mr. Roosevelt, and thus taken the element of personality out of the contest, but also that it has brought questions of higher importance in. My main motive in taking the nomination was to do something in this way to raise political discussion from the low level to which it has fallen; and in the hope of further forwarding this end, I beg leave to propose to you that we jointly discuss before our fellow-citizens the issues which you may deem involved in the campaign. This method of appealing to the intelligence and judgment of citizens, which is still popular in other parts of our country, and of which a notable instance was given in the great debate carried on by Douglas and Lincoln, seems to me, and doubtless will to you, the best method which men who stand for principle can adopt. I have, therefore, to propose to you that during the time that remains before election we shall debate these questions together in various parts of the city. If the state of your health does not permit this, that we shall, under conditions which shall be acceptable to you, meet each other once or twice in the largest halls that can be secured, and in a frank and honorable way present our views and meet each other’s objections.
I shall be glad to hear from you as soon as possible on this matter, and in the meantime am, dear sir, yours truly,
To the foregoing letter Mr. Hewitt published this reply:
New York, October 19, 1886.
Henry George, Esq.
DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday, addressed to me, but given to the newspapers for publication, as a reply to the letter in which I have accepted the nomination of the united Democratic party of this city for Mayor. I infer that this letter has in some way disturbed your confidence in your election, and that you expect to be able to reassure your supporters by a display of your ability in discussion. Inasmuch as this ability is not questioned, but is generally acknowledged, I do not think that it affords any good reason why I should change the attitude announced in my letter — that I would not make any personal canvass, but trust to the voters of New York to pass upon the relative fitness of the several candidates for Mayor by the record they have made in public and private life.
You state that your “main motive in taking the nomination was to do something to raise political discussion from the low level to which it has fallen.” I have given you credit for a much higher motive of action, but not venturing to dispute your own statement I differ with you as to the fact. I think that there has never been a time in the history of mankind when political discussion has been so general, so acute, and so profound. Every possible view of public questions is presented in the daily and periodical literature of the country with an ability and a breadth which leaves nothing to be desired. You have contributed much to this wealth of argument, and I have done what I could in Congress and out of it to arrive at the very truth underlying the constitution and progress of society. The people therefore require no further discussion between you and me in order to learn our respective views.
My main motive in accepting the nomination, which, as you justly say, withdraws me from a field of duty more congenial to my tastes and inclination, is clearly stated in my letter of acceptance, and is so well condensed in your letter that I venture to quote from it the paragraph clearly defining the issue between us.
The burden of your letter is that “an attempt is being made to organize one class of our citizens against all other classes of our citizens;” that “the idea which underlies this movement is at war with the fundamental principles upon which our Government was organized and rests;” that it is at war with the rights of property and is, therefore, “directed by a small minority against the great majority;” in short, that my election as Mayor of this city involves the submersion of the Democratic principle, the overthrow of the foundation upon which the security of business rests, the arraying of class against class, and the popular indorsement of doctrines which must lead to a repetition of the horrors of the French Revolution and the atrocities of the Commune.
You do not, of course, admit that any such consequence will follow the adoption of your views. Neither did Robespierre, St. Just, or Couthon foresee or admit the horrors in which they were soon forced to take part. Nor did the amiable Girondists ever suppose that they would die resisting the fearful consequences of the doctrines which they had advocated.
My motive for accepting the united Democratic nomination was, and is, that it afforded the earliest opportunity of putting the seal of public condemnation upon doctrines which are destructive to social order, and, therefore, to the very classes sought to be benefitted. As Mayor, within his proper sphere of action, neither you nor I can do anything to introduce new principles of legislation, but the moral effect of your election would be an indorsement of your peculiar views as to the nature of property. Otherwise your name would never have been suggested for this position, in which you would be powerless to give them effect.
If, as I doubt not, you are sincere in these views, your proper sphere of action is in a legislative body having authority to deal with questions of taxation. If I should be elected Mayor I venture to suggest that you try your popularity with the masses by contesting my seat in Congress, which will thus become vacant. If elected to a position you are so well qualified to adorn, you will have abundant opportunity for the discussion of your peculiar ideas in the presence of men familiar with the fundamental principles of social order and the sources of national and individual prosperity. I do not agree with you that our Government has in any respect failed of its purpose, although it has, as yet, by no means accomplished all the results hoped for by its founders and desired by the friends of humanity. If you will take the trouble to read the book of Andrew Carnegie on “Triumphant Democracy,” it may open your eyes to the actual results of a century of free government founded on the proper conception of individual liberty and the rights of property, and give you a more hopeful view of our future progress toward a more equitable distribution of wealth, which I not only believe to be possible, but as certain as “there is a divinity that shapes our ends.”
Allow me to call attention to one statement which you quote from your platform, and which I do not understand:
“We declare the true purpose of government to be the maintenance of that sacred right of property which gives everyone an opportunity to employ his labor, and security that he shall enjoy its fruits,”
The only right of property which is here recognized and declared to be “sacred” is the “opportunity to employ his labor,” and “to maintain this right” is declared to be “the true purpose of government.” I fail to see how government can carry this purpose into effect, unless it should undertake to find work for all the unemployed labor. This experiment was tried by the French Republic in 1848 — with what disastrous results no one knows better than yourself. If the incoming Mayor of New York should be intrusted with such power, and should exercise it, this city would become the dumping-ground of the idle and vicious material of the United States; its treasury would become bankrupt, and its tax-payers be ruined. But you do not intend, and will at once repudiate the idea that the Government is responsible for the employment of labor, and yet you especially commend this otherwise unintelligible declaration to my attention.
Again you refer to your platform as containing a novel principle of taxation, to which you justly do me the credit of supposing that I will object: “that all taxation upon buildings and improvements ought to be abolished, and taxes should be levied upon the land irrespective of improvements.” I certainly do object to this principle of taxation as unjust and positively immoral. Taken in connection with your declaration, made in your work upon “Progress and Poverty,” that you do not propose to confiscate the land, but only “to appropriate rent by taxation,” I think you unintentionally propose a system of downright robbery, which would reduce society to a state of chaos, in which brute force would predominate and only the cunning and strong would survive. In such a state of society neither I nor you would have any chance of existence.
But I do not think it necessary to pursue this line of thought any further, inasmuch as the impracticable nature of your views will not commend them to the sober common-sense of the masses whose welfare we both aim to promote. I am quite willing to leave the discussion to them without the further debate which you invite.
I perceive that you object to my nomination because it was made by “politicians,” and to my letter because it makes no specific promise to reform the various abuses which you vaguely enumerate. I might as well object to your candidacy on the ground that I find you supported by all the Anarchists, Nihilists, Communists, and Socialists in the community, within whom, however, I do not wish to confound the men you stigmatize as politicians. My experience has taught me not to fear them. For ten years I have been nominated for Congress by the men whom you condemn as politicians, and I have not found this fact to be any bar to the conscientious and independent performance of my public duties. I am not so impracticable as to refuse the methods by which society at any given time is governed, and to decline to do my part as a citizen because the machinery of politics is not to my liking. My experience teaches me that politicians are very willing to avail themselves of the services of able and honest candidates, possibly for the reason which you amiably suggest, that the “chestnuts” are thus more easily procurable, but never myself having been engaged in the chestnut business, I do not deem it necessary to give any specific pledges or promises to a people among whom I have lived for more than sixty years, and whom I have already served to the best of my ability, and, if I may judge by my repeated re-election to office, to their satisfaction.
Regretting that I cannot accommodate in debate a gentleman for whose “remarkable acuteness, fertility, and literary power” I have the highest respect, and apologizing that for want of time I am compelled to omit the usual formality of sending this letter in writing, I have the honor to be, yours truly,
Abram S. Hewitt.
But Mr. George did not let his challenge drop, nor permit Mr. Hewitt to escape the responsibility of refusal so easily, as the following reply to Mr. Hewitt shows:
October 20, 1886.
Hon. Abram S. Hewitt.
Dear Sir: In an open letter, addressed to me, published in this morning’s papers, I am sorry to see that you decline to join me in a discussion before our fellow-citizens of the issue you yourself have made, and which you have declared involves the most important principles.
As to the grounds upon which you thus decline to join me in such an appeal to the intelligence of the voters of New York, you will pardon me for saying that I do not see their cogency.
I have not sought, as you intimate, to display my ability in discussion, and, even if I had, I cannot see how a practiced debater like yourself, a leading member of Congress, should on this ground decline. Neither can I agree within you that the questions on which you have made an issue with mine are sufficiently understood by the people. Your own letter of acceptance shows that a few days ago you did not think so either, since the reason you gave for accepting the nomination tendered you — the reason you assigned why citizens of New York should vote for you — was that I am the representative of certain ideas so dangerous that their inferential indorsement by my election, or even by a large vote for me, would be fraught with consequences “pernicious, if not disastrous, to the interests of the country, and to the stability of our institutions.”
The very fact that, in your view, such ideas are already so widely diffused in this community as to make it your duty to abandon your personal inclinations and come forward at the request of Mr. Richard Croker, Mr. Alderman Walsh, et al., as the “savior of society,” and to call upon the voters of New York, as you do in this letter, to put the seal of public condemnation upon such doctrines, is sufficient to show the insincerity of your declaration that the questions which these doctrines involve are already so well discussed as to make it useless for you to join me in bringing the opinions which we represent before the bar of public opinion and asking a verdict, not from prejudice or passion, but from intelligence.
Your letter of acceptance, Mr. Hewitt, like the letter you now address to me, contains deliberate misrepresentations of the doctrines for which I stand and of the opinions of those who have put me forward as their candidate, and papers which are supporting you have not scrupled to put into my mouth words that I have never uttered, and to ring the changes on them as reasons why law-abiding citizens should vote for you in order to defeat me. To use the words of Mr. Gladstone, in his recent great pamphlet on the Irish question, this “is a practice analogous to hitting foul in pugilism, or using weapons in war which are prohibited by the laws of war. It constitutes a proof of the weakness in argument of a cause, driven to supply by prohibited means its poverty in legitimate resource.”
Your refusal to meet me in discussion leaves me no alternative but to think that you deliberately prefer the use of weapons such as these, and that you base your hopes of election, not upon an appeal to the higher qualities of your fellow-citizens, but upon an appeal to the lowest passions and vilest motives.
I wish to keep within the bounds of respectful discussion, yet at the same time I must be frank. Having deliberately misrepresented the principles upon which I stand, you now refuse to join issue within me before the bar of public intelligence and conscience. What, then, are the influences upon which you rely to “save society” by your election?
Can they be other than those vile and wicked influences which have enabled corruption to intrench itself in our municipal government and to laugh to scorn the efforts of good citizens to bring about reform? Are they not the influences which have degraded the rich and debased the poor, and, under the forms of Democracy, given over the metropolis of our country to the rule of a class more unscrupulous and more arrogant than that of the hereditary aristocracy from which it is our boast that we of the new world have emancipated ourselves?
To show that my opinion of this class is not due to the fact that I have been selected by over thirty thousand citizens of New York to head an attempt to break up machine-rule, permit me to quote what I wrote about them before I had any expectation of becoming a citizen of New York, still less of ever becoming its Mayor. In Chapter VI. of the subdivision of my “Progress and Poverty,” entitled the “Law of Human Progress,” you may find this extract, for the truth of which I appeal to any intelligent citizen whose ambition has not blinded his judgment:
“The type of modern growth is the great city. Here are to be found the greatest wealth and the deepest poverty. And it is here that popular government has most clearly broken down. In all the great American cities there is today as clearly defined a ruling class as in the most aristocratic countries of the world. Its members carry wards in their pockets, make up slates for nominating conventions, distribute offices as they bargain together, and — though they toil not, neither do they spin — wear the best of raiment and spend money lavishly. They are men of power, whose favor the ambitious must court, and whose vengeance he must avoid. Who are these men? The wise, the good, the learned — men who have earned the confidence of their fellow-citizens by the purity of their lives, the splendor of their talents, their probity in public trusts, their deep study of the problems of government? No; they are gamblers, saloon-keepers, pugilists, or worse, who have made a trade of controlling votes, and of buying and selling offices and official acts. They stand to the government of these cities as the Praetorian Guard did to that of declining Rome. He who would wear the purple, fill the curule chair, or have the fasces carried before him, must go or send his messengers to their camps, give them donations and make them promises. It is through these men that rich corporations and powerful pecuniary interests can pack the Senate and the Bench with their creatures. It is these men who make school directors, supervisors, assessors, members of the Legislature, Congressmen. Why, there are many election districts in the United States in which a George Washington, a Benjamin Franklin, or a Thomas Jefferson could no more go to the lower house of a State Legislature than under the ancient regime a base-born peasant could become a marshal of France. Their very character would be an insuperable disqualification.”
You yourself, Mr. Hewitt, must know this description to be true, and you yourself, Mr. Hewitt, must know that this is the class of men who have nominated you, not to save society from a “mere theorist,” but to save their power and their plunder. In your open letter to me you suggest that if you should be elected Mayor I might try my popularity with the masses by contesting the seat in Congress vacated by you, and you refer to your repeated elections to Congress from the Tenth Congressional District of this city as evidence of the respect in which you are held by your constituents and of their satisfaction with your service.
Is it not true, Mr. Hewitt, that every one of these elections has cost you thousands of dollars? Is it not true, Mr. Hewitt, that you have in this way, and every time, bought the seat that you have held, and that what you have thus really represented has been your money and the political organizations that buy and sell votes?
You are sarcastic, Mr. Hewitt, in asking me to contest your seat. Under the conditions which have prevailed here, and which are for a time only slightly broken by the movement of honest workers who have selected me for their standard-bearer, I could no more aspire to become a Member of Congress from the city of New York than I could to become a member of the British House of Lords, unless I were to sell my soul in advance to some rich corporation that would put up the money for my election and claim my Congressional vote as that of their bonded servant.
I refer to this matter not from any personal motive, but simply because it illustrates the real issue between you and me.
You declare that your experience has taught you not to fear the politicians who for ten years have nominated and elected you to Congress, and who have now nominated you and propose, if they can, to elect you Mayor of this city. If you are incapable of rising above class-feelings, as I fear is the case, what reason is there that you should fear these politicians? You are one of the rich men whose habit it is to procure place and power by feeing these politicians. You do not fear these politicians! Why should you? You pass a few weeks or a few months of the year in a splendid home on Lexington Avenue. When not occupying the seat your money has gained you in the Congress of the nation, you can go off on pleasure trips to Europe or enjoy the summer in your comfortable mansion in New Jersey. The police of this city may be tyrannical and brutal; its courts may throw around injustice the mantle of the law; the great mass of its people may suffer from overcrowding, from the non-enforcement of sanitary enactments, from want of water and air; their children, who to them are as dear as any millionaire’s to him, may be swept off in the summer heats as if by pestilence, and you be unaffected, thanks to your wealth. But the great body of your constituents are not millionaires like you. Go into the miserable tenement-houses in your Congressional District in which live the voters whom the politicians that you do not fear have given the privilege of electing you repeatedly to Congress; consider the daily lives of men to whom have not fallen the happy accidents that have made you rich, and you will see that they have reason to “fear the politicians.” It is they who suffer by misgovernment and political corruption. They have abundant reason to “fear the politicians.”
Being a rich man yourself you may look with equanimity upon the corrupt political methods which debar from high office all but the rich or the unscrupulous. But how would you feel if it had not happened to you to become a rich man? You stigmatize the movement winch has presented a poor man as a candidate for the Mayoralty of New York as a class movement. It is, in truth, a movement against the domination of a class, the political methods which you have chosen to become the defender of having virtually excluded any man not rich from such a place as that which you and I now contest and even from such a position as you sarcastically advise me to run for. You declare that politicians are ever willing to avail themselves of an able and honest candidate. This is not true. They are willing to avail themselves of the services of able candidates who will become their tools, and they are willing to avail themselves of the services of “honest” candidates when these may serve as figure heads, or are rich enough to pay them their price. Under the political system, of which you are chosen defender, ability and honesty will not in this city take a man even to the lower house of the State Legislature. At this very moment, I know of a young man of education and ability, employed in an editorial capacity upon one of the journals which support you, who is ambitious to become a member of the Assembly. The pay he will receive, if elected, is $1,500, but it will cost him to get a nomination upon the ticket you head the sum of $2,000, to say nothing of election expenses. Is it any wonder under such a system that we have an Albany lobby and “boodle” Aldermen?
I have no disposition, Mr. Hewitt, to hold you personally to any stricter code of morality than that which prevails in your time and class, or to blame you personally because, as you say, you are “not so impracticable as to refuse the methods by which society at any given time is governed.” Public opinion in the class you represent visits its condemnation upon the poor man who sells his vote for $2, but has no condemnation for the rich man who furnishes the $2 with which he is tempted. And I can understand how a rich man, ambitious to hold public station, could virtually buy that station yet scorn to sell its influence. Of this we have unfortunately abundant examples. The fault in such cases we may say, with large degree of truth, is in the system rather than in the man. But what shall we say of the man, rich, educated, able, who, when a great body of his fellow-citizens make an effort to break up such a system, permits himself to be used as a figure head by banded Praetorians, bent on putting down such a revolt against their methods, and who, refusing frank discussion upon issues he himself has raised, appeals to prejudice and passion, and invokes his good reputation to cloak their real designs.
Since you refuse to meet me in discussion it is hardly worth while for me to point out the absurdity of your assertion that I propose “a system of robbery that would reduce society to a state of chaos.” But since you refuse an appeal to intelligence, let me again ask you, Mr. Hewitt, what are the influences upon which you rely?
You choose to understand a perfectly intelligible declaration of the platform of the convention that nominated me as having no other meaning than that government should furnish employment to the idle and vicious (?) and refer to the disastrous results of such an experiment in the short-lived French Republic of 1848. Do you fail to notice, Mr. Hewitt, the piles of paving material in many of our streets, the unwonted activity of our Street Department. Do you not know that this activity about election time is a part of the system by which poor men are to be bribed to vote for you by the opportunity of doing a few days’ labor? Do you not know that already men are being coerced into your support by fear of losing employment? Do you not know that the agency on which your supporters most confidently rely to defeat me is the money men of your class will furnish them, and that on election day not only will the power and temptation of the drinking-saloon be used to the utmost in your behalf by the horde of “trained workers” who will support you, but many a man to whom a single dollar means more than ten thousand dollars does to you, will, in order to vote for me, have to resist the temptation of a bribe to vote for you? Such is the system for which you are in this election the chosen defender.
I am sorry, for more than personal reasons, that you refuse to meet me in the discussion of principles, for I believe that such a discussion would not only serve useful purposes now, but would set an example of great benefit in the future. I am, however, Democrat enough to trust to the intelligence and conscience of the people, and desire that every man who proposes to vote in this election shall be as fully informed as possible as to every principle for which I stand. My friends have hired Chickering Hall for Friday evening next. If it suits you to come there I shall be happy to give you one-half of my time. If not, I shall answer the objections which you have made, and such other objections as may be presented by those who share your views, and who may choose to appear in person and ask questions or make objections on any matters of principle regarding the issue you have raised.
I am, sir, yours truly,Henry George.
To this letter Mr. Hewitt made the following reply:
New York, October 21, 1886.
Henry George, Esq.
Dear Sir: I fear that you have reached in the discussion between us that state of excitement which I have remarked in your books, in which passion usurps the place of reason. In the open letter addressed by you to me, in the morning newspapers, I find personal remarks which approach so nearly to vituperation that they must render disagreeable the further discussion which otherwise I would have been willing to hold with you in writing, but which I felt it necessary to decline on the platform — a decision in which I am confirmed by the objectionable language of your letter. In your first communication you charged me with the atrocious crime of being a rich man, and invited the support of your fellow-citizens on the ground of your poverty. In my reply I took no notice of this issue because I supposed that on reflection you would be ashamed of having thus resorted to the time-worn arts of a demagogue. But in your second letter you not only renew the charge, but at considerable length you urge that the present contest is a struggle of the poor against the rich, and in a speech made last night you are reported to have said: “Hereafter in politics millionaires will be on one side and the working-men on the other.” This is an unmistakable effort to array class against class, the direful consequences of which no man knows better than yourself. In your frantic desire for office you seem not to hesitate to wreck society to its foundation. You must have read the second volume of Taine’s “French Revolution,” devoted to the Jacobins, their teachings, and the horrible results of their brief tenure of power, which they obtained by appeals similar to yours. If my fellow-citizens will only spend a few hours in reading this volume in the presence of their wives and children, your candidacy, based on the declaration that you propose to array working-men against millionaires, will be at an end, and you will disappear from the political firmament, “a blazing star consumed by its own internal fires.”
In my letter of acceptance I was innocent enough to state that personal issues could find no place in this election, but in both of your letters you have been pleased to refer to my riches, in regard to which and the use I make of what I possess you are evidently as ignorant as you are presumptuous. You insult the voters of the district which I have the honor to represent in Congress by the assertion that they are as purchasable as a herd of cattle. It is a district in which a united Democratic nomination has heretofore been equivalent to an election. If the office were for sale, as you have charged, by the “politicians,” whom you regard as so venal, money would have been required to get the nomination from them, and not to get the votes of the people. I trust that you will be gratified by the assurance that I have never expended one dollar, directly or indirectly, in securing a nomination, and no human being ever approached me for money or influence as the price of his vote. So far as the expenses of the election are concerned, I have invariably paid the usual and necessary assessments, and no more than the amount which for many years has been paid by the regular candidates for Congress, many of whom, as you well know, have no superfluous riches, and most of whom can justly claim to be as “poor” and as honest as you profess to be.
You seem to have very exaggerated and erroneous views as to the nature and amount of these assessments, and you speak of $50,000 and $100,000 as sums familiar to the candidate for the Mayoralty. With some knowledge of the past as to this point, I think I can assure you that no Democratic candidate for Mayor has ever contributed so much as one-half of the smaller of the sums named by you, and if it will give any relief to your anxiety on the subject I may state that, while I shall doubtless be compelled to conform to the objectionable practice which levies assessments on candidates, I shall keep my contribution within such reasonable and moderate limits that none of my money will be available to purchase your supporters at the rate of $2 per head, the price fixed in your letter.
I make this statement with a proper sense of humiliation that a man gifted as you are should have placed so low an estimate upon the voters whose support you expect to get, and I can promise you that neither the attractions of the “grogshop” nor the pecuniary necessities of suffering citizens will be used to deplete your forces, who, to judge by your own description of them, must be of the order of men who marched on London with Jack Cade and followed Falstaff to the front.
With still greater regret I notice your expression that my residence is a luxurious mansion in Lexington Avenue, and that I am the fortunate owner of a comfortable home in the country. The house to which you refer was the last gift of her honored father to Mrs. Hewitt. Little did that pure and noble soul (out of whose name and character I should scorn to make capital for myself) suspect that the modest provision which he had made for his only daughter and her six children, out of a large fortune gained by honest industry, during a life prolonged to ninety-three years and consecrated to the public good, would be made the ground of attack upon anyone connected with him by the ties of relationship. In like manner “the home in the country” has been gained by the savings of Mrs. Hewitt out of her inheritance, of which I am sure there is not a human being in this community so vile as to envy her the possession. If there be such a creature let him vote for you for Mayor. The use which you made of my supposed circumstances is an indication of the true spirit which underlies your teaching and doctrines, and of the consequences which would flow from your success in any sphere in which you could put your views into practice. Unless your future career is to differ from that of other men who have taught similar doctrines, I would advise you to be more modest in your denunciations of those who live in what you term “luxurious mansions,” lest when the new dispensation which you preach should reach its initial development and the redistribution of property which it involves should occur you should find yourself accused of “luxury” by your own followers and be hoist with your own petard. The leaders of social revolutions have often been known to inhabit the “mansions” of their victims, but never for a long time.
Passing from this odious phase of your letter you accuse me of having raised a false issue and of having misrepresented your views, but you do not specify wherein I have committed this offence. You do not deny that you propose to “make land common property,” and to reach this result by appropriating the rent “through taxes levied upon the land, exclusive of all buildings and improvements.”
This is your sovereign specific for all the evils of society, which you have analyzed and stated with a pathetic power rarely equaled and never surpassed in social literature.
Let us see for one moment how your specific would operate in this city. Its valuable buildings and improvements on the land belong almost exclusively to rich men and to the corporations whom you hold in holy horror. They would at once be exempted from taxes, and to that extent you would add to their already overgrown revenues. This donation, however, you would expect to recoup by taxation on land. This taxation would, even under your scheme, necessarily be applied to lands upon equal terms. A lot with a building costing a million of dollars would, therefore, pay the same taxes as a vacant lot on the one side, or a lot with a building costing ten thousand dollars on the other side. What would you accomplish by this change beyond making the rich man richer and the poor man poorer?
Again, what will you do with the man who lives in his own house and pays no rent? With you he may have regarded the payment of rent as a heavy burden. Hence he has struggled for years to acquire a home of his own. There are thousands of such persons in this city who painfully realize what this struggle has cost. You propose to remove taxes from all other forms of value and to impose upon land thus acquired a tax equal to the rent which it would now yield, thus reducing thine owner to the very servitude from which, by economy and industry, he has rescued himself and his family.
But there is a large class of our people who have not thus acquired land, but have deposited their savings in banks, or have made provision for their families through the beneficent agency of life insurance. Under the laws of this State these savings and accumulations on policies are chiefly loaned out on mortgages upon real estate. When, by means of your ingenious scheme of appropriating the rent of land by taxes, you have destroyed its value to the owner, what security will remain to the depositors in savings banks and the holders of policies of insurance? You will reply that the buildings and improvements will remain. But what value do these possess as a security when the virtual fee of the land is destroyed, and what shadow of security will remain on unimproved lands and on farm lands where the improvements are a secondary consideration?
These are samples only of the difficulties to which you can devote all the time which you generously offer to divide with me at Chickering Hall.
You object to my conclusion that your platform means that idle labor is to be employed by the State. You do not explain what it does mean, if this be not the true significance of a declaration otherwise unintelligible.
I find in the newspapers the following passages, quoted from remarks made by you a few days ago in New York:
“With all its drawbacks, and horrors, and shortcomings, the great epoch of the French Revolution, now but a century gone, is about to repeat itself here. Liberty, equality, and fraternity embodies the aspirations of every working man in the world today, It remains for the working-men to reestablish the republic — not the republic of the millionaire and the tramp. What was done in 1776 in this country, in France in 1789, must be done over again. Our forefathers won us our political rights; it remains that we should assert them.”
. . . . . . . . . .
“This is a class movement — the uprising of the working-men, the revolt of the disinherited class claiming their share of the wealth their toil produces.”
You allege that the press misrepresents your statements. Perhaps you will inform the public whether the above passages are correctly reported. If they are, you are convicted out of your own mouth of seeking to inflict upon this country the horrors from which France has not yet recovered.
You seem to think that your election as Mayor of New York will in some mysterious way cure the social evils which we both deplore. If there were the slightest foundation for this belief I should give you my hearty support, because I know that my election cannot have any such effect. The duties of the Mayor are defined by law. So far as they are not purely ministerial they are confined to the power of appointment where vacancies occur, to a general supervision of the municipal government, and to the creation of vacancies with the approval of the Governor in case of malfeasance in office. The Mayor has no control over the police force, so that your promise to regulate its members cannot be made good. He has no power to order the Health Department to undertake specific works of rectification, so that your assurances that you will clean the streets, purify the atmosphere, and improve the sanitary condition of the tenement-houses cannot be carried into effect by you. The same difficulties will confront you when you attempt to deal with the streets, the docks, and the schools. In leading your followers to expect reforms which you cannot execute you have, to use a homely but expressive phrase, “bitten off more than you can chew.”
Among your numerous claims for support I have nowhere seen it asserted that you have any patent or secret charm by which you can change the nature of man or secure for yourself any greater power or influence for good than either of the other candidates possesses, or that they will be less conscientious in the discharge of their duties than you promise to be. How, then, your election will accomplish the reforms you desire passes my comprehension, but I can see clearly how you will have to disappoint so many hopes and expectations raised by your declarations that the present discontent will be greatly increased to the infinite damage of confidence, order, enterprise, employment, and thrift.
While you were penning your letter another man, who has risen from the ranks of labor by the force of his character and his great practical sense, and who does not parade his poverty as his claim for the position he fills with such honor to himself and benefit to the community, P. M. Arthur was uttering to the locomotive engineers, of whom he is the trusted chief, some words of wisdom which I commend to the deluded members of the trades unions who have abandoned the principles on which they were founded in favor of the new gospel you profess to have discovered. Mr. Arthur said:
“We have no sympathy for, nor co-operation with, any class or set of men who base their claims upon the principle that might is right and the rich owe the poor a living. No man has a right to anything which does not come to him through the channel of honest acquirement. If you would have name, fame, or wealth, work for them. Have an object in life; let it be as exalted as possible, and if backed by a strong determination and honest endeavor, believe me, you will attain it.
“Much has been said and more written concerning the antagonism between capital and labor. To my mind there is no such thing. Between work and idleness there has never been any feeling other than antagonistic, and it is those of the latter class who are attempting to poison the minds of the industrious.
“There seems to be generally prevalent an idea that all capitalists are rich, whereas the truth is that no great business enterprise is owned and controlled by one man, but by many, each contributing something toward the mighty whole. I will venture to say that most men of thrifty, industrious habits are capitalists. When we consider that capital is only invested wealth, I hope there is not one among you, my hearers, but can count himself a capitalist, be your pile ever so small.”
The chief of this great trades union seems inclined to take little stock in your enterprise for the reconstruction of society by schemes which, though merely ink when set on paper, turn to blood when put in action. I believe that he speaks the sentiments of all thoughtful working-men, who realize that revolution, confiscation, and robbery are not less ruinous to honest labor when they are disguised as a fantastic combination of poverty and progress.
Abram S. Hewitt.
The correspondence was closed with the following letter from Mr. George:
New York, October 24, 1886.
Hon. Abram S. Hewitt.
Dear Sir: Pressure upon my time has rendered it impossible until now to answer yours of October 21st. There is, however, no need for extended reply, since what you have written is in no sense an answer to my former letters. Your reiterated prognostications of French revolutionary horrors to follow my election can only excite the smiles of intelligent men. Such alarms are always raised by those who profit by abuses that are threatened with reform.
The terrible things which you predict are not half so terrible as those the Federalists worked themselves into believing would follow the election of Thomas Jefferson to the Presidency. Such predictions could not prevent what was long known among our fathers as the “Civil Revolution of 1800,” nor do I think they can stop the present movement for reform in our city. As to the sayings which, on the authorities of the newspapers, you attribute to me, such as that “hereafter millionaires are to be on one side of politics and working-men on the other,” and that “with all its drawbacks and horrors and shortcomings the great epoch of the French Revolution, now a century gone, is about to repeat itself here,” or such other sayings as that my supporters “cannot shirk their bounden duty, for if they do, ever afterward they will be tabooed from working-men’s society,” I have simply to say that they are total falsehoods or falsehoods of that peculiar malignant type which consists in garbling what was really said. Against such misrepresentations I cannot protect myself, but I do not think that anybody who has ever heard me speak, or has read anything I have written, will believe that I have really made any such utterances. As for my “theories,’’ I will not discuss them through the newspapers with one who refuses to publicly debate the issue he himself has raised. I may, however, say that your assertion that the exemption of buildings and improvements from taxation, and the concentration of taxes upon the value of land, would be to the benefit of the rich and the injury of the poor, can have weight only with the ignorant. I am sorry to see a proposition of this kind advanced by a man of your standing, even in the heat of a political contest.
The delusion that taxes upon any form of capital are taxes upon the rich, and that the exemption of capital in any form from taxation would be an exemption in favor of the rich, is, unfortunately, too prevalent. I am especially sorry that you make such an assertion, since in your case it cannot be ascribed to ignorance. You know at least enough of political economy to know that, as taught by all economists, we cannot tax the rich by taxing capital, and that taxes upon buildings and improvements must fail ultimately upon the user, not the owner. And I may be permitted to remark in this regard, that, as has been shown by the reprint from The Brooklyn Eagle of an interview with you in 1880, you were then fully aware of the impolicy and injustice of permitting what John Stuart Mill aptly called “the unearned increment of wealth” to go to individuals who happen to hold possession of land which grows in value by the growth of the community, and that you then saw clearly that this great fund, due solely to social growth, should be taken in some manner for the benefit of the whole people. Yet this is precisely the proposition which you now declare communistic and anarchistic.
As to personalities, I am willing that the public should judge between us. Neither what you have to say about Mrs. Hewitt and your venerated father-in-law, nor the biographical details with which you entertained the County Democracy, was made necessary by any reference of mine. I meant no offence in alluding to the “happy accidents” which have made you rich. If you prefer to think that in your case fortune is due solely to superior abilities, I shall not contradict you, but even greater men than you, Mr. Hewitt, have recognized life as a game of mingled chance and skill, and, like the great stoic wearer of the Roman purple, have returned thanks to the gods for the “happy accidents” which placed them in better conditions than the most of their fellows. I have neither found fault with your riches nor boasted of my own poverty as you imply. I have merely pointed out, in response to your assertion that my nomination was the result of a class movement, and your sarcastic invitation to me to run for Congress, that the political methods which have hitherto prevailed in this city, and of which you are now the chosen defender, have debarred from high office all but the rich or the unscrupulous; and that although a man situated as you are might have “no fear of the politicians,” and be at no personal inconvenience from corrupt and inefficient government, there are other classes of our citizens of whom this cannot be said.
I have not charged you, Mr. Hewitt, with buying votes, nor am I disposed to inquire as to the final disposition of the sums of money which von acknowledge that you have paid to the gangs of political Hessians who have given you nominations “equivalent to an election.” Nor have I brought any charge against you for having paid “the usual and necessary assessments.”
But why should you now continue a practice which you admit to be “objectionable?” Still more, why should you now suffer yourself to be used as a stalking-horse by those whose object it is to maintain political methods which often demand of a candidate assessments larger than the salary of the office to which he aspires? The plain fact is, that the masses are in revolt against the vicious methods which have disgraced the Democratic name, and that you not only suffer yourself to be used for the perpetuation of such methods, and permit men, whom your better nature would lead you to despise, to “point with pride” to you as their header, but you endeavor to befog this issue by raising the cry of anarchism and destruction, and posturing in the role of a “savior of society.” Pretty saviors of society are they not, the representative men comprising the two committees who by your invitation listened to your letter of acceptance! I can hardly think you so devoid of the sense of humor as not to have inwardly smiled when declaring to such men as these that the motive which prompted you to take their nomination was to prevent the anarchy and chaos that would follow my election. You know full well, as every man in this city knows, that you were selected by these ringsters not because they were anxious to save society, but because they were anxious to save themselves, their power, and their opportunities of plunder. It is evidently useless to put the question to you, but I am willing to leave to the decision of our fellow-citizens whether any “disaster” which my election could bring upon society could be worse than a continuance in such hands as these of the government of a great city.
In closing this controversy, which you yourself began by your attack upon me in your letter of acceptance, I must again express my regret that you have deprived the people of this city of the opportunity to judge between us, which a public discussion of principles would afford, and that the notorious facts which I cited in my first letter as showing the real motives underlying your forced nomination have not yet been met by you.
I am, sir, yours truly,Henry George.
These letters were variously commented on by the press. When they were written political feeling was so intense that candid criticism could not be expected, but now that the public mind is calm and a dispassionate perusal of the correspondence possible, it is difficult to see how any other popular verdict can be given than that Mr. Hewitt misjudged his own powers when he ventured to initiate a discussion of social, moral, and political questions with Henry George.
- GEORGE’S “ANARCHY” DISSECTED.
According to his promise in his final letter to Mr. Hewitt, Mr. George appeared at Chickering Hall on the evening of October 22d, before a densely packed and most intelligent audience. The Rev. Dr. Kramer presided.
Mr. George spoke as follows:
Mr. Chairman and Fellow-Citizens: I have no personal desire to be your next Mayor. I had no personal desire to accept this nomination. I took it because it seemed to me the call of duty; because thirty thousand of my fellow-citizens requested me to go to the front.
My great reason, however, for accepting this nomination was that it would bring into public discussion principles which it seemed to me were most necessary to be discussed. Mr. Hewitt’s reason for accepting the nomination of the two Democratic factions was, as given by himself, that he recognized in me the exponent of certain principles which seemed to him to be destructive to society — undemocratic and anti-American — principles, in short, so dangerous that should I be elected he could see nothing in the future but anarchy and chaos.
I asked Mr. Hewitt to meet me before our fellow-citizens, that we might discuss those principles and ask them for their verdict. He has seen fit to refuse. I now propose to stand here tonight and speak for a brief time upon the principles to which he takes the greatest exception, and then to answer any question that may be asked by any of the audience.
The principles to which Mr. Hewitt makes objection, and which he considers so destructive, are those announced in our platform in these words:
“Holding that the corruptions of government and the impoverishment of labor result from the neglect of the self-evident truths proclaimed by the founders of this republic, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, we aim at the abolition of the system which compels men to pay their fellow-creatures for the use of God’s gifts to all, and permits monopolizers to deprive labor of natural opportunities for employment, thus filling the land with tramps and paupers, and bringing about an unnatural competition which tends to reduce wages to starvation rates and to make the wealth-producer the industrial slave of those who grow rich by his toil. We declare furthermore that the enormous value which the presence of a million and a half of people gives to the land of this city belongs properly to the whole community.”
Is there really anything very dangerous in these propositions — anything undemocratic or anti-American?
There are two ways of considering a subject of this kind. One way is the practical way, or, as philosophers would call it, the inductive method. The other is to look at it as a moral question. Of the two methods I prefer the second, for I believe, and believe not lightly, but as the result of long study of political economy, that that which is just is always that which is wise, and that if we would do the best thing for society, the shortest way to get at it is to ask what is the right thing. I believe, in short, that the social laws which govern the relations of men, one with another, are as much the laws of God as are physical laws.
But in deference to the common way of looking at these matters, let me first take up this question as a practical one. We propose — and this reduced to its concrete expression is the “dangerous principle” for which I stand — we propose to exempt buildings and improvements from taxation, and to put the tax thus rendered necessary upon the value of land. I propose to exempt everything from taxation save land values. I propose to take economic rent for the purposes of the community.
Now, as to taxation. In the first place we are all members of a community here in the city of New York. It is true that there should be as much wealth here as possible. The more wealth there is, the easier it ought to be for any one of us to get his share of it. All laws which repress the production of wealth — which tend to drive away wealth — are bad. Taxation does that. When in a country town there are too many dogs, there is a cry for a dog-tax, and if you put a tax on dogs you have less dogs. (A voice: “Put a tax on politicians!”) There is a better way of getting at that; that is, for the people themselves to turn politicians. So if there are too many saloons, we put a heavy tax on saloons. But are houses a bad thing? Can we have too many houses? Have we, as a matter of fact, in this community, too many houses? (A voice: “Not enough.”) Why, then, should we tax houses? Is there too much capital here? I should say not. Why, then, should we tax capital? A city or a community grows in wealth as houses increase, as carriages, and horses, and dry goods, and groceries, and everything of that kind increase. Why, then, should we tax those things?
The true rule is that we ought not to tax anything the bringing of which into the country, or the production of which in the country, is a good thing for that country. To tax capital tends to drive it away. To tax houses is to place a fine on their building, and to have fewer houses. To tax ships or machinery or anything of that kind results in less of them. But you can tax land all you please, and you won’t have an inch less of that. You can tax land values all you please, and your land will not be a whit the less useful. Therefore, it is better for the purpose of increasing the general wealth — of making the sum there is to divide as large as possible — to tax nothing save the value of land.
Another thing. The most important thing we can have in any community is not wealth. It is character. It is conscience. Our present system of taxation is a tax upon conscience. The man coming to this country, as he nears that Statue of Liberty which is to be dedicated next week, will be approached by the Custom House man who will stick an oath at him. Has he anything dutiable in his trunks? And then perhaps he will open the trunks if he does not get a greenback. Our tax system is calculated to encourage dishonesty, and places a premium on fraud. Did you ever look over the personal property returns of our very rich men? How much tax do the Vanderbilts pay? On a hundred thousand or so, I understand. We all know that the personal property of New York is steadily increasing; and yet, on the assessors’ books, it is steadily diminishing. What does that mean? It means lying. It means false swearing. It means bribery of officials. The real wonder is, to any man investigating the subject, that there is so much honesty among the American people as there is.
You go to a Vanderbilt, or to any of your rich merchants, and attempt to tax his personal property, and you can’t get at it. Attempt to tax his capital, and you can’t find it. Many of these rich men make a practice of moving away about the time the tax collector comes around. Shifting deposits from one bank to another is a common practice. “Tax-dodgers” they call them; and they do succeed in dodging. But land lies out of doors; you can’t hide land. There it is.
And the value of land can be estimated more certainly than any other value. You tell me of a house and lot on 113th Street or down in Broadway that I haven’t seen; you give me the dimensions of the house and the lot; I go to an expert and ask him, “What is that house and lot worth?“ He will tell me, without leaving his office, “A lot in such a place is worth so much.” But as to the house, he will have to go and examine it. The value of land is the most easily discovered of all values. Therefore it is that, in the interest of honesty, in the interest of fair play, in the interest of character, it is the best thing to tax.
While it is, in the first place, important to us as individuals that there should be as much wealth as possible, the next and hardly less important thing is that wealth should be as fairly distributed as possible. All taxation (I am telling you a very important principle, constantly to be kept in mind in this discussion, and that a great many people do not understand), all taxation that falls on any article produced by human labor, and which must be constantly produced in order to maintain the supply, will increase the price of that article, and fall, ultimately, on the consumer. For instance, when the Federal Government put the war tax on whiskey, whiskey rose in price. The same with tobacco. All such taxes fall on the consumer — must be paid by the user. The man who has a wife and children must, therefore, pay more of such taxes than the bachelor who shirks his natural obligations. Taxes of that kind are, in the first place, taxes on having wives and children; and, in the next place, they fall more heavily on the man who lives well than they do upon the man of the same means who lives niggardly. At the time when I was worth no more at once than the few dollars I carried in my pocket, I knew a man who was worth at least $10,000,000, and I paid more of these taxes than he did.
But a tax upon any article which is not produced by human labor — any article which exists in fixed supply — does not add to the price. To give you an illustration: Take chromos, such as my friend Prang makes, and impose a tax on them and they will advance in price, and the man who buys them will ultimately have to pay that tax, for the reason that unless buyers will pay his price, plus the tax, the manufacturer will stop making them. But a tax upon a picture by one of the old masters — a Raphael, for instance — would not add to its price. There is only one such picture in the world, and no others can be made. Therefore it commands a monopoly price. It is not an article that can be manufactured, and a tax upon a picture of that kind would fall on the owner. He could not add it to the price when he sold it.
All taxes on articles that must be produced fall upon the consumer. A tax upon land values must fall upon the owner, and cannot be shifted from him to the consumer.
Remember, I do not say a tax upon land, but a tax upon land values.
If you were to tax all land, irrespective of its value, at so much an acre or so much a foot, it would ultimately become a tax upon the user of the land, because it would fall upon the poorest land equally with the richest, and no man could use any land without paying that tax. Therefore it would be a tax upon labor. But the other is a very different thing. Land has no value until two men want to use it. That value increases just as the desire to use that particular piece of land increases. Therefore, a tax upon land values is a tax upon a tax. Hence it is that a tax upon land values is the fairest — is the one which produces the most equitable distribution of wealth.
Consider. When I was a young man working at my trade as a printer in the city of Sacramento, I lived in a comfortable little house for which I paid $8 a month. It had four rooms; it had a yard around it — grass — two or three fruit trees. I was most pleasantly situated. I went down here the other day into what is called the “Big Flat.” If you have never been into it go there some day. I think there are something like twe1ve hundred people living there. It reminds you of nothing but a prison. Here, for three miserable rooms, the lowest price is $9 a month. Three miserable rooms in a barrack! What is the reason for the difference? Why is it that in Sacramento I could get a whole house for that price? It is not that the building material here costs any more. It is simply that the land is more valuable. The man who lives in “the big flat,” in paying his rent, is paying not merely for the house accommodations; he is paying also for the value of the land. He is paying a toll — a tribute for the purpose of living in the City of New York. From time to time, as population increases here, rents go up. For instance, I know of a house in Lafayette Place rented by a publisher three years ago for $2,500 a year. His three years’ lease expires next month, and the landlord tells him he must pay $5,000 a year or quit. But must he pay that increase for the house? The house is no more valuable — it is not as valuable — as it was three years ago. Houses are worth less the more they are used. He must pay the increased rent for the increased value of the land.
In paying our rents here, we people of New York are paying not merely for the building accommodations. The great price we pay is for the use of the land — or the use of the air!
A tax upon buildings adds, upon the principle I have explained, to the rental of buildings. It tends to make fewer buildings. But a tax upon land values cannot add to rents. It is merely taxing for common purposes what the tenant must pay anyhow. We people of New York might pay all our taxes as we pay our rents and not pay any more rents than we do now. Isn’t that an advantage?
Consider how much the ordinary people of New York pay for the privilege of living in New York. I doubt if it is less, on an average, than one-quarter of the gross earnings of mechanics, laborers, clerks, book-keepers, and the smaller professional men. Wouldn’t it be better for us to have that turned into taxes? Wouldn’t it be better for the city? It would not only not add to the value of rents, it would tend to reduce rent. It would tend to increase the number of buildings and wealth of all sorts.
We people are packed together in this city of New York, closer than anywhere else in the world — packed together so closely that the rate of mortality is greater than in any other civilized country; yet there is plenty of land here. Ride up on any of the elevated roads, and you will see plenty of vacant ground. One-half the area of New York is not yet built upon. Why do not people, when they are crowded together so, build more houses? There are any quantity of workmen who want to build houses, and many capitalists eager to furnish the money. Why don’t they build? Simply because they cannot get the land to build the houses on; they would have to pay an exorbitant price. That is a blackmail levied on the city’s growth. Here is a man who buys from the heirs of some dead Dutchman, or the heirs of an English settler, a piece of land. He sets himself down on it and says: “I have no particular use for this land; but nobody else shall use it until he pays me my price.” And he adds to that price as the city grows, and the demand for the land becomes greater and greater.
Under our present system of taxation we not only tax the building, but we tax the piece of land which the buildings covers more than we would tax an equally well situated vacant lot. Thus we put a premium upon monopoly. If we made the owner pay for the vacant lot as much as if it had a building on it, he could not afford to hold that lot vacant. Is it not right? Is it not just? If I go to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and enter my name in the register and say, “Give me a room,” and then go off and don’t come back till next day, do you not suppose that I will have to pay just as much as though I had slept in the room? Why shouldn’t I? If I tell them I didn’t use the room, “Aye,” they would say, “but you kept somebody else from using it?”
Under our present system a man goes to work and improves his land by putting up more houses. Before he can put up the houses he must pay an enormous price for a place on which to put them, and after he builds them the assessor will tax him more for the land than if it were vacant. There is land in this city that is taxed at agricultural rates, while land adjoining it is taxed at improved property rates. The tax-gatherer actually makes a man pay so much every year for having put up a building.
I say we want all the buildings we can get. I think every American citizen ought to have a separate house, and that it is a piece of stupidity, as well as an injustice, to prevent by our system of taxation the erection of buildings, and to place a premium upon holding land vacant.
I go further. We have in this country at all times — we have in this very city at all times, even the best of times — thousands and thousands of men who cannot find employment. What is the reason for this? Heavens, isn’t there enough to do in such a country as this? How is it that any man should be in want of work? How did the first man do? Did Adam have to look around to find an employer? No! There was the earth, and he employed himself. What is the reason that men to-day cannot employ themselves? There is vacant land enough all over the country. There are mines enough — water-power enough. We haven’t begun to scratch the surface of this great country. And yet here we have a land filled with tramps, and every once in a while will come up the cry of over-production. So much dry-goods that the working-man’s wife has to stint herself and not buy a dress! So much food that people have to go hungry! What is the reason? It could not exist where labor was free — it could not exist where men were free to employ themselves upon the material that their Creator has placed here for the use of their labor.
If you want to know the reason why people crowd into the city and work cannot be found for them, go out into the country; see, even in our far West, men tramping for miles — hundreds of miles — in a vain quest for a place where they can make a home without paying blackmail to some dog in the manger.
Here is the primary injustice — the root of all that is evil in what is commonly called the conflict between labor and capital.
The closer you look at it the clearer you will see that the exemption of all forms of wealth — of all forms of industry — of all proper uses of capital — from taxation, and the putting of taxes upon the value of land, instead of being a menace, will, more than anything else, promote general prosperity, raise wages, and bring about a condition of general comfort.
Take the high moral ground. Isn’t it perfectly clear that we are all here in this world, the creatures of the Creator? Isn’t it a self evident truth, as our Declaration of Independence has it, that men are created equal — that they are here with equal rights to life and liberty? Doesn’t the equal right to life involve equal right to all that the Creator has provided to sustain life — the equal right to light, air, water, and to land? Certainly it does. No one dares deny it. Every child that is born into the world comes here with a right to a foothold in this world. The little infant born tonight in the poorest room of the most squalid tenement in this city comes into life with a warrant equal to that of the child of the Astors or the babe of the Stuyvesants — with an equal right to the use of the material which its Creator has provided for the maintenance of life. That child is robbed when that right is denied.
That is the reason — that is the only reason why, out of the little children that are born in certain districts of this city every year, sixty-five per cent die before they attain the age of five years. They are denied all rights in the world to which their Creator has called them. Denied by whom? By the landlords? No. Denied by society! Denied by us! We disinherit them. We take away their birthright. And the curse for such injustice must fall upon us.
That is the reason why young girls are crowded together running sewing-machines, two hundred and sixty on one floor; that is the reason why we have here a great population so degraded that they must constantly accept charity. Large numbers so degraded that they will sell their vote for a two-dollar bill on election day.
I hold that these people have unalienable rights. Did you ever think what that means in the Declaration of Independence? Unalienable rights that cannot be sold; rights that no act of the State Legislature or Parliament, or Constitutional Convention, or enactment of the whole people, can deprive them of — rights which came to them by the hand of their Creator.
I say that the right to land is one of these unalienable rights. Mr. Hewitt says that that is undemocratic. Mr. Hewitt never got his democracy from Thomas Jefferson.
Thomas Jefferson knew what he was writing when he wrote those immortal words in the Declaration of Independence. They blotted out the words in which he had put the stamp of condemnation on the sin and crime of slavery, but those self-evident words were still there. Though it took a century, they were at last vindicated. So is the equal right to land there, and Thomas Jefferson meant it. If you go to his works and turn to a letter which he wrote from Paris to Madison, in 1786, I think, you will see these words: “I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self-evident, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living; that the dead have neither power nor rights over it.” Isn’t that a self-evident truth?
Isn’t it perfectly clear that when a man dies he is done with this world?
What right, then, has any man to make a will and say that this world, or a certain part of this world, after he is dead and gone, shall belong to such and such a person. If a dead man has no right to this world — if the world belongs in usufruct to the living — by what right has a man who has a piece of land, and that land a piece I want to build on, what right has he to prevent me from doing so because he derives title from some dead man?
Stuyvesant Square is closed at six o’clock — at sunset — every day. Why? Because old Peter Stuyvesant, dead and gone long years ago, said it should be so.
If there is any Presbyterian here who knows anything about the disruption of the Free Church of Scotland in the forties, he will know that a great deal of land belonged to the Established Church, and they would not sell to these common Scotchmen, of whom Hugh Miller was one — wouldn’t even sell a piece for a church. Miller tells of a Free Church clergyman who had to make his home in a boat, and go sailing around. The Duke of Buccleuch, who owned sixty miles there, wouldn’t let them hire a bit of land — wouldn’t let them even stand on his land to worship God. They had to go up on the sea-shore — on the roads — where the police drove them away. Finally they got into a gravel pit, and after some time a few aristocratic preachers came around and the duke allowed them to use the gravel-pit to worship God in. And the stupid people — what did they do? They passed resolutions of thanks to his grace the duke.
But that is not what I am going to tell you. If there are any Presbyterians here they will recall that the Free Church people sent a petition to the executors of the dead man’s estate. The dead man’s name was Monalty. They asked permission of the executors to build a Free Church. The answer came back that the executors would be very glad, indeed — nothing would give them more pleasure; but they knew that if they did so the late Monalty would not like it! And so, live Scotchmen couldn’t worship God in their own way, on the soil of Scotland, because a dead Scotchman wouldn’t like it. Stupid people, weren’t they? I told them in Glasgow, in a meeting larger even than this, that they ought to take the lion off their coat-of-arms and put on a sheep.
But aren’t we just as stupid? We are doing the same thing here. We are toiling, perhaps, for Mr. Astor — perhaps for another landlord. I have to work, probably every other man in this room has to work, for some landlord, because some dead man said we must. That is precisely what it amounts to.
A little while ago I read in a Brooklyn paper about some fishermen on Long Island who had been paying toll on the catch of fish every year. Why? Because, as they supposed, the man who owned the fishing ground had got it from some other grantor, who had it by virtue of a charter issued by James II. Finally the fishermen got a committee and sent them to the Court House, and they searched to see if there was any record of a grant, and they couldn’t find any. And so the fishermen refused to pay any more toll. But if they had found that grant they would have gone on paying. Why? Because James II., dead two hundred years ago, a man who never set foot in this country, said so. Isn’t that absurd?
We abolished chattel slavery in the South, and take credit to ourselves for doing it. I remember the time when worse things than Mr. Hewitt says of me today were said of those who objected to chattel slavery. Have we freed those black men? No. A man is of no use, he can do nothing, unless he has land. Man is a land animal and can’t live unless he has land to live on. He can’t work without land. The old slave-holders don’t object. They are as well satisfied as ever. Why? They have the land, and their ex-slaves are now their tenants. What difference does it make? In some respects it is better to be a land-owner than a slave-holder. He doesn’t have to whip men to make them work. He can simply sit in his office and collect his rents. It is slavery, all the same, when I have to give, as I do have to give, part of my labor every month to someone who makes me no return for it. I am virtually, to that extent, a slave.
It is perfectly clear that we are all here with an equal right to the use of the land of our country. This is said to be anarchistic. I quoted Thomas Jefferson; let me quote the great prelate, Dr. Thomas Nulty, Bishop of Meath: “Now, therefore, the land of a country is the common property of the people of that country, because its real owner — the Creator who made it — hath bequeathed it a voluntary gift unto them. The earth hath He made for the children of men. Since every human being is a creature and a child of God, and all His creatures are equal in His sight, any settlement of the land of this or any other country that would exclude the humblest man in this or that country from his share of the common inheritance, would not only be an injustice and a wrong to that man, but would, moreover, be an impious resistance to the benevolent intentions of his Creator.” Isn’t that true? Isn’t that, as Thomas Jefferson said — self-evident?
Very well, it is perfectly clear that we are all equally entitled to land. Now, how are we going to get our equal share of land? How are we going to divide New York equally? If we were going to divide it into equal pieces we would all want our piece in Wall Street. If we did divide it equally once it wouldn’t stay equal. Population is constantly increasing. What would you do with the new people? It is not necessary to cut land in pieces. We need not divide the land. All that is necessary is to divide the rent. As Herbert Spencer says, then we would all be landlords.
That is the teaching of abstract justice. That is the teaching of Democracy. How are you going to accomplish it? It is not necessary to make any sudden swoop.
The right to the building belongs absolutely to the man who put it up, or to the man who bought it from the man who put it up. We are sticklers for the rights of property. I believe in what the French convention called, “The sacred rights of property.” Upon respect for the rights of property all civilization must be based — it must be based on the eighth commandment. My quarrel with the present state of society is that it denies and violates that command, that it does not enforce the command — “Thou shalt not steal.” That is the trouble today. That is the reason there are millionaires on one side and paupers on the other.
The right of property, what does it rest on? It rests on the right of a man to himself, to the use of his own powers. Whatever a man makes, whether it be a desk, a coat, a hat, a tree that he raises, a fish that he catches — whatever a man produces, that is his, and ought to be as against the whole world. But who produced the land? When any man can show a title from the producer of the land, then let us acknowledge it.
But, as I said, to carry this principle into effect, it isn’t necessary to take land and lease it. All that is necessary to do is to take taxation off of other things and put it on the value of land, until finally you get it at such a height that you can get the entire economic rent. The building will stand just as securely as now. Everything will go on as well as it does now and a great deal better.
I would talk to you a great deal longer, but I may take time in which somebody may want to ask questions. But I want to say, that the platform we lay down is this: Take taxation off of buildings and put it on the value of land. That is what Mr. Hewitt calls anarchistic and communistic.
At the close of Mr. George’s argument the Chairman stated that Mr. Hewitt was invited to debate the question Mr. George presented, and, although Mr. Hewitt was not present, friends of his might be who desired to ask questions. “If any such there be,” the Chairman asked, “shall he have fair play and courteous treatment from you?” The audience having given hearty assent, the Chairman said: “Then let there be no signs of disapproval — no hissing at any man’s name or any man’s views. Any person in the audience may now propound courteous and pertinent inquiries through me, and Mr. George will answer him. I guarantee in behalf of the audience courteous treatment and in behalf of Mr. George candid replies.”
“Mr. Chairman,” said a young man in the orchestra-circle, “Mr. George, in speaking of taxes as a means for the suppression of evils, said: ‘Saloons are a bad thing,’ and that to get rid of them he would put a high tax on them. I want to ask what he proposes in his scheme to do with the saloon evil and its abuses?”
Mr. George. — I don’t think that is pertinent to the questions I am here to answer. Nevertheless, let me say that I think the saloon is rather an effect than a cause, and that by striking at the root of poverty and want we would strike at the root of all that is objectionable in society.
“I would like to ask you, Mr. Chairman,” came a voice from the gallery, “will he promise the citizens, when he gets to the Mayor’s chair, to do away with the rotten machinery we have had in this city the past thirty years?”
Mr. George.—That is not pertinent either; but I am free to say I will do the best I can.
“If I have a lot worth $2,000 and a house on it worth $5,000,” was the next inquiry, “what difference would it make to me whether a tax is levied on both the house and the lot or whether it is levied on the value of the lot alone?”
Mr. George.—It will make this difference to you: If taxes are levied on the value of the lot, you will have less taxes to pay, for the reason that there are more lots than there are houses, and the taxation which is taken off of your house is not put on your lot, but on the value of your lot in connection with a great many lots that have no houses on them. There is an enormous economy in collecting taxes that way, and you will get the benefit of it. The great gainer will be the man who has neither house nor lot, but wants to buy a house and lot. He is the man who will gain in proportion more than you.
“If you decrease the amount of taxation,” said another, “will not that make a deficiency in the money required for the support of the municipal government?”
Mr. George —No; I propose to raise in that way all that is required for the support of the municipal government, and if I had my way, I would raise a good deal more than the municipal government now takes. I would take all these increments that now go to our landlords, who live, many of them, in idleness here — some of them residents of Paris, and Dublin, and Italy — I would take all that vast fund and use it for the benefit of the whole city. At this present day we want about twenty Cooper Institutes and about the same number of Astor Libraries. I respect the memory of Peter Cooper. I respect the benevolence of the Astors in giving to New York that fine library, and allowing New Yorkers to go there several hours every day; but I do not think it creditable to the people of New York that they have to resort to charity for these things. I would rather have them provided at the public expense out of our own money — from our own estate. I would not only do that, but I would do a great deal more. Did you ever think of the wickedness or injustice of bringing up the children of New York as they are today, with no place to play except in the crowded streets? We can use plenty of money, no fear.
“A poor farmer living in the State of Connecticut,” began a ministerial-looking auditor, who, at the Chairman’s request, came to the orchestra-rail to propose his question, “owning a small farm of fifty or sixty acres, has married him a wife, and in the providence of God has four or five little ones; he has lived to be thirty or thirty-five years old, and by his own labor and industry has supported his wife and children; and now, in the providence of God, is stricken down with sickness and is laid away in the grave. All that he has in the world is that little farm. What disposition would the gentleman make of that land?”
Mr. George.—With one special and particular farm I don’t propose to do anything. I propose an adjustment which affects society at large and all land. Under the present system, when that farmer dies and leaves his little farm of a few acres, with a lot of small children, all the chances are that he leaves it with a mortgage on it. Whether he does or not his wife is soon obliged to give one, and then his children are cast upon society to make their way the best they can. Under the state of things which I propose, with taxation levied as I propose to have it levied, no one will be able to monopolize land. Consequently, land not in use would be free to be used by anyone who wanted to use it, and these small children, the moment they were able to work, would find abundant opportunity.
“The question the gentleman raises is a most important one,” continued Mr. George, “and must come home to every man who has young children. Today the most terrible weight upon the mind of every man is the question, ‘What will become of my family if I die?’ And here in civilized Christian society, as we call it, when such a man dies his widow and his children have to take care of themselves the best they can. I would have the surplus fund of the community make provision for things of that kind; I would take this vast fund that is created by the whole community; that grows with the growth of society; that is added to by every improvement; that belongs, therefore, to the whole people — I would take a portion of it for just such purposes as that, so that there would be no widow and no orphan in the whole community who would need to accept charity. And what security has the rich man that his children’s children will not beg their bread? I would rather leave my children without one penny, in a society where labor was highly paid, where employment was easy to obtain, than leave them millionaires in a society like this.”
“Mr. George, what did you actually say,” was the next inquiry, “regarding the house that Mr. Hewitt lives in that I see the press is talking about so much?”
Mr. George.—That is no more pertinent to this discussion than what I think about the house that Jack built. I have not had time today to answer Mr. Hewitt’s last letter but I will answer it tomorrow, and you will find my answer in the Sunday papers.
“Mr. George, in taxing the land would you also take off the taxes from imported goods, and thus take away employment from our laborers?” inquired a protectionist in the audience.
Mr. George.—I certainly would. Goods are good things, and the more we have of them in this country the better. I would fine nobody for bringing good things into the country-— only for bringing bad things. But the gentleman also added, “and thus take away employment from the laborers.” The very reason that it seems to you the abolition of the tariff would take away employment is because of the way we treat our land.
“Do you want to hear my views on the tariff?” inquired Mr. George, addressing the audience. [“Yes, yes, yes,” came from all parts of the house.] “You have all heard of Robinson Crusoe. Suppose him to be still on that desert island of his — suppose a ship to pass and an American protectionist, like my good friend Patrick Ford here, to go ashore and say, ‘Robinson Crusoe, this island will be visited by all sorts of ships bringing all sorts of goods, and then you will have no employment for your labor.’ Robinson Crusoe would say: ‘Do they want to give me those goods?’ The protectionist might answer: ‘Not give those goods, but sell them to you, and then you wouldn’t have any work to do.’ Robinson Crusoe would reply: ‘I don’t want to work; what I want is the goods. I didn’t spend months in digging out that canoe and weeks in making this goat-skin coat because I wanted to work, but because I wanted the things.’ Looked at in that way protection is utterly absurd. Robinson Crusoe stands for a whole community; what is true in this case would be true of a community of a hundred millions.
But now suppose Friday was there — suppose after the protectionist had tried it with Robinson Crusoe, he took Friday aside and said, ‘Look here, this place will be visited by ships laden with goods and they will give them to Robinson Crusoe for a few bananas, and then Crusoe won’t have any use for you, and the chances are that he will give you back to the cannibals.’ What would Friday do? He might want a protective tariff. The land being monopolized, there is in this country a large class of men who cannot employ themselves and are dependent on others for employment. From that arises the idea that it is necessary to shut out the competition of foreign labor. If we were all landlords — if we were all in the position of Robinson Crusoe — we would say, ‘Let everybody who wants to, furnish anything — the cheaper they do it, the better.’ But in the present state of things any improvement in production is not for the men who have merely their labor. If production could be carried on without labor it could not be carried on without land, and landlords would get every thing, while the rest of mankind would be paupers.
At this point the ministerial questioner rose for a point of information, saying: “The gentleman stated, in his opening, if I understood him correctly, that the assessed value of personal property in this city was actually diminishing. I would like to know if that is the fact.”
Mr. George.—It is.
“I doubt it,” said the questioner.
The following question in writing was handed up: “What can Mr. George’s election do toward bringing his theories into practice, and what have they to do with this campaign?”
Mr. George.—They have this to do with the campaign: Mr. Hewitt says that I ought to be beaten on account of my theories — that I am a mere theorist. My election will forward those theories simply by increasing the discussion of them. They cannot be carried into effect until the great majority of the people wish them to be carried into effect, and the great majority of the people will never wish them to be carried into effect until they have thoroughly discussed and considered them.
“Should a small piece of land pay as much tax as a larger piece?” came next.
Mr. George.—That depends entirely on its value. A small piece of land in Wall Street would pay more than a larger piece of land in 116th Street.
The next question was in writing: “If elected will you clean out the slums?”
Mr. George.—That is hardly pertinent; nevertheless, I will say what I have before, that I will do all I can.
A colored man got the attention of the chair, and said: “Our race have been in habit of asking questions through others, but common-sense teaches us to ask questions for ourselves. I do not know of any people who are looked at with more contempt than the negro. I want to ask Mr. George, if he wishes to be supported by the negroes, will it help us when we approach a landlord and he says, no matter how respectable we may be, “I can’t let that to a negro?”
Mr. George.—I think so. If you will notice the men into whose minds these ideas have entered, you will find them rising above all prejudices of nationality, or race, or color, because the bottom principles for which we contend — the whole base of the theory — is that we are all the equal creatures of a common God. And as these ideas grow in the mind, so appears the sentiment of the brotherhood of man. There was deep significance in the attitude assumed by the Knights of Labor in Richmond. It meant that the men who have really turned their faces toward the emancipation of labor did recognize a common brotherhood.
“Do you expect the title of real estate to remain in the present owners?” was the next query.
Mr. George.—Certainly. The title amounts to nothing. Individuals may keep the title when the community gets the rent. As I explained before, the title to anything produced by labor is sacred. The title to a house is absolute, but the earth was not made by man. It was made by the Creator, not for one man or one generation of men, but for all generations of men.
“Mr. Brown, on one side of the street, owns a lot of ground, and Mr. Smith, on the other side, owns a lot of equal size. The one proposes to improve it with a building worth $1,000,000 and the other with a building worth $100,000. Would Mr. George tax them both alike?” was asked.
Mr. George.—Certainly. Both alike. The man in putting up a building worth $1,000,000 does no harm to anyone — he does a benefit even to Mr. Brown. It isn’t fair to tax him any more. If Mr. Smith doesn’t put up a building worth as much as Mr. Brown’s, he has the same opportunity — he has the same amount and value of land; therefore let him pay the same tax.
“Who would be the builders of houses under the new system, and how would the right to build a house be obtained, and from whom?”
Mr. George.—Who would be the builders of houses? Bricklayers, carpenters, masons. Who would have them built? A good many who now never dream of having a house built. Capitalists would build them to rent to other people. How would the right to build a house be obtained and from whom? All that we propose in our platform is to take taxes off buildings and put them on land values. You would have to obtain the right to build from the owner of the land. You would, however, get the land cheaper, because the man who holds land at present, seeing the growth of the community, charges a speculative price, not what the land is worth now, but what he expects it to be worth years hence. But if he had to pay taxes upon the valuation at which he holds it, he could not keep it vacant long. He would have to sell; and when you have to sell a thing, you must come down in price. If he could not sell it and would not use it, he would have to give it away.
- HEWITT’S MEETINGS AND SPEECHES.
Although Mr. Hewitt’s reason for declining to debate publicly was that he had decided to make no personal canvass, he did make several speeches. It must have been evident to him that retirement in the face of Mr. George’s active canvass would be fatal. Nevertheless his campaign was not characterized either by the number or enthusiasm of his public meetings. Only one was held in the open air, and but few in halls. His lieutenants seemed to rely upon another and more common influence for political success than the education or enthusiasm of the masses. His speech at the ratification meeting has been already given. His other speeches are collected here.
On the 26th of October he appeared at the Tammany Hall ratification meeting, at which a series of resolutions were adopted, declaring it to be “the duty of the Democratic party” to rise in its united strength and overthrow “the labor movement” at the ballot-box.
When Mr. Hewitt was introduced, he said:
- CHAIRMAN AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: Notwithstanding this reception, which has overpowered me, and which I never shall forget, I come before you with a very considerable amount of diffidence, in view of the fact that this is the first time for many years that circumstances have permitted me to raise my voice within this familiar hall, where once I was wont to meet with my fellow Democrats and exchange the grip of good fellowship and sound Democracy. Henry George says that I am brought back to Tammany Hall by politicians who have made a deal by which they can use me for the distribution of offices and for the sake of providing places for themselves and their followers. Well, if there are men in New York who know me better than any other men it is the politicians who have called me back to Tammany Hall. They have tried me in fair weather and in foul. They know how far I can be used as the tool of any man or any set of men.
But the Republicans take another view of the subject. They say that I am called back here to be knifed. Here is my venerable friend — the friend of forty years — who presides over this meeting, Mr. Kelly, who, as you all know, goes up and down this city with his pockets filled with dynamite bombs. Here he is, surrounded by a committee of this organization and by the candidates whom he and they have found for the citizens of New York in this crisis in its affairs. Are they the men who will knife me? I have no doubt the tomahawk is somewhere concealed in this wigwam, after the scalping-knife has taken off the small remnant of hair which I have left. Of course, these gentlemen who are going to knife me are going to do it in a scientific manner. They are not going to do anything in an open, honest way in sight of all men. They are subterranean gentlemen, with mysterious agencies, secret societies, and all that sort of paraphernalia. What have they done? Well (so the Republicans say), they have made an arrangement with Henry George to act with him, and to take a number of the adherents of Tammany Hall and bring them up to the polls on election day and knife me, their candidate for Mayor. That is the way they are going to do it, so we are told.
Henry George proposes in this city a new political movement, independent of the two great parties which, from the foundation of this Government, have sufficed for its firm establishment, its growth and its permanence, and which have made this country great and free. He says this great Government is a failure. Why, all over the world men are looking to this land as the great example of what may be done for the elevation of the masses. They look toward America with the eye of hope and longing. We are an example to all other nations. We have undermined the foundations of tyranny. We are a source of inspiration all over the world for those who love a free government. That inspiration was never so strong or so well founded as now, and yet we are told by Henry George and his followers that this Government of the people and by the people is a failure, and that you, free citizens as you are, are slaves to the politicians; that you have no opinions of your own. What remedy does he propose for you? I would like to know if he really said this: “We are men who know our own rights. We have the best political organization in existence. No, not Irving Hall. It is an organization that is so strong and so disciplined that at a word from its leaders it will pour its men, like bees from the hive, to the polls on election day with my ballots in their hands. They dare not shirk this. They dare not, or they will forever after be tabooed by all working-men and all the working-men’s societies.”
Did Henry George really say that? If he did, what word can I find in the English language to express the turpitude of that man’s character who can thus degrade the working-men of this city by telling them that on the order of some nameless boss they are to pour out like a swarm of bees with his ballots in their hands. You have known Tammany Hall for many years; did they ever drive men to the polls like slaves to vote for any man? What is the penalty of disobedience? They are never more to be tolerated in the society of their fellow working-men. The horrors of a prison, the bars of a jail, are as nothing to the punishment of that man who finds himself turned out from the society of his fellow-workmen. That fellow feeling which pervades every walk of life, that fellow feeling which is in the heart of every citizen, will come upon Henry George with indignant force when he says that the working-men are to do the bidding of any set of men.
If you are going to vote for me at the bidding of any man or of any set of men, I beg you not to do it. I can scarcely conceive of any calamity greater than for Henry George to be the Mayor of New York on the platform on which he is running. But there would be one thing worse, and that is for the Democrats of New York to allow themselves to be driven to the polls at the dictation of anyone. Henry George would be bad enough, but it would be still worse to put me in the Mayor’s chair at the bidding of any man or set of men.
Mr. George says that I have exaggerated the evil consequences of the doctrines which he has been preaching. He tells me there is no class movement. When I charged upon him that he said it was a class movement he denied it. But I recall something Mr. George said, and that first made him known to me in 1880. He wrote an article, like all his articles, powerful, full of passion, fine in diction, eloquent, and effective. It read like the words of a scholar, and, as I then thought, a patriot.
He tells you that rich men live in palaces, that those men are monopolists, that they have grown rich out of robberies perpetrated on the community. The poor, he says, are in antagonism to the rich. What is necessary to bring about this collision? Let the demagogue come and appeal to these people who have these feuds, and then what comes? Fellow-citizens, the demagogue has appeared.
Now, a word about what Mr. George proposes to do. I do not think that there is another man who has done more in public life than I have to make known the rights of labor, its true condition, and its relation to capital. I know of no one who has taken more pains than I have to bring those into harmonious relations who have been made rich by their own exertions, by inheritance, or who, having gained large means, have those means at their disposal, and have also the faculty of using them so that society shall be better and not worse for the accumulations of capital.
I have given many years of my life to bring about such improvements in the state of the law as would tend to remove any wrong that any class of the community might be suffering from.
Now, in this country there is only one way, so far as I know, by which the poor man may be robbed of any portion of his earnings, and the rich man made richer by a system of taxation, and that method is through the machinery of the State. You are intelligent men, and if you had the opportunity given you of putting forth a system of taxation, and you had to decide what you would tax, what is it you would tax?
There are two directions in which taxation can be imposed, and about that I think you will agree with me. First, you can tax the people in this country through what they drink, or wear, or consume, or use in some form or another. The other thing you can tax is the accumulated wealth of the country, in the form of property — either houses or some form of visible property. Taxes upon property are paid upon all accumulated earnings. If you put it upon accumulated property, you put it upon a form of wealth which is stolen from poor men. That is what Mr. George says; I do not say so.
I do not put these questions before you on this occasion for the purpose of fully answering them, but for the purpose of applying the rules that are deducible from them, and to tell you what are right principles. What you want is this — that representatives of intelligence and firmness should go to the Legislature, at Albany, and to Washington, and see to it that that which you consume should be relieved from taxation, and the burden placed upon the accumulated wealth and upon that form of labor that ought to pay it.
I agree with Mr. George that there is much to be done to improve the condition of this city. We do need better streets, better pavements, and we want them cleaned. We need more breathing places for the poor. Fellow-citizens, the rich ought to pay for them, and the rich ought to be made to pay for them by taxing the palaces in which they live.
For the last ten years the politicians have been good enough to send me to Congress to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. During those ten years my body and my soul have been filled with this question of the relations of labor to capital and how the conditions of those who are dependent upon earnings can be made better. Yet when I come back to my own people — to the people I have been living for and living among for this last sixty years — where I was born, where I have carried on my business, where I have served openly and above board before all men — I am denounced as a monster of iniquity and the enemy of the human race. Let us, however, answer such questions as those next week. I am not afraid to submit the issue to my fellow-citizens. I don’t believe that the Republican deal with George will be of any use on that day.
Mr. Blaine is on a tour through Pennsylvania, telling the working-men how prosperous they are in consequence of a protective tariff, and that they are all rich or will be. Here Mr. George is working the Republican machine for all it is worth, and telling the working-men that they are poor and wretched; that people are only barely kept out of the poor-house, and that if something is not done they will be left to the tender mercies of the Republican party.
Whom does Mr. Roosevelt represent? Judging from the indorsement which he got at the Union League Club the other night, he is a man who is running on a rich man’s ticket. I have said in another place, and under different circumstances, that our people are divided, principally, into four classes:
First — The very rich who have a great deal more than they know what to do with, and, on a matter of morals, more than they ought to have.
Second — The poor who are so degraded that they are a disgrace to the civilization of the age.
Between these stand the honest working people who have brought up their families in the fear of God, have accumulated money to buy a house and have laid together some provision for their old age. Among these is a certain number and class of men who, by their exertions, have achieved an honest competence. Is there any man living who, seeing these men who have thus achieved their social position by their own hard earnings, think that they ought to be deprived of any of them? Now, these are the people who have a hard battle to fight in this country, and for whom I have fought. If the very rich and the very poor were to be swept away by an earthquake, such as they had in Charleston, and only the industrious poor remained behind, I do not think that you would find anybody who would cry very much over their loss.
What we want in this country and what the Democratic principle involves and secures, upon the whole, is the best possible equality, which is that a large portion of the community are in comfortable circumstances, honest in character and charitable in action. It is such people, fellow-citizens, that I am now proud to represent, and if I should be the Mayor of this city and their representative, both you and I will have accomplished something that will be promotive of the honor of the city, of individual liberty, and on every side of this great city will be men that may be regarded with pride by those who are living within its encircling arms.
Mr. Hewitt next spoke at Steinway Hall on October 29th, a meeting at which resolutions containing the following were adopted:
In the coming election, by the candidacy of Henry George the business interests of the city are menaced; the security of property is threatened, and subversion of law and order is openly advocated under specious appeals to the passion and prejudice of class; and that in the person of Abram S. Hewitt we are afforded a candidate whose unsullied record and ceaseless activity in the cause of good government have gained him unfading honors and the approbation and esteem of all good citizens, and by his election we are assured of an administration in which ripe experience and a wise appreciation of our city’s requirements will be combined with an unswerving rectitude knowing no claim save that imposed by the great law of right.
That as all property is equally protected by government, so all property should equally bear the burdens of taxation to pay the expenses of government. That to exempt personal property and buildings, and cast the burden of taxation on unimproved land, according to Mr. George’s theory, would enable the owners of the land and buildings upon it to reassess the whole amount of the taxes upon the tenants in the form of excessive rents, and so work oppression upon the laboring classes by absorbing their wages to meet their rents. Therefore,
Resolved, that we, as business men of New York, do hereby pledge our hearty support to Abram S. Hewitt in the coming election. That we sincerely deprecate any action which, under the pretence of advocating the same principles of which our candidate is an illustrious exemplar, would blindly and selfishly endanger our city’s welfare at the call of party.
Mr. Hewitt said:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It requires a good deal of philosophy and some stoicism for a modest man to stand here and listen to such language of encomium and such resolutions as have just been read and adopted with unanimity. I know I don’t deserve any such praise, and I am sure that as you listened to the admirable address of your chairman that you must all have felt what a loss it was to the citizens of New York not to have nominated Mr. Simmons to be the Mayor of New York. But I am emboldened by the fact that he came here to preside over this meeting, and that another citizen, our present worthy Mayor — Mr. Grace — has gone to Cooper Union to preside over a similar meeting, to recall the fact that they were among the first to urge me to accept the nomination.
We are moving at a very rapid rate, and you have perhaps forgotten the circumstances under which my name came to be presented to you for the Mayoralty. I was not candidate for Mayor. No human being had spoken to me on the subject. The news came like a bolt from a clear sky. It was not the work of politicians. It is true that the men who first placed me in nomination have long been concerned in the management of affairs in this city. But if I was selected by them it was because the necessities of the case required a different selection from that which under ordinary circumstances would have been made.
A new apostle had appeared on the scene. He preached a doctrine not new in the history of the world, but new within the borders of this, our land of liberty. It is the doctrine of confiscation — plausible, and presented to a people who had grievances, with a force which had never been surpassed. See how attractive this doctrine is!
Great cities necessarily mean great wealth and unequaled distribution of wealth. The best brain of the United States and of the world comes to New York. As I had occasion to say on the floor of Congress, New York is the best market for brains, and that is the reason. (Applause.) Where the best brains are there will always be inequality in the distribution of property. Who shall say that there shall not be unequal distribution of property? Why, one star differeth from another in glory, and yet the high heavens shine for all. There are no two people born into the world with the same ambitions, the same capacities, the same surroundings. God himself enacted the law of differences.
And yet there comes one apostle who, preaching to one class of the community the doctrine of hate, tells them that his gospel will override the laws of Divine Providence. Is there no danger in such doctrine as this? Remember that here in New York is a large population of people who necessarily live from day to day. By that labor of each day must their bread be got. Now when a man of extraordinary ability comes to these people and points to the houses of the wealthy and says, “All this is yours; you produced it. Follow me and I will make an equitable distribution of property by which you shall have your share of these good things,” this is a most attractive doctrine, and I don’t wonder that thousands of men have followed the lead of this new apostle. But on the other hand we have the experience of mankind from the beginning, showing that by the establishment of the right of private property the world has grown in wealth, in comfort, in civilization, and in all the blessings that go with progress under the broad shield of law.
These great fortunes are the result of the right to work and to enjoy the fruits of your labor — the right which every man in this country has. But this new apostle tells you that the poor would have more if the rich had less. Let me call your attention to the plain facts of this case. By the census of 1880 the production of the United States, if divided according to its market value among the people, would be somewhere between forty-five and fifty cents per head per day. Now, I am not speaking of accumulated capital, but of the productive cash value of the products of the country, if divided among the people. Fifty cents per head! So that if a man who has a wife and children represents five heads and he gets his share under this doctrine of equality, he will have $2.50. The man who gets $2.50 a day has got no grievance, for he is getting his average.
The man who gets more than $2.50 does so because he has more capacity for work, or more brains. But the man who gets less than $2.50 would like to take it away from the man who gets more. What would be the effect of this? He would merely establish a dead level of mediocrity which would be fatal to all ambition. Who would try to make a fortune under any system of law which would take away from him the fruits of his labor?
Let us see whether these great fortunes that Mr. George talks about are made at the expense of the community. I will tell you of two cases within my knowledge. One of them relates to a man better known in New York perhaps than any man who ever lived here. The other is of a man in another country. They both accumulated fortunes, and in doing so, if Henry George is correct, they must have plundered somebody else. The first man was Peter Cooper. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not going to make any capital out of my relationship to Peter Cooper. I must stand upon my own legs, and I propose to do it. But this example is one in which every detail is known to myself. He was about the only rich man whose personal history I know all about.
Cooper was a poor boy. He came to New York in the year 1812. After trying two branches of business which were not satisfactory to him, he turned his attention to the manufacture of glue, and continued in that business about sixty years. During that time these things happened: The price of glue was reduced one-half; the quality was doubled in value; the men employed at the time of his death were receiving more than double the wages they got when he began his business, and lastly, the stock which was furnished by my friends, the butchers, was raised in value fivefold. In other words, the cattle were bought for two cents a pound when he began business; when he left business they were sold at ten cents a pound. What happened? The community got better glue, the workmen better wages, and the most of them had accumulated property enough to live upon, and the third and fourth generations are now working in that establishment. The suppliers of the raw material got better pay and Mr. Cooper got rich. Now, whose property did Mr. Cooper steal? The fortune was created by industry, by judgment, by enterprise and, lastly, by capital which he had saved. And yet there are clergymen who get up in their pulpits and preach against the accumulation of riches as a wrong to the community!
The other case was a poor chemist, a boy aged seventeen, working in an attic in London. His first discovery was a cheap method of producing what was called gold ink. It was then sold at a fabulous price, but he was able by his discovery to produce it at about one-tenth of what it had cost. Now, there was a saving to the community. Every man who consumed gold ink got it cheaper. This poor boy acquired some property; he finally sold his secret for a sum of money which enabled him to turn his attention to matters that he desired to investigate. Now, up to that point, was there any man whom he had wronged?
He directed his attention to the production of steel, and in 1858 he announced to the world the Bessemer process — for the man I speak of is Henry Bessemer. Up to that time steel could not be purchased at less than $260 a ton. Today it is produced by millions of tons at $30 a ton. What has come out of that discovery? In 1866 it cost two and a half cents a ton per mile to pass wheat along the railroad; today it is three mills a ton per mile. There is a saving, in consequence, of everything that goes to make up the business of life, a saving everywhere — not millions, but literally hundreds of millions of dollars saved to the people of the world. Every man’s home and every garret in the land has got part of the benefit. Is Mr. Bessemer to have nothing for it? Why did God create such a genius as that? While he has served well everybody else he has grown rich out of his invention. Henry George himself would say that Mr. Bessemer was entitled to the fortune he has gained — for he is a millionaire — gained by his achievements and genius.
This freedom, this personal liberty, how does Mr. George propose to deal with it? He said the other day, in one of his speeches, that he had an organization, a trades union, that would be marched up solidly, and the order would be given for every man to vote for him, and woe betide that man who failed to do this, for he would be an outcast among his fellows. And this is what this man intends as the liberty of American citizens. Do you suppose, for a moment, that Mr. George is unconscious of where his doctrines are going to lead?
Mr. Hewitt here read extracts from an article published in the Popular Science Monthly in 1880, written by Mr. George, on “Communism in California,” in which Dennis Kearney was denounced as a demagogue. He then went on to show to the business men what it was on which their prosperity rested. “Mr. George,” he continued, “said that what he taught was the beginning of a social industrial revolution. As Mayor, he says that he would not expect to cure any of these evils. In that he is wise, for he could not do it. But he does expect to inaugurate a movement that shall give power to one class in this community. Men of business, what will be the effect of such a revolution? Will it not undermine the foundations of confidence and put you back into the business slough from which you have recently escaped? If Mr. George should succeed in his movement who will suffer first? You, possibly, have some property which you can dispose of, at some sacrifice, and take care of your wives and children. But what is to become of that vast army of men who depend upon men of business and upon capital for their earnings?”
Mr. Hewitt closed by speaking of the Republican organization and its efforts during the present canvass, and said that “if by the action of the Republican party Henry George should be elected Mayor of this city, or even come very near to it, the men engineering this Republican movemnent had better go out onto Henry George’s unoccupied lands and hang themselves.”
On the same evening Mr. Hewitt appeared at a meeting of Germans at Cooper Union, and said:
“I am sorry that I cannot speak to you in that tongue which is adorned by my brother who has just preceded me, Mr. Schurz, but I know enough of it to understand the introduction in the universal language of your hearts as my name was mentioned. I am not here as a candidate. I’d rather not have the nomination but for the issue involved, and for this issue I would lay down my life. I shall leave you to give your judgment, your verdict, on Tuesday next as to this issue. The demon of discord, hate, anarchy, and the enemy of all mankind threatens, and the anarchist and communist are rearing their heads. If any man says that I have gone into this contest for the sake of the Democratic party, that man lies. I have not. But I believe there is an occasion in this campaign to rise above party. My friend Mr. Schurz could tell you how, in 1876, I stood like a stone wall against the anarchist doctrines, but if I live I shall, I think, have opportunity to give them an example of how an honest man can and will discharge his duties, maintain law and order, and perpetuate that liberty for which our fathers fought, and for which the faderland also contended; that the Statue of Liberty in the harbor may be preserved as the emblem which it is, and not as a mockery and a farce; not that liberty burning as in a revolution, but as a lasting monument of our freedom.
“George proposes a remedy to overcome the decree of fate. He claims to wield the thunderbolt. He holds it in his hands. Let him take care it does not return upon him, and also consider that he cannot defeat the purposes of the Almighty.”
Mr. Hewitt’s final speech in the campaign was delivered in the dry-goods district, on Worth Street, near Broadway, in the afternoon of October 30th. A merchant named Walter Stanton presided, who, in opening the meeting, said: “It is our duty today to stamp out the seeds of imported socialism, to do which it is only necessary to elect Abram S. Hewitt for Mayor.” Upon being introduced by the chairman, Mr. Hewitt said:
Fellow-Citizens: I only wish I had the voice of the smallest boy who has been joining in the cheers with which I have been received. But you see that from much speaking and much labor in the public service this throat of mine, which has always been used for the right and I believe never for the wrong, is no longer equal to the calls upon it.
I am here only for one purpose. I am a candidate for Mayor only for one purpose. I regard the election of Henry George as Mayor of New York as the greatest possible calamity that could menace its prosperity and its future hopes. But I have no fear that he will be elected, or if elected, I have no fear that the doctrines of confiscation which he preaches will ever be put in practice in this city, where a large majority of the people are living under their own vine and fig-tree, and where men own their own houses, bought with the money which they have worked for and earned, and which they intend to give to their children. What I do fear is lest by the division which exists among those who have no faith in the doctrines which Henry George has been disseminating in this city, and that in consequence of this division he may receive a larger vote than he would fairly be entitled to, the man who will be elected may not receive so great a majority as to give a final and fatal blow to these doctrines of anarchy and destruction which this new apostle is preaching to the working-people. For that reason and that only did I take this nomination.
Now, I will call your attention to something very curious. When my nomination was presented to this community it was received by all good citizens of all parties with expressions of approval. I received more than five hundred letters from Republicans within twenty-four hours, congratulating me upon the nomination. They asked me to make a sacrifice and accept the nomination. I did not want to be a candidate for Mayor. There was not a Republican newspaper on the day after my nomination that did not practically indorse it. For that reason I was prevailed upon, against my better judgment, that I would be more useful to the business men of New York in continuing my work of bringing about that revenue reform which every man of business knows I have given my time to. In this call of duty I gave up my most cherished plans of life and abandoned opportunities of further usefulness in the halls of Congress. I finally yielded to the importunities of men of business, very many of whom were Republicans, and consented to run for Mayor.
What followed? A change came over the spirit of the dream. Had I changed? Had I developed a new policy? Was my public career changed? Had any new and damaging facts concerning me been discovered? No. The leaders of the old Republican machine thought they saw a chance to profit by the fact that the two Democratic factions might not unite together for my election. They saw the hand of fate in the election of Henry George. So the old party machine was trotted out and the Republican leaders cast aside patriotism. The machine is still running. And for what? If anything can come of it, it must be the disgrace which will fall upon this city in the election of Henry George.
Is there a man in this city who believes Mr. Roosevelt can be elected? If I thought that Mr. Roosevelt could be elected, if he had been indorsed by all the newspapers — if I believed he could be elected, I should not think of contesting the career for which I think he is well adapted, and the rewards which I hope at some future day he will receive. He is a bright young man. But Mr. Roosevelt has made a mistake. He has allowed himself to be made the tool of designing men, and if success should attend his efforts — I mean the only success that can attend them — it would be the election of Henry George as Mayor of New York, and Mr. Roosevelt himself would lament in sackcloth and ashes, and ask forgiveness of his fellow-citizens for the calamity he had helped to bring about.
But do not disturb yourselves. We men of business understand this question. We do not need to be told that national prosperity and liberty rest upon the security of property. There is no liberty where there is no property, and the man who attacks the sacred foundations of private property attacks the liberty of the citizen, the freedom of the country, and the Constitution of the United States. He is untrue to the memories of the patriots who founded this Government by untold sacrifices. He is recreant to the spirit that is so nobly typified by that magnificent statue which stands bearing the torch of liberty — the hope of the future, the glory of the past.
- GEORGE’S MEETINGS AND SPEECHES.
A feature of the George campaign was the number, size, and character of the public meetings. Comparatively few were held indoors, but hundreds were held upon the street. The usual method was to call a meeting at a street-corner, and just before the appointed hour to draw up a truck, from the “tail” of which one speaker after another addressed the crowd that came. It was the great number of meetings of this kind that gave the campaign the name of the “tail-board campaign.” Speakers went from one truck to another, often many blocks apart, making two and three, and sometimes five and six, speeches in a night. Around these trucks, to the number of hundreds and often of thousands, the common people of the city gathered, women as well as men. Standing in the open air, and packed closely together, at times straining to catch the words of the speaker above the din and rattle of surface car or elevated train, they listened with intelligent eagerness, not to eloquent perorations or funny stories, but to plain expositions of the labor problem.
The men who spoke from these trucks were not drawn from the ranks of campaign “stumpers,” but from different grades of industrial life. Inspired by a sense of wrongs to be righted and duty to be done, they gave their hours of leisure to the service of an idea. Among them were physicians and lawyers in active and lucrative practice, who, without hope of reward, but with every reasonable expectation of social and business loss, cast their fortunes in with the men whom the press were denouncing as Anarchists. Artists, stenographers, merchants, teachers, brokers, and manufacturers, following the lead of organized labor, taught the gospel of justice from the tail-board of trucks in this memorable campaign. The pulpit, too, supplied its quota. Father Huntington, the “Protestant monk,” went the rounds with the other speakers, night after night, and pleaded the cause of the poor among whom he lives and works. Men who worked for daily wages were there too. When their work for an employer was done, mechanics, clerks, and “common” laborers took their turn upon the trucks. These men, who are supposed to know nothing but the technique of their trades, exhibited a knowledge of political economy — its literature, history, and principles — of social science, the science of government, the progress and scope of democracy, and the nature of abstract justice, that would put to shame the newspaper proprietors and politicians who stigmatized them as ignorant agitators.
It was in such meetings that Mr. George delivered most of his speeches. Going from one point in the city to another, usually five times in a night, often more, and once eleven times, he addressed the multitudes that came to hear him.
A complete account of this personal canvass would be too voluminous, but a description of one evening’s work will give some idea of it. At seven o’clock a half-dozen reporters at Mr. George’s headquarters in the Colonnade Hotel were scanning the list of that evening’s engagements.
A few minutes later the candidate himself, accompanied by a few friends and the reporters, went to St. Cecilia’s Roman Catholic Church, in 106th Street, between Third and Lexington Avenues, where he had been invited to make an address at the opening of a fair. Arrived at the church he made the following speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen: I have been honored by Father Phelan with an invitation to say a few words at the opening of this fair, and I respond with great pleasure. My sympathies, as Father Phelan says, do go out to all classes; but especially do I represent now that greatest of all classes — the working-class. And among working-men there is, in my opinion, no one who does more necessary work, no one who does higher and nobler work, no one who is in every true sense of the word a working-man more thoroughly, than the priest. And there is no place where greater good can be done than in the church.
I feel honored with this invitation, and it is an evidence to my mind of the progress we are making, that one who is not a Catholic should be asked to say a word at the opening of a Catholic fair. We are growing fast in this country, and I trust in all countries; we are growing past those narrow prejudices that had in them nothing that was of real religion and served but to divide men on the line of their viler passions, cloaking what was really selfishness and meanness with the garb of holy things.
I congratulate you, parishioners of St. Cecilia’s, upon this beautiful edifice. And yet, looking at it as it stands tonight, I cannot help thinking that we have hardly in this country anything that is really worthy of the name of a church. What I mean is, that our church buildings are really, even the finest of them, far behind those of our ancestors. Your Cathedral on Fifth Avenue is small compared with the edifices our forefathers built in what are sometimes called the Dark Ages. The grandeur, the poetry, that can be expressed in a church building I never realized until I went into that grand old Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin — until I saw that grand old relic of the times when Scotland was Catholic, in Glasgow; until I saw the beautiful and grand English cathedrals.
What one who reads the history of those times dwells with most pleasure on is the fact that when those grand edifices were reared there was no such thing as a poor law in the country; there was no such thing as a pauper; there was no such thing as a tramp. The religious history of a country is very closely intertwined with its social and its political history. We have it on the highest authority, that of Thorold Rogers and Hallam, who have traced the history of the English people, that in those old days the lot of the working-men was far better than that of the millions of working-men in the same country today. In spite of all that we call progress, in spite of all that we call advance, in spite of electricity and our marvelous inventions, the fact remains that the great masses of the English, the Scotch, and the Irish people find it harder now to get a living than it was then.
In those old times, when they reared those grand cathedrals, no one feared poverty; no one feared what the English laborer has not only to fear, but to expect, after a life of toil, as his only refuge in his old days — the poorhouse.
The reason was this: That then our ancestors held to the fundamental truth that the Father of all who made the land, made it not for some people, but for all. In those old days the grounds were parcelled out in this way: There were the lands held by the Crown that supported all the expenses of the civil list. There were the lands held under military tenures which bore all the expenses of war; then the landlord had to do the fighting, and wars were carried on without a penny of expense. There were the commons around every town and every village, free to every inhabitant to get his wood and pasture his cattle. Last of all, there were the church lands that maintained all the expense of public worship, the cause of public education, and the care of the sick. It was on those church estates that labor first raised its head from serfdom. It was those church estates that provided hospitality and furnished the wayfarer with food and refreshment.
It was not until the days of the Tudors, not until what we call the Reformation came — until the Crown lands were given away to vile courtiers, until the military tenures threw off their dues and put the expenses of war upon the common people in the form of taxation, until the church lands were confiscated and made the private property of greedy nobles, and the commons were enclosed — that pauperism raised its head in that country.
I hope the time will come in this country when we shall build not merely as grand, but far grander, religious edifices than our fathers built. I hope the time will come in this city when every such church as this, instead of being set up alongside other buildings, will have around each its square of ground, green grass, and the foliage of trees. Let us hope and pray and work for the coming of those good times.
Bidding good-night to Father Phelan, Mr. George and his party went to Fortieth Street and Third Avenue, where he spoke to Waiters’ Union No. 3:
“When this movement commenced,” he said, “the politicians thought there was nothing in it. Its stock has gone up. They conceded me at first five thousand votes, then ten thousand, and fifteen thousand, and now they have got it up to sixty thousand. At the Hoffman House tonight I am told they are betting three to two against me. The stock will keep on going up. The fact of the matter is, that the politicians and newspaper editors — not the newspaper reporters, but the newspaper editors — do not begin to appreciate the strength of this movement; they do not begin to understand the determination with which the working-men of New York of all classes and of all occupations have taken hold of this movement. They do not realize that it is not a candidate who is looking for votes; it is the voters who are running the candidate on our side. I am your representative, put in the field by the accredited delegates of organized labor, and as their candidate I propose to run, and as their candidate I feel confident of election.
“Mr. King has said truly that waiters are underpaid. He might have added that all men who work for a living, whether by hand or head, are underpaid. Labor nowhere has its full and fair reward. Everywhere the struggle for existence, the difficulty of making a living, is far greater than it ought to be. This cannot be remedied by my election for Mayor; but a start will have been made; we shall at least have begun. From that time forth the questions of work and wages, the questions that concern the earnings and the livings of us all, will get such an attention as they never had before. And the men who work for a living will have become conscious of the power of those questions. And the men who in Legislatures make the laws, and the men who on judicial benches interpret the laws, and the men who in administrative offices execute the laws — they, too, will become conscious of their power.
“Our chairman has alluded to the strikes on the Third Avenue Railroad, and to what occurred at that time. Let me say to you frankly and unhesitatingly that, if elected Mayor of New York, it will be my duty to enforce the law. It will be at all times my duty to preserve order, at all times my duty to protect property; and that I will execute the law. I will execute it, because it will be my sworn duty; not merely that, but because it will be absolutely necessary. As a class working-men have nothing to gain from disorder. There is a higher power within their reach; the highest power within the State is in their control. If the laws do not suit them, let them change the laws. Let there be no appeal to force so long as the ballot remains. That is the safer remedy for American citizens; to that remedy we propose at this election to appeal, and to appeal in tones that will ring through this land, and inaugurate in these United States a new political epoch, an epoch in which we shall move forward to the realization of the Declaration of Independence, and truly, and not merely in idle words, assert the equality of men.”
With the reporters at his heels “the little printer” now walked to Forty-second Street, where, between Second and Third Avenue; eight thousand men had collected in mass-meeting. Stalwart arms lifted him in a twinkling upon one of the trucks, where with his head bared to the night air, and before him a dense mass of humanity which only opened now and then to allow a horse-car to pass through, Mr. George spoke:
“I congratulate you, Mr. Kelly, and you men of the Eighteenth District, upon this grand meeting. This does not look very much like a defeat of the labor movement. This does not look very much like a lot of politicians trading off and carrying away votes that they have been accustomed to call their own. Tammany and the Counties have united, they say. I am glad if the leaders have got into the same box; but here, and in meetings such as this, is the real strength of the Democratic party. It is not the sham Democracy that opposes everything that savors of justice and right. It is the old Democracy of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson that is coming again to the front. Please God, on November 2d it will assert its strength in an unmistakable way. I hope so, I know so, because everywhere I see that labor is a unit in this movement; everywhere I see an enthusiasm that will be more than a match for all their money and all their organization. I am sure of it. The men who are not sure of it are men who know nothing of labor, men who have hitherto believed that it was but a matter of soft words and of a few dollars on election day to get the working-men’s votes. This year they are going to be undeceived. It is but a question of majority now. Roll it up mountain high.”
As Mr. George descended from the truck the enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. Hundreds tried to take him by the hand; and as he moved slowly to the next truck, some even clung to his coat-tails. A movement to carry the candidate on their shoulders seemed imminent, when, with the help of the reporters, Mr. George managed to reach the next truck, where he said:
“Men of the Eighteenth District, I thank you for your hearty greeting. Any man ought to be proud of the compliment you have paid me in nominating me for the highest municipal office in the manner in which I was nominated. And a man would have a heart of stone if he did not deeply appreciate the warmth of the reception that I get everywhere. Go where I can, everywhere I find the feeling that this is labor’s fight and that labor is determined to win. ‘A class movement,’ Mr. Hewitt calls it. Aye, a class movement if he pleases, but a class whose labor supports all other classes, a class that is only a class because some few have escaped that which was put upon all by the command of our Creator — the obligation to work for a living.”
At this juncture the speaker’s voice was drowned by a brass-band which headed a large body of men who came marching into the street bearing a banner inscribed “Henry George Bohemian Club.” As soon as the band gave him a chance, Mr. George, turning to the new-comers, said:
“Members of the ‘Henry George Bohemian Club:’ I am proud that in this movement all classes and grades of our citizens participate. If we have not the money to hire halls, we have at least the men to fill the streets, aye, and the men who on election day will go up to the polls and cast their ballots in such a manner as to forever end this political era and inaugurate a new and better one.”
With difficulty making their way through the crowd, Mr. George and his party reached the foot of the Elevated Railroad station; but here another crowd had gathered who were so clamorous for a speech that Mr. George addressed a few words to them from the steps leading to the station. It was about ten o’clock when he stepped on the platform of Chickering Hall, where a “First Voters’” meeting was in progress. Addressing this he said:
“Young men, I congratulate you. I congratulate you that in casting your first vote you cast it at a time that marks the beginning of an era when principles of the utmost moment are coming into American politics. When I was a young man a great struggle was going on — the struggle against human slavery. My first vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln. And steadily from that time forward until slavery was utterly dead, I voted the Republican ticket. When principle seemed to me to have gone out of politics, then my great hope and effort was to bring about such a disintegration of existing parties as would again base political struggles upon matters of principle.
“I never expected that I would be thrust in the van as a candidate for political office. I expected to serve under another leader. So it has happened, and so I am here. I accept the trust that has been imposed on me with pride — honest pride — and with gratitude — heartfelt gratitude. It is a high privilege to stand in the van in such a movement as this.”
This speech closed the evening’s work. What the history of this night was, so was the history of every night, except that sometimes Mr. George spoke oftener, and at more widely separated points.
On the evening of October 26th, at Cooper Union, at a meeting in which the Irish-American Independents participated and made a formal address to Mr. George, he said:
Mr. President and Secretary of the Irish Independents: I thank you for your indorsement. This is a sufficient answer to the poor lies they are telling. Tammany is hard pressed when, in order to keep the Irish, they have to resort to such a resolution as they passed the other night — that I said —what is it? — the Irish were “old tinder” — [Voice: “Chips”] Chips. That I insulted the Irish people, and today they have a lady, fished up by the Herald, who says that as soon as I come to be elected Mayor I am “going to clean the Irish out.”
I have got a pretty big job in being Mayor, anyhow, and when I am Mayor I expect to do a good deal of cleaning out. To clean the Irish out is rather too difficult a job. But, seriously, to all such stupid falsehoods it is not necessary for me to reply. Here on this platform sits Patrick Ford, the editor of the Irish World. He is the man for whom I first crossed the sea and set foot in Ireland — [A voice: “And got arrested.”] That didn’t count much, for they dropped me like a hot poker. But that I retain the friendship of such men; that I have their confidence; that I have, spite of all the differences of opinion that may be between us in this campaign, their support — is sufficient answer to any such stupid falsehoods.
But I am glad, independent of this, to have the support of every Irish-American, for I believe that to Ireland — to the men who have been the promoters of this great movement of the Irish people — we of the United States owe a great deal.
My first speech in this city was on this platform with Michael Davitt. I said then that the Irish movement was more than an Irish movement; that it had in it a message and an impetus for this side of the water as well as that, and I believe today that my words are coming true, and that the seed that was sown in those years is now beginning to spring from the ground. But all these stupid things — that I insulted the Irish! that I was in favor of Chinese immigration! what are they?
They are like Mr. Hewitt’s frantic cry, that if he is not elected society is going to the bow-wows, that anarchy and chaos are coming if I take a seat in the City Hall. These are but subterfuges to divert men’s minds from the real issue. What these men who have pushed Mr. Hewitt in front of them are trying to do is not to save society, it is to save their own plunder.
It is to perpetuate a corrupt and corrupting political system that makes our Republican institutions a by-word and a reproach all over the world. Go abroad and talk to an aristocrat about republican government, and see how quickly he will fling in your face the rottenness of New York politics. It is so. We know it. Look at the men who nominated Hewitt. [A voice: “Murderers.”] Ay, and already they are at their work. Today I read in the papers of a man who was killed because he avowed himself for the working-man’s candidate. The bruisers and heelers — all that is foul and bad in New York politics — are putting Mr. Hewitt to the front to “save society!” Here I read, in a letter written some little while ago to the Boston Herald by one of the editorial corps of a newspaper now warmly supporting Mr. Hewitt: “The salaries that are paid our Police Commissioners and Excise Commissioners are comparatively small, ranging from five thousand dollars to eight thousand dollars. But no one believes that that is their income. On the contrary, it is generally supposed that a Police Commissioner ought to be able to spend forty thousand dollars or fifty thousand dollars a year and save as much more, while as for the possibilities attending the position of an Excise Commissioner — well, it is absurd to talk about it.”
Who doubts that the Commissioner of Public Works, with a salary of $10,000, can easily make $150,000 a year and, with a little straining, run up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars? Nobody doubts it. Is it any wonder that these men want to save society?
Here is another little item that I took from a morning paper — just such an item as you read two or three times, at least, a week.
“John Mulvey, of No. 55 West Street, was looking at several boys quarreling near his house on Sunday, when Policeman Frederick Rowe came up and began to club him. The officer then took him to the station, where he entered a charge of disorderly conduct against him. Yesterday, at the Jefferson Market Police Court, witnesses swore that Mulvey had done nothing wrong, and Mulvey was discharged. Justice Ford told Rowe to be more careful the next time.”
The gentleman who wants to become Mayor in order to save society from anarchy and chaos says the Mayor of New York has no control over the police. Well, when I am Mayor, if I cannot do something to put a stop to that sort of thing I will resign and let Mr. Nooney take the place. And if I cannot do something to put a stop to that infamous system of blackmail which enables men on small salaries to run yachts and live at the rate of forty thousand or fifty thousand dollars a year — well, I am not half so practical as I think I am. And, as I said before, if I amounted to nothing at all, if I was the merest, merest, merest theorist — nobody will accuse any of the committee to whom Mr. Hewitt read his letter of being a mere theorist; — but if I was the merest kind of a theorist my election on such a nomination as I have received, my election by a spontaneous movement of the people, breaking up these machines, throwing aside these corrupt rings, would do more to purify politics in the city of New York than anything else that could possibly happen.
The very coming up of the working-man’s party, the very fact that labor has stepped to the front with demands for something real, has already had a purifying influence. Already! Why, even Mr. Hewitt’s balderdash about the chaos and anarchy that is going to come upon society — it is better than nothing. He certainly has got some reason to offer. It is better than a mere blind struggle for the spoils between Tammany and the County Democracy. And it is a good thing that we have both gangs now in one body. We can beat them all together, and beat them all the worse. And this is but the beginning. If we win this election — and I believe we are going to win it, and win it by a big majority — it is the signal for a new movement all over the country. It means the coming to the front again of the party of the people; the rise in our politics of the true democracy. And that is the only power that can purify our politics; that is the only power that can give us good government; that is the only power that can make this in reality, as well as in name, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
And now, as this is a popular movement, I want to do a very popular thing. I want to ask you to put your hands into your pockets when the basket comes around. We are about to take up a collection to defray the expenses of this meeting. For a lecture, as was intended, the price of this hall is only $50, but the gentlemen who control it will not let us have it for less than $250. That money must be paid, and as we have no big money-bags to draw on, as this is a movement springing from the people and must be supported by the people, we ask you to throw in your mite, as the collectors go around, to help pay this expense.
It was at this meeting that James Redpath read the following letter from Colonel Ingersoll:
New York, October 26, 1886.
Messrs. Redpath, Wingate and Johnston.
Gentlemen: I regret exceedingly that the condition of my throat does not allow me to accept your invitation to say a few words this evening in favor of the election of Henry George, but I take this opportunity to state a few of my reasons for being on his side in the present contest.
While I may not entirely agree with many of his theories, still I am satisfied that all human beings are entitled to the essentials of life — that is to say, to water, to air, and to land.
I am satisfied that the time will come — and I have been long of this opinion — when no man will be allowed to own land that he does not use. It is not to the interest of any country to have a few landlords and millions of tenants. I am a believer in homes, and believe that patriotism is born by the fireside. We do not want a nation of tenants — that is to say, a nation of serfs.
Some people — and they are the opponents of Henry George — say that the idle should not live on the labor of the industrious — that nothing can be more infamous than for those who do not produce to make those divide who do. And yet this is exactly what happens in nearly every government in the world. The idle do live on the labor of the industrious, and those who do not produce compel those who do to divide with them. The worst possible definition of Socialism is a perfect description of almost every government. I do not believe that the dishonest idle should live on the labor of honest industry. There is something wrong when those who do the most have the least. For a great many years the world has been hearing about the brotherhood of man. For centuries poverty was declared to be a virtue and wealth a crime.
The world was taught to rely on the goodness of the gods and the charity of the rich. At last people are beginning to find that they must rely upon themselves — that charity is not what they want; that as a rule the giver becomes arrogant and the taker servile, cringing, and doubly helpless. The world should be governed on a scientific basis, and so governed that a healthy man should have no excuse for wanting bread. Poverty is not a virtue. Wealth is not a crime. The rich should become intelligent enough to know that they are responsible for the use they make of their wealth and that nothing is as costly, nothing as extravagant, as to reduce wages below a liberal living point. They should know that labor is entitled to share the profit it produces. The value of the property in the city of New York depends on the prosperity of the people. If the people are satisfied, if in the homes of the poor you find plenty of food, if you find contentment, that contentment is the basis of value. Let that be destroyed, let the multitude be hungry, let them feel that they have been robbed, that the rich are their enemies, that wealth is a slave-driver, that capital is cruel and heartless — what then will the palaces be worth? A man to be truly prosperous, and to be secure in that prosperity, must live among prosperous people.
The time has come for the world to be controlled by science — that is to say, by kindness guided by intelligence. No man can be rich enough to be independent of his fellows, and no man can be so poor as to absolve his fellows from all responsibility toward him.
There was a great ship disabled at sea, and there were on board a thousand steerage passengers and one hundred in the cabin. The food began to grow scarce in the steerage, for they only had enough to last during an ordinary voyage. There was plenty in the cabin — plenty not only for the hundred there, but for the thousand below. For a few days the steerage passengers depended on charity, and a few generous souls gave them a little meat and bread. Some gave them crumbs, others advice. Some talked about “vested rights,” and a few clergymen, travelling for their health, gave them prayers. The demand grew greater than charity supplied. Advice was not food. Prayer did not satisfy hunger, and at last the cry was raised ‘‘We will help ourselves!”
After all, this world is only a great ship, making its annual voyage through the ocean of ether around the sun; and if the steerage passengers grow hungry, and if they can truthfully say that they by their labor, by their toil, produced all the food in the cabin, shall they be allowed to die for lack of bread? In my judgment the cabin will become intelligent enough to divide, and the steerage would become intelligent enough to be satisfied with its honest share.
There are in most communities at least three classes of people; first, those who do not care, because they do not know; second, those who do not know, because they do not care; and third, those who know and care. Upon this, the third class, we must in this campaign rely. The very rich, who do not know because they do not care, will never vote for Henry George. Neither can we rely upon those who do not care because they do not know. The people who labor and the people who think — those who suffer and those who sympathize — should vote together.
Whenever a new idea is advanced, the people who do not even understand the old ones will begin to talk of revolution and the horrors of 1789. You cannot prevent a revolution by attacking new ideas as though they were wild beasts. Such a course produces revolution. When the people speak and the rich refuse to hear — when facts are denounced and prejudices sainted — a revolution is at hand.
My sympathies are with the laboring men. The industrious should wear the robes and crowns and sit at the banquets of the world.
If the working-men of New York fail to unite, fail to be true to themselves, they will simply earn contempt. If they stand together, if they vote as they feel, if they are true to themselves, they will win the respect of enemies, the love and gratitude of friends, and the next Mayor of New York will be Henry George. I have the honor to remain, sincerely yours,
Robert G. Ingersoll.
Among the campaign stories used against Mr. George by the united Democracy during the last few days of the canvass was one to the effect that Terence V. Powderly, the General Master Workman of the Knights of Labor, was opposed to the election of Mr. George. Mr. Powderly had determined to take no part in the campaign lest his motives might be misconstrued; and his absence was remarked as an indication of opposition to Mr. George. When this story was reported to Mr. Powderly he immediately telegraphed to his friends in New York to call a meeting, which he promised to address. That meeting was held at Cooper Union on the eve of election. Mr. Powderly was present, and spoke as follows:
Mr. Chairman and Fellow-citizens of New York: Your chairman told you a moment ago that I was here merely to refute the slanders of the press of New York. He might have added, to refute the slanders of those who are in no way connected with the press of New York. I am here for another purpose than that of refutation of any charges, or of any assertion, or of any statement made through the press or by word of mouth. I came here to ask every man within the sound of my voice who can cast a vote to wield that weapon for an honest man, and for this land of ours. I am here to ask from you that when you leave here tonight to go to your homes, and there remain until your vote is cast tomorrow, to go to your neighbors and say to them that in this cause the number of votes that are cast will count. No amount of good will will elect a man. What we want tomorrow is votes — more than the other people can poll — and these you must give. You are not voting for the city of New York alone. The eyes of the entire Western world — ay, and the eyes of the entire world — are turned to this city, in the hope that you people will redeem the name of the fair metropolis of the country from the disgrace that has been cast upon it in the past, for when disgrace is cast upon the city of New York a disgrace is cast upon our country. We ask you to throw off these insults tomorrow and elect a man who will fairly and honestly administer the affairs of your municipal government as they have not been before.
Here the speaker was interrupted by a cock-crow. Continuing, Mr. Powderly said: “When that rooster grows up, he will be a voter too.”
He then referred to the charges that had been made against Mr. George of being in favor of Chinese labor, of being opposed to Parnell and the Land League, and that he was a free-trader. “Mr. George,” said Mr. Powderly, “is running for Mayor of New York, and these things have nothing to do with the case. Mr. George and I agree that poverty should be abolished. We agree that every man has a certain amount of rights due to him, and we believe that those things that God ordained that we should enjoy — we believe that all men should have — and if we ask for the things that God gave us, blame God, not us. You may say that is not exactly correct for a Christian, but I speak thoughtfully, and will stand by what I have said until I drop in my track.
“To begin to get these things there must be a commencement somewhere, and where could that be made better than here in this city — the entrance to our country? You have asked Mr. George to leave his home, which he loves, and stand upon the altar of your hopes. You have nominated Henry George, and in doing so you have placed him not only before the city of New York, but before the world, and you are in duty bound to support him tomorrow as you are to administer to the wants of your family tomorrow. You have voted with the parties who have held sway in this city for years, and every time the candidate for office poses as the friend of labor. But the man who now asks your suffrages has no necessity to label himself a friend of labor. Henry George’s past record shows this beyond a doubt. Mr. George has laid before the world certain principles for which he has been stigmatized as an Anarchist, a Socialist, and an istof every kind. I am used to hard names myself and don’t mind them, having gone through the mill of politics. I know Henry George and have watched his course, and were I a resident in this city I would give him — only one vote. I was very nearly saying that I would give him a dozen. In addition, I would go among my friends, and the burden of my song would be ‘Vote early tomorrow morning for yourself, your family, your country, and your God, in the person of Henry George.’
“The question, however, is not whether Mr. George would make a better Mayor of New York than any other honest man, but the people having put him forward, it behooves you to do your duty tomorrow. They may try to crow it down. I stand here not merely the representative of one hundred thousand men, but as the representative of every man who handles a tool, whether he is in the Knights of Labor or any other organization, and to ask you on behalf of the toilers of this country to do your duty. Let it be known that there are other things besides strikes, other things besides boycotts, and that these other things are a proper regulation of the land system which will properly guarantee to every man that which is justly his, and no more — that labor when she raises her voice in the future will be heeded, and that it may be written in the near future that ‘Industrial freedom means national prosperity.’ That is what we aim at!
“It has been said that the people of New York cannot be honest because there are so many beer-saloons. I ask you to be so tomorrow, and if you never do so again, pass by the saloon, on the other side of the street. A man who cannot vote intelligently is unworthy of a vote and of the name of American citizen. If you only vote as you marched the other night you will make your candidate the next Mayor of this city.”
At the conclusion of Mr. Powderly’s address, Mr. George, in response to the demands of the audience, came forward, and said:
FELLOW-CITIZENS: As it fell upon me here four weeks ago to accept your nomination, now the duty devolves upon me of closing this campaign, and in doing so I think I may say that I have kept my promise.
When I accepted your nomination I told you, that from that time forward until the day of election I would spare no effort to secure that election. I have done all that I honorably could, and I may say that I have said no word, either in public or in private, that after this election, let it go as it will, I will be ashamed of.
As for the tactics of our opponents, they have been just the tactics we might have expected from such men. My opponent, who is in this campaign “the saviour of society,” has several times, during this campaign, said that, for the cause which he represents, which is opposition to Henry George and therefore to anarchy and chaos, he would willingly lay down his life. I don’t dispute it. I don’t dispute it.
There are things that every man should be willing when the time comes to lay down his life for; but as a general thing the men who are most ready to do that are not the ones who talk about it most.
All such talk in a campaign reminds me of a story that I used to read when I was a boy in an old English classic — “Addison’s Spectator.” A young Frenchwoman married an old man. Her husband lay very sick; a number of friends were in the sick-room. She threw herself down on her knees, sobbing and crying, “Oh, Death! Death! Death! Come and take me, but spare my dear husband.” All of a sudden there came a rap at the door, and the door flew open, and there stood Death. “Who called?“ said Death. The lady covered herself up, saying, “The gentleman in the next room.”
As for this anarchy and chaos story, I think that has got to be by this time what is vulgarly called a “chestnut.”
You have all heard of a man of the early Republic — John Randolph, of Roanoke. It is told of John Randolph, of Roanoke, who was a very irascible man, that one day he was in a Virginia hotel eating his breakfast. The waiter brought him a cup of something. Randolph called him and said, “Boy, look here! If you call that tea, bring me coffee; if you call that coffee, bring me tea.”
There are a good many of our people — sober, intelligent, even wealthy citizens of New York — who are in very much the frame of mind of John Randolph, of Roanoke. If what they have been having in municipal administration is peace and order, then they want anarchy and chaos for a change — anarchy and chaos that will purify elections — anarchy and chaos that will bring men to the front who don’t have to lay down a fortune to buy an office. That is the sort of anarchy and chaos that we propose to bring about.
I think I can say that there is nothing I have said in this campaign that I will be ashamed of hereafter. But what have been the tactics of our opponents?
Mr. Hewitt may be willing for the cause he represents to die; but his supporters, for that cause, are ready to lie! Their weapons have been lies and slander, forgeries of the same sort as the Morey letter, except, perhaps, not quite so audacious. They have hired professional slanderers; put them up in a room; set them to putting words in my mouth; set them to writing interviews within Herr Most: set them to making pretended extracts from my speeches; they have even hunted up some one who had a bit of a letter of mine to Patrick Ford, and printed that. [At this point the audience caught sight of Patrick Ford and recognized him with three rousing cheers.] They are welcome to all that they can, by any possibility, in this way, gain. I have not stooped to deny these things. I believe that truth is potent as against falsehood. I believe in the American people, and I am willing to trust their commonsense, and their sense of justice. The only thing I regret in this campaign is that my opponent saw fit to refuse my challenge to debate face to face, before our fellow-citizens, the principles that he states are living issues in this campaign.
The campaign is over. I have done my part. Now it remains for you to do yours. There is other work to be done tonight and tomorrow morning than cheering. We proposed to adjourn this meeting by nine o’clock in order that the men might go to their districts and prepare for the work of tomorrow. Be on hand early and stay there late. Do whatever honorably may be done to swell the majority.
It is now only a question of majorities. I ask, and have asked, no man to vote for the candidate, but to vote for the principle. I am not seeking office. I stand here as the representative of the common people of New York — as the representative of the working masses; called forth by them, by them put in the front, and by them to be elected.
I do not anticipate defeat; but if it be so there will be no more unconcerned man in New York than I. All that any man can do is to do his duty — to do as well as he can that which lies before him, that which Providence has called him to do.
But elected or not elected, we have won a victory. Elected or not elected, I thank God from the bottom of my heart that it has rested upon me to begin what I believe will prove the grandest work ever begun in America. And I thank you, men, for having selected me to lead the van in this initiatory struggle for the removal of social injustice and the emancipation of labor.
It is a cause any man ought to be willing to struggle for, to live, ay, if needs be, even to die for. And I am glad that in this city of New York, where, years ago, unknown, I took into my heart of hearts the cross of a crusade that I have never faltered from, that it has devolved upon me to lead in this first movement. And I assure you, men, if am elected, that whatever else may happen you shall never have reason to be ashamed of me.
Now the time for speech-making is over. The time for cheering is drawing to a close. Leave this hall in a few minutes and go to work, and then, tomorrow night, let us cheer. Do your duty tomorrow, and tomorrow night we may begin a cheer that will echo through this land and around the world.
When the campaign opened the Democratic party was divided into three factions. One of these was Irving Hall, a body which had seceded from Tammany in the days of Tweed. Robert B. Nooney was the chosen candidate of this organization for President of the Board of Aldermen. But in perfecting their union, Tammany Hall and the County Democracy chose Mr. Beekman for that place, and Irving Hall was wholly ignored, a fact which led to the indorsement of Henry George by the latter organization.
On October 19th Irving Hall met in convention, and, after indorsing the regular Democratic nomination of Rufus W. Peckham for the Court of Appeals, adopted the following:
Whereas, The masses of the Democratic people of the city of New York, the bone and sinew of that party, have with one accord called upon the Democratic party to place in the Mayoralty chair of the city of New York a man who represents the sentiments and wishes and honesty of the party;
Resolved, That we recognize in Henry George a candidate free from all political entanglements; who is allied to no political party or politicians; who has pledged himself to investigate and reform thoroughly the well-known abuses in our city government; who is under no obligation to shield and protect present political abuses and corrupt office-holders, and under whose administration the rights and property of all persons, irrespective of party, will be respected and preserved.
Resolved, That the Irving Hall Democracy, in convention assembled, trusting, as it does, the instincts and honesty and capacity of the Democratic masses, and believing that in Henry George the city of New York will have a Mayor who will probe to the bottom the abuses and corruptions of the city government — will, without fear or hesitancy, work a radical reform in the administration of its several departments, and will give to the people of New York a clean and energetic, yet safe and reliable administration, do nominate him for the office of Mayor of the City of New York, and hereby ratify and indorse the nomination already tendered him.
In reading the resolutions prior to their adoption, ex-Senator Ecclesine, chairman of the committee that framed them, said he had not conferred with Mr. George, and there was no understanding with him save the understanding derived from his words and utterances that he is a Democrat representing the Democratic masses.
When Mr. George was asked what he thought of his indorsement by Irving Hall, he said: “I refer you to my speech at the Cooper Institute meeting, where I said, ‘If any organization of citizens sees fit to indorse your nomination, well and good; but as you have asked of me no pledges, so you may rely on me. I will make no pledge to any man. As you have nominated me unsolicited, I will solicit the indorsement of no other party. Whoever accepts me must accept me as the candidate of organized labor.’” And about a week after, at the Irving Hall ratification meeting, held in Irving Hall, Mr. George accepted the indorsement in the following address:
I stand in this contest a Democratic candidate in the true sense of the term. I stand here the nominee of over thirty thousand voters, who, over their own signatures, asked me to come forward and become their candidate — a nomination formally ratified by the accredited representatives of over seventy thousand working-men.
In my speech in the Cooper Union accepting that nomination, I told the men who had placed me in the front, that as they had honored me with such a nomination unsolicited on my part, so would I solicit an indorsement from no one; that as they had put me to the front without asking me to make any pledges to anyone, that from that time forward, for success or for defeat, I was their candidate, and in their name and as their representative I would ask the support of all my fellow-citizens without distinction, and that if any citizen or body of citizens saw fit to indorse their action I would be thankful for it.
This organization, without solicitation on my part, without asking me for a promise or a pledge, has seen fit to join hands with that great body that nominated me. I am here to accept your support, to thank you for having put me at the head of your ticket, and in the name of these men to go forward to what I believe to be a certain success. And, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of Irving Hall, let me congratulate you upon your action, not in having selected the individual, but in having acknowledged the principle.
From the Democratic party of New York the working-men of New York were entitled to claim support — were entitled to an acquiescence in their wishes. The Tammany faction and the County Democracy faction have seen fit to join hands in an effort to put down a movement of the men who always have been the strength of the Democratic party. Let them take the consequences. From now they are dead. We are making history in this campaign. Again, the true democracy, the party of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, is coming to the front. This is no mere petty contest for the Mayoralty of a city, for the administration of a great municipality, it is the new birth of a great party that is destined to go on conquering and to conquer.
From the beginning the mass of the people always has been democratic in the true sense of the term. First the anti-Federal party, then the Republican party, then the Democratic party — that only went down when untrue to its principles.
Now the time has come for a new uprising, for an uplifting of the old standards, for another movement for the elevation of man, for the breaking of the shackles of the toilers; and, please God, this is the beginning of that time. I congratulate you, men of Irving Hall, that you have joined with the great body of the democracy. Let the Manhattan Club Democrats go; let the Democrats who in their hearts are aristocrats go. Let it be glorious to carry forward to new meanings the Jeffersonian principles. That we will win this election, I believe, is already assured. There is in it something that disconcerts those practical men who, because they know how to manage a primary, or to arrange for things in a ward, imagine that they know all about politics. There is a strength and a determination and an enthusiasm, that mean a popular uprising, that mean a tidal wave, that mean the beginning of a new movement. This campaign marks an epoch in the political history of the century; and I believe it will prove to be a more glorious one than any of those that have preceded it.
Some years ago, when Michael Davitt was here, the Rev. Edward McGlynn, D.D., pastor of St. Stephen’s (Catholic) Church, spoke from the same platform with him. Davitt had been accused of becoming a disciple of Henry George. Father McGlynn alluded to this, and, placing his hand upon Davitt’s shoulder, said: “Do not be ashamed of being called a disciple of so good a man as Henry George — of the representative of so noble a principle as that he inculcates.”
A short time before, a young friend of Father McGlynn had induced him to read “Progress and Poverty.” He became a convert to the teachings of that book, and has never since lost a reasonable opportunity to advocate its central doctrine — that the earth belongs of right to all the people who live upon it. It was not strange, therefore, that he entered into a campaign in which that doctrine was the issue with all the enthusiasm of his nature. But, although the same sentiments that led him into the priesthood — love of justice and a hope to elevate the masses — inspired him, he did not enter into the campaign as a priest, but as a citizen, a philosopher, and a philanthropist. To Father McGlynn the mere election to office of Henry George was of no importance. He did not support the poor man’s candidate because he was interested in the spoils of local politics, but because that candidate represented an idea in which the rights and happiness of mankind were involved. It was the idea for which Father McGlynn contended, and for the candidate only in that he was the incarnation of the idea. This was made clear enough in his eloquent speech at Chickering Hall, which, unfortunately, was not preserved, and in his published interviews.
But when Father McGlynn defended the common right of men to the earth on which their maker places them, the leaders of the united Democracy attempted to create a prejudice among Protestants, based upon the assertion that the Catholic Church, through Henry George, was seeking to control New York politics. The Protestant supporters of Mr. George, however, were not so bigoted as to be affected by such a notion. Upon realizing this the opposition, with characteristic consistency, undertook to make it appear that the Catholic Church was opposed to George; and a story was circulated to the effect that Dr. McGlynn had withdrawn his support from the land and labor movement. In an interview regarding this story Father McGlynn said:
My admiration and affection for Henry George’s genius and character are, if possible, increasing every day. Each day, more and more earnestly, I desire to see his triumphant election. I know of no man I admire and love so much. I believe that he is one of the greatest geniuses that the world has ever seen, and that the qualities of his heart fully equal the magnificent gifts of his intellect. Large as is his head, he has, if anything, a heart bigger than his head. It is the wonderfully humanitarian, charitable, and, I may say, with all reverence, Christ-like character of the man’s heart that has given the peculiar bent and direction to his genius. He is a man who could have towered above all his equals in almost any line of literary or scientific pursuit. He was determined to the study of social and political problems, and to earnest inquiry into the causes of social and political wrongs by the magnificent qualities of his heart. The problem of human poverty, and its consequent degradation and vice, the pictures of ragged women and wailing children, the inarticulate and voiceless sorrows of the disinherited masses, would give his genius no rest till it found the cause and discovered the remedy.
It is this altogether exceptional combination of wonderful intellectual and moral gifts that makes Mr. George tower so high above all mere politicians, or political economists, or social scientists. It is this that makes him the prophet and the apostle of the magnificent gospel of justice to the poor, to the disinherited, to the working-men (to all who work, whether with their heads or with their hands), to all those who have to pay rent to landlords — that is, to so-called “lords of the land;” the gospel which proclaims the true teaching of the law-giver of Mount Sinai and of the holier law-giver who, upon another mount, preached, as man never preached before, the blessed doctrines of justice, of equality, of fraternity, of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. The teachings of Mr. George are inspired by the same universal love of mankind, the same love of justice, that were taught by the Christ of whom Henry George is the humble worshipper and follower. I know Mr. George intimately, and I know no other man for whose honesty and moral purity I have so great respect.
I am glad to have this occasion to say that I know Mr. George’s genius, lofty as it is in its powers of speculation, to be also an exceedingly practical one. He is a man of extraordinary executive ability, and with exceptional power to consider and look after even minute details, as well as to conceive and formulate vast and far-reaching designs. I would not for a moment conceal, nor does Mr. George desire to conceal, the belief and the hope that his nomination, and, still more, his election, will serve a much wider, higher purpose than the mere giving, as far as one man can do, an honest and clean government to New York City. The movement which in a few weeks has attained such majestic proportions will go on until it shall have smashed irretrievably all the existing political machines, until it shall have emancipated labor throughout this country, until it shall have restored to the disinherited and landless class who have to pay rent for the use of land to landlords their long-lost inheritance, and till it shall have embraced in its beneficent action the whole world. I believe that Mr. George is peculiarly a man of destiny. I believe that the providence of that God who is the father of the poor is clearly shaping all things for the triumph of the cause of justice, to which Henry George has given voice as no other mere man ever did before. I would make no concealment of my earnest desire to see the people of this country either compel the existing machines to take up the doctrines and candidacy of Mr. George, or to smash them to atoms.
I believe that Mr. George is destined to be, and at no distant day, the President of the United States, and that the movement that will have placed him in the Presidential chair will be a greater and further-reaching one than the original Declaration of Independence and the movement that placed the illustrious author of that Declaration in the Chair of Washington. I think it worth while to say, that while I speak first of all and always as an American citizen, I may also with considerable propriety speak as an Irish-American, and one who has not failed time and again to raise his voice for the cause of justice, and of the land for the people in Ireland.
I notice that the “political rascals,” whom Mr. George so happily described in his letter to Mr. Hewitt, are insulting the Irish-American people by utterances which imply that these precious saviours of society take the Irish-American people to be so ignorant and so stupid as to believe their vile calumnies concerning Mr. George’s relations to Ireland and the Irish. It would be simply impossible for Mr. George not to sympathize with all his heart in the cause of Ireland, and, if for no other reason, just because in Ireland the evils of the injustice against which he is fighting have reached their worst results in squalor, poverty, and starvation. Do these gentlemen think that the Irish-American people are so ignorant and so stupid as not to have known and to remember that Mr. George for a whole year was issuing trumpet blasts against English landlordism in Ireland in his magnificent letters to Patrick Ford’s Irish World? Do not all Irish-Americans know of the ardent admiration and friendship of the heroic and beloved Michael Davitt for Henry George?
Can they forget that Henry George was twice arrested as a suspect in Ireland because of his friendship and eminent services for Ireland ? And what, perhaps, they do not know so well, I can inform them — namely, that Mr. George’s monumental book, “Progress and Poverty,” won for its gifted author the ardent admiration and cordial friendship of the great Irish prelate, Bishop Nulty, who said expressly that, having read again and again Mr. George’s book, he approved of every word in it. In fact, the famous utterances of Bishop Nulty, which have become historic, concerning the doctrine of the land for the people may be said to be a recapitulation of the doctrines of Henry George. And I may as well add, while I am about it, that Mr. George, having been sent for, through a common friend, by Cardinal Manning in London, freely expressed his views to that great and eminent ecclesiastic. He was told by the cardinal that he saw nothing in Mr. George’s views to condemn, and when Mr. George complained to him that others less intelligent and broad- minded than he were condemning Mr. George’s doctrines as theologically and morally unsound, the cardinal assured him that such men were unwise and unauthorized critics.
But the politicians could not, or would not, understand Father McGlynn’s position. To them it was an anomaly for any man to enter politics without the sordid aims and petty ambitions of the politician; therefore in their estimation Father McGlynn had “stepped down into the muddy pool of politics.” That he had carried his religious work and aspirations to the forum of the people was inconceivable. That his presence in the pool of politics might purify it was not thought of, much less desired, by them. Nor could they separate the man from the priest. According to their notions, when Father McGlynn “stepped down into the muddy pool of politics” he brought the Church with him. And so they charged that the Church was being used in the interest of Henry George as a political candidate.
Forthwith, therefore, they undertook to use the Church in the interest of Mr. Hewitt as a political candidate.
Joseph J. O’Donohue, Chairman of Tammany Hall’s Committee on Resolutions, addressed the following letter to a high officer of the Church:
New York, October 25, 1886.
My Dear Monsignor Preston: It has been generally asserted that the Catholic clergy of this city are favorably disposed toward the candidacy of Mr. Henry George for Mayor, and are inclined to support the social and political views expressed in his platform.
I have grown gray in the Church, and am an old friend of yours personally. I therefore venture to ask you to inform me if there be any foundation in fact for the assertion made by Mr. George’s supporters.
Very faithfully and respectfully yours,
(Signed,)Joseph J. O’Donohue.
To the Right Rev. Monsignor Thomas S. Preston, Vicar-General.
In reply to this Monsignor Preston wrote:
110 East Twelfth Street,
New York, October 25, 1886.
My Dear Mr. O’Donohue: In reference to your letter just received I can state with confidence that the great majority of the Catholic clergy in this city are opposed to the candidacy of Mr. George. They think his principles unsound and unsafe, and contrary to the teachings of the Church. I have not met one among the priests of this archdiocese who would not deeply regret the election of Mr. George to any position of influence. His principles, logically carried out, would prove the ruin of the working-men he professes to befriend. Whatever may be said, I think there is no question as to the position of the Catholic clergy. And although we never interfere directly in elections, we would not wish now to be misunderstood at a time when the best interests of society may be in danger. Yours very sincerely,
(Signed,)THOMAS S. PRESTON.
Mr. Joseph J. O’Donohue, 5 East Sixty-ninth Street, New York City.
The evident purpose of the correspondence, especially when read in the light of the manner in which it was used without protest, was to create an impression that the Church was not merely not favorable to Mr. George, but that it was opposed to him and to the humanitarian doctrine he represented. Why was the letter written to a high church official instead of to a priest? Why was it written to him in his official capacity? Why did the reply exceed the bounds of a reply to the question and undertake to express the sentiments of men whose sentiments Monsignor Preston had no authority to express except officially, if he had any authority at all? Why was this part of the letter italicized in the circulars in which it was published? Why was it regarded and treated by the press and the politicians, without protest from Monsignor Preston, as an utterance of the Church? And why were these circulars distributed chiefly in front of Catholic churches and among Catholic worshippers on their return from service? Obviously to create the impression that the Church itself had pronounced against the principles represented and advocated by Henry George, and that Father McGlynn was defying ecclesiastical authority in supporting the George movement.
Chronologically, the pastoral letter of Archbishop Corrigan, read in the Catholic churches, and published in the papers on November 21, 1886, has no place here. But from the fact that its plain purpose was to nullify among Catholics the beneficent influence of the George-Hewitt campaign, and also that it formed part of an ecclesiastical attempt to silence a priest whom the common people heard gladly, it should not be omitted. That part of the pastoral letter which is of interest in this connection is as follows:
While it is not the office of Diocesan Synods, nor even of Provincial Councils, to make definitions of faith or decide authoritatively controverted questions on which the Holy See has not spoken, yet it is the right and duty of the Bishop, under the supreme leadership of the Sovereign Pontiff, to guard the deposit of faith, and, especially when the Holy Father has pointed out the way, to lead his flock to wholesome pastures and guard them from poison. Like the sentinel on the ramparts of a city under siege, a highly important duty of a Bishop’s office is to be quick in discerning dangerous movements and prompt in sounding timely alarm. Therefore we commend you, brethren, to be zealously on your guard against certain unsound principles and theories which assail the rights of property. They are loudly proclaimed in our day, and are espoused by many who would not wilfully advocate what is wrong. It is the fair seeming of those theories which captivates the minds of many, inasmuch as they abound in promise of large benefit to those who are in sorest need. The distress of the poor is to be relieved, and the burden of the toiler lightened — results which the Church, with a true mother’s love, would most gladly see accomplished whenever and wherever just means are used to reach the desired end. But the Church is not the fickle creature of a day, apt to be caught by specious theories, or ready to change her course with capricious unsteadiness. She is the guardian of God’s unchanging truth, and the dispenser of the treasures of His wisdom; and her office, in her long and glorious march down the ages, has always been, in spite of fierce attack from without or base treachery from within, to save the true from all alliance with the false — gathering the one to her loving embrace, and smiting the other with her malediction. Hers is the noble task, not only of directing the actions of mankind, but also guiding their very thoughts, because she never is unmindful that thought is the parent of action, and that sound principles are the only solid foundation for pure morality. Hence, when any thought finds a welcome abode in the mind, and becomes so clear to him who harbors it as to shape itself into a principle, it is a duty to scan closely its character and bearing, and to trace its possible course from the quiet haven of the mind to the open main of public fact. However fair or shapely or attractive mt may seem to the unwary, it should not be accepted by the prudent unless it is formed of elements that are altogether sound and pure. A flaw in a foundation represents a proportionate insecurity in the building raised upon it.
Starting from these premises, which no sane man can deny, we invite you to consider in their light the principles about the rights of property against which we deem it our solemn duty to give you some words of warning.
First of all, you must understand in its true sense the statement that “all men are born equal.” It does not mean that one man may not ever surpass others in power of mind, or strength of body, or beauty of form, since it is a well-established fact that no two men are exactly alike in all respects. All men are, indeed, equal in that they are all destined to the same ultimate end, have the same essence, endowed with the same faculties wherewith to attain to that end. Each one has the faculties of sensation and understanding for the purposes of animal and intellectual life. Each one has the grand endowment of free will, with the power to raise both animal and intellectual life to the dignity of the moral order by directing the whole being and his deeds toward his supreme end, which is God. This power and freedom in directing his actions toward their last end are the essential rights of man.
Now, just as by training a man may bring the faculties of sense and understanding to higher stages of excellence, while in essence they remain the same, so, too, may a man by care and industry bring his moral faculties to a wider range and a fuller development of power and activity without their ceasing to be his rights. For right may be defined as “the moral faculty which each one has for what is his, or what is due to him.” And beyond all doubt every man has a perfect right to all the means necessary for him to reach his last end. Besides, as everything else in the world has for its end to subserve the uses of man, he is in consequence entitled to their use in pursuing his destiny. Wherefore, to prove that a man has a right to any particular object in God’s universe, we need only prove that such object is necessary to him in relation to his last end, or even useful, provided the rights of others are respected. This truth once established, the rest of mankind must acknowledge that right, and are bound in conscience to pay it the duty of respect. Hence, although it is hotly debated nowadays whether or not man can have the right of property or ownership in land, you must not be led by abuses however flagrant, or by theories however specious, to run the risk of embracing falsehood for truth. Aim, first of all, at having a clear idea of what is meant by the right of property. It is, then, the moral faculty of claiming an object as one’s own, and of disposing both of the object and its utility according to one’s own will, without any rightful interference on the part of others. It is universally admitted that man has a right to the use of certain things, but that any man can acquire the right to possess a thing as his own to the exclusion of others is sometimes vehemently denied. And among the plausible reasons brought forward in support of this denial is the allegation that, all being equal, no man has a right to exclude others who have rights as strong as his; not from the free air of heaven, not from the clear light of day, not (they add) from the earth and its farm-lands.
Undoubtedly God made the earth for the use of all mankind; but whether the possession thereof was to be in common, or by individual ownership, was left for reason to determine. Such determination, judging from the facts of history, the sanction of law, from the teaching of the wisest and the actions of the best and bravest of mankind, has been and is, that man can, by lawful acts, become possessed of the right of ownership in property, and not merely in its use. The reason is because a man is strictly entitled to that of which he is the producing cause, to the improvement he brings about in it, and the enjoyment of both. But it is clear that in a farm, for instance, which one has by patient toil improved in value, in a block of marble omit of which one has chiseled a perfect statue, he cannot fully enjoy the improvement he has caused unless he have also the right to own the object thus improved. He has a strict right — and evil are the laws and systems which ignore it — either to ownership and enjoyment or to a full compensation for the improvement which is his. To strive to base an argument against ownership in land by reasoning on the universal distribution of air and light is only a freak of the imagination. Human industry cannot scatter a cloud from before the face of the sun, nor lift a fog that may he freighted with damaging vapors we take the air and the light as God gives them, and we owe Him thanks for His bounty. It was only the earth which fell under the primeval curse when man had sinned, and only the earth, not the air or light, which man’s industrious toil can coax back to something like its original fruitfulness. When he has done so, his just reward is to enjoy the results without hindrance from others. Even in such a necessary, abundant, and free commodity as water, if a man, by artificial means, congeals a portion of it into ice is he not entitled to enjoy its exclusive ownership? Can he not demand for it with justice a compensation equivalent to his industry ?
Once deny the right of ownership and you sow the seed of stagnation in human enterprise. Who would burrow the earth to draw forth its buried treasures if the very mine he was working were at the mercy of the passer-by whom its riches might attract? Who would watch with eagerness the season when to sow and to reap and to gather the harvest, which is the very fruit of his labors, if he is told that those who stand by the wayside idle are equally entitled to its enjoyment? True, indeed, in many painful instances, the rights of the toiler are trampled on and the fruits of his labor snatched from his grasp. True, this is done too frequently with the concurrence, or at least the connivance, of law. This is the evil that needs redress, but such redress can never be brought about by denying a fundamental right or by perpetrating a radical wrong. Seek rather for redress of such irksome grievances by the wise methods which the Church of Christ is forever teaching, though her voice may pass unheeded by the great ones of earth. How wisely does our Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII., touch with a master-hand the dangerous theories against which we warn you! In his encyclical Quod apostolic muneris, the Vicar of Christ says of those whose errors he condemns “They assail the right of property, which is sanctioned by the natural law; and, by a stupendous crime, while they seem to provide for the wants of men and to satisfy their wishes, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by lawful inheritance or by labor of brain and hands, or by one’s own economy.
“They do not, indeed, cease to repeat, as we have intimated, that all men are by nature equal one with another. According, on the contrary, to the teaching of the Gospel, the equality of men is this: That, having all of them received the same nature, they are all called to the same exalted dignity of the sons of God; as also that one and the same end being appointed to all, each is to be judged by the same law, receiving reward or punishment according to his desert. But inequality in authority and power flows from the very author of nature, ‘of whom all paternity is named in heaven and on earth.’ . . . But Catholic wisdom, based on the precepts of natural and Divine law, provides most carefully for public and domestic tranquillity by the principles which she holds and teaches regarding the right of ownership and the division of goods required for the needs and uses of life. For while Socialists traduce the law of property as a human invention repugnant to the natural equality of men, and, desiring a community of goods, hold that poverty should not be endured with a contented mind, the Church, much better and usefully, recognizes the inequality that exists among men, who differ by nature in strength of body and mind, as they do in worldly possessions, and commands that the right of property and ownership, derived from nature itself, he held intact by all and inviolate. . . Yet not on that account does their loving mother neglect the case of the poor, or cease to take thought for their necessities nay, embracing them with maternal affection, and knowing well that they bear the likeness of Christ Himself, who considers a kindness done to the least of His poor as done to Himself, holds them in great honor, assists them in every way she can, provides homes and hospitals in all parts of the earth for their reception, nourishment, and care, and takes them under her own loving guardianship. With the very strongest precepts she urges the rich to give of their superabundance to the poor, and holds over them the divine judgment, that, unless they succor the wants of the needy they shall be punished with everlasting tortures. Finally, she vehemently comforts and consoles the minds of the poor, whether by putting before them the example of Christ, who, although He was rich, for our sake became poor, or by recalling His words in which He proclaimed the poor blessed, and bade them hope for the reward of eternal happiness.
“Now, who does not see that this is the best way of settling this struggle of long standing between the poor and the rich? For, as the very evidence of thought and facts proves to demonstration, if this basis of settlement be set aside or rejected, one of two things must happen; either the greater part of the human race will fall back into the basest condition of slavery which long prevailed among the pagans, or human society is to be shaken by continual disturbances, afflicted by thefts and robberies, such as we grieve to have occurred even in our own days.”
These luminous words of the holy father need no comment. Accept his supreme teaching, dear brethren, with the loving docility that becomes dutiful children, and give no ear to those, whoever they may be, who preach a different gospel.
This pastoral letter was so evidently directed at the teachings of Henry George and the political platform of the working-men, that Mr. George felt called upon to reply to the Archbishop, which he did in an open letter as follows
To the Most Rev. M. A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York:
There are passages in your recent Pastoral Letter that so unmistakably refer to opinions with which my name is identified, and which have begun to take shape in the political movement that in the last election I had the honor to head — passages which have been so promptly and generally assumed by the press to be an attack upon those opinions and this movement — that I am constrained to say something in reply. I am loath to criticize what one who occupies your position may choose to say in his official capacity, but I am unwilling to remain silent when from such a position erroneous views regarding great public questions are widely disseminated.
That part of your pastoral to which I refer has been taken by the press as placing the Catholic Church in the attitude of a champion of private property in land, and is certainly calculated to create the impression that the doctrine that all men have equal and inalienable rights to the use of this natural element is opposed to, and condemned by, the Catholic faith. Since I am not a Catholic it might seem hardly fitting in me to deny your right as an Archbishop to clothe your political and economic opinions in the garb of official religious teaching, but I may, perhaps, be permitted to call your attention to the fact that such a right has been expressly denied by high Catholic authority, and to the further fact that the very opinions which you officially stigmatize as opposed to Catholic teaching, are openly avowed not only by Catholic laymen and priests, but by prelates of official dignity not inferior to your own.
Perhaps, also, I may be permitted to observe that the quotation you make from the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII. in nowise bears out the interpretation you put upon it. Instead of condemning as a “dangerous theory” the doctrine that human rights to the use of land are equal, it, on the contrary, condemns only those who assail “the right of property which is sanctioned by the natural laws,” and this restriction, which excludes land, is still further enforced by the Pope’s characterization of the property of which he speaks — a characterization that clearly applies only to that species of property which is the result of human exertion.
I leave this, however, to your co-religionists. I address myself not to what you have to say of faith, but to what you advance as reason.
With what you say of the statement that all men are born equal, with what you say of natural rights, and with what your say of the sanctions of property, I have no dispute. The fallacies which confuse you lie in using the term “property” as co-extensive with the term “property in land,” and in the further assumption that “possession” necessarily implies “ownership.” Reduced to the form of a syllogism, your main argument is this:
The results of human exertion are property and may rightfully be the object of individual ownership.
Land is property.
Therefore, land is rightfully the object of individual ownership.
Reduced to this form you will at once see what logicians would call the “non-distribution of the middle.” To make the syllogism valid in form your middle must be “Land is the result of human exertion.” Can you make such a statement?
Lest it be thought by those who may read this without having read your pastoral that I do injustice to your reasoning, let me quote verbatim your main argument. These are the words:
“Undoubtedly God made the earth for the use of all mankind; but whether the possession thereof was to be in common or by individual ownership was left for reason to determine. Such determination, judging from the facts of history, the sanction of law, from the teaching of the wisest and the actions of the best and bravest of mankind, has been and is, that man can, by lawful acts, become possessed of the right of ownership in property, and not merely in its use. The reason is because a man is strictly entitled to that of which he is the producing cause, to the improvement he brings about in it, and the enjoyment of both.”
This, clearly, is a begging of the question. You start out to justify individual ownership in land, and end by asserting the right of ownership in property, viz., property in things of which man is the producing cause. And from this you assume that you have demonstrated the rightfulness of individual ownership in land.
This you have not done, and this, I submit, you cannot do. To assert that a man is entitled to that of which he is the producing cause is, by implication at least, to assert that he is not entitled to that of which he is not the producing cause; and your declaration that God made the earth carries with it the absolute negation of the idea that man can obtain the right of individual ownership in it. You yourself, in a preceding paragraph, define the right of property as “the moral faculty of claiming an object as one’s own and disposing both of the object and its utility according to one’s own will, without any rightful interference on the part of others.” How is it possible for any individual to obtain such exclusive rights in what God made for the use of all?
It is true, as you say, that the way in which possession of the earth’s surface should be adjusted among men has been left for reason to determine. But is it not also true that human reason must be subordinate to the will of God?
You must surely agree with me that the only legitimate, and even the only expedient, use of human reason is to conform human adjustments to the intent of Him from whom social as well as physical laws proceed, and hence that any valid determination as to how human rights to the use of the earth shall be adjusted must be such as will best secure the right of all mankind to that use. Now, I point you to the fact, notorious in all times and in all places, that the institution of individual ownership in land does inevitably exclude a great portion of mankind from the use of what you declare God made for the use of all.
If you look back through history, Most Reverend Sir, you will see that the institution of private property in land — the attaching to what was made by God of the same rights of ownership that properly attach to things made by men — has everywhere led to the impoverishment and enslavement of the masses, to the deterioration and, finally, to the destruction of civilization. If you look over the world today you will see that its operation is everywhere to frustrate what you admit to be the Divine intent, and to deny the use of the earth to multitudes whom their Creator calls into life upon it. If you go into Ireland you may see all through the country the sites of once populous villages, now, by the individual ownership of land, given over to the breeding of cattle. If you go into Scotland you may see thousands and thousands of acres from which, by individual ownership of land, men have been driven in order to give place to deer and grouse. If you go into England you may see great tracts which, by the operation of individual ownership of land, have passed out of cultivation, while the descendants of the men who once tilled them are crowded into poor-houses or huddled together in the soul-destroying slums of cities. And in our country you may see, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the same cause producing similar results.
See in this city the results of individual property in land! Not half the area of New York City is yet built upon, yet hardly one family in ten can enjoy the comfort of a separate home, while the poor are huddled together under conditions which make health of body impossible and health of soul a miracle. Why? Because the treatment of land as individual property enables monopolists to hold land, for which they have no use, as a means of exacting tribute from those who do need to use it. Only a few blocks to the east of your stately residence little children are dying every day for want of room and breathing-space — literally crowded out of the spacious world which both reason and religion teach us God made for their use. They are forced back from the threshold of life by the false and unreasonable system which, if carried to its fullest extent, would enable one man or one family to entirely frustrate what you and I believe to be the purpose of the Creator in fitting this earth for the abode of man.
Is not a system which produces such results in clear violation of the Divine intent? How, then, can it be sanctioned by human reason — that faculty whose highest function is but the discovery of the intent of the Creator as manifested in his laws?
When you say that the best human reason acting through ages has sanctioned the right of property, you are stating a truism which I certainly will not dispute. But if you mean what you assume, rather than say, that human reason and experience have always sanctioned the right of individual property in land, then I commend to you a much closer examination of the subject than you can yet have made. The notion that land has always been treated as private property will not bear examination. By the Mosaic code the right of ownership which attaches to things produced by men did not attach to land. “The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is mine, saith the Lord,” is the declaration that in one form or another is reiterated throughout the Sacred Books. Their constant teaching is that the land is a free gift of the Creator to all his children. And if you turn to secular history you will see that the moral perceptions of men have always led them to acknowledge common rights to the use of land, and that private property in land is so repugnant to instincts of justice that it has nowhere grown up but as the result of force and fraud. The notion that the right of individual ownership could attach to land as to things of human production only reached full development among the Romans, whose civilization it degraded and destroyed. It is with us a comparatively modern thing, which in England began to develop out of the feudal (or trustee) system in the time of the Tudors, and only reached full legal expression after the Restoration, and which has been forced upon Ireland and Celtic Scotland by the sword. And in spite of all that force and fraud could do, there is yet a clear legal distinction made, both in this country and in those from which we derive our laws and customs, between property in land and property in things produced by human exertion. Theoretically, at least, the State or the Crown is still the only true land-owner.
Practically, however, we do in these modern times treat land as something which individuals may own almost as fully as they may own things produced by labor — and this is the reason that with all our unquestionable advances we are cursed with pauperism and want, unknown in that ruder state of society which existed in what are sometimes called “the dark ages” — those “dark ages” in which, without our labor-saving machines, our fathers built cathedrals beside which yours is but a pretty miniature — those “dark ages” in which no one feared the inability to make a living, and in which, save when caused by war or famine, absolute want was unknown.
But let me remind you, Archbishop, that the laws of Caesar are not necessarily the laws of God, and that the mere calling of a thing “property,” its mere inclusion in the legal category of things that may be held as property, cannot give to it that moral sanction which the individual ownership of things produced by human exertion indisputably has. Property in human beings has been longer and more widely recognized than private property in land. At the time of the union of Scotland with England, the right of “pit and gallows,” that is to say, the right to hang men and bury women alive, was held to be a right of property, and to this day in England the cure of souls is property which may be legally bought and sold. Would you think to justify such right of property by declaring that a man has a right to a statue he has carved or to the block of ice that he has produced by artificial process?
Permit me to state to you the distinction, essential and irreconcilable, between land and those things produced from land by labor, to which individual rights of ownership properly attach. Land was created by God. It can neither be produced by man nor consumed by man. It is the appointed abode — the dwelling-place and store-house of the human beings who, drawing their bodies from its substance and depending upon it for the necessaries of their earthly life, follow each other, generation after generation, in seemingly endless succession, as one guest may follow another guest in the house or at the table of a bountiful host. On the other hand, the things to which the sanctions of property rightly attach, while consisting in their substance of material drawn from land, are in their essence the products of human labor. They are produced and are consumed; they vanish as the individual man vanishes, while “the earth remaineth forever.” The true right of ownership, the right, as you correctly define it, “of damning an object as one’s own, and disposing both of the object and of its utility according to one’s own will without any rightful interference on the part of others,” justly attaches to things that man makes, but how can it attach to that which was here before man was — to that which God created for the use of all the generations of men? The exclusive right of ownership to anything produced by human labor is absolute and indefeasible, for it goes back to the man who made it, and rests on the right of each human being to the fruits of his own exertions. But this right can not attach to land. Land was not made by man.
Nor can any justification of individual property in land be founded upon expediency or necessity. If any case can be shown in which the ownership of land, as you define ownership, is necessary to the use and improvement of land, then I will concede that the necessity of treating land as private property is established by reason. But this you will find impossible. What is necessary to improvement is the ownership of the improvement, not the ownership of land. Granted, to follow your illustrations, that if a man hew a statue out of a block of marble he is entitled to the possession of the marble, does that justify him in claiming the quarry and forbidding anyone else from taking marble from it? Granted, that if a man by artificial means congeal water into ice he is entitled to the exclusive ownership of the ice, can he found on this any claim to the ownership of the river, any right to forbid others to make themselves blocks of ice, or even slake their thirst, without paying him tribute?
And let me ask you to look a little closer into the origin of property rights. It is not the carving of a statue which gives ownership in the block of marble, else anyone who carried off a block of marble from your cathedral and carved it into a statue would become its owner. It is not the congealing of water into ice which gives ownership, else an ice manufacturer might rightfully claim ice made by surreptitiously tapping the mains of a water company.
The right of property to which you allude attaches to the block of marble before it is carved, to the water before it is congealed. It attaches to the particular piece of marble or the particular quantity of water when produced (i.e., brought forth) from their natural reservoirs by the exertion of labor.
Man does not create. God alone creates. What man does is to produce, or bring forth, and his production of material things consists in changing the place or form of what he finds already in existence. What individual labor thus produces the individual right of ownership attaches to, but it cannot justly attach to the reservoirs of nature. It attaches to any improvement that man makes, but it cannot attach to the substance and superficies of the globe.
He who erects a house or improves a farm has a clear title to the building or improvement, but this gives him no title to ownership of the original and indestructible natural element on which he has built or improved. Nor is the right of ownership in the earth necessary to secure the right of ownership in what labor produces on or from the earth. What alone is necessary is to give to the improver such right of possession as shall enable him to fully obtain the benefit of his improvement. And this right of possession that is necessary to the full ownership of improvements can be secured as well — nay, all experience shows that it can be secured far better — when land is treated as belonging in usufruct to the whole community than when land is treated as the absolute property of individuals.
You struggle with a mental confusion and misunderstand the opinions you condemn, when you speak of common possession as the only alternative to the individual ownership of land, and ask, “Who would burrow the earth, to draw forth its buried treasures, if the very mine he was working were at the mercy of the passer-by whom its riches might attract?” or “Who would watch with eagerness the season when to sow and to reap and to gather the harvest, which is the very fruit of his labors, if he is told that those who stand by the wayside idle are equally entitled to its enjoyments?” It is not necessary for me to stop to point out to you how the very individual ownership in land which you defend operates to rob the toiler of the fruits of his toil, and to enable the idler to reap what the industrious has sown. I merely point out to you the familiar fact that in this city the ownership of the house is frequently held by one person, while the ownership of the land on which it stands is held by another; that in our mining regions men work in security mines which other men own, and that in our agricultural districts men cultivate land for which they pay rent to others. Cannot the community reserve ownership while yielding possession quite as well as can an individual or a Girard estate? Cannot the community receive rent as well as can an Astor or a Trinity Church corporation?
Is it not evident, Archbishop, that if God made the earth for the use of all, there must be some way of reconciling the common right to land with the individual right to things produced from land, even when such things are necessarily attached to the land? That there is such a way reflection will show. All we have to do to secure the equal right to land, and the exclusive right to improvements, is to make the community the virtual ground landlord. And the easy and simple road to this is by abolishing all the taxes which we now levy upon industry and the fruits of industry, and collecting our public revenues by taxation levied ultimately upon ground values. Can you see anything very dangerous in this? It is dangerous to monstrous fortunes; it is dangerous to the great incomes drawn by idlers from the fruits of other people’s industry; but it is dangerous to nothing that is good and wholesome.
The value of any improvement which a man may make upon land belongs rightfully to him — belongs to him and him alone, so fully and absolutely that I would not have government even take any part of its value from him by way of taxation. But the perfectly distinct value which attaches to land by reason of the growth of the community belongs just as clearly not to the individual, but to the community as a whole, and the taking of this fund for the benefit of the community would not only permit the abolition of all taxes now levied upon the making of wealth or the saving of wealth, but would prevent any monopolization of the natural means for the employment of labor and the maintenance of life. For the holding of land would then be unprofitable except to the men who wished so to use it. Under this system all men would stand upon the same equal plane with regard to natural opportunities, and each would be free to secure and enjoy the fruits of his labor, whether of hand or brain. Thus, in conformity with all the needs of the most advanced civilization, could the principle of the equality of human rights to the use of the earth be recognized, and that monstrous injustice which lies at the root of the social difficulties and social dangers of modern civilization be done away with. For the social evils which so afflict mankind, the poverty, and degradation, and waste, and suffering — the bitter lot of the poor, the demoralizing luxury of the rich — do not flow from laws and conditions imposed upon man by God, but do flow from the human selfishness which converts into a curse that which the Creator has intended as a blessing.
As your spiritual brother, Dr. Nulty, Bishop of Meath, has said, “There is a charm and a peculiar beauty in the clearness with which the great social fact that the people are, and always must be, the rightful owners of the land of their country which reveals the wisdom and the benevolence of the design of Providence in the admirable provision which was made for their wants and needs in that state of social existence of which He is the author.” The methods by which civilized governments at present collect the bulk of their revenues restrict industry, repress production, bear with grossly unequal weight upon individuals, and give rise to fraud, perjury, and corruption. But the necessity for resorting to these corrupting and impoverishing taxes arises only from the fact that we ignore the provision made in the economic laws of the Creator for social needs. There is such a provision, and that a provision the purpose of which is as clear and beautiful as the provision which brings into the breast of the mother nutriment fitted for the child. In the natural progress of society to a more and more complex and interdependent civilization, increasing social functions require larger public revenues. Here is a need. At the same time the natural progress of society brings out and tends constantly to increase a value which attaches to land, irrespective of individual exertion upon it — an “unearned increment of wealth” which is due to the presence of the whole community, and may be taken for the use of the whole community without repressing enterprise, without discouraging industry and thrift, without promoting corruption and fraud and perjury, and without doing injustice to anyone. Here is the natural provision. It is because we discard this admirable provision of the Creator, and permit individuals to take what was manifestly intended for all, and thus put a premium upon the monopolization of natural opportunities, that invention and discovery bring curses instead of blessings, and all our prodigious advances in the arts serve but to widen the gulf between the very rich and the very poor. The very provision which in the natural economy of society should make the advance in civilization an advance toward equality, is converted by our injustice into the cause of monstrous inequality.
You are wrong, Archbishop, if you see in this movement to secure for all the equal and God-given rights in the land any danger to morals or menace to society. On the contrary, if your time and inclination will permit you to carefully examine the matter, you must see in this act of justice the only way to cure great moral evils, and the only way to avert social disaster. A civilization cannot stand that is not based on justice.
New York, December 7.
The Donohue-Preston correspondence and Archbishop Corrigan’s letter, printed in this chapter, and the proceedings against Father McGlynn for assailing the privilege of property in land, which have since been made public, all go to prove the truth of Guizot’s observation when he said “Power does not suffice to itself; it wants something more than success — it wants to be converted into right; that characterization it demands, sometimes of the free assent of men, sometimes of religious consecration.” The aristocratic classes are not satisfied with their legalized privilege of drawing unearned revenues from the people; they want that privilege to seem to be endorsed by morality and sanctified by religion.
Political parades have been customary in exciting campaigns in New York. But in this campaign there was only one. It is doubtful if either the Republicans or the “united” Democrats could have mustered a procession respectable in point of numbers. At any rate, neither dared to take the risk of failure. The labor organizations, however, had no such fears.
About a week before election, William McCabe, the well-known journeyman printer, who organized the labor day parades of 1882 and 1883, was appointed Marshal and invested with the necessary authority to call out the labor associations that were pledged to the support of Henry George. After making preliminary arrangements he issued a proclamation, which is given here
Headquarters C. L. U. Political Organization,
Office Grand Marshall Henry George Parade
141 Eighth Street, Wednesday, October 27, 1886.
The Central Labor Union Political Organization has ordered a parade for next Saturday evening of all the trade and labor organizations in favor of the election of Henry George for Mayor of this city, and the undersigned has been appointed Grand Marshal.
In accordance with the authority vested in me I hereby call on all men in sympathy with the object set forth above to meet with their trades — unions, George legions, district and local assemblies, and Assembly district organizations for the purpose of participating in this parade.
Every organization turning out is requested to appoint an aide to the Grand Marshal, who will report at this headquarters by letter or personally, duly authenticated by his organization, any time between now and Saturday evening at five o’clock. On Thursday evening at eight o’clock a meeting of all the aides appointed up to that date will be held at this headquarters.
All aides will report to the Grand Marshal for orders on Friday evening at this headquarters, and on Saturday the chief aides will report for duty not later than six o’clock in the evening.
The first division, consisting of the George Trades Legion and purely trade and labor organizations, will be formed in line on Great Jones Street, facing north, right resting on the Bowery. The various legions will be assigned to their places as they report.
The second division composed of Assembly district organizations — the First: Third, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth — will form on East Fourth Street, facing north, right resting on the Bowery. Places will be assigned as the districts report.
The third division, composed of Assembly district organizations — the Second, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Tenth — will form on East Third Street, facing south, right resting on the Bowery. Places will be assigned as the districts report.
The fourth division, composed of Assembly district organizations — the Twelfth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Eighteenth — will form on East Fourth Street, facing south, right resting on the Bowery. Places will be assigned as the districts report.
The fifth division, composed of Assembly district organizations — Twentieth, Twenty-second, Twenty-third, and Twenty-fourth will form on Astor Place, facing north, right resting on Fourth Avenue. Places will be assigned as the districts report.
The sixth division, composed of Assembly district organizations — the Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-first — will form on East Ninth Street, facing north, right resting on Fourth Avenue. Places will be assigned as the districts report.
All organizations will form in files eight deep, with an officer in charge of each file, the files to be six feet apart.
Promptly at eight o’clock the head of the line will move. The route will be from Great Jones Street to the Bowery, to Fourth Avenue, to Fourteenth Street, to Broadway, to Seventeenth Street, to Fourth Avenue, to Fourteenth Street, to Avenue A, around Tompkins Square, and dismiss.
Any organization arriving too late to take its proper place in the line will fall in at the rear of the next division.
The authorities at Police Headquarters have promised to send out on Friday a general order to all the precincts, notifying the police captains that all organizations intending to join the parade have permission to do so without especial permits.
The Parade Committee has instructed me to call on all men and women in sympathy with our efforts to elect Mr. George to illuminate their houses, or such part of them as they may occupy, on the night of the parade.
Working-men everywhere are watching this battle of the ballot. Our success next Tuesday will inspire our brethren throughout the civilized world. The experiment of popular government is on trial here. The hope of the fathers is about to be realized. The political rights achieved by the first American revolution are now to be the peaceable instruments of achieving industrial and social rights in the second and greater revolution.
This parade is a prelude to the final parade of labor to the polls. As we march on Saturday, so shall we vote on Tuesday. Then, brothers, show by the numbers in your parade the magnitude of this great political movement for honest city government and the emancipation of those who live by work from the thraldom of those who live by plunder. You can elect Henry George on Saturday
William McCabe, Grand Marshal.
The weather was wet and uncomfortable all through the week, but in the morning of the 30th it grew clear, and through the day there was every indication of a favorable night for the parade. Between six and eight o’clock in the evening, trade unions, Henry George clubs, and district associations were marching from all parts of the city to the rendezvous in the streets running out from the Bowery; and sharp at eight the Printers’ Legion led the line toward Union Square. Before the march began a mist commenced to fall, and in half an hour a heavy rain-storm set in which continued till midnight. Nevertheless, though the men were drenched, the procession moved on between deep double lines of sympathetic and enthusiastic spectators. The police arrangements were the worst possible. In the Bowery and Fourth Avenue the procession was every now and again tangled up with horse-cars, and no policeman was at hand. It appears that large squads of police were massed at different points, in readiness to break up a riot, but there were few to be seen at any point where they might have prevented a riot. The horse-car drivers and the paraders were, however, upon excellent terms with each other, and although the confusion was exasperating to both, the utmost good feeling prevailed.
In front of the cottage at Union Square the procession passed rapidly in an almost solid mass. It was estimated that ten thousand people stood upon the Street here to observe the review. Henry George, surrounded by a crowd of his supporters, reviewed the procession as it rushed by. Each body of men in passing cheered for the candidate, and as the parade lasted two hours, one continuous shout from eight till ten o’clock greeted the ears of Mr. George.
At Tompkins Square the Marshal and his staff reviewed the procession from their horses, after which ranks were broken and the men returned to their homes.
The number that paraded was variously estimated. It was put as high as sixty and as low as twenty thousand. The best estimates we have been able to obtain put it at thirty thousand.
Most political processions are equipped by the candidates. Thousands of dollars are spent for uniforms, torches, and transparencies. But upon this procession no money was expended except what each man spent for himself. There were no gayly decked wagons, no uniforms, and but few torches, and the transparencies were made by the men who carried them. Trades organizations carried their union banners, and fantastic emblems were here and there displayed. Some of the bodies marched in darkness, without torches, music, transparencies, emblems, or banners. No one could watch the parade and not feel its significance. It was no mere show, as political processions usually are. The enthusiasm was not manufactured; it was the spontaneous expression of a purpose. There was an evident earnestness about it all, which renewed the courage of those who participated, and their friends who looked on, and admonished the politicians that a new era in politics had indeed begun.
Among the regular trade organizations that marched were the printers, the bakers, the plate-printers, the journeymen tailors, the United Umbrella-makers, the walking-stick dressers, the plumbers, the framers, the United Brass-workers, the Bartenders’ Union, the Waiters’ Union, the locksmiths, the shoemakers, the brewers, the carpenters and joiners, the chandelier-workers, the tobacco-workers, the furriers, the fruit-handlers, the brush-makers, and the tin and sheet-iron workers.
All kinds of cries, by which the men kept time as they marched, were started in the procession. Among these were “Hi! Ho! the leeches — must — go!” “George George! Hen — ry — George!” “George! George! Vote — for — George!” and “vote! vote! vote — for — George!”
The parade was probably the first tangible proof to the politicians that they were in danger. They did not fear the effect of George’s crowded meetings, nor worry over the slim attendance at their own. Their confidence in the power of the “machine” was unbounded. But when thirty thousand men — most of them mechanics — marched in a cold and drenching storm through two miles of streets, behind their union banners, on the eve of election, and at their own expense, the politicians awoke to the fact that the “machine” was in danger of being smashed.
The election was held on the 2d of November. The polls opened at six o’clock in the morning and closed at four in the afternoon.
In New York voters who do not prepare their ballots in advance are served by election-day “workers,” who are near the polls all day with supplies of full sets of their party tickets. Each set of workers has a box, covered with pasters, near which one of the men stands and which serves as a kind of transient party headquarters. The expense of providing these boxes and paying men to work near the polls constitutes the greatest legitimate burden of political campaigns. Under the present system of voting it seems to be unavoidable. A party which should undertake to run a candidate without “boxing the districts” could hardly expect to cast a vote worth counting. As this “boxing the districts” requires not only money, but complete local organization and discipline, there was reason to fear that the labor candidate might fall far behind his legitimate vote, and the experienced politicians counted largely upon the inability of the new party to create this necessary election machinery. They did not wholly miscount, for in several election districts the party was poorly represented and in some it was at times not represented at all. But the election-day machinery, though not perfect, was effective. When the polls opened Henry George’s ballots were to be had in nearly every district, and as the day advanced it became apparent that he was polling an immense vote.
|Elec-tion District||TheodoreRoosevelt||Abram S.Hewitt||HenryGeorge||Elec-tionDistrict||Theodore Roosevelt||Abram S.Hewitt||Henry George|
It was nearly midnight before the result of the election was positively known. At that hour Mr. George went to the party headquarters in Eighth Street, where the district leaders had gathered, and made them a stirring address, in which he said:
Friends and Brothers: I am prouder tonight in your greeting, in your support, in your friendship, in the devotion to a great cause that I have seen among you rendered to me as an exponent of your principles, than I would be if by ordinary methods I held in my hand the official returns making me the President of the United States.
I congratulate you tonight upon the victory we have won. Under a fair vote of the people of New York I would be tonight elected Mayor. If, as now seems probable, the official returns do not give me that office, it is because of the money, of the bribery, of the intimidation, of a press perverted and unscrupulous, of the unreasoning fears of the ignorant rich, and the hopeless degradation of the miserable poor. But men, I did not accept your candidacy for the office, nor did you nominate me for the office; what we sought was to bring principle into American politics. I congratulate you upon the greatest of victories that we have won. They may bribe, they may count us out, by their vile arts they may defeat what would be an honest verdict of the people; but we have gained what we fought for. Thank God, we have made a beginning. We have demonstrated the political power of labor. Never again — never again, will the politicians look upon a labor movement with contempt.
I have waited to get the full returns and have not got them yet. But my vote will hardly fall under seventy thousand. You know, you men know — you men who have worked night after night without a penny, you men who have stood by the polls all day without a cent — you know under what disadvantages this struggle has been made. If this is the beginning, what will be the end?
I am a proud and happy man tonight. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you more truly and kindly than if you had given me the highest office, for the devotion you have shown, for the manner in which you have forgotten all factional disputes, for the manner in which all the diverse elements have rallied, and all petty jealousies that have hitherto divided the ranks of labor have been lost sight of.
The future, the future is ours. This is the Bunker Hill. We have been driven back as the Continental troops were from Bunker Hill. If they won no technical victory, they did win a victory that echoed round the world and still rings. They won a victory that made this Republic a reality, and, thank God, men of New York, we in this fight have won a victory that makes the true Republic of the future certain — certain in our time. Most of you men are younger than I, and to you more years will be given. You will look back to this campaign with pride. We have not been trying to elect a Mayor; we have been making history. We have lit a fire that will never go out. We have begun a movement that, defeated, and defeated, and defeated, must still go on. All the great currents of our time, all the aspirations of the heart of man, all the new forces of our civilization are with us and for us. They never fail who die in a good cause. So, on and on and on together. We have done in this campaign more for popular education, more to purify politics, more toward the emancipation of labor from industrial slavery, than could have been accomplished in twenty years of ordinary agitation.
Some time let us meet again and talk over these matters.
We have done a greater thing than my election to the Mayoralty. A constitutional convention has been called.
That gives us a great opportunity. Let us improve it.
That is the next fight. Let us win that beyond any per-adventure.
And now I want to express my appreciation and my thanks to the gentlemen of the Executive Committee and its chief and chairman, Mr. McMackin, for the intelligence, for the self-sacrifice, for the energy, and the industry, and the devotion which they have shown in your cause, and to the many men whom I have met in the streets today, and the still greater number of men I did not meet. I thank them all. Let me express my hearty thanks — my appreciation of the way in which they worked against all obstacles.
I tell you again that such devotion, such earnestness, must and will carry this cause forward, no matter what little skirmish we may happen to nominally lose. This has been but a skirmish that prepares our forces for the battles which are to follow.
The conclusion of the municipal campaign was the beginning of a national campaign. A meeting of congratulation was held at Cooper Union on November 6th. It was as large a meeting as any that had gathered there. Every seat was occupied and the aisles and corridors were crowded by people standing. When Mr. George addressed the meeting, he said
Was ever party so defeated before? I would rather have one such glorious defeat as this than ten thousand elections in the ordinary way. Well has it been said that it was our Bunker Hill. It is not the end of the campaign; it is the beginning. We have fought the first skirmish. We know each other now. We trust and believe in each other now, and now we are enlisted for the fight. They talk of “being kind” to you about the offer of a few paltry official positions. They do not know their men. This is not an office-seeking party. When I was nominated few men among you held out to me any inducement that by any possibility I could be elected. If I had thought your nomination equivalent to an election I would not have accepted it. I did not want the office; I did want the fight. And so well — so well did the fight go on, so strong did the enthusiasm grow as, the great popular heart was stirred, that I began to believe I should be elected. The last time I stood on this platform I said so; not as a campaign speech, but because I thought so. But, although I read aright the feelings of the people, I was not enough of a practical politician. You will remember what that Democratic statesman, one of that committee who waited upon the candidate of the two wings of the Democracy, to ask him to save society — Mr. Walsh, Mr. “Fatty” Walsh, said:
“What are them labor fellers thinking about? Do they think they can elect anybody? They haven’t no inspectors or poll clerks.”
Sixty-eight thousand votes! Do you know what frightens the politicians so badly? They know the difficulties under which those sixty-eight thousand votes were polled and were counted. They know how potent was their machinery. They know the influences that were enlisted to defeat the will of the people. They know how we lacked in everything that they have been accustomed to consider practical politics. That is their astonishment, that under such circumstances sixty-eight thousand votes could be recorded by what they call “green men,” without money, without patronage, without the promise of office, with volunteer workers, without the press. Victory! Ay, it is a most glorious victory; for it has in it the promise not merely of success but of that triumph at which we aim. It is coming, thank God, it is coming! We have done what we started out to do. We have made the beginning. We have brought a great principle into American politics; and, men, if you and I die before we can do any more, that is work enough.
In what I said about the influences that have given us nominal defeat there is no whining and no repining. I am far better pleased today that I have not to take that office in the City Hall. I believe it is better for our cause that we should go on for some time with educating and organizing before we come into power. But I speak of this to call your attention to one of the most important reforms that can be made in our institutions — in your laws — and that is a reform in your elective methods. Do you suppose that the Irish peasants, under the thumb of their landlords, could ever have begun that great struggle which has been going on on the other side of the water under our elective system? It would be utterly impossible. Our absurd method of voting here offers a premium to fraud. It gives facility for corruption and intimidation and requires, absolutely requires, for the necessary expenses of elections, such an immense sum of money that, under ordinary circumstances, no one but the rich and unscrupulous can hope to get high office.
I speak of it because there is a way of amending it and to that we ought to address ourselves. Every honest man of all parties ought to join in the movement to secure that great reform which will enable the will of the people to be expressed. To secure that we have only to take a very simple system, which originated in Australia, and now obtains in Great Britain and Ireland. That system is simply this: Instead of individuals printing millions of ballots as here, the name of every candidate is printed on a ballot. The voter goes up to the polls and receives from the election officers a ballot containing the names of all the candidates. He then goes into a compartment where he is absolutely secure from observation, and makes a mark — a cross — opposite the name of his choice. Then he hands the ballot to the proper officer and sees that it is deposited in the ballot-box. If the voter cannot read, there is a sworn officer present who makes the mark for him. You cannot bribe a man who gets no ticket from you; you cannot intimidate him when you cannot tell how he is going to vote. All this thing of printing ballots and peddling tickets is done away with. That is a reform we ought to have. In the next place, instead of appointing our inspectors as they are now appointed they ought to be chosen from lists of reputable citizens just as our juries are chosen.
If we have gained nothing else in this election, we have given the powers that be a very sincere respect for the working-man’s vote. Nevermore — nevermore, will they laugh at political labor movements. Nevermore will they sneer when working-men come forward and propose to put up a candidate of their own. You have shown your strength and with that strength you will be respected.
It is getting late. I hope to talk to you again soon. On our part, as I said before, the campaign has only begun. We want to continue the work of education. It matters little who holds the offices. What men think — what the people think, that is the great thing. Thought precedes action and controls action. The real gain in such campaigns as we have passed through is the effect upon thought. The great thing we have done is to bring forward a principle into discussion. Now at last the great land question — that is only another name for the labor question — is in practical politics in the United States, and it is there to stay. It is the plan that has been formulated here tonight, adopted here tonight — little societies, little branches, little clubs that shall educate; that shall discuss; that shall rouse and stimulate thought. That is the power. In it is building up the strongest political force that can possibly be raised.
The only thing that I am disappointed in in the campaign is that my opponent would not meet me in discussion. Let us continue that policy. Let us have discussion throughout the city. Let us have lectures. Let us enlist our wives, and daughters, and sweethearts. Let us have music and recitations a real propaganda of ideas. If we do this we shall know no defeat. Why, every man I have met since the election has congratulated me. From all parts of the country have come letters and telegrams, and they all congratulate me and congratulate the working-men of New York. It is a beginning. Let us all henceforth stand together and go on — onward, upward, without faltering, without flagging. If not we, then others who come afterward will surely see the triumph of the right, the emancipation of labor, the establishment of that true Republic for which the world is yet waiting.
For the purpose of beginning the formation of a national party, based upon the principles which Henry George represented as a candidate in the local election, the meeting at Cooper Union adopted the following declaration, offered by the Rev. Dr. John W. Kramer:
We, citizens of New York, who cast our ballots for Henry George in the recent election, now in mass meeting assembled, give greeting to all lovers of truth and justice throughout our country and over the world, and ask their co-operation and sympathy in carrying forward the good work here begun.
In our nominal defeat, but actual victory, we hail the opening of a new era in American politics, the beginning of a struggle to purify our political methods, to establish the American Republic upon the firm rock of equal rights, and to apply the principles enunciated by our fathers to the social difficulties of our time.
We reaffirm the principles set forth in the platform of the recent Labor Convention of this city as of general application to the whole country. We are American citizens desirous of purging our political system of its corruptions, and of carrying into full effect the great principles of individual liberty proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. We are upholders of social order, defenders of the true right of property, and advocates of that equal justice between man and man, which is of the essence of all true religion. We believe in the fatherhood of God and assert the brotherhood of man, and by aiming at the abolition of the wrongs which promote thievery and compel beggary, we desire to do away with all class distinctions by securing equal access to natural opportunities, and such an equitable distribution of the products of labor that all men shall be working men, and each shall be free to enjoy that leisure which is necessary for the full development of his whole nature.
We hold, with Thomas Jefferson, that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living, and that one generation cannot grant away the equal rights of succeeding generations to its use. We hold that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to the equal use of natural elements, and that the system which disinherits the masses and compels human beings to buy with their sweat the privilege of living and working on this earth to be a fundamental wrong, which is the fruitful parent of social evils, bringing about an unnatural competition which tends to reduce wages to starvation rates, and to make the wealth-producer the industrial slave to the idler who grows rich by his toil.
We hold that all that is produced by labor, whether of hand or head, belongs to the producer and should be secured to him. We hold that the value which attaches to the surface of the earth, by reason of the growth of population, belongs to society at large, and we propose, therefore, to abolish all taxation upon buildings, improvements, and all other things of human production, and by taxation on the value of land alone to provide for purposes of common necessity and benefit. In this way we propose to make it unprofitable for monopolizers to hold lands, mines, forests, or city lots, which they are not putting to use, and thus to throw open to citizens who wish to make themselves homes, or employ their labor in producing wealth, the abundant opportunities which our common Father has provided for all his children.
We hold, moreover, that the advantages accruing to society by reason of the growth of knowledge and the perfection of invention belong, after the due reward of individual exertion, to society at large and we declare war on that system which hands over public works to corporate control, and permits such beneficent agencies as the railroad and the telegraph to be made the means of robbing the producer, and of enabling railroad kings and stock gamblers to throttle business and dictate laws.
We hold, in short, in the language of the Organized Working-men of New York, that “the true purpose of government is the maintenance of that sacred right of property which gives to everyone opportunity to employ his labor and security that he shall enjoy its fruits; to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, and the unscrupulous from robbing the honest, and to do, for the equal benefit of all, such things as can be better done by organized society than by individuals; and we aim at the abolition of all laws which give to any class of citizens advantages either judicial, financial, industrial, or political, that are not equally shared by all others.”
Since the Republican party has outlived the days of its usefulness, and the Democratic party has become but a corrupt machine by the use of which, as shown in the late election, aristocrats and spoilsmen endeavor to defeat the will of the people — even the Democratic President of the United States and the Democratic Governor of New York prostituting their power in aid of the vilest mercenaries as against an honest effort to purify municipal politics, we hereby declare that the time has come for an organization which shall be in the true sense republican and in the true sense democratic — of a real party of the people, a progressive democracy, which shall revive and carry out the principles of Thomas Jefferson.
We call upon the district organizations of this city formed to support Henry George in the late election to continue their work, to throw open their doors to new members, and to devote themselves to the work of education and organization preparatory to future contests. We call upon the Central Labor Union, to which is due the credit of taking the initiative in this great movement, to issue an address to organized workingmen of other cities, asking their co-operation by similar movements in their own localities. And, without distinction of race, color, creed, occupation, or past political affiliation, we call upon those who hold to the principles set forth in this Declaration to form themselves throughout the whole country into associations, for the purpose of carrying on the work of propagating truth by means of lectures, discussions, and the dissemination of literature, so that the way may be prepared for political action in their various localities, and for the formal organization at the proper time of a National Party. Finally, be it
Resolved, That, in order to promote the formation of such associations, and to secure unity of plan and concert of action between them, a temporary Central Committee is hereby created, to whom correspondence on this subject may be addressed, and whose duty it shall be to take such measures as may forward the work. This committee shall have power to appoint a secretary, to add to its numbers, and to act until a National Conference, to be called by it, shall choose a permanent committee.
Resolved, That such Central Committee shall consist of John McMackin, the Rev. Edward McGlynn, D.D., and Professor David B. Scott.
Professor Scott having been obliged, on account of ill-health, to resign from the committee, James Redpath was elected to fill the vacancy. The committee has opened permanent headquarters at Room 28, Cooper Union, where the secretary, Mr. Gaybert Barnes, is in charge of the details of national organization.
In closing this account of the most remarkable political campaign since the elections that led to the overthrow of chattel slavery, a review of the principles advocated by Mr. George will not be out of place.
Henry George proposes the shifting of taxation from labor products to land values. This proposition involves two questions: Would it be right, and would it be wise? — a moral question and a question of expediency. The answer to the first ought to give the answer to the second — for whatever is right is wise, whatever is moral is expedient. But in deference to the ideas of modern statesmanship, Mr. George and his disciples are willing to meet both questions independently. Let it be borne in mind that it is upon land values, not upon land that Mr. George proposes to lay all taxes; and also that it is upon land values and not upon real estate values. It is the ignoring of these important distinctions that gives rise to much confusion in debating the question.
Would it be right to shift taxation from labor products to land values? Why not?
Even the best land has no value so long as only one man wants it. When two want it, it has some value; when a million, a very great value. The value of land, therefore, is not dependent on its natural productiveness, but upon the demand for it. It is often asserted that the value of a product of labor also depends upon the demand for it. But that is true only in exceptional cases, and for a limited time; while of land it is invariably true. A desirable product of labor of limited quantity would have a monopoly value until labor had increased the quantity sufficiently to meet the demand. But human labor cannot produce land, it cannot expand the surface of the globe, nor bring land from a place where it is not wanted to a place where it is wanted; hence, when demand for land gives value to it, labor cannot reduce that value.
The community is taxed in the form of land rent, on the basis of a value which tends to rise as demand increases, and the tax goes to the owners of the land. What do land-owners give in return for that tax? The use of the land. But they have not produced the land, nor can they trace their title to anyone who did produce it. Adverse possession is their only title, and that is a title which even a receiver of stolen goods can show. Land owners give no equivalent for the private tax they are permitted to exact. If the ocean were parceled out to owners who levied a tax on ship-masters for sailing through “their” waters, the owners would be rendering no equivalent for that tax; they would be charging ship-masters for doing what, but for their appropriation and adverse possession of the ocean, ship-masters might do without charge. If the streets of New York were owned by individuals who, without keeping them in repair, levied a toll upon travelers for the mere privilege of passing through those streets, the street-owners would be giving no equivalent for the toll. The rent of land, which landowners compel the community to pay for the privilege of use, is, like such a ship tax or such a street toll, an exaction without an equivalent — a veritable confiscation.
The more the matter is considered the clearer does it appear to candid minds that economic rent is a private tax for which no service is rendered; and how can it be unjust to levy a public tax upon this private tax to recover for the community what is, without compensation, taken from it?
Every year the people of this country pay, directly and indirectly, to land-owners, as economic rent, a tax by the side of which all the taxes of the State and Federal governments are as a dwarf to a giant. Would it be unjust to recover this vast revenue for the whole people to whom — by virtue of their common ownership of the land for the use of which it is paid — it of right belongs?
But the injustice of this private tax is not to be measured merely by the economic rent that is paid. The waste of labor and capital it engenders far exceeds the tax itself. Any dealer in real estate understands that land values are rising values. They fluctuate from time to time, but their tendency is upward. The reason is that the surface of the earth is fixed while the demand for it, consequent upon growing population and invention, is constantly increasing. The real estate dealer may not know the reason, but he knows the fact. Hence there is a disposition among real estate dealers to hold land at a price somewhat above the value fixed by present demand in expectation of a greater demand and consequently higher value in the future. This gives land a speculative value and keeps it out of market and out of use. It does not diminish the proportions of the globe, but it diminishes the market supply of globe surface, and this produces the same economic result as would a contraction of the globe itself. It diminishes opportunities for the use of capital and the application of labor, in consequence of which there is an accumulation of idle capital that, by competition with other capital, reduces interest, and an accumulation of idle laborers who, by competition with other laborers, reduce wages. The economic rent that is paid does not impoverish the community; it tends to impoverish him who pays it, but to the extent that he is impoverished the land-owner is enriched, and the wealth of the community is not diminished. But there is a loss to the community itself when capital and laborers are kept in idleness by speculative land values so high as to be prohibitory; capital then goes to waste, and the laborer is impoverished without enriching the land-owner. There is a dead loss of possible wealth. When a coal mine is closed the world is deprived of the wealth which labor would have extracted from it had it been open; when a city lot is kept vacant, the community is deprived of the building which labor would have erected had it been put to use; and in each case laborers are deprived of the wages they would have earned.
When we see that the appropriation of economic rent or land values to private use is the taking of a product from the producer without returning an equivalent, and that the system which permits such appropriation tends to withdraw from labor and capital those natural opportunities for production which the earth affords, how can it be honestly urged that a method of taxation which would return a part, or even the whole, of economic rent to the community from whom it is exacted by landowners, is unjust?
The moral aspect of the question is reduced to this: Can the surface of the earth be justly appropriated and treated as private property? If it cannot be, if it belongs of right to the whole people in usufruct, then a tax which takes economic rent for public use, exempting the products of labor from every burden, is a just tax. No intelligent defence of private property in land, as an abstract proposition, has ever been made; none can be made. With intellects confused by custom, men may think it right for some people to appropriate land to the exclusion of others, as men in similar intellectual confusion have thought it right for some people to own, and buy, and sell other people. Where such things are not customary, the mind has no difficulty in perceiving the truth. When Professor Morse claimed the exclusive right of using electricity for the purpose of transmitting intelligence, the Supreme Court of the United States denied his claim, because to have allowed it would have been to prohibit man, unless by permission of Professor Morse, from utilizing one of the laws of God. There was no custom to distort the conscience of the court in that case, and it went like an arrow straight to the mark; but the same Court saw nothing wrong in chattel slavery. It is so with exclusive ownership of land. Familiarity with the wrong twists the conscience so that we overlook the gross injustice of prohibiting man from utilizing one of the creations of God — the land — unless by permission of a fellow-man.
It is sometimes asserted that land is property like labor products, because it has been brought to a state of usefulness by the owner or by those from whom he derives title, and that the only value land has was given to it by labor. It is something new in nature that the globe has been brought up to a state of usefulness by man. This old earth of ours is pretty useful to stand upon, to dig in, to build houses on, and even to be buried in — for all of which no thanks to anyone but the Creator. The proposition that land has no value, except what has been given to it by the labor expended on it, is equally novel. There may be such land — there is such land, but it has no value as land; the value is all in the improvements. It is land values which it is claimed are of right public property, not improvement values.
The only other moral defence of private property in land that has been attempted is based on the fact that the owners have acquired, by permission of the community, a vested right to hold land, and that to deprive them of this without full compensation, or to place any burden upon land not placed on other property, would be confiscation. The same defence justifies property in slaves, and denounces emancipation as robbery. The answer is simple: The advantage, and the only advantage, which any man derives from the ownership of land, is the privilege of levying, for his private use, a tax equal to the economic rent of the land; and a taxing privilege, though permitted by the community for any length of time, may be terminated by the community at its pleasure without injustice, because it does not deprive the beneficiary of any property he has, but merely prohibits him from taking from other people without compensation property which they will in the future produce. To emancipate slaves without compensation is just, because it takes nothing from the master but the power of appropriating to his own use the fruits of the slave’s future labor. So land values may be justly taxed away, because to do it takes nothing from the owner but the privilege of taxing his fellows. In truth, the appropriation of economic rent to private use is confiscation; while a tax which restores it to the community is restitution.
Turning from the moral aspect of the question, and considering the expediency of such a tax, we find ample justification for the proposition that, if it be just, it must be expedient.
What Mr. George proposes is a shifting of taxation until land values bear all taxes, and then an increase of taxation until all economic rent is appropriated to public use.
Consider, first, the extreme of the proposition — a tax which absorbs all economic rent. The distinction between a tax upon land and one upon land values must be here observed. A tax upon land would be decidedly inexpedient. Its evil effects would be numerous; but it is enough to say that it would perpetuate land monopoly. No one could use land without paying the tax. No land would be free. But a tax upon land values would rest only upon land which had a value, and upon that only according to its value. And inasmuch as, under such a system of taxation, there could be no speculation in land values, all land which was not wanted for use, and much that was wanted for use, would have no value; for there would be so much in the market that, of great quantities of productive land, no two men would want the same piece. Such land would pay no tax. Such land would be free. As population increased and invention advanced, lower grades in point of desirableness would come into use, whereupon the next higher grade would acquire value and pay taxes. But at no time, until the limitations of the globe were reached, would the least productive land in use pay taxes, even though it were very productive, because, speculation in land being destroyed, the least productive land in use would not be an object of competition, and consequently would have no value. Thus, the equal rights of all to land would be preserved. Those who used land having no value would enjoy the full fruit of their labor and capital, paying no rent or tax; while those who used land having a value, would, in their tax, pay the community for this privilege, and, like the others, would retain the full fruit of their labor and capital.
But, it is asked, why not let every one have a limited amount of land without rent? Because, owing to the variable value of land it would give to some advantages over others. To illustrate with extremes: a hundred and sixty acres in the West would yield only wages to the labor of the owner, while a hundred and sixty acres in New York City would make the owner rich without work. Moreover, modern methods of production would be hampered by land limitation, for agricultural machinery cannot be used to best advantage on small areas. Then, it is asked, why not nationalize the land and rent it to the highest bidder? That would not be contrary to the principle, but it would needlessly tend to government centralization, while it would be less exact in operation than the plan of appropriating economic rent to public use by means of taxation. What is really important is not common dominion over the land, but common enjoyment of the value which the community gives to some land, and free access to that land which has no value. A tax on land values will accomplish this. But, comes the question again, why merely shift taxes from labor products to land values, since that would still leave owners in possession of a large part of economic rent? True enough; but this is only proposed as a beginning in the right direction. The shifting of taxation once done, the benefits would be so obvious that the taxing away of all economic rent would soon follow. If the revenues we now collect were collected from land values, every one who works and every one who has capital would retain all that part of his income from these sources which is now taken from him by taxes direct and indirect upon labor products. Valuable land which is now not used to its best advantage, would immediately be put to better use, and vacant valuable land, held on speculation, would at once be opened for labor and capital to make it productive. Vast opportunities for labor, which are now closed in, would therefore be thrown open; and although the community would not at once recover all economic rent, its hoards of idle capital and its herds of idle men would find ready and remunerative employment.
This system meets every requirement of sound principles of taxation. It provides for a tax that bears lightly upon production, that can be more cheaply collected than any other, that cannot be evaded, and that bears equally upon all members of the community. It is consistent with morality and natural justice, and unassailable on the score of expediency.
That farmers will never agree to such a tax is a common objection. It is supposed, erroneously, that it would rest most heavily upon them. At first blush they would, no doubt, oppose it but when they once realize the fact that their sources of greatest income are their labor and their stock and improvements, and not their bare land, they will readily agree to the change. Farms, the land of which is valuable, are comparatively few. Not many farmers could quit working and live upon ground-rent. If taxes were shifted from products of labor to land values, the bulk of taxes would be paid by the owners of city lots and rich mines, not by farmers; all the stock and improvements of the farmer would be exempt, and these, not his land values, constitute the bulk of the average farmer’s property. So long as the tax was merely shifted, the great majority of farmers would pay a smaller tax than now; when the tax was so increased as to absorb economic rent, they would pay a higher direct tax, but they would then be more than compensated by the benefits they would derive from exemptions from indirect taxes and by their common interest in the common fund raised by such taxation. Moreover, one effect of such a tax would be to make great bodies of accessible farming land free, so that men desiring to farm could get land without price or tax and free of rent. What working farmer would object to putting the whole annual value of his land, exclusive of improvements, into a common pool with the annual value of all other land? *
*For a fuller discussion of the effects of the land value tax on the pecuniary interests of farmers, see Social Problems, by Henry George, chapter xx., entitled The American Farmer; also, chapter iii., Book IX., of Progress and Poverty.
But again it is asked shall we trust our corrupt politicians with the management of so vast a fund? No! The plan does not call upon us to do that. When taxes are merely shifted, our revenues will be no greater than now, and consequently the corrupt politicians will not be tempted with a greater trust; and, by the time we absorb economic rent in taxation, our politicians will not be corrupt. Politicians are not distinct creations. They are corrupt or virtuous as their constituents are corrupt or virtuous. If we reform the mass, we reform the politician. Now, the cause of corruption is the fear of poverty. Raise men above that fear, and you raise them above corruption. Bring about a condition in which every man knows that he has only to do honest work to gain a decent living, and the great temptation to be corrupt is removed. If we make success in life depend upon luck, gambling, and dark and devious skill, we must expect a corrupt community, and, consequently, corrupt politicians; but, if we make it depend upon industry by securing to the laborer all he produces, we create a public contempt for even the most delicate forms of rascality, more effective than prisons or the fear of hell. Aside from these considerations, if the practical man who, himself having the instincts of a thief, assumes that all men are by nature corrupt, sneeringly demands something more practical, we shall be protected from corruption in managing the public revenues by the fact that they all flow from one source. A land value tax, however great, would come under the watchful eye of every citizen, because every citizen would have a personal interest in its honest collection and disbursement. But what interest do the majority of people feel in the collection and disbursement of the indirect taxes now imposed? Men who pay their State taxes in house rent, and their Federal taxes in the price of commodities, do not realize that they pay a tax at all, and are indifferent to its collection and distribution. Even if they were not indifferent, the system is so complex that only experts can watch its operation.
A recently invented objection to the plan of taxing land values and exempting improvements, relates to its supposed partiality in favor of the rich. Is it fair, it is asked, to tax the owner of a palace no more than the owner of a blacksmith-shop occupying ground of the same area and value alongside the palace? The inventor of this objection has, no doubt, seen so many instances of blacksmith-shops nestling under the eaves of palaces as to make the objection seem important; we doubt, however, if many such instances have been observed by others. Palaces are not built on cheap ground, and cheap buildings are not built on dear ground. Buildings, like people, are apt to herd — like with like. If a poor building is retained on valuable ground, it is because the owner is holding the ground for speculation; he is not a poor man to be pitied, but a miser or speculator. And if a valuable building is put upon cheap ground, other similar buildings seek the same locality and the ground around rises in value. But suppose it were common for blacksmith-shops to stand on valuable ground alongside palaces, is that a desirable condition? The big building makes employment for hundreds, thus widening opportunities for labor and tending to increase wages. The adjoining land is capable of affording similar opportunities and would tend still more to increase wages, if put to its best use; but the owner, by confining its use to a little blacksmith-shop, arbitrarily limits opportunities for labor almost as much as if he kept the land vacant. Pity for such a man because he is required to pay the community as much for that land as if he put it to its highest use is pity misplaced. He is a dog in the manger. The notion that the land value tax would favor the rich as against the poor is a curious phase of the opposition to Mr. George. When he was nominated for mayor upon a land-tax platform, and his election seemed probable, the rich were both angry and scared. It was to prevent the possibility of such a tax that they resolved themselves into “saviors of society,” and determined to defeat the land-tax candidate at any cost. Never before were the rich so frightened at the prospect of a system of taxation which would specially favor them.
Pleas for the widow and the orphan whose all is invested in land values are often made. Those who profit by social wrongs are usually deeply affected by the possible sufferings of widows and orphans, but only for the widows and orphans of their own class. In abolition times it was the widow and orphan who owned slaves, never the widow and orphan who were slaves, that aroused the sympathy of slavery advocates. So now, it is the widow and orphan who profit by land-ownership, not the multitude of widows and orphans who suffer on account of it, for which the pleas are made. It is forgotten that when land values go to the community that creates them, instead of to the land-owner who appropriates them, there will be a common fund for the benefit of all widows and orphans, in which they will share as a right, and not by way of charity or special privilege. But the plea for the widow and orphan is a selfish plea. It is not the widow, and orphan, but himself, for whom the pleader is solicitous. “It is not for my dinner that you invite me,” said the goat to the wolf, “but for your own.”
Perhaps, however, the commonest objection to the land value tax grows out of the notion that land-owners will make tenants pay it by increasing their rent. No one at all familiar with the incidence of taxation could seriously make this objection. The law of supply and demand determines the direction of a tax. If a tax tends to diminish the supply of the things upon which it is laid, the consumer pays the tax; if it does not so tend, the owner pays the tax. A tax upon the value of sugar, for example, is paid by the consumer, because it tends to discourage the production of sugar; but a tax upon the value of land cannot diminish the supply of land — in fact it tends to increase the quantity as a marketable commodity by discouraging the holding of land out of use. So a tax upon the value of houses will, by tending to discourage building, increase house values and raise house rents, while a tax upon the value of the ground upon which houses are built will, by discouraging the “cornering” of land, decrease economic rent. Impose a high tax upon land values while removing all taxes from labor products, and, by the operation of the same law of supply and demand, both labor products and land will be cheaper. The removal of taxes from products cheapens them; the imposition of taxes on land values cheapens land. With such a tax it will not pay to keep land vacant, therefore its owner will seek labor and capital to make it productive; it will not pay to put land to inferior use, therefore its owner will seek labor and capital to make it more productive. The result will be that land-owners will first compete for labor and capital with the effect of increasing the compensation of both, and will next compete for tenants with the effect of reducing rents.
To recapitulate the so-called theory of Henry George:
He classifies the factors of production as Land, including all natural materials and forces; Labor, including all human effort for the production of wealth; and Capital, including all labor products in process of exchange from one thing to another, as from syrup to sugar, and of one thing for another, as butter for flour at a country store. In this classification he is in accord with the other leading economists; but while they frequently confuse land and capital, Mr. George constantly observes the classification.
All wealth is produced by these factors, and for purposes of distribution is divisible into three elements: Wages, representing the contribution of labor; Interest, representing the contribution of capital; and Rent, representing the contribution of land. In this classification he is at variance with other economists who distribute wealth into rent, wages, and profits, and subdivide profits into interest and wages of superintendence. A moment’s consideration exposes their bad logic. What are wages of superintendence but wages? Then why are they not classified with wages? That done, nothing but interest is left in the class termed profits, and the accuracy of Mr. George’s classification — Wages, Interest, and Rent — is obvious.
Since all wealth is included in these classes — Wages, Interest, and Rent — a proportional increase of one class must be at the expense of one or both of the other classes. For example: If Rent is one-third of all wealth and interest is one-third, Wages must be one-third; but if rent increases to one-half, interest or wages or both must fall below a third.
As to the source of wages Mr. George and the orthodox economists differ radically. They assume the existence of a wages fund, and argue that wages are high when the number of laborers is small relatively [sic] to the wages fund, and low when the relative supply of labor is large. Mr. George, on the contrary, claims that wages are paid out of the laborer’s product, a truth that is readily seen when wages are paid in kind, but is obscured — though a truth none the less — when wages are paid in money. He argues that the laborer is not paid his wages until he has turned over their value either in the form of service or commodities to the hirer, and that in effect all laborers, whether they work for themselves or others, are paid out of the products of their labor. This is no mere distinction, it is a real difference. For if wages are paid out of a wages fund previously set aside, wages are necessarily limited by that fund; whereas, if they are paid out of the laborer’s product, they are limited only by the power of labor and the productiveness of land.
In respect to interest, Mr. George makes the same claim. The capital owner is paid out of the joint product of the labor and the capital employed.
It is by the application of labor and capital to land that wealth is produced. When land is plenty relatively to the demand for it, rent does not arise; for everyone can get all the land he needs of the quality he requires without interfering with anyone else. No two men want the same land. At such a time, therefore, the entire product goes to the compensation of labor and capital; it is divided into wages and interest, leaving rent at zero. But as the best land (not best in mere fertility, but in natural and social utility) is taken up, and an increasing demand for land forces users to resort to lower grades, the better land acquires a value and demands rent. Producers will relinquish to the land owner part of their products for the privilege of using the better land. The product so relinquished is a deduction from wages and interest, and is called rent. When this condition arises the amount of the rent of a given piece of the better land is determined by the difference in desirableness between that land and the best in use for which, by reason of its quantity relatively to the demand for it, no rent can be exacted. Producers compete for the privilege of using the better grades of land, and what they are willing to give out of their product for any particular land in its natural condition, rather than resort to the poorer kind, is the economic rent of that land. As population increases and invention advances, greater demands for land are made, and lower and lower grades are resorted too in consequence of the competition for the grades above. This tendency has been checked by the discovery and colonization of new countries; but population increases so rapidly that such checks are only temporary. As lower grades of land are brought into use the proportion of product taken in rent for the other grades tends upward, since the supply is limited by the limitations of the globe; and, owing to man’s inability to produce matter, increasing demand cannot be equalized by increasing supply. Thus, economic rent constantly tends to increase at the expense of wages and interest.
This tendency is accelerated and intensified by the withholding of land from use in expectation of a rise in value. The upward tendency of rent being recognized, land is appropriated, not for use but as a gamble, which, while it does not increase production, tends to reduce wages and interest and to increase rent, by reducing the supply of accessible land. Hence, population does not spread over the earth with a steady movement, but by jumps. Great cities are crowded with towering tenements in some places, and dotted with open spaces of vacant ground in others; while throughout the country people are crowded at some points and live without neighbors at other points. The intervening land is held at speculative prices, and inhabitants of the globe pass by it in quest of homes that will not cost them more for the site than they can produce. They find vacant land everywhere, but not a rood to use.
To remedy this condition, which has no justification in morals, and as a matter of expediency belongs to the policy of swine rather than of men, Mr. George advocates the unification of taxes and placing them on land values alone, to the end that whoever appropriates land, shall, whether he uses it or not, pay into the common treasury of the people, to whom that land of right belongs, all that it is worth, measured by the value of land of equal natural and social utility.
In support of his position Mr. George presents, in “Progress and Poverty,”* a complete examination of the entire subject in all its bearings. That book has excited more attention and comment over the world than any other American book, and yet has called forth no reply. It is simply unanswerable. Every step in the argument is proved, and the conclusion is inevitable. The principles of the work were introduced into the politics of this country at the late election; and now, as with all principles founded in truth, they cannot be stamped out, nor can their advocates be silenced, for “truth is tough, and will not break like a bubble at a touch.”
* No. 52 Lovell’s Library.