Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/60

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56
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES
VIII
By Professor CHARLES F. EMERICK
SMITH COLLEGE

The Current Trend of Affairs. III

No feature of the present era is more full of promise than the growing strength of the working classes. The gain in self-respect, political influence, ability to cooperate and capacity for self-help during the nineteenth century is almost beyond belief. This is notably true where the working classes occupy a strategic position in bargaining with their employers, as in the building trades and in connection with railways. Quite the reverse of the progressive deterioration of the masses predicted by some prophets of disaster is taking place. The rank and file of society is the recruiting ground of so much that is best among our political and industrial leaders that it is obviously the mainstay of our civilization. If any one thing has been clearly demonstrated it is the capacity of the man of humble origin to make good in a surprising number of instances if he is only given a chance. It is a mistake to associate the working-class movement with turbulence and disorder to the exclusion of the fortitude and self-sacrifice displayed in attaining its ends. The acts of lawlessness are, after all, sporadic, and are so generally recognized as anti-social that society can usually be depended upon to suppress them with a firm hand. Unfortunately, there is less certainty that the community possesses the foresight, patience and resolution necessary to deal intelligently with the straitened circumstances and conditions out of which lawlessness springs. Among the factors that are welding together the diverse linguistic, racial and religious elements that come to us from other lands, few are as influential as the labor movement. The independence and self-reliance of working people, and the quickness with which they resent an insult, are common subjects of remark among employers of domestic and of other help. The point of view of the employer is easy enough to understand, but it calls attention to a situation that is socially hopeful. Even from the standpoint of employers, a working class that knows its rights and dares maintain them is to be preferred to one that is servilely submissive. It puts employers on their mettle and under bonds of good behavior. Much as socialism, when it goes to certain extremes, is to be feared, it renders wealth less arrogant in its demands, makes powerfully for the correction