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Morgan, W. Scott. History of the Wheel and Alliance and the Impending Revolution . Ft. Scott, KS: J.H. Rice & Sons, 1891. [format: book], [genre: history; narrative; proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
WE HAVE, in previous chapters, taken occasion to discuss to some extent the relation which the newspaper occupied to the interests of the laborer. The subject, however, is fraught with so much importance that we deem it proper to devote this chapter exclusively to its discussion. Many years ago Thomas Carlyle wrote of us as a nation, saying, we would have our "trial period."
"It will be," he said, "when health is intact, crops abundant and the magnificent land open. Then so-called statesmen will cry over-production, and the man of the ballot, the self-reliant, the self-pliant, will go to the ballot box amidst hunger and destitution (but surrounded by the glitter of self-rule) and ratify by his ballot the monstrous falsehood uttered by mis-statesmen, and vindicated by the same ballot, the infamous lie thrown upon the breezes by a senile editor through a corrupt press, and thus bring ruin upon his country, serfdom upon himself, and the death of oppression upon his children."
We leave it to every thoughtful person if we are not now having our trial period. Our "mis-statesmen," "senile editor," and "corrupt press" have long since made their appearance. Fifteen years ago, when the great crash of 1873 prostrated the industries of the country and whirled thousands of our best business men into the vortex of financial ruin, entailing a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, closing down our manufactories, our workshops
and our mines throwing millions of men, women and children out of employment, we were told by the "so-called statesmen" and the "senile editor through a corrupt press" that it was caused by over-production. Carlyle's prophecy was verified. In 1874, "amidst hunger and destitution," the American citizen, by his ballot, ratified the "monstrous falsehood" given out through a "corrupt press."
It is a fact, much to be regretted, that the laboring people, the great masses who form the most important part of the community, are slow to realize the potent and all-powerful influence of the subsidized press. Millions of copies of papers are taken, paid for and read by those whose interests are not only not represented in the columns of the papers they support, but are actually sacrificed upon the altar of selfish ambition, or for a price paid by the various monopolies of the country. The press is the great moulder of public opinion. Its purity is most essential to the proper enlightenment of the people. Its influence permeates every community and affects every phase of our national life. This great power, this all-pervading influence has been seized by the corporations and moneyed power of the nation, to promulgate the "monstrous falsehoods" that lead to industrial death. It is part of the great conspiracy entered into between the capitalists of Europe and America. Note the Buell circular: "It is advisable to do all in your power to sustain such daily and prominent weekly newspapers, especially the agricultural and religious press, as will oppose the issuing of greenback paper money, and that you also withhold patronage or favors from all applicants who are not willing to oppose the government issue of money. * * * See your member of Congress at once, and engage him to support our interest, that we may control legislation."
The above circular was sent out to the various national
banks throughout the country. The great daily and weekly papers in the United States are owned and controlled by stockholders, who are capitalists, and whose income depends to a great extent in the perpetuation of a system that is robbing industry of its just reward. The only hope of perpetuating this system is to mislead the people, keep alive their prejudices, appeal to their passions, and attract their attention from the real issues which affect their interests. The capitalists of the nation are aware that the newspaper is the most powerful agent to accomplish this object, and with this view he has obtained control of the Associated Press, and a majority of the prominent newspapers in the country. The proper mission of a newspaper is to educate the people, and encourage progress; to stimulate them to the attainment of a higher sphere in life; to teach them to cultivate the nobler instincts of manhood and womanhood; to encourage them in the cultivation of those noble qualities which will lead men to a condition of universal brotherhood; to admonish them against public wrongs and political corruption; to encourage the right and condemn the wrong. The newspaper that properly fills its mission is a public benefactor, a blessing to humanity. The newspaper that violates its trust, that misleads the people, and engenders and encourages strife, is a public curse. They should be looked upon as more dangerous than the deadliest serpent. They poison the public mind; they stand in the way of progress; they are dangerous to the public welfare and the liberties of the people. Members of labor organizations who aid in the support of these papers become, unconsciously, perhaps, participants in the great crimes which their influence seek to accomplish.
At no time, perhaps, does the press do greater injury than during the excitement incident to a political campaign. At this time many papers seem to utterly abandon all regard for truth, consistency and decency. It is during
the excitement preceding an election of any importance, almost impossible for the average voter to obtain from the newspapers an intelligent idea either of the candidate or the issues at stake. The most outrageous lying and misrepresentation is resorted to. Truth and decency is entirely lost sight of in the wild scramble for success. The whole vocabulary of epithets is brought into play and exhausted over and over again. Men who claim to be honest and truthful at other times and in other matters, will, during the excitement, publish the wildest and most outlandish statements if they think it will be of any advantage to their side. In these contests, the independent press and the independent voter the men who have severed their allegiance with their political party and there are thousands of them are subjected to the most trying ordeal. Ridicule, the strongest weapon of the press, is heaped upon them with a persistency that burns into their very souls. We have known men who have marched into the face of the cannon's mouth, while it was belching destruction from its iron jaws, without a tremor or the least sign of fear, who would cower before the weapon of ridicule. No expression is strong enough, no epithet is mean enough, that the press will not apply to those who honestly differ from them, and have the manhood to oppose what their better judgment tells them is pernicious and contrary to their interests.
Here is a specimen editorial in which free use is made of epithets:
"The idea of a few petty political sore-heads in this or any other section of the State presuming to dictate to the Democratic party, or to criticise its principles, and at the same time claiming to represent the wishes of the farmers the bone and sinew of our great nation is contemptible in the extreme, and a direct insult to the laboring classes. Their selfish designs are apparent to the
rattle-headed school-boy, and brand them as frauds 24 karats fine."
An attempt to extract any logic from the above clipping would be as futile as an effort to press the juice out of a common XX soda cracker. All reform movements have met with like opposition, but here in free America it would seem that the voter is only free to do, peaceably, what some self-appointed political boss tells him to do. If he exercises his own free will and does something that is not consistent with the political bosses' plan, he subjects himself to be called anything which said political boss or his satellites see fit to call him; and every political boss has his organ to aid him in this commendable work. We merely mention these things to call attention to the fact that if the reader ever expects to assume any independence of his own and protest against the domination of pothouse politicians and "potato lawyers," he may expect to have to bear a vast amount of abuse and ridicule.
The power of an epithet and ridicule to turn men away from reform movements is very great, and none know this better than the monopolist and his efficient servants, the professional politicians. When Christ was being scourged and mocked, the great and good Peter denied him. It is still within the memory of old men how the placards on Democratic parade wagons, "Fathers and brothers, save us from negro husbands," and the epithets, "Black Abolitionist" and "Northern Gorillas," retarded the growth of the Republican party. All men who are now pressing for industrial reform must expect nothing but kicks, cuffs and hard words. The work of reform is neither a pleasant or a profitable business, and the men who want an easy, lucrative employment had better not enter upon it it is better for themselves and for the party of reform that they stay with the boodlers. In fact, timid men had better confine themselves to their private business,
gather up what property they can transfer to their heirs, and then die and leave this rough, every-day world.
The opulent are slow to join the ranks of reform. The world is good enough for them; and they are at a loss to understand why anybody "kicks." They are called the "better class," and usually, they are good people. The timid man ardently desires to be rated with the better class, and, though at times his humanity pushes him into the ranks of the reformers, as soon as epithets are applied, he returns to the great column of the respectables.
For the benefit of any who think we have overdrawn the situation, we submit a few specimens from papers which we have in our possession, and copies of which can be seen at any time by those who have any doubts as to their being genuine. Here, for instance, is a definition of a Democrat, taken from the Sharp County Record of August 23, 1888.
"A true Democrat, who has the success of the party at heart, and has a child's excuse for not wanting to support the whole ticket, will ‘stand right up to business without hitching; will not kick, jump, nor pull back in the harness.’ That's the style of voter who goes in to win. That's the way to elect the Sharp county Democratic ticket. The voter who ‘scratches’ a name lacks just that much of being a Democrat. And when a ticket-scratcher puts his head up for office ever afterwards, he should get it soundly thumped till he gets back into the ranks and proves his mettle by voting a straight ticket. This is the doctrine."
Yes, sir! That is the doctrine. We presume that a Kansas editor could take the article and, by changing three words, make it a standard guage for a Republican.
Here is another from the Hot Springs News:
"If you are a Democrat, be one. Don't put your individual interests above that of your party. If you
aspire to office, do so as a Democrat, run as a Democrat, and accept the issue as a Democrat. Stand by your party and rely upon your party to stand by you. Don't go off after strange gods. Don't kick out of the harness. Don't desert the ranks and fight as an ‘independent’ a political bushwhacker. If you do you may expect every loyal Democrat to fight you as a worse enemy of Democracy than an avowed Republican."
Another very common practice with the partisan press, and one that has much influence in keeping men out of the reform ranks, is to style any independent reform movement as a trick of the other party. It is very natural for any party which is in a hopeless minority to support, to a great extent at least, any independent movement that will present an opportunity to defeat their old-time antagonists. This is frequently done when they have no representation whatever on the ticket, as was the case in Arkansas and Kansas in 1888. But the cry was raised in Arkansas that it was a "Republican trick," and in Kansas that it was a "Democratic trick."
During the campaign the State Central Committee of the Democratic party in Arkansas, published and issued to the voters an address, from which we quote the following:
"Your arch enemy, the Republicans, a party hurled from power in 1874, and time and again beaten and driven back in ignominious rout whenever he dared to raise his own standard in an open field, or fight beneath his own party colors, is now massing his columns in the dark, and drilling them in stealth behind the mask of the so-called ‘Union Labor’ party, * * a combination whose ultimate object is to foist upon the people of a great State a set of irresponsible and blatant demagogues, who, if once given the reins of power, would speedily degenerate into the miserable dupes, if not the willing tools, of the radical conspirators to whom they owed their election. Such has
been the disreputable outcome of every such combination that was ever made, and sooner or later it will be found that all roads out of the Democratic, lead into the Republican camp."
While this was being read and talked to the Democratic voters in Arkansas, the chairman of the Republican State Committee of Kansas was advising the Republicans to "give the Union Labor men h l, and speak on local issues only." The situation in that State was thus summed up by a correspondent to the St. Louis Republic:
"The present campaign is the most remarkable ever seen in the history of the State, and there is no longer any reason to doubt but that it marks the downfall of the Republican party in a State which has been one of its strongholds since its birth. Republican managers have tried, in vain, to check the growth of the Union Labor movement. This party, while professing to ignore the tariff issue, has made its converts from the ranks of the Republican party, and that by taking the issue against the Republican party on the tariff question. The reason for this stampede from the Republican party, in these agricultural regions, are obvious. The Union Labor party gets its strength from the rural districts, and the most remarkable fact is, that in whole townships, that were once largely Republican, there is now scarcely an adherent to the party left, but the towns will go Republican, as heretofore, but with decreased majorities. Labette county, which has always been the boasted "banner Republican county in the State," going over 1,000 Republican at the last election, gave the Union Labor ticket over 500 majority.
The situation has reduced the Republican managers to desperation within the past three weeks and a canvass of the State, which was completed a few days ago, showed that the Union Labor element had 5,000 majority. This
has made them resolved to die in the last ditch. Accordingly a few days ago a gigantic scheme was set on foot to show that this agriculturist party is a collossal band of Anarchists and that the entire State is permeated with red-handed dynamiters. Accordingly, on Thursday last, every State paper of any importance published what purported to be an expose of the rituals of a secret order, the principals of which are the leaders of the Union Labor party. This all purported to be sent out as a telegram from Win-field the day before, but each paper published a large ‘cut’ in connection with the alleged exposure, which showed that it was a desperate preconcerted plan in which the lesser lights are all expected to take up the cue and find a desperate gang of dynamiters in every hamlet and rural district throughout the State."
The dynamite referred to in the above article is alleged to have been furnished by some of the Republican managers, and placed in the express office for shipment, where it prematurely exploded, almost killing the wife and daughter of the express agent. The whole scheme was a farce, and the Legislature, when petitioned by the Union Labor people to investigate the conspiracy, refused to do so. Thus the press is used in every conceivable manner to dupe the people.
Another matter of the greatest importance to which we desire to ‘call the attention of the members of labor organizations, is the practice so universally prevalent of only reading one side of the question. It is a fact, well known to all, that many of our leading men, those who put themselves up as fit and qualified to enlighten the public on the great questions of the day, only post themselves on one side of the question. For instance, if the Republican party does anything wrong the Democratic papers are quick to expose it; and if the Democratic party does anything wrong, the Republican papers do likewise;
but neither side exposes or denounces the wrongs of their own party, but praise every laudable act. In this manner a Republican who reads only Republican papers, is cognizant of all the good, but none of the bad acts of his party; and all of the bad and none of the good acts of the Democratic, or opposing party. So with a Democrat who reads only Democratic papers; and the result is, that the great masses of the people have only a one-sided view of the situation, from which each insists that he is right. And like the knights of old, who met on opposite sides of a shield which was gold on one side and silver on the other, each one is right from their own knowledge; but if each would take the pains to inform himself from all sides, they might come to the conclusion that both were right, or, what would be more probable, that both were wrong. A man who is only posted from one side of a political question is no more qualified to cast an intelligent ballot than a juror who has only heard one side of a case in court is able to render a just verdict. This brings us to the conclusion, then, that the independent press is the best means of obtaining the information calculated to give us a proper understanding of the political situation.
Although the independent press is the best available means which the laborer can depend upon to represent his interests and enlighten him upon important matters, strangely enough, the people do not appreciate it to the extent of giving it that support which would render it more efficient. We frequently hear it complained of that the independent newspaper is not so full of news as some of the partisan papers. These men seem to forget or ignore the fact that it is a lack of support that usually causes it. Like all other kinds of business, to get a good newspaper requires money to buy material and pay for labor.
"The editors of labor papers, as a rule, are men
whose whole heart and soul is bound up in the cause of labor. They are induced to start a paper in their locality by the promise of support from their brother workmen. They start out small at first, because, being poor men, they have not the means to do otherwise. Their first issue appears, and then the second, but the men who have promised them their support are waiting to see whether the paper is going to be a success or not before they pay in their subscription, and while the little paper is struggling to secure a position in the newspaper field, those who should assist it are standing aloof and giving their money to their enemies, while the paper that is fighting their battles is left to go it alone or die with its swaddling clothes on.
"Go into any community and you will hear the laboring class cursing the capitalist papers for misrepresenting them before the public; but look into the houses of these same men and you will find on their tables the capitalist press, bought by their money. They will tell you that they want a good labor paper, but they will not give one cent to help make one. What they want is for some poor, honest fellow to start a paper, pay the expense of the same for a few years, increase its circulation to a hundred thousand without any subscribers, make it a blanket sheet with seventy-two columns of pure reading matter, all devoted to their interests, and then when it contains a few more lines of news than the capitalist sheets, they may be induced to take it, provided the editor will let them have it at first cost, and thus show that he is working for them only.
Now some may think this picture overdrawn, but there is not a labor editor in the country but what will tell you that there is more truth than poetry in it, so far as his experience is concerned. There might be a powerful labor press in this country if those for whom such papers are published would support them; and until the
laboring people realize this point, and act intelligently, they must expect to see themselves lied about and abused."
The persistency with which many of our agricultural and religious papers refuse to expose and denounce the numerous frauds and vicious systems which exist to the great detriment of the masses of the people, lead us to ask: Can it be possible that the influence indicated in the Buell bank circular has successfully been brought to bear upon them? Not only have some of these papers rendered themselves conspicuous for their silence in this particular, but, in many instances, have aided the subsidized political press in disseminating theories, and upholding practices that are at variance with the best interests of that class of persons which they claim to represent. In support of this declaration we quote the following from the Farming World, of Chicago, Ills.:
"The fallacy which is common to almost all labor organizations, and which the leaders and ‘walking delegates’ of these organizations generally do their utmost to propagate among workingmen, and that, too, for selfish purposes, consists in the assumption that there is a real conflict between the two classes represented by the terms ‘capital and labor.’ The term ‘capital’ means those who have an accumulated capital, and are engaged in some form of business that makes it necessary for them to become the employers of others, paying them wages for their labor. The term ‘labor’ means those who, not having capital which they can invest in any branch of business, have nothing to sell but their labor, and support themselves and their families out of the wages paid them by their employers. The one class want and need to buy labor, and the other class just as much want and need to sell labor. Both
classes, so far from being arrayed against each other, are supplementary to each other and mutually dependent upon each other. Neither can get along without the other. There is no just occasion for any war between them any more than between the buyers and sellers of commodities. Their interests are not conflicting, but coincident and mutually contributory.
"What is the rate of compensation that capital ought to pay to labor? How much shall the seller of labor receive from the employer for the service rendered by the former to the latter? There is only one practical answer to this question; and that answer, in the long run and as a general rule, will be more equitable than any other which it is possible to give, where buyers and sellers are left free to make their own bargains. The law of supply and demand, under free competition, will fix the price of labor as between buyers and sellers of labor, just as it fixes the price of all commodities that come into the market to be bought and sold. When the demand exceeds the supply of labor, wages will rise; and when the supply exceeds the demand, wages will just as naturally fall to a lower mark. When buyers compete with each other, prices necessarily advance; and when sellers compete .with each other they as necessarily go down. This has been the history of the world ever since men began to buy and sell; and it will continue to be its history through all time. The result is an average market price, which the buyer must pay and the seller must accept.
"All the labor organizations that were ever gotten up by men, cannot repeal this law, or put in its place any other law that would, on the whole, work better for the interests of human society, including all classes. Such organizations may, for a short period, force prices out of their natural course; but in the end they will come back again under the general law of supply and demand. Such
has been the fact in the past, and we conclude that it will be so in the future.
"The plain truth is, that capital and labor are naturally and necessarily co-operative, and not antagonistic. They have common interests; and work together, and must work together. All that capital needs is a free market in which to buy, and all that labor needs is a free market in which to sell. Give to both a free market without any coercion or constraint on either side, and each in serving itself will, under the natural laws of trade, serve the other. ‘Walking delegates’ and labor ‘strikes’ are a very poor remedy for regulating the rate of wages. They produce far more harm than good, and are a general curse to the best interests of society."
It would be much more appropriate for the above article to have appeared in some banker's magazine, or other paper devoted expressly to the interests of capital and monopoly. The theory contained in the above article proposes no adequate relief to the laboring man. Nothing can be more injurious than competition of labor when based upon the necessities of the laborer. The logical conclusion of the above theory may be summed up as follows: When men become too industrious they produce too much, and the supply becomes greater than the demand; then prices fall and hard times and suffering is the result. This is what so-called statesmen, or, as Carlyle has it, mis-statesmen, and the senile editor would call over-production. But just why a great surplus of necessities if such a thing is possible should result in the poverty and suffering of the producers, is a question which our mis-statesmen and senile editor has never yet satisfactorily explained. Labor and capital should not be at war with with each other, but that they are is a fact so evident that it requires either a great stretch of the imagination, or an utter disregard for the truth to claim otherwise.
The editor of the Farming World, however, makes some reparation for the appearance of the above article by exhibiting a deep solicitude for the laboring people of Europe, who have been reduced to pauperism by the same financial system that prevails in this country, and who are now required to support a large standing army to keep themselves in subjection.
"One very great advantage this country has over the nations of Europe is that it is unnecessary for it to keep up an immense standing army in order to keep peace with its neighbors. Although they are apparently at profound peace, the great powers of Europe are recruiting and drilling armies, building fortifications and war vessels, and making extensive military preparations as if war was imminent. And yet the rulers claim that they earnestly desire peace, and that all this is done simply to keep peace. Each nation seems to be striving to make its military strength so great that no other nation will dare attack it. To maintain peace in Europe on this plan, the five great powers now have twelve millions of armed men, and are still increasing the number. The public debts of European nations are constantly increasing, and it seems impossible that they can enjoy any great degree of prosperity while under the crushing weight of such an overgrown military system."
If the writer of the above article had taken the pains to learn what he ought to know before undertaking to enlighten the public, he would have discovered that the people of the United States contribute much more to the support of their "sitting army," than any of the nations of Europe do for their standing army, and that it is "impossible to enjoy any great degree of prosperity while under the weight o f such an overgrown" and vicious system of
class laws. With regard to the religious press we have but little to say. It is strange, indeed, that it does not resolutely combat the evils which must be apparent to all. If the same spirit which led our Savior to overturn the tables of the money-changers in the temple and drive them out, prevails to any great extent among the members of the religious press, they certainly cannot much longer refrain from raising their voices against the dangerous tendencies of the times.
As one of the great objects of labor organizations is to educate the members, they cannot afford to undervalue the importance of using every endeavor to select and sustain such papers as are devoted to their interests. The great and good Thomas Jefferson said that "Education was the only sure foundation that can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness," and that "the press is the best instrument in enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral and social being."
Says the Labor Sunbeam:
"The labor press is the right arm and strong bulwark of your defense. It stands between you and the evil powers. There is nothing like it in the whole world of thought and action. It speaks from the watch towers of free thought and common right. When danger is near it sounds the alarm. Courts and Legislatures listen, the people listen, and when anathema is needed it thunders in the tyrant's ears, and cries out ‘Let my people go free.’
"Nor is there any hope of reform unless the masses turn away from false teachers and a subsidized press. Labor papers are struggling for existence, while the subsidized tools of monopoly wallow in wealth that is created by the workers. Let the reform come by first supporting
the labor press and its patrons. Educate, organize, co-operate."
It would seem useless to add that it is the duty of the laboring men of America to study questions of political economy. Without a proper understanding of the principles of government, and the issues which relate to the proper and beneficial administration of its powers, and distribution of its enjoyments, the proud boast of the right of suffrage is but an empty privilege.
Morgan, W. Scott. History of the Wheel and Alliance and the Impending Revolution . Ft. Scott, KS: J.H. Rice & Sons, 1891. [format: book], [genre: history; narrative; proceedings]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=morgan.html