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Some Interrogation Points

Robert Green Ingersoll

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          Contents of this file                            page

     SOME INTERROGATION POINTS.                              1

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          Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

                The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL

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     A new party is struggling for recognition -- a party with
leaders who are not politicians, with followers who are not seekers
after place. Some of those who suffer and some of those who
sympathize, have combined. Those who feel that they are oppressed
are organized for the purpose of redressing their wrongs. The
workers for wages, and the seekers for work have uttered a protest.
This party is an instrumentality for the accomplishment of certain
things that are very near and very dear to the hearts of many

     The object to be attained is a fairer division of Profits
between employers and employed. There is a feeling that in some way
the workers should not want -- that the industrious should not be
the indigent. There is a hope that men and women and children are
not forever to be the victims of ignorance and want -- that the
tenement house is not always to be the home of the poor, or the
gutter the nursery of their babes.

     As yet, the methods for the accomplishment of these aims have
not been agreed upon. Many theories have been advanced and none has
been adopted. The question is so vast, so complex, touching human
interests in so many ways, that no one has yet been great enough to
furnish a solution, or, if any one has furnished a solution, no one
else has been wise enough to understand it.

     The hope of the future is that this question will finally be
understood. It must not be discussed in anger. If a broad and
comprehensive view is to be taken, there is no place for hatred or
for prejudice. Capital is not to blame. Labor is not to blame. Both
have been caught in the net of circumstances. The rich are, as
generous as the poor would be if they should change places. Men
acquire through the noblest and the tenderest instincts. They work
and save not only for themselves, but for their wives and for their
children. There is but little confidence in the charity of the
world. The prudent man in his youth makes preparation for his age.
The loving father, having struggled himself, hopes to save his
children from drudgery and toil.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


     In every country there are classes -- that is to say, the
spirit of caste, and this spirit will exist until the world is
truly civilized. Persons in most communities are judged not as
individuals, but as members of a class. Nothing is more natural,
and nothing more heartless. These lines that divide hearts on
account of clothes or titles, are growing more and more indistinct,
and the philanthropists, the lovers of the human race, believe that
the time is coming when they will be obliterated. We may do away
with kings and peasants, and yet there may still be the rich and
poor, the intelligent and foolish. the beautiful and deformed, the
industrious and idle, and it may be, the honest and vicious. These
classifications are in the nature of things. They are produced for
the most part by forces that are now beyond the control of man --
but the old rule, that men are disreputable in the proportion that
they are useful, will certainly be reversed. The idle lord was
always held to be the superior of the industrious peasant, the
devourer better than the producer, and the waster superior to the

     While in this country we have no titles of nobility, we have
the rich and the poor -- no princes, no peasants, but millionaires
and mendicants. The individuals composing these classes are
continually changing. The rich of to-day may be the poor of to-
morrow, and the children of the poor may take their places. In this
country, the children of, the poor are educated substantially in
the same schools with those of the rich. All read the same papers,
many of the same books, and all for many years hear the same
questions discussed. They are continually being educated, not only
at schools, but by the press, by political campaigns, by perpetual
discussions on public questions, and the result is that those who
are rich in gold are often poor in thought, and many who have not
whereon to lay their heads have within those heads a part of the
intellectual wealth of the world.

     Years ago the men of wealth were forced to contribute toward
the education of the children of the poor. The support of schools
by general taxation was defended on the ground that it was a means
of providing for the public welfare, of perpetuating the
institutions of a free country by making better men and women. This
policy has been pursued until at last the schoolhouse is larger
than the church, and the common people through education have
become uncommon. They now know how little is really known by what
are called the upper classes -- how little after all is understood
by kings, presidents, legislators, and men of culture. They are
capable not only of understanding a few questions, but they have
acquired the art of discussing those that no one understands. With
the facility of politicians they can hide behind phrases, make
barricades of statistics, and chevaux-de-frise of inferences and
assertions. They understand the sophistries of those who have

     In some respects these common people are the superiors of the
so-called aristocracy. While the educated have been turning their
attention to the classics, to the dead languages, and the dead
ideas and mistakes that they contain -- while they have been giving
their attention to ceramics, artistic decorations, and compulsory

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


prayers, the common people have been compelled to learn the
practical things -- to become acquainted with facts -- by doing the
work of the world. The professor of a college is no longer a match
for a master mechanic. The master mechanic not only understands
principles, but their application. He knows things as they are. He
has come in contact with the actual, with realities. He knows
something of the adaptation of means to ends, and this is the
highest and most valuable form of education. The men who make
locomotives, who construct the vast engines that propel ships,
necessarily know more than those who have spent their lives in
conjugating Greek verbs, looking for Hebrew roots, and discussing
the origin and destiny of the universe.

     Intelligence increases wants. By education the necessities of
the people become increased. The old wages will not supply the new
wants. Man longs for a harmony between the thought within and the
things without. When the soul lives in a palace the body is not
satisfied with rags and patches. The glaring inequalities among
men, the differences in condition, the suffering and the poverty,
have appealed to the good and great of every age, and there has
been in the brain of the philanthropist a dream -- a hope, a
prophecy, of a better day.

     It was believed that tyranny was the foundation and cause of
the differences between men -- that the rich were all robbers and
the poor all victims, and that if a society or government could be
founded on equal rights and privileges, the inequalities would
disappear, that all would have food and clothes and reasonable work
and reasonable leisure, and that content would be found by every

     There was a reliance on nature -- an idea that men had
interfered with the harmonious action of great principles which if
left to themselves would work out universal well-being for the
human race. Others imagined that the inequalities between men were
necessary -- that they were part of a divine plan, and that all
would be adjusted in some other world -- that the poor here would
be the rich there, and the rich here might be in torture there.
Heaven became the reward of the poor, of the slave, and hell their

     When our Government was established it was declared that all
men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,
among which were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It
was then believed that if all men had an equal opportunity, if they
were allowed to make and execute their own laws, to levy their own
taxes, the frightful inequalities seen in the despotisms and
monarchies of the old world would entirely disappear. This was the
dream of 1776. The founders of the Government knew how kings and
princes and dukes and lords and barons had lived upon the labor of
the peasants. They knew the history of those ages of want and
crime, of luxury and suffering. But in spite of our Declaration, in
spite of our Constitution, in spite of universal suffrage, the
inequalities still exist. We have the kings and princes, the lords
and peasants, in fact, if not in name. Maniplies, corporations,
capitalists, workers for wages, have taken their places, and we are
forced to admit that even universal suffrage cannot clothe and feed
the world.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


     For thousands of years men have been talking and writing about
the great law of supply and demand -- and insisting that in some
way this mysterious law has governed and will continue to govern
the activities of the human race. It is admitted that this law is
merciless -- that when the demand fails, the producer, the laborer,
must suffer, must perish -- that the law feels neither pity nor
malice -- it simply acts, regardless of consequences. Under this
law, capital will employ the cheapest. The single man can work for
less than the married. Wife and children are luxuries not to be
enjoyed under this law. The ignorant have fewer wants than the
educated, and for this reason can afford to work for less. The
great law will give employment to the single and to the ignorant in
preference to the married and intelligent. The great law has
nothing to do with food or clothes, with filth or crime. It cares
nothing for homes, for penitentiaries, or asylums. It simply acts
-- and some men triumph, some succeed, some fail and some, perish.

     Others insist that the curse of the world is monopoly. And
yet, as long as some men are stronger than others, as long as some
are more intelligent than others, they must be, to the extent of
such advantage, monopolists. Every man of genius is a monopolist.

     We are told that the great remedy against monopoly -- that is
to say, against extortion, is free and unrestricted competition.
But after all, the history of this world shows that the brutalities
of competition are equaled only by those of monopoly. The
successful competitor becomes a monopolist, and if competitors fail
to destroy each other, the instinct of self-preservation suggests
a combination. In other,words, competition is a struggle between
two or more persons or corporations for the purpose of determining
which shall have the uninterrupted privilege of extortion.

     In this country the people have had the greatest reliance on
competition, If a railway company charged too much a rival road was
built. As a matter of fact, we are indebted for half the railroads
of the United States to the extortion of the other half, and the
same may truthfully be said of telegraph lines. As a rule, while
the exactions of monopoly constructed new roads and new lines,
competition has either destroyed the weaker, or produced the pool
which is a means of keeping both monopolies alive, or of producing
a new monopoly with greater needs, supplied by methods more
heartless than the old. When a rival road is built the people
support the rival because the fares and freights are somewhat less.
Then the old and richer monopoly inaugurates war, and the people,
glorying in the benefits of competition, are absurd enough to
support the old. In a little while the new company, unable to
maintain the contest, left by the people at the mercy of the
stronger, goes to the wall, and the triumphant monopoly proceeds to
make the intelligent people pay not only the old price, but enough
in addition to make up for the expenses of the contest.

     Is there any remedy for this? None, except with the people
themselves. When the people become intelligent enough to support
the rival at a reasonable price; when they know enough to allow
both roads to live; when they are intelligent enough to recognize
a friend and to stand by that friend as against a known enemy, this
question will be at least on the edge of a solution.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


     So far as I know, this course has never been pursued except in
one instance, and that is the present war between the Gould and
Mackay cables. The Gould system had been charging from sixty to
eighty cents a word, and the Mackay system charged forty. Then the
old monopoly tried to induce the rival to put the prices back to
sixty. The rival refused, and thereupon the Gould combination
dropped to twelve and a half, for the purpose of destroying the
rival. The Mackay cable fixed the tariff at twenty-five cents,
saying to its customers, "You are intelligent enough to understand
what this war means. If our cables are defeated, the Gould system
will go back not only to the old price, but will add enough to
reimburse itself for the cost of destroying us. If you really wish
for competition, if you desire a reasonable service at a reasonable
rate, You will support us." Fortunately an exceedingly intelligent
class of people does business by the cables. They are merchants,
bankers, and brokers, dealing with large amounts, with intricate,
complicated, and international questions. Of necessity, they are
used to thinking for themselves. They are not dazzled into
blindness by the glare of the present. They see the future. They
are not duped by the sunshine of a moment or the promise of an
hour. They see beyond the horizon of a penny saved. These people
had intelligence enough to say, "The rival who stands between us
and extortion is our friend, and our friend shall not be allowed to

     Does not this tend to show that people must depend upon
themselves, and that some questions can be settled by the
intelligence of those who buy, of those who use, and that customers
are not entirely helpless?

     Another thing should not be forgotten, and that is this: there
is the same war between monopolies that there is between
individuals, and the monopolies for many years have been trying to
destroy each other. They have unconsciously been working for the
extinction of monopolies. These monopolies differ as individuals
do. You find among them the rich and the poor, the lucky and the
unfortunate, millionaires and tramps. The great monopolies have
been devouring the little ones.

     Only a few years ago, the railways in this country were
controlled by local directors and local managers. The people along
the lines were interested in the stock. As a consequence, whenever
any legislation was threatened hostile to the interests of these
railways, they had local friends who used their influence with
legislators, governors and juries. During this time they were
protected, but when the hard times came many of these companies
were unable to pay their interest. They suddenly became Socialists.
They cried out against their prosperous rivals. They felt like
joining the Knights of Labor. They began to talk about rights and
wrongs. But in spite of their cries, they have passed into the
hands of the richer roads -- they were seized by the great
monopolies. Now the important railways are owned by persons living
in large cities or in foreign countries. They have no local
friends, and when the time comes, and it may come, for the General
Government to say how much these companies shall charge for
passengers and freight, they will have no local friends. It may be
that the great mass of the people will then be on the other side.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


So that after all, the great corporations have been busy settling
the question against themselves.

     Possibly a majority of the American people believe to-day that
in some way all these questions between capital and labor can be
settled by constitutions, laws, and judicial decisions. Most people
imagine that a statute is a sovereign specific for any evil. But
while the theory has all been one way, the actual experience has
been the other -- just as the free traders have all the arguments
and the protectionists most of the facts.

     The truth is, as Mr. Buckle says, that for five hundred years
all real advance in legislation has been made by repealing laws. Of
one thing we must be satisfied, and that is that real monopolies
have never been controlled by law, but the fact that such
monopolies exist, is a demonstration that the law has been
controlled. In our country, legislators are for the most part
controlled by those who, by their wealth and influence, elect them.
The few, in reality, cast the votes of the many, and the few
influence the ones voted for by the many. Special interests, being
active, secure special legislation, and the object of special
legislation is to create a kind of monopoly -- that is to say, to
get some advantage. Chiefs, barons, priests, and kings ruled,
robbed, destroyed, and duped, and their places have been taken by
corporations, monopolists, and politicians. The large fish still
live on the little ones, and the fine theories have as yet failed
to change the condition of mankind.

     Law in this country is effective only when it is the recorded
will of a majority. When the zealous few get control of the
Legislature, and laws are passed to prevent Sabbath-breaking, or
wine-drinking, they succeed only in putting their opinions and
provincial prejudices in legal phrase. There was a time when men
worked from fourteen to sixteen hours a day. These hours have not
been lessened, they have not been shortened by law. The law has
followed and recorded, but the law is not a leader and not a
prophet. It appears to be impossible to fix wages -- just as
impossible as to fix the values of all manufactured things,
including works of art. The field is too great, the problem too
complicated, for the human mind to grasp.

     To fix the value of labor is to fix all values -- labor being
the foundation of all values. The value of labor cannot be fixed
unless we understand the relations that all things bear to each
other and to man. If labor were a legal tender -- if a judgment for
so many dollars could be discharged by so many days of labor, --
and the law was that twelve hours of work should be reckoned as one
day, then the law could change the hours, to ten or eight, and the
judgments could be paid in the shortened days. But it is easy to
see that in all contracts made after the passage of such a law, the
difference in hours would be taken into consideration.

     We must remember that law is not a creative force. It produces
nothing. It raises neither corn nor wine. The legitimate object of
law is to protect the weak, to prevent violence and fraud, and to
enforce honest contracts, to the end that each person may be free
to do as he desires, provided only that he does not interfere with

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the rights of others. Our fathers tried to make people religious by
law. They failed. Thousands are now trying to make people temperate
in the same manner. Such efforts always have been and probably
always will be failures. People who believe that an infinite God
gave to the Hebrews a perfect code of laws, must admit that even
this code failed to civilize the inhabitants of Palestine.

     It seems impossible to make people just or charitable or
industrious or agreeable or successful, by law, any more than you
can make them physically perfect or mentally sound. Of course we
admit that good people intend to make good laws, and that good laws
faithfully and honestly executed, tend to the preservation of human
rights and to the elevation of the race, but the enactment of a law
not in accordance with a sentiment already existing in the minds
and hearts of the people -- the very people who are depended upon
to enforce this law -- is not a help, but a hindrance. A real law
is but the expression, in an authoritative and accurate form, of
the judgment and desire of the majority. As we become intelligent
and kind, this intelligence and kindness find expression in law.

     But how is it possible to fix the wages of every man? To fix
wages is to fix prices, and a government to do this intelligently,
would necessarily have to have the wisdom generally attributed to
an infinite Being. It would have to supervise and fix the
conditions of every exchange of commodities  and the value of every
conceivable thing. Many things can be accomplished by law.
Employers may be held responsible for injuries to the employed. The
mines can be ventilated. Children can be rescued from the
deformities of toil -- burdens taken from the backs of wives and
mothers -- houses made wholesome food healthful -- that  is to say,
the weak can be protected from the strong, the honest from the
vicious, honest contracts can be enforced, and many rights

     The men who have simply strength, muscle, endurance, compete
not only with other men of strength, but with the inventions of
genius. What would doctors say if physicians of iron could be
invented with curious cogs and wheels, so that when a certain
button was touched the proper prescription would be written? How
would lawyers feel if a lawyer could be invented in such a way that
questions of law, being put in a kind of hopper and a crank being
turned, decisions of the highest court could be prophesied without
failure? And how would the ministers feel if somebody should invent
a clergyman of wood that would to all intents and purposes answer
the purpose?

     Invention has filled the world with the competitors not only
of laborers, but of mechanics -- mechanics of the highest skill.
To-day the ordinary laborer is for the most part a cog in a wheel.
He works with the tireless -- he feeds the insatiable. When the
monster stops the man is out of employment, out of bread. He has
not saved anything. The machine that he fed was not feeding him,
was not working for him -- the invention was not for his benefit.
The other day I heard a man say that it was almost impossible for
thousands of good mechanics to get employment, and that, in his
judgment, the Government ought to furnish work for the people. A
few minutes after, I heard another say that he was selling a patent

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


for cutting out clothes, that one of his machines could do the work
of twenty tailors, and that only the week before he bad sold two to
a great house in New York, and that over forty cutters had been

     On every side men are being discharged and machines are being
invented to take their places. When the great factory shuts down,
the workers who inhabited it and gave it life, as thoughts do the
brain, go away and it stands there like an empty skull. A few
workmen, by the force of habit, gather about the closed doors and
broken windows and talk about distress, the price of food and the
coming winter. They are convinced that they have not had their
share of what their labor created. They feel certain that the
machines inside were not their friends. They look at the mansion of
the employer and think of the places where they live. They have
saved nothing -- nothing but themselves. The employer seems to have
enough. Even when employers fail, when they become bankrupt, they
are far better off than the laborers ever were. Their worst is
better than the toilers' best.

     The capitalist comes forward with his specific. He tells the
workingman that he must be economical -- and yet, under the present
system, economy would only lessen wages. Under the great law of
supply and demand every saving, frugal, self-denying workingman is
unconsciously doing what little he can to reduce the compensation
of himself and his fellows. The slaves who did not wish to run away
helped fasten chains on those who did. So the saving mechanic is a
certificate that wages are high enough. Does the great law demand
that every worker live on the least possible amount of bread? Is it
his fate to work one day, that he may get enough food to be able to
work another? Is that to be his only hope -- that and death?

     Capital has always claimed and still claims the right to
combine. Manufacturers meet and determine upon prices, even in
spite of the great law of supply and demand. Have the laborers the
same right to consult and combine? The rich meet in the bank, the
clubhouse, or parlor. Workingmen, when they combine, gather in the
street. All the organized forces of society are against them.
Capital has the army and the navy, the legislative, the judicial,
and the executive departments. When the rich combine, it is for the
purpose of "exchanging ideas." When the poor combine, it is a
"conspiracy." If they act in concert, if they really do something,
it is a "mob." If they defend themselves, it is "treason." How is
it that the rich control the departments of government? In this
country the political power is equally divided among the men. There
are certainly more poor than there are rich. Why should the rich
control? Why should not the laborers combine for the purpose of
controlling the executive, legislative, and judicial departments?
Will they ever find how powerful they are?

     In every country there is a satisfied class -- too satisfied
to care. They are like the angels in heaven, who are never
disturbed by the miseries of earth. They are too happy to be
generous. This satisfied class asks no questions and answers none.
They believe the world is as it should be. All reformers are simply
disturbers of the peace. When they talk low, they should not be
listened to; when they talk loud, they should be suppressed.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


     The truth is to-day what it always has been -- what it always
will be -- those who feel are the only ones who think. A cry comes
from the oppressed, from the hungry, from the down-trodden, from
the unfortunate, from men who despair and from women who weep.
There are times when mendicants become revolutionists -- when a rag
becomes a banner, under which the noblest and bravest battle for
the right.

     How are we to settle the unequal contest between men and
machines? Will the machine finally go into partnership with the
laborer? Can these forces of nature be controlled for the benefit
of her suffering children? Will extravagance keep pace with
ingenuity? Will the workers become intelligent enough and strong
enough to be the owners of the machines? Will these giants, these
Titans, shorten or lengthen the hours of labor? Will they give
leisure to the industrious, or will they make the rich richer. and
the poor poorer?

     Is man involved in the "general scheme of things"? Is there no
pity, no mercy? Can man become intelligent enough to be generous,
to be just; or does the same law or fact control him that controls
the animal and vegetable world? The great oak steals the sunlight
from the smaller trees. The strong animals devour the weak --
everything eating something else -- everything at the mercy of beak
and claw and hoof and tooth -- of hand and club, of brain and greed
-- inequality, injustice, everywhere.

     The poor horse standing in the street with his dray, over-
worked, over-whipped, and under-fed, when he sees other horses
groomed to mirrors, glittering with gold and silver, scorning with
proud feet the very earth, probably indulges in the usual
socialistic reflections, and this same horse, worn out and old,
deserted by his master, turned into the dusty road, leans his head
on the topmost rail, looks at donkeys in a field of clover, and,
feels like a Nihilist.

     In the days of savagery the strong devoured the weak --
actually ate their flesh. In spite of all the laws that man has
made, in spite of all advance in science, literature and art, the
strong, the cunning, the heartless still live on the weak, the
unfortunate, and foolish. True, they do not eat their flesh, they
do not drink their blood, but they live on their labor, on their
self-denial, their weariness and want. The poor man who deforms
himself by toil, who labors for wife and child through all his
anxious, barren, wasted life -- who goes to the grave without even
having had one luxury -- has been the food of others. He has been
devoured by his fellow-men. The poor woman living in the bare and
lonely room, cheerless and fireless, sewing night and day to keep
starvation from a child, is slowly being eaten by her fellow-men.
When I take into consideration the agony of civilized life -- the
number of failures, the poverty, the anxiety, the tears, the
withered hopes, the bitter realities, the hunger, the crime, the
humiliation, the shame I am almost forced to say that cannibalism,
after all, is the most merciful form in which man has ever lived
upon his fellow-man.

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


     Some of the best and purest of our race have advocated what is
known as Socialism. They have not only taught, but, what is much
more to the purpose, have believed that a nation should be a
family; that the government should take care of all its children;
that it should provide work and food and clothes and education for
all, and that it should divide the results of all labor equitably
with all.

     Seeing the inequalities among men, knowing of the destitution
and crime, these men were willing to sacrifice, not only their own
liberties, but the liberties of all.

     Socialism seems to be one of the worst possible forms of
slavery. Nothing, in my judgment, would so utterly paralyze all the
forces, all the splendid ambitions and aspirations that now tend to
the civilization of man. In ordinary systems of slavery there are
some masters, a few are supposed to be free; but in a socialistic
state all would be slaves.

     If the government is to provide work it must decide for the
worker what he must do. It must say who shall chisel statues, who
shall paint pictures, who shall compose music, and who shall
practice the professions. Is any government, or can any government,
be capable of intelligently performing these countless rituals? It
must not only control work, it must not only decide what each shall
do, but it must control expenses, because expenses bear a direct
relation to products. Therefore the government must decide what the
worker shall eat and wherewithal he shall be clothed; the kind of
house in which he shall live; the manner in which it shall be
furnished, and, if this government furnishes the work, it must
decide on the days or the hours of leisure. More than this, it must
fix values; it must decide not only who shall sell, but who shall
buy, and the price that must be paid -- and it must fix this value
not simply upon the labor, but on everything that can be produced,
that can be exchanged or sold.

     Is it possible to conceive of a despotism beyond this? The
present condition of the world is bad enough, with its poverty and
ignorance, but it is far better than it could by any possibility be
under any government like the one described. There would be less
hunger of the body, but not of the mind. Each man would simply be
a citizen of a large penitentiary, and, as in every well regulated
prison, somebody would decide what each should do. The inmates of
a prison retire early; they rise with the sun; they have something
to eat; they are not dissipated; they have clothes; they attend
divine service; they have but little to say about their neighbors;
they do not suffer from cold; their habits are excellent, and yet,
no one envies their condition. Socialism destroys the family. The
children belong to the state. Certain officers take the places of
parents. Individuality is lost.

     The human race cannot afford to exchange its liberty for any
possible comfort. You remember the old fable of the fat dog that
met the lean wolf in the forest. The wolf, astonished to see so
prosperous an animal, inquired of the dog where he got his food,
and the dog told him that there was a man who took care of him,
gave him his breakfast, his dinner, and his supper with the utmost

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


regularity, and that he had all that he could eat and very little
to do. The wolf said, "Do you think this man would treat me as he
does you?" The dog replied, "Yes, come along with me." So they
jogged on together toward the dog's home. On the way the wolf
happened to notice that some hair was worn off the dog's neck, and
he said, "How did the hair become worn?" "That is," said the dog,
"the mark of the collar -- my master ties me at night." "Oh," said
the wolf, "Are you chained? Are you deprived of your liberty? I
believe I will go back. I prefer hunger."

     It is impossible for any man with a good heart to be satisfied
with this world as it now is. No one can truly enjoy even what he
earns -- what he knows to be his own -- knowing that millions of
his fellow-men are in misery and want. When we think of the
famished we feel that it is almost heartless to eat. To meet the
ragged and shivering makes one almost ashamed to be well dressed
and warm -- one feels as though his heart was as cold as their

     In a world filled with millions and millions of acres of land
waiting to be tilled, where one man can raise the food for
hundreds, millions are on the edge of famine. Who can comprehend
the stupidity at the bottom of this truth?

     Is there to be no change? Are "the law of supply and demand,"
invention and science, monopoly and competition, capital and
legislation always to be the enemies of those who toil?

     Will the workers always be ignorant enough and stupid enough
to give their earnings for the useless? Will they support millions
of soldiers to kill the sons of other workingmen? Will they always
build temples for ghosts and phantoms, and live in huts and dens
themselves? Will they forever allow parasites with crowns, and
vampires with maitres, to live upon their blood? Will they remain
the slaves of the beggars they support? How long will they be
controlled by friends who seek favors, and by reformers who want
office? Will they always prefer famine in the city to a feast in
the fields? Will they ever feel and know that they have no right to
bring children into this world that they cannot support? Will they
use their intelligence for themselves, or for others? Will they
become wise enough to know that they cannot obtain their own
liberty by destroying that of others? Will they finally see that
every man has a right to choose his trade, his profession, his
employment, and has the right to work when, and for whom, and for
what he will? Will they finally say that the man who has had equal
privileges with all others has no right to complain, or will they
follow the example that has been set by their oppressors? Will they
learn that force, to succeed, must have a thought behind it, and
that anything done, in order that it may endure, must rest upon the
corner-stone of justice?

     Will they, at the command of priests, forever extinguish the
spark that sheds a little light in every brain? Will they ever
recognize the fact that labor, above all things, is honorable --
that it is the foundation of virtue? Will they understand that
beggars cannot be generous, and that every healthy man must earn
the right to live? Will honest men stop taking off their hats to

                         Bank of Wisdom
                  Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


successful fraud? Will industry, in the presence of crowned
idleness, forever fall upon its knees, and will the lips unstained
by lies forever kiss the robed impostors hand?

               North American Review, March, 1887.


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