by Edward Bellamy

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Chapter XXXIV. What started the revolution

What did I say to the theater for that evening? was the question with which Edith met me when we reached home. It seemed that a celebrated historical drama of the great Revolution was to be given in Honolulu that afternoon, and she had thought I might like to see it.

"Really you ought to attend," she said, "for the presentation of the play is a sort of compliment to you, seeing that it is revived in response to the popular interest in revolutionary history which your presence has aroused."

No way of spending the evening could have been more agreeable to me, and it was agreed that we should make up a family theater party.

"The only trouble," I said, as we sat around the tea table, "is that I don't know enough yet about the Revolution to follow the play very intelligently. Of course, I have heard revolutionary events referred to frequently, but I have no connected idea of the Revolution as a whole."

"That will not matter," said Edith. "There is plenty of time before the play for father to tell you what is necessary. The matinee does not begin till three in the afternoon at Honolulu, and as it is only six now the difference in time will give us a good hour before the curtain rises."

"That's rather a short time, as well as a short notice, for so big a task as explaining the great Revolution," the doctor mildly protested, "but under the circumstances I suppose I shall have to do the best I can."

"Beginnings are always misty," he said, when I straightway opened at him with the question when the great Revolution began. "Perhaps St. John disposed of that point in the simplest way when he said that 'in the beginning was God.' To come down nearer, it might be said that Jesus Christ stated the doctrinal basis and practical purpose of the great Revolution when he declared that the golden rule of equal and the best treatment for all was the only right principle on which people could live together. To speak, however, in the language of historians, the great Revolution, like all important events, had two sets of causes--first, the general, necessary, and fundamental cause which must have brought it about in the end, whatever the minor circumstances had been; and, second, the proximate or provoking causes which, within certain limits, determined when it actually did take place, together with the incidental features. These immediate or provoking causes were, of course, different in different countries, but the general, necessary, and fundamental cause was the same in all countries, the great Revolution being, as you know, world-wide and nearly simultaneous, as regards the more advanced nations.

"That cause, as I have often intimated in our talks, was the growth of intelligence and diffusion of knowledge among the masses, which, beginning with the introduction of printing, spread slowly through the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and much more rapidly during the nineteenth, when, in the more favored countries, it began, to be something like general. Previous to the beginning of this process of enlightenment the condition of the mass of mankind as to intelligence, from the most ancient times, had been practically stationary at a point little above the level of the brutes. With no more thought or will of their own than clay in the hands of the potter, they were unresistingly molded to the uses of the more intelligent and powerful individuals and groups of their kind. So it went on for innumerable ages, and nobody dreamed of anything else until at last the conditions were ripe for the inbreathing of an intellectual life into these inert and senseless clods. The process by which this awakening took place was silent, gradual, imperceptible, but no previous event or series of events in the history of the race had been comparable to it in the effect it was to have upon human destiny. It meant that the interest of the many instead of the few, the welfare of the whole instead of that of a part, were henceforth to be the paramount purpose of the social order and the goal of its evolution.

"Dimly your nineteenth-century philosophers seem to have perceived that the general diffusion of intelligence was a new and large fact, and that it introduced a very important force into the social evolution, but they were wall-eyed in their failure to see the certainty with which it foreshadowed a complete revolution of the economic basis of society in the interest of the whole body of the people as opposed to class interest or partial interest of every sort. Its first effect was the democratic movement by which personal and class rule in political matters was overthrown in the name of the supreme interest and authority of the people. It is astonishing that there should have been any intelligent persons among you who did not perceive that political democracy was but the pioneer corps and advance guard of economic democracy, clearing the way and providing the instrumentality for the substantial part of the programme--namely, the equalization of the distribution of work and wealth. So much for the main, general, and necessary cause and explanation of the great Revolution--namely, the progressive diffusion of intelligence among the masses from the sixteenth to the end of the nineteenth centuries. Given this force in operation, and the revolution of the economic basis of society must sooner or later have been its outcome everywhere: whether a little sooner or later and in just what way and with just what circumstances, the differing conditions of different countries determined.

"In the case of America, the period of revolutionary agitation which resulted in the establishment of the present order began almost at once upon the close of the civil war. Some historians date the beginning of the Revolution from 1873."

"Eighteen seventy-three!" I exclaimed; "why, that was more than a dozen years before I fell asleep! It seems, then, that I was a contemporary and witness of at least a part of the Revolution, and yet I saw no Revolution. It is true that we recognized the highly serious condition of industrial confusion and popular discontent, but we did not realize that a Revolution was on."

"It was to have been expected that you would not," replied the doctor. "It is very rarely that the contemporaries of great revolutionary movements have understood their nature until they have nearly run their course. Following generations always think that they would have been wiser in reading the signs of the times, but that is not likely."

"But what was there," I said, "about 1873 which has led historians to take it as the date from which to reckon the beginning of the Revolution?"

"Simply the fact that it marked in a rather distinct way the beginning of a period of economic distress among the American people, which continued, with temporary and partial alleviations, until the overthrow of private capitalism. The popular discontent resulting from this experience was the provoking cause of the Revolution. It awoke Americans from their self-complacent dream that the social problem had been solved or could be solved by a system of democracy limited to merely political forms, and set them to seeking the true solution.

"The economic distress beginning at the last third of the century, which was the direct provocation of the Revolution, was very slight compared with that which had been the constant lot and ancient heritage of other nations. It represented merely the first turn or two of the screw by which capitalism in due time squeezed dry the masses always and everywhere. The unexampled space and richness of their new land had given Americans a century's respite from the universal fate. Those advantages had passed, the respite was ended, and the time had come when the people must adapt their necks to the yoke all peoples before had worn. But having grown high-spirited from so long an experience of comparative welfare, the Americans resisted the imposition, and, finding mere resistance vain, ended by making a revolution. That in brief is the whole story of the way the great Revolution came on in America. But while this might satisfy a languid twentieth-century curiosity as to a matter so remote in time, you will naturally want a little more detail. There is a particular chapter in Storiot's History of the Revolution explaining just how and why the growth of the power of capital provoked the great uprising, which deeply impressed me in my school days, and I don't think I can make a better use of a part of our short time than by reading a few paragraphs from it."

And Edith having brought the book from the library--for we still sat at the tea table--the doctor read:

"'With reference to the evolution of the system of private capitalism to the point where it provoked the Revolution by threatening the lives and liberties of the people, historians divide the history of the American Republic, from its foundation in 1787 to the great Revolution which made it a true republic, into three periods.

"'The first comprises the decades from the foundation of the republic to about the end of the first third of the nineteenth century--say, up to the thirties or forties. This was the period during which the power of capital in private hands had not as yet shown itself seriously aggressive. The moneyed class was small and the accumulations of capital petty. The vastness of the natural resources of the virgin country defied as yet the lust of greed. The ample lands to be had for the taking guaranteed independence to all at the price of labor. With this resource no man needed to call another master. This may be considered the idyllic period of the republic, the time when De Tocqueville saw and admired it, though not without prescience of the doom that awaited it. The seed of death was in the state in the principle of private capitalism, and was sure in time to grow and ripen, but as yet the conditions were not favorable to its development. All seemed to go well, and it is not strange that the American people indulged in the hope that their republic had indeed solved the social question.

"'From about 1830 or 1840, speaking of course in a general way as to date, we consider the republic to have entered on its second phase--namely, that in which the growth and concentration of capital began to be rapid. The moneyed class now grew powerful, and began to reach out and absorb the natural resources of the country and to organize for its profit the labor of the people. In a word, the growth of the plutocracy became vigorous. The event which gave the great impulse to this movement, and fixed the time of the transition from the first to the second period in the history of the nation, was of course the general application of steam to commerce and industry. The transition may indeed be said to have begun somewhat earlier, with the introduction of the factory system. Of course, if neither steam nor the inventions which made the factory system possible had ever been introduced, it would have been merely a question of a longer time before the capitalist class, proceeding in this case by landlordism and usury, would have reduced the masses to vassalage, and overthrown democracy even as in the ancient republics, but the great inventions amazingly accelerated the plutocratic conquest. For the first time in history the capitalist in the subjugation of his fellows had machinery for his ally, and a most potent one it was. This was the mighty factor which, by multiplying the power of capital and relatively dwarfing the importance of the workingman, accounts for the extraordinary rapidity with which, during the second and third periods the conquest of the republic by the plutocracy was carried out.

"'It is a fact creditable to Americans that they appear to have begun to realize as early as the forties that new and dangerous tendencies were affecting the republic and threatening to falsify its promise of a wide diffusion of welfare. That decade is notable in American history for the popular interest taken in the discussion of the possibility of a better social order, and for the numerous experiments undertaken to test the feasibility of dispensing with the private capitalist by co-operative industry. Already the more intelligent and public-spirited citizens were beginning to observe that their so-called popular government did not seem to interfere in the slightest degree with the rule of the rich and the subjection of the masses to economic masters, and to wonder, if that were to continue to be so, of exactly how much value the so-called republican institutions were on which they had so prided themselves.

"'This nascent agitation of the social question on radical lines was, however, for the time destined to prove abortive by force of a condition peculiar to America--namely, the existence on a vast scale of African chattel slavery in the country. It was fitting in the evolution of complete human liberty that this form of bondage, cruder and more brutal, if not on the whole more cruel, than wage slavery, should first be put out of the way. But for this necessity and the conditions that produced it, we may believe that the great Revolution would have occurred in America twenty-five years earlier. From the period of 1840 to 1870 the slavery issue, involving as it did a conflict of stupendous forces, absorbed all the moral and mental as well as physical energies of the nation.

"'During the thirty or forty years from the serious beginning of the antislavery movement till the war was ended and its issues disposed of, the nation had no thought to spare for any other interests. During this period the concentration of capital in few hands, already alarming to the far-sighted in the forties, had time, almost unobserved and quite unresisted, to push its conquest of the country and the people. Under cover of the civil war, with its preceding and succeeding periods of agitation over the issues of the war, the capitalists may be said to have stolen a march upon the nation and intrenched themselves in a commanding position.

"'Eighteen seventy-three is the point, as near as any date, at which the country, delivered at last from the distracting ethical, and sectional issues of slavery, first began to open its eyes to the irrepressible conflict which the growth of capitalism had forced--a conflict between the power of wealth and the democratic idea of the equal right of all to life, liberty, and happiness. From about this time we date, therefore, the beginning of the final or revolutionary period of the pseudo-American Republic which resulted in the establishment of the present system.

"'History had furnished abundant previous illustrations of the overthrow of republican societies by the growth and concentration of private wealth, but never before had it recorded a revolution in the economic basis of a great nation at once so complete and so swiftly effected. In America before the war, as we have seen, wealth had been distributed with a general effect of evenness never previously known in a large community. There had been few rich men and very few considerable fortunes. It had been in the power neither of individuals nor a class, through the possession of overwhelming capital, to exercise oppression upon the rest of the community. In the short space of twenty-five to thirty years these economic conditions had been so completely reversed as to give America in the seventies and eighties the name of the land of millionaires, and make it famous to the ends of the earth as the country of all others where the vastest private accumulations of wealth existed. The consequences of this amazing concentration of wealth formerly so equally diffused, as it had affected the industrial, the social, and the political interests of the people, could not have been other than revolutionary.

"'Free competition in business had ceased to exist. Personal initiative in industrial enterprises, which formerly had been open to all, was restricted to the capitalists, and to the larger capitalists at that. Formerly known all over the world as the land of opportunities, America had in the time of a generation become equally celebrated as the land of monopolies. A man no longer counted chiefly for what he was, but for what he had. Brains and industry, if coupled with civility, might indeed win an upper servant's place in the employ of capital, but no longer could command a career.

"'The concentration of the economic administration of the country in the hands of a comparatively small body of great capitalists had necessarily consolidated and centralized in a corresponding manner all the functions of production and distribution. Single great concerns, backed by enormous aggregations of capital, had appropriated tracts of the business field formerly occupied by innumerable smaller concerns. In this process, as a matter of course, swarms of small businesses were crushed like flies, and their former independent proprietors were fortunate to find places as underlings in the great establishments which had supplanted them. Straight through the seventies and eighties, every month, every week, every day saw some fresh province of the economic state, some new branch of industry or commerce formerly open to the enterprise of all, captured by a combination of capitalists and turned into an intrenched camp of monopoly. The words syndicate and trust were coined to describe these monstrous growths, for which the former language of the business world had no name.

"'Of the two great divisions of the working masses it would be hard to say whether the wage-earner or the farmer had suffered most by the changed order. The old personal relationship and kindly feeling between employee and employer had passed away. The great aggregations of capital which had taken the place of the former employers were impersonal forces, which knew the worker no longer as a man, but as a unit of force. He was merely a tool in the employ of a machine, the managers of which regarded him as a necessary nuisance, who must unfortunately be retained at the least possible expense, until he could be invented wholly out of existence by some new mechanical contrivance.

"'The economic function and possibilities of the farmer had similarly been dwarfed or cut off as a result of the concentration of the business system of the country in the hands of a few. The railroads and the grain market had, between them, absorbed the former profits of farming, and left the farmer only the wages of a day laborer in case of a good crop, and a mortgage debt in case of a bad one; and all this, moreover, coupled with the responsibilities of a capitalist whose money was invested in his farm. This latter responsibility, however, did not long continue to trouble the farmer, for, as naturally might be supposed, the only way he could exist from year to year under such conditions was by contracting debts without the slightest prospect of paying them, which presently led to the foreclosure of his land, and his reduction from the once proud estate of an American farmer to that of a tenant on his way to become a peasant.

"'From 1873 to 1896 the histories quote some six distinct business crises. The periods of rallying between them were, however, so brief that we may say a continuous crisis existed during a large part of that period. Now, business crises had been numerous and disastrous in the early and middle epoch of the republic, but the business system, resting at that time on a widely extended popular initiative, had shown itself quickly and strongly elastic, and the rallies that promptly followed the crashes had always led to a greater prosperity than that before enjoyed. But this elasticity, with the cause of it, was now gone. There was little or slow reaction after the crises of the seventies, eighties, and early nineties, but, on the contrary, a scarcely interrupted decline of prices, wages, and the general prosperity and content of the farming and wage-earning masses.

"'There could not be a more striking proof of the downward tendency in the welfare of the wage-earner and the farmer than the deteriorating quality and dwindling volume of foreign immigration which marked the period. The rush of European emigrants to the United States as the land of promise for the poor, since its beginning half a century before, had continued with increasing volume, and drawn to us a great population from the best stocks of the Old World. Soon after the war the character of the immigration began to change, and during the eighties and nineties came to be almost entirely made up of the lowest, most wretched, and barbarous races of Europe--the very scum of the continent. Even to secure these wretched recruits the agents of the transatlantic steamers and the American land syndicates had to send their agents all over the worst districts of Europe and flood the countries with lying circulars. Matters had come to the point that no European peasant or workingman, who was yet above the estate of a beggar or an exile, could any longer afford to share the lot of the American workingman and farmer, so little time before the envy of the toiling world.

"'While the politicians sought, especially about election time, to cheer the workingman with the assurance of better times just ahead, the more serious economic writers seem to have frankly admitted that the superiority formerly enjoyed by American workingmen over those of other countries could not be expected to last longer, that the tendency henceforward was to be toward a world-wide level of prices and wages--namely, the level of the country where they were lowest. In keeping with this prediction we note that for the first time, about the beginning of the nineties, the American employer began to find himself, through the reduced cost of production in which wages were the main element, in a position to undersell in foreign markets the products of the slave gangs of British, Belgian, French, and German capitalists.

"'It was during this period, when the economic distress of the masses was creating industrial war and making revolutionists of the most contented and previously prosperous agricultural population in history, that the vastest private fortunes in the history of the world were being accumulated. The millionaire, who had been unknown before the war and was still an unusual and portentous figure in the early seventies, was presently succeeded by the multimillionaire, and above the multimillionaires towered yet a new race of economic Titans, the hundred millionaires, and already the coming of the billionaire was being discussed. It is not difficult, nor did the people of the time find it so, to see, in view of this comparison, where the wealth went which the masses were losing. Tens of thousands of modest competencies disappeared, to reappear in colossal fortunes in single hands. Visibly as the body of the spider swells as he sucks the juices of his victims, had these vast aggregations grown in measure as the welfare of the once prosperous people had shrunk away.

"'The social consequences of so complete an overthrow of the former economic equilibrium as had taken place could not have been less than revolutionary. In America, before the war, the accumulations of wealth were usually the result of the personal efforts of the possessor and were consequently small and correspondingly precarious. It was a saying of the time that there were usually but three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves--meaning that if a man accumulated a little wealth, his son generally lost it, and the grandson was again a manual laborer. Under these circumstances the economic disparities, slight at most and constantly fluctuating, entirely failed to furnish a basis for class distinctions. There were recognized no laboring class as such, no leisure class, no fixed classes of rich and poor. Riches or poverty, the condition of being at leisure or obliged to work were considered merely temporary accidents of fortune and not permanent conditions. All this was now changed. The great fortunes of the new order of things by their very magnitude were stable acquisitions, not easily liable to be lost, capable of being handed down from generation to generation with almost as much security as a title of nobility. On the other hand, the monopolization of all the valuable economic opportunities in the country by the great capitalists made it correspondingly impossible for those not of the capitalist class to attain wealth. The hope of becoming rich some day, which before the war every energetic American had cherished, was now practically beyond the horizon of the man born to poverty. Between rich and poor the door was henceforth shut. The way up, hitherto the social safety valve, had been closed, and the bar weighted with money bags.

"'A natural reflex of the changed social conditions of the country is seen in the new class terminology, borrowed from the Old World, which soon after the war crept into use in the United States. It had been the boast of the former American that everybody in this country was a workingman; but now that term we find more and more frankly employed to distinguish the poor from the well-to-do. For the first time in American literature we begin to read of the lower classes, the upper classes, and the middle classes--terms which would have been meaningless in America before the war, but now corresponded so closely with the real facts of the situation that those who detested them most could not avoid their use.

"'A prodigious display of luxury such as Europe could not rival had begun to characterize the manner of life of the possessors of the new and unexampled fortunes. Spectacles of gilded splendor, of royal pomp and boundless prodigality mocked the popular discontent and brought out in dazzling light the width and depth of the gulf that was being fixed between the masters and the masses.

"'Meanwhile the money kings took no pains to disguise the fullness of their conviction that the day of democracy was passing and the dream of equality nearly at an end. As the popular feeling in America had grown bitter against them they had responded with frank indications of their dislike of the country and disgust with its democratic institutions. The leading American millionaires had become international personages, spending the greater part of their time and their revenue in European countries, sending their children there for education and in some instances carrying their preference for the Old World to the extent of becoming subjects of foreign powers. The disposition on the part of the greater American capitalists to turn their backs upon democracy and ally themselves with European and monarchical institutions was emphasized in a striking manner by the long list of marriages arranged during this period between great American heiresses and foreign noblemen. It seemed to be considered that the fitting destiny for the daughter of an American multimillionaire was such a union. These great capitalists were very shrewd in money matters, and their investments of vast sums in the purchase of titles for their posterity was the strongest evidence they could give of a sincere conviction that the future of the world, like its past, belonged not to the people but to class and privilege.

"'The influence exercised over the political government by the moneyed class under the convenient euphemism of "the business interests," which merely meant the interests of the rich, had always been considerable, and at times caused grave scandals. In measure as the wealth of the country had become concentrated and allied, its influence in the government had naturally increased, and during the seventies, eighties, and nineties it became a scarcely veiled dictatorship. Lest the nominal representatives of the people should go astray in doing the will of the capitalists, the latter were represented by bodies of picked agents at all the places of government. These agents closely followed the conduct of all public officials, and wherever there was any wavering in their fidelity to the capitalists, were able to bring to bear influences of intimidation or bribery which were rarely unsuccessful. These bodies of agents had a recognized semi-legal place in the political system of the day under the name of lobbyists.

"'The history of government contains few more shameful chapters than that which records how during this period the Legislatures--municipal, State, and national--seconded by the Executives and the courts, vied with each other by wholesale grants of land, privileges, franchises, and monopolies of all kinds, in turning over the country, its resources, and its people to the domination of the capitalists, their heirs and assigns forever. The public lands, which a few decades before had promised a boundless inheritance to future generations, were ceded in vast domains to syndicates and individual capitalists, to be held against the people as the basis of a future territorial aristocracy with tributary populations of peasants. Not only had the material substance of the national patrimony been thus surrendered to a handful of the people, but in the fields of commerce and of industry all the valuable economic opportunities had been secured by franchises to monopolies, precluding future generations from opportunity of livelihood or employment, save as the dependents and liegemen of a hereditary capitalist class. In the chronicles of royal misdoings there have been many dark chapters recording how besotted or imbecile monarchs have sold their people into bondage and sapped the welfare of their realms to enrich licentious favorites, but the darkest of those chapters is bright beside that which records the sale of the heritage and hopes of the American people to the highest bidder by the so-called democratic State, national, and local governments during the period of which we are speaking.

"'Especially necessary had it become for the plutocracy to be able to use the powers of government at will, on account of the embittered and desperate temper of the working masses.

"'The labor strikes often resulted in disturbances too extensive to be dealt with by the police, and it became the common practice of the capitalists, in case of serious strikes, to call on the State and national governments to furnish troops to protect their property interest. The principal function of the militia of the States had become the suppression of strikes with bullet or bayonet, or the standing guard over the plants of the capitalists, till hunger compelled the insurgent workmen to surrender.

"'During the eighties the State governments entered upon a general policy of preparing the militia for this new and ever-enlarging field of usefulness. The National Guard was turned into a Capitalist Guard. The force was generally reorganized, increased in numbers, improved in discipline, and trained with especial reference to the business of shooting riotous workingmen. The drill in street firing--a quite new feature in the training of the American militiaman, and a most ominous one--became the prominent test of efficiency. Stone and brick armories, fortified against attack, loopholed for musketry and mounted with guns to sweep the streets, were erected at the strategic points of the large cities. In some instances the militia, which, after all, was pretty near the people, had, however, shown such unwillingness to fire on strikers and such symptoms of sympathy for their grievances, that the capitalists did not trust them fully, but in serious cases preferred to depend on the pitiless professional soldiers of the General Government, the regulars. Consequently, the Government, upon request of the capitalists, adopted the policy of establishing fortified camps near the great cities, and posting heavy garrisons in them. The Indian wars were ceasing at about this time, and the troops that had been stationed on the Western plains to protect the white settlements from the Indians were brought East to protect the capitalists from the white settlements. Such was the evolution of private capitalism.

"'The extent and practical character of the use to which the capitalists intended to put the military arm of the Government in their controversy with the workingmen may be judged from the fact that in single years of the early nineties armies of eight and ten thousand men were on the march, in New York and Pennsylvania, to suppress strikes. In 1892 the militia of five States, aided by the regulars, were under arms against strikers simultaneously, the aggregate force of troops probably making a larger body than General Washington ever commanded. Here surely was civil war already.

"'Americans of the former days had laughed scornfully at the bayonet-propped monarchies of Europe, saying rightly that a government which needed to be defended by force from its own people was a self-confessed failure. To this pass, however, the industrial system of the United States was fast coming--it was becoming a government by bayonets.

"'Thus briefly, and without attempt at detail, may be recapitulated some of the main aspects of the transformation in the condition of the American people, resulting from the concentration of the wealth of the country, which first began to excite serious alarm at the close of the civil war.

"'It might almost be said that the citizen armies of the North had returned from saving the republic from open foes, to find that it had been stolen from them by more stealthy but far more dangerous enemies whom they had left at home. While they had been putting down caste rule based on race at the South, class rule based on wealth had been set up at the North, to be in time extended over South and North alike. While the armies of the people had been shedding rivers of blood in the effort to preserve the political unity of the nation, its social unity, upon which the very life of a republic depends, had been attacked by the beginnings of class divisions, which could only end by splitting the once coherent nation into mutually suspicious and inimical bodies of citizens, requiring the iron bands of despotism to hold them together in a political organization. Four million negroes had indeed been freed from chattel slavery, but meanwhile a nation of white men had passed under the yoke of an economic and social vassalage which, though the common fate of European peoples and of the ancient world, the founders of the republic had been proudly confident their posterity would never wear.'"

* * * * *

The doctor closed the book from which he had been reading and laid it down.

"Julian," he said, "this story of the subversion of the American Republic by the plutocracy is an astounding one. You were a witness of the situation it describes, and are able to judge whether the statements are exaggerated."

"On the contrary," I replied, "I should think you had been reading aloud from a collection of newspapers of the period. All the political, social, and business facts and symptoms to which the writer has referred were matters of public discussion and common notoriety. If they did not impress me as they do now, it is simply because I imagine I never heard them grouped and marshaled with the purpose of bringing out their significance."

Once more the doctor asked Edith to bring him a book from the library. Turning the pages until he had found the desired place, he said:

"Lest you should fancy that the force of Storiot's statement of the economic situation in the United States during the last third of the nineteenth century owes anything to the rhetorical arrangement, I want to give you just a few hard, cold statistics as to the actual distribution of property during that period, showing the extent to which its ownership had been concentrated. Here is a volume made up of information on this subject based upon analyses of census reports, tax assessments, the files of probate courts, and other official documents. I will give you three sets of calculations, each prepared by a separate authority and based upon a distinct line of investigation, and all agreeing with a closeness which, considering the magnitude of the calculation, is astounding, and leaves no room to doubt the substantial accuracy of the conclusions.

"From the first set of tables, which was prepared in 1893 by a census official from the returns of the United States census, we find it estimated that out of sixty-two billions of wealth in the country a group of millionaires and multimillionaires, representing three one-hundredths of one per cent of the population, owned twelve billions, or one fifth. Thirty-three billions of the rest was owned by a little less than nine per cent of the American people, being the rich and well-to-do class less than millionaires. That is, the millionaires, rich, and well-to-do, making altogether but nine per cent of the whole nation, owned forty-five billions of the total national valuation of sixty-two billions. The remaining ninety-one per cent of the whole nation, constituting the bulk of the people, were classed as the poor, and divided among themselves the remaining seventeen million dollars.

"A second table, published in 1894 and based upon the surrogates' records of estates in the great State of New York, estimates that one per cent of the people, one one-hundredth of the nation, possessed over half, or fifty-five per cent, of its total wealth. It finds that a further fraction of the population, including the well-to-do, and amounting to eleven per cent, owned over thirty-two per cent of the total wealth, so that twelve per cent of the whole nation, including the very rich and the well-to-do, monopolized eighty-seven per cent of the total wealth of the country, leaving but thirteen per cent of that wealth to be shared among the remaining eighty-eight per cent of the nation. This eighty-eight per cent of the nation was subdivided into the poor and the very poor. The last, constituting fifty per cent out of the eighty-eight, or half the entire nation, had too little wealth to be estimated at all, apparently living a hand-to-mouth existence.

"The estimates of a third computator whom I shall quote, although taken from quite different data, agree remarkably with the others, representing as they do about the same period. These last estimates, which were published in 1889 and 1891, and like the others produced a strong impression, divide the nation into three classes--the rich, the middle, and the working class. The rich, being one and four tenths per cent of the population, are credited with seventy per cent of the total wealth. The middle class, representing nine and two tenths per cent of the population, is credited with twelve per cent of the total wealth, the rich and middle classes, together, representing ten and six tenths per cent of the population, having therefore eighty-two per cent of the total wealth, leaving to the working class, which constituted eighty-nine and four tenths of the nation, but eighteen per cent of the wealth, to share among them."

"Doctor," I exclaimed, "I knew things were pretty unequally divided in my day, but figures like these are overwhelming. You need not take the trouble to tell me anything further by way of explaining why the people revolted against private capitalism. These figures were enough to turn the very stones into revolutionists."

"I thought you would say so," replied the doctor. "And please remember also that these tremendous figures represent only the progress made toward the concentration of wealth mainly within the period of a single generation. Well might Americans say to themselves 'If such things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?' If private capitalism, dealing with a community in which had previously existed a degree of economic equality never before known, could within a period of some thirty years make such a prodigious stride toward the complete expropriation of the rest of the nation for the enrichment of a class, what was likely to be left to the people at the end of a century? What was to be left even to the next generation?"

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Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson