Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/54

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

powerful ownership of the telegraph lines of the United States has resulted in the steady improvement of the service (the sending of four messages at once upon a single wire and in opposite directions being not the greatest of these improvements). Perhaps Mr. Hudson thinks that these improvements would have been more patriotically used if the inventors had employed them to break down, instead of to aggrandize and strengthen, the "monopoly." But unless Mr. Hudson dreams of a paradise where inventors seek not to be paid, are not stimulated to activity by hope of reward (if, that is, he writes for his contemporaries and not for an ideal republic), he must be aware of the impossibility of legislating away the inducements to human industry or the instinct of men to prefer worldly prosperity and bank accounts to poverty and dependence. Had these inventions been used to break down existing companies, the result would have been finally the same. They would have been purchased by the strongest purse. But the inventor would first have been ruined. But Mr. Hudson, for one, still writes. Such propositions as that there is not a dollar of capital in the United States which does not represent somebody's labor and somebody's self-denial, or that every dollar which accrues in profit to-day to the railroads or other great corporate interests of this country represents from two hundred to three hundred dollars paid directly, and in cash, to the wage-workers (the very men for whom Mr. Hudson assumes to speak)—such propositions, I say, do not deter him in the least, nor do I anticipate that they ever will. If the corporations of the United States (chartered by the people of the United States for transportation, manufacturing, and other purposes), in endeavoring to keep abreast of the commerce and trade of the people of the United States, have grown to such enormous proportions as to attract the envy and enmity of those not holding their securities, I respectfully submit that that is no reason why those corporations should be punished, or their interests wrecked, embarrassed, or confiscated, Mr. Hudson to the contrary notwithstanding.

The fact—the truth is, that (however it may be in other countries) the accumulation of wealth and centralization of commerce in great combinations has never, in the United States, been a source of oppression or of poverty to the non-capitalist or wage-worker. The greatest oppressors of the poor, to the contrary, are not always the largest corporations. It is quite as likely, for example, to be a small Chatham Street haberdasher (who himself struggles against the bottom prices of his next-door "puller-in"), as a Broadway furnishing company, who pays a starved seamstress three cents apiece for making shirts, and holds a chattel mortgage on her sewing-machine as security