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Chapter 25: on the platform. Hints towards reforms.

  • The lecture system
  • -- comparative popularity of the leading lecturers-horace Greeley at the Tabernacle -- his audience -- his appearance -- his manner of speaking -- his occasional addresses -- the ‘Hints’ published -- its one subject, the Emancipation of Labor -- the problems of the time -- the “successful” man -- the duty of the State -- the educated class -- a narrative for workingmen -- the catastrophe.

Lecturing, of late years, has become, in this country, what is facetiously termed “ an institution.” And whether we regard it as a [327] means of public instruction, or as a means of making money, we cannot deny that it is an institution of great importance.

‘The bubble reputation,’ said Shakspeare. Reputation is a bubble no longer. Reputation, it has been discovered, will “draw.” Reputation alone will draw! That airy nothing is, through the instrumentality of the new institution, convertible into solid cash, into a large pile of solid cash. Small fortunes have been made by it in a single winter, by a single lecture or course of lectures. Thackeray, by much toil and continuous production, attained an income of seven thousand dollars a year. He crosses the Atlantic, and, in one short season, without producing a line, gains thirteen thousand, and could have gained twice as much if he had been half as much a man of business as he is a man of genius. Ik Marvel writes a book or two which brings him great praise and some cash. Then he writes one lecture, and not a very good one either, and transmutes a little of his glory into plenty of money, with which he buys leisure to produce a work worthy of his powers. Bayard Taylor roams over a great part of the habitable and uninhabitable globe. He writes letters to the Tribune, very long, very fatiguing to write on a journey, and not saleable at a high price. He comes home, and sighs, perchance, that there are no more lands to visit. ‘Lecture!’ suggests the Tribune, and he lectures. He carries two or three manuscripts in his carpet-bag, equal to half a dozen of his Tribune letters in bulk. He ranges the country, far and wide, and brings back money enough to carry him ten times round the world. It was his reputation that did the business. He earned that money by years of adventure and endurance in strange and exceedingly hot countries; he gathered up his earnings in three months—earnings which, but for the invention of lecturing, he would never have touched a dollar of. Park Benjamin, if he sold his satirical poems to Putnam's Magazine, would get less than hod-carriers' wages; but, selling them directly to the public, at so much a hear, they bring him in, by the time he has supplied all his customers, five thousand dollars apiece. Lecturing has been commended as an antidote to the alleged “docility” of the press, and the alleged dullness of the pulpit. It may be. Praise it because it enables the man of letters to get partial payment from the public for the incalculable services which he renders the public. [328]

Lectures are important, too, as the means by which the public are brought into actual contact and acquaintance with the famous men of the country. What a delight it is to see the men whose writings have charmed, and moved, and formed us! And there is something in the presence of a man, in the living voice, in the eye, the face, the gesture, that gives to thought and feeling an expression far more effective than the pen, unassisted by these, can ever attain. Horace Greeley is aware of this, and he seldom omits an opportunity of bringing the influence of his presence to bear in inculcating the doctrines to which he is attached. He has been for many years in the habit of writing one or two lectures in the course of the season, and delivering them as occasion offered. No man, not a professional lecturer, appears oftener on the platform than he. In the winter of 1853-4, he lectured, on an average, twice a week. He has this advantage over the professional lecturer. The professional lecturer stands before the public in the same position as an editor; that is, he is subject to the same necessity to make the banquet palatable to those who pay for it, and who will not come again if they do not like it. But the man whose position is already secure, to whom lecturing is only a subsidiary employment, is free to utter the most unpopular truths.

A statement published last winter, of the proceeds of a course of lectures delivered before the Young Men's Association of Chicago, affords a test, though an imperfect one, of the popularity of some of our lecturers. E. P. Whipple, again to borrow the language of the theatre, “ drew” seventy-nine dollars; Horace Mann, ninety-five; Geo. W. Curtis, eighty-seven; Dr. Lord, thirty-three; Horace Greeley, one hundred and ninety-three; Theodore Parker, one hundred and twelve; W. H. Channing, thirty-three; Ralph Waldo Emerson, (did it rain?) thirty-seven; Bishop Potter, forty-five; John G. Saxe, one hundred and thirty-five; W. H. C. Hosmer, twenty-six; Bayard Taylor (lucky fellow!) two hundred and fifty-two.

In large cities, the lecturer has to contend with rival attractions, theatre, concert, and opera. His performance is subject to a comparison with the sermons of distinguished clergymen, of which some are of a quality that no lecture surpasses. To know the importance of the popular lecturer, one must reside in a country town the even tenor of whose way is seldom broken by an event of comhanding [329] interest. The arrival of the great man is expected with eagerness. A committee of the village magnates meet him at the cars and escort him to his lodging. There has been contention who should be his entertainer, and the owner of the best house has carried off the prize. He is introduced to half the adult population. There is a buzz and an agitation throughout the town. There is talk of the distinguished visitor at all the tea-tables, in the stores, and across the palings of garden-fences. The largest church is generally the scene of his triumph, and it is a triumph. The words of the stranger are listened to with attentive admiration, and the impression they make is not obliterated by the recurrence of a new excitement on the morrow.

Not so in the city, the hurrying, tumultuous city, where the reappearance of Solomon in all his glory, preceded by Dodworth's band, would serve as the leading feature of the newspapers for one day, give occasion for a few depreciatory articles on the next, and be swept from remembrance by a new astonishment on the third. Yet, as we are here, let us go to the Tabernacle and hear Horace Greeley lecture.

The Tabernacle, otherwise called “The Cave,” is a church which looks as little like an ecclesiastical edifice as can be imagined. It is a large, circular building, with a floor slanting towards the platform—pulpit it has none—and galleries that rise, rank above rank, nearly to the ceiling, which is supported by six thick, smooth columns, that stand round what has been impiously styled the “pit,” like giant spectators of a pigmy show. The platform is so placed, that the speaker stands not far from the centre of the building, where he seems engulfed in a sea of audience, that swells and surges all around and far above him. A better place for an oratorical display the city does not afford. It received its cavernous nickname, merely in derision of the economical expenditure of gas that its proprietors venture upon when they let the building for an evening entertainment; and the dismal hue of the walls and columns gives further propriety to the epithet. The Tabernacle will contain an audience of three thousand persons. At present, there are not more than six speakers and speakeresses in the United States who can “draw” it full; and of these, Horace Greeley is not [330] one. His number is about twelve hundred. Let us suppose it half-past 7, and the twelve hundred arrived.

The audience, we observe, has decidedly the air of a country audience. Fine ladies and fine gentlemen there are none. Of farmers who look as if they took the Weekly Tribune and are in town tonight by accident, there are hundreds. City mechanics are present in considerable numbers. An ardent-looking young man, with a spacious forehead and a turn-over shirt-collar, may be seen here and there. A few ladies in Bloomer costume of surpassing ugliness— the costume, not the ladies—come down the steep aisles now and then, with a well-preserved air of unconsciousness. In that assembly no one laughs at them. The audience is sturdy, solid-looking, appreciative and opinionative, ready for broad views and broad humor, and hard hits. Every third man is reading a newspaper, for they are men of progress, and must make haste to keep up with the times, and the times are fast. Men are going about offering books for sale—perhaps Uncle Tom, perhaps a treatise on Water Cure, and perhaps Horace Greeley's Hints toward Reforms; but certainly something which belongs to the Nineteenth Century. A good many free and independent citizens keep their hats on, and some “speak right out in meeting,” as they converse with their neighbors.

But the lecturer enters at the little door under the gallery on the right, and when the applause apprizes us of the fact, we catch a glimpse of his bald head and sweet face as he wags his hasty way to tile platform, escorted by a few special adherents of the ‘Cause’ he is about to advocate. The newspapers, the hats, the conversation, the book-selling are discontinued, and silent attention is the order of the night. People with ‘causes’ at their hearts are full of business, and on such occasions there are always some preliminary announcements to be made—of lectures to come, of meetings to be held, of articles to appear, of days to celebrate, of subscriptions to be undertaken. These over, the lecturer rises, takes his place at the desk, and, while the applause, which never fails on any public occasion to greet this man, continues, he opens his lecture, puts on his spectacles, and then, looking up at the audience with an expression of inquiring benignity, waits to begin.

Generally, Mr. Greeley's attire is in a condition of the most hopeless, [331] and, as it were, elaborate disorder. It would be applauded on the stare as an excellent “make-up.” His dress, it is true, is never unclean, and seldom unsound; but he usually presents the appearance of a man who has been traveling, night and day, for six weeks in a stage-coach, stopping long enough for an occasional hasty ablution, and a hurried throwing on of clean linen. It must be admitted, however, that when he is going to deliver a set lecture to a city audience his apparel does bear marks of an attempted adjustment. But it is the attempt of a man who does something to which he is. unaccustomed, and the result is sometimes more surprising than the neglect. On the present occasion, the lecturer, as he stands there waiting for the noise to subside, has the air of a farmer, not in his Sunday clothes, but in that intermediate rig, once his Sunday suit, in which he attends ‘the meeting of the trustees,’ announced last Sunday at church, and which he dons to attend court when a cause is coming on that he is interested in. A most respectable man; but the tie of his neckerchief was executed in a fit of abstraction, without the aid of a looking-glass; perhaps in the dark, when he dressed himself this morning before day-light—to adopt his own emphasis.

Silence is restored, and the lecture begins. The voice of the speaker is more like a woman's than a man's, high-pitched, small, soft, but heard with ease in the remotest part of the Tabernacle. His first words are apologetic; they are uttered in a deprecatory, slightly-beseeching tone; and their substance is, “You mustn't, my friends, expect fine words from a rough, busy man like me; yet such observations as I have been able hastily to note down, I will now submit, though wishing an abler man stood at this moment in my shoes.” He proceeds to read his discourse in a plain, utterly unambitious, somewhat too rapid manner, pushing on through any moderate degree of applause without waiting. If there is a man in the world who is more un-oratorical than any other—and of course there is such a man—and if that man be not Horace Greeley, I know not where he is to be found. A plain man reading plain sense to plain men; a practical man stating quietly, to practical men the results of his thought and observation, stating what he entirely believes, what he wants the world to believe, what he knows will not be generally believed in his time, what he is quite sure will one day [332] be universally believed, and what he is perfectly patient with the world for not believing yet. There is no gesticulation, no increased animation at important passages, no glow got up for the closing paragraphs; no aiming at any sort of effect whatever; no warmth of personal feeling against opponents. There is a shrewd humor in the man, however, and his hits excite occasional bursts of laughter; but there is no bitterness in his humor, not the faintest approach to it. An impressive or pathetic passage now and then, which loses none of its effect from the simple, plaintive way in which it is uttered, deepens the silence which prevails in the hall, at the end eliciting warm and general applause, which the speaker ‘improves’ by drinking a little water. The attention of the audience never flags, and the lecture concludes amid the usual tokens of decided approbation.

Horace Greeley is, indeed, no orator. Yet some who value oratory less than any other kind of bodily labor, and whom the tricks of elocution offend, except when they are performed on the stage, and even there they should be concealed, have expressed the opinion that Mr. Greeley is, strictly speaking, one of the best speakers this metropolis can boast. A man, they say, never does a weaker, an unworthier, a more self-demoralizing thing than when he speaks for effect; and of this vice Horace is less guilty than any speaker we are in the habit of hearing, except Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not that he does not make exaggerated statements; not that he does not utter sentiments which are only half true; not that he does not sometimes indulge in language which, when read, savor of the high-flown. What I mean is, that his public speeches are literally transcripts of the mind whence they emanate.

At public meetings and public dinners Mr. Greeley is a frequent speaker. His name usually comes at the end of the report, introduced with ‘Horace Greeley being loudly called for, made a few remarks to the following purport.’ The call is never declined; nor does he ever speak without saying something; and when ho has said it he resumes his seat. He has a way, particularly of late years, of coming to a meeting when it is nearly over, delivering one of his short, enlightening addresses, and then embracing the first opportunity that offers of taking an unobserved departure.

A few words with regard to the subjects upon which Horace [333] Greeley most loves to discourse. In 1850, a volume, containing ten of his lectures and twenty shorter essays, appeared from the press of the Messrs. Harpers, under the title of ‘Hints towards Reforms.’ It has had a sale of 2,000 copies. Two or three other lectures have been published in pamphlet form, of which the one entitled ‘What the Sister Arts teach as to Farming,’ delivered before the Indiana State Agricultural Society, at its annual fair at Lafayette in October, 1853, is perhaps the best that Mr. Greeley has written. But let us glance for a moment at the “ Hints.” The title-page contains three quotations or mottoes, appropriate to the book, and characteristic of the author. They are these:

Hasten the day, just Heaven!
     Accomplish thy design,
And let the blessings Thou hast freely given
     Freely on all men shine;
Till Equal Rights be equally enjoyed,
     And human power for human good employed;
Till Law, and not the Sovereign, rule sustain,
     And Peace and Virtue undisputed reign.

Listen not to the everlasting Conservative, who pines and whines at every attempt to drive him from the spot where he has so lazily cast his anchor. . . . Every abuse must be abolished. The whole system must be settled on the right basis. Settle it ten times and settle it wrong, you will have the work to begin again. Be satisfied with nothing but the complete enfranchisement of Humanity, and the restoration of man to the image of his God.

Once the welcome Light has broken,
     Who shall say
What the unimagined glories
     Of the day?
What the evil that shall perish
     In its ray?
Aid the dawning, Tongue and Pen!
     Aid it, hopes of honest men!
Aid it, Paper! aid it, Type!
     Aid it, for the hour is ripe!
And our earnest must not slacken
     Into play:
Men of Thought, and Men of Action,
     Clear the way!


The dedication is no less characteristic. I copy that also, as throwing light upon the aim and manner of the man:

To the generous, the hopeful, the loving, who, firmly and joyfully believing in the impartial and boundless goodness of our Father, trust, that the errors, the crimes, and the miseries, which have long rendered earth a hell, shall yet be swallowed up and forgotten, in a far exceeding and unmeasured reign of truth, purity, and bliss, this volume is respectfully and affectionately inscribed by

The Author.

Earth is not “a hell.” The expression appears very harsh and very unjust. Earth is not a hell. Its sum of happiness is infinitely greater than its sum of misery. It contains scarcely one creature that does not, in the course of its existence, enjoy more than it suffers, that does not do a greater number of right acts than wrong. Yet the world as it is, compared with the world as a benevolent heart wishes it to be, is hell-like enough; so we may, in this sense, but in this sense alone, accept the language of the dedication.

The preface informs us, that the lectures were prompted by invitations to address Popular Lyceums and Young Men's Associations, “generally those of the humbler class,” existing in country villages and rural townships. ‘They were written,’ says the author, ‘in the years from 1842 to 1848, inclusive, each in haste, to fulfil some engagement already made, for which preparation had been delayed, under the pressure of seeming necessities, to the latest moment allowable. A calling whose exactions are seldom intermitted for a day, never for a longer period, and whose requirements, already excessive, seem perpetually to expand and increase, may well excuse the distraction of thought and rapidity of composition which it renders inevitable. At no time has it seemed practicable to devote a whole day, seldom a full half day, to the production of any of the essays. Not until months after the last of them was written did the idea of collecting and printing them in this shape suggest itself, and a hurried perusal is all that has since been given them.’

The eleven published lectures of Horace Greeley which lie before me, are variously entitled; but their subject is one; his subject is ever the same; the object of his public life is single. It is the [335] “Emancipation of Labor;” its emancipation from ignorance, vice, servitude, insecurity, poverty. This is his chosen, only theme, whether he speaks from the platform, or writes for the Tribune. If slavery is the subject of discourse, the Dishonor which Slavery does to Labor is the light in which he prefers to present it. If protection—he demands it in the name and for the good of American workingmen, that their minds may be quickened by diversified employment, their position secured by abundant employment, the farmers enriched by markets near at hand. If Learning—he laments the unnatural divorce between Learning and Labor, and advocates their re-union in manual-labor schools. If “ Human Life” — he cannot refrain from reminding his hearers, that ‘the deep want of the time is, that the vast resources and capacities of Mind, the far-stretching powers of Genius and of Science, be brought to bear practically and intimately on Agriculture, the Mechanic Arts, and all the now rude and simple processes of Day-Labor, and not merely that these, processes may be perfected and accelerated, but that the benefits of the improvement may accrue in at least equal measure to those whose accustomed means of livelihood— scanty at best—are interfered with and overturned by the change.’ If the “Formation of character” —he calls upon men who aspire to possess characters equal to the demands of the time, to ‘question with firm speech all institutions, observances, customs, that they may determine by what mischance or illusion thriftless Pretence and Knavery shall seem to batten on a brave Prosperity, while Labor vainly begs employment, Skill lacks recompense, and Worth pines for bread.’ If Popular Education—he reminds us, that ‘the narrow, dingy, squalid tenement, calculated to repel any visitor but the cold and the rain, is hardly fitted to foster lofty ideas of Life, its Duties and its Aims. And he who is constrained to ask each morning, “Where shall I find food for the day?” is at best unlikely often to ask, “By what good deed shall the day be signalized?” ’ Or, in a lighter strain, he tells the story of Tom and the Colonel. ‘Torn,’ said a Colonel on the Rio Grande to one of his command, ‘how can so brave and good a soldier as you are so demean himself as to get drunk at every opportunity?’—‘Colonel’ replied the private, ‘how can you expect all [336] the virtues that adorn the human character for seven dollars a month?’ That anecdote well illustrates one side of Horace Greeley's view of life.

The problems which, he says, at present puzzle the knotted brain of toil all over the world, which incessantly cry out for solution, and can never more be stifled, but will become even more vehement, till they are solved, are these:

Why should those by whose toil all comforts and luxuries are produced, or made available, enjoy so scanty a share of them? Why should a man able and eager to work ever stand idle for want of employment in a world where so much needful work impatiently awaits the doing? Why should a man be required to surrender something of his independence in accepting the employment which will enable him to earn by honest effort the bread of his family? Why should the man who faithfully labors for another, and receives therefor less than the product of his labor, be currently held the obliged party, rather than he who buys the work and makes a good bargain of it? In short, Why should Speculation and Scheming ride so jauntily in their carriages, splashing honest Work as it trudges humbly and wearily by on foot?

Who is there so estranged from humanity as never to have pondered questions similar to these, whether he ride jauntily in a carriage, or trudge wearily on foot? They have been proposed in former ages as abstractions. They are discussed now as though the next generation were to answer them, practically and triumphantly.

First of all, the author of Hints towards Reforms admits frankly, and declares emphatically, that the obstacle to the workingman's elevation is the workingman's own improvidence, ignorance, and unworthiness. This side of the case is well presented in a sketch of the career of the “successful” man of business:

‘A keen observer,’ says the lecturer, ‘could have picked him out from among his schoolfellows, and said, “ Here is the lad who will die a bank-president, owning factories and blocks of stores.” Trace his history closely,’ he continues, ‘and you find that, in his boyhood, he was provident and frugal—that he shunned expense and dissipation—that he feasted and quaffed seldom, [337] unless at others' cost—that he was rarely seen at balls or frolics—that he was diligent in study and in business—that he did not hesitate to do an incompatible job, if it bade fair to be profitable—that he husbanded his hours and made each count one, either in earning or in preparing to work efficiently. He rarely or never stood idle because the business offered him was esteemed ungenteel or disagreeable—he laid up a few dollars during his minority, which proved a sensible help to him on going into business for himself—he married seasonably, prudently, respectably—he lived frugally and delved steadily until it clearly became him to live better, and until he could employ his time to better advantage than at the plow or over the bench. Thus his first thousand dollars came slowly but surely; the next more easily and readily by the help of the former; the next of course more easily still; until now he adds thousands to his hoard with little apparent effort or care. * * * * Talk to such a man as this of the wants of the poor, and he will answer you, that their sons can afford to smoke and drink freely, which he at their age could not; and that he now meets many of these poor in the market, buying luxuries that he cannot afford. Dwell on the miseries occasioned by a dearth of employment, and he will reply that he never encountered any such obstacle when poor; for when he could find nothing better, he cleaned streets or stables, and when he could not command twenty dollars a month, he fell to work as heartily and cheerfully for ten or five. In vain will you seek to explain to him that his rare faculty both of doing and of finding to do—his wise adaptation of means to ends in all circumstances, his frugality and others' improvidence—are a part of your case—that it is precisely because all are not created so handy, so thrifty, so worldly-wise, as himself, that you seek so to modify the laws and usages of Society that a man may still labor, steadily, efficiently, and live comfortably, although his youth was not improved to the utmost, and though his can never be the hand that transmutes all it touches to gold. Failing here, you urge that at least his children should be guaranteed an unfailing opportunity to learn and to earn, and that they, surely, should not suffer nor be stifled in ignorance because of their parent's imperfections. Still you talk in Greek to the man of substance, unless he be one of the few who have, in acquiring wealth, outgrown the idolatry of it, and learned to regard it truly as a means of doing good, and not as an end of earthly effort. If he be a man of wealth merely, still cherishing the spirit which impelled him to his life-long endeavor, the world appears to him a vast battle-field, on which some must win victory and glory, while to others are accorded shattered joints and discomfiture, and the former could not be, or would lose their zest, without the latter.’

Such is the “case” of the conservative. So looks the battle of life to the victor. With equal complacency the hawk may philosophize while he is digesting the chicken. But the chicken was of a [338] different opinion; and died squeaking it to the waving tree-tops, as he was borne irresistibly along to where the hawk could most conveniently devour him.

Mr. Greeley does not attempt to refute the argument of the prosperous conservative. He dwells for a moment upon the fact, that while life is a battle in which men fight, not for, but against each other, the victors must necessarily be few and ever fewer, the victims numberless and ever more hopeless. Resting his argument upon the evident fact that the majority of mankind are poor, unsafe, and uninstructed, he endeavors to show how the condition of the masses can be alleviated by legislation, and how by their own cooperative exertions. The State, he contends, should ordain, and the law should be fundamental, that no man may own more than a certain, very limited extent of land; that the State should fix a definition to the phrase, “a day's work;” that the State should see to it, that no child grows up in ignorance; that the State is bound to prevent the selling of alcoholic beverages. Those who are interested in such subjects will find them amply and ably treated by Mr. Greeley in his published writings.

But there are two short passages in the volume of Hints towards Reforms, which seem to contain the essence of Horace Greeley's teachings as to the means by which the people are to be elevated, spiritually and materially. The following is extracted from the lecture on the Relations of Learning to Labor. It is addressed to the educated and professional classes.

‘Why,’ asks Horace Greeley,

should not the educated class create an atmosphere, not merely of exemplary morals and refined manners, but of palpable utility and blessing? Why should not the clergyman, the doctor, the lawyer, of a country town be not merely the patrons and commenders of every generous idea, the teachers and dispensers of all that is novel in science or noble in philosophy—examplars of integrity, of amenity, and of an all-pervading humanity to those around them—but even in a more material sphere regarded and blessed as universal benefactors? Why should they not be universally—as I rejoice to say that some of them are—models of wisdom and thrift in agriculture—their farms and gardens silent but most effective preachers of the benefits of forecast, calculation, thorough knowledge and faithful application? Nay, more: Why should not the educated class be everywhere teachers, through lectures, essays, conversations, as well as practically, of those great and important truths of nature, which chemistry and [339] other sciences are just revealing to bless the industrial world? Why should they not unobtrusively and freely teach the farmer, the mechanic, the worker in any capacity, how best to summon the blind forces of the elements to his aid, and how most effectually to render them subservient to his needs? All this is clearly within the power of the educated class, if truly educated; all this is clearly within the sphere of duty appointed them by providence. Let them but do it, and they will stand where they ought to stand, at the head of the community, the directors of public opinion, and the universally recognized benefactors of the race.

I stand before an audience in good part of educated men, and I plead for the essential independence of their class—not for their sakes only or mainly but for the sake of mankind. I see clearly, or I am strangely bewildered, a deep-rooted and wide-spreading evil which is palsying the influence and paralyzing the exertions of intellectual and even moral superiority all over our country. The lawyer, so far at least as his livelihood is concerned, is too generally but a lawyer; he must live by law, or he has no means of living at all. So with the doctor; so alas! with the pastor. He, too, often finds himself surrounded by a large, expensive family, few or none of whom have been systematically trained to earn their bread in the sweat of their brows, and who, even if approaching maturity in life, lean on him for a subsistence. This son must be sent to the academy, and that one to college; this daughter to an expensive boarding-school, and that must have a piano—and all to be defrayed from his salary, which, however liberal, is scarcely or barely adequate to meet the demands upon it. How shall this man—for man, after all, he is—with expenses, and cares, and debts pressing upon him—hope to be at all times faithful to the responsibilities of his high calling! He may speak ever so fluently and feelingly against sin in the abstract, for that cannot give offence to the most fastidiously sensitive incumbent of the richly furnished hundred-dollar pews. But will he dare to rebuke openly, fearlessly, specially, the darling and decorous vices of his most opulent and liberal parishioners—to say to the honored dispenser of liquid poison, “ Your trade is murder, and your wealth the price of perdition!” —To him who amasses wealth by stinting honest labor of its reward and grinding the faces of the poor, “ Do not mock God by putting your reluctant dollar into the missionary box—there is no such heathen in New Zealand as yourself!” —and so to every specious hypocrite around him, who patronizes the church to keep to windward of his conscience and freshen the varnish on his character, “ Thou art the man!” I tell you, friends! he will not, for he cannot afford to, be thoroughly faithful! One in a thousand may be, and hardly more. We do not half comprehend the profound significance of that statute of the old church which inflexibly enjoins celibacy on her clergy. The very existence of the church, as a steadfast power above the multitude, giving law to the people and not receiving its law day by day from them, depends on its maintenance. And if we are ever to enjoy a Christian [340] ministry which shall systematically, promptly, fearlessly war upon every shape and disguise of evil—which shall fearlessly grapple with war and slavery, and every loathsome device by which man seeks to glut his appetites at the expense of his brother's well-being, it will be secured to us through the instrumentality of the very reform I advocate—a reform which shall render the clergyman independent of his parishioners, and enable him to say manfully to all, “You may cease to pay, but I shall not cease to preach, so long as you have sins to reprove, and I have strength to reprove them! I live in good part by the labor of my hands, and can do so wholly whenever that shall become necessary to the fearless discharge of my duty.”

A single illustration more, and I draw this long dissertation to a close. I shall speak now more directly to facts within my own knowledge, and which have made on me a deep and mournful impression. I speak to your experience, too, friends of the Phenix and Union Societies—to your future if not to your past experience—and I entreat you to heed me! Every year sends forth from our Colleges an army of brave youth, who have nearly or quite exhausted their little means in procuring what is termed an education, and must now find some remunerating employment to sustain them while they are more specially fitting themselves for and inducting themselves into a Profession. Some of them find and are perforce contented with some meager clerkship; but the great body of them turn their attention to Literature—to the instruction of their juniors in some school or family, or to the instruction of the world through the Press. Hundreds of them hurry at once to the cities and the journals, seeking employment as essayists or collectors of intelligence—bright visions of Fame in the foreground, and the gaunt wolf Famine hard at their heels. Alas for them! they do not see that the very circumstances under which they seek admission to the calling they have chosen almost forbid the idea of their succeeding in it. They do not approach the public with thoughts struggling for utterance, but with stomachs craving bread. They seek the Press, not that they may proclaim through it what it would cost their lives to repress, but that they may preserve their souls to their bodies, at some rate. Do you not see under what immense disadvantages one of this band enters upon his selected vocation, if he has the rare fortune to find or make a place in it? He is surrounded, elbowed on every side by anxious hundreds, eager to obtain employment on any terms; he must write not what he feels, but what another needs; must “ regret” or “rejoice” to order, working for the day, and not venturing to utter a thought which the day does not readily approve. And can you fancy that is the foundation on which to build a lofty and durable renown—a brave and laudable success of any kind? I tell you no, young friends!-the farthest from it possible. There is scarcely any position more perilous to generous impulses and lofty aims—scarcely any which more eminently threatens to sink the Man in the mere schemer and striver for subsistence and selfish gratification. I say, then, in deep earnestness, to every youth who hopes or desires to [341] become useful to his Race or in any degree eminent through Literature, Seek first of all things a position of pecuniary independence; learn to live by the labor of your hands, the sweat of your face, as a necessary step toward the career you contemplate. If you can earn but three shillings a day by rugged yet moderate toil, learn to live contentedly on two shillings, and so preserve your mental faculties fresh and unworn to read, to observe, to think, thus preparing yourself for the ultimate path you have chosen. At length, when a mind crowded with discovered or elaborated truths will have utterance, begin to write sparingly and tersely for the nearest suitable periodical—no matter how humble and obscure—if the thought is in you, it will find its way to those who need it. Seek not compensation for this utterance until compensation shall seek you; then accept it if an object, and not involving too great sacrifices of independence and disregard of more immediate duties. In this way alone can something like the proper dignity of the Literary Character be restored and maintained. But while every man who either is or believes himself capable of enlightening others, appears only anxious to sell his faculty at the earliest moment and for the largest price, I cannot hope that the Public will be induced to regard very profoundly either the lesson or the teacher.

Such is the substance of Horace Greeley's message to the literary and refined.

I turn now to the lecture on the Organization of Labor, and select from it a short narrative, the perusal of which will enable the reader to understand the nature of Mr. Greeley's advice to working-men. The story may become historically valuable; because the principle which it illustrates may be destined to play a great part in the Future of Industry. It may be true, that the despotic principle is not essential to permanence and prosperity, though nothing has yet attained a condition of permanent prosperity except by virtue of it. But here is the narrative, and it is worthy of profound consideration:

The first if not most important movement to be made in advance of our present Social position is the Organization of Labor. This is to be effected by degrees, by steps, by installments. I propose here, in place of setting forth any formal theory or system of Labor Reform, simply to narrate what I saw and heard of the history and state of an experiment now in progress near Cincinnati, and which differs in no material respects from some dozen or score of others already commenced in various parts of the United States, not to speak of twenty times as many established by the Working Men of Paris and other portions of France.

The business of iron-Molding, casting, or whatever it may be called, [342] is one of the most extensive and thrifty of the manufactures of Cincinnati, and I believe the labor employed therein is quite as well rewarded as Labor generally. It is entirely paid by the piece, according to an established scale of prices, so that each workman, in whatever department of the business, is paid according to his individual skill and industry, not a rough average of what is supposed to be earned by himself and others, as is the case where work is paid for at so much per day, week or month. I know no reason why the Iron-Molders of Cincinnati should not have been as well satisfied with the old ways as anybody else.

Yet the system did not “work well,” even for them. Beyond the general unsteadiness of demand for Labor and the ever-increasing pressure of competition, there was a pretty steadily recurring “dull season,” commencing about the first of January, when the Winter's call for stoves, &c., had been supplied, and holding on for two or three months, or until the Spring business opened. In this hiatus, the prior savings of the Molder were generally consumed—sometimes less, but perhaps oftener more—so that, taking one with another, they did not lay up ten dollars per annum. By-and-by came a collision respecting wages and a “strike,” wherein the Journeymen tried the experiment of running their heads against a stone wall for months. How they came out of it, no matter whether victors or vanquished, the intelligent reader will readily guess. I never heard of any evils so serious and complicated as those which eat out the heart of Labor being cured by doing nothing.

At length—but I believe after the strike had somehow terminated—some of the Journeymen Molders said to each other: “Standing idle is not the true cure for our grievances: why not employ ourselves?” They finally concluded to try it, and, in the dead of the Winter of 1847-8, when a great many of their trade were out of employment, the business being unusually depressed, they formed an association under the General Manufacturing Law of Ohio ;which is very similar to that of New York), and undertook to establish the Journeymen Molders' Union Foundry. There were about twenty of them who put their hands to the work, and the whole amount of capital they could scrape together was two thousand one hundred dollars, held in shares of twenty-five dollars each. With this they purchased an eligible piece of ground, directly on the bank of the Ohio, eight miles below Cincinnati, with which “ the Whitewater Canal” also affords the means of ready and cheap communication, With their capital they bought some patterns, flasks, an engine and tools, paid for their ground, and five hundred dollars on their first building, which was erected for them partly on long credit by a firm in Cincinnati, who knew that the property was a perfect security for so much of its cost, and decline taking credit for any benevolence in the matter Their iron, coal, &c., to commence upon were entirely and necessarily bought on credit.

Having elected Directors, a Foreman, and a Business Agent (the last to [343] open a store in Cincinnati, buy stock, sell wares, &c.) the Journeymen's Union set to work, in August, 1848. Its accommodations were then meager; they have since been gradually enlarged by additions, until their Foundry is now the most commodious on the river. Their stock of patterns, flasks, &c., has grown to be one of the best; while their arrangements for unloading coal and iron, sending off stoves, coking coal, &c., &c., are almost perfect. They commenced with ten associates actually at work; the number has gradually grown to forty; and there is not a better set of workmen in any foundry in America. I profess to know a little as to the quality of castings, and there are no better than may be seen in the Foundry of “Industry” and its store at Cincinnati. And there is obvious reason for this in the fact that every workman is a proprietor in the concern, and it is his interest to turn out not only his own work in the best order, but to take care that all the rest is of like quality. All is carefully examined before it is sent away, and any found imperfect is condemned, the loss falling on the causer of it. But there is seldom any deserving condemnation.

A strict account is kept with every member, who is credited for all he does according to the Cincinnati Scale of Prices, paid so much as he needs of his earnings in money, the balance being devoted to the extension of the concern and the payment of its debts, and new stock issued to him therefor. Whenever the debts shall have been paid off, and an adequate supply of implements, teams, stock, &c., bought or provided for, they expect to pay every man his earnings weekly in cash, as of course they may. I hope, however, they will prefer to buy more land, erect thereon a most substantial and commodious dwelling, surround it with a garden, shade-trees, &c., and resolve to live as well as work like brethren. There are few uses to which a member can put a hundred dollars which might not as well be subserved by seventy-five if the money of the whole were invested together.

The members were earning when I visited them an average of fifteen dollars per week, and meant to keep doing so. Of course they work hard. Many of them live inside of four dollars per week, none go beyond eight. Their Business Agent is one of themselves, who worked with them in the Foundry for some months after it was started. He has often been obliged to report, “I can pay you no money this week,” and never heard a murmur in reply. On one occasion he went down to say, “ There are my books; you see what I have received and where most of it has gone: here is one hundred dollars, which is all there is left.” The members consulted, calculated, and made answer: “We can pay our board so as to get through another week with fifty dollars, and you had better take back the other fifty, for the business may need it before the week is through.” When I was there, there had been an Iron note to pay, ditto a Coal, and a boat-load of coal to lay in for the winter, sweeping off all the money, so that for more than three weeks no man had had a dollar. Yet no one had thought of complaining, for all knew that the delay was dictated, [344] not by another's interest, but their own. They knew, too, that the assurance of their payment did not depend on the frugality or extravagance of some employer, who might swamp the proceeds of his business and their labor in an unlucky speculation, or a sumptuous dwelling, leaving them to whistle for their money. There were their year's earnings visibly around them in stoves and hollow ware, for which they had abundant and eager demand in Cincinnati, but which a break in the canal had temporarily kept back; in iron and coal for the winter's work; in the building over their heads and the implements in their hands. And while other molders have had work “off and on,” according to the state of the business, no member of the Journeymen's Union has stood idle a day for want of work since their Foundry was first started. Of course, as their capital increases, the danger of being compelled to suspend work at any future day grows less and less continually.

The ultimate capital of the Journeymen's Union Foundry (on the presumption that the Foundry is to stand by itself, leaving every member to provide his own home, & c.) is to be eighteen thousand dollars, of which seven thousand dollars has already been paid in, most of it in labor. The remainder is all subscribed by the several associates, and is to be paid in labor as fast as possible. That done, every man may be paid in cash weekly for his work, and a dividend on his stock at the close of each business year. The workers have saved and invested from three hundred dollars to six hundred dollars each since their commencement in August of last year, though those who have joined since the start have of course earned less. Few or none had laid by so much in five to ten years working for others as they have in one year working for themselves. The total value of their products up to the time of my visit is thirty thousand dollars, and they were then making at the rate of five thousand dollars' worth per month, which they do not mean to diminish. All the profits of the business, above the cost of doing the work at journeymen's wages, will be distributed among the stockholders in dividends. The officers of the Union are a Managing Agent, Foreman of the Foundry, and five Directors, chosen annually, but who can be changed meantime in case of necessity. A Reading-Room and Library were to be started directly; a spacious boarding-house (though probably not owned by the Union) will go up this season. No liquor is sold within a long distance of the Union, and there is little or no demand for any. Those original members of the Union who were least favorable to Temperance have seen fit to sell out and go away.

Now is it reasonable that the million or so of hireling laborers throughout our country who have work when it suits others' convenience to employ them, and must stand idle perforce when it does not, can read the above simple narration—which I have tried to render as lucid as possible—and not be moved to action thereby? Suppose they receive all they earn when employed—which of course they generally do not, or how could employers grow rich by merely buying their labor and selling it again?—should not the simple fact [345] that these Associated Workers never lack employment when they desire it, and never ask any master's leave to refrain from working when they see fit, arrest public attention? Who is such a slave in soul that he would not rather be an equal member of a commonwealth than the subject of a despotism? Who would not like to taste the sweets of Liberty on work-days as well as holidays? Is there a creature so abject that he considers all this mere poetry and moonshine, which a little hard experience will dissipate? Suppose the Cincinnati Iron-Molders' Association should break down, either through some defect in its organization or some dishonesty or other misconduct on the part of one or more of its members—what would that prove? Would it any more prove the impracticability of Industrial Associations than the shipwreck and death of Columbus, had such a disaster occurred on his second or third voyage to America, would have disproved the existence of the New World?

The story is incomplete; the catastrophe is wanting. It can be told in one word, and that word is failure! The Union existed about two years. It then broke up, not, as I am very positively assured, from any defect in the system upon which it was conducted; but from a total stagnation in the market, which not only ruined the co-operators, but others engaged in the same business. They made castings on the co-operative principle, made them well, made them as long as anybody would buy them; then—stopped.

The reader of the volume from which I have quoted will find in it much that does less honor to the author's head than his heart. But I defy any one to read it, and not respect the man that wrote it. The kernel of the book is sound. The root of the matter is there. It shows Horace Greeley to be a man whose interest in human welfare is sincere, habitual, innate, and indestructible. We all know what is the usual course of a person who—as the stupid phrase is—‘rises’ from the condition of a manual laborer to a position of influence and wealth. If our own observation were not sufficient, Thackeray and Curtis have told the whole world the sorry history of the modern snob; how he ignores his origin, and bends all his little soul to the task of cutting a figure in the circles to which he has gained admittance.

Twenty men are suffocating in a dungeon—one man, by climbing upon the shoulders of some of his companions, and assisted up still higher by the strength of others, escapes, breathes the pure air of heaven, exults in freedom! Does he not, instantly and with all [346] his might, strive for the rescue of his late companions, still suffering? Is he not prompt with rope, and pole, and ladder, and food, and cheering words? No—the caitiff wanders off to seek his pleasure, and makes haste to remove from his person, and his memory too, every trace of his recent misery. This it is to be a snob. No treason like this clings to the skirts of Horace Greeley. He has stood by his Order. The landless, the hireling, the uninstructed—he was their Companion once—he is their Champion now.

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