Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 1.djvu/47

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35
IS OUR REPUBLIC A FAILURE?

and leather. "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself" was not addressed to a modern corporation.

And it is not merely the employe whose rights and feelings are disregarded. The classic remark of a great captain of industry when the interests of the public were mentioned to him, was, "The public be damned." And that was merely a coarse and blunt expression of the actual spirit of nearly all corporate action. The legal fiction of a soulless corporation is the expression of a biting social fact. The corporation has no soul. It has no heart. It is only a brain and a muscular, grasping hand.

And so it is that in dealing with employes and in dealing with the public our corporations are in fact too often a tyranny remorseless as that against which our fathers rebelled in 1776.

Now, observe, I speak of corporations, not of their members. A man may have a conscience of his own. But it is a strange fact that in combined action the moral temperature of the mass is always lower than that of its individuals. Political parties as such do things which their component individuals would scorn. Nations in their intercourse today follow little more than the brutal principles of the middle ages. And the conscienceless tyranny of too many of our financial combinations is a tendency as inevitable as that of gravitation. It is not necessarily and only the product of the shameless wickedness of the units of the corporation. When an express train thunders over the shrinking form of a child who has fallen on the tracks, it crushes remorselessly the quivering flesh and the tender bones and the thrilling nerves. The pity of it—the pity of it! And yet vituperation at the engineer, or the conductor, or the directors, is idle. See if blame rests on them, surely. But turn your best energies to finding a device such that hereafter a child cannot fall on the track.

There is another form of modern tyranny in our republic. The union of employes is as inevitable as the union of capital. Labor organizations and corporations are the two poles of the modern industrial world. And no one can deny that in union the laboring man has found strength.