When wages fall below a certain point, then comes degradation, loss of manhood, serfdom and slavery. If any man has the right to vote for his own interests, certainly the man who labors is that man, and every working man having in his will a part of the sovereignty of this nation, having within him a part of the lawmaking power, should have the intelligence and courage to vote for his own interests; he should vote for good wages; he should vote for a policy that would enable him to lay something by for the winter of his life, that would enable him to earn enough to educate his children, enough to give him a home and a fireside. He need not do this in anger or for revenge, but because it is just, because it is right, and because the working people are in a majority. They ought to control the world, because they have made the world what it is. They have given everything there is of value.
Labor plows every field, builds every house, fashions everything of use, and when that labor is guided by intelligence the world is prosperous. He who thinks good thoughts is a laborer – one of the greatest. The man who invented the reaper will be harvesting the fields for thousands of years to come. If labor is abused in this country the laborers have it within their power to defend themselves.
All my sympathies are with the men who toil. I shed very few tears over bankers and millionaires and corporations – they can take care of themselves. My sympathies are with the man who has nothing to sell but his strength; nothing to sell but his muscle and his intelligence; who has no capital except that which his mother gave him – a capital he must sell every day; my sympathies are with him; and I want him to have a good market; and I want it so that he can sell the work for more than enough to take care of him tomorrow.
I believe that no corporation should be allowed to exist except for the benefit of the whole people. The Government should always act for the benefit of all, and when the Government gives a part of its power to an aggregation of individuals, the accomplishment of some public good should justify the giving of that power; and whenever a corporation becomes subversive of the very end for which it was created, the Government should put an end to its life.
That country is not prosperous where a few are wealthy and have all the luxuries that the imagination can suggest, and where the millions are in want, clothed in rags, and housed in tenements not fit for wild beasts. The value of our property depends on the civilization of our people. If the people are happy and contented, if the workingman receives good wages, then our houses and our farms are valuable. If the people are discontented, if the workingmen are in want, then our property depreciates from day to day, and national bankruptcy will only be a question of time.