—The Times, Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 1886.
. It is said, Colonel Ingersoll,
that you are for Henry George?
Of course; I think it the
duty of the Republicans to defeat the Democracy—a solemn duty—and I believe
that they have a chance to elect George; that is to say, an opportunity
to take New York from their old enemy. If the Republicans stand by George
he will succeed. All the Democratic factions are going to unite to beat
the workingmen. What a picture! Now is the time for the Republicans to show
that all their sympathies are not given to bankers, corporations and millionaires.
They were on the side of the slave—they gave liberty to millions. Let them
take another step and extend their hands to the sons of toil.
My heart beats with those who bear the burdens of this poor world.
. Do you not think that capital is entitled
I am in favor of accomplishing all reforms
in a legal and orderly way, and I want the laboring people of this country
to appeal to the ballot. All classes and all interests must be content to
abide the result.
I want the laboring people to show that they are intelligent
enough to stand by each other. Henry George is their natural leader. Let
them be true to themselves by being true to him. The great questions between
capital and labor must be settled peaceably. There is no excuse for violence,
and no excuse for contempt and scorn. No country can be prosperous while
the workers want and the idlers waste. Those who do the most should have
the most. There is no civilized country, so far as I know, but I believe
there will be, and I want to hasten they day when the map of the world will
give the boundaries of that blessed land.
Do you agree with George's principles? Do
you believe in socialism?
. I do not understand that George is a Socialist.
He is on the side of those that work—so am I. He wants to help those that
need help—so do I. The rich can take care of themselves. I shed no tears
over the miseries of capital. I think of the men in mines and factories,
in huts, hovels and cellars; of the poor sewing women; of the poor, the hungry
and the despairing. The world must be made better through intelligence. I
do not go with the destroyers, with those that hate the successful, that
hate the generous, simply because they are rich. Wealth is the surplus produced
by labor, and the wealth of the world should keep the world from want.
—New York Herald, October 13, 1886.
LABOR QUESTION AND SOCIALISM.
. What do you think of Henry George for mayor?
Several objections have been urged,
not to what Mr. George has done, but to what Mr. George has thought, and
he is the only candidate up to this time against whom a charge of this character
could be made. Among other things, he seems to have entertained an idea to
the effect that a few men should not own the entire earth; that a child coming
into the world has a right to standing room, and that before he walks, his
mother has a right to standing room while she holds him. He insists that
if it were possible to bottle the air, and sell it as we do mineral water,
it would be hardly fair for the capitalists of the world to embark in such
a speculation, especially where millions were allowed to die simply because
they were not able to buy breath at "pool prices." Mr. George seems to think
that the time will come when capital will be intelligent enough and civilized
enough to take care of itself. He has a dream that poverty and crime and
all the evils that go hand in hand with partial famine, with lack of labor,
and all the diseases born of living in huts and cellars, born of poor food
and poor clothing and of bad habits, will disappear, and that the world will
be really fit to live in. He goes so far as to insist that men ought to have
more than twenty-three or twenty-four dollars a month for digging coal,
and that they ought not to be compelled to spend that money in the store
or saloon of the proprietor of the mine. He has also stated on several occasions
that a man ought not to drive a street car for sixteen or eighteen hours
a day—that even a street-car driver ought to have the privilege now and
then of seeing his wife, or at least one of the children, awake. And he
has gone so far as to say that a letter-carrier ought not to work longer
in each day for the United States than he would for a civilized individual.
To people that imagine that this world is already
perfection; that the condition of no one should be bettered except their
own, these ideas seem dangerous. A man who has already amassed a million,
and who has no fear for the future, and who says: "I will employ the cheapest
labor and make men work as long as they can possibly endure the toil," will
regard Mr. George as an impractical man. It is very probable that all of
us will be dead before all the theories of Mr. George are put in practice.
Some of them, however, may at some time benefit mankind; and so far as I
am concerned, I am willing to help hasten the day, although it may not come
while I live. I do not know that I agree with many of the theories of Mr.
George. I know that I do not agree with some of them. But there is one thing
in which I do agree with him, and that is, in his effort to benefit the human
race, in his effort to do away with some of the evils that now afflict mankind.
I sympathize with him in his endeavor to shorten the hours of labor, to increase
the well- being of laboring men, to give them better houses, better food,
and in every way to lighten the burdens that now bear upon their bowed backs.
It may be that very little can be done by law, except to see that they are
not absolutely abused; to see that the mines in which they work are supplied
with air and with means of escape in time of danger; to prevent the deforming
of children by forcing upon them the labor of men; to shorten the hours
of toil, and to give all laborers certain liens, above all other claims,
for their work. It is easy to see that in this direction something may be
done by law.
. Colonel Ingersoll, are you a Socialist?
I am an Individualist instead of a Socialist.
I am a believer in individuality and in each individual taking care of himself,
and I want the Government to do just as little as it can consistently with
the safety of the nation, and I want as little law as possible—only as much
as will protect life, reputation and property by punishing criminals and
by enforcing honest contracts. But if a government gives privileges to a few,
the few must not oppress the many. The Government has
no right to bestow any privilege upon any man or upon any corporation, except
for the public good. That which is a special privilege to the few, should
be a special benefit to the many. And whenever the privileged few abuse the
privilege so that it becomes a curse to the many, the privilege, whatever
it is, should be withdrawn. I do not pretend to know enough to suggest a
remedy for all the evils of society. I doubt if one human mind could take
into consideration the almost infinite number of factors entering into such
a problem. And this fact that no one knows, is the excuse for trying. While
I may not believe that a certain theory will work, still, if I feel sure
it will do no harm, I am willing to see it tried.
. Do you think that Mr. George would make a
I presume he would. He is a thoughtful,
prudent man. His reputation for honesty has never, so far as I know, been
called in question. It certainly does not take a genius to be mayor of New
York. If so, there have been some years when there was hardly a mayor. I
take it that a clear-headed, honest man, whose only object is to do his duty,
and with courage enough to stand by his conscience, would make a good mayor
of New York or of any other city.
Are you in sympathy with the workingmen and
I am in sympathy with laboring men of
all kinds, whether they labor with hand or brain. The Knights of Labor,
I believe, do not allow a lawyer to become a member. I am somewhat wider
in my sympathies. No men in the world struggle more heroically; no men in
the world have suffered more, or carried a heavier cross, or worn a sharper
crown of thorns, than those that have produced what we call the literature
of our race. So my sympathies extend all the way from hod-carriers to sculptors;
from well-diggers to astronomers. If the objects of the laboring men are
to improve their condition without injuring others; to have homes and firesides,
and wives and children; plenty to eat, good clothes to wear; to develop
their minds, to educate their children—in short, to become prosperous and
civilized, I sympathize with them, and hope they will succeed. I have not
the slightest sympathy with those that wish to accomplish all these objects
through brute force. A Nihilist may be forgiven in Russia—may even be praised
in Russia; a Socialist may be forgiven in Germany; and certainly a Home-ruler
can be pardoned in Ireland, but in the United States there is no place for
Anarchist, Socialist or Dynamiter. In this country the political power has
been fairly divided. Poverty has just as many votes as wealth. No man can
be so poor as not to have a ballot; no man is rich enough to have two; and
no man can buy another vote, unless somebody is mean enough and contemptible
enough to sell; and if he does sell his vote, he never should complain about
the laws or their administration. So the foolish and the wise are on an equality,
and the political power of this country is divided so that each man is a
Now, the laboring people are largely in the majority
in this country. If there are any laws oppressing them, they should have
them repealed. I want the laboring people—and by the word "laboring" now,
I include only the men that they include by that word—to unite; I want them
to show that they have the intelligence to act together, and sense enough
to vote for a friend. I want them to convince both the other great parties
that they cannot be purchased. This will be an immense step in the right
I have sometimes thought that I should like to see
the laboring men in power, so that they would realize how little, after all,
can be done by law. All that any man should ask, so far as the Government
is concerned, is a fair chance to compete with his neighbors. Personally,
I am for the abolition of all special privileges that are not for the general
good. My principal hope of the future is the civilization of my race; the
development not only of the brain, but of the heart. I believe the time
will come when we shall stop raising failures, when we shall know something
of the laws governing human beings. I believe the time will come when we
shall not produce deformed persons, natural criminals. In other words, I
think the world is going to grow better and better. This may not happen to
this nation or to what we call our race, but it may happen to some other
race, and all that we do in the right direction hastens that day and that
. Do you think that the old parties are about
It is very hard to say. The country
is not old enough for tables of mortality to have been calculated upon parties.
I suppose a party, like anything else, has a period of youth, of manhood
and decay. The Democratic party is not dead. Some men grow physically strong
as they grow mentally weak. The Democratic party lived out of office, and
in disgrace, for twenty-five years, and lived to elect a President. If the
Democratic party could live on disgrace for twenty-five years it now looks
as though the Republican party, on the memory of its glory and of its wonderful
and unparalleled achievements, might manage to creep along for a few years
—New York World, October 26, 1886.
HENRY GEORGE AND SOCIALISM.
. What is your opinion of the result of the
I find many dead on the field whose
faces I recognize. I see that Morrison has taken a "horizontal" position.
Free trade seems to have received an exceedingly black eye. Carlisle, in
my judgment, one of the very best men in Congress, has been defeated simply
because he is a free trader, and I suppose you can account for Hurd's defeat
in the same way. The people believe in protection although they generally
admit that the tariff ought to be reformed. I believe in protecting "infant
industries," but I do not believe in rocking the cradle when the infant
is seven feet high and wears number twelve boots.
. Do you sympathize with the Socialists, or
do you think that the success of George would promote socialism?
. I have said frequently that if I lived
in Russia I should in all probability be a Nihilist. I can conceive of no
government that would not be as good as that of Russia, and I would consider
no government far preferable to that government. Any possible state of anarchy
is better than organized crime, because in the chaos of anarchy justice may
be done by accident, but in a government organized for the perpetuation of
slavery, and for the purpose of crushing out of the human brain every noble
thought, justice does not live. In Germany I would probably be a Socialist—to
this extent, that I would want the political power honestly divided among
the people. I can conceive of no circumstance in which I could support Bismarck.
I regard Bismarck as a projection of the Middle Ages, as a shadow that has
been thrown across the sunlight of modern civilization, and in that shadow
grow all the bloodless crimes. Now, in Ireland, of course, I believe in home
rule. In this country I am an Individualist. The political power here is
equally divided. Poverty and wealth have the same power at the ballot-box.
Intelligence and ignorance are on an equality here, simply because all men
have a certain interest in the government where they live. I hate above all
other things the tyranny of a government. I do not want a government to send
a policeman along with me to keep me from buying eleven eggs for a dozen.
I will take care of myself. I want the people to do everything they can do,
and the Government to keep its hands off, because if the Government attends
to all these matters the people lose manhood, and in a little while become
serfs, and there will arise some strong mind and some powerful hand that will
reduce them to actual slavery. So I am in favor or personal liberty to the
largest extent. Whenever the Government grants privileges to the few, these
privileges should be for the benefit of the many, and when they cease to
be for the benefit of the many, they should be taken from the few and used
by the government itself for the benefit of the whole people. And I want
to see in this country the Government so administered that justice will be
done to all as nearly as human institutions can produce such a result. Now,
I understand that in any state of society there will be failures. We have
failures among the working people. We have had some failures in Congress.
I will not mention the names, because your space is limited. There have been
failures in the pulpit, at the bar; in fact, in every pursuit of life you
will presume we shall have failures with us for a great while; at least until
the establishment of the religion of the body, when we shall cease to produce
failures; and I have faith enough in the human race to believe that that time
will come, but I do not expect it during my life.
. What do you think of the income tax as a
step toward the accomplishment of what you desire?
There are some objections to an income
tax. First, the espionage that it produces on the part of the Government.
Second, the amount of perjury that it annually produces. Men hate to have
their business inquired into if they are not doing well. They often pay a
very large tax to make their creditors think they are prosperous. Others
by covering up, avoid the tax. But I will say this with regard to taxation:
The great desideratum is stability. If we tax only the land, and that were
the only tax, in a little while every other thing, and the value of every
other thing, would adjust itself in relation to that tax, and perfect justice
would be the result. That is to say, if it were stable long enough the burden
would finally fall upon the right backs in every department. The trouble with
taxation is that it is continually changing—not waiting for the adjustment
that will naturally follow provided it is stable. I think the end, so far
as land is concerned, could be reached by cumulative taxation—that is to say,
a man with a certain amount of land paying a very small per cent., with more
land, and increased per cent., and let that per cent. increase rapidly enough
so that no man could afford to hold land that he did not have a use for.
So I believe in cumulative taxation in regard to any kind of wealth. Let
a man worth ten million dollars pay a greater per cent. than one worth one
hundred thousand, because he is able to pay it. The other day a man was talking
to me about having the dead pay the expenses of the Government; that whenever
a man died worth say five million dollars, one million should go to the Government;
that if he died worth ten million dollars, three millions should go to the
Government; if he died worth twenty million dollars, eight million should
go to the Government, and so on. He said that in this way the expenses of
the Government could be borne by the dead. I should be in favor of cumulative
taxation upon legacies— the greater the legacy, the greater the per cent.
But, of course, I am not foolish enough to suppose that I understand these
questions. I am giving you a few guesses. My only desire is to guess right.
I want to see the people of this world live for this world, and I hope the
time will come when a civilized man will understand that he cannot be perfectly
happy while anybody else is miserable; that a perfectly civilized man could
not enjoy a dinner knowing that others were starving; that he could not enjoy
the richest robes if he knew that some of his fellow-men in rags and tatters
were shivering in the blast. In other words, I want to carry out the idea
there that I have so frequently uttered with regard to the other world;
that is, that no gentleman angel could be perfectly happy knowing that somebody
else was in hell.
. What are the chances for the Republican Party
If it will sympathize with the toilers,
as it did with the slaves; if it will side with the needy; if it will only
take the right side it will elect the next President. The poor should not
resort to violence; the rich should appeal to the intelligence of the working
people. These questions cannot be settled by envy and scorn. The motto of
both parties should be: "Come, let us reason together." The Republican party
was the grandest organization that ever existed. It was brave, intelligent
and just. It sincerely loved the right. A certificate of membership was a
patent of nobility. If it will only stand by the right again, its victorious
banner will float over all the intelligent sons of toil.