Gerald Stanley Lee.

Crowds : a moving-picture of democracy online

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we like it still better. We dote on goodness when it is ours
and when we are allowed to put some punch into it. \Ve
want to be good, to express our practical, our doing-ideal-
ism, but we will not be driven to being good and people who
think they can drive us to being good in a government or out
of it are incompetent people. They do not know who we are.

We say they shall not have their way with us.

Let them get us right first. Then they can do other

What is our American temperament?

Here are a few American reflections.


The government of the next boys' school of importance in
this country is going to determine the cuts and free hours, and
privileges not by marks, but by its genius for seeing through

And instead of making rules for two hundred pupils because
just twenty pupils need them, they will make the rules for
just twenty pupils.

Pupils who can use their souls and can do better by telling
themselves what to do, will be allowed to do better. Why
should two hundred boys who want to be men be bullied into
being babies by twenty infants who can scare a school govern-
ment into rules, i. e., scare their teachers into being small and
mean and second-rate?

A government that goes on this principle with business men,
and that does it in a spirit of mutual understanding for those
who are not yet free from rules, and in a spirit of confidence and
expectation and of talking it over, will be a government with
an American temperament.

The first trait of a great government is going to be that it
will recognize that the basis of a true government in a democracy
is privilege and not treating all people alike. It is going to see
that is it a cowardly, lazy, brutal, and mechanical-minded thing
for a government which is trying to serve a great people to
treat all the people alike. The basis of a great government-
like the basis of a great man (or even the basis of a good diges-
tion) is discrimination, and the habit of acting according
to facts. We will have rules or laws for people who need
them, and men in the same business who amount to enough
and are American enough to be safe as laws to themselves,
will continue to have their initiative and to make their business
a profession, a mould, an art form into which they pour their
lives. The pouring of the lives of men like this into their
business is the one thing that the business and the government

Several things are going to happen when what a good govern-


ment seeks each for a man's business, is to let him express
himself in it.

When a man has proved conclusively that he has a higher
level of motives, and a higher level of abilities to make his
motives work, the government is going to give him a higher level
of rights, liberties, and immunities. The government will give
special liberties on a sliding scale and with shrewd provision
for the future. The government will not give special liberties
to the man with higher motives than other men have, who has
not higher abilities to make his motives work, nor will it give
special liberties to the man who has higher abilities which could
make higher motives work, but who has not the higher motives.

Men who are new kinds and new sizes of men and who have
proved that they can make new kinds and new sizes of bargains,
that they can make (for the same money) new kinds and new
sizes of goods, and who incidentally make new kinds and new
sizes of people out of the people who buy the goods, men who
have achieved all these supposed visionary feats by their own
initiative, will be allowed by the government to have all the
initiative they w T ant, and immunities from fretful rules as long as
they resemble themselves and keep on doing what they have
shown they can do. The government will deal with each man
according' to the facts, the scientific facts, that he has proved
about himself.

The government acts according to scientific facts in every-
thing except men, in pure food, in cholera, and the next thing
the government is going to do is to be equally efficient in dealing
with scientific facts in men.

It is going to give some men inspected liberty. If these men
say they can be more efficient, as a railroad sometimes is, by
being a monopoly, by being a vast, self-visioned, self-controlled
body the government will have enough character, expert
courage and shrewdness about human nature to provide a way
for them to try it.

When the other people come up andaskwhythey cannot have


these special immunities and why they cannot be a monopoly,
or nearly a monopoly, too, the government will tell them why.

Telling them why will be governing them.

When we once reckon with new kinds and new sizes of men,
everything follows. The first man who organizes a true monop -
oly for public service and who does it better than any state
could do it, because he thinks of it himself, glories in it and
has a genius for it, will be given a peerage in England perhaps.
But he would not really care. The thing itself would be a peer-
age enough and either in America or England he would rather
be rewarded by being singled out by the government for special
rights and distinctions in conducting his business. The best
way a democracy can honour a man who has served it is not to
give him a title or to make a frivolous, idle monument of
bronze for him, but to let him have his own way.

The way to honour any artist or any creative man, any man a
country is in need of especially, is to let him have his own way.

We are told that the way to govern trusts is to untrammel

But the way to untrammel competition is not to try to un-
trammel it in its details with lists of things men shall not do.

This is cumbersome.

We would probably find it very much more convenient
in specifying 979 detailed things trusts cannot do, if we could
think of certain sum-totals of details.

Then we could deal with the details in a lump.

The best sum totals of details in this world that have ever
been invented yet, are men.

We will pick out a man who has a definite, marked character,
who is a fine, convenient sum-total that any one can see, of
things not to do.

We will pick out another man in the same line of business who
is a fine, convenient sum-total of things that people ought to do.


The government will find ways, as the Coach of Business as
the Referee of the Game for the people, to stand by this man
until he whips the other, drives him out of business or makes
him play as good a game as he does.

When a child finds suddenly that his father is not merely
keeping him from doing things, that his father has a soul,
the father begins to get results out of the child.

As a rule a child discovers first that his father has a soul by
noticing that he insists on treating him as if he had one.

Of course a corporation that has not a soul yet does not pro-
pose to be dictated to by a government that has not a soul
yet. When corporations without souls see overwhelmingly
that a government has a soul, they will be filled with a
wholesome fear. They will always try at first to prevent it
from having a soul if they can.

But the moment it gets one and shows it, they will be glad.
They will feel on firm ground. They will know what they
know. They will act.

In the hospital on the hill not far from my house, one often
sees one attendant going out to walk with twelve insane men.
One would think it would not be safe for twelve insane men to
go out to walk with one sane man, with one man who has his
soul on.

The reason it is safe, is, that the moment one insane man or
man who has not his soul on, attacks the man who has a soul,
all of the other eleven men throw themselves upon him and fling
him to the ground. Men whose souls are not on, protect,
every time, the man who has his soul on because the man who has
a soul is the only defence they have from the men who have not.

It is going to be the same with governments. We believe
in a government's having as much courage in America as a ten-
dollar-a-week attendant in an insane asylum. We want a
government that sees how courage works.


We are told in the New Testament that we are all members
one of another.

If society has a soul and if every member of it has a
soul, what is the relation of the social soul to the individual

A man's soul is the faculty in him for seeing the Whole in
relation to the part his vision for others in relation to his
vision for himself.

My forefinger's soul in writing with this fountain pen is the
sense my forefinger has of its relation to my arm, my spinal
column, and my brain. The ability and efficiency of my fore-
finger depends upon its soul, that is, its sense of relation to the
other members of the body. If my forefinger tries to act like
a brain all by itself, as it sometimes does, nobody reads my

The government in a society is the soul of all the members
and it treats them according to their souls.

The one compulsion a government will use if it has a soul,
will be granting charters in business in such a way as to
fix definite responsibility and definite publicity upon a few

If a corporation has a soul, it must show. It must have
a face. Anybody can tell a face off-hand or while going
by. Anybody can keep track of a corporation if it has a

The trouble with the average corporation is that all that any-
body can see is its stomach. Even this is anonymous.

Whose Stomach is it? Who is responsible for it? If we
hit it, whom will we hit? Let the government find out. If
the time the government is now spending in making impossibly
minute laws for impossibly minute men, were spent in finding
out what size men were, and who they were and then giving
them just as many rights from the people, as they are the right
kind and the right size to handle for the people, it would be
an American government


If there is one thing rather than another that an American
or an Englishman loves, it is asserting himself or expressing
his character in what he does. The typical dominating English-
man or American is not as successful as a Frenchman or as an
Italian in expressing other things, as he is hi expressing his

He cares more about expressing his character and asserting
it. If he is dealing with things, he makes them take the stamp
of who he is. If he is dealing with people, he makes them see
and acknowledge who he is. They must take in the facts about
what he is like when they are with him. They must deal with
him as he is.

This trait may have its disadvantages, but if an Englishman
or an American is on this earth for anything, this is what he is
for to express his character in what he does in strong,
vigorous, manly lines draw a portrait of himself and show what
he is like in what he does. This may be called on both sides
of the sea to-day as we stand front to front with the more grace-
ful nations, Anglo-Saxon Art

It is because this particular art in the present crisis of human
nature on this planet is the desperate, the almost reckless need
of a world that the other nations of the world with all their
dislike of us and their superiorities to us, with all our ugliness
and heaviness and our galumphing in the arts, have been com-
pelled in this huge, modern thicket of machines and crowds to
give us the lead.

And now we are threading a way for nations through the
moral wilderness of the earth.

This position has been accorded us because it goes with our
temperament, because we can be depended upon to insist on
asserting ourselves and on expressing ourselves in what we do.
If the present impromptu industrial machinery which has been
handed over to us thoughtlessly and in a hurry, does not express
us, everybody knows that we can be depended on to assert
ourselves and that we will insist on one that will. The nations


that are more polite and that can dance and bow more nicely
than we can in a crisis like this would be dangerous. It is
known about us throughout a world that we are not going to
be cowed by wood or by iron or by steel and that we are not
going to be cowed by men who are all wood and iron and steel
inside. If wood, iron, or steel does not express us, we are
Englishmen and we are Americans. We will butt our character
into it until it does.

If the American workman were to insist upon butting his
American temperament into his labour union machinery, what
would his labour machinery in America soon begin to show that
an Ariierican labourer was like?

I imagine it might work out something like this :

The thoughtful workman looks about him. He discovers
that the workman pays at least two times as much for coal as he
needs to because miners down in Pennsylvania work one third
as hard as they might for the money.

When he comes to think of it, all the labouring men of
America are paying high prices because they have to pay all
the other workmen in America for working as little as they can.
He is working one third less than he can and making his own
class pay for it. He sees every workman about him paying
high prices because every other workman in making things foi
him to eat and for him to wear, is cheating him doing a third
less a day for him than he ought.

At this point the capitalists pile in and help. They shove
the prices up still higher because capital is not interested in an
industry in which the workmen do six hours' work in nine.
It demands extra profits. So while the workmen put up the
prices by not working, the capitalists put up the prices because
they are afraid the workmen will not work. Half work, high

Then the American workman thinks. He begins to suppose.


Suppose that the millers' workmen and the workmen in the
woollen mills in America see how prices of supplies for labouring
men are going up and suppose they agree to work as hard as
they can? Suppose the wool workers of the world want cheap
bread. The flour mill workers want cheap clothes. We
will say to the bread people, "We will bring down the
price of wool for you if you will bring down the price of bread
for us."

Then let Meat and Potatoes do the same for one another.
Then two industries at a time, industries getting brains in
pairs, until like the animals going into the ark, little by little
(or rather very fast, almost piling in, in fact, after the first pair
have tried it), at last our true, spirited, practical minded
American workmen will have made their labour machines as
natural and as human and as American as they are. They
will stop trying to lower prices by not working, each workman
joining (in a factory) the leisure classes and making the other
workmen pay for it.

The American workman, as things are organized now, finds
himself confronted with two main problems. One is himself.
How can he get himself to work hard enough to make his food
and clothes cheap? The other is his employer.

What will the American workman do to express his American
temperament through his labour union to his employer? The
American workmen will go to their employers and say: "In-
stead of doing six hours' work in nine hours, we will do nine
hours' work in nine hours. " The millers, for instance, will say
to the flour mill owners : " We will do a third more work for you,
make you a third more profit on our labour if you will divide
your third more profit like this:

"First, by bringing down the price of flour to everybody;

"Second, by bringing up our wages. Third, by taking more
money yourselves."


American labouring men who did this would be acting like
Americans. It is the American temperament.

They will insist on it: The labour men will continue to say
to their employers, "We will divide the proceeds of our extra
work into three sums of money ours, yours, and everybody's."
In return we will soon find the employers saying the same thing
to the labour men. Employers would like to arrange to be
good. If they can get men who earn more, they want to pay
them more.

The labourers would like to be good, i. e., work more for em-
ployers who want to pay them more.

But being good has to be arranged for.

Being good is a matter of mutual understanding, a matter of
organization, a matter of butting our American temperament
into our industrial machines.

All that is the matter with these industrial machines is that
they are not like us.

Our machines are acting just now for all the world as if they
were the Americans and as if we were the machines.

Are we for the machines, or are the machines for us?

All that the American labourers and that the American
capitalists have to do is to show what they are really like,
organize their news about themselves so that they get it through
to one another, and our present great daily occupation in Amer-
ica (which each man calls his "business") all the workmen
going down to the mills and all the employers going down to
their offices, and then for six, eight, nine hours a day being
chewed on by machines, will cease.

We make our industrial machines. We are Americans.
Our machines must have our American temperament.

If an American employer were to insist on butting his Ameri-
can temperament into his industrial machine, what would his
industrial machine, when it is well at work at last, show an
American employer's temperament to be like?


The first thing that would show in his machine, I think, would
be its courage, its acting with boldness and initiative, origi-
nality and freedom, without being cluttered up by precedents-
or running and asking Mama, its clear-headedness in what it
wants, its short-cut in getting to it, and above all a kind of
ruthless faith in human nature, in the American people, in its
goods and in itself.

The typical American business man of the highest class
the man who is expressing his American temperament best in
his business is the one who is expressing in it the most cour-
age for himself and for others and for his government. He has
big beliefs every few minutes a day, and he acts on them with

If he is running a trust our most characteristic, recklessly
difficult American invention for a man to show through, and if
he tries to get his American temperament to show through in it,
tries to make his trust like a vast portrait, like a kind of
countenance on a country, of what a big American business is
like, what will he do?

He will take a little axiom like this and act as if it were so.

// in any given case the producers by collusion and combination
can be efficient in lowering icages to employees and raising prices
and cheating the public, this same combination or collusion would
be efficient in raising the wages of employees, lowering prices and
serving the public.

He will then, being an American, turn to his government and
say "I am a certain sort of man. If I am allowed to be an
exception and to combine in this matter, I can prove that I can
raise wages, lower prices for a whole nation in these things that
I make. I am a certain sort of man. Do you think I am, or
do you think that I am not? I want to know."

The government looks noncommittally at him. It says it
cannot discriminate.

He says nothing for a time, but he thinks in his heart that
it is incompetent and cowardly to run a great government of a


great nation as a vast national sweep or flourish of getting out
of brains and of evading vision. It seems to him lazy and effem-
inate in a government to treat all combinations and all monop-
olies alike. He says : " Look me in the eyes ! I demand of you
as a citizen of this country the right to be looked by my govern-
ment in the eyes. What sort of man am I? Here are all my
doors open. My safes are your safes and my books are your
books. Am I or am I not a man who can conduct his business
as a great profession, one of the dignities and energies and
joys of a great people?

"What am I like inside? Is what I am like inside my
having a small size or a big size of motive, my having a right
kind or a wrong kind of ability of no consequence to this
government? Does the government of this country really mean
that the most important things a country like this can produce,
the daily, ruling motives of the men who are living in it, have
no weight with the government? Am I to understand that the
government does not propose to avail itself of new sizes and new
kinds of men and new sizes and new kinds of abilities hi men?
What I am trying to do in my product is to lower the prices
and raise the wages for a nation. Will you let me do it?
Will you watch me while I do it?"

This will be the American trust of to-morrow. The average
trust of this country has not yet found itself, but the moral and
spiritual history, the religious message to a government of The
Trust That Has Found Itself will be something like this.

Perhaps when we have a trust that has found itself, we will
have a government that has dared to find itself, that has the
courage to use its insight, its sense of difference between men,
as it means of getting what it wants for the people.

As it is now, the government has not found itself and it falls
back on complex rules or machines for getting out of seeing
through people.

Where courage is required, it proceeds as it proceeds with
Automobile speeding laws. Everybody knows that one man


driving his car three miles an hour may be more dangerous
than another kind of man who is driving his car thirty.

When our government begins to be a government, begins to
express the American temperament, it will be a government that
will devote its energy, its men, and its money to being expert
in divining, and using differences between men. It will govern
as any father, teacher, or competent business man does by
treating some people in one way and others in another, by
giving graded speed licenses in business,to labour unions, trusts,
and business men.

The government will be able to do this by demanding, acquir-
ing, and employing as the servants of the people, men who are
experts in human nature, masters in not treating men alike
Crowbars, lemonade-straws, chisels, and marshmallows, power-
houses and ^Eolian harps by the people, for the people, and of
the people, will be rated for what they are and will be used for
what they are for.

This will be democracy. It will be the American tempera-
ment in government.

Is President Wilson or is he not going to fall back into a mere
lawyer Moseslike way of getting people to be good, or is he
going to be a man like David, half poet, half soldier, who got
his way with the nation half by appreciating the men in it and
being a fellow human being with them, and half by fighting
them when they would not let him be a fellow human being
with them, and would not let him appreciate them ?

Almost any nation or government can get some kind of
Moses to-day but the men that America is producing would not
particularly notice a Moses probably now. A Moses might do
for a Rockefeller, but he could not really do anything with a
man like Theodore N. Vail who has the telephones and tele-
graphs of a country talking and ticking to us all, all night, all
day, what kind of a man he is.


A big affirmative, inspirational man like David or even
Napoleon who inspires people with one breath and fights hard
with the next, a man who swings his hat for the world, a man
who goes on ahead and says "Come!" is the only man who can
be practical in America to-day in helping real live American
men like McAdoo, like Edison and Acheson, men who can
express a people in a business to express them.

The people have spoken. A man in the White House who
cannot say "Come" goes.

We want a poet in the White House. If we can not have
a poet for the White House soon, we want a poet who will
make us a poet for the White House,

I do not believe it is too much to expect a President to be a
poet. We have had a poet for President once in one supreme
crisis of this nation and the crisis that is coming now is so
much deeper, so much more human and world-wide than
Lincoln's was that it would almost seem as if a place like the
White House (where one's poetry could really work) would
make a poet out of anybody.

A President who has not a kind of plain, still, homely poetry
in him, a belief about people that sings, in the present appalling
crisis of the world is impracticable or visionary.

So we do not say, "Have we a President that can get our

Online LibraryGerald Stanley LeeCrowds : a moving-picture of democracy → online text (page 35 of 43)