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upon occasion, but a very questionable and burdensome advantage. It has given them great power, but it has also subjected them to a sort of slavery and a bitter sort of subserviency to politicians. They are as anxious to be freed from bondage as the country is to be rid of the influences and methods which it represents. Leading business' men are now becoming great factors in the emancipation of the country from a system which was leading from bad to worse. There are those, of course, who are wedded to the old ways and who will stand out for them to the last, but they will sink into a minority and be overcome. The rest have found that their old excuse (namely, that it was necessary to defend themselves against unfair legislation) is no longer a good excuse; that there is a better way of defending themselves than through the private use of money. That better way is to take the public into their confidence, to make absolutely open all their dealings with legislative bodies and legislative officers, and let the public judge as between them and those with whom they are dealing.
This discovery on their part of what ought to have been obvious all along points out the way of reform; for undoubtedly publicity comes very near being the cure-all for political and economic maladies of this sort. But publicity will continue to be very difficult so long as our methods of legislation are so obscure and devious and private. I think it will become more and more obvious that the way to purify our politics is to simplify them, and that the way to simplify them is to establish responsible leadership. We have had no leadership at all inside our legislative bodies,- at any rate, no leadership which is definite enough to attract the attention and watchfulness of the country. Our only leadership having been that of irresponsible persons outside the legislatures who constitute the political machines, it has been extremely difficult for even the most watchful public opinion to keep track of the circuitous methods pursued. This undoubtedly lies at the root of the growing demand on the part of American communities everywhere for responsible leadership, for putting in authority and keeping in authority those whom they know and whom they can watch and whom they can constantly hold to account. The business of the country ought to be served by thoughtful and progressive legislation, but it ought to be served openly, candidly, advantageously, with a careful regard to letting everybody be heard and every interest be considered, the interest which is not backed by money as well as the interest which is; and this can be accomplished only by some simplification of our methods which will centre the public trust in small groups of men who will lead, not by reason of legal authority, but by reason of their contact with and amenability to public opinion.
I am striving to indicate my belief that our legislative methods may well be reformed in the direction of giving more open publicity to every act, in the direction of setting up some form of responsible leadership on the floor of our legislative halls so that the people may know who is back of every bill and back of the opposition to it, and so that it may be dealt with in the open chamber rather than in the committee room. The light must be let in on all processes of lawmaking.
Legislation, as we nowadays conduct it, is not conducted in the open. It is not threshed out in open debate upon the floors of our assemblies. It is, on the contrary, framed, digested, and concluded in committee rooms. It is in committee rooms that legislation not desired by the interests dies. It is in committee rooms that legislation desired by the interests is framed and brought forth. There is not enough debate of it in open house, in most cases, to disclose the real meaning of the proposals made. Clauses lie quietly unexplained and unchallenged in our statutes which contain the whole gist and purpose of the act; qualifying phrases which escape the public attention, casual definitions which do not attract attention, classifications so technical as not to be generally understood, and which every one most intimately concerned is careful not to explain or expound, contain the whole purpose of the law. Only after it has been enacted and has come to adjudication in the courts is its scheme as a whole divulged. The beneficiaries are then safe behind their bulwarks.
Of course, the chief triumphs of committee work, of covert phrase and unexplained classification, are accomplished in the framing of tariffs. Ever since the passage of the outrageous Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act our people have been discovering the concealed meanings and purposes which lay hidden in it. They are discovering item by item how deeply and deliberately they were deceived and cheated. This did not happen by accident; it came about by design, by elaborated, secret design. Questions put upon the floor in the House and Senate were not frankly or truly answered, and an elaborate piece of legislation was foisted on the country which could not possibly have passed if it had been generally comprehended.
And we know, those of us who handle the machinery of politics, that the great difficulty in breaking up the control of the political boss is that he is backed by the money and the influence of these very people who are intrenched in these very schedules. The tariff could never have been built up item by item by public discussion, and it never could have passed, if item by item it had been explained to the people of this country. It was built up by arrangement and by the subtle management of a political organization represented in the Senate of the United States by the senior Senator from Rhode Island, and in the House of Representatives by one of the Representatives from Illinois. These gentlemen did not build that tariff upon the evidence that was given before the Committee on Ways and Means as to what the manufacturer and the workingmen, the consumers and the producers, of this country want. It was not built upon what the interests of the country called for. It was built upon understandings arrived at outside of the rooms where testimony was given and debatę was held.
I am not even now suggesting corrupt influence. That is not my point. Corruption is a very difficult thing to manage in its literal sense. The payment of money is very easily detected, and men of this kind who control these interests by secret arrangement would not consent to receive a dollar in money. They are following their own principles,- that is to say, the principles which they think and act upon, and they think that they are perfectly honorable and incorruptible men; but they believe one thing that I do not believe and that it is' evident the people of the country do not believe: they believe that the prosperity of the country depends upon the arrangements which certain party leaders make with certain business leaders. They believe that, but the proposition has merely to be stated to the jury to be rejected. The prosperity of this country depends upon the interests of all of us and cannot be brought about by arrangement between any groups of persons. Take any question you like out to the country,— let it be threshed out in public debate,- and you will have made these methods impossible.
This is what sometimes happens: They promise you a particular piece of legislation. As soon as the legislature meets, a bill embodying that legislation is introduced. It is referred to a committee. You never hear of it again. What happened? Nobody knows what happened.
I am not intimating that corruption creeps in; I do not know what creeps in. The point is that we not only do not know, but it is intimated, if we get inquisitive, that it is none of our business. My reply is that it is our business, and it is the business of every man in the State; we have a right to know all the particulars of that bill's history. There is not any legitimate privacy about matters of government. Government must, if it is to be pure and correct in its processes, be absolutely public in everything that affects it. I cannot imagine a public man with a conscience having a secret that he would keep from the people about their own affairs.
I know how some of these gentlemen reason. They say that the influences to which they are yielding are perfectly legitimate influences, but that if they were disclosed they would not be understood. Well, I am very sorry, but nothing is legitimate that cannot be understood. If you cannot explain it properly, then there is something about it that cannot be explained at all. I know from the circumstances of the case, not what is happening, but that something private is happening, and that every time one of these bills gets into committee, something private stops it, and it never comes out again unless forced out by the agitation of the press or the courage and revolt of brave men in the legislature. I have known brave men of that sort. I could name some splendid examples of men who, as representatives of the people, demanded to be told by the chairman of the committee why the bill was not reported, and who, when they could not find out from him, investigated and found out for themselves and brought the bill out by threatening to tell the reason on the floor of the House.
Those are private processes. Those are processes which stand between the people and the things that are promised them, and I say that until you drive all of those things into the open, you are not connected with your Government; you are not represented; you are not participants in your Government. Such a scheme of government by private understanding deprives you of representation, deprives the people of representative institutions. It has got to be put into the heads of legislators that public business is public business. I hold the opinion that there can be no confidences as against the people with respect to their government, and that it is the duty of every public officer to explain to his fellow-citizens whenever he gets a chance,- explain exactly what is going on inside of his own office.
There is no air so wholesome as the air of utter publicity.
There are other tracts of modern life where jungles have grown up that must be cut down. Take, for example, the entirely illegitimate extensions made of the idea of private property for the benefit of modern corporations and trusts. A modern joint stock corporation cannot in any proper sense be said to base its rights and powers upon the principles of private property. Its powers are wholly derived from legislation. It possesses them for the convenience of business at the sufferance of the public. Its stock is widely owned, passes from hand to hand, brings multitudes of men into its shifting partnerships, and connects it with the interests and the investments of whole communities. It is a segment of the public; bears no analogy to a partnership or to the processes by which private property is safeguarded and managed, and should not be suffered to afford any covert whatever to those who are managing it. Its management is of public and general concern, is in a very proper sense everybody's business. The business of many of those corporations which we call public-service corporations, and which are indispensable to our daily lives and serve us with transportation and light and water and power,
their business, for instance, is clearly public business; and, therefore, we can and must penetrate their affairs by the light of examination and discussion.
In New Jersey the people have realized this for a long time, and a year or two ago we got our ideas on the subject enacted into legislation. The corporations involved opposed the legislation with all their might. They talked about ruin,- and I really believe they did think they would be somewhat injured. But they have not been. And I hear I cannot tell you how many men in New Jersey say: “Governor, we were opposed to you; we did not believe in the things you wanted to do, but now that you have done them we take off our hats. That was the thing to do, it did not hurt us a bit; it just put us on a normal footing; it took away suspicion from our business.” New Jersey, having taken the cold plunge, cries out to the rest of the states, “Come on in! The water's fine!”
So I take it to be a necessity of the hour to open up all the processes of politics and of public business,- open them wide to public view; to make them accessible to every force that moves, every opinion that prevails in the thought of the people; to give society command of its own economic life again, not by revolutionary measures, but by a steady application of the principle that the people have a right to look into such matters and to control them; to cut all privileges and patronage and private advantage and secret enjoyment out of legislation.
Wherever any public business is transacted, wherever plans affecting the public are laid, or enterprises touching the public welfare, comfort, or convenience go forward, wherever political programmes are formulated, or candidates agreed on,- over that place a voice must speak, with the divine prerogative of a people's will, the words: "Let there be light!”