"That is, of course, very easily understood. Indeed, doctor, you must not suppose that my contemporaries were wholly without feeling on this subject. Long before the Revolution was dreamed of there were a great many persons of my acquaintance who owned to serious qualms over flesh-eating, and perhaps the greater part of refined persons were not without pangs of conscience at various times over the practice. The trouble was, there really seemed nothing else to do. It was just like our economic system. Humane persons generally admitted that it was very bad and brutal, and yet very few could distinctly see what the world was going to replace it with. You people seem to have succeeded in perfecting a cuisine without using flesh, and I admit it is every way more satisfactory than ours was, but you can not imagine how absolutely impossible the idea of getting on without the use of animal food looked in my day, when as yet nothing definite had been suggested to take its place which offered any reasonable amount of gratification to the palate, even if it provided the means of aliment."
"I can imagine the difficulty to some extent. It was, as you say, like that which so long hindered the change of economic systems. People could not clearly realize what was to take its place. While one's mouth is full of one flavor it is difficult to imagine another. That lack of constructive imagination on the part of the mass is the obstacle that has stood in the way of removing every ancient evil, and made necessary a wave of revolutionary force to do the work. Such a wave of feeling as I have described was needful in this case to do away with the immemorial habit of flesh-eating. As soon as the new attitude of men's minds took away their taste for flesh, and there was a demand that had to be satisfied for some other and adequate sort of food, it seems to have been very promptly met."
"From what source?"
"Of course," replied the doctor, "chiefly from the vegetable world, though by no means wholly. There had never been any serious attempt before to ascertain what its provisions for food actually were, still less what might be made of them by scientific treatment. Nor, as long as there was no objection to killing some animal and appropriating without trouble the benefit of its experiments, was there likely to be. The rich lived chiefly on flesh. As for the working masses, which had always drawn their vigor mainly from vegetables, nobody of the influential classes cared to make their lot more agreeable. Now, however, all with one consent set about inquiring what sort of a table Nature might provide for men who had forsworn murder.
"Just as the crude and simple method of slavery, first chattel slavery and afterward wage slavery, had, so long as it prevailed, prevented men from seeking to replace its crude convenience by a scientific industrial system, so in like manner the coarse convenience of flesh for food had hitherto prevented men from making a serious perquisition of Nature's edible resources. The delay in this respect is further accounted for by the fact that the preparation of food, on account of the manner of its conduct as an industry, had been the least progressive of all the arts of life."
"What is that?" I said. "The least progressive of arts? Why so?"
"Because it had always been carried on as an isolated household industry, and as such chiefly left to servants or women, who in former times were the most conservative and habit-bound class in the communities. The rules of the art of cookery had been handed down little changed in essentials since the wife of the Aryan cowherd dressed her husband's food for him.
"Now, it must remain very doubtful how immediately successful the revolt against animal food would have proved if the average family cook, whether wife or hireling, had been left each for herself in her private kitchen to grapple with the problem of providing for the table a satisfactory substitute for flesh. But, thanks to the many-sided character of the great Revolution, the juncture of time at which the growth of humane feeling created a revolt against animal food coincided with the complete breakdown of domestic service and the demand of women for a wider life, facts which compelled the placing of the business of providing and preparing food on a co-operative basis, and the making of it a branch of the public service. So it was that as soon as men, losing appetite for their fellow-creatures, began to ask earnestly what else could be eaten, there was already being organized a great governmental department commanding all the scientific talent of the nation, and backed by the resources of the country, for the purpose of solving the question. And it is easy to believe that none of the new departments was stimulated in its efforts by a keener public interest than this which had in charge the preparation of the new national bill of fare. These were the conditions for which alimentation had waited from the beginnings of the race to become a science.
"In the first place, the food materials and methods of preparing them actually extant, and used in the different nations, were, for the first time in history, collected and collated. In presence of the cosmopolitan variety and extent of the international menu thus presented, every national cuisine was convicted of having until then run in a rut. It was apparent that in nothing had the nations been more provincial, more stupidly prejudiced against learning from one another, than in matters of food and cooking. It was discovered, as observing travelers had always been aware, that every nation and country, often every province, had half a dozen gastronomic secrets that had never crossed the border, or at best on very brief excursions.
"It is well enough to mention, in passing, that the collation of this international bill of fare was only one illustration of the innumerable ways in which the nations, as soon as the new order put an end to the old prejudices, began right and left to borrow and adopt the best of one another's ideas and institutions, to the great general enrichment.
"But the organization of a scientific system of alimentation did not cease with utilizing the materials and methods already existing. The botanist and the chemist next set about finding new food materials and new methods of preparing them. At once it was discovered that of the natural products capable of being used as food by man, but a petty proportion had ever been utilized; only those, and a small part even of that class, which readily lent themselves to the single primitive process whereby the race hitherto had attempted to prepare food—namely, the application of dry or wet heat. To this, manifold other processes suggested by chemistry were now added, with effects that our ancestors found as delightful as novel. It had hitherto been with the science of cooking as with metallurgy when simple fire remained its only method.
"It is written that the children of Israel, when practicing an enforced vegetarian diet in the wilderness, yearned after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and probably with good reason. The experience of our ancestors appears to have been in this respect quite different. It would seem that the sentiments with which, after a very short period had elapsed, they looked back upon the flesh-pots they had left behind were charged with a feeling quite the reverse of regret. There is an amusing cartoon of the period, which suggests how brief a time it took for them to discover what a good thing they had done for themselves in resolving to spare the animals. The cartoon, as I remember it, is in two parts. The first shows Humanity, typified by a feminine figure regarding a group of animals consisting of the ox, the sheep, and the hog. Her face expresses the deepest compunction, while she tearfully exclaims, 'Poor things! How could we ever bring ourselves to eat you?' The second part reproduces the same group, with the heading 'Five Years After.' But here the countenance of Humanity as she regards the animals expresses not contrition or self-reproach, but disgust and loathing, while she exclaims in nearly identical terms, but very different emphasis, 'How could we, indeed?'"
WHAT BECAME OF THE GREAT CITIES.
Continuing to move westward toward the interior, we had now gradually left behind the more thickly settled portions of the city, if indeed any portion of these modern cities, in which every home stands in its own inclosure, can be called thickly settled. The groves and meadows and larger woods had become numerous, and villages occurred at frequent intervals. We were out in the country.
"Doctor," said I, "it has so happened, you will remember, that what I have seen of twentieth-century life has been mainly its city side. If country life has changed since my day as much as city life, it will be very interesting to make its acquaintance again. Tell me something about it."
"There are few respects, I suppose," replied the doctor, "in which the effect of the nationalization of production and distribution on the basis of economic equality has worked a greater transformation than in the relations of city and country, and it is odd we should not have chanced to speak of this before now."
"When I was last in the world of living people," I said, "the city was fast devouring the country. Has that process gone on, or has it possibly been reversed?"
"Decidedly the latter," replied the doctor, "as indeed you will at once see must have been the case when you consider that the enormous growth of the great cities of the past was entirely an economic consequence of the system of private capitalism, with its necessary dependence upon individual initiative, and the competitive system."
"That is a new idea to me," I said.
"I think you will find it a very obvious one upon reflection," replied the doctor. "Under private capitalism, you see, there was no public or governmental system for organizing productive effort and distributing its results. There was no general and unfailing machinery for bringing producers and consumers together. Everybody had to seek his own occupation and maintenance on his own account, and success depended on his finding an opportunity to exchange his labor or possessions for the possessions or labor of others. For this purpose the best place, of course, was where there were many people who likewise wanted to buy or sell their labor or goods. Consequently, when, owing either to accident or calculation, a mass of people were drawn together, others flocked to them, for every such aggregation made a market place where, owing simply to the number of persons desiring to buy and sell, better opportunities for exchange were to be found than where fewer people were, and the greater the number of people the larger and better the facilities for exchange. The city having thus taken a start, the larger it became, the faster it was likely to grow by the same logic that accounted for its first rise. The laborer went there to find the largest and steadiest market for his muscle, and the capitalist—who, being a conductor of production, desired the largest and steadiest labor market—went there also. The capitalist trader went there to find the greatest group of consumers of his goods within least space.
"Although at first the cities rose and grew, mainly because of the facilities for exchange among their own citizens, yet presently the result of the superior organization of exchange facilities made them centers of exchange for the produce of the surrounding country. In this way those who lived in the cities had not only great opportunities to grow rich by supplying the needs of the dense resident population, but were able also to levy a tribute upon the products of the people in the country round about by compelling those products to pass through their hands on the way to the consumers, even though the consumers, like the producers, lived in the country, and might be next door neighbors.
"In due course," pursued the doctor, "this concentration of material wealth in the cities led to a concentration there of all the superior, the refined, the pleasant, and the luxurious ministrations of life. Not only did the manual laborers flock to the cities as the market where they could best exchange their labor for the money of the capitalists, but the professional and learned class resorted thither for the same purpose. The lawyers, the pedagogues, the doctors, the rhetoricians, and men of special skill in every branch, went there as the best place to find the richest and most numerous employers of their talents, and to make their careers.
"And in like manner all who had pleasure to sell—the artists, the players, the singers, yes, and the courtesans also—flocked to the cities for the same reasons. And those who desired pleasure and had wealth to buy it, those who wished to enjoy life, either as to its coarse or refined gratifications, followed the pleasure-givers. And, finally, the thieves and robbers, and those pre-eminent in the wicked arts of living on their fellow-men, followed the throng to the cities, as offering them also the best field for their talents. And so the cities became great whirlpools, which drew to themselves all that was richest and best, and also everything that was vilest, in the whole land.
"Such, Julian, was the law of the genesis and growth of the cities, and it was by necessary consequence the law of the shrinkage, decay, and death of the country and country life. It was only necessary that the era of private capitalism in America should last long enough for the rural districts to have been reduced to what they were in the days of the Roman Empire, and of every empire which achieved full development—namely, regions whence all who could escape had gone to seek their fortune in the cities, leaving only a population of serfs and overseers.
"To do your contemporaries justice, they seemed themselves to realize that the swallowing up of the country by the city boded no good to civilization, and would apparently have been glad to find a cure for it, but they failed entirely to observe that, as it was a necessary effect of private capitalism, it could only be remedied by abolishing that."
"Just how," said I, "did the abolition of private capitalism and the substitution of a nationalized economic system operate to stop the growth of the cities?"
"By abolishing the need of markets for the exchange of labor and commodities," replied the doctor. "The facilities of exchange organized in the cities under the private capitalists were rendered wholly superfluous and impertinent by the national organization of production and distribution. The produce of the country was no longer handled by or distributed through the cities, except so far as produced or consumed there. The quality of goods furnished in all localities, and the measure of industrial service required of all, was the same. Economic equality having done away with rich and poor, the city ceased to be a place where greater luxury could be enjoyed or displayed than the country. The provision of employment and of maintenance on equal terms to all took away the advantages of locality as helps to livelihood. In a word, there was no longer any motive to lead a person to prefer city to country life, who did not like crowds for the sake of being crowded. Under these circumstances you will not find it strange that the growth of the cities ceased, and their depopulation began from the moment the effects of the Revolution became apparent."
"But you have cities yet!" I exclaimed.
"Certainly—that is, we have localities where population still remains denser than in other places. None of the great cities of your day have become extinct, but their populations are but small fractions of what they were."
"But Boston is certainly a far finer-looking city than in my day."
"All the modern cities are far finer and fairer in every way than their predecessors and infinitely fitter for human habitation, but in order to make them so it was necessary to get rid of their surplus population. There are in Boston to-day perhaps a quarter as many people as lived in the same limits in the Boston of your day, and that is simply because there were four times as many people within those limits as could be housed and furnished with environments consistent with the modern idea of healthful and agreeable living. New York, having been far worse crowded than Boston, has lost a still larger proportion of its former population. Were you to visit Manhattan Island I fancy your first impression would be that the Central Park of your day had been extended all the way from the Battery to Harlem River, though in fact the place is rather thickly built up according to modern notions, some two hundred and fifty thousand people living there among the groves and fountains."
"And you say this amazing depopulation took place at once after the Revolution?"
"It began then. The only way in which the vast populations of the old cities could be crowded into spaces so small was by packing them like sardines in tenement houses. As soon as it was settled that everybody must be provided with really and equally good habitations, it followed that the cities must lose the greater part of their population. These had to be provided with dwellings in the country. Of course, so vast a work could not be accomplished instantly, but it proceeded with all possible speed. In addition to the exodus of people from the cities because there was no room for them to live decently, there was also a great outflow of others who, now there had ceased to be any economic advantages in city life, were attracted by the natural charms of the country; so that you may easily see that it was one of the great tasks of the first decade after the Revolution to provide homes elsewhere for those who desired to leave the cities. The tendency countryward continued until the cities having been emptied of their excess of people, it was possible to make radical changes in their arrangements. A large proportion of the old buildings and all the unsightly, lofty, and inartistic ones were cleared away and replaced with structures of the low, broad, roomy style adapted to the new ways of living. Parks, gardens, and roomy spaces were multiplied on every hand and the system of transit so modified as to get rid of the noise and dust, and finally, in a word, the city of your day was changed into the modern city. Having thus been made as pleasant places to live in as was the country itself, the outflow of population from the cities ceased and an equilibrium became established."
"It strikes me," I observed, "that under any circumstances cities must still, on account of their greater concentration of people, have certain better public services than small villages, for naturally such conveniences are least expensive where a dense population is to be supplied."
"As to that," replied the doctor, "if a person desires to live in some remote spot far away from neighbors he will have to put up with some inconveniences. He will have to bring his supplies from the nearest public store and dispense with various public services enjoyed by those who live nearer together; but in order to be really out of reach of these services he must go a good way off. You must remember that nowadays the problems of communication and transportation both by public and private means have been so entirely solved that conditions of space which were prohibitive in your day are unimportant now. Villages five and ten miles apart are as near together for purposes of social intercourse and economic administration as the adjoining wards of your cities. Either on their own account or by group combinations with other communities dwellers in the smallest villages enjoy installations of all sorts of public services as complete as exist in the cities. All have public stores and kitchens with telephone and delivery systems, public baths, libraries, and institutions of the highest education. As to the quality of the services and commodities provided, they are of absolutely equal excellence wherever furnished. Finally, by telephone and electroscope the dwellers in any part of the country, however deeply secluded among the forests or the mountains, may enjoy the theater, the concert, and the orator quite as advantageously as the residents of the largest cities."
Still we swept on mile after mile, league after league, toward the interior, and still the surface below presented the same parklike aspect that had marked the immediate environs of the city. Every natural feature appeared to have been idealized and all its latent meaning brought out by the loving skill of some consummate landscape artist, the works of man blending with the face of Nature in perfect harmony. Such arrangements of scenery had not been uncommon in my day, when great cities prepared costly pleasure grounds, but I had never imagined anything on a scale like this.
"How far does this park extend?" I demanded at last. "There seems no end to it."
"It extends to the Pacific Ocean," said the doctor.
"Do you mean that the whole United States is laid out in this way?"
"Not precisely in this way by any means, but in a hundred different ways according to the natural suggestions of the face of the country and the most effective way of co-operating with them. In this region, for instance, where there are few bold natural features, the best effect to be obtained was that of a smiling, peaceful landscape with as much diversification in detail as possible. In the mountainous regions, on the contrary, where Nature has furnished effects which man's art could not strengthen, the method has been to leave everything absolutely as Nature left it, only providing the utmost facilities for travel and observation. When you visit the White Mountains or the Berkshire Hills you will find, I fancy, their slopes shaggier, the torrents wilder, the forests loftier and more gloomy than they were a hundred years ago. The only evidences of man's handiwork to be found there are the roadways which traverse every gorge and top every summit, carrying the traveler within reach of all the wild, rugged, or beautiful bits of Nature."
"As far as forests go, it will not be necessary for me to visit the mountains in order to perceive that the trees are not only a great deal loftier as a rule, but that there are vastly more of them than formerly."
"Yes," said the doctor, "it would be odd if you did not notice that difference in the landscape. There are said to be five or ten trees nowadays where there was one in your day, and a good part of those you see down there are from seventy-five to a hundred years old, dating from the reforesting."
"What was the reforesting?" I asked.
"It was the restoration of the forests after the Revolution. Under private capitalism the greed or need of individuals had led to so general a wasting of the woods that the streams were greatly reduced and the land was constantly plagued with droughts. It was found after the Revolution that one of the things most urgent to be done was to reforest the country. Of course, it has taken a long time for the new plantings to come to maturity, but I believe it is now some twenty-five years since the forest plan reached its full development and the last vestiges of the former ravages disappeared."
"Do you know," I said presently, "that one feature which is missing from the landscape impresses me quite as much as any that it presents?"
"What is it that is missing?"
"Ah! yes, no wonder you miss it," said the doctor. "I understand that in your day hay was the main crop of New England?"
"Altogether so," I replied, "and now I suppose you have no use for hay at all. Dear me, in what a multitude of important ways the passing of the animals out of use both for food and work must have affected human occupations and interests!"
"Yes, indeed," said the doctor, "and always to the notable improvement of the social condition, though it may sound ungrateful to say so. Take the case of the horse, for example. With the passing of that long-suffering servant of man to his well earned reward, smooth, permanent, and clean roadways first became possible; dust, dirt, danger, and discomfort ceased to be necessary incidents of travel.
"Thanks to the passing of the horse, it was possible to reduce the breadth of roadways by half or a third, to construct them of smooth concrete from grass to grass, leaving no soil to be disturbed by wind or water, and such ways once built, last like Roman roads, and can never be overgrown by vegetation. These paths, penetrating every nook and corner of the land, have, together with the electric motors, made travel such a luxury that as a rule we make all short journeys, and when time does not press even very long ones, by private conveyance. Had land travel remained in the condition it was in when it depended on the horse, the invention of the air-car would have strongly tempted humanity to treat the earth as the birds do—merely as a place to alight on between flights. As it is, we consider the question an even one whether it is pleasanter to swim through the air or to glide over the ground, the motion being well-nigh as swift, noiseless, and easy in one case as in the other."
"Even before 1887," I said, "the bicycle was coming into such favor and the possibilities of electricity were beginning so to loom up that prophetic people began to talk about the day of the horse as almost over. But it was believed that, although dispensed with for road purposes, he must always remain a necessity for the multifarious purposes of farm work, and so I should have supposed. How is it about that?"
"Wait a moment," replied the doctor; "when we have descended a little I will give you a practical answer."
After we had dropped from an altitude of perhaps a thousand feet to a couple of hundred, the doctor said:
"Look down there to the right."
I did so, and saw a large field from which the crops had been cut. Over its surface was moving a row of great machines, behind which the earth surged up in brown and rigid billows. On each machine stood or sat in easy attitude a young man or woman with quite the air of persons on a pleasure excursion.
"Evidently," I said, "these are plows, but what drives them?"
"They are electric plows," replied the doctor. "Do you see that snakelike cord trailing away over the broken ground behind each machine? That is the cable by which the force is supplied. Observe those posts at regular intervals about the field. It is only necessary to attach one of those cables to a post to have a power which, connected with any sort of agricultural machine, furnishes energy graduated from a man's strength to that of a hundred horses, and requiring for its guidance no other force than the fingers of a child can supply."
And not only this, but it was further explained to me that by this system of flexible cables of all sizes the electric power was applied not only to all the heavy tasks formerly done by animals, but also to the hand instruments—the spade, the shovel, and the fork—which the farmer in my time must bend his own back to, however well supplied he might be with horse power. There was, indeed, no tool, however small, the doctor explained, whether used in agriculture or any other art, to which this motor was not applicable, leaving to the worker only the adjustment and guiding of the instrument.
"With one of our shovels," said the doctor, "an intelligent boy can excavate a trench or dig a mile of potatoes quicker than a gang of men in your day, and with no more effort than he would use in wheeling a barrow."
I had been told several times that at the present day farm work was considered quite as desirable as any other occupation, but, with my impressions as to the peculiar arduousness of the earth worker's task, I had not been able to realize how this could really be so. It began to seem possible.
The doctor suggested that perhaps I would like to land and inspect some of the arrangements of a modern farm, and I gladly assented. But first he took advantage of our elevated position to point out the network of railways by which all the farm transportation was done and whereby the crops when gathered could, if desirable, be shipped directly, without further handling, to any point in the country. Having alighted from our car, we crossed the field toward the nearest of the great plows, the rider of which was a dark-haired young woman daintily costumed, such a figure certainly as no nineteenth-century farm field ever saw. As she sat gracefully upon the back of the shining metal monster which, as it advanced, tore up the earth with terrible horns, I could but be reminded of Europa on her bull. If her prototype was as charming as this young woman, Jupiter certainly was excusable for running away with her.
As we approached, she stopped the plow and pleasantly returned our greeting. It was evident that she recognized me at the first glance, as, thanks doubtless to the diffusion of my portrait, everybody seemed to do. The interest with which she regarded me would have been more flattering had I not been aware that I owed it entirely to my character as a freak of Nature and not at all to my personality.
When I asked her what sort of a crop they were expecting to plant at this season, she replied that this was merely one of the many annual plowings given to all soil to keep it in condition.
"We use, of course, abundant fertilizers," she said, "but consider the soil its own best fertilizer if kept moving."
"Doubtless," said I, "labor is the best fertilizer of the soil. So old an authority as Aesop taught us that in his fable of 'The Buried Treasure,' but it was a terribly expensive sort of fertilizer in my day when it had to come out of the muscles of men and beasts. One plowing a year was all our farmers could manage, and that nearly broke their backs."
"Yes," she said, "I have read of those poor men. Now you see it is different. So long as the tides rise and fall twice a day, let alone the winds and waterfalls, there is no reason why we should not plow every day if it were desirable. I believe it is estimated that about ten times the amount of power is nowadays given to the working of every acre of land that it was possible to apply in former times."
We spent some time inspecting the farm. The doctor explained the drainage and pumping systems by which both excess and deficiency of rain are guarded against, and gave me opportunity to examine in detail some of the wonderful tools he had described, which make practically no requisition on the muscle of the worker, only needing a mind behind them.
Connected with the farm was one of the systems of great greenhouse establishments upon which the people depend for fresh vegetables in the winter, and this, too, we visited. The wonders of intensive culture which I saw in that great structure would of course astonish none of my readers, but to me the revelation of what could be done with plants when all the conditions of light, heat, moisture, and soil ingredients were absolutely to be commanded, was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. It seemed to me that I had stolen into the very laboratory of the Creator, and found him at the task of fashioning with invisible hands the dust of the earth and the viewless air into forms of life. I had never seen plants actually grow before and had deemed the Indian juggler's trick an imposture. But here I saw them lifting their heads, putting forth their buds, and opening their flowers by movements which the eye could follow. I confess that I fairly listened to hear them whisper.
"In my day, greenhouse culture of vegetables out of season had been carried on only to an extent to meet the demands of a small class of very rich. The idea of providing such supplies at moderate prices for the entire community, according to the modern practice, was of course quite undreamed of."
When we left the greenhouse the afternoon had worn away and the sun was setting. Rising swiftly to a height where its rays still warmed us, we set out homeward.
Strongest of all the impressions of that to me so wonderful afternoon there lingered most firmly fixed in my mind the latest—namely, the object lesson I had received of the transformation in the conditions of agriculture, the great staple human occupation from the beginning, and the basis of every industrial system. Presently I said:
"Since you have so successfully done away with the first of the two main drawbacks of the agricultural occupation as known in my day—namely, its excessive laboriousness—you have no doubt also known how to eliminate the other, which was the isolation, the loneliness, the lack of social intercourse and opportunity of social culture which were incident to the farmer's life."
"Nobody would certainly do farm work," replied the doctor, "if it had continued to be either more lonesome or more laborious than other sorts of work. As regards the social surroundings of the agriculturist, he is in no way differently situated from the artisan or any other class of workers. He, like the others, lives where he pleases, and is carried to and fro just as they are between the place of his residence and occupation by the lines of swift transit with which the country is threaded. Work on a farm no longer implies life on a farm, unless for those who like it."
"One of the conditions of the farmer's life, owing to the variations of the season," I said, "has always been the alternation of slack work and periods of special exigency, such as planting and harvesting, when the sudden need of a multiplied labor force has necessitated the severest strain of effort for a time. This alternation of too little with too much work, I should suppose, would still continue to distinguish agriculture from other occupations."
"No doubt," replied the doctor, "but this alternation, far from involving either a wasteful relaxation of effort or an excessive strain on the worker, furnishes occasions of recreation which add a special attraction to the agricultural occupation. The seasons of planting and harvesting are of course slightly or largely different in the several districts of a country so extensive as this. The fact makes it possible successively to concentrate in each district as large an extra contingent of workers drawn from other districts as is needed. It is not uncommon on a few days' notice to throw a hundred thousand extra workers into a region where there is a special temporary demand for labor. The inspiration of these great mass movements is remarkable, and must be something like that which attended in your day the mobilizing and marching of armies to war."
We drifted on for a space in silence through the darkening sky.
"Truly, Julian," said the doctor at length, "no industrial transformation since your day has been so complete, and none surely has affected so great a proportion of the people, as that which has come over agriculture. The poets from Virgil up and down have recognized in rural pursuits and the cultivation of the earth the conditions most favorable to a serene and happy life. Their fancies in this respect have, however, until the present time, been mocked by the actual conditions of agriculture, which have combined to make the lot of the farmer, the sustainer of all the world, the saddest, most difficult, and most hopeless endured by any class of men. From the beginning of the world until the last century the tiller of the soil has been the most pathetic figure in history. In the ages of slavery his was the lowest class of slaves. After slavery disappeared his remained the most anxious, arduous, and despairing of occupations. He endured more than the poverty of the wage-earner without his freedom from care, and all the anxiety of the capitalist without his hope of compensating profits. On the one side he was dependent for his product, as was no other class, upon the caprices of Nature, while on the other in disposing of it he was more completely at the mercy of the middleman than any other producer. Well might he wonder whether man or Nature were the more heartless. If the crops failed, the farmer perished; if they prospered, the middleman took the profit. Standing as a buffer between the elemental forces and human society, he was smitten by the one only to be thrust back by the other. Bound to the soil, he fell into a commercial serfdom to the cities well-nigh as complete as the feudal bondage had been. By reason of his isolated and unsocial life he was uncouth, unlettered, out of touch with culture, without opportunities for self-improvement, even if his bitter toil had left him energy or time for it. For this reason the dwellers in the towns looked down upon him as one belonging to an inferior race. In all lands, in all ages, the countryman has been considered a proper butt by the most loutish townsman. The starving proletarian of the city pavement scoffed at the farmer as a boor. Voiceless, there was none to speak for him, and his rude, inarticulate complaints were met with jeers. Baalam was not more astonished when the ass he was riding rebuked him than the ruling classes of America seem to have been when the farmers, toward the close of the last century, undertook to have something to say about the government of the country.
"From time to time in the progress of history the condition of the farmer has for brief periods been tolerable. The yeoman of England was once for a little while one who looked nobles in the face. Again, the American farmer, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, enjoyed the golden age of agriculture. Then for a space, producing chiefly for use and not for sale to middlemen, he was the most independent of men and enjoyed a rude abundance. But before the nineteenth century had reached its last third, American agriculture had passed through its brief idyllic period, and, by the inevitable operation of private capitalism, the farmer began to go down hill toward the condition of serfdom, which in all ages before had been his normal state, and must be for evermore, so long as the economic exploitation of men by men should continue. While in one sense economic equality brought an equal blessing to all, two classes had especial reason to hail it as bringing to them a greater elevation from a deeper degradation than to any others. One of these classes was the women, the other the farmers."
WHAT STARTED THE REVOLUTION.
What did I say to the theater for that evening? was the question with which Edith met me when we reached home. It seemed that a celebrated historical drama of the great Revolution was to be given in Honolulu that afternoon, and she had thought I might like to see it.
"Really you ought to attend," she said, "for the presentation of the play is a sort of compliment to you, seeing that it is revived in response to the popular interest in revolutionary history which your presence has aroused."
No way of spending the evening could have been more agreeable to me, and it was agreed that we should make up a family theater party.
"The only trouble," I said, as we sat around the tea table, "is that I don't know enough yet about the Revolution to follow the play very intelligently. Of course, I have heard revolutionary events referred to frequently, but I have no connected idea of the Revolution as a whole."
"That will not matter," said Edith. "There is plenty of time before the play for father to tell you what is necessary. The matinee does not begin till three in the afternoon at Honolulu, and as it is only six now the difference in time will give us a good hour before the curtain rises."
"That's rather a short time, as well as a short notice, for so big a task as explaining the great Revolution," the doctor mildly protested, "but under the circumstances I suppose I shall have to do the best I can."
"Beginnings are always misty," he said, when I straightway opened at him with the question when the great Revolution began. "Perhaps St. John disposed of that point in the simplest way when he said that 'in the beginning was God.' To come down nearer, it might be said that Jesus Christ stated the doctrinal basis and practical purpose of the great Revolution when he declared that the golden rule of equal and the best treatment for all was the only right principle on which people could live together. To speak, however, in the language of historians, the great Revolution, like all important events, had two sets of causes—first, the general, necessary, and fundamental cause which must have brought it about in the end, whatever the minor circumstances had been; and, second, the proximate or provoking causes which, within certain limits, determined when it actually did take place, together with the incidental features. These immediate or provoking causes were, of course, different in different countries, but the general, necessary, and fundamental cause was the same in all countries, the great Revolution being, as you know, world-wide and nearly simultaneous, as regards the more advanced nations.
"That cause, as I have often intimated in our talks, was the growth of intelligence and diffusion of knowledge among the masses, which, beginning with the introduction of printing, spread slowly through the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and much more rapidly during the nineteenth, when, in the more favored countries, it began, to be something like general. Previous to the beginning of this process of enlightenment the condition of the mass of mankind as to intelligence, from the most ancient times, had been practically stationary at a point little above the level of the brutes. With no more thought or will of their own than clay in the hands of the potter, they were unresistingly molded to the uses of the more intelligent and powerful individuals and groups of their kind. So it went on for innumerable ages, and nobody dreamed of anything else until at last the conditions were ripe for the inbreathing of an intellectual life into these inert and senseless clods. The process by which this awakening took place was silent, gradual, imperceptible, but no previous event or series of events in the history of the race had been comparable to it in the effect it was to have upon human destiny. It meant that the interest of the many instead of the few, the welfare of the whole instead of that of a part, were henceforth to be the paramount purpose of the social order and the goal of its evolution.
"Dimly your nineteenth-century philosophers seem to have perceived that the general diffusion of intelligence was a new and large fact, and that it introduced a very important force into the social evolution, but they were wall-eyed in their failure to see the certainty with which it foreshadowed a complete revolution of the economic basis of society in the interest of the whole body of the people as opposed to class interest or partial interest of every sort. Its first effect was the democratic movement by which personal and class rule in political matters was overthrown in the name of the supreme interest and authority of the people. It is astonishing that there should have been any intelligent persons among you who did not perceive that political democracy was but the pioneer corps and advance guard of economic democracy, clearing the way and providing the instrumentality for the substantial part of the programme—namely, the equalization of the distribution of work and wealth. So much for the main, general, and necessary cause and explanation of the great Revolution—namely, the progressive diffusion of intelligence among the masses from the sixteenth to the end of the nineteenth centuries. Given this force in operation, and the revolution of the economic basis of society must sooner or later have been its outcome everywhere: whether a little sooner or later and in just what way and with just what circumstances, the differing conditions of different countries determined.
"In the case of America, the period of revolutionary agitation which resulted in the establishment of the present order began almost at once upon the close of the civil war. Some historians date the beginning of the Revolution from 1873."
"Eighteen seventy-three!" I exclaimed; "why, that was more than a dozen years before I fell asleep! It seems, then, that I was a contemporary and witness of at least a part of the Revolution, and yet I saw no Revolution. It is true that we recognized the highly serious condition of industrial confusion and popular discontent, but we did not realize that a Revolution was on."
"It was to have been expected that you would not," replied the doctor. "It is very rarely that the contemporaries of great revolutionary movements have understood their nature until they have nearly run their course. Following generations always think that they would have been wiser in reading the signs of the times, but that is not likely."
"But what was there," I said, "about 1873 which has led historians to take it as the date from which to reckon the beginning of the Revolution?"
"Simply the fact that it marked in a rather distinct way the beginning of a period of economic distress among the American people, which continued, with temporary and partial alleviations, until the overthrow of private capitalism. The popular discontent resulting from this experience was the provoking cause of the Revolution. It awoke Americans from their self-complacent dream that the social problem had been solved or could be solved by a system of democracy limited to merely political forms, and set them to seeking the true solution.
"The economic distress beginning at the last third of the century, which was the direct provocation of the Revolution, was very slight compared with that which had been the constant lot and ancient heritage of other nations. It represented merely the first turn or two of the screw by which capitalism in due time squeezed dry the masses always and everywhere. The unexampled space and richness of their new land had given Americans a century's respite from the universal fate. Those advantages had passed, the respite was ended, and the time had come when the people must adapt their necks to the yoke all peoples before had worn. But having grown high-spirited from so long an experience of comparative welfare, the Americans resisted the imposition, and, finding mere resistance vain, ended by making a revolution. That in brief is the whole story of the way the great Revolution came on in America. But while this might satisfy a languid twentieth-century curiosity as to a matter so remote in time, you will naturally want a little more detail. There is a particular chapter in Storiot's History of the Revolution explaining just how and why the growth of the power of capital provoked the great uprising, which deeply impressed me in my school days, and I don't think I can make a better use of a part of our short time than by reading a few paragraphs from it."
And Edith having brought the book from the library—for we still sat at the tea table—the doctor read:
"'With reference to the evolution of the system of private capitalism to the point where it provoked the Revolution by threatening the lives and liberties of the people, historians divide the history of the American Republic, from its foundation in 1787 to the great Revolution which made it a true republic, into three periods.
"'The first comprises the decades from the foundation of the republic to about the end of the first third of the nineteenth century—say, up to the thirties or forties. This was the period during which the power of capital in private hands had not as yet shown itself seriously aggressive. The moneyed class was small and the accumulations of capital petty. The vastness of the natural resources of the virgin country defied as yet the lust of greed. The ample lands to be had for the taking guaranteed independence to all at the price of labor. With this resource no man needed to call another master. This may be considered the idyllic period of the republic, the time when De Tocqueville saw and admired it, though not without prescience of the doom that awaited it. The seed of death was in the state in the principle of private capitalism, and was sure in time to grow and ripen, but as yet the conditions were not favorable to its development. All seemed to go well, and it is not strange that the American people indulged in the hope that their republic had indeed solved the social question.
"'From about 1830 or 1840, speaking of course in a general way as to date, we consider the republic to have entered on its second phase—namely, that in which the growth and concentration of capital began to be rapid. The moneyed class now grew powerful, and began to reach out and absorb the natural resources of the country and to organize for its profit the labor of the people. In a word, the growth of the plutocracy became vigorous. The event which gave the great impulse to this movement, and fixed the time of the transition from the first to the second period in the history of the nation, was of course the general application of steam to commerce and industry. The transition may indeed be said to have begun somewhat earlier, with the introduction of the factory system. Of course, if neither steam nor the inventions which made the factory system possible had ever been introduced, it would have been merely a question of a longer time before the capitalist class, proceeding in this case by landlordism and usury, would have reduced the masses to vassalage, and overthrown democracy even as in the ancient republics, but the great inventions amazingly accelerated the plutocratic conquest. For the first time in history the capitalist in the subjugation of his fellows had machinery for his ally, and a most potent one it was. This was the mighty factor which, by multiplying the power of capital and relatively dwarfing the importance of the workingman, accounts for the extraordinary rapidity with which, during the second and third periods the conquest of the republic by the plutocracy was carried out.
"'It is a fact creditable to Americans that they appear to have begun to realize as early as the forties that new and dangerous tendencies were affecting the republic and threatening to falsify its promise of a wide diffusion of welfare. That decade is notable in American history for the popular interest taken in the discussion of the possibility of a better social order, and for the numerous experiments undertaken to test the feasibility of dispensing with the private capitalist by co-operative industry. Already the more intelligent and public-spirited citizens were beginning to observe that their so-called popular government did not seem to interfere in the slightest degree with the rule of the rich and the subjection of the masses to economic masters, and to wonder, if that were to continue to be so, of exactly how much value the so-called republican institutions were on which they had so prided themselves.
"'This nascent agitation of the social question on radical lines was, however, for the time destined to prove abortive by force of a condition peculiar to America—namely, the existence on a vast scale of African chattel slavery in the country. It was fitting in the evolution of complete human liberty that this form of bondage, cruder and more brutal, if not on the whole more cruel, than wage slavery, should first be put out of the way. But for this necessity and the conditions that produced it, we may believe that the great Revolution would have occurred in America twenty-five years earlier. From the period of 1840 to 1870 the slavery issue, involving as it did a conflict of stupendous forces, absorbed all the moral and mental as well as physical energies of the nation.
"'During the thirty or forty years from the serious beginning of the antislavery movement till the war was ended and its issues disposed of, the nation had no thought to spare for any other interests. During this period the concentration of capital in few hands, already alarming to the far-sighted in the forties, had time, almost unobserved and quite unresisted, to push its conquest of the country and the people. Under cover of the civil war, with its preceding and succeeding periods of agitation over the issues of the war, the capitalists may be said to have stolen a march upon the nation and intrenched themselves in a commanding position.
"'Eighteen seventy-three is the point, as near as any date, at which the country, delivered at last from the distracting ethical, and sectional issues of slavery, first began to open its eyes to the irrepressible conflict which the growth of capitalism had forced—a conflict between the power of wealth and the democratic idea of the equal right of all to life, liberty, and happiness. From about this time we date, therefore, the beginning of the final or revolutionary period of the pseudo-American Republic which resulted in the establishment of the present system.
"'History had furnished abundant previous illustrations of the overthrow of republican societies by the growth and concentration of private wealth, but never before had it recorded a revolution in the economic basis of a great nation at once so complete and so swiftly effected. In America before the war, as we have seen, wealth had been distributed with a general effect of evenness never previously known in a large community. There had been few rich men and very few considerable fortunes. It had been in the power neither of individuals nor a class, through the possession of overwhelming capital, to exercise oppression upon the rest of the community. In the short space of twenty-five to thirty years these economic conditions had been so completely reversed as to give America in the seventies and eighties the name of the land of millionaires, and make it famous to the ends of the earth as the country of all others where the vastest private accumulations of wealth existed. The consequences of this amazing concentration of wealth formerly so equally diffused, as it had affected the industrial, the social, and the political interests of the people, could not have been other than revolutionary.
"'Free competition in business had ceased to exist. Personal initiative in industrial enterprises, which formerly had been open to all, was restricted to the capitalists, and to the larger capitalists at that. Formerly known all over the world as the land of opportunities, America had in the time of a generation become equally celebrated as the land of monopolies. A man no longer counted chiefly for what he was, but for what he had. Brains and industry, if coupled with civility, might indeed win an upper servant's place in the employ of capital, but no longer could command a career.
"'The concentration of the economic administration of the country in the hands of a comparatively small body of great capitalists had necessarily consolidated and centralized in a corresponding manner all the functions of production and distribution. Single great concerns, backed by enormous aggregations of capital, had appropriated tracts of the business field formerly occupied by innumerable smaller concerns. In this process, as a matter of course, swarms of small businesses were crushed like flies, and their former independent proprietors were fortunate to find places as underlings in the great establishments which had supplanted them. Straight through the seventies and eighties, every month, every week, every day saw some fresh province of the economic state, some new branch of industry or commerce formerly open to the enterprise of all, captured by a combination of capitalists and turned into an intrenched camp of monopoly. The words syndicate and trust were coined to describe these monstrous growths, for which the former language of the business world had no name.
"'Of the two great divisions of the working masses it would be hard to say whether the wage-earner or the farmer had suffered most by the changed order. The old personal relationship and kindly feeling between employee and employer had passed away. The great aggregations of capital which had taken the place of the former employers were impersonal forces, which knew the worker no longer as a man, but as a unit of force. He was merely a tool in the employ of a machine, the managers of which regarded him as a necessary nuisance, who must unfortunately be retained at the least possible expense, until he could be invented wholly out of existence by some new mechanical contrivance.
"'The economic function and possibilities of the farmer had similarly been dwarfed or cut off as a result of the concentration of the business system of the country in the hands of a few. The railroads and the grain market had, between them, absorbed the former profits of farming, and left the farmer only the wages of a day laborer in case of a good crop, and a mortgage debt in case of a bad one; and all this, moreover, coupled with the responsibilities of a capitalist whose money was invested in his farm. This latter responsibility, however, did not long continue to trouble the farmer, for, as naturally might be supposed, the only way he could exist from year to year under such conditions was by contracting debts without the slightest prospect of paying them, which presently led to the foreclosure of his land, and his reduction from the once proud estate of an American farmer to that of a tenant on his way to become a peasant.
"'From 1873 to 1896 the histories quote some six distinct business crises. The periods of rallying between them were, however, so brief that we may say a continuous crisis existed during a large part of that period. Now, business crises had been numerous and disastrous in the early and middle epoch of the republic, but the business system, resting at that time on a widely extended popular initiative, had shown itself quickly and strongly elastic, and the rallies that promptly followed the crashes had always led to a greater prosperity than that before enjoyed. But this elasticity, with the cause of it, was now gone. There was little or slow reaction after the crises of the seventies, eighties, and early nineties, but, on the contrary, a scarcely interrupted decline of prices, wages, and the general prosperity and content of the farming and wage-earning masses.
"'There could not be a more striking proof of the downward tendency in the welfare of the wage-earner and the farmer than the deteriorating quality and dwindling volume of foreign immigration which marked the period. The rush of European emigrants to the United States as the land of promise for the poor, since its beginning half a century before, had continued with increasing volume, and drawn to us a great population from the best stocks of the Old World. Soon after the war the character of the immigration began to change, and during the eighties and nineties came to be almost entirely made up of the lowest, most wretched, and barbarous races of Europe—the very scum of the continent. Even to secure these wretched recruits the agents of the transatlantic steamers and the American land syndicates had to send their agents all over the worst districts of Europe and flood the countries with lying circulars. Matters had come to the point that no European peasant or workingman, who was yet above the estate of a beggar or an exile, could any longer afford to share the lot of the American workingman and farmer, so little time before the envy of the toiling world.
"'While the politicians sought, especially about election time, to cheer the workingman with the assurance of better times just ahead, the more serious economic writers seem to have frankly admitted that the superiority formerly enjoyed by American workingmen over those of other countries could not be expected to last longer, that the tendency henceforward was to be toward a world-wide level of prices and wages—namely, the level of the country where they were lowest. In keeping with this prediction we note that for the first time, about the beginning of the nineties, the American employer began to find himself, through the reduced cost of production in which wages were the main element, in a position to undersell in foreign markets the products of the slave gangs of British, Belgian, French, and German capitalists.
"'It was during this period, when the economic distress of the masses was creating industrial war and making revolutionists of the most contented and previously prosperous agricultural population in history, that the vastest private fortunes in the history of the world were being accumulated. The millionaire, who had been unknown before the war and was still an unusual and portentous figure in the early seventies, was presently succeeded by the multimillionaire, and above the multimillionaires towered yet a new race of economic Titans, the hundred millionaires, and already the coming of the billionaire was being discussed. It is not difficult, nor did the people of the time find it so, to see, in view of this comparison, where the wealth went which the masses were losing. Tens of thousands of modest competencies disappeared, to reappear in colossal fortunes in single hands. Visibly as the body of the spider swells as he sucks the juices of his victims, had these vast aggregations grown in measure as the welfare of the once prosperous people had shrunk away.
"'The social consequences of so complete an overthrow of the former economic equilibrium as had taken place could not have been less than revolutionary. In America, before the war, the accumulations of wealth were usually the result of the personal efforts of the possessor and were consequently small and correspondingly precarious. It was a saying of the time that there were usually but three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves—meaning that if a man accumulated a little wealth, his son generally lost it, and the grandson was again a manual laborer. Under these circumstances the economic disparities, slight at most and constantly fluctuating, entirely failed to furnish a basis for class distinctions. There were recognized no laboring class as such, no leisure class, no fixed classes of rich and poor. Riches or poverty, the condition of being at leisure or obliged to work were considered merely temporary accidents of fortune and not permanent conditions. All this was now changed. The great fortunes of the new order of things by their very magnitude were stable acquisitions, not easily liable to be lost, capable of being handed down from generation to generation with almost as much security as a title of nobility. On the other hand, the monopolization of all the valuable economic opportunities in the country by the great capitalists made it correspondingly impossible for those not of the capitalist class to attain wealth. The hope of becoming rich some day, which before the war every energetic American had cherished, was now practically beyond the horizon of the man born to poverty. Between rich and poor the door was henceforth shut. The way up, hitherto the social safety valve, had been closed, and the bar weighted with money bags.
"'A natural reflex of the changed social conditions of the country is seen in the new class terminology, borrowed from the Old World, which soon after the war crept into use in the United States. It had been the boast of the former American that everybody in this country was a workingman; but now that term we find more and more frankly employed to distinguish the poor from the well-to-do. For the first time in American literature we begin to read of the lower classes, the upper classes, and the middle classes—terms which would have been meaningless in America before the war, but now corresponded so closely with the real facts of the situation that those who detested them most could not avoid their use.
"'A prodigious display of luxury such as Europe could not rival had begun to characterize the manner of life of the possessors of the new and unexampled fortunes. Spectacles of gilded splendor, of royal pomp and boundless prodigality mocked the popular discontent and brought out in dazzling light the width and depth of the gulf that was being fixed between the masters and the masses.
"'Meanwhile the money kings took no pains to disguise the fullness of their conviction that the day of democracy was passing and the dream of equality nearly at an end. As the popular feeling in America had grown bitter against them they had responded with frank indications of their dislike of the country and disgust with its democratic institutions. The leading American millionaires had become international personages, spending the greater part of their time and their revenue in European countries, sending their children there for education and in some instances carrying their preference for the Old World to the extent of becoming subjects of foreign powers. The disposition on the part of the greater American capitalists to turn their backs upon democracy and ally themselves with European and monarchical institutions was emphasized in a striking manner by the long list of marriages arranged during this period between great American heiresses and foreign noblemen. It seemed to be considered that the fitting destiny for the daughter of an American multimillionaire was such a union. These great capitalists were very shrewd in money matters, and their investments of vast sums in the purchase of titles for their posterity was the strongest evidence they could give of a sincere conviction that the future of the world, like its past, belonged not to the people but to class and privilege.
"'The influence exercised over the political government by the moneyed class under the convenient euphemism of "the business interests," which merely meant the interests of the rich, had always been considerable, and at times caused grave scandals. In measure as the wealth of the country had become concentrated and allied, its influence in the government had naturally increased, and during the seventies, eighties, and nineties it became a scarcely veiled dictatorship. Lest the nominal representatives of the people should go astray in doing the will of the capitalists, the latter were represented by bodies of picked agents at all the places of government. These agents closely followed the conduct of all public officials, and wherever there was any wavering in their fidelity to the capitalists, were able to bring to bear influences of intimidation or bribery which were rarely unsuccessful. These bodies of agents had a recognized semi-legal place in the political system of the day under the name of lobbyists.
"'The history of government contains few more shameful chapters than that which records how during this period the Legislatures—municipal, State, and national—seconded by the Executives and the courts, vied with each other by wholesale grants of land, privileges, franchises, and monopolies of all kinds, in turning over the country, its resources, and its people to the domination of the capitalists, their heirs and assigns forever. The public lands, which a few decades before had promised a boundless inheritance to future generations, were ceded in vast domains to syndicates and individual capitalists, to be held against the people as the basis of a future territorial aristocracy with tributary populations of peasants. Not only had the material substance of the national patrimony been thus surrendered to a handful of the people, but in the fields of commerce and of industry all the valuable economic opportunities had been secured by franchises to monopolies, precluding future generations from opportunity of livelihood or employment, save as the dependents and liegemen of a hereditary capitalist class. In the chronicles of royal misdoings there have been many dark chapters recording how besotted or imbecile monarchs have sold their people into bondage and sapped the welfare of their realms to enrich licentious favorites, but the darkest of those chapters is bright beside that which records the sale of the heritage and hopes of the American people to the highest bidder by the so-called democratic State, national, and local governments during the period of which we are speaking.
"'Especially necessary had it become for the plutocracy to be able to use the powers of government at will, on account of the embittered and desperate temper of the working masses.
"'The labor strikes often resulted in disturbances too extensive to be dealt with by the police, and it became the common practice of the capitalists, in case of serious strikes, to call on the State and national governments to furnish troops to protect their property interest. The principal function of the militia of the States had become the suppression of strikes with bullet or bayonet, or the standing guard over the plants of the capitalists, till hunger compelled the insurgent workmen to surrender.
"'During the eighties the State governments entered upon a general policy of preparing the militia for this new and ever-enlarging field of usefulness. The National Guard was turned into a Capitalist Guard. The force was generally reorganized, increased in numbers, improved in discipline, and trained with especial reference to the business of shooting riotous workingmen. The drill in street firing—a quite new feature in the training of the American militiaman, and a most ominous one—became the prominent test of efficiency. Stone and brick armories, fortified against attack, loopholed for musketry and mounted with guns to sweep the streets, were erected at the strategic points of the large cities. In some instances the militia, which, after all, was pretty near the people, had, however, shown such unwillingness to fire on strikers and such symptoms of sympathy for their grievances, that the capitalists did not trust them fully, but in serious cases preferred to depend on the pitiless professional soldiers of the General Government, the regulars. Consequently, the Government, upon request of the capitalists, adopted the policy of establishing fortified camps near the great cities, and posting heavy garrisons in them. The Indian wars were ceasing at about this time, and the troops that had been stationed on the Western plains to protect the white settlements from the Indians were brought East to protect the capitalists from the white settlements. Such was the evolution of private capitalism.
"'The extent and practical character of the use to which the capitalists intended to put the military arm of the Government in their controversy with the workingmen may be judged from the fact that in single years of the early nineties armies of eight and ten thousand men were on the march, in New York and Pennsylvania, to suppress strikes. In 1892 the militia of five States, aided by the regulars, were under arms against strikers simultaneously, the aggregate force of troops probably making a larger body than General Washington ever commanded. Here surely was civil war already.
"'Americans of the former days had laughed scornfully at the bayonet-propped monarchies of Europe, saying rightly that a government which needed to be defended by force from its own people was a self-confessed failure. To this pass, however, the industrial system of the United States was fast coming—it was becoming a government by bayonets.
"'Thus briefly, and without attempt at detail, may be recapitulated some of the main aspects of the transformation in the condition of the American people, resulting from the concentration of the wealth of the country, which first began to excite serious alarm at the close of the civil war.
"'It might almost be said that the citizen armies of the North had returned from saving the republic from open foes, to find that it had been stolen from them by more stealthy but far more dangerous enemies whom they had left at home. While they had been putting down caste rule based on race at the South, class rule based on wealth had been set up at the North, to be in time extended over South and North alike. While the armies of the people had been shedding rivers of blood in the effort to preserve the political unity of the nation, its social unity, upon which the very life of a republic depends, had been attacked by the beginnings of class divisions, which could only end by splitting the once coherent nation into mutually suspicious and inimical bodies of citizens, requiring the iron bands of despotism to hold them together in a political organization. Four million negroes had indeed been freed from chattel slavery, but meanwhile a nation of white men had passed under the yoke of an economic and social vassalage which, though the common fate of European peoples and of the ancient world, the founders of the republic had been proudly confident their posterity would never wear.'"
* * * * *
The doctor closed the book from which he had been reading and laid it down.
"Julian," he said, "this story of the subversion of the American Republic by the plutocracy is an astounding one. You were a witness of the situation it describes, and are able to judge whether the statements are exaggerated."
"On the contrary," I replied, "I should think you had been reading aloud from a collection of newspapers of the period. All the political, social, and business facts and symptoms to which the writer has referred were matters of public discussion and common notoriety. If they did not impress me as they do now, it is simply because I imagine I never heard them grouped and marshaled with the purpose of bringing out their significance."
Once more the doctor asked Edith to bring him a book from the library. Turning the pages until he had found the desired place, he said:
"Lest you should fancy that the force of Storiot's statement of the economic situation in the United States during the last third of the nineteenth century owes anything to the rhetorical arrangement, I want to give you just a few hard, cold statistics as to the actual distribution of property during that period, showing the extent to which its ownership had been concentrated. Here is a volume made up of information on this subject based upon analyses of census reports, tax assessments, the files of probate courts, and other official documents. I will give you three sets of calculations, each prepared by a separate authority and based upon a distinct line of investigation, and all agreeing with a closeness which, considering the magnitude of the calculation, is astounding, and leaves no room to doubt the substantial accuracy of the conclusions.
"From the first set of tables, which was prepared in 1893 by a census official from the returns of the United States census, we find it estimated that out of sixty-two billions of wealth in the country a group of millionaires and multimillionaires, representing three one-hundredths of one per cent of the population, owned twelve billions, or one fifth. Thirty-three billions of the rest was owned by a little less than nine per cent of the American people, being the rich and well-to-do class less than millionaires. That is, the millionaires, rich, and well-to-do, making altogether but nine per cent of the whole nation, owned forty-five billions of the total national valuation of sixty-two billions. The remaining ninety-one per cent of the whole nation, constituting the bulk of the people, were classed as the poor, and divided among themselves the remaining seventeen million dollars.
"A second table, published in 1894 and based upon the surrogates' records of estates in the great State of New York, estimates that one per cent of the people, one one-hundredth of the nation, possessed over half, or fifty-five per cent, of its total wealth. It finds that a further fraction of the population, including the well-to-do, and amounting to eleven per cent, owned over thirty-two per cent of the total wealth, so that twelve per cent of the whole nation, including the very rich and the well-to-do, monopolized eighty-seven per cent of the total wealth of the country, leaving but thirteen per cent of that wealth to be shared among the remaining eighty-eight per cent of the nation. This eighty-eight per cent of the nation was subdivided into the poor and the very poor. The last, constituting fifty per cent out of the eighty-eight, or half the entire nation, had too little wealth to be estimated at all, apparently living a hand-to-mouth existence.
"The estimates of a third computator whom I shall quote, although taken from quite different data, agree remarkably with the others, representing as they do about the same period. These last estimates, which were published in 1889 and 1891, and like the others produced a strong impression, divide the nation into three classes—the rich, the middle, and the working class. The rich, being one and four tenths per cent of the population, are credited with seventy per cent of the total wealth. The middle class, representing nine and two tenths per cent of the population, is credited with twelve per cent of the total wealth, the rich and middle classes, together, representing ten and six tenths per cent of the population, having therefore eighty-two per cent of the total wealth, leaving to the working class, which constituted eighty-nine and four tenths of the nation, but eighteen per cent of the wealth, to share among them."
"Doctor," I exclaimed, "I knew things were pretty unequally divided in my day, but figures like these are overwhelming. You need not take the trouble to tell me anything further by way of explaining why the people revolted against private capitalism. These figures were enough to turn the very stones into revolutionists."
"I thought you would say so," replied the doctor. "And please remember also that these tremendous figures represent only the progress made toward the concentration of wealth mainly within the period of a single generation. Well might Americans say to themselves 'If such things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?' If private capitalism, dealing with a community in which had previously existed a degree of economic equality never before known, could within a period of some thirty years make such a prodigious stride toward the complete expropriation of the rest of the nation for the enrichment of a class, what was likely to be left to the people at the end of a century? What was to be left even to the next generation?"
WHY THE REVOLUTION WENT SLOW AT FIRST BUT FAST AT LAST.
"So much for the causes of the Revolution in America, both the general fundamental cause, consisting in the factor newly introduced into social evolution by the enlightenment of the masses and irresistibly tending to equality, and the immediate local causes peculiar to America, which account for the Revolution having come at the particular time it did and for its taking the particular course it did. Now, briefly as to that course:
"The pinching of the economic shoe resulting from the concentration of wealth was naturally first felt by the class with least reserves, the wage-earners, and the Revolution may be said to have begun with their revolt. In 1869 the first great labor organization in America was formed to resist the power of capital. Previous to the war the number of strikes that had taken place in the country could be counted on the fingers. Before the sixties were out they were counted by hundreds, during the seventies by thousands, and during the eighties the labor reports enumerate nearly ten thousand, involving two or three million workers. Many of these strikes were of continental scope, shaking the whole commercial fabric and causing general panics.
"Close after the revolt of the wage earners came that of the farmers—less turbulent in methods but more serious and abiding in results. This took the form of secret leagues and open political parties devoted to resisting what was called the money power. Already in the seventies these organizations threw State and national politics into confusion, and later became the nucleus of the revolutionary party.
"Your contemporaries of the thinking classes can not be taxed with indifference to these signs and portents. The public discussion and literature of the time reflect the confusion and anxiety with which the unprecedented manifestations of popular discontent had affected all serious persons. The old-fashioned Fourth-of-July boastings had ceased to be heard in the land. All agreed that somehow republican forms of government had not fulfilled their promise as guarantees of the popular welfare, but were showing themselves impotent to prevent the recrudescence in the New World of all the Old World's evils, especially those of class and caste, which it had been supposed could never exist in the atmosphere of a republic. It was recognized on all sides that the old order was changing for the worse, and that the republic and all it had been thought to stand for was in danger. It was the universal cry that something must be done to check the ruinous tendency. Reform was the word in everybody's mouth, and the rallying cry, whether in sincerity or pretense, of every party. But indeed, Julian, I need waste no time describing this state of affairs to you, for you were a witness of it till 1887."
"It was all quite as you describe it, the industrial and political warfare and turmoil, the general sense that the country was going wrong, and the universal cry for some sort of reform. But, as I said before, the agitation, while alarming enough, was too confused and purposeless to seem revolutionary. All agreed that something ailed the country, but no two agreed what it was or how to cure it."
"Just so," said the doctor. "Our historians divide the entire revolutionary epoch—from the close of the war, or the beginning of the seventies, to the establishment of the present order early in the twentieth century—into two periods, the incoherent and the rational. The first of these is the period of which we have been talking, and with which Storiot deals with in the paragraphs I have read—the period with which you were, for the most part, contemporary. As we have seen, and you know better than we can, it was a time of terror and tumult, of confused and purposeless agitation, and a Babel of contradictory clamor. The people were blindly kicking in the dark against the pricks of capitalism, without any clear idea of what they were kicking against.
"The two great divisions of the toilers, the wage-earners and the farmers, were equally far from seeing clear and whole the nature of the situation and the forces of which they were the victims. The wage-earners' only idea was that by organizing the artisans and manual workers their wages could be forced up and maintained indefinitely. They seem to have had absolutely no more knowledge than children of the effect of the profit system always and inevitably to keep the consuming power of the community indefinitely below its producing power and thus to maintain a constant state of more or less aggravated glut in the goods and labor markets, and that nothing could possibly prevent the constant presence of these conditions so long as the profit system was tolerated, or their effect finally to reduce the wage-earner to the subsistence point or below as profits tended downward. Until the wage-earners saw this and no longer wasted their strength in hopeless or trivial strikes against individual capitalists which could not possibly affect the general result, and united to overthrow the profit system, the Revolution must wait, and the capitalists had no reason to disturb themselves.
"As for the farmers, as they were not wage-earners, they took no interest in the plans of the latter, which aimed merely to benefit the wage-earning class, but devoted themselves to equally futile schemes for their class, in which, for the same reason that they were merely class remedies, the wage-earners took no interest. Their aim was to obtain aid from the Government to improve their condition as petty capitalists oppressed by the greater capitalists who controlled the traffic and markets of the country; as if any conceivable device, so long as private capitalism should be tolerated, would prevent its natural evolution, which was the crushing of the smaller capitalists by the larger.
"Their main idea seems to have been that their troubles as farmers were chiefly if not wholly to be accounted for by certain vicious acts of financial legislation, the effect of which they held had been to make money scarce and dear. What they demanded as the sufficient cure of the existing evils was the repeal of the vicious legislation and a larger issue of currency. This they believed would be especially beneficial to the farming class by reducing the interest on their debts and raising the price of their product.
"Undoubtedly the currency and the coinage and the governmental financial system in general had been shamelessly abused by the capitalists to corner the wealth of the nation in their hands, but their misuse of this part of the economic machinery had been no worse than their manipulation of the other portions of the system. Their trickery with the currency had only helped them to monopolize the wealth of the people a little faster than they would have done it had they depended for their enrichment on what were called the legitimate operations of rent, interest, and profits. While a part of their general policy of economic subjugation of the people, the manipulation of the currency had not been essential to that policy, which would have succeeded just as certainly had it been left out. The capitalists were under no necessity to juggle with the coinage had they been content to make a little more leisurely process of devouring the lands and effects of the people. For that result no particular form of currency system was necessary, and no conceivable monetary system would have prevented it. Gold, silver, paper, dear money, cheap money, hard money, bad money, good money—every form of token from cowries to guineas—had all answered equally well in different times and countries for the designs of the capitalist, the details of the game being only slightly modified according to the conditions.
"To have convinced himself of the folly of ascribing the economic distress to which his class as well as the people at large had been reduced, to an act of Congress relating to the currency, the American farmer need only have looked abroad to foreign lands, where he would have seen that the agricultural class everywhere was plunged in a misery greater than his own, and that, too, without the slightest regard to the nature of the various monetary systems in use.
"Was it indeed a new or strange phenomenon in human affairs that the agriculturists were going to the wall, that the American farmer should seek to account for the fact by some new and peculiarly American policy? On the contrary, this had been the fate of the agricultural class in all ages, and what was now threatening the American tiller of the soil was nothing other than the doom which had befallen his kind in every previous generation and in every part of the world. Manifestly, then, he should seek the explanation not in any particular or local conjunction of circumstances, but in some general and always operative cause. This general cause, operative in all lands and times and among all races, he would presently see when he should interrogate history, was the irresistible tendency by which the capitalist class in the evolution of any society through rent, interest, and profits absorbs to itself the whole wealth of the country, and thus reduces the masses of the people to economic, social, and political subjection, the most abject class of all being invariably the tillers of the soil. For a time the American population, including the farmers, had been enabled, thanks to the vast bounty of a virgin and empty continent, to evade the operation of this universal law, but the common fate was now about to overtake them, and nothing would avail to avert it save the overthrow of the system of private capitalism of which it always had been and always must be the necessary effect.