During the depression Father O'Connor was published a magazine,
Let's Go for the parish. I have selected a number of essays from the Let's Go which reveal P.J.'s thinking at that time about social justice, Catholic theology and the effects of the depression.
The first selection is from his 1937 book.
When talking about the post-Civil War depression which destroyed the St. James School in the 1860s an idea of existing need might be gathered from a story narrated to Father O'Connor in the 1920s by a dying man whom he prepared for first communion.
"It was not my fault," he said, (that he had not made his first communion as a child) "My mother had a stepson about my age; both of us were in Father Kelly's First Communion class. When the time came for receiving Communion, she could buy shoes for only one of us, and she gave them to the step son lest he might think she thought more of me than him." This was not an unusual case; work was scarce; a laborer worked in the mines or factories for less than a dollar a day. There was not planned relief or Government aid in those days; neighbor helped neighbor and friend helped friend; this was Christian Communism as taught by the Church. In time of distress the rich have an obligation toward the poor; they should not stand by heartlessly and have no pity nor sympathy; property rights are secondary to the general welfare, "necessity has no law." In extreme distress the poor have a claim on the coffers of the well-to-do. Where the Communism dictated by the eternal law of love is ignored, Christianity is not operative; the reaction is hate, class enmity, indignation and rebellion. The revulsion against the rich becomes also a revulsion against the Church. Like Christ it is condemned without a just trial. The constant plea it made for justice is forgotten, as is the aid it gave through the clinics, hospitals, homes for the aged and orphans. The rich man finds it as difficult to stay in the Catholic Church as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle: he sends his children to schools and universities that ignore the very existence of Christ and God. These become in many instances the social elite who fashion the morals of the masses. They teach through the press, the stage and the school a philosophy of life that is in complete conflict with the teaching of the Church. They scoff at Hell and Heaven; to them restraint is mental anguish. Let yourself go is their slogan of life, and any distance in the road of indulgence and pleasure; to this wealth is necessary."
From: HISTORY OF CHELTENHAM AND ST. JAMES PARISH, ST. LOUIS, MO. 1860-1937
By. Rev. P.J. OíConnor. Published with episcopal approbation.
Come with me on a parochial visit, see the shack that looks as naked as the trees in this blizzard. You will observe the weather-beaten walls, pale, wrinkled and tottering, the gutters are loose under the eaves, and the shingles on the roof where they have not fallen are made firm by the frost, there are little signs of comfort, or of paint on the outside, which leaves us to suspect conditions no better on the inside, soot and grime have gathered on the broken window pane, the house is poorly lighted, it is damp and dismal, floors are devoid of rugs, children poorly clad stand around a very plain table, they are eating bread and canned beans, the only other furniture that decorates the home is a few chairs, a cupboard and an ill assorted assembly of cooking utensils. In the inner room there are cots and beds and a woman more worn and withered than the furniture or the bed clothes tidying things in anticipation of our coming, a man trying to be manly, the breadwinner who has failed to win bread sits by the stove smoking his pipe; frost and sleet and snow on the outside renders the scene more desolate, the coal bin is empty, there are only a few live coals in the fire; without money or work the man is brooding over his troubles with zero weather outside, despondency, hunger and despair within.
Down the street a lady in furs enters her limousine, a necklace of diamonds decorates her neatly shaped neck, a uniformed chauffeur closes the door behind her; she reclines complacently on the neat velour cushions and draws over her knees a bearskin rug. She may be on an errand of mercy? No? She has lost her dog and she is in much distress because of the possibility that the dear little -"-thing is now suffering cold and want. She drives to the metropolitan press advertising bureau and offers a reward to the one who will find Topsy. The exits and entrances to theaters and picture shows are crowded to the doors, restaurants are exhaling an odor of tempting viands, well dressed, well groomed happy men and women are moving in the streets; banks, business houses and hotels display an elegance and prosperity indicative of luxury and wealth, on a floor in one of the city's skyscrapers there is the bureau of public charities, typewriters are clicking, letters acknowledging contributions to the Community Fund are being written, field workers are going and coming and statisticians and recorders are amassing their reports; we are An efficient people, our charity bureaus have all the efficiency of big business.
Efficiency, prosperity, luxury everywhere except in the home of the man whose usual salary is insufficient for the day and for many cold days this winter there has been no work, no pay, and tomorrow offers little hope.
Fraternal societies and charitable organizations have found the man and before we arrived a sympathetic and interested field worker has listened to his plain simple story of no work and records his age, his race, the number of children, their ages and such other family history as the form calls for. He is informed that his case will be given Immediate attention and after the necessary red tape has been applied to the case a minimum of relief is proffered. The field worker has turned to alleviate the want, the man at the stove arises and puts out his hand to take the dole of charity, contending emotions arise to battle in his brain, he feels like a sheep killing dog, his manhood rebels, his indignation rises, his self respect begins to totter, he is still a man, only a few years back he was one of our soldier boys, crowds lined the streets to greet his return, he was cheered and heralded and admired, he was proud of himself and proud of his country, he had fought to make the world safe for democracy,. he had hopes, ambitions and dreams, he never was an idler, he always gave the best that was in him in the job such as he picked up after the war. His fellow workers admired his endurance, geniality and skill, he kept the best foot always forward; confident and self possessed he maintained a character that won respect, never until now did he doubt his efficiency or his character, but his hand is outstretched like a beggar's to accept alms; tomorrow he will be ashamed to face his fellow workmen; he has accepted. the inevitable and taken the count, he has been laid flat on the sawdust and gone down to defeat; failure burns its brand upon his conscience-a man who cannot support his wife and children. Courage brother! You are not to blame, your only asset in this land of golden opportunity is your ability to earn and you can't find work.
Mr. President, Senators, Members of Congress, Captains of Industry, Philanthropists. Promoters of Community Funds, Directors of Fraternity and Charitable bureaus don't tempt the man to take a gun and put it to your heads, think without coercion; what would you do if yours was the home of that proud poor man?
Yes, you are busy planning a program to increase the surplus profits of big business and to make big profits for our international corporations. Let our stockholder secretary read his last annual report made to the stockholders, "business was never better," dividends are big, the country is prosperous, but behind it all there is the blizzard and that poor man and his family in the shack. You are doing your best to elevate him, you have promoted many a noble experiment to protect his morals and to uplift his character, you have spent millions and have had much discussion about those uplifts and reforms, undoubtedly you have his best interest at heart; you know he will be more efficient in your factories if you deprive him of alcoholic beverages, perhaps a little starvation might also be a part of this reform program; but the man is getting desperate; he 1s more numerous than you might believe; he hasn't the temerity, however, to raise the red flag; he is still honest, industrious and patriotic; give him a chance to earn his bread; there is snow on the sidewalks in front of your doors, you have money, he has none, he does not want your charity, all he asks is an opportunity to earn his bread, give him work!
BY REV. P. J. O'CONNOR
The income tax report for 1929 indicates that the corporations of the land had a big year. Economists say the country is prosperous; statesmen from the President down assure us there is nothing wrong with business. Our every day local experience makes it evident that there are innumerable families in extreme want, many are on the verge of starvation or living in a condition of poverty that is conducive to vermin, disease and rebellion.
Business experts and economists have diagnosed the case-Supply and demand, they explain, control the price of everything even of labor. When the market is glutted with overproduction there is no work because there is no demand.
The inference is the more we produce the worse off we are; and as a corollary, the poor are starving because there is too much of everything.
An agricultural expert advises the farmers to lessen their products by eliminating tractors and doing more of their farm work with mules. "Mules consume products of the farm. Tractors don't. How about using man power instead of machinery everywhere and feeding human beings?
The problem seems to be solved by experts after this manner: the busy bee is starving because there is too much honey, he is fed only when he produces; when there is no market for his produce he must go hungry.
Why not give him the honey he has produced? That would be Communism! No! It would be justice.
If he got a proportionate share of the honey he made he too could view complacently the closed down factory and enjoy the general prosperity. The fact is he has not been getting a living wage and his only hope of redress is organization and insistent demand.
The problem that confronts the country is not prohibition or tariff; it resolves itself into a moral question which has its source in avarice. The key to the honey-house is money and the captains of industry have most of it in their ring, and the door will remain locked as long as they cannot sell at a profit. Only people that have money can buy, and these are getting fewer and fewer because the capitalist is like the gambler, in time he gets all of them.
This is how the system works: Quick turnovers make quick profits, and machinery makes easy production. He who owns the machines in modern methods is much like the gambler, he makes and takes as long as there are purchasers and does not cease until the profits do not cover the cost of operation. At this high water stage, a few have most of the money and the majority are broken players. They can't purchase because they haven't money and the capitalist won't operate his factory because of the scarcity of purchasers, so there is an impasse. and the busy bee is the sufferer. He must wait till somebody consumes -the over product, and when there is need of something he is called back to run the machine.
The solution of the problem will not come through legislation or government. The evil is deep rooted and is innate to the heart of the individual capitalist. A rough and ready way to get him to open the door is revolution and Communism. God forbid that this should ever happen in the United States. The chaos that should follow would be the worst the world ever experienced.
A better way would be to teach him to have a heart for the Love of God and be mindful of the poor whose steward he is. The surplus products and profits belong to the poor. God created the world for man and still retains supreme dominion even over profits. He commands those who have a surplus of worldly wealth to give of this surplus to those who are in need, not by doles and crumbs of charity but by a substantial living wage.
The Catholic Church has long ago listed among the sins that cry to Heaven, "Defrauding the laborer of his hire." Accumulated wrongs bring their own revenge. The abuse of the saloon brought about prohibition. The abuse of wealth is making ready for the approach of the Red Flag. To prevent revolution labor must organize. Every man who sells his labor should belong to a union.
And labor unions must become conscious of their responsibility. Tyranny on their part and injustice can no more be defended than can the injustice and inhumanity of capital.
Labor unions should not be confined to mechanics; every kind of labor should be unionized.
I know union labor is often silly and even tyrannical - poor leadership and too little thought. But laborers are not University professors and have their limitation in wisdom and are liable to be imprudent. Their mistakes are often a counterpart of those on the other side who are over-confident because of their strength which blinds them to justice and charity. Their errors are usually the result of ignorance and a return of the pendulum.
The worst sufferers in the present deplorable economic condition are those who are neither capitalists nor belong to unions; and these are the majority of our men and women who, day in and day out, can be found early in the morning and late at night riding on the street cars going and coming from their arduous and unprofitable avocations. They simply exist whilst there is work and when there isn't they starve. These are the sufferers whose problem seems to be excluded from the arbitration courts of both capital and labor. The best brains and the best hearts of those who love church or state should become interested in the amelioration of their wrongs.
From many parts of the United States, Father O'Connor has received letters of recommendation of his article on labor conditions published in the Catholic Register at Denver and written for the last issue of Let's Go. An excerpt from one of them is as follows: "Fernley Nevada. Rev. Dear Father: Just read your article twice on 'Why should American Working Men Starve,' in the Register at Denver, Colorado. My close observation and personally interested study of conditions as they are, were, and will be, leads me to think you are a close observer and a keen analysts of true honest to God policies and politics as they exist in this country at the present.
The Professors having the chair of Economics and Political Economics in all the leading schools and colleges both Catholic and Protestant privately see the situation that confronts us as you do.. Many writers for our better Magazines also see the situation clearly but I do not know any who are so concise, metaphorical, and complete plus pleading, as you are in your vision of the deplorable situation confronting us."
Signed Hugh H. Brady.
By Rev. P. J. O'Connor
Poor luck! just as I expected; the severe Winter killed many of the birds, and the tropical summer dried up all the streams and ponds; the young birds died for want of water. Quail were hard to find; I had searched several hours all the likely spots; the day was warm; the dogs were tired; I had a blister on one of my heels and was about ready to quit and call it a day when I came upon a farmer in a narrow stretch of woods chopping logs. I saluted him ingratiatingly like one does who is conscious of trespassing.
"How do ye do?" he said, "I reckon you are from the city."
"Yes," I replied, "I am visiting at Renners and I am afraid I have crossed the line and am trespassing upon you."
"That does not matter," he said, "you can't do much harm where there is no game. Mr. Renner and myself keep no line no how, his friends are mine and mine are his."
I thanked him, and as he appeared ready to rest and chat, we both sat on a log.
"How are conditions in the country?" I asked.
"Couldn't be much worse," he replied, "no corn, wheat ?5c a bushel, and no market for anything we have to sell. People who had big mortgages on their farms are walking away and leaving their holdings to the banks. I sent 100 nice chickens to a commission man in St. Louis the 1st of October and he returned me a check for $33. I was sorry I did not keep them and eat them myself, but a man must have some money to 'buy groceries and tobacco. And how is the City?"
"Bad," I replied, "No work and many families are on the verge of starvation."
"These hard times," he continued, "are a great blessing if they help to make people think. Canned products, cold storage meats, and newspapers are the food of the masses. We are constantly repeating to one another what we read in the papers and much of our conversation on social problems is a barrel of wind and the canned thought of an editor. There are few people who think."
"You ask a farmer what is wrong with the world and he says, 'no price for anything', and a city man will tell you there is no work and the cost of living is too high. They are both right as far as they see it, but they don't see very far."
"No work!" he repeated. "I find plenty of it here on the farm doing chores and odd jobs. There will be work as long as there is a cow, a plough and a human being in the world. And it must be done whether it pays or not."
"You must be a feminist," I said. "I am sure the ladies will agree with you."
"The only time," he added, "when there shall be no work is when all the work is done. The reason why so many city folk are out of work is, they have been working; too hard and have finished their chores. They may be clever in making labor saving devices, and I don't blame them because they like to sit around and watch the machine do it, but they get through with their jobs too quickly, and I understand they don't get paid when they have no work. Tell them from me, an old clodhopper, to ease up and make the job last."
"Many hands make light work and too many hands make no work. There are too many butchers, too many bakers and too many candlestick makers. There are too many people in the cities and not enough in the country. Whilst the going was easy everyone wanted to be in the city and have a slice of the big payroll. They have now done everything that was to be done and they must stop for a spell. They have built more houses than they need, more automobiles, furniture, etc., than the world wants. There is a surplus of everything and city folk are coming in one another's way in trying to dispose of it. When the going was good the country boys and girls rushed to the cities, a little starvation will drive them back to the vacant farms and when they return, they will find lots of work, husking corn, foddering the cattle and chopping wood, they will have so much to do they will have to rise with the sun and go to bed with the chickens."
"The trouble with ye city folk is, ye want a creased pants all the time and ye are too highly eddicated to dirty your hands or do your own washing. I have been told your city women don't want to have babies because they would not have time to play bridge and many of them are taking jobs away from men, not that they want to support the home, but that they might have fine feathers on their back and keep up with the Joneses."
"In the cities most of ye are a pleasure loving people and don't know the difference between necessities and luxuries. Ye can't get along unless ye have a radio, an automobile, an electric washer, furniture as fine as there is in the White House, theatres, picture shows and a few football games a week. I am not saying ye should not have these things, but you cannot have a champagne dinner on a beer salary."
"I will say this about ye, however, ye are bighearted. When ye have money ye let it fly and when ye haven't; well, ye blame the hard times or the Democrats."
"There is a good deal of common sense in what you say; however, I am sure you realize these are only skin troubles in our social system," I affirmed. "The disease is organic and more deeply rooted."
"Yes," he answered, "I am glad to find that you also are a thinking man."
"Let us," he said enthusiastically, "look into this whole situation and view it from bedrock."
"You recall what Robinson Crusoe did in the desert island when the hard times came upon him. He saw there was no use blaming the government. He was the government himself and the people also. What did he do? He planted a garden, stored his crop diligently against Winter, made tools, cut some trees, fashioned himself furniture for the use and the ornamentation of his cave, captured a few kids and raised a herd of goats. Of their skins he made clothes; of their fat he made tallow and in that way he lived tolerably comfortable."
"If he had a gang of workmen and their wives and children, undoubtedly, he would distribute them around on the work and unify their efforts for the general welfare. Some, he would have cutting trees; others sawing, planning, and constructing; others clearing and tilling the ground and producing a harvest. Every man and woman in the settlement would have to work for the general good; one for all and all for one. He would have no man idle or hanging around pool rooms or gambling. Everyone would be a worker and a contributor to the general welfare. Some might give their time to medicine; others to improving the morals and to the duties of religion; some to teaching the children or training the women to cook. There would be some to write books and take care of the entertainment for times of recreation and relaxation."
"From the general store every man, woman and child would be given at least the necessities of life and there would be no one starving. Those whose services were more useful and whose labors more exacting, would be provided first with the comforts and conveniences that might stimulate them to give the best that was in them. The infirm and the feeble also would be given such kindly consideration and nourishment as their needs might demand until the time they could go back to their work. And on occasions there would be days of festivities and general relaxation in which everyone would enjoy and partake of the luxuries that might be on hand."
"Robinson Crusoe might think it proper to make money or some medium of exchange: but you can plainly see that a caveful of gold would not add a single article of food or clothes to the general produce. People make a mistake in thinking that money is wealth. Everything we have comes from the land or the sea, and the men on the land or in the mines or the oil wells are the producers of the raw material and they cart it or railroad it to the men in the work shops, who are now usually in the cities, that they may improve the product, perfect it and get it ready for distribution and general use."
"These men in the cities are the artificers, the chemists, the inventors and the distributors. You may call them if you will, the manufacturers and storekeepers."
"Produce is the result of their united efforts and of necessity it must travel in a circuit like automobiles in the course of construction, each worker giving it a stroke or a touch to perfect it and make it more serviceable. There should not be more men at any point on the job than were necessary for the purpose, and if too many gathered at any one place, some of them of necessity would have to be idle and the whole community would thereby suffer a loss, that is the reason I stated there are too many men in our cities."
"I may add that scientists, chemists, scholars and inventors have immeasurably increased our prosperity and lightened our labors by making the process of perfecting and finishing easier and finding new uses for raw material."
"The wealth of the world has increased immensely because of the ease of productivity and notwithstanding this, millions of human beings are like hungry hounds nosing around soup kitchens and charity bureaus, sniffling to find something to eat."
"Evidently there is some deep rooted cancer in our social organization that prevents us using and assimilating what we are producing. There appears to be a surplus of everything in the farm and warehouse; but the majority of our population are in dire distress."
"Why-my hungry brother?"
"Because money complicates our social problems, and our government is not giving us the protection which our labor-producing army should expect from those who are the regulators and the directors of our commerce."
"A small number of clever, unscrupulous manipulators have designed ways and means of capturing and holding in their possession, more than 50% of the results of all our labors and have made unconscious slaves of the masses. Our liberties we have, but our bread and clothes are gone."
"These barons of industry are multiplying each year by the thousand. and the extent of poverty increases and will always be diversely proportionate to the number of our millionaires, because when one man has much of the world's produce, the others will each have less."
"I recently heard a priest say over the radio that 50% of the wealth of the United States is in the hands of 1/30 of 1% of the population. I cannot vouch that I am correctly quoting him, my hearing is not so good."
"I presume when he spoke of wealth he meant stocks, bonds and negotiable papers, which, as I have already said, is not real wealth but like chips in the card game are the counters."
"In our modern complicated social system, they mean as much as wealth."
"Why is it that the few have those big stacks of chips in front of them, whilst the rest of us have so few? The answer, my friend, is evident. They are gamblers and not producers and have been playing with loaded dice."
"You hear of the police nosing around among the bookies in the downtown districts, scenting out gamblers and rushing them to the holdover for 24 hours, but did you ever hear of anyone representing our local or national government investigating the gambling dens of our millionaires, though they have bled the people dry and are criminals of the most unscrupulous type. They have no sense of justice, pity, patriotism or charity. They are all for themselves and they care no more about the laborer and his children than they do of a yellow dog."
"True, there has been a Senate investigation during the past year, and a few of our fearless statesmen succeeded in fairly exposing dishonesty but that was not a drop in the bucket to what should have been done. The majority of those in the Senate and Congress received the report with doubtful enthusiasm and the wire-pulling proceeded until everything was quieted."
"Why are the stores empty? though the market is gloated with produce."
"The reason should be clear even to an imbecile. I have observed farmers come to town and look in at the store windows, they put their hands in their jeans pocket and finding no money there, they turn away. They have no chips, no money, that is the only reason why they do not buy."
"The plain honest people, the masses, have labored, produced, tunneled into the earth, brought forth its treasures, they have cultivated the ground and gathered the harvest. They have stood for ten hours a day over a foundry fire, or have fed the machine till the last article in the store room was finished. These factory boys and girls are old before their time. They have given of their scanty means to the church, they came to the front when their country needed men to fight and die. They are the backbone of our Democracy and half of them are now threatened with starvation-again I ask you why?"
He did not wait for an answer. Coldly he sneered, "they were never given a living wage or a just portion of their earnings and the sin that is now crying to Heaven is the defrauding of the laborer of his hire."
"In this endless chain of commerce there are toll gates through which all the goods must pass and the tyrant barons of industry wait like sharks in a stream and take prodigious bites with their avaricious gaping jaws. They do not call it a toll, they speak of it in their corporation reports as dividends, salaries and add it on to the overhead. The president receives a salary of perhaps $500,000, the V. P. $200,000 and the lesser directors and manipulators fifty, thirty, twenty, ten and five thousand dollars and a big slice of the balance goes to the holders of the preferred and the common stock, the owners of which are usually the relatives of the baron. These are the exorbitant demands that are made upon industry and which are paid for by the consumer, whilst the poor, honest, ignorant, toiler gets only a fraction of his just share."
"As a result, when the goods are exposed for sale, the wage earners and producers have not money to make a purchase, the produce remains locked in the stores unless such as is perishable which is frequently dumped into the river."
"It is evident that the men who own from five billion to one million of the country's wealth, have not been such producing prodigies as to justify so large a reward for their services."
He mopped his brow and peered into his hat and from underneath the inside band he drew a clipping from a recent St. Louis Globe-Democrat and requested me to read. The excerpt read as follows: "So far as the representative companies in the various industries are concerned, the total dividend outlay in the current year will approach closely, if it does not exceed, that of the year before. Up to December 1, according to compilations by the New York Times, 10,682 separate dividend declarations called for a total distribution this year of $4,414,791,392, against $4,488,465,736, covering 9206 separate declarations for the full year 1929. Statisticians estimate that the aggregate, after the record for December has been completed will be fully as impressive as last year."
"Fully as impressive as last year"! he shouted, "to whom? To the man who has a notice from the landlord to vacate his home! or to the woman who hasn't a dime left to purchase a bottle of milk for her starving infant! "
"Five billion dollars of the wage earners produce to be distributed in Christmas baskets among the poor?"
"Not on your life! it goes to the Rajahs. They need it to purchase million dollar necklaces for their luxurious robed wives that they might make a vulgar display of their wealth at the next social function."
"How many of these who are receiving dividends worked in the factory where the surplus earnings were produced!"
"Have the statisticians computed whose sweat and labor went into these dividends?" "Assuredly not! statisticians are not in the pay of the poor."
"And what are we going to do about it?" I urged.
"Nothing," he replied, "little or nothing at present. A chronic disease cannot be cured in a day. We must keep on taking our medicine over the Winter. People are to blame themselves for the unhealthy condition of our social system, as long as times were fairly prosperous they took no interest in our elections, and the majority of those who cast votes did so in a partisan spirit to promote the interest of a two-faced politician or to retain or procure a position for a friend. The majority of our legislators are politicians and there are very few statesmen."
"Our system of education also is at fault. We have taught our children that success is to be measured by a bank account and attach little or no importance to their religious training."
"As a people we are drifting away from our moorings. Conscience is a broken thermometer and all our Ideals have narrowed down to self expression and indulgence which are the ridges on the mountains of selfishness. There used to be a time in this country when a man's word was his bond."
"Our magazine scribblers and Hollywood aristocracy and much of our press pander to our pagan propensities and are leading us to a precipice. We are governed by Rajahs. We are on wheels and moving towards a terrible catastrophe because the elephantine foot of Democracy is prodigious, crushing, threatening. The plain people if long irritated will arise and move like a herd of buffalo. There will be carnage worse than the French revolution."
He paused and arose, his eyes flashed indignation. I could not tell whether I had been listening to a prophet or madman. The sun was setting behind the Ozark hills, the sky was clear and the scene was peaceful. I called to my dogs and took up my gun. My blistered heel recalled me _to the immediate irritations of life. I thanked him for his elaborate instruction though I wished I had not excited his loquacity.
"Do you believe in the government of the United States?" I queried.
"Yes," he replied severely.
"Has it the ability to cope with this deplorable condition that threatens its young, lusty life?"
"Assuredly it has," he replied, "the Government is of the people and for the people, but the people are sleeping. There are signs of awakening. Hard times will make the people think and from the travail of their sufferings men will be born who will voice the peoples' indignation and the plain people will know from the common sense of their words and the free ring of their voices they have shepherds who are ready to protect them from the wolves and they will flock behind them and go eagerly to the ballot box. The two old parties with their millionaire backing will be swept from the land. There will arise a people's party and it will sweep the land like a hurricane and in the wreckage It shall leave shall be found the haggard corpse of plutocracy."
By Father P.J. O'Connor
Father O'Connor made a personal investigation of the pool' in this locality a few days before Christmas with the purpose of finding relief for, and giving consolation to, those who were in extreme need. He states though he found many families in distress, very few were in extreme want. There were only three homes that he visited that had not some one working at least a day or two every week and in no instance did he find a family who were dejected and despondent. The poor are displaying a fine heroism and courage, and they are not whining or complaining, nor are they imbued with a spirit of avariciousness or an inclination to capitalize their distress. They hesitate to accept gifts lest by doing so they might be depriving someone else who might be in more need. One lady refused to accept a basket until she was assured that there was enough to go around to the others among her acquaintances who were in want. There was no exhibition of sensitiveness or false pride; though frequently it was heard, "I never before had to ask anybody and I'm sure you know Father, I wouldn't take assistance from you now if my husband could find work."
The distress that is most keenly felt is not the need of food or clothes but of money to meet the petty needs of an individual who finds himself unable to go on a street car because he has not a dime, or a woman who has a baby ill and wishes to purchase one or other of the known home remedies at the neighboring drug store. A house without furniture looks bare and a cellar without coal is distressing. but a pocket in which a few nickels and dimes have not rattled in a week or two makes keenest realization of poverty.
There were homes in which the gas was cut off where children had the measles or scarlet fever. Some having failed to pay their electric bill were accommodating themselves to the light of the old fashioned coal oil lamp and there were notices from the water department that unless the water tax was paid the water would be cut off; but notwithstanding all these threats and deprivations there was manifested a fine spirit of making the best of the situation and an apparent indifference to dire future possibilities.
The papal encyclical on labor is a timely supplement to the historic document issued by Leo XIII and is a modern application of Christian principles of social justice and charity to the economic and commercial problems that are concomitant to the machine age.
Invention has lessened the burdens of labor, but not of the laborer. He is caught in the belt that makes the wheels turn and his cry of distress is world-wide and pitiable. The Holy Father's appeal is not to destroy the machine but to liberate the man.
His pronouncements differ notably from those that have been made recently by conventions of bankers and international chambers of commerce. Representatives of these organizations spoke as Nationalists and as partisans. He speaks as the Spiritual Father of the human family and views the economic problem in light of universal good.
The key-note of his solution is union of minds and hearts between employers and employees. Man is more important than the machine and prosperity should aim at human happiness rather than at excessive profits.
The encyclical is a learned and philosophic document that can be fully mastered only by the schools, yet the ordinary man can understand much of its meaning and application. It is essentially in its nature, a treatise for "higher ups" and this increases its effectiveness because our social problems though they are most keenly felt by the masses, must be solved by the classes. These are complex and involve far reaching adjustments that must of necessity curb human selfishness and promote human happiness. The Holy Father does not condemn the capitalist. He invites him to enter the convention of men with a big mind and a bigger heart.
Selfishness and the lack of goodwill is at the bottom of all our social difficulties. We have in this Country, the men, the minds. the money and the machinery: what we need is goodwill, justice and Christian charity. He who made the machinery of the Universe, gave it law. Selfishness is the monkey-wrench that man has thrown into the gears: this has made, "economic life," in the words of the Holy Father. "hard, cruel and relentless in ghastly measure."
Is the end in sight?
When do the hard times end? is a question that is being asked of everyone who is presumed to know, and the answer is a guess. Reading over the latest guesses we have come to the conclusion that the hard times will continue until there is a change of mind and heart. The struggle that the laboring classes are having for existence is not the result of a physical catastrophe such as storm, flood, earthquake, or epidemic; its roof is the growth of a wrong idea in our social structure. Who would ever think that a wrong idea, or a false philosophy would have so wide an extension and could cause so much misery! Yet, the trouble has undoubtedly come from a false concept of man's duty to man. Everyone knows that the market is flooded with goods; think of the farmer picking and carting peaches to St. Louis from some faraway country orchard and selling them for 10 or 150 a bushel; what a heartbreak he must experience as he goes from store to store and commission house to commission house, doubting if he will be able to get enough to defray the expense of the gasoline. The same is true of wheat-a recent report states there are five and a half thousand million bushels of unsold wheat in the world; six million tons of unsold sugar; twenty-eight million bales of cotton; the colossal surplus stock of rubber of last year has increased by one hundred and thirty thousand tons: the unsold stocks of copper have increased by six thousand tons: the Brazilian government burned recently six hundred seventy-five thousand bags of coffee, and our farm board has suggested that the farmer burn every third row of cotton.
Every country in the world appears to have so far improved its machinery as to be able to create a surplus in food, clothes. and general equipment; there is no foreign market except among very backward nations, and the home market is also dead because the impoverished thousands have no money to make a purchase or a way of earning it.
How has this condition come about.? Evidently there has been injustice somewhere: man has failed in discharging his duty to his fellow man. The current false idea is that there can be no injustice in the taking of profits and in the accumulation of wealth. Protestant churches as a body have frittered their time away in arousing moral indignation about trivial things and they have been blind to the one big moral issue: namely Social justice, or the justice that should prevail in man's dealing with his fellow man. The Catholic Church has all the time maintained correct principles concerning commutative justice or the justice that relates to exchange, but the Catholic Church has been sidetracked in its efforts. It has been maligned, blackballed, and expelled from congresses, senates and parliaments of nations. Its teachings have been ignored and its counsels scoffed at. The world knew its own business and the wisdom of man has failed, and the poor and honest laborers are the sufferers. What are these Christian principles that have been ignored? They are a just wage, a reasonable profit and a divine obligation on every individual and corporation to be humanitarian in their dealings with the laborers whom they employ.
In every industry there are three factors for success: the man, the money and the machine. The man is the most important element. His happiness should be the end and aim of all industry, but this has been lost sight of. The machinery is carefully inspected and protected from deterioration; the account books are balanced and must show a profit; but the man and his family are entirely ignored. Their ailments, their emotions, their recreation and spiritual development are disregarded in the rush for wealth. The monster of modern progress is selfishness, sordid human selfishness, and it has eaten up the man. There is no pity, no sympathy, no looking in at the door, no word of encouragement. the man may rot and starve and his ghost may shriek at the rich man's banquet, but his cry of agony falls on deaf ears. Christianity is dying, Christianity is - dead, and our social structure is in agony.
A master's words are needed, a master's love is necessary, but the modern philosopher has ignored the master and his teachings, the vital spark that energizes the human heart and makes it human is extinguished, the labor lord is like his machine and his heart is made of steel.
We don't blame him nor do we censure him. He is the product of the times and our social ethics. From his childhood he was taught selfishness and was educated to be a great business magnet. Money was held up to him as the sumum bonum or the one great: good of life and his ethics were summed up in the old adage "Everything is fair in love or war," he was out to win and be it to his credit, he has made life for himself a success, he is probably sorry for those who are left behind in the race, but "woe to the vanquished." He has had his struggles in competition, his life has been a battle with other monsters like himself, the big fish swallow little ones and the honest capitalist was compelled to use every means to develop his strength, or, a greater one would come and consume him. Underselling or selling without a profit is as unethical from a social standpoint as selling at too high a profit, but these are the tactics employed in modern business, one of these tactics are-accumulate sufficient capital so as to be able to undersell the cost of production and give a rival a knockout blow. The biggest racket in the world comes under the heading of mergers. The merging corporations are gigantic and have unlimited capital at their back. Through mass production, overhead is eliminated and competitors cannot give a fair wage or a humanitarian consideration to their employees if they are to survive, so business has become a war and an insatiable thirst for destruction, and as General Sherman said, "War is hell." Is there a remedy or a hope of peace? Make your own guess, you know the human heart and its passions. The child is father of the man and the child has been educated for worldly success; the higher qualities of his nature have been ignored. God has been left out of his life and his spiritual development has been almost entirely neglected. He may have had good parents who were conscientious and religious, but when he went out of his home he soon learned that conscience was an impediment to success and that religion offered rewards that bore no immediate profits. Usually he dropped religion and religious principles from his daily dealings with his fellow man and as a sop to his conscience he gave a contribution to his church or an endowment to a school, and in this way often made the headlines in the front page of the daily press as being a great philanthropist.
It is common knowledge that our elections are financed by contributions from big corporations, our legislators in many instances are the men whom our capitalists have purchased from a voting public. They are creatures of the money market, they are mercenaries and not statesmen, their vote on legislation is as standardized as the rubber stamp of the corporations that had them elected. There is little hope of a change as long as party lines are kept intact, there is little difference in the caliber of party men be they Democrats or Republicans; they are all branded with the same stick. and as a body are well characterized as politicians-men who are not afraid to stain their aurelian robe by association with the rajahs of the underworld.
If a cure is to be found for the pressing ills of the moment, we must go away back to our Christian civilization and find in it our model. The old time employer whose faithful servants often sat at his board and told the tale of their simple struggles to a sympathetic ear and a noble heart, a man who loved men more than money and who cared not for any better profit than the power of doing good; the laborer was his in affection; in the rainy day as well as in the day of sunshine, he was gladdened by his smile and saddened by his tears. He knew his children and had them running errands, he approved of their good behavior and frowned on their delinquencies. He set up a feast at their marriages, was present at their funerals and shed a tear at their graves. He paid an honest wage for honest labor and he would hold himself in utter contempt if he became conscious whilst he feasted that there was one of his dependent's children crying for bread.
This Christian ideal was planted, cultivated and watered by the ancient Christian Church. The human race was regarded as one big family that had God as its father and no member of that family could regard himself as an honorable member of society unless he assumed a sense of duty and responsibility for the welfare of those around him. His surplus capital was not his own, it was God's benefice for the use of his children, he was only the steward and after all his own reasonable wants were supplied, the surplus and not the crumbs was the property of the poor. This is still the ideal of the Catholic Church, but who minds the Catholic Church? It's an outlaw in society, it is still the scarlet woman.
And the statesman was the intelligent practical defender of the public good, whose benevolence and intelligence distinguished him in his own community, and was extended through his election to office to the broader ways of public life. He towered over his fellows because of his integrity. The man did not seek the office, the office sought the man. His worthiness went abroad as the ripples in a placid lake when moved by the passage of a majestic ship. His reputation for distinguished service was the impulse that ruled his conduct and his eloquence had a magnetic attraction of sincerity. He did not rig his sails to move with the wind, he often faced the storm and if he were shipwrecked before reaching the harbor of his ambitions he went down with forsail and broken mast, but still the captain of his own soul.
These may be only characters created by a benevolent imagination, but if we are to think in terms of social betterment, our conceptions of human worth must be bigger and more beautiful than the concrete characters of the men whose leadership has led us to the stagnant pool of distress. We must think in terms of higher good and motivate our deeds by nobler thoughts than self-interest and sordid gain.
And as to relieving the present distress we must rise to higher levels of method than that of passing the hat under the eye of the boss among a force of indignant clerks and people of moderate means.
Though farm produce is so plentiful that our statesmen would have it burned. the farmer cannot relieve the distress of the growing army in our breadline because he and they have not enough of money to defray the expense of carriage and distribution of the goods. This is a time for Christian men and philanthropists to give a practical demonstration of benevolence.. Gentlemen! you have captured the wealth of the world, the poor are poor because you have not left them a cent. Come across! not with your paltry dimes but with your million dollars and our benevolent organizations will find an easy way near at home to dispose of our surplus goods.
P. J. O'C.
This suggestion is not as lacking in a practical sense as it may seem at first sight.
Christendom has often before been threatened and endangered. In the long course of her career she has experienced staggering blows and fierce assaults from mighty- onrushing hordes of barbarians, Tartars. Turks and Mohammedans. It would be false to deny that she did not take the count and suffer temporary defeat in many of these encounters, but it is also a self-evident truth that she has never beets so completely crushed by her enemies that site became inert and helpless. Her defeats were only retreats. Her ingenuity and generalship improved in the face of danger and her vitality increased with her wounds.
The attacks I have in mind are those that parallel Bolshevism in which there was extensive aggression and tremendous force that for a period attracted and disturbed a big section of the human family. These combined social and physical conflicts were in their initiation concentrated in territory where conditions were congenial to their growth, and enabled them to develop without obstruction and intensify their capacity to afflict and dominate their neighbors.
On such occasions said Leo XIII. "The Catholic Church has always and rightly put her hope and trust in the Mother of God. It has always been the habit of Catholics in dangers and in times of trouble, to flee for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness. The Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God, and thereby associated with Him its the work of man's salvation. has a favor and power with her Divine Son greater than any creature, human or angelic, has ever obtained or can ever gain. As it is her happiness to grant her help any succor to those who ask it, we cannot doubt that she would deign and even be eager to receive the aspirations of the Universal Church." In the twelfth century a fascinating local blending of natural aspirations and religious sentiment developed an organization in the south of France whose principles led directly not only to the ruin of Christianity but to the very extension of the human race. This movement was favored by various circumstances among which may be mentioned: The spread of a weird doctrinal element that could be traced to Mohammedan and Jewish sources which captivated especially the imaginative mind of the inhabitants of Languedoc. The sect became known as the Albigensians and quickly gained influence and popularity, not only in France but in other portions of the Latin world. They carried everywhere the horror of their arms, and far and wide strove to rule by massacre and ruin.
"Our merciful God," continues Leo, "raised up against these fierce enemies a most holy man, the illustrious parent and founder of the Dominican Order. Great in the soundness of doctrine, in the example of his virtue, and its his apostolic labors, he undauntedly proceeded to attack the enemies of the Catholic Church; not by force of arms, but by that devotion which he was the first to institute under the name of the Holy Rosary. In this he wholly trusted; and by his preaching and that of his brethren, he spread it throughout the length and breadth of the earth.
"Guided by divine inspiration and grace he foresaw that like a most powerful warlike weapon, this devotion would be the means of putting the enemy to flight and of confounding his mad impiety and audacity. In fact, such was its result. Thanks to this new form of prayer, when adopted and carried out as instituted by the Holy Father Dominic, piety, faith, and unity began to return. The projects and devices of the heretics fell to pieces. Many wanderers returned to the way of salvation, and the wrath of the impious was checked by the arms of those who, in defense. had determined to resist them.
"In the sixteenth century, also the efficacy and power of this devotion were wonderfully shown. The vast forces of the Turks at that time threatened to impose the yoke of superstition and barbarism on nearly the whole of Europe. The Sovereign Pontiff, St. Pius V, after arousing among all the Christian princes the resolution for a common defense, above all strove with the greatest zeal to obtain for Christendom the favor of the most powerful Mother of God. This noble example before heaven and earth rallied around him in those times all the minds and hearts of the age. Christ's faithful people then prepared to sacrifice their blood and live for the safety of their faith and country. They went forward fearlessly to meet their foe near the Gulf of Corinth. At the same time those who were unable to take this part formed a pious band of supplicants who called on Mary and unitedly hailed her again and again in the words of the Rosary, imploring her to give the victory to their companions who were engaged in battle. Our Sovereign Lady did grant her aid, for in the naval battle near the Echidnaeís Islands, the Christian fleet gained a magnificent victory in which, with slight loss to itself, the enemy was routed with great slaughter. It was to preserve the memory of this great boon that the same most Holy Pontiff desired that a feast in honor of Our Lady of Victories should celebrate the anniversary of so memorable a struggle. It is this feast which Gregory XIII dedicated under the title of 'The Most Holy Rosary'.
"Important successes were in like manner gained in the last century over the Turks at Temeswar in Pannonia and at Corfu. In both these cases the engagements coincided with feasts of the Blessed Virgin, and the celebrations of the feasts were concluded with public recitation of the Rosary.
"Since then it is evident that this form of prayer is so acceptable to the Blessed Virgin, so suited to the defense of the Church and of Christendom, and that, whether publicly or privately used it brings down divine blessings "
Bolshevism in our own age is more dangerous to Christendom and more diabolical in his hatred of God than any of those heresies and false philosophies mentioned by Leo in his encyclicals on the Rosary. It is being propagated at a time and in a culture that is imminently suited to its growth and diffusion. The economic distress, the inequality of rich and poor, the laxity in morals, and the general spirit of agnosticism has disposed a big majority of the poor and downtrodden to place reliance in its promises. The biggest nations of the world are showing symptoms of dangerous possibilities. Armies and navies can no longer be trusted. They are only as strong as their philosophies, and in many countries governments have perished over night and rebels have become rulers. The mob in every country is the threatening horde of invaders, and the first conflagration that manifests their domination is the burning timbers of a Catholic Church. The atmosphere of stable government is electric and threatening. The storm might come like a thunderbolt; hindsight is a poor substitute for foresight, and providence alone can pre-. vent what human wisdom does not forestall. Catholic people alone have the remedy. They have the wisdom of ages in their traditions and practices. To worldly minded people, the Rosary is an insignificant instrument of protection which by many is regarded as an object of superstition, yet at the present time the faithful recitation of the Rosary both publicly and privately by the whole Catholic world would have more influence in bringing about happiness and contentment than all our vaunted theories of economics and social nostrums.
If you want to help to save the world, say, the Rosary. In its beads are strung the mystery of-man's redemption.
The Press carried a news item on April I8 which stated that Father Coughlin's radio sermons were denounced by Cardinal O'Connell in an address delivered by His Eminence in Boston, before the Guild of St. Apollonia at the University Club.
The news item stated that the Cardinal spoke as "a Catholic citizen," hence, this utterance is not to be regarded as an official condemnation made by ecclesiastical authority. Father Coughlin's name was not mentioned but implied in the words "There is a man in Florida or Michigan who talks every Sunday afternoon. He talks to the whole world. What right has he to do this? To whom is he responsible?" The implication is that the man in Florida or Michigan is not responsible to church authority and is an ecclesiastic because the Cardinal added, "We do not like to hear hysterical addresses from ecclesiastics. They receive attention they do not deserve."
There is a great deal of similarity between this condemnation of Father Coughlin by the Cardinal, and that made of Governor Roosevelt by Mr. Al. Smith. Both are severe censures of "demagogic utterances" on social and economic themes. The objection being that these talks are not constructive, and have a tendency to arouse class hatred, setting class against class and rich against poor. Of course if this is true, the Cardinal has a right and a duty to speak, and even if it is not true, his right to speak as a citizen who believes it is true, cannot be denied.
Governor Roosevelt's defense is, "I am pleading for a policy broad enough to include every part of our economic structure, a concert of classes." and outlined his position by a quotation from the late President Roosevelt and quoted him as saying. "If we substitute for the standard of personal judgment which treats each man according to his merits, another standard in accordance with which all men of one class are favored and all men of another class discriminated against, we shall do irreparable damage to the body politic. This government is not and never shall be governed by an autocracy. This Government is not and never shall be governed by a mob."
"It is to this national community of interest that we should dedicate ourselves," said Governor Roosevelt. "If that be treason, make the most of it."
We can conceive Father Coughlin replying in the same words to Cardinal O'Connell. His utterances have been in defense of the poor and at a time when our social conditions are evidently out of balance. The wealthy classes have also been condemned on occasions by Cardinal O'Connell, who is reported to have said more than once that social justice has been gravely violated since 90% of the wealth of the Country is in the hands of 3% of the population.
Father Coughlin has no right to speak for the Catholic Church or by implication to embroil it in class war. The Catholic Church is a tremendously serious organization as the Cardinal puts it, and is slow to make sensational accusations against individuals at a time when people are inclined to be hysterical, but it is also true that priests are urged by the Holy Father to study economic conditions and promote social justice. Father Coughlin has been a tremendous power in calling attention to social injustice. He has addressed bigger audiences perhaps than any man has ever done before in the history of the world. There is little use in dealing with generalities. Father Coughlin has been making a critical analysis of economic conditions and has frequently hit very hard.
What good has he done? Ask the starving poor who are willing to work for a sustenance and are too proud to beg. He has made articulate their criticisms and their groans. He has given a safe outlet to their indignations and resentments. How they have waited for him on Sunday afternoon and found in his words a solace and a hope after another dreary week of anxiety and distress. He came to them through the air as a pitying angel to minister to their wounded pride; the starving world war hero felt that appreciation for his services was not entirely extinct and the religiously inclined man became more confident that the God of Justice still dominates the Temple and Holy Script. A scattered flock heard his voice and recognized in him the Good Shepherd. His words have broken pathways through the adamantine walls of prejudice. He proved that leadership in social and economic life belongs in its fullness to the Catholic Church.
A public rebuke to Father Coughlin from so prominent an ecclesiastic as Cardinal, O'Connell is a grievous wound but it must be remembered it is not a church condemnation. Father Coughlin has at least the tacit approval of his own bishop. They have both spoken in the same hour to the same radio audience. Father Coughlin is within his rights when he speaks in his own parish to the whole world with the approval of the local ordinary. It is rather surprising that he has been permitted to broadcast for so long a time from his parish church, the Shrine of the Little Flower at Detroit if his bishop disapproves of his utterances.
"Before the days of radio," Cardinal O'Connell said, "any priest seeking to direct affairs outside his parish would have been called to order by his own bishop." We fail to see how the radio has made a change; the bishop of a diocese has still the same right and authority, and if Father Coughlin has not been suppressed by his bishop, we conclude he has spoken with at least his passive consent.
P. J. O'Connor, Pastor.
An article by our Pastor recently published in the Catholic Register which received favorable notice from many Catholic editors.
Prosperity is just around the corner, but the axle is broken. Meanwhile the way is paved for Communism, which threatens Church, State and private property. If the government does not face the facts, the people must.
This, in substance, is told in the following
article, by an author who is in close touch
with the workers and knows what he is
talking about. Will it make those on top think?
If it does not, mobs may do their thinking
for them. - Editor Catholic Register.
(By Rev. Patrick J. O'Connor, Pastor of St. James Church, St. Louis, Mo.)
The best method of getting over a difficulty is to measure it accurately. Optimism is useful if a just estimate is made of the task and proper means are applied courageously and persistently. It is misleading to cry "wolf" when there is no wolf and it is equally misleading to shout that prosperity is around the corner when there is a broken axle in the truck that is expected to bring it into Broadway. Instead of waiting for it to arrive, it would be better that we be informed of the break and set out to make repairs.
My Archbishop, who is rarely carried away by the emotionalism that is the accompaniment of wishing, recently said to me: "The recovery will be slow and imperceptible. It will come like springtime, a splash of sunshine, a return of wintry winds, another moderation, and a gradual reawakening of life and vitality. There are signs now that life is returning to industry."
I cannot indulge in optimism. I fear the axle is still broken and that the mechanics are slow in making repairs. Nearly two years ago I endeavored in an article in The Register to diagnose the cause of depression and stated that the busy bee who made the honey was not given his just share of the honeycombs. He was fed whilst he produced: he produced too much, and when purchasers could not be found to buy the surplus he was locked out and was not given a key to the honey house. There has been no change in the order and this depression will continue until those who are fortunate enough to have keys have eaten up the surplus. In the meantime, the busy bee is having a precarious life and would undoubtedly starve unless charitable agencies begged a meal for him from those who are in some way sharers in the store.
I presume I was not the first to point my finger at this defect in our economic system. During the past year economists, statesmen and prelates have fairly aroused the world to the danger of having 90% of the wealth of our country in the hands of 10% of the population. They are saying the same things as I have said in this analogy of the busy bee, but, in my opinion, there is over-emphasis placed by economists on other minor causes to the depression and the main cause of the trouble is not being sufficiently kept before the public mind. Evidently there are many contributing causes to this gigantic depression in our own country, such as the World War and its consequent evils: tariffs, foreign markets, the flow of the stream of gold, etc., but these are really attendant spasms. The great disorder is a moral disorder. The busy bee or 90% of the population has not been and is not being treated justly. Whilst they produced wealth they were not given an equitable portion of the produce, which is saying in another way that they were not given a just wage.
True, there have been cycles of prosperity and depression in the past and our prophets conclude that the recovery, which usually comes in time, must soon, necessarily, arrive. This is not logical; what often happened does not necessarily happen. The depression now upon us is unique and is the climax, to a wrong moral principle which operated over a long period under conditions which made it easy for a few to accumulate great wealth. The broken axle is not the body of produce which Is admittedly gigantic, but a stoppage of exchange because the purchasing power of the majority of laborers has been gradually diminished and as a result the unpurchased articles gradually increased till a stupendous break came in the economic system, when there was unparalleled prosperity of produce with unparalleled lack of funds among the "common herd" wherewith to make a purchase.
Note the lack of funds among the plain people. This does not imply a lack of funds in the whole community. There are individuals who could purchase the whole surplus and were they to do so, and burn it, or better, distribute it among the poor, prosperity would come rushing down the streets and country lanes, because the hoarded wealth should then be in active use and purchases would force production. The busy bee would be back on his job and his wife would have money to give in exchange for the produce of the farm and factory.
The return of prosperity of necessity implies a distribution of hoarded wealth. Is this being done? No! People of wealth are keeping a tighter hold of their money because they think they have lost much of their income through depreciation of stocks, bonds and real estate. The purchasing power of the laborer is lower now than it was a year ago. His earning capacity is gone because he has no work and his reserve fund is almost depleted, and the farmer, the bulwark of all prosperity, is getting less for a two-hundred pound hog now than he got for a turkey in 1925. His purchasing power also is at zero. Hence, I say prosperity is around the corner, but the broken axle is still between the wheels and there can be no great motion until the wrecking car of the government arrives and makes repairs.
It is not the purpose of this summary to tell the government what it should do. Taxing the poor is not the way to distribute wealth. I am viewing this question from the standpoint of a practical moralist. The surest way to provoke a man to murder is to afflict him intolerably and irritate him to a point beyond human endurance, and, I further add, the condition that now prevails in our social order is surely destroying men's confidence in government and the morale of citizens and Christians. Our social organism is extremely ill, the fever is rising, a change is demanded. Law-abiding citizens want it brought about in a lawful way; others are fostering rebellion and anarchy. There is being manufactured a very favorable culture for the development of the germ of Communism. American workmen are patriotic and patient, but there is no guarantee that this fine disposition will not break under continued strain. Should they take the law in their own hands they will move like an avalanche. Police and soldiers will not shoot because their sympathy will be with the rebels, and the godless element will come to the top, fire, rape, robbery, and murder will prevail, and the Church and State will go down together. Nero, it said, played the fiddle whilst Rome burned. There is too much fiddling at present. Communism is extending its domain; it has crossed many a protected boundary. It gives a change, a promise, and a hope, though it is the grave of freedom, religion and property rights.
To cure the economic depression, restitution is necessary. Those who labored to make the rich man's wealth have still a claim on a just share of the profits. The fact that a corporation cannot now profitably operate its business does not justify those who made millions during the years of prosperity in sitting back on their easy chairs and closing their eyes to their moral obligation. They have a duty toward every man who by his labor co-operated with them in making their wealth. If their consciences do not trouble them, the government should, and if those who discharge the duties of government are also asleep, the people have the remedy in their own hands; the elections are coming.Bob Corbett email@example.com
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