limit of liability? If the corporation incurs debts exceeding its liability, legislation can never make those debts less; at best it but relieves the stockholders, and makes the trusting public stand the losses of the untrusting capitalist, and throws upon the shoulders of the innocent the debts of the careless or dishonest.
But the indictment against the corporation does not end with complaints of its arrogance and unjust and dishonest methods; but its impersonal relation to society and labor is a source of growing irritation, and threatens to make the labor question a most perplexing problem. In transferring the liability from the individual to the certificates of stock, personal responsibility was extinguished. The importance or standing of a stockholder no longer depends upon his wisdom, his uprightness, or integrity, but upon the amount of his stock; and, wherever the stock is found, there the authority and liability reside, notwithstanding the stock may be yours to-day and mine to-morrow. Corporations having no personality have neither moral nor social obligations, which are, or should be, imposed on all alike; but not only are they thus relieved of duties, but even the legal liability is a limited one only.
Stockholders, screened behind their stock, will vote measures toward their workmen which they would never dare to enforce as individuals, for then they would subject themselves to the moral condemnation which unjust and ill-considered action merits; but this impersonal relation of capital has introduced into our industrial system a state of affairs resembling that of absentee landlordism in Ireland, in which the manager acts the part of "my lord's agent."
The stockholders of a corporation may be scattered over every portion of the country or even throughout the world, and their interests are in the hands of managers who best show their worth by increased dividends, and, instead of serving as connecting links between capital and labor, they more frequently serve as severing wedges. It is by no means infrequent that men's wages are reduced dimes per day to increase the earnings, while the manager's salary is increased thousands per year as a reward for his fidelity. In this manner cheerful loyalty is giving place to a spiritless, sullen performance of duty. Is it any wonder that a bitterness is being engendered against capital as such?—for, when divested of personality, personal contact and, therefore, personal feeling are impossible. In the course of twenty years' experience, I have seen cheerful compliance grow into indifference, and that indifference gradually turn into feelings of smothered hostility.
This want of personality is also debauching public morals, and juries will render verdicts against corporations in spite of facts and the law. Interests which should be mutual forces which