Part 3 out of 3
shirtless. Adam enjoyed that blessing in the Garden of Eden. And
when he sinned they punished him by putting a shirt, collar and
necktie on him. And yet this theorist in the mills demanded
working conditions that would let us wear shirts. Why? Who was
asking for shirts? Only he, and he had a shirt. In their own
words, the fellows would have enjoyed making him eat it.
AN UPLIFTER RULED BY ENVY
The uplifter saw the men between heats drinking beer out of tin pails.
"Why do those big fine fellows drink beer," he asked me, "when
they have plenty of water?"
I asked him: "Why don't you drink beer?"
"It makes me bilious," he replied. "If I drink one glass of
beer every day for a week it upsets me and I get weak and dizzy."
"Do you think that one drink of beer a day will upset those
fellows and make them dizzy?"
"Then when you oppose beer you are doing it to keep yourself
from getting sick, aren't you? Do you really care a darn whether
those fellows get sick at the stomach or not?"
"You don't want them to get sick at the stomach ?"
"Then, why did you give that lecture on corned beef and make
those strong fellows all sick at the stomach while you enjoyed
your own dinner?"
"I didn't know it would disturb them so. Besides I wanted to
keep them from getting sick later."
"Well, they prefer to have their health now, and wait for their
sickness until later on. You are doing no man a favor by making
him sick when he is feeling well. If God is willing for them to
be well, and they want to be well, and the only thing that keeps
them from being well is you, aren't you afraid that they will
pile on to you and knock the daylights out of you?"
"I am really working for their good."
"Then you want their stomachs to have what agrees with them?"
"Well, I'll tell you something, then. Water doesn't always
agree with the stomach as well as beer does. You never worked at
terrific muscular exertion handling white-hot iron in a mill like
this. You haven't got the muscles to do it, and I doubt if you've
got the heart. You can not know the condition a man is in when he
hits his hardest lick here. But they know, and I know. Some of
the men feel they can't drink water at that time. My pal tells me
that his stomach rejects it; his throat seems to collapse as he
gulps it. But beer he can drink and it eases him. The alcohol in
beer is a blessing at that time. It soothes his laboring stomach
until the water can get into his system and quench the man's
thirst. Iron workers in the Old World have used malt beverages
for generations. Why take away the other man's pleasure if it
doesn't injure you? If it was deadly we would have been weakened
in the course of generations. But look at the worker's body. It
is four times as strong as yours." I saw an envious look in his
"Of course I inherited my muscular build," I apologized, "and
so I try to make the most of it in boasting to you fellows who
haven't any muscle. But really I envy you. You have education and
brain power. That's what I lack and that's what I want above all
other things. I try to study at night and educate myself. But I
haven't got any chance against you fellows who are born
intellectual and have college training on top of it. So if I have
talked sharp to you, my cussedness is really due to envy. I
really want to be in your shoes, and I haven't got the brains for
"There is nothing about me for a fellow like you to envy," he
said condescendingly. "I'm no better off than you are. In fact, I
envy you fellows. You are never sick; you can eat and digest
anything. I really envy you. You are built like a young Hercules
and are never ashamed when you strip. When I put on a bathing
suit I am embarrassed until I get out of sight in the water,
because I'm all skin and bones. My arms and legs are the size of
"Oh, well," I said, "you're just as well off without the
Hercules shape. You are always healthy."
"Healthy? What I call health, you fellows would regard as the
last stages of decrepitude. A little beer and tobacco knocks me
over. If I drank coffee and ate pie the way you do, I'd have to
take morphine to get a night's sleep. You fellows need never envy
us intellectuals. You can drink and smoke and eat anything, and
all the poisons you take in are sweated out of your pores in this
terrific labor, so that every night you come out as clean and
lusty as a new-born child. I'd swap all my education in a minute
for the mighty body and the healthy and lusty living that you
enjoy. If you knew how much I envy you, you would never think of
He had blurted out the truth. It wasn't love of comrades that
gave a motive to his life. It was envy that turned him inside
out. Envy was the whole story, and he admitted it.
GROWLING FOR THE BOSSES' BLOOD
I thought I made a number of enemies among the men while I was
head of the mill committee. When a man dissipated and afterward
came back to work, trembling and weak, the boss would refuse to
let him take up his tools, but would lay the man off for a few days.
The man usually thought this a useless and cruel punishment;
and to lose a few days' wages would make him all the poorer.
The man thus laid off would come to me and ask that I get him
"Tell 'em you'll call a strike," the man would say. "Tell 'em
that if they don't let me work, nobody will work."
I always refused to take such complaints to the office. I never
approached the boss with a demand that I did not think was right.
Some of the men thought we ought to be vindictive and take every
opportunity to put a crimp in the business for the owners. I
envied the owners (we've all got a touch of that in our system),
because they were rich and were making profits. I knew what their
profits averaged. By calling fussy little strikes often enough I
could have kept the profits close to the zero mark. Thus the men
would be making wages out of the business and the owners would be
making nothing. But I declined to let my actions be governed by
envy. The Ten Commandments forbid covetousness. The Golden Rule
also forbade my practicing sabotage. And I have never tried to
find a better guide than the Ten Commandments and the Golden
Rule. The test of my misconduct would have come when, having
cleverly destroyed their profits, I found them quitting in
discouragement, closing up the business and throwing us all out
of our jobs for keeps.
I tried to point out these things to the men. Some of them felt
as I did about it. Others couldn't see it. So I learned darn
early in life that you can't reform 'em all.
I used to say to the complaining man:
"Look here, Bill; you're in no shape to work. Go home and lie
down for a couple of days. You wouldn't last here two hours in
your present shaky condition. You'd pinch the rolls with your
tongs and probably get your neck broke. That's why they won't let
you work. You can't work. So back to your bed, Bill, we will not
call them out to-day."
Bill usually went away cursing me as the friend of the "plutes"
and the enemy of labor. "I'll get you yet," he'd say, "you black-
And so while I was making enemies among many of the men who
thought I wasn't standing up for their rights, I was making
myself even more unpopular with the owners by sticking up too
firmly for the rights of the men. They told me they believed I
knew as much about the tin plate business as any man in the
trade. This knowledge would enable me to do better in the
distributing end of the business, while as a worker I could only
make the union wages that all the fellows were getting. This gave
me an idea that has since become the dominating purpose of my
life. Handicraft is the basis of the best schooling. By working
with my hands as well as with my head I learned the actual cost
of production of every kind of plate they put out. This was
something that I could not have learned from books. Without such
knowledge the business would have to be run partly on guesswork.
With a thorough knowledge of the production end of the business I
became a valuable man. The way was open for me to get out of the
labor field and into the field of management.
But here is where my natural feeling of fraternity stepped in.
I liked to be among the men. I felt at home there. I was only
twenty-two, and salesmanship was a field I had never tried,
except for a season when I sold Mark Twain's book, Following the
Equator. There were plenty of men who had the knack of selling.
My natural gift, if I had any, was to smooth the path for working
men and help them solve their problems. I had learned that labor
was the first step on the road to knowledge. It was the
foundation of all true knowledge. I wanted to help the fellows
take the next step. That step would be to learn how labor can
enrich itself and do away with strikes and unemployment. That is
a question that still fascinates me. I did not care to dodge it
and become a manufacturer. I am the kind of fellow who, when he
takes hold of a question, never lets go. The picture of Comrade
Bannerman shaking his fist at the trainload of "plutes" lingered
with me. I still heard the voice of the knock-kneed reformer who
envied my husky limbs. The cry for bloody revolution was already
in the air. When would the mob be started and what would it do?
When Comrade Bannerman had robbed the rich and piled their
corpses in a Caesar's column, would not the knock-kneed uplifter
break my legs in making all men equal? These men were moved by
envy and they lusted for blood. I faced the problem with a thirst
for accurate knowledge, and my passion was not for bloodshed but
FREE AND UNLIMITED COINAGE
It was during the panic in 1894 that the strike vote was
defeated. We worked on until the first of July, 1896, when our
agreement expired. By that time the tin mill was on its feet. The
town of Elwood had grown from a country cross-roads to a city of
the first class. As president of the union, I had steadily gained
concessions for the workers. We were getting paid every two
weeks. It is not practical to pay oftener in the tin trade. A
man's work has to be measured and weighed, and the plate he rolls
on Saturday can not be cut and measured in time for him to get
his pay for it that week. For the pay envelope is handed to him
Saturday noon, and his Saturday's rolling will not go through the
cutter until Monday. He can not be paid for it until it is in
shape to be measured. So we were satisfied to be paid twice a
But the mill was now making big profits and we demanded a raise
in pay. The mill owners countered by refusing to "recognize" the
union. They would deal with the men only as individuals. A strike
was called, and the union won. We recovered our raise in pay and
signed a new contract. The strike was off in September after two
long months of idleness, and within a few days after the dust had
settled we smelt the fireworks of political oratory. I am telling
it now as it appeared to me then, and of course I beg the
indulgence of those concerned.
Bryan, the bearcat of the Nebraska ranches, had roared with his
ears back, and the land was in a tumult. "Coin's Financial
School" had already taught the people that the "gold-bugs" owned
the country and that the people could save themselves from
eternal serfdom only by changing the color of their money. Bryan
told the westerners that the East was the "enemy's country" and
that the gold standard was a game by which the East was robbing
the West, and the only way the people of the West could save
themselves was to move East and clip bonds or else change the
color of the money!
This is the way it looked to me as a working man, and I hope my
good friend Bryan will pardon me for writing of his "great
paramount issue" in a joking way. For after all it was a joke, a
harmless joke--because we didn't adopt it. I got excited by the
threatened "remedy" and went into politics. While the tin trade
was on strike, crazy propagandists from everywhere poured into
Elwood and began teaching the men bi-metalism, communism,
bolshevism and anarchy. A communist propagandist is like a
disease germ; he doesn't belong in healthy bodies. If he gets in
he can't increase and is soon thrown out again. But let a strike
weaken the body of workers, and the germs swarm in and start
their scarlet fever.
As soon as the strike was won, I threw myself into the task of
combatting the rising tide of class hatred led by Bryan,
representing agrarians in a fight against bankers and
industrialists. I was chairman of the mill workers' Sound Money
Club. Bryan was running for president on a platform declaring
that the laboring man should "not be crucified upon a cross of
gold." No laboring man wanted to be. I was on the same side of
the fence with Bryan when it came to the crucifixion question,
but on the opposite side of the fence regarding the gold
question. Of course I knew little about finance, and could not
answer the Nebraskan. But had he advocated the free and unlimited
coinage of pig-iron I could have talked him into a gasping
hysteria. For, we mill fellows figured that this was exactly what
Bryan's money theory amounted to. His farmer friends had borrowed
gold money from the bankers, spent it in drought years plowing
land that produced nothing, and then found themselves unable to
pay it back. They wanted to call silver and paper cash and pay
the debt with this new kind of money. He wanted a money system by
which a farmer could borrow money to put in his crop, then having
failed to raise a crop (I have mentioned the great drought years)
could yet pay back the money. But no farming nation can suffer
great crop losses without being set back financially and starved
to where it hurts. You've got to figure God's laws into your
"Bryan might as well try to dodge the hungry days by advocating
the free and unlimited coinage of tomato cans," is the way one of
the fellows put it; "then every man could borrow a dollar and buy
a can of tomatoes. After eating the tomatoes he could coin the
can into a dollar and buy another can of tomatoes. And so on
until he got too old to eat, and then he could use the last
dollar from the tin can in paying back the banker." Schemes like
that are all right for orators and agitators who make their
living with words. But farmers and iron workers know what it is
that turns clods into corn and what makes the iron wheels that
bear it to market. It is muscle applied with the favor of God.
Without labor, no crops. Without rain, no crops. It was
world-wide crop failures that finally brought the lean years of
the nineties. The return of big crops was already reviving the
sick world. It rejected the radicals' "remedy" and next year it
was well. Had we taken that wrong medicine in the dark it would
have killed us. Thirty years later Russia let them shoot that
medicine into her arm and it paralyzed her. The rain falls upon
her fields and the soil is rich, but it brings forth no harvest
and the people starve.
Russia has had famines before, but they were acts of God. The
rain failed and there was no harvest. Their present famine is an
act of man. Labor ceased. And the ensuing hunger was man's own
fault. Nations that think labor is a curse, and adopt schemes to
avoid labor, must perish for their folly.
In 1896 we came within an inch of adopting financial
bolshevism. This taught me that a people are poorly schooled who
can not tell the good from the bad. The wise heads knew what was
good for the country. Hard work and good crops would cure our
ills. But millions voted for a poison that would have destroyed
us. From that time on I dreamed of a new kind of school, not the
kind we had that turned out men to grope blindly between good and
folly. But a school based on the fundamental facts of life and
labor, the need of food and housing, and the sweating skill that
brings man most of his blessings. A school from which no man
could come out ignorant. That school should teach the eternal
facts, and he that denied the facts would then be known for a
fool or a rogue--and not be thought a Messiah.
I love sentiment, and I believe in God. And I believe that
facts are God's glorious handiwork. "Ye shall know the truth, and
the truth will set you free." The man who shuns realities because
they belittle him is on the wrong road; he is hopelessly lost
from the beginning.
CHAPTER XXX VIII
THE EDITOR GETS MY GOAT
Madison county, Indiana, was a Democratic stronghold outside
the mill towns, and a few farming townships. Free silver orators
were telling the farmers that under a gold standard no factory
could run. The farmers could see the smoke of the tin mills which
had built a great city just beyond their corn-fields. The silver
men explained that smoke as "a dummy factory set up by Mark Hanna
with Wall Street money to make a smoke and fool the people into
thinking that it was a real factory and that industry was
reviving under a Republican tariff." The orators said the best
proof that it was a sham mill lay in the fact that the plutocrats
claimed it was a tin mill, while "everybody knows it is
impossible to manufacture tin plate in America."
My method of getting votes for the tariff was to take young
Democrats from the mill and transport them to Democratic rallies
in the far corner of the county where they heard their Democratic
orators saying that the mill was a sham put up to fool voters and
that it was not manufacturing any tin. When the young Democrats
heard such rot they turned against their party. They were farm
boys who had been brought up in that county and had quit the farm
and gone into the tin mill because they could earn twice as much
making tin as they could farming. A worker at work is hard-headed
enough to know that when an orator tells him he is not working
and not earning any money, the orator is an ass. These lies about
fake factories hurt the Democrats by turning all the mill
Democrats into Republicans. This is the only method I have ever
used in campaigning. The Republicans carried the town. When, two
years later, I ran for city clerk, they passed around the rumor
that I was a wild Welshman from a land where the tribes lived in
caves and wore leather skirts and wooden shoes, and that I had
had my first introduction to a pants-wearing people when I came
to America. They said that I had not yet learned to speak
English, could not spell my own name, and was unable to count
These charges printed in the opposition paper offered me my
only chance for election. I went to all my meetings with a big
slate. I asked my audience to call out numbers. I wrote down the
figures and then did sums in arithmetic to prove that I could
count. I would ask if there was a school-teacher in the audience
(there was always one there). He would rise, and I would ask him
to verify my calculations. I would also have him ask me to spell
words. He would give me such words as "combustion," "garbage
disposal," "bonded indebtedness" and so on. I would spell the
words and write them on the slate. He would then ask me questions
in history, geography and political economy. Then the school-
teacher would turn to the crowd and say:
"Friends, I came to this meeting because I had read that Mr.
Davis is an ignorant foreigner unfitted for the duties of city
clerk. I find to my surprise that he is well informed. I am glad
we came here and investigated, for we can all rest assured that
if he is elected to the office, he is entirely capable of filling
I handled the money and kept the books for the union, and this
work in addition to my campaign efforts wore me down at last. Two
nights before the election I decided that I had small chance of
winning. I was on the Republican ticket, and the Republicans had
been in office four years and their administration had proved
unfortunate. There had been rich pickings for contractors in that
new and overgrown city, and the people blamed the Republicans and
were determined on a change.
I was passing the office of the opposition editor late at night
after canvassing for votes all day. I thought of the nasty slurs
he had written about me and my whole ancestry. I had fought hard
to educate myself and had been helpful to others. My self-respect
revolted under this editor's malicious goading. I happened to see
him in his front office, and on a sudden impulse, I went in, took
hold of his collar, and gave him a good licking.
The next day he bawled me out worse than
ever. He said I was not only a wild Welshman and a blockhead, but
what is more deadly still, I was a gorilla and an assassin.
And the next day I was elected.
PUTTING JAZZ INTO THE CAMPAIGN
I will go back and relate more details of my race for office.
Having won the nomination, I thrilled with pleasure and
excitement, but I was at a loss as to how to begin my campaign
for election. Should I hope for support among the white-collar
classes in the "swell" end of town, among the merchants and mill
owners or only in the quarter where the workers lived?
The first act of a candidate is to have cards printed and pass
them out to every one he meets. My cards bore my name and my
slogan: "Play the game square." I argued that the workers should
take part in the city government. I quit the tin mill and went
around making speeches. And as there were no movies, and the men
had nothing to do evenings but listen to speeches, it was no
trouble at all to find an audience. I learned that a politician
or an orator has the same appetite for audiences that a drunkard
has for gin. When is an orator not an orator? When he hasn't got
an audience. I found that when a horse fell down on the street
and a crowd gathered to pick it up, somebody began "addressing
the gathering on the issues of the day."
Now I know why the cranks from everywhere swarm into any region
where a strike is on. They are seeking audiences. They have no
love for humanity except that portion of humanity which is forced
to be an audience for their itching tongues. I have known rich
Jawbone Janes to travel half across the continent to harangue a
poor bunch of striking hunyaks. These daughters of luxury wanted
one luxury that money could not buy. The luxury of chinning their
drivel to an audience. You can't buy audiences as you buy orchids
and furs. Accidents make audiences. When a horse falls down and a
crowd gathers, he'll be up again and the crowd gone before a girl
from Riverside Drive can come a hundred miles in a Pullman. But
when the job falls down, the strike crowd sticks together for
days. This gives the crack-brained lady opportunity to catch the
Transcontinental limited and get there in time to pound their
ears with her oratory. She prefers a foreign crowd that can not
understand English; they are slower to balk on her. Not
understanding what she says, it fails to irritate them greatly. I
know of one radical rich girl who boasts she has spread the glad
tidings to audiences of thousands representing every foreign
language in America. She still hopes some time to catch an
audience that understands her own language. That would be a
little better fun, she thinks; but still the joy of talking is
the main thing, so it matters little whether their audience
understands. She wants her audiences to be alive, that's all; she
doesn't care much what they're alive with.
When the worker comes to understand that these "leaders" from
high society care nothing for him but only want a prominence for
themselves and have no natural talents with which to earn that
prominence, then the worker will get rid of that tribe forever.
Bill Haywood lacked the qualities that made Sam Gompers a labor
leader. Bill decided to be a leader without qualifying for it,
and history tells the rest.
I circulated among the audiences that were listening to other
candidates and waited for the men to express their opinions. I
heard one stalwart old fellow declare he was going to vote for
Jazz. "Jazz is the fellow we want for City Clerk," I heard him
tell his comrades. I had never heard of Jazz in those days: Jazz
was decidedly a dark horse. But the man was strong for him and
wanted his friends to vote the same way.
There is a trick that was often used in small-town elections.
When the "reform element" made a fight on the "old gang" it was
customary for the gang to lie down and place the name of the new
man on the ticket. The reformer thought the gang beaten and that
his own election was sure, so he didn't make a hard campaign. But
the gang quietly passed around word to scratch the name of the
reformer and to write in the name of a gang candidate in the
secrecy of the polling booth.
Was this trick being played on me? Were they now passing around
the word to scratch me and write in the name of their friend,
Jazz, who had not come out as a candidate before? I edged in
closer to the man who was boosting Mr. Jazz for my job, and after
listening for a while I learned that "Jazz Davis" was the man he
was electioneering for. He caught sight of my face and said:
"There he is now."
"My name isn't Jazz," I said. I handed him my card. It read:
JAS. J. DAVIS
"What is it then?" he asked.
I saw that I would lose a vote if I humiliated him. So I
laughed and said: "Yep, I'm him. I was just kidding. I'm mighty
glad to have your support. Have a cigar."
But I went away worried. My personal friends knew me as Jimmy.
The men electioneered and handed cards to thought my name was
Jazz. On the ballot my name would appear JAMES. Between "Jimmy,"
"Jim," "James" and Jazz" my fellows would find lots of room for
confusion. Every vote that I lost on that account would be due to
my own carelessness.
It taught me the lesson of exactness. I never again put out any
puzzling language, but tried to stick to words that could not be
FATHER TOOK ME SERIOUSLY
There was an interval of nearly five months between the time of
my election, which was in May, and the date of taking office in
September. I decided to use this time to improve my
qualifications for the job. I returned to the old home town of
Sharon and took a course in a business college. Again I walked
the old familiar paths where as a boy I had roamed the woods,
fished the streams, brought the cows along the dusty road from
pasture and blacked the boots of the traveling dudes at the
There is a great thrill for the young man who comes home with a
heart beating high with triumph, to see the love and admiration
in his parents' eyes. Father shook my hand and said. "You're a
good boy, Jimmy, and I'm proud of you. I always knew you'd make
"I haven't made much of a mark, dad," I laughed. "City clerk
isn't much. County recorder is what I'm aiming for." In fact, I
had gone so far as to dream of being auditor of the state of
A jolly old uncle who was there and who was looked on as the
sage and wit of the Welsh settlement, began kidding me.
"From city clerk to county recorder is only a step, Jimmy," he
said. "Next you'll be governor, and then president."
Father took it seriously.
"You'll never be president, lad," he said, "because you wasn't
born in this country." He seemed to think that was the only
reason. He turned to my uncle and explained regretfully: "Of all
my boys, only one has got the full American birthright. My
youngest boy, Will, is the only one that can be president."
"Well," said the jolly old uncle, "the rest of 'em can be
Even this joke father took as a sober possibility. I saw then
the full reason why he came to America. He wanted to give his
boys boundless opportunities. A humble man himself, he had made
all his sacrifices to broaden the chances for his children. This
was a lesson to me. I could not repay him. I could only resolve
to follow his example, to stand for a square deal for children
Mother was as pleased with my humble success as was father.
When I sat down to the table she apologized for her cooking and
"After the fine food you have been eating in the big hotels,
you will find our table pretty common."
"You're wrong, mother," I said. "The best food I ever had I got
right here at your table. You've never lived in boarding-houses,
but father has. He knows that it's a rough life, and they don't
feed you on delicacies. Hotel cookery is not like the cookery in
the Old World. Over there they make each dish as tasty as they
can, and good eating is one of the main objects in life. But
Americans don't like to eat. They begrudge the time they have to
spend at the table. They get it over as soon as they can. They
seem to take it like medicine; the worse the medicine tastes, the
better it is for them. An egg is something that is pretty hard to
spoil in the cooking. Yet some of these boarding-house cooks are
such masters of the art that they can fix up a plate of steak,
eggs and potatoes and make them all as tasteless as a chip of
wood. I've had this kind of fare for the last few years, and
getting back to your table is the best part of home-coming."
Father was still a puddler, and to show my appreciation of all
he had done for me, I went into the mill every afternoon that
summer and worked a heat or two for him while he went home and
rested in the shade.
The workout did me good. It kept my body vigorous and cleared
my brain so that my studies were easy for me, and I advanced with
my education faster than ever before.
This proved to me that schooling should combine the book stuff
with the shop work. Instead of interfering with each other, they
help each other. The hand work makes the books seem more
A PAVING CONTRACTOR PUTS ME ON THE PAVING
I was the only Republican elected that year. But for this
exception the Democrats would have made a clean sweep of the
city. If the editor had not charged me with being illiterate I
would neither have been nominated nor elected. When I appeared
before audiences in the "swell end" of town and wrote my lessons
on my little slate, I gained their sympathy. They believed in
fair play. And I found I had not lost their support by thrashing
Nearly all of the mill workers in Elwood voted for me. I
supposed that I had made many personal enemies among the men by
refusing to take their grievances up with the bosses when I
thought the men were wrong. But the election proved they were my
friends after all. The confidence of my own fellows pleased me
greatly. Later on, the men as a further token of their good will
clubbed together and gave me a gold watch. This gave me greater
joy, no doubt, than Napoleon felt when, with his own hand, he
placed a gold crown upon his head.
When it came time to qualify and be sworn into office I found
trouble. The Republican boss was disgruntled because only one
Republican was elected while the Democrats got everything else.
He wanted me to give up the office. "Let the tail go with the
hide," he said. "Let 'em have it all." His idea was to give the
Democrats a closed family circle, so that when temptation came
along, they would feel safe in falling for it. He feared that a
Republican in the house to watch them would scare them away from
the bait. He wanted them to take bribes and be ruined by the
scandal, and that would bring the Republicans back to power. It
was a good enough way to "turn the rogues out" by first letting
them become rogues, but my heart was not set on party success
only. I believed in protecting the public. So I went ahead and
got bondsmen to qualify me. But as often as I got men to sign my
bond, the boss went them and got them off again. A firm of
lawyers, Greenlee & Call, stood by me in my struggle to make my
bond. These men were ten years older than I. I was twenty-five.
They acted as godfathers to me. They gave me the use of their
library, and throughout my term as city clerk I spent my nights
poring over their law books. I became well grounded in municipal
law and municipal finance. I was able to pay back their kindness
some years later when C. M. Greenlee aspired to be judge of the
Superior Court of Madison County. I went to the convention as a
delegate and worked hard for Judge Greenlee until he was
nominated, and elected.
The city administration of which I was a member let many
contracts. As I said before, a cross-roads town had become a city
and there were miles of paving and sewer to put in, and scores of
public buildings to go up. Old Francis Harbit was the Democratic
mayor, and he didn't intend that the contractors should graft on
the city nor give boodle to the officials. I remember one
stirring occasion. There was a big contract for sewers to be let,
and if a certain bid should go through, the contractor would
profit greatly. Big Jeff Rowley (I'll call him) was the grafting
contractor who had ruined the Republican administration. He was
six feet, two inches tall in his stocking feet. He had put in his
sealed bid and then had approached everybody with his
proposition. His overtures were scorned and he was told that we
were not out for boodle but were "playing the game on the square"
(that had been my campaign slogan). It finally dawned on the
corrupt old bully that the lowest bid would get the contract. He
then came into my office and took down his bid to revise it. It
was such a big contract that he could not afford to lose it. I
told him that if his bid was not back in time I would so note it.
Bids were to be opened that night and read by me before the
mayor and council. I was familiar with every detail of the law
governing municipal bonds and contract letting. We had advertised
that bids must be filed before seven-thirty that evening. Big
Jeff took down his bid at seven-fifteen and filed his new bid at
seven forty-five; fifteen minutes after the legal time limit.
The council was in session and hundreds of citizens were there
to protest against any more deals in letting contracts at
exorbitant prices. I opened and read aloud the various bids,
including that of the big boss, Jeff Rowley, adding that Jeff's
bid had been filed too late to be legal.
"You lie!" he screamed. "You're a Welsh liar, and I'll kill you
for this!" The threat was heard by the council and the citizens.
But the man seemed so terrible that no one dared reprimand him.
A few moments later the city attorney sent down to the clerk's
office for some blanks. Jeff was waiting behind a corner of the
hall. He hit me a blow in the neck that knocked me four yards. It
was the "rabbit blow" and he expected it to break my neck. The
hard muscles that the puddling furnace put there saved my life. I
sprang up, and he came after me again. I seized the big fellow by
the ankles and threw him down. Then I battered his head against
the floor until I was satisfied that he could do me no more harm.
He went home and took to his bed.
He announced that when he got out he would charge me with
assault. I went before the mayor and offered to plead guilty to
such a charge. The mayor protested against it. He said I had done
the right thing in protecting the honor of the city, and that the
citizens would not permit my action to cost me money. The local
banker took up a collection to pay my fine in case a fine should
be assessed against me.
My salary as city clerk was forty dollars a month. My wages in
the tin mill were seven dollars a day. A week in the mill would
have brought me more than a month's pay in the city office. But I
hoped the clerkship would lead to something better.
One incident that happened while I was city clerk I have
already related. The city attorney almost sent a man to jail
because he couldn't understand the lawyer's questions. I put the
lawyer's language into simpler words, and the man then understood
and quickly cleared himself of the charge against him. At another
time, the mill owners petitioned for the vacation of an alley
because they wanted to build a railroad switch there to give
access to a loading-out station of the mill.
"I suppose," their representative told me, "that since this
would be a favor to the mill, and you were opposed by the mill
owners, you will hand it to us in this matter."
"Why should I?" I asked. "Don't you think you ought to have
"Certainly we do, or we wouldn't have asked for it."
"Do you think the city needs the alley worse than you do?"
"No. It is an alley only on paper. There are no residences
there and nobody needs the alley but us."
"But you think because I am a labor man and you are a mill
owner, and you and I have had many hot fights over wage
questions, that I will fight you on this just for spite?"
"Such things have been done."
"Well, I am not spiteful. Many a time I have made the men mad
at me by being fair to you. Spite and malice should have no place
in dealings between employer and employee. If you had a chance,
would you give the men a dirty deal just for spite?"
"We're business men," he said. "And we never act through
malice, but we often expect it from the other side."
"Well, don't expect it from me. As a city official my whole
duty is to the city. If we give you that railroad switch it will
help the mill and can't hurt the city. Without your mills there
would be no city here, and all the alleys would be vacated, with
grass growing in them. If I took advantage of my city job to
oppress your mill business, I would be two kinds of a scoundrel,
a public scoundrel and a private one. I favor the vacation of the
alley and when the council meets next Wednesday I am sure they
will do this for you."
THE EVERLASTING MORALIZER
I played the game fair throughout my term of office. I hate
dishonesty instinctively. I like the approval of my own
conscience and the approval of men. This is egotism, of course. I
claim nothing else for it. I am no prophet. I do not claim to be
inspired. The weaknesses that all flesh is heir to, I am not
immune from. I write this story not to vindicate my own wit nor
to point out new paths for human thought to follow. I am a
follower of the old trails, an endorser of the old maxims. I
merely add my voice to the thousands who have testified before me
that the old truths are the only truths, and they are all the
guidance that we need. I am an educator of the young, not an
astounder of the old; and it is for the boys and girls who read
my book that I thus point the morals that life's tale has taught
Had I proved unfaithful in my first office I could not have
gone to higher offices. My opponents would have "had something on
me." As secretary of labor, I am called on to settle strikes and
to adjust disputes between employers and employee. I could do
nothing if either side distrusted me. But since both sides
believe me to be honest, they get right down to brass tacks and
discuss the cases on their merits only. Sometimes the employees
ask too much, sometimes the employers. When either side goes too
far I feel free to oppose it.
I approach each problem not only from the economic but from the
human angle. I took my guidance from the words of President
Harding, when he said:
"The human element comes first. I want the employers to
understand the hopes and yearnings of the workers, and I want the
wage earners to understand the burdens and anxieties of the wage
payers, and all of them must understand their obligations to the
people and to the republic. Out of this understanding will come
social justice which is so essential to the highest human
The Labor Department has been able to settle, after candid
argument, thousands of disputes saving millions of dollars for
workers and employers and relieving the public from the great
loss and inconvenience that comes with strikes and industrial
war. I have but one aim, and that is justice. I know but one
policy, and that is honesty. I am slow to reach decisions. I must
hear both sides. I want the facts, and all the facts. When all
the facts are in my mind the arguing ends; the judgment begins. I
judge by conscience and am guided by the Golden Rule. Decision
comes, and it is as nearly right as God has given me power to see
Out of four thousand disputes handled by the Department, three
thousand six hundred were settled. These directly involved
approximately three and one-half million workers and indirectly
many others. At first seventy per cent. of the cases were strikes
before conciliation was requested. Now, in a majority of the
cases presented, strikes and lockouts are prevented or speedily
adjusted through our efforts.
This was due to perfect candor in talking. Honest opinions were
honestly set forth. Both sides took confidence in each other, and
both sides accepted my suggestions, believing them sincere and
fair. And so I say to the young men that honesty is the best
policy because it is the only policy that wins. The communists
tell the young that honesty is not the best policy. They say that
the rich man teaches the poor to be honest so that the rich can
do all the stealing. They say that the moral code is "dope" given
by the strong to paralyze the weak and keep them down. It is not
so. Honesty is the power that lifts men and nations up to
greatness. It is a law of nature just as surely as gravity is a
natural law. But one is physical nature and the other moral
nature. A fool can see that physical laws are eternal and
unbreakable. The wise can see that the moral law is just as
powerful and as everlasting.
Had I not won the people's confidence while I was city clerk of
Elwood, Indiana, my public career would have ended there. But
after four years in that office I aspired to be county recorder.
The employers who once had feared that I would be unfair, now
said, "Davis is the man for the job," and so I got their vote as
well as the vote of the workers, and I was elected to that higher
office by a great majority.
FROM TIN WORKER TO SMALL CAPITALIST
During my term as county recorder at Anderson, Indiana, I saved
money. I was unmarried and had no dissipations but books, and
books cost little. I had lent money to several fellows who wanted
to get a business education. By the year 1906, or ten years after
I quit the mill, the money I had lent to men for their education
in business colleges had all come back to me with interest. All
my brothers had grown up and left home, and mother wrote that I
ought not to send so much money to her as she had no use for it.
Although unmarried, I had bought a house, and still had several
thousand dollars of capital. So from time to time when some
friend saw an opportunity to start a business in a small way, I
backed him with a thousand dollars. My security in these cases
was my knowledge of the man's character. Some of these ventures
were in oil leases in which my chance of profits was good and
they ranged from novelty manufacture down to weekly newspapers in
which no great profit was possible. So many of the ventures
thrived, that by the time I was forty I was rated as a prosperous
young man. This gave me a great confidence in myself and in the
institutions of this country. A land where a boy can enter the
mills at eleven, learn two trades, acquire a sound business
education and make a competence in his thirties is not such a bad
country as the hot-headed Reds would have us believe. I was now
launched on a business career and my investments were paying me
much larger revenues than I could earn at my trade. It was a rule
of the union that when a man ceased to work in the iron, steel or
tin trades he forfeited his membership. However, the boys thought
that Mahlon M. Garland--a puddler who went to Congress--and
myself had done noteworthy service to the labor cause, and they
passed a resolution permitting us to remain in the organization.
Mr. Garland served six years in Congress and died during his term
of office. I still carry my membership and pay my dues.
I was in France when the great Hindenburg offensive in the
spring of 1916 overwhelmed the Allies. The French soldiers I met
were worried and asked what word I brought them from America. I
said: "I am an iron worker and can speak for the workers. Their
hearts are in this cause. They will work as one man until all the
iron in the mountains of America is hurled into the belly of the
The war was an iron war. The kaiser had the steel and the coal
that move armies. France lacked these, and the Germans thought
she was doomed. They cut the French railroads that would have
brought the troops and munitions to defend Verdun. Then the
Germans attacked this point in overwhelming numbers. But the
French troops went to Verdun without the aid of railroads. The
Germans did not dream that such a thing was possible. But America
had given the world a new form of transportation, trains that run
without rails and with-out coal. Motor-trucks, driven by
gasoline, carried the troops and munitions to Verdun. And so,
after all, the genius of America was there smiting the crown
prince to his ruin long before the first American doughboy could
set foot in France.
For years the names of oil king and iron master have been a
hissing and a byword among the hot-heads in America. Yet oil king
and iron master filled a world with motor lorries. The blessings
these have brought to every man are more than he can measure. We
mention this as one: They stopped the Germans at Verdun and saved
our civilization. It was an iron war and our iron won.
My days were spent at forge and puddling furnace. The iron that
I made is civilization's tools. I ride by night in metal
bedrooms. I hear the bridges rumble underneath the wheels, and
they are part of me. I see tall cities looking down from out the
sky and know that I have given a rib to make those giants. I am a
part of all I see, and life takes on an epic grandeur. I have
done the best I could to build America.
If God has given it to the great captains to do more than the
privates to make the plan and shout the order, shall I feel
thankless for my share of glory? Shall I be envious and turn
traitor and want to crucify the leaders that have blessed
I am content to occupy my secondary station, to do the things
that I can do, and never to feel embittered because other men
have gifts far surpassing mine.
A CHANCE TO REALIZE A DREAM
On October 27, 1906, I joined the Loyal Order of Moose at
Crawfordsville, Indiana, and a new chapter in my life began. The
purpose of the Order was merely social, but its vast
possibilities took my imagination by storm. For I believed that
man's instinct for fraternity was a great reservoir of social
energy which, if harnessed aright, could lift our civilization
nearer to perfection.
On the night of my election and initiation to membership, the
Supreme Lodge was in convention and they requested me to make a
talk. I suggested a scheme to save the wastage of child life
resulting from the death of parents and the scattering of their
babies; and also to provide for the widows and aged. This problem
had haunted me from boyhood when, as I have told, I was the
bearer of death news to the widows and orphans of the mill town.
I felt that the Loyal Order of Moose could cope with this
problem. They elected me supreme organizer and put me in charge
of the organization work, and after several years I showed so
much zeal that the office of director general was created and I
was put in full charge.
The Order was then nineteen years old, having been founded in
St. Louis as chartered in 1888, in Louisville, Kentucky. It had
thrived for a while and then dwindled. At the time I joined there
were only two lodges surviving, with a total roll of some two
hundred and forty-six members. I set to work with great
enthusiasm, hoping to enroll a half million men. This would make
the Order strong enough to insure a home and an education for all
children left destitute by the death of members. In fancy I again
beheld the vision of long trains of lodge men going to their
yearly meeting, but this time, in a city of their own building,
and over the gateway to this red-roofed town I saw the legend:
THE CITY OF HAPPY CHILDREN
But alas for dreams! Any one can have them, but their
realization is not always possible. The men in the Moose before
me had fought vainly for these high ideals. At the end of my
first year as director general I had not made one-tenth the
progress I had hoped for. Figuring on the rate of progress I was
making, I saw that a lifetime would be too short to accomplish
anything. It was then that I would have despaired, if my Welsh
blood had not been so stubborn. I summoned new courage and went
on with the work. At the end of the fourth year I began to see
results from my preliminary efforts. The convention of 1910
showed that the membership was eighty thousand, distributed among
three hundred and thirty-three lodges. It was resolved to start
the actual work of founding an educational institution. A tax of
two cents a week was laid on members and later increased to four
cents. Land was bought, a building erected and in 1913 the school
was dedicated by Thomas R. Marshall, Vice-President of the United
States. There were eleven children established in the home. Soon
the lodge membership increased enormously. Having passed the
hundred thousand mark it swept on to the half million goal. The
"Mooseheart idea," as we called it, had caught the imagination of
the men. To-day the city of Mooseheart in the Fox River Valley,
thirty-seven miles west of Chicago, is the home of more than a
thousand fatherless children and one hundred and fifteen mothers
who are there with their children, and several old men whose
working days are over. The dream of the Moose has come true. In
many ways the "City of Happy Childhood" is the most beautiful and
the most wonderful city in the world.
THE DREAM COMES TRUE
What kind of school is Mooseheart? That can not be answered by
making comparisons, for it is the only school of its kind. When
the Moose committee met to decide what sort of school it would
build, somebody suggested a normal school, a school to teach the
young how to become teachers.
I objected. "The world is well supplied with teachers," I said.
"Everybody wants to teach the other fellow what to do, but nobody
cares to do it. Hand work will make a country rich and mouth work
make it poor. All the speeches I have ever made have never added
a dollar to the taxable value of America. But the tin and iron I
wrought with my hands have helped make America the richest
country in the world. The Indians were philosophers and orators;
they could outtalk the white man every time. But the Indians had
no houses and no clothes. They wouldn't work with their hands. A
race that works with its hands has run the Indian off the earth.
If we quit working now and try to live on philosophy, some race
that still knows how to work will run us out of this country. The
first law of civilized life is labor. Labor is the giver of all
good things. Let us teach these orphans how to apply their labor,
and after that all things will be added unto them."
And so we established a pre-vocational school where the young
people are taught farming, carpentry, cement construction,
blacksmithing, gas engine building and dozens of other
fundamental trades that nourish our industrial life, a life that
draws no nutriment from Greek or Latin. I am not opposed to
literature and the classics. I make no war on the dead languages.
The war that killed them did the business. Why should I come
along and cut off their feet, when some one else has been there
and cut off their heads? But as an educator I promote the
industrial trades, because they educated and promoted me. I have
done well in life, and if you ask me how I did it, I'm telling
you. Industry first and literature afterward. And if you wish to
see that kind of school in action, you can see it at Mooseheart,
There is a school with more than a thousand students, boys and
girls of various ages, ranging from one month to eighteen years.
Some of the students were born there, the mother having been
admitted with her youngsters soon after the loss of the father.
Each lad will get an introduction to a dozen trades, and when he
selects the one that fits him best, he will specialize in that
and graduate at eighteen, prepared for life. This education is
the gift of more than half a million foster fathers. The Moose
are mostly working men, and so they equip their wards for
industrial life, and then place them on the job.
A boy that knows how to build concrete houses will not have to
sleep in haystacks. If every high-school boy in America was a
carpenter and cement builder how long would the housing shortage
last? "The birds of the air have their nests," says the Bible.
And we know why they have them. Every bird knows how to build its
nest. Nature teaches them their trade. But men must learn their
trades in school. I visited a college once and saw how Greek was
taught. They showed me a clay model of ancient Athens and pointed
out the house that each philosopher and poet lived in thousands
of years ago. "Where are the houses," I asked the graduates,
"that you are going to live in to-morrow?" "Heaven only knows,"
they said. "We'll have to take our chances in the general
scarcity; our fate is on the knees of the gods." The luck of the
Mooseheart boy is not on the knees of the gods; it is in his own
I visited the Latin department and heard of Rome's ancient
grandeur. "The Romans," they told me, "were not philosophers, but
builders. They built concrete roads to the ends of the earth. But
their soldiers brought back malarial fever from Africa. It
destroyed the builders and their secret perished with them.
Eighty years ago concrete was rediscovered." I asked the
students: "Do you know how to make concrete?" "I'll say we
don't," they answered. And that's how much good their Latin
education had done them.
The Mooseheart boys know how to make those concrete roads and
how to build the motor-trucks that travel on them.
"Transportation is civilization." We teach civilization at the
Mooseheart school. We teach art, too. But what is art without
civilization? The cave men were artists and drew pictures on
their walls. But you can't eat pictures. There is a picture on
every loaf of bread. You always slice the colored label off the
loaf and eat the bread and throw the art away. The Russians quit
work a few seasons ago, and now they are selling their art
treasures cheap to the roughneck nations that stuck to the pick-
ax and the plow. The moral is: Keep working and you'll get the
chromo. This truth was taught at Mooseheart long before the
Russians saw the point and awarded us their picture gallery.
What I want to emphasize is that we are not opposed to art and
literature. All men want them; need them. We teach how to get
THE MOOSEHEART IDEA
The majority of the Moose are men in the mechanical trades. But
the primary trade, the one on which all others rest, is
agriculture. The men knew this, and so they founded Mooseheart on
the soil. It is an agricultural school. It occupies more than a
thousand acres in the richest farming region of Illinois. The
first thing the students learn is that all wealth comes out of
the earth. The babies play in the meadows and learn the names of
flowers and birds. The heritage of childhood is the out-of-doors.
I heard of some children in the city who found a mouse and
thought it was a rabbit. But when the city-born children come to
Mooseheart they come into their own. They trap rabbits and
woodchucks, fight bumblebees' nests, wade and fish in the creek
and go boating and swimming in the river and the clear lake.
When a boy gets old enough to leave the kindergarten and start
in the primary school he mixes agricultural studies with his
books. First he plants a small garden and tends it. Then he is
taught to raise chickens. Next he learns swine husbandry and then
dairying and the handling of horses. The girls learn poultry-
raising, butter-making, gardening, cooking, dressmaking and
After the boy has had a general course in all the branches of
agriculture he is permitted to specialize in any one of them if
he wants to. He can make an exhaustive study of grain farming,
dairying, stock breeding, bee culture, horticulture and landscape
After this grounding in agriculture, which all the boys must
have, the student gets an introduction to the mechanical trades.
Then he may select a particular trade and specialize. The usual
grammar-school and high-school courses are taught to all the
students, also swimming and dancing and music, both vocal and
instrumental. The kindergarten has a babies' band, and both the
girls and boys have their own brass bands and orchestras.
Students are graduated when they are eighteen. Up to that time
they are permitted to stay and learn as many trades as they can.
Learning comes easy in such a school as Mooseheart, and many of
the boys go out with two or more finished trades. Music is one of
the trades that the boys double in. We have graduated many fine
musicians, but none who didn't know a mechanical trade as well
and, on top of it all, he knew how to run a farm. Such a boy can
serve his country in peace or war. Before men can eat they have
to have food, and he knows how to raise it. To enjoy their food
they must have a house to live in, and he knows how to build it.
After a house and food comes music. This lad can play a tune for
One of Mooseheart's earliest graduates made a high record in
his academic studies and mastered the trade of cook, pastry cook,
nurseryman, cement modeler, cornetist, saxophone player and
landscape gardener. He was brilliant in all these lines and ready
to make a living at any one of them. And if all these trades
should fail, he was yet a scientific farmer and could go to the
land anywhere and make it produce bigger crops than the untrained
man who was born on the soil.
What other school in the world will give a boy at eighteen an
equipment like that? I ask this, not to disparage the old-
fashioned schools, but to call their attention to what the new
Mooseheart is at once a farm, a school and a town. The boys
help handle the crops and herds under the guidance of the experts
who teach the classes in agriculture. For extra work in the
fields the boys receive pay. They save their money to buy the
tools of their trade. The bandsmen when they graduate go out
with fine instruments bought with their own earnings during their
school years. "Preparation for life" is the one aim of
Mooseheart. Therefore at Mooseheart the boy or girl will
encounter every problem that he will encounter in his struggle in
the wider world. Nothing is done for him that he can do for
himself. He is taught no false theories. But every fact of life
is placed before him in due time. The first wealth of facts comes
to these city-bred children when they are set down in the middle
of this great, busy, beautiful farm. John Burrows says: "No race
that does not take to the soil can long hold its country. In the
struggle for survival it will lose its country to some incoming
race that loves the soil." Already the Japanese farmers in
California have shown that if we should let them in they would
take this whole country in a few years. They drive the American
farmer out because they have a passion for the soil, and they
turn their whole families in to till it. What is the answer?
Teach our young to love the soil and to till it well, or else an
alien race will take away their heritage. The first lesson in
Mooseheart is to till the soil.
But in addition to being a farm, Mooseheart is a town. The
young folk live in cottages and do their own cooking and
house-keeping. There are no great dormitories where hundreds
sleep, and no vast dining-room where they march in to the
goose-step. We are preparing them for a free life, and the only
place they use the goose-step is in the penitentiary. Mooseheart
is a town instead of an institution. All "institutionalism" is
cast away. In each cottage is a group of boys or a group of girls
living under family conditions. They are not all of the same age;
some are big and some are little, and the big ones look after the
little ones. Each cottage has its own kitchen and orders its own
supplies from the general store. The girls' cottages have each a
matron (sometimes a widow who with her little ones has been
admitted to Mooseheart), and she advises the girls how to do the
buying and the cooking.
In the boys' cottages there is a proctor to advise them and
usually a woman cook. The boys who care to can learn cookery and
household buying under her supervision. All the boys do their own
dishwashing, sweeping and bed-making. Once three boys about
fourteen years old went on strike because the proctor asked them
to scrub the dining-room floor on their knees. They thought this
work would degrade them, and they started toward the
superintendent's office. On the way they met me and told me their
"I think it is all right for a young man to scrub a floor on
his knees," I said. "I've done it for my mother many a time. I
have been a bootblack. But it didn't hurt my character. You are
going to the superintendent for his opinion. He is a Harvard man,
but he worked his way through school and one of his jobs was
bellboy in a hotel. Had he been too proud to work as a servant he
would never have gotten the education that makes him head of this
great school. Didn't you ever scrub a floor on your knees? You
can see the dirt come out with the suds and you can watch the
grain of the wood appear, where before it was hidden by dust and
grease. If you never saw that, you have missed something that I
have seen many a time. To know how to scrub a floor is as much a
part of your education as to know how to sandpaper a floor and
varnish it. We could hire this work done better than you can do
it, but that wouldn't be giving you a chance to learn the work.
Now I'm not telling you boys to go back and do the work if you
don't want to. Use your own judgment. But fellows that balk on a
job never go far. A balky man is like a balky horse, everybody
gets rid of him as quickly as they can. A quitter is never given
a good job. They always keep him in a place where it doesn't make
any difference whether he quits or not."
The leader of the boys said: "Aw, piffle, cut it out. We might
as well be scrubbing the floor as listening to this talk. Come
on, fellows." He led them back, one of them protesting that he
would never scrub a floor for any man. He went ahead and scrubbed
the floor still saying that he wouldn't. That lad was weaker than
the leader. He went wherever he was led. The leader was a boy who
made his own decisions. He was ashamed of calling off the strike,
but he did it because he felt the strike was wrong.
This is the Mooseheart idea of education. Every boy must use
his own judgment. He faces every fact that he will face in life,
and by the time he is eighteen his judgment is as ripe as that of
the much older average man. The Mooseheart boys are not selected
students. They come from the humblest families, from homes that
have been wiped out early. But the training at Mooseheart is so
well adapted to human needs that these orphans soon outstrip the
children of the more fortunate classes. They become quick in
initiative, sturdy in character and brilliant in scholarship.
Visitors who come from boys' preparatory schools where the
children of the rich are trained for college are amazed to find
these sons of the working people so far ahead of the young
aristocrats. The Mooseheart boys as a group have the others
beaten in all the qualities that go to make a young man
excellent. We have prepared them for life.
BUILDING A BETTER WORLD BY EDUCATION
And so the great dream of my life has been realized. In youth I
saw the orphans of the worker scattered at a blow, little
brothers and sisters doomed to a life of drudgery, and never to
see one another again. No longer need such things be. The
humblest worker can afford to join an association that guarantees
a home and an education to his children. In Mooseheart the
children are kept together. Family life goes on, and with it
comes an education better than the rich man's son can buy.
As individuals, the Moose are not rich men, but in cooperation
they are wealthy. They have a plant at Mooseheart now valued at
five million dollars, and they provide a revenue of one million
two hundred thousand a year to maintain and enlarge it. They
received no endowment from state or nation. They wanted to
protect their children and they found a way to do it. They based
their system of education on the actual needs of men. They know
what life is, for they have lived it. In mine and field and
factory they had tasted the salty flavor of real things, and they
built a school that has this flavor.
The war drove home a lesson that will forever make false
education hateful to me. Education in the wrong direction can
destroy a nation and wreck the happiness of the world. The German
worker was taught that he would get rich, not by patient toil,
but by taking by force the wealth that others had created.
On my return from France, where I had witnessed the Hindenburg
drive into the heart of France, I addressed the Iron Workers in
their national convention. "I am glad," I said, "that I was born
an iron worker and not a Chancellor of Blood and Iron. For the
iron I wrought has helped build up a civilization, while the
German's 'Blood and Iron' has sought to destroy it.
"France stands knee-deep in her own blood while the iron of
Germany is being hurled into her breast. Iron Workers of America,
to you has God given the answer to the German thunderbolt. The
iron of the republic shall beat down the iron of the kings.
Wherever I walked behind the battle lines in France I told them I
was an iron worker and I gave them this message for you:
"'The American iron worker will not fail you. We have been
taught to believe in justice as the German believes in might. We
will back up our soldiers with ships and guns until Kaiserisim is
beaten. We will set the workers of Germany free--free from their
foul belief in murder and in kings. And when we have bound up our
wounds we will build a new world that shall be a freer world than
man has ever known.'
"I have dedicated my life to this purpose. We will build this
freer world by the right instruction of our young. Education is
of two kinds, one kind is good and the other is poison. A
poisonous education took but one generation to turn the German
working men into a race of blood-letters. Wrong education tears a
nation down. Right education will build it up. One generation of
right education will remake the world. Who will furnish this new
education? I, for one, will do my share, and more. My heart is in
this one cause, and my whole life from now on shall be devoted to
"You will hear me speaking for it on every rostrum and in every
schoolhouse in America. I have been handicapped in life because I
had no education. But it is better to have no education than a
false one, for I was left free to know the truth when I found it.
I went into the mills when I should have been in school. As a
working man I have helped get better conditions for the worker.
Think how much more I could have done if I had had an education.
Your leaders have done much for the iron workers because they
could see farther than the common man. The worker with an
education can see far. He can judge quickly and be guided
rightly, for he has knowledge to guide him. I have knelt and
prayed to God to direct me. Now I know He has answered my prayer.
My mission is to bring to the poor man's boy the ample education
that the rich man gives his son. Equal education will make men
equal in the gaining of wealth. Education is Democracy.
"A French soldier lay dying on the battle-field, and a comrade
kneeling by him asked what last word he wished carried to his
wife and children. And the dying man said with his last breath:
'Tell them that I gave my body to the earth, I gave my heart to
France and I gave my soul to God.'
"And so I say to you in the spirit of the French soldier that
this, my body, I will give at last back to the iron earth, in
whose deep mines and smoking metal shops my muscles took their
form. This heart of mine that beats for liberty and equality I
give--and give to its last beat--to the cause of equal education
for our young. And my soul at last I shall render back unto my
Maker knowing that I have served His cause as He has given me to
H. G. Wells has asked all scholars to unite in writing a "Bible
of the New Education." I am no scholar, but if Wells will take
suggestions from an iron puddler, I offer him these random
This generation is rich because the preceding generation stored
up lots of capital. We are living in the houses and using the
railroads that our fathers built by working overtime.
When labor loafs on the job it makes itself poor. We are not
building fast enough to keep ourselves housed. Were it not for
the houses our fathers built this generation would be out-of-
doors right now, with no roof but the sky.
No matter who owns the capital, capital works for everybody.
Ford owns the flivver factory, but everybody owns the flivvers.
The oil king owns the gasoline, but he has to tote it to the
roadside where every one can get it. Equal division is the goal
that capitalism constantly approaches. No man wants all the
gasoline. He wants six gallons at a time, with a service station
every few miles. Capital performs this service for him. Under
"capitalism," sońcalled wealth is more equally divided than under
any other system ever known.
Work is a blessing, not a curse. This country had the good luck
to be settled by the hardest workers in the world. Their big
production made us rich. If we slacken production we will soon be
poor. The Indians owned everything in common. They did not work.
And they were so poor that this whole continent would support
less than two million of them. Thousands of Indians used to
starve and freeze to death every hard winter.
The white man who doesn't want to work is sick. He needs a dose
of medicine, not a dose of the millennium. The Bible says that in
the sweat of his face man shall eat bread. When labor loafs, it
injures labor first and capital last. For labor grows poor to-day
while the capitalist gets poor to-morrow. But to-morrow never
comes. The capitalist can turn laborer and raise himself a mess
of pork and beans.
The laborer who does not turn capitalist and have a house and
garden for his old age is lacking in foresight.
Men will never be equal. John L. Sullivan had many fights, and
John always whipped the other fellow, or the other fellow whipped
John. When all men are equal, every prize fight will end in a
draw, and every batter will knock as many home runs as Babe Ruth.
"There is enough already created to supply everybody if it were
equally divided." Yes. And there is enough ice at the North Pole
to cool off the Sahara Desert if it were equally divided. There
is enough water in the seven seas to flood the six continents if
it were equally divided.
The time to quit work and divide the wealth is just two weeks
before the end of the world. For the world's surplus of supplies
is just two weeks ahead of starvation. Wheat is being harvested
in one country or another every week in the year. And yet with
all the hard work that men can do, they can not boost the world's
supply of bread so as to increase our two weeks' lead on the wolf
of famine. The wolf is ever behind us only two weeks away. And if
we stumble for a moment, he gets nearer.
American machinery enabled the western farmer to raise and
harvest as much wheat as twenty Russian peasants. In India where
wheat is raised by hand, the labor of one family will only feed
one family. But in the Dakotas, the labor of one man will deliver
in Chicago enough flour to feed three hundred men a year. This
increase in man's power to produce wheat caused the world's
population to double itself since McCormack invented the reaper.
The Chinese and Hindu millions who would have starved to death,
have been fed, and that's why they're with us to-day. The natural
limit of population is starvation. The more bread the more
mouths, less bread, fewer people. Europe and the Orient reached
the starvation limit before America was settled. A bad crop meant
a famine, and a famine started a plague. This plague and famine
would sweep off a third of the population, and the rest could
then raise food enough to thrive on. England and Wales have had
famines, Ireland has had famines, France has had famines, Russia
has a deadly famine after every bad crop year, while in India and
China famine is a chronic condition.
America has never had a famine. But we are not exempt from
famine. In the year 1816, known as the year of "eighteen-hundred-
and-froze-to-death," the crops failed throughout America because
of freezing weather all summer long. Little or no food was raised
and the Americans would have perished from famine had it not been
for the wild meat in the woods. The people lived on deer and bear
that winter. To-day if our food supply fails we can not live on
venison. No country is by natural law exempt from famine. Our
famine will come when we fill this country as thickly as men can
stand; China and India have so filled themselves. Famine awaits
us when we repeat their folly. That day will come soon unless we
bar the unworthy from our gates.
But cold weather and crop failure are not the only things that
could bring a famine in America. Slacking in production has the
same effect as crop failure. A farmers' strike could bring a
famine. A railroad strike could do the same. Many men advocate a
combination farmers' strike and railroad strike to destroy
capital (that is, to destroy the food supply). Don't get
impatient, boys. You shall have your famine, if you will wait
long enough. And the less work you do while you are waiting, the
sooner it will come. Nature is never whipped. Nature will take a
crack at you, if you leave an opening. The generation that went
before you worked ten to fourteen hours a day; they battled face
to face with a raw continent in their fight with Nature. And by
their muscle they drove Nature back and she surrendered. She went
down like crumpled Germany, and she signed a treaty. Hard were
the treaty terms our fighting fathers made with Nature. They took
an indemnity. She delivered to them more houses than her cyclones
had destroyed, she furnished them millions of cattle in place of
the wild deer and buffalo. She yielded up her coal regions to
warm them in payment for the torture her winters had inflicted.
By this treaty she gave them everything she had and promised to
We are the inheritors of the good things of that peace treaty.
We were born rich; we revel in the "reparations" that our fathers
wrung from a conquered Nature. But Nature, like Germany, is not
really whipped. If we relax, she will default on her payments. As
long as Nature is not really whipped, her treaty is a scrap of
paper. Nature, right now, is preparing for a come-back. She will
not arm openly, for we would then arm to meet her. She is
planning to attack us by a method that is new. She will weaken us
by propaganda, and when we are helpless she will march over us at
Who then are the propagandists that Nature is using to
undermine the race that conquered her? Communists, slackers, sick
men and fools. The man who says let us "quit work and divide our
cake and eat it" is opening the way for Nature to strike suddenly
with a famine. The man who advocates "one big strike" to destroy
our capital is the secret agent of starvation. Nature when up in
arms can sweep men off like flies. She has always done it and she
always will, unless man uses his intelligence and his cooperation
to fight the evils in Nature and not to fight his fellow men.
"Capitalism," as the communists call it, is an imperfect
system. But it is the only system that has banished famine. Under
communism and feudalism there was hunger. Under capitalism the
world has been able to feed twice as many mouths as could be fed
Capitalism found a world of wood and iron ore, and made it into
a world of steel. How? It puddled the pig-iron until the dross
was out, and the pure metal was bessemered into steel. Now the
task is to purify men as we have purified metals. Men have dross
in their nature. They break under civilization's load. A steel
world is hopeless if men are pig-iron. There is greed and envy
and malice in all of us. But also there is the real metal of
brotherhood. Our task is to puddle out the impurities so that the
true iron can be strong enough to hold our civilization up
I have been a puddler of iron and I would be a puddler of men.
Out of the best part of the iron I helped build a stronger world.
Out of the best part of man's metal let us build a better
I have no new cure for the ills of humanity.
Life is a struggle, and rest is in the grave.
All nature is in commotion; there is wind and rain; and out of
it comes seed harvest. The waters of the sea are poured in
thunder wrack upon the hills and run in rivers back into the sea.
The winds make weather, and weather profits man. When will man's
turmoil cease, when will he find calm? I do not know. I only know
that toil and struggle are sweet, and that life well lived is
victory. And that calm is death.
Man must face an iron world, but he is iron to subdue it.
The lessons of my life were learned at the forge and I am
grateful for my schooling.
"Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of Life
Our fortunes must be wrought,
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought"