"Time would fail even to mention the innumerable reform nostrums offered for the cure of the nation by smaller bodies of reformers. They ranged from the theory of the prohibitionists that the chief cause of the economic distress—from which the teetotal farmers of the West were the worst sufferers—was the use of intoxicants, to that of the party which agreed that the nation was being divinely chastised because there was no formal recognition of the Trinity in the Constitution. Of course, these were extravagant persons, but even those who recognized the concentration of wealth as the cause of the whole trouble quite failed to see that this concentration was itself the natural evolution of private capitalism, and that it was not possible to prevent it or any of its consequences unless and until private capitalism itself should be put an end to.
"As might be expected, efforts at resistance so ill calculated as these demonstrations of the wage-earners and farmers, not to speak of the host of petty sects of so-called reformers during the first phase of the Revolution, were ineffectual. The great labor organizations which had sprung up shortly after the war as soon as the wage-earners felt the necessity of banding themselves to resist the yoke of concentrated capital, after twenty-five years of fighting, had demonstrated their utter inability to maintain, much less to improve, the condition of the workingman. During this period ten or fifteen thousand recorded strikes and lock-outs had taken place, but the net result of the industrial civil war, protracted through so long a period, had been to prove to the dullest of workingmen the hopelessness of securing any considerable amelioration of their lot by class action or organization, or indeed of even maintaining it against encroachments. After all this unexampled suffering and fighting, the wage-earners found themselves worse off than ever. Nor had the farmers, the other great division of the insurgent masses, been any more successful in resisting the money power. Their leagues, although controlling votes by the million, had proved even more impotent if possible than the wage-earners' organizations to help their members. Even where they had been apparently successful and succeeded in capturing the political control of states, they found the money power still able by a thousand indirect influences to balk their efforts and turn their seeming victories into apples of Sodom, which became ashes in the hands of those who would pluck them.
"Of the vast, anxious, and anguished volume of public discussion as to what should be done, what after twenty-five years had been the practical outcome? Absolutely nothing. If here and there petty reforms had been introduced, on the whole the power of the evils against which those reforms were directed had vastly increased. If the power of the plutocracy in 1873 had been as the little finger of a man, in 1895 it was thicker than his loins. Certainly, so far as superficial and material indications went, it looked as if the battle had been going thus far steadily, swiftly, and hopelessly against the people, and that the American capitalists who expended their millions in buying titles of nobility for their children were wiser in their generation than the children of light and better judges of the future.
"Nevertheless, no conclusion could possibly have been more mistaken. During these decades of apparently unvaried failure and disaster the revolutionary movement for the complete overthrow of private capitalism had made a progress which to rational minds should have presaged its complete triumph in the near future."
"Where had the progress been?" I said; "I don't see any."
"In the development among, the masses of the people of the necessary revolutionary temper," replied the doctor; "in the preparation of the popular mind by the only process that could have prepared it, to accept the programme of a radical reorganization of the economic system from the ground up. A great revolution, you must remember, which is to profoundly change a form of society, must accumulate a tremendous moral force, an overwhelming weight of justification, so to speak, behind it before it can start. The processes by which and the period during which this accumulation of impulse is effected are by no means so spectacular as the events of the subsequent period when the revolutionary movement, having obtained an irresistible momentum, sweeps away like straws the obstacles that so long held it back only to swell its force and volume at last. But to the student the period of preparation is the more truly interesting and critical field of study. It was absolutely necessary that the American people, before they would seriously think of undertaking so tremendous a reformation as was implied in the substitution of public for private capitalism, should be fully convinced not by argument only, but by abundant bitter experience and convincing object lessons, that no remedy for the evils of the time less complete or radical would suffice. They must become convinced by numerous experiments that private capitalism had evolved to a point where it was impossible to amend it before they would listen to the proposition to end it. This painful but necessary experience the people were gaining during the earlier decades of the struggle. In this way the innumerable defeats, disappointments, and fiascoes which met their every effort at curbing and reforming the money power during the seventies, eighties, and early nineties, contributed far more than as many victories would have done to the magnitude and completeness of the final triumph of the people. It was indeed necessary that all these things should come to pass to make the Revolution possible. It was necessary that the system of private and class tyranny called private capitalism should fill up the measure of its iniquities and reveal all it was capable of, as the irreconcilable enemy of democracy, the foe of life and liberty and human happiness, in order to insure that degree of momentum to the coming uprising against it which was necessary to guarantee its complete and final overthrow. Revolutions which start too soon stop too soon, and the welfare of the race demanded that this revolution should not cease, nor pause, until the last vestige of the system by which men usurped power over the lives and liberties of their fellows through economic means was destroyed. Therefore not one outrage, not one act of oppression, not one exhibition of conscienceless rapacity, not one prostitution of power on the part of Executive, Legislature, or judiciary, not one tear of patriotic shame over the degradation of the national name, not one blow of the policeman's bludgeon, not a single bullet or bayonet thrust of the soldiery, could have been spared. Nothing but just this discipline of failure, disappointment, and defeat on the part of the earlier reformers could have educated the people to the necessity of attacking the system of private capitalism in its existence instead of merely in its particular manifestations.
"We reckon the beginning of the second part of the revolutionary movement to which we give the name of the coherent or rational phase, from the time when there became apparent a clear conception, on the part of at least a considerable body of the people, of the true nature of the issue as one between the rights of man and the principle of irresponsible power embodied in private capitalism, and the realization that its outcome, if the people were to triumph, must be the establishment of a wholly new economic system which should be based upon the public control in the public interest of the system of production and distribution hitherto left to private management."
"At about what date," I asked, "do you consider that the revolutionary movement began to pass from the incoherent into the logical phase?"
"Of course," replied the doctor, "it was not the case of an immediate outright change of character, but only of the beginning of a new spirit and intelligence. The confusion and incoherence and short-sightedness of the first period long overlapped the time when the infusion of a more rational spirit and adequate ideal began to appear, but from about the beginning of the nineties we date the first appearance of an intelligent purpose in the revolutionary movement and the beginning of its development from a mere formless revolt against intolerable conditions into a logical and self-conscious evolution toward the order of to-day."
"It seems I barely missed it."
"Yes," replied the doctor, "if you had been able to keep awake only a year or two longer you would not have been so wholly surprised by our industrial system, and especially by the economic equality for and by which it exists, for within a couple of years after your supposed demise the possibility that such a social order might be the outcome of the existing crisis was being discussed from one end of America to the other.
"Of course," the doctor went on, "the idea of an integrated economic system co-ordinating the efforts of all for the common welfare, which is the basis of the modern state, is as old as philosophy. As a theory it dates back to Plato at least, and nobody knows how much further, for it is a conception of the most natural and obvious order. Not, however, until popular government had been made possible by the diffusion of intelligence was the world ripe for the realization of such a form of society. Until that time the idea, like the soul waiting for a fit incarnation, must remain without social embodiment. Selfish rulers thought of the masses only as instruments for their own aggrandizement, and if they had interested themselves in a more exact organization of industry it would only have been with a view of making that organization the means of a more complete tyranny. Not till the masses themselves became competent to rule was a serious agitation possible or desirable for an economic organization on a co-operative basis. With the first stirrings of the democratic spirit in Europe had come the beginning of earnest discussion as to the feasibility of such a social order. Already, by the middle of the century, this agitation in the Old World had become, to discerning eyes, one of the signs of the times, but as yet America, if we except the brief and abortive social experiments in the forties, had remained wholly unresponsive to the European movement.
"I need not repeat that the reason, of course, was the fact that the economic conditions in America had been more satisfactory to the masses than ever before, or anywhere else in the world. The individualistic method of making a living, every man for himself, had answered the purpose on the whole so well that the people did not care to discuss other methods. The powerful motive necessary to rouse the sluggish and habit-bound minds of the masses and interest them in a new and revolutionary set of ideas was lacking. Even during the early stage of the revolutionary period it had been found impossible to obtain any hearing for the notions of a new economic order which were already agitating Europe. It was not till the close of the eighties that the total and ridiculous failure of twenty years of desperate efforts to reform the abuses of private capitalism had prepared the American people to give serious attention to the idea of dispensing with the capitalist altogether by a public organization of industry to be administered like other common affairs in the common interest.
"The two great points of the revolutionary programme—the principle of economic equality and a nationalized industrial system as its means and pledge—the American people were peculiarly adapted to understand and appreciate. The lawyers had made a Constitution of the United States, but the true American constitution—the one written on the people's hearts—had always remained the immortal Declaration with its assertion of the inalienable equality of all men. As to the nationalization of industry, while it involved a set of consequences which would completely transform society, the principle on which the proposition was based, and to which it appealed for justification, was not new to Americans in any sense, but, on the contrary, was merely a logical development of the idea of popular self-government on which the American system was founded. The application of this principle to the regulation of the economic administration was indeed a use of it which was historically new, but it was one so absolutely and obviously implied in the content of the idea that, as soon as it was proposed, it was impossible that any sincere democrat should not be astonished that so plain and common-sense a corollary of popular government had waited so long for recognition. The apostles of a collective administration of the economic system in the common interest had in Europe a twofold task: first, to teach the general doctrine of the absolute right of the people to govern, and then to show the economic application of that right. To Americans, however, it was only necessary to point out an obvious although hitherto overlooked application of a principle already fully accepted as an axiom.
"The acceptance of the new ideal did not imply merely a change in specific programmes, but a total facing about of the revolutionary movement. It had thus far been an attempt to resist the new economic conditions being imposed by the capitalists by bringing back the former economic conditions through the restoration of free competition as it had existed before the war. This was an effort of necessity hopeless, seeing that the economic changes which had taken place were merely the necessary evolution of any system of private capitalism, and could not be successfully resisted while the system was retained.
"'Face about!' was the new word of command. 'Fight forward, not backward! March with the course of economic evolution, not against it. The competitive system can never be restored, neither is it worthy of restoration, having been at best an immoral, wasteful, brutal scramble for existence. New issues demand new answers. It is in vain to pit the moribund system of competition against the young giant of private monopoly; it must rather be opposed by the greater giant of public monopoly. The consolidation of business in private interests must be met with greater consolidation in the public interest, the trust and the syndicate with the city, State, and nation, capitalism with nationalism. The capitalists have destroyed the competitive system. Do not try to restore it, but rather thank them for the work, if not the motive, and set about, not to rebuild the old village of hovels, but to rear on the cleared place the temple humanity so long has waited for.'
"By the light of the new teaching the people began to recognize that the strait place into which the republic had come was but the narrow and frowning portal of a future of universal welfare and happiness such as only the Hebrew prophets had colors strong enough to paint.
"By the new philosophy the issue which had arisen between the people and the plutocracy was seen not to be a strange and unaccountable or deplorable event, but a necessary phase in the evolution of a democratic society in passing from a lower to an incomparably higher plane, an issue therefore to be welcomed not shunned, to be forced not evaded, seeing that its outcome in the existing state of human enlightenment and world-wide democratic sentiment could not be doubtful. By the road by which every republic had toiled upward from the barren lowlands of early hardship and poverty, just at the point where the steepness of the hill had been overcome and a prospect opened of pleasant uplands of wealth and prosperity, a sphinx had ever stood, propounding the riddle, 'How shall a state combine the preservation of democratic equality with the increase of wealth?' Simple indeed had been the answer, for it was only needful that the people should so order their system of economy that wealth should be equally shared as it increased, in order that, however great the increase, it should in no way interfere with the equalities of the people; for the great justice of equality is the well of political life everlasting for peoples, whereof if a nation drink it may live forever. Nevertheless, no republic before had been able to answer the riddle, and therefore their bones whitened the hilltop, and not one had ever survived to enter on the pleasant land in view. But the time had now come in the evolution of human intelligence when the riddle so often asked and never answered was to be answered aright, the sphinx made an end of, and the road freed forever for all the nations.
"It was this note of perfect assurance, of confident and boundless hope, which distinguished the new propaganda, and was the more commanding and uplifting from its contrast with the blank pessimism on the one side of the capitalist party, and the petty aims, class interests, short vision, and timid spirit of the reformers who had hitherto opposed them.
"With a doctrine to preach of so compelling force and beauty, promising such good things to men in so great want of them, it might seem that it would require but a brief time to rally the whole people to its support. And so it would doubtless have been if the machinery of public information and direction had been in the hands of the reformers or in any hands that were impartial, instead of being, as it was, almost wholly in those of the capitalists. In previous periods the newspapers had not represented large investments of capital, having been quite crude affairs. For this very reason, however, they were more likely to represent the popular feeling. In the latter part of the nineteenth century a great newspaper with large circulation necessarily required a vast investment of capital, and consequently the important newspapers of the country were owned by capitalists and of course carried on in the owners' interests. Except when the capitalists in control chanced to be men of high principle, the great papers were therefore upon the side of the existing order of things and against the revolutionary movement. These papers monopolized the facilities of gathering and disseminating public intelligence and thereby exercised a censorship, almost as effective as that prevailing at the same time in Russia or Turkey, over the greater part of the information which reached the people.
"Not only the press but the religious instruction of the people was under the control of the capitalists. The churches were the pensioners of the rich and well-to-do tenth of the people, and abjectly dependent on them for the means of carrying on and extending their work. The universities and institutions of higher learning were in like manner harnessed to the plutocratic chariot by golden chains. Like the churches, they were dependent for support and prosperity upon the benefactions of the rich, and to offend them would have been suicidal. Moreover, the rich and well-to-do tenth of the population was the only class which could afford to send children to institutions of the secondary education, and they naturally preferred schools teaching a doctrine comfortable to the possessing class.
"If the reformers had been put in possession of press, pulpit, and university, which the capitalists controlled, whereby to set home their doctrine to the heart and mind and conscience of the nation, they would have converted and carried the country in a month.
"Feeling how quickly the day would be theirs if they could but reach the people, it was natural that they should chafe bitterly at the delay, confronted as they were by the spectacle of humanity daily crucified afresh and enduring an illimitable anguish which they knew was needless. Who indeed would not have been impatient in their place, and cried as they did, 'How long, O Lord, how long?' To men so situated, each day's postponement of the great deliverance might well have seemed like a century. Involved as they were in the din and dust of innumerable petty combats, it was as difficult for them as for soldiers in the midst of a battle to obtain an idea of the general course of the conflict and the operation of the forces which would determine its issue. To us, however, as we look back, the rapidity of the process by which during the nineties the American people were won over to the revolutionary programme seems almost miraculous, while as to the ultimate result there was, of course, at no time the slightest ground of question.
"From about the beginning of the second phase of the revolutionary movement, the literature of the times begins to reflect in the most extraordinary manner a wholly new spirit of radical protest against the injustices of the social order. Not only in the serious journals and books of public discussion, but in fiction and in belles-lettres, the subject of social reform becomes prominent and almost commanding. The figures that have come down to us of the amazing circulation of some of the books devoted to the advocacy of a radical social reorganization are almost enough in themselves to explain the revolution. The antislavery movement had one Uncle Tom's Cabin; the anticapitalist movement had many.
"A particularly significant fact was the extraordinary unanimity and enthusiasm with which the purely agricultural communities of the far West welcomed the new gospel of a new and equal economic system. In the past, governments had always been prepared for revolutionary agitation among the proletarian wage-earners of the cities, and had always counted on the stolid conservatism of the agricultural class for the force to keep the inflammable artisans down. But in this revolution it was the agriculturists who were in the van. This fact alone should have sufficiently foreshadowed the swift course and certain issue of the struggle. At the beginning of the battle the capitalists had lost their reserves.
"At about the beginning of the nineties the revolutionary movement first prominently appears in the political field. For twenty years after the close of the civil war the surviving animosities between North and South mainly determined party lines, and this fact, together with the lack of agreement on a definite policy, had hitherto prevented the forces of industrial discontent from making any striking political demonstration. But toward the close of the eighties the diminished bitterness of feeling between North and South left the people free to align themselves on the new issue, which had been steadily looming up ever since the war, as the irrepressible conflict of the near future—the struggle to the death between democracy and plutocracy, between the rights of man and the tyranny of capital in irresponsible hands.
"Although the idea of the public conduct of economic enterprises by public agencies had never previously attracted attention or favor in America, yet already in 1890, almost as soon as it began to be talked about, political parties favoring its application to important branches of business had polled heavy votes. In 1892 a party, organized in nearly every State in the Union, cast a million votes in favor of nationalizing at least the railroads, telegraphs, banking system, and other monopolized businesses. Two years later the same party showed large gains, and in 1896 its platform was substantially adopted by one of the great historic parties of the country, and the nation divided nearly equally on the issue.
"The terror which this demonstration of the strength of the party of social discontent caused among the possessing class seems at this distance rather remarkable, seeing that its demands, while attacking many important capitalist abuses, did not as yet directly assail the principle of the private control of capital as the root of the whole social evil. No doubt, what alarmed the capitalists even more than the specific propositions of the social insurgents were the signs of a settled popular exasperation against them and all their works, which indicated that what was now called for was but the beginning of what would be demanded later. The antislavery party had not begun with demanding the abolition of slavery, but merely its limitation. The slaveholders were not, however, deceived as to the significance of the new political portent, and the capitalists would have been less wise in their generation than their predecessors had they not seen in the political situation the beginning of a confrontation of the people and the capitalists—the masses and the classes, as the expression of the day was—which threatened an economic and social revolution in the near future."
"It seems to me," I said, "that by this stage of the revolutionary movement American capitalists capable of a dispassionate view of the situation ought to have seen the necessity of making concessions if they were to preserve any part of their advantages."
"If they had," replied the doctor, "they would have been the first beneficiaries of a tyranny who in presence of a rising flood of revolution ever realized its force or thought of making concessions until it was hopelessly too late. You see, tyrants are always materialists, while the forces behind great revolutions are moral. That is why the tyrants never foresee their fate till it is too late to avert it."
"We ought to be in our chairs pretty soon," said Edith. "I don't want Julian to miss the opening scene."
"There are a few minutes yet," said the doctor, "and seeing that I have been rather unintentionally led into giving this sort of outline sketch of the course of the Revolution, I want to say a word about the extraordinary access of popular enthusiasm which made a short story of its later stages, especially as it is that period with which the play deals that we are to attend.
"There had been many, you must know, Julian, who, while admitting that a system of co-operation, must eventually take the place of private capitalism in America and everywhere, had expected that the process would be a slow and gradual one, extending over several decades, perhaps half a century, or even more. Probably that was the more general opinion. But those who held it failed to take account of the popular enthusiasm which would certainly take possession of the movement and drive it irresistibly forward from the moment that the prospect of its success became fairly clear to the masses. Undoubtedly, when the plan of a nationalized industrial system, and an equal sharing of results, with its promise of the abolition of poverty and the reign of universal comfort, was first presented to the people, the very greatness of the salvation it offered operated to hinder its acceptance. It seemed too good to be true. With difficulty the masses, sodden in misery and inured to hopelessness, had been able to believe that in heaven there would be no poor, but that it was possible here and now in this everyday America to establish such an earthly paradise was too much to believe.
"But gradually, as the revolutionary propaganda diffused a knowledge of the clear and unquestionable grounds on which this great assurance rested, and as the growing majorities of the revolutionary party convinced the most doubtful that the hour of its triumph was at hand, the hope of the multitude grew into confidence, and confidence flamed into a resistless enthusiasm. By the very magnitude of the promise which at first appalled them they were now transported. An impassioned eagerness seized upon them to enter into the delectable land, so that they found every day's, every hour's delay intolerable. The young said, 'Let us make haste, and go in to the promised land while we are young, that we may know what living is': and the old said, 'Let us go in ere we die, that we may close our eyes in peace, knowing that it will be well with our children after us.' The leaders and pioneers of the Revolution, after having for so many years exhorted and appealed to a people for the most part indifferent or incredulous, now found themselves caught up and borne onward by a mighty wave of enthusiasm which it was impossible for them to check, and difficult for them to guide, had not the way been so plain.
"Then, to cap the climax, as if the popular mind were not already in a sufficiently exalted frame, came 'The Great Revival,' touching this enthusiasm with religious emotion."
"We used to have what were called revivals of religion in my day," I said, "sometimes quite extensive ones. Was this of the same nature?"
"Scarcely," replied the doctor. "The Great Revival was a tide of enthusiasm for the social, not the personal, salvation, and for the establishment in brotherly love of the kingdom of God on earth which Christ bade men hope and work for. It was the general awakening of the people of America in the closing years of the last century to the profoundly ethical and truly religious character and claims of the movement for an industrial system which should guarantee the economic equality of all the people.
"Nothing, surely, could be more self-evident than the strictly Christian inspiration of the idea of this guarantee. It contemplated nothing less than a literal fulfillment, on a complete social scale, of Christ's inculcation that all should feel the same solicitude and make the same effort for the welfare of others as for their own. The first effect of such a solicitude must needs be to prompt effort to bring about an equal material provision for all, as the primary condition of welfare. One would certainly think that a nominally Christian people having some familiarity with the New Testament would have needed no one to tell them these things, but that they would have recognized on its first statement that the programme of the revolutionists was simply a paraphrase of the golden rule expressed in economic and political terms. One would have said that whatever other members of the community might do, the Christian believers would at once have flocked to the support of such a movement with their whole heart, soul, mind, and might. That they were so slow to do so must be ascribed to the wrong teaching and non-teaching of a class of persons whose express duty, above all other persons and classes, was to prompt them to that action—namely, the Christian clergy.
"For many ages—almost, indeed, from the beginning of the Christian era—the churches had turned their backs on Christ's ideal of a kingdom of God to be realized on earth by the adoption of the law of mutual helpfulness and fraternal love. Giving up the regeneration of human society in this world as a hopeless undertaking, the clergy, in the name of the author of the Lord's Prayer, had taught the people not to expect God's will to be done on earth. Directly reversing the attitude of Christ toward society as an evil and perverse order of things needing to be made over, they had made themselves the bulwarks and defenses of existing social and political institutions, and exerted their whole influence to discourage popular aspirations for a more just and equal order. In the Old World they had been the champions and apologists of power and privilege and vested rights against every movement for freedom and equality. In resisting the upward strivings of their people, the kings and emperors had always found the clergy more useful servants than the soldiers and the police. In the New World, when royalty, in the act of abdication, had passed the scepter behind its back to capitalism, the ecclesiastical bodies had transferred their allegiance to the money power, and as formerly they had preached the divine right of kings to rule their fellow-men, now preached the divine right of ruling and using others which inhered in the possession of accumulated or inherited wealth, and the duty of the people to submit without murmuring to the exclusive appropriation of all good things by the rich.
"The historical attitude of the churches as the champions and apologists of power and privilege in every controversy with the rights of man and the idea of equality had always been a prodigious scandal, and in every revolutionary crisis had not failed to cost them great losses in public respect and popular following. Inasmuch as the now impending crisis between the full assertion of human equality and the existence of private capitalism was incomparably the most radical issue of the sort that had ever arisen, the attitude of the churches was likely to have a critical effect upon their future. Should they make the mistake of placing themselves upon the unpopular side in this tremendous controversy, it would be for them a colossal if not a fatal mistake—one that would threaten the loss of their last hold as organizations on the hearts and minds of the people. On the other hand, had the leaders of the churches been able to discern the full significance of the great turning of the world's heart toward Christ's ideal of human society, which marked the closing of the nineteenth century, they might have hoped by taking the right side to rehabilitate the churches in the esteem and respect of the world, as, after all, despite so many mistakes, the faithful representatives of the spirit and doctrine of Christianity. Some there were indeed—yes, many, in the aggregate—among the clergy who did see this and sought desperately to show it to their fellows, but, blinded by clouds of vain traditions, and bent before the tremendous pressure of capitalism, the ecclesiastical bodies in general did not, with these noble exceptions, awake to their great opportunity until it had passed by. Other bodies of learned men there were which equally failed to discern the irresistible force and divine sanction of the tidal wave of humane enthusiasm that was sweeping over the earth, and to see that it was destined to leave behind it a transformed and regenerated world. But the failure of these others, however lamentable, to discern the nature of the crisis, was not like the failure of the Christian clergy, for it was their express calling and business to preach and teach the application to human relations of the Golden Rule of equal treatment for all which the Revolution came to establish, and to watch for the coming of this very kingdom of brotherly love, whose advent they met with anathemas.
"The reformers of that time were most bitter against the clergy for their double treason to humanity and Christianity, in opposing instead of supporting the Revolution; but time has tempered harsh judgments of every sort, and it is rather with deep pity than with indignation that we look back on these unfortunate men, who will ever retain the tragic distinction of having missed the grandest opportunity of leadership ever offered to men. Why add reproach to the burden of such a failure as that?
"While the influence of ecclesiastical authority in America, on account of the growth of intelligence, had at this time greatly shrunken from former proportions, the generally unfavorable or negative attitude of the churches toward the programme of equality had told heavily to hold back the popular support which the movement might reasonably have expected from professedly Christian people. It was, however, only a question of time, and the educating influence of public discussion, when the people would become acquainted for themselves with the merits of the subject. 'The Great Revival' followed, when, in the course of this process of education, the masses of the nation reached the conviction that the revolution against which the clergy had warned them as unchristian was, in fact, the most essentially and intensely Christian movement that had ever appealed to men since Christ called his disciples, and as such imperatively commanded the strongest support of every believer or admirer of Christ's doctrine.
"The American people appear to have been, on the whole, the most intelligently religious of the large populations of the world—as religion was understood at that time—and the most generally influenced by the sentiment of Christianity. When the people came to recognize that the ideal of a world of equal welfare, which had been represented to them by the clergy as a dangerous delusion, was no other than the very dream of Christ; when they realized that the hope which led on the advocates of the new order was no baleful ignis fatuus, as the churches had taught, but nothing less nor other than the Star of Bethlehem, it is not to be wondered at that the impulse which the revolutionary movement received should have been overwhelming. From that time on it assumes more and more the character of a crusade, the first of the many so-called crusades of history which had a valid and adequate title to that name and right to make the cross its emblem. As the conviction took hold on the always religious masses that the plan of an equalized human welfare was nothing less than the divine design, and that in seeking their own highest happiness by its adoption they were also fulfilling God's purpose for the race, the spirit of the Revolution became a religious enthusiasm. As to the preaching of Peter the Hermit, so now once more the masses responded to the preaching of the reformers with the exultant cry, 'God wills it!' and none doubted any longer that the vision would come to pass. So it was that the Revolution, which had begun its course under the ban of the churches, was carried to its consummation upon a wave of moral and religious emotion."
"But what became of the churches and the clergy when the people found out what blind guides they had been?" I asked.
"No doubt," replied the doctor, "it must have seemed to them something like the Judgment Day when their flocks challenged them with open Bibles and demanded why they had hid the Gospel all these ages and falsified the oracles of God which they had claimed to interpret. But so far as appears, the joyous exultation of the people over the great discovery that liberty, equality, and fraternity were nothing less than the practical meaning and content of Christ's religion seems to have left no room in their heart for bitterness toward any class. The world had received a crowning demonstration that was to remain conclusive to all time of the untrustworthiness of ecclesiastical guidance; that was all. The clergy who had failed in their office of guides had not done so, it is needless to say, because they were not as good as other men, but on account of the hopeless falsity of their position as the economic dependents of those they assumed to lead. As soon as the great revival had fairly begun they threw themselves into it as eagerly as any of the people, but not now with any pretensions of leadership. They followed the people whom they might have led.
"From the great revival we date the beginning of the era of modern religion—a religion which has dispensed with the rites and ceremonies, creeds and dogmas, and banished from this life fear and concern for the meaner self; a religion of life and conduct dominated by an impassioned sense of the solidarity of humanity and of man with God; the religion of a race that knows itself divine and fears no evil, either now or hereafter."
"I need not ask," I said, "as to any subsequent stages of the Revolution, for I fancy its consummation did not tarry long after 'The Great Revival.'"
"That was indeed the culminating impulse," replied the doctor; "but while it lent a momentum to the movement for the immediate realization of an equality of welfare which no obstacle could have resisted, it did its work, in fact, not so much by breaking down opposition as by melting it away. The capitalists, as you who were one of them scarcely need to be told, were not persons of a more depraved disposition than other people, but merely, like other classes, what the economic system had made them. Having like passions and sensibilities with other men, they were as incapable of standing out against the contagion of the enthusiasm of humanity, the passion of pity, and the compulsion of humane tenderness which The Great Revival had aroused, as any other class of people. From the time that the sense of the people came generally to recognize that the fight of the existing order to prevent the new order was nothing more nor less than a controversy between the almighty dollar and the Almighty God, there was substantially but one side to it. A bitter minority of the capitalist party and its supporters seems indeed to have continued its outcry against the Revolution till the end, but it was of little importance. The greater and all the better part of the capitalists joined with the people in completing the installation of the new order which all had now come to see was to redound to the benefit of all alike."
"And there was no war?"
"War! Of course not. Who was there to fight on the other side? It is odd how many of the early reformers seem to have anticipated a war before private capitalism could be overthrown. They were constantly referring to the civil war in the United States and to the French Revolution as precedents which justified their fear, but really those were not analogous cases. In the controversy over slavery, two geographical sections, mutually impenetrable to each other's ideas were opposed and war was inevitable. In the French Revolution there would have been no bloodshed in France but for the interference of the neighboring nations with their brutal kings and brutish populations. The peaceful outcome of the great Revolution in America was, moreover, potently favored by the lack as yet of deep class distinctions, and consequently of rooted class hatred. Their growth was indeed beginning to proceed at an alarming rate, but the process had not yet gone far or deep and was ineffectual to resist the glow of social enthusiasm which in the culminating years of the Revolution blended the whole nation in a common faith and purpose.
"You must not fail to bear in mind that the great Revolution, as it came in America, was not a revolution at all in the political sense in which all former revolutions in the popular interest had been. In all these instances the people, after making up their minds what they wanted changed, had to overthrow the Government and seize the power in order to change it. But in a democratic state like America the Revolution was practically done when the people had made up their minds that it was for their interest. There was no one to dispute their power and right to do their will when once resolved on it. The Revolution as regards America and in other countries, in proportion as their governments were popular, was more like the trial of a case in court than a revolution of the traditional blood-and-thunder sort. The court was the people, and the only way that either contestant could win was by convincing the court, from which there was no appeal.
"So far as the stage properties of the traditional revolution were concerned, plots, conspiracies, powder-smoke, blood and thunder, any one of the ten thousand squabbles in the mediaeval, Italian, and Flemish towns, furnishes far more material to the romancer or playwright than did the great Revolution in America."
"Am I to understand that there was actually no violent doings in connection with this great transformation?"
"There were a great number of minor disturbances and collisions, involving in the aggregate a considerable amount of violence and bloodshed, but there was nothing like the war with pitched lines which the early reformers looked for. Many a petty dispute, causeless and resultless, between nameless kings in the past, too small for historical mention, has cost far more violence and bloodshed than, so far as America is concerned, did the greatest of all revolutions."
"And did the European nations fare as well when they passed through the same crisis?"
"The conditions of none of them were so favorable to peaceful social revolution as were those of the United States, and the experience of most was longer and harder, but it may be said that in the case of none of the European peoples were the direful apprehensions of blood and slaughter justified which the earlier reformers seem to have entertained. All over the world the Revolution was, as to its main factors, a triumph of moral forces."
THEATER-GOING IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
"I am sorry to interrupt," said Edith, "but it wants only five minutes of the time for the rising of the curtain, and Julian ought not to miss the first scene."
On this notice we at once betook ourselves to the music room, where four easy chairs had been cozily arranged for our convenience. While the doctor was adjusting the telephone and electroscope connections for our use, I expatiated to my companion upon the contrasts between the conditions of theater-going in the nineteenth and in the twentieth centuries—contrasts which the happy denizens of the present world can scarcely, by any effort of imagination, appreciate. "In my time, only the residents of the larger cities, or visitors to them, were ever able to enjoy good plays or operas, pleasures which were by necessary consequence forbidden and unknown to the mass of the people. But even those who as to locality might enjoy these recreations were obliged, in order to do so, to undergo and endure such prodigious fuss, crowding, expense, and general derangement of comfort that for the most part they preferred to stay at home. As for enjoying the great artists of other countries, one had to travel to do so or wait for the artists to travel. To-day, I need not tell you how it is: you stay at home and send your eyes and ears abroad to see and hear for you. Wherever the electric connection is carried—and there need be no human habitation however remote from social centers, be it the mid-air balloon or mid-ocean float of the weather watchman, or the ice-crusted hut of the polar observer, where it may not reach—it is possible in slippers and dressing gown for the dweller to take his choice of the public entertainments given that day in every city of the earth. And remember, too, although you can not understand it, who have never seen bad acting or heard bad singing, how this ability of one troupe to play or sing to the whole earth at once has operated to take away the occupation of mediocre artists, seeing that everybody, being able to see and hear the best, will hear them and see them only."
"There goes the bell for the curtain," said the doctor, and in another moment I had forgotten all else in the scene upon the stage. I need not sketch the action of a play so familiar as "The Knights of the Golden Rule." It is enough for this purpose to recall the fact that the costumes and setting were of the last days of the nineteenth century, little different from what they had been when I looked last on the world of that day. There were a few anachronisms and inaccuracies in the setting which the theatrical administration has since done me the honor to solicit my assistance in correcting, but the best tribute to the general correctness of the scheme was its effect to make me from the first moment oblivious of my actual surroundings. I found myself in presence of a group of living contemporaries of my former life, men and women dressed as I had seen them dressed, talking and acting, as till within a few weeks I had always seen people talk and act; persons, in short, of like passions, prejudices, and manners to my own, even to minute mannerisms ingeniously introduced by the playwright, which even more than the larger traits of resemblance affected my imagination. The only feeling that hindered my full acceptance of the idea that I was attending a nineteenth-century show was a puzzled wonder why I should seem to know so much more than the actors appeared to about the outcome of the social revolution they were alluding to as in progress.
When the curtain fell on the first scene, and I looked about and saw Edith, her mother and father, sitting about me in the music room, the realization of my actual situation came with a shock that earlier in my twentieth-century career would have set my brain swimming. But I was too firm on my new feet now for anything of that sort, and for the rest of the play the constant sense of the tremendous experience which had made me at once a contemporary of two ages so widely apart, contributed an indescribable intensity to my enjoyment of the play.
After the curtain fell, we sat talking of the drama, and everything else, till the globe of the color clock, turning from bottle-green to white, warned us of midnight, when the ladies left the doctor and myself to our own devices.
THE TRANSITION PERIOD.
"It is pretty late," I said, "but I want very much to ask you just a few more questions about the Revolution. All that I have learned leaves me quite as puzzled as ever to imagine any set of practical measures by which the substitution of public for private capitalism could have been effected without a prodigious shock. We had in our day engineers clever enough to move great buildings from one site to another, keeping them meanwhile so steady and upright as not to interfere with the dwellers in them, or to cause an interruption of the domestic operations. A problem something like this, but a millionfold greater and more complex, must have been raised when it came to changing the entire basis of production and distribution and revolutionizing the conditions of everybody's employment and maintenance, and doing it, moreover, without meanwhile seriously interrupting the ongoing of the various parts of the economic machinery on which the livelihood of the people from day to day depended. I should be greatly interested to have you tell me something about how this was done."
"Your question," replied the doctor, "reflects a feeling which had no little influence during the revolutionary period to prolong the toleration extended by the people to private capitalism despite the mounting indignation against its enormities. A complete change of economic systems seemed to them, as it does to you, such a colossal and complicated undertaking that even many who ardently desired the new order and fully believed in its feasibility when once established, shrank back from what they apprehended would be the vast confusion and difficulty of the transition process. Of course, the capitalists, and champions of things as they were, made the most of this feeling, and apparently bothered the reformers not a little by calling on them to name the specific measures by which they would, if they had the power, proceed to substitute for the existing system a nationalized plan of industry managed in the equal interest of all.
"One school of revolutionists declined to formulate or suggest any definite programme whatever for the consummating or constructive stage of the Revolution. They said that the crisis would suggest the method for dealing with it, and it would be foolish and fanciful to discuss the emergency before it arose. But a good general makes plans which provide in advance for all the main eventualities of his campaign. His plans are, of course, subject to radical modifications or complete abandonment, according to circumstances, but a provisional plan he ought to have. The reply of this school of revolutionists was not, therefore, satisfactory, and, so long as no better one could be made, a timid and conservative community inclined to look askance at the revolutionary programme.
"Realizing the need of something more positive as a plan of campaign, various schools of reformers suggested more or less definite schemes. One there was which argued that the trades unions might develop strength enough to control the great trades, and put their own elected officers in place of the capitalists, thus organizing a sort of federation of trades unions. This, if practicable, would have brought in a system of group capitalism as divisive and antisocial, in the large sense, as private capitalism itself, and far more dangerous to civil order. This idea was later heard little of, as it became evident that the possible growth and functions of trade unionism were very limited.
"There was another school which held that the solution was to be found by the establishment of great numbers of voluntary colonies, organized on co-operative principles, which by their success would lead to the formation of more and yet more, and that, finally, when most of the population had joined such groups they would simply coalesce and form one. Many noble and enthusiastic souls devoted themselves to this line of effort, and the numerous colonies that were organized in the United States during the revolutionary period were a striking indication of the general turning of men's hearts toward a better social order. Otherwise such experiments led, and could lead, to nothing. Economically weak, held together by a sentimental motive, generally composed of eccentric though worthy persons, and surrounded by a hostile environment which had the whole use and advantage of the social and economic machinery, it was scarcely possible that such enterprises should come to anything practical unless under exceptional leadership or circumstances.
"There was another school still which held that the better order was to evolve gradually out of the old as the result of an indefinite series of humane legislation, consisting of factory acts, short-hour laws, pensions for the old, improved tenement houses, abolition of slums, and I don't know how many other poultices for particular evils resultant from the system of private capitalism. These good people argued that when at some indefinitely remote time all the evil consequences of capitalism had been abolished, it would be time enough and then comparatively easy to abolish capitalism itself—that is to say, after all the rotten fruit of the evil tree had been picked by hand, one at a time, off the branches, it would be time enough to cut down the tree. Of course, an obvious objection to this plan was that, so long as the tree remained standing, the evil fruit would be likely to grow as fast as it was plucked. The various reform measures, and many others urged by these reformers, were wholly humane and excellent, and only to be criticised when put forward as a sufficient method of overthrowing capitalism. They did not even tend toward such a result, but were quite as likely to help capitalism to obtain a longer lease of life by making it a little less abhorrent. There was really a time after the revolutionary movement had gained considerable headway when judicious leaders felt considerable apprehension lest it might be diverted from its real aim, and its force wasted in this programme of piecemeal reforms.
"But you have asked me what was the plan of operation by which the revolutionists, when they finally came into power, actually overthrew private capitalism. It was really as pretty an illustration of the military manoeuvre that used to be called flanking as the history of war contains. Now, a flanking operation is one by which an army, instead of attacking its antagonist directly in front, moves round one of his flanks in such a way that without striking a blow it forces the enemy to leave his position. That is just the strategy the revolutionists used in the final issue with capitalism.
"The capitalists had taken for granted that they were to be directly assaulted by wholesale forcible seizure and confiscation of their properties. Not a bit of it. Although in the end, of course, collective ownership was wholly substituted for the private ownership of capital, yet that was not done until after the whole system of private capitalism had broken down and fallen to pieces, and not as a means of throwing it down. To recur to the military illustration, the revolutionary army did not directly attack the fortress of capitalism at all, but so manoeuvred as to make it untenable, and to compel its evacuation.
"Of course, you will understand that this policy was not suggested by any consideration for the rights of the capitalists. Long before this time the people had been educated to see in private capitalism the source and sum of all villainies, convicting mankind of deadly sin every day that it was tolerated. The policy of indirect attack pursued by the revolutionists was wholly dictated by the interest of the people at large, which demanded that serious derangements of the economic system should be, so far as possible, avoided during the transition from the old order to the new.
"And now, dropping figures of speech, let me tell you plainly what was done—that is, so far as I remember the story. I have made no special study of the period since my college days, and very likely when you come to read the histories you will find that I have made many mistakes as to the details of the process. I am just trying to give you a general idea of the main course of events, to the best of my remembrance. I have already explained that the first step in the programme of political action adopted by the opponents of private capitalism had been to induce the people to municipalize and nationalize various quasi-public services, such as waterworks, lighting plants, ferries, local railroads, the telegraph and telephone systems, the general railroad system, the coal mines and petroleum production, and the traffic in intoxicating liquors. These being a class of enterprises partly or wholly non-competitive and monopolistic in character, the assumption of public control over them did not directly attack the system of production and distribution in general, and even the timid and conservative viewed the step with little apprehension. This whole class of natural or legal monopolies might indeed have been taken under public management without logically involving an assault on the system of private capitalism as a whole. Not only was this so, but even if this entire class of businesses was made public and run at cost, the cheapening in the cost of living to the community thus effected would presently be swallowed up by reductions of wages and prices, resulting from the remorseless operation of the competitive profit system.
"It was therefore chiefly as a means to an ulterior end that the opponent of capitalism favored the public operation of these businesses. One part of that ulterior end was to prove to the people the superior simplicity, efficiency, and humanity of public over private management of economic undertakings. But the principal use which this partial process of nationalization served was to prepare a body of public employees sufficiently large to furnish a nucleus of consumers when the Government should undertake the establishment of a general system of production and distribution on a non-profit basis. The employees of the nationalized railroads alone numbered nearly a million, and with their dependent women and children represented some 4,000,000 people. The employees in the coal mines, iron mines, and other businesses taken charge of by the Government as subsidiary to the railroads, together with the telegraph and telephone workers, also in the public service, made some hundreds of thousands more persons with their dependents. Previous to these additions there had been in the regular civil service of the Government nearly 250,000 persons, and the army and navy made some 50,000 more. These groups with their dependents amounted probably to a million more persons, who, added to the railroad, mining, telegraph, and other employees, made an aggregate of something like 5,000,000 persons dependent on the national employment. Besides these were the various bodies of State and municipal employees in all grades, from the Governors of States down to the street-cleaners.
THE PUBLIC-SERVICE STORES.
"The first step of the revolutionary party when it came to power, with the mandate of a popular majority to bring in the new order, was to establish in all important centers public-service stores, where public employees could procure at cost all provisions of necessity or luxury previously bought at private stores. The idea was the less startling for not being wholly new. It had been the custom of various governments to provide for certain of the needs of their soldiers and sailors by establishing service stores at which everything was of absolutely guaranteed quality and sold strictly at cost. The articles thus furnished were proverbial for their cheapness and quality compared with anything that could be bought elsewhere, and the soldier's privilege of obtaining such goods was envied by the civilian, left to the tender mercies of the adulterating and profit-gorging retailer. The public stores now set up by the Government were, however, on a scale of completeness quite beyond any previous undertakings, intended as they were to supply all the consumption of a population large enough for a small-sized nation.
"At first the goods in these stores were of necessity bought by the Government of the private capitalists, producers, or importers. On these the public employee saved all the middlemen's and retailers' profits, getting them at perhaps half or two thirds of what they must have paid at private stores, with the guarantee, moreover, of a careful Government inspection as to quality. But these substantial advantages were but a foretaste of the prosperity he enjoyed when the Government added the function of production to that of distribution, and proceeded as rapidly as possible to manufacture products, instead of buying them of capitalists.
"To this end great food and cotton farms were established in all sections of the country and innumerable shops and factories started, so that presently the Government had in public employ not only the original 5,000,000, but as many more—farmers, artisans, and laborers of all sorts. These, of course, also had the right to be provided for at the public stores, and the system had to be extended correspondingly. The buyers in the public stores now saved not only the profits of the middleman and the retailer, but those as well of the manufacturer, the producer, and the importer.
"Still further, not only did the public stores furnish the public employees with every kind of goods for consumption, but the Government likewise organized all sorts of needful services, such as cooking, laundry work, housework agencies, etc., for the exclusive benefit of public employees—all, of course, conducted absolutely at cost. The result was that the public employee was able to be supplied at home or in restaurants with food prepared by the best skill out of the best material and in the greatest possible variety, and more cheaply than he had ever been able to provide himself with even the coarsest provisions."
"How did the Government acquire the lands and manufacturing plants it needed?" I inquired. "Did it buy them of the owners, or as to the plants did it build them?"
"It co erected them without affecting the success of the programme, but that was generally needless. As to land, the farmers by millions were only too glad to turn over their farms to the Government and accept employment on them, with the security of livelihood which that implied for them and theirs. The Government, moreover, took for cultivation all unoccupied lands that were convenient for the purpose, remitting the taxes for compensation.
"It was much the same with the factories and shops which the national system called for. They were standing idle by thousands in all parts of the country, in the midst of starving populations of the unemployed. When these plants were suited to the Government requirements they were taken possession of, put in operation, and the former workers provided with employment. In most instances former superintendents and foremen as well as the main body of operatives were glad to keep their old places, with the nation as employer. The owners of such plants, if I remember rightly, received some allowance, equal to a very low rate of interest, for the use of their property until such time as the complete establishment of the new order should make the equal maintenance of all citizens the subject of a national guarantee. That this was to be the speedy and certain outcome of the course of events was now no longer doubted, and pending that result the owners of idle plants were only too glad to get anything at all for their use.
"The manufacturing plants were not the only form of idle capital which the Government on similar terms made use of. Considerable quantities of foreign imports were required to supply the public stores; and to avoid the payment of profits to capitalists on these, the Government took possession of idle shipping, building what it further needed, and went into foreign trade, exporting products of the public industries, and bringing home in exchange the needed foreign goods. Fishing fleets flying the national flag also brought home the harvest of the seas. These peace fleets soon far outnumbered the war ships which up to that time exclusively had borne the national commission. On these fleets the sailor was no more a slave.
HOW MONEY LOST ITS VALUE.
"And now consider the effect of another feature of the public-store system, namely, the disuse of money in its operations. Ordinary money was not received in the public stores, but a sort of scrip canceled on use and good for a limited time only. The public employee had the right of exchanging the money he received for wages, at par, into this scrip. While the Government issued it only to public employees, it was accepted at the public stores from any who presented it, the Government being only careful that the total amount did not exceed the wages exchanged into such scrip by the public employees. It thus became a currency which commanded three, four, and five hundred per cent premium over money which would only buy the high-priced and adulterated goods for sale in the remaining stores of the capitalists. The gain of the premium went, of course, to the public employees. Gold, which had been worshiped by the capitalists as the supreme and eternal type of money, was no more receivable than silver, copper, or paper currency at the public stores, and people who desired the best goods were fortunate to find a public employee foolish enough to accept three or four dollars in gold for one in scrip.
"The effect to make money a drug in the market, of this sweeping reduction in its purchasing utility, was greatly increased by its practically complete disuse by the large and ever-enlarging proportion of the people in the public service. The demand for money was still further lessened by the fact that nobody wanted to borrow it now for use in extending business, seeing that the field of enterprise open to private capital was shrinking every hour, and evidently destined presently to disappear. Neither did any one desire money to hoard it, for it was more evident every day that it would soon become worthless. I have spoken of the public-store scrip commanding several hundred per cent premium over money, but that was in the earlier stages of the transition period. Toward the last the premium mounted to ever-dizzier altitudes, until the value of money quite disappeared, it being literally good for nothing as money.
"If you would imagine the complete collapse of the entire monetary and financial system with all its standards and influences upon human relations and conditions, you have only to fancy what the effect would have been upon the same interests and relations in your day if positive and unquestioned information had become general that the world was to be destroyed within a few weeks or months, or at longest within a year. In this case indeed the world was not to be destroyed, but to be rejuvenated and to enter on an incomparably higher and happier and more vigorous phase of evolution; but the effect on the monetary system and all dependent on it was quite the same as if the world were to come to an end, for the new world would have no use for money, nor recognize any human rights or relations as measured by it."
"It strikes me," said I, "that as money grew valueless the public taxes must have failed to bring in anything to support the Government."
"Taxes," replied the doctor, "were an incident of private capitalism and were to pass away with it. Their use had been to give the Government a means of commanding labor under the money system. In proportion as the nation collectively organized and directly applied the whole labor of the people as the public welfare required it, had no need and could make no use of taxes any more than of money in other respects. Taxation went to pieces in the culminating stage of the Revolution, in measure as the organization of the capital and labor of the people for public purposes put an end to its functions."
HOW THE REST OF THE PEOPLE CAME IN.
"It seems to me that about this time, if not before, the mass of the people outside of the public service must have begun to insist pretty loudly upon being let in to share these good things."
"Of course they did," replied the doctor; "and of course that was just what they were expected to do and what it had been arranged they should do as soon as the nationalized system of production and distribution was in full running order. The previously existing body of public employees had merely been utilized as furnishing a convenient nucleus of consumers to start with, which might be supplied without deranging meantime any more than necessary the outside wage or commodity markets. As soon as the system was in working order the Government undertook to receive into the public service not merely selected bodies of workers, but all who applied. From that time the industrial army received its recruits by tens and fifties of thousands a day till within a brief time the people as a whole were in the public service.
"Of course, everybody who had an occupation or trade was kept right on at it at the place where he had formerly been employed, and the labor exchanges, already in full use, managed the rest. Later on, when all was going smoothly, would be time enough for the changings and shiftings about that would seem desirable."
"Naturally," I said, "under the operation of the public employment programme, the working people must have been those first brought into the system, and the rich and well-to-do must probably have remained outside longest, and come in, so to speak, all in a batch, when they did."
"Evidently so," replied the doctor. "Of course, the original nucleus of public employees, for whom the public stores were first opened, were all working people, and so were the bodies of people successively taken into the public service, as farmers, artisans, and tradesmen of all sorts. There was nothing to prevent a capitalist from joining the service, but he could do so only as a worker on a par with the others. He could buy in the public stores only to the extent of his pay as a worker. His other money would not be good there. There were many men and women of the rich who, in the humane enthusiasm of the closing days of the Revolution, abandoned their lands and mills to the Government and volunteered in the public service at anything that could be given them to do; but on the whole, as might be expected, the idea of going to work for a living on an economic equality with their former servants was not one that the rich welcomed, and they did not come to it till they had to."
"And were they then, at last, enlisted by force?" I asked.
"By force!" exclaimed the doctor; "dear me! no. There was no sort of constraint brought to bear upon them any more than upon anybody else, save that created by the growing difficulty and final impossibility of hiring persons for private employment, or obtaining the necessities of life except from the public stores with the new scrip. Before the Government entered on the policy of receiving into the public service every one who applied, the unemployed had thronged upon the capitalists, seeking to be hired. But immediately afterward the rich began to find it impossible to obtain men and women to serve them in field, factory, or kitchen. They could offer no inducements in the depreciated money which alone they possessed that were enough to counterbalance the advantages of the public service. Everybody knew also that there was no future for the wealthy class, and nothing to be gained through their favor.
"Moreover, as you may imagine, there was already a strong popular feeling of contempt for those who would abase themselves to serve others for hire when they might serve the nation of which they were citizens; and, as you may well imagine, this growing sentiment made the position of a private servant or employee of any sort intolerable. And not only did the unfortunate capitalists find it impossible to induce people to cook for them, wash for them, to black their boots, to sweep their rooms, or drive their coaches, but they were put to straits to obtain in the dwindling private markets, where alone their money was good, the bare necessities of life, and presently found even that impossible. For a while, it would seem, they struggled against a relentless fate, sullenly supporting life on crusts in the corners of their lonesome palaces; but at last, of course, they all had to follow their former servants into the new nation, for there was no way of living save by connection with the national economic organization. Thus strikingly was illustrated, in the final exit of the capitalists from the human stage, how absolute was and always had been the dependence of capital upon the labor it despised and tyrannized over."
"And do I understand that there was no compulsion upon anybody to join the public service?"
"None but what was inherent in the circumstances I have named," replied the doctor. "The new order had no need or use for unwilling recruits. In fact, it needed no one, but every one needed it. If any one did not wish to enter the public service and could live outside of it without stealing or begging, he was quite welcome to. The books say that the woods were full of self-exiled hermits for a while, but one by one they tired of it and came into the new social house. Some isolated communities, however, remained outside for years."
"The mill seems, indeed, to have been calculated to grind to an exceeding fineness all opposition to the new order," I observed, "and yet it must have had its own difficulties, too, in the natural refractoriness of the materials it had to make grist of. Take, for example, my own class of the idle rich, the men and women whose only business had been the pursuit of pleasure. What useful work could have been got out of such people as we were, however well disposed we might have become to render service? Where could we have been fitted into any sort of industrial service without being more hindrance than help?"
"The problem might have been serious if the idle rich of whom you speak had been a very large proportion of the population, but, of course, though very much in evidence, they were in numbers insignificant compared with the mass of useful workers. So far as they were educated persons—and quite generally they had some smattering of knowledge—there was an ample demand for their services as teachers. Of course, they were not trained teachers, or capable of good pedagogical work; but directly after the Revolution, when the children and youth of the former poor were turned back by millions from the field and factories to the schools, and when the adults also of the working classes passionately demanded some degree of education to correspond with the improved conditions of life they had entered on, there was unlimited call for the services as instructors of everybody who was able to teach anything, even one of the primary branches, spelling, writing, geography, or arithmetic in the rudiments. The women of the former wealthy class, being mostly well educated, found in this task of teaching the children of the masses, the new heirs of the world, an employment in which I fancy they must have tasted more real happiness in the feeling of being useful to their kind than all their former frivolous existences could have given them. Few, indeed, were there of any class who did not prove to have some physical or mental quality by which they might with pleasure to themselves be serviceable to their kind."
WHAT WAS DONE WITH THE VICIOUS AND CRIMINAL.
"There was another class of my contemporaries," I said, "which I fancy must have given the new order more trouble to make anything out of than the rich, and those were the vicious and criminal idle. The rich were at least intelligent and fairly well behaved, and knew enough to adapt themselves to a new state of things and make the best of the inevitable, but these others must have been harder to deal with. There was a great floating population of vagabond criminals, loafers, and vicious of every class, male and female, in my day, as doubtless you well know. Admit that our vicious form of society was responsible for them; nevertheless, there they were, for the new society to deal with. To all intents and purposes they were dehumanized, and as dangerous as wild beasts. They were barely kept in some sort of restraint by an army of police and the weapons of criminal law, and constituted a permanent menace to law and order. At times of unusual agitation, and especially at all revolutionary crises, they were wont to muster in alarming force and become aggressive. At the crisis you are describing they must doubtless have made themselves extremely turbulent. What did the new order do with them? Its just and humane propositions would scarcely appeal to the members of the criminal class. They were not reasonable beings; they preferred to live by lawless violence, rather than by orderly industry, on terms however just. Surely the new nation must have found this class of citizens a very tough morsel for its digestion."
"Not nearly so tough," replied the doctor, "as the former society had found it. In the first place, the former society, being itself based on injustice, was wholly without moral prestige or ethical authority in dealing with the criminal and lawless classes. Society itself stood condemned in their presence for the injustice which had been the provocation and excuse of their revolt. This was a fact which made the whole machinery of so-called criminal justice in your day a mockery. Every intelligent man knew in his heart that the criminal and vicious were, for the most part, what they were on account of neglect and injustice, and an environment of depraving influences for which a defective social order was responsible, and that if righteousness were done, society, instead of judging them, ought to stand with them in the dock before a higher justice, and take upon itself the heavier condemnation. This the criminals themselves felt in the bottom of their hearts, and that feeling forbade them to respect the law they feared. They felt that the society which bade them reform was itself in yet greater need of reformation. The new order, on the other hand, held forth to the outcasts hands purged of guilt toward them. Admitting the wrong that they had suffered in the past, it invited them to a new life under new conditions, offering them, on just and equal terms, their share in the social heritage. Do you suppose that there ever was a human heart so base that it did not at least know the difference between justice and injustice, and to some extent respond to it?
"A surprising number of the cases you speak of, who had been given up as failures by your civilization, while in fact they had been proofs of its failure, responded with alacrity to the first fair opportunity to be decent men and women which had ever come to them. There was, of course, a large residuum too hopelessly perverted, too congenitally deformed, to have the power of leading a good life, however assisted. Toward these the new society, strong in the perfect justice of its attitude, proceeded with merciful firmness. The new society was not to tolerate, as the old had done, a criminal class in its midst any more than a destitute class. The old society never had any moral right to forbid stealing or to punish robbers, for the whole economic system was based on the appropriation, by force or fraud on the part of a few, of the earth and its resources and the fruit of the toil of the poor. Still less had it any right to forbid beggary or to punish violence, seeing that the economic system which it maintained and defended necessarily operated to make beggars and to provoke violence. But the new order, guaranteeing an equality of plenty to all, left no plea for the thief and robber, no excuse for the beggar, no provocation for the violent. By preferring their evil courses to the fair and honorable life offered them, such persons would henceforth pronounce sentence on themselves as unfit for human intercourse. With a good conscience, therefore, the new society proceeded to deal with all vicious and criminal persons as morally insane, and to segregate them in places of confinement, there to spend their lives—not, indeed, under punishment, or enduring hardships of any sort beyond enough labor for self-support, but wholly secluded from the world—and absolutely prevented from continuing their kind. By this means the race, in the first generation after the Revolution, was able to leave behind itself forever a load of inherited depravity and base congenital instincts, and so ever since it has gone on from generation to generation, purging itself of its uncleanness."
THE COLORED RACE AND THE NEW ORDER.
"In my day," I said, "a peculiar complication of the social problem in America was the existence in the Southern States of many millions of recently freed negro slaves, but partially as yet equal to the responsibility of freedom. I should be interested to know just how the new order adapted itself to the condition of the colored race in the South."
"It proved," replied the doctor, "the prompt solution of a problem which otherwise might have continued indefinitely to plague the American people. The population of recent slaves was in need of some sort of industrial regimen, at once firm and benevolent, administered under conditions which should meanwhile tend to educate, refine, and elevate its members. These conditions the new order met with ideal perfection. The centralized discipline of the national industrial army, depending for its enforcement not so much on force as on the inability of any one to subsist outside of the system of which it was a part, furnished just the sort of a control—gentle yet resistless—which was needed by the recently emancipated bondsman. On the other hand, the universal education and the refinements and amenities of life which came with the economic welfare presently brought to all alike by the new order, meant for the colored race even more as a civilizing agent than it did to the white population which relatively had been further advanced."
"There would have been in some parts," I remarked, "a strong prejudice on the part of the white population against any system which compelled a closer commingling of the races."
"So we read, but there was absolutely nothing in the new system to offend that prejudice. It related entirely to economic organization, and had nothing more to do then than it has now with social relations. Even for industrial purposes the new system involved no more commingling of races than the old had done. It was perfectly consistent with any degree of race separation in industry which the most bigoted local prejudices might demand."
HOW THE TRANSITION MIGHT HAVE BEEN HASTENED.
"There is just one point about the transition stage that I want to go back to," I said. "In the actual case, as you have stated it, it seems that the capitalists held on to their capital and continued to conduct business as long as they could induce anybody to work for them or buy of them. I suppose that was human nature—capitalist human nature anyway; but it was also convenient for the Revolution, for this course gave time to get the new economic system perfected as a framework before the strain of providing for the whole people was thrown on it. But it was just possible, I suppose, that the capitalists might have taken a different course. For example, suppose, from the moment the popular majority gave control of the national Government to the revolutionists the capitalists had with one accord abandoned their functions and refused to do business of any kind. This, mind you, would have been before the Government had any time to organize even the beginnings of the new system. That would have made a more difficult problem to deal with, would it not?"
"I do not think that the problem would have been more difficult," replied the doctor, "though it would have called for more prompt and summary action. The Government would have had two things to do and to do at once: on the one hand, to take up and carry on the machinery of productive industry abandoned by the capitalists, and simultaneously to provide maintenance for the people pending the time when the new product should become available. I suppose that as to the matter of providing for the maintenance of the people the action taken would be like that usually followed by a government when by flood, famine, siege, or other sudden emergency the livelihood of a whole community has been endangered. No doubt the first step would have been to requisition, for public use all stores of grain, clothing, shoes, and commodities in general throughout the country, excepting of course reasonable stocks in strictly private use. There was always in any civilized country a supply ahead of these necessities sufficient for several months or a year which would be many times more than would be needful to bridge over the gap between the stoppage of the wheels of production under private management and their getting into full motion under public administration. Orders on the public stores for food and clothing would have been issued to all citizens making application and enrolling themselves in the public industrial service. Meanwhile the Government would have immediately resumed the operation of the various productive enterprises abandoned by the capitalists. Everybody previously employed in them would simply have kept on, and employment would have been as rapidly as possible provided for those who had formerly been without it. The new product, as fast as made, would be turned into the public stores and the process would, in fact, have been just the same as that I have described, save that it would have gone through in much quicker time. If it did not go quite so smoothly on account of the necessary haste, on the other hand it would have been done with sooner, and at most we can hardly imagine that the inconvenience and hardship to the people would have been greater than resulted from even a mild specimen of the business crises which your contemporaries thought necessary every seven years, and toward the last of the old order became perpetual.
HOW CAPITALIST COERCION OF EMPLOYEES WAS MET.
"Your question, however," continued the doctor, "reminds me of another point which I had forgotten to mention—namely, the provisional methods of furnishing employment for the unemployed before the organization of the complete national system of industry. What your contemporaries were pleased to call 'the problem of the unemployed'—namely, the necessary effect of the profit system to create and perpetuate an unemployed class—had been increasing in magnitude from the beginning of the revolutionary period, and toward the close of the century the involuntary idlers were numbered by millions. While this state of things on the one hand furnished a powerful argument for the revolutionary propaganda by the object lesson it furnished of the incompetence of private capitalism to solve the problem of national maintenance, on the other hand, in proportion as employment became hard to get, the hold of the employers over the actual and would-be employees became strengthened. Those who had employment and feared to lose it, and those who had it not but hoped to get it, became, through fear and hope, very puppets in the hands of the employing class and cast their votes at their bidding. Election after election was carried in this way by the capitalists through their power to compel the workingman to vote the capitalist ticket against his own convictions, from the fear of losing or hope of obtaining an opportunity to work.