Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

rivers into open sewers; from the carelessness of railway management, which in one year destroyed more lives in America than were destroyed in the Russian army by the Battle of Mukden, the greatest battle of modern times; and from the reckless driving of automobiles, of whose deathlist there is no census. Malice slays our hundreds, greed our thousands, carelessness our tens of thousands. It is the duty of a competent and efficient government to save life from all three of these assassins.

The law, Thou shalt not commit adultery, is not adequately enforced by setting husband or wife free from the marital relation when its law is violated. What havoc in human health, what evils inflicted upon innocent women and children, are due to the violation of this law physicians have long known, and the public is beginning to know. Monsters in human form, such as the grotesque fancies of a Dickens or a Shakespeare creating a Quilp or a Caliban have never equaled, exist in American society, carrying on a white slave trade so horrible in its details that reputable men and women have been unable to believe that it could be true. Nor will our Government, Federal or State, have fulfilled its duty in the enforcement of this primitive legislation, Thou shalt not commit adultery, until our legislators realize, as they

have not in the past, how openly it is violated and how great is the almost epidemic evil which such violations inflict upon the Nation.

Thou shalt not steal, means thou shalt not take from thy neighbor without giving him a just equivalent; it means protection of the ignorant from the wiles of the professional gambler; protection of the innocent and helpless stockholder from the chicanery of the stock gambler; protection of the insured and of the bank depositor from the tricks and devices of the dishonest financier; protection of the owners from the schemes of the railway wrecker; and the protection of the public interest in the public property from the shrewd devices of men who are eager to acquire wealth without the labor of producing it.

The law, Thou shalt not bear false witness, means prosecution and punishment of the press which violates this law, whether it does so with malicious intent or from mere careless moneymaking greed. The freedom of the press no more means freedom to do what one likes with his pen than freedom of action means that he may do what he likes with his hand. If I put my hand into my neighbor's pocket and abstract his purse, I am presently carried off to the police station, because I have violated my neighbor's right of property; if I use my pen to vilify my neighbor,

or, with absolute carelessness of his rights and my obligations, print untrue and sensational gossip about him, I ought to go into the same prisonhouse and occupy the same cell with him who has robbed his neighbor of his purse. A newspaper has no more right to despoil one of his reputation than a thief has a right to despoil one of his property. The robber of reputation is the more despicable criminal of the two. Freedom of the press means that the newspaper may print what it will without submitting beforehand its matter to a governmental censor. It does not mean that it may print what it will without being responsible afterwards for its falsehoods if it prints what is not true.

Thus in two ways the function of government has greatly increased within the last century. It has increased because the elementary rights of men are more complex in our complex civilization, and the laws for their protection must therefore be more complex. It has also increased because we have discovered that many of our fundamental rights, such as our right to go from one part to another of our Republic, our right to be preserved from the contagious disease of a careless neighbor, our right to have our children protected from the corrupting influence of seductive vice, our right to have them given such

education as will give them a fair opportunity for a useful and happy life, can be protected only by competent and coöperative action through government. Both causes have contributed to our growing realization of the truth that a selfgoverning community is something very different from a community of self-governing individuals.

Many in our times look with apprehension upon this rapid extension of the function and powers of government. We are departing, they say, from the traditions of our fathers; and they are right. We are compelled to depart from the traditions of our fathers. They traveled in stagecoaches, we travel in Pullman cars; they communicated by mail, we increasingly communicate by telegraph and telephone; they used coin as a medium of exchange, or bank-bills at their own risk, we use bank-bills without any risk; they suffered from devastating epidemics, we are protecting ourselves from devastating epidemics by Governmental regulation; they burned candles or whale oil, we illuminate our houses by kerosene or electricity; they had few books and poor schools, we have excellent schools and public libraries. Life in the twentieth century is very different from life in the eighteenth; government in the twentieth century must be very different from government in the eighteenth. It must be

either more extensive in its function and operation, or far less effective in its protection of human rights and its enforcement of human duties.

The notion that a complex and extended government is inconsistent with freedom grows out of the notion that freedom is exemption from law; that liberty and independence are synonymous. But freedom and independence are not synonymous, and freedom is not exemption from law. Leonard Bacon, in his "Pilgrim Hymn," thus describes the cargo the Pilgrims brought with them:

Laws, freedom, truth, and faith in God

Came with these exiles o'er the waves.

Laws! Freedom! Can these live in the same ship? Can these flourish in the same community? What do we mean by law?

Austin, the famous writer on English law, has defined law as the edict of a superior who has the power to enforce his will by penalty, a power which confers on him his authority, and creates in the subject a duty or obligation of obedience.1

1 "A command is an order issued by a superior to an inferior. It is a signification of desire distinguished by this peculiarity, that the party to whom it is directed is liable to evil from the other, in case he comply not with the desire.' 'If you are able and willing to harm me in case I comply not with your wish, the expression of your wish amounts to a command.' Being liable to

« ZurückWeiter »