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Edward Mandell House.

Philip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 online

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by a few men; that outside of this little circle no one was of much
importance.

It was my intention to break into it if possible, and my ambition now
leaped so far as to want, not only to be of it, but later, to be IT.

I began my crusade by getting upon confidential terms with the
President.

One night, when we were alone in his private study, I told him of the
manner and completeness of my organization in Pennsylvania. I could see
he was deeply impressed. He had been elected by an uncomfortably small
vote, and he was, I knew, looking for someone to manage the next
campaign, provided he again received the nomination.

The man who had done this work in the last election was broken in
health, and had gone to Europe for an indefinite stay.

The President questioned me closely, and ended by asking me to undertake
the direction of his campaign for re-nomination, and later to manage the
campaign for his election in the event he was again the party's
candidate.

I was flattered by the proffer, and told him so, but I was guarded in
its acceptance. I wanted him to see more of me, hear more of my methods
and to become, as it were, the suppliant.

This condition was soon brought about, and I entered into my new
relations with him under the most favorable circumstances.

If I had readily acquiesced he would have assumed the air of favoring
me, as it was, the rule was reversed.

He was overwhelmingly nominated and re-elected, and for the result he
generously gave me full credit.

I was now well within the charmed circle, and within easy reach of my
further desire to have no rivals. This came about naturally and without
friction.

The interests, of course, were soon groveling at my feet, and, heavy as
my demands were, I sometimes wondered like Clive at my own moderation.

The rest of my story is known to you. I had tightened a nearly invisible
coil around the people, which held them fast, while the interests
despoiled them. We overdid it, and you came with the conscience of the
great majority of the American people back of you, and swung the Nation
again into the moorings intended by the Fathers of the Republic.

When Selwyn had finished, the fire had burned low, and it was only now
and then that his face was lighted by the flickering flames revealing a
sadness that few had ever seen there before.

Perhaps he saw in the dying embers something typical of his life as it
now was. Perhaps he longed to recall his youth and with it the strength,
the nervous force and the tireless thought that he had used to make
himself what he was.

When life is so nearly spilled as his, things are measured differently,
and what looms large in the beginning becomes but the merest shadow when
the race has been run.

As he contemplated the silent figure, Philip Dru felt something of
regret himself, for he now knew the groundwork of the man, and he was
sure that under other conditions, a career could have been wrought more
splendid than that of any of his fellows.



CHAPTER XXXVII

THE COTTON CORNER


In modeling the laws, Dru called to the attention of those boards that
were doing that work, the so-called "loan sharks," and told them to deal
with them with a heavy hand. By no sort of subterfuge were they to be
permitted to be usurious. By their nefarious methods of charging the
maximum legal rate of interest and then exacting a commission for
monthly renewals of loans, the poor and the dependent were oftentimes
made to pay several hundred per cent. interest per annum. The criminal
code was to be invoked and protracted terms in prison, in addition to
fines, were to be used against them.

He also called attention to a lesser, though serious, evil, of the
practice of farmers, mine-owners, lumbermen and other employers of
ignorant labor, of making advances of food, clothing and similar
necessities to their tenants or workmen, and charging them extortionate
prices therefor, thus securing the use of their labor at a cost entirely
incommensurate with its value.

Stock, cotton and produce exchanges as then conducted came under the ban
of the Administrator's displeasure, and he indicated his intention of
reforming them to the extent of prohibiting, under penalty of fine and
imprisonment, the selling either short or long, stocks, bonds,
commodities of whatsoever character, or anything of value. Banks,
corporations or individuals lending money to any corporation or
individual whose purpose it was known to be to violate this law, should
be deemed as guilty as the actual offender and should be as heavily
punished.

An immediate enforcement of this law was made because, just before the
Revolution, there was carried to a successful conclusion a gigantic but
iniquitous cotton corner. Some twenty or more adventurous millionaires,
led by one of the boldest speculators of those times, named Hawkins,
planned and succeeded in cornering cotton.

It seemed that the world needed a crop of 16,000,000 bales, and while
the yield for the year was uncertain it appeared that the crop would run
to that figure and perhaps over. Therefore, prices were low and
spot-cotton was selling around eight cents, and futures for the distant
months were not much higher.

By using all the markets and exchanges and by exercising much skill and
secrecy, Hawkins succeeded in buying two million bales of actual
cotton, and ten million bales of futures at an approximate average of
nine and a half cents. He had the actual cotton stored in relatively
small quantities throughout the South, much of it being on the farms and
at the gins where it was bought. Then, in order to hide his identity, he
had incorporated a company called "The Farmers' Protective Association."

Through one of his agents he succeeded in officering it with well-known
Southerners, who knew only that part of the plan which contemplated an
increase in prices, and were in sympathy with it. He transferred his
spot-cotton to this company, the stock of which he himself held through
his dummies, _and then had his agents burn the entire two million
bales._ The burning was done quickly and with spectacular effect, and
the entire commercial world, both in America and abroad, were astounded
by the act.

Once before in isolated instances the cotton planter had done this, and
once the farmers of the West, discouraged by low prices, had used corn
for fuel. That, however, was done on a small scale. But to deliberately
burn one hundred million dollars worth of property was almost beyond
the scope of the imagination.

The result was a cotton panic, and Hawkins succeeded in closing out his
futures at an average price of fifteen cents, thereby netting twenty-five
dollars a bale, and making for himself and fellow buccaneers one
hundred and fifty million dollars.

After amazement came indignation at such frightful abuse of
concentrated wealth. Those of Wall Street that were not caught, were
open in their expressions of admiration for Hawkins, for of such
material are their heroes made.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE


At the end of the first quarter of the present century, twenty of the
forty-eight States had Woman Suffrage, and Administrator Dru decided to
give it to the Nation. In those twenty States, as far as he had
observed, there had been no change for the better in the general laws,
nor did the officials seem to have higher standards of efficiency than
in those States that still denied to women the right to vote, but he
noticed that there were more special laws bearing on the moral and
social side of life, and that police regulation was better. Upon the
whole, Dru thought the result warranted universal franchise without
distinction of race, color or sex.

He believed that, up to the present time, a general franchise had been
a mistake and that there should have been restrictions and
qualifications, but education had become so general, and the condition
of the people had advanced to such an extent, that it was now warranted.

It had long seemed to Dru absurd that the ignorant, and, as a rule,
more immoral male, should have such an advantage over the educated,
refined and intelligent female. Where laws discriminated at all, it was
almost always against rather than in favor of women; and this was true
to a much greater extent in Europe and elsewhere than in the United
States. Dru had a profound sympathy for the effort women were making to
get upon an equality with men in the race for life: and he believed that
with the franchise would come equal opportunity and equal pay for the
same work.

America, he hoped, might again lead in the uplift of the sex, and the
example would be a distinct gain to women in those less forward
countries where they were still largely considered as inferior to and
somewhat as chattels to man.

Then, too, Dru had an infinite pity for the dependent and submerged
life of the generality of women. Man could ask woman to mate, but women
were denied this privilege, and, even when mated, oftentimes a life of
never ending drudgery followed.

Dru believed that if women could ever become economically independent of
man, it would, to a large degree, mitigate the social evil.

They would then no longer be compelled to marry, or be a charge upon
unwilling relatives or, as in desperation they sometimes did, lead
abandoned lives.



CHAPTER XXXIX

A NEGATIVE GOVERNMENT


Upon assuming charge of the affairs of the Republic, the Administrator
had largely retained the judiciary as it was then constituted, and he
also made but few changes in the personnel of State and Federal
officials, therefore there had, as yet, been no confusion in the
public's business. Everything seemed about as usual, further than there
were no legislative bodies sitting, and the function of law making was
confined to one individual, the Administrator himself.

Before putting the proposed laws into force, he wished them thoroughly
worked out and digested. In the meantime, however, he was constantly
placing before his Cabinet and Commissioners suggestions looking to the
betterment of conditions, and he directed that these suggestions should
be molded into law. In order that the people might know what further
measures he had in mind for their welfare, other than those already
announced, he issued the following address:

"It is my purpose," said he, "not to give to you any radical or
ill-digested laws. I wish rather to cull that which is best from the other
nations of the earth, and let you have the benefit of their thought and
experience. One of the most enlightened foreign students of our
Government has rightly said that _'America is the most undemocratic of
democratic countries.'_ We have been living under a Government of
negation, a Government with an executive with more power than any
monarch, a Government having a Supreme Court, clothed with greater
authority than any similar body on earth; therefore, we have lagged
behind other nations in democracy. Our Government is, perhaps, less
responsive to the will of the people than that of almost any of the
civilized nations. Our Constitution and our laws served us well for the
first hundred years of our existence, but under the conditions of to-day
they are not only obsolete, but even grotesque. It is nearly
impossible for the desires of our people to find expression into law.
In the latter part of the last century many will remember that an
income tax was wanted. After many vicissitudes, a measure embodying
that idea was passed by both Houses of Congress and was signed by the
Executive. But that did not give to us an income tax. The Supreme Court
found the law unconstitutional, and we have been vainly struggling since
to obtain relief.

"If a well-defined majority of the people of England, of France, of
Italy or of Germany had wanted such a law they could have gotten it with
reasonable celerity. Our House of Representatives is supposed to be our
popular law-making body, and yet its members do not convene until a year
and one month from the time they are elected. No matter how pressing the
issue upon which a majority of them are chosen, more than a year must
elapse before they may begin their endeavors to carry out the will of
the people. When a bill covering the question at issue is finally
introduced in the House, it is referred to a committee, and that body
may hold it at its pleasure.

"If, in the end, the House should pass the bill, that probably becomes
the end of it, for the Senate may kill it.

"If the measure passes the Senate it is only after it has again been
referred to a committee and then back to a conference committee of both
Senate and House, and returned to each for final passage.

"When all this is accomplished at a single session, it is unusually
expeditious, for measures, no matter how important, are often carried
over for another year.

"If it should at last pass both House and Senate there is the Executive
veto to be considered. If, however, the President signs the bill and it
becomes a law, it is perhaps but short-lived, for the Supreme Court is
ever present with its Damoclean sword.

"These barriers and interminable delays have caused the demand for the
initiative, referendum and recall. That clumsy weapon was devised in
some States largely because the people were becoming restless and
wanted a more responsive Government.

"I am sure that I shall be able to meet your wishes in a much simpler
way, and yet throw sufficient safeguards around the new system to keep
it from proving hurtful, should an attack of political hysteria overtake
you.

"However, there has never been a time in our history when a majority of
our people have not thought right on the public questions that came
before them, and there is no reason to believe that they will think
wrong now.

"The interests want a Government hedged with restrictions, such as we
have been living under, and it is easy to know why, with the example of
the last administration fresh in the minds of all.

"A very distinguished lawyer, once Ambassador to Great Britain, is
reported as saying on Lincoln's birthday: 'The Constitution is an
instrument designedly drawn by the founders of this Government
providing safeguards to prevent any inroads by popular excitement or
frenzy of the moment.' And later in the speech he says: 'But I have
faith in the sober judgment of the American people, that they will
reject these radical changes, etc.'

"If he had faith in the sober judgment of the American people, why not
trust them to a measurable extent with the conduct of their own
affairs?

"The English people, for a century or more, have had such direction as I
now propose that you shall have, and for more than half a century the
French people have had like power. They have in no way abused it, and
yet the English and French Electorate surely are not more intelligent,
or have better self-control, or more sober judgment than the American
citizenship.

"Another thing to which I desire your attention called is the dangerous
power possessed by the President in the past, but of which the new
Constitution will rob him.

"The framers of the old Constitution lived in an atmosphere of autocracy
and they could not know, as we do now, the danger of placing in one
man's hands such enormous power, and have him so far from the reach of
the people, that before they could dispossess him he might, if
conditions were favorable, establish a dynasty.

"It is astounding that we have allowed a century and a half go by
without limiting both his term and his power.

"In addition to giving you a new Constitution and laws that will meet
existing needs, there are many other things to be done, some of which I
shall briefly outline. I have arranged to have a survey made of the
swamp lands throughout the United States. From reliable data which I
have gathered, I am confident that an area as large as the State of
Ohio can be reclaimed, and at a cost that will enable the Government to
sell it to home-seekers for less than one-fourth what they would have to
pay elsewhere for similar land.

"Under my personal direction, I am having prepared an old-age pension
law and also a laborers' insurance law, covering loss in cases of
illness, incapacity and death.

"I have a commission working on an efficient cooperative system of
marketing the products of small farms and factories. The small producers
throughout America are not getting a sufficient return for their
products, largely because they lack the facilities for marketing them
properly. By cooperation they will be placed upon an equal footing with
the large producers and small investments that heretofore have given
but a meager return will become profitable.

"I am also planning to inaugurate cooperative loan societies in every
part of the Union, and I have appointed a commissioner to instruct the
people as to their formation and conduct and to explain their beneficent
results.

"In many parts of Europe such societies have reached very high
proficiency, and have been the means of bringing prosperity to
communities that before their establishment had gone into decay.

"Many hundred millions of dollars have been loaned through these
societies and, while only a fractional part of their members would be
considered good for even the smallest amount at a bank, the losses to
the societies on loans to their members have been almost negligible;
less indeed than regular bankers could show on loans to their clients.
And yet it enables those that are almost totally without capital to make
a fair living for themselves and families.

"It is my purpose to establish bureaus through the congested portions of
the United States where men and women in search of employment can
register and be supplied with information as to where and what kind of
work is obtainable. And if no work is to be had, I shall arrange that
every indigent person that is honest and industrious _shall be given
employment by the Federal, State, County or Municipal Government as the
case may be._ Furthermore, it shall in the future be unlawful for
any employer of labor to require more than eight hours work a day, and
then only for six days a week. Conditions as are now found in the great
manufacturing centers where employés are worked twelve hours a day,
seven days in the week, and receive wages inadequate for even an eight
hour day shall be no longer possible.

"If an attempt is made to reduce wages because of shorter hours or for
any other cause, the employé shall have the right to go before a
magistrate and demand that the amount of wage be adjusted there, either
by the magistrate himself or by a jury if demanded by either party.

"Where there are a large number of employés affected, they can act
through their unions or societies, if needs be, and each party at issue
may select an arbitrator and the two so chosen may agree upon a third,
or they may use the courts and juries, as may be preferred.

"This law shall be applicable to women as well as to men, and to every
kind of labor. I desire to make it clear that the policy of this
Government is that every man or woman who desires work shall have it,
even if the Government has to give it, and I wish it also understood
that an adequate wage must be paid for labor.

"Labor is no longer to be classed as an inert commodity to be bought and
sold by the law of supply and demand, but the _human equation shall
hereafter be the commanding force in all agreements between man and
capital_.

"There is another matter to which I shall give my earnest attention and
that is the reformation of the study and practice of medicine. It is
well known that we are far behind England, Germany and France in the
protection of our people from incompetent physicians and quackery.
There is no more competent, no more intelligent or advanced men in the
world than our American physicians and surgeons of the first class.

"But the incompetent men measurably drag down the high standing of the
profession. A large part of our medical schools and colleges are
entirely unfit for the purposes intended, and each year they grant
diplomas to hundreds of ignorant young men and women and license them to
prey upon a more or less helpless people.

"The number of physicians per inhabitant is already ridiculously large,
many times more than is needful, or than other countries where the
average of the professions ranks higher, deem necessary.

"I feel sure that the death list in the United States from the mistakes
of these incompetents is simply appalling.

"I shall create a board of five eminent men, two of whom shall be
physicians, one shall be a surgeon, one a scientist and the other shall
be a great educator, and to this board I shall give the task of
formulating a plan by which the spurious medical colleges and medical
men can be eradicated from our midst.

"I shall call the board's attention to the fact that it is of as much
importance to have men of fine natural ability as it is to give them
good training, and, if it is practicable, I shall ask them to require
some sort of adequate mental examination that will measurably determine
this.

"I have a profound admiration for the courage, the nobility and
philanthropy of the profession as a whole, and I do not want its honor
tarnished by those who are mercenary and unworthy.

"In conclusion I want to announce that pensions will be given to those
who fought on either side in the late war without distinction or
reservation. However, it is henceforth to be the policy of this
Government, so far as I may be able to shape it, that only those in
actual need of financial aid shall receive pensions and to them it shall
be given, whether they have or have not been disabled in consequence of
their services to the nation. But to offer financial aid to the rich and
well to do, is to offer an insult, for it questions their patriotism.
Although the first civil war was ended over sixty years ago, yet that
pension roll still draws heavily upon the revenue of the Nation. Its
history has been a rank injustice to the noble armies of Grant and his
lieutenants, the glory of whose achievements is now the common heritage
of a United Country."



CHAPTER XL

A DEPARTURE IN BATTLESHIPS


Dru invited the Strawns to accompany him to Newport News to witness the
launching of a new type of battleship. It was said to be, and probably
was, impenetrable. Experts who had tested a model built on a large scale
had declared that this invention would render obsolete every battleship
in existence. The principle was this: Running back from the bow for a
distance of 60 feet only about 4 feet of the hull showed above the water
line, and this part of the deck was concaved and of the smoothest,
hardest steel. Then came several turreted sections upon which guns were
mounted. Around these turrets ran rims of polished steel, two feet in
width and six inches thick. These rims began four feet from the water
line and ran four feet above the level of the turret decks. The rims
were so nicely adjusted with ball bearings that the smallest blow would
send them spinning around, therefore a shell could not penetrate because
it would glance off.

Although the trip to the Newport News Dock yards was made in a Navy
hydroaeroplane it took several hours, and Gloria used the occasion to
urge upon Dru the rectification of some abuses of which she had special
knowledge.

"Philip," she said, "when I was proselytizing among the rich, it came to
me to include the employer of women labor. I found but few who dissented
from my statement of facts, but the answer was that trade conditions,
the demand of customers for cheaper garments and articles, made relief
impracticable. Perhaps their profits are on a narrow basis, Philip; but
the volume of their business is the touchstone of their success, for how
otherwise could so many become millionaires? Just what the remedy is I
do not know, but I want to give you the facts so that in recasting the
laws you may plan something to alleviate a grievous wrong."

"It is strange, Gloria, how often your mind and mine are caught by the
same current, and how they drift in the same direction. It was only a
few days ago that I picked up one of O. Henry's books. In his
'Unfinished Story' he tells of a man who dreamed that he died and was
standing with a crowd of prosperous looking angels before Saint Peter,
when a policeman came up and taking him by the wing asked: 'Are you with
that bunch?'

"'Who are they?' asked the man.

"'Why,' said the policeman, 'they are the men who hired working girls
and paid 'em five or six dollars a week to live on. Are you one of the


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Online LibraryEdward Mandell HousePhilip Dru Administrator : a Story of Tomorrow 1920 - 1935 → online text (page 10 of 14)