Public Opportunity and Obligations of Business Men
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Nov 1922, p. 309-323


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Taylor, Professor Graham, Speaker
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Social progress both in the civic and industrial spheres, which depends upon the public service of the people who are in the ordinary occupation of life. "The common good of everybody concerned has been promoted by business men using the advantage of their strategic position through influence, through command of resources, through ability, through experience; and on the other hand the public have suffered for the lack of that very thing—of seeing the other's interest in their own interest." A detailed discussion of this point follows, with several illustrative anecdotes. The story of Mr. Charles Booth, who wrote about the poverty in England. Changes brought about in employment due to the war. Booth's work, which laid the foundation for a new social economy in England. Conditions in the United States. The need for a scientific study, using methods similar to Booth's, to provide an understanding of conditions. The need for a ministry of understanding between capital and labour, between native and foreign, between nation and nation. Social problems caused by class-consciousness. The difficulty of getting one's observations across, once they have been made, especially for academics, ministers, social workers. The labour question as a psychological question, a psychological impasse where one side neither knows nor cares to know just how the other side feels. The work of the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City; their Department of Service which helps any people in a community to make a thorough scientific study of their situation. The story of the deaths in Pittsburgh due to typhoid fever caused by the poisoned water from the emptying of dyes and acids from factories into the streams, and how the academics brought this information to the public. Support from the Carnegie Institute for cleaning up the problem. John D. Rockefeller, Junior's role in getting the 12-hour work day and seven-day work week reduced. The lack of influence from the church. Welfare work done by the United States Steel Corporation. The hub of the labour unrest not just wages and hours, but the need for the worker to have some say about the conditions in which he works. The example of the International Harvester Company of Chicago in their organization of an executive committee, made up of half work people and half management, and how that worked. Extensions of that idea. The tremendous need of public service in politics and civic administration. The lack of participation in voting in the last presidential election. The example set by the Commercial Club of Chicago in their plan to make Chicago a more beautiful, and a happier and pleasanter place in which to live. The example being set by the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary, the Canadian, the Empire, and other Clubs to make service the supreme thing in business as one of the finest patriotic movements this generation has seen. University Clubs conspicuous by their absence. How business will benefit from civic service. Remembering the French and Russian revolutions, brought about by the separation of the classes; the failure to understand the class interest against the public interest.
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20 Nov 1922
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PUBLIC OPPORTUNITY AND OBLIGATIONS OF BUSINESS MEN
AN ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR GRAHAM TAYLOR.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
November 20, 1922.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Professor Taylor who was received with applause.

PROFESSOR GRAHAM TAYLOR.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--I have a single point which has been driven home to me through long and varied experience which I would like to share with you, namely, that social progress both in the civic and industrial spheres depends upon the public service of the people who are in the ordinary occupation of life, and not upon the specialists, the educators, the investigators, the first-hand observers, the social workers, or the clergy-with due respect to them. This point has been driven home by the daily swing of the pendulum of my life from the academic shades back to a great industrial centre where I have lived for twenty-eight years. In between the lines of cleavage of capital and labour, radical and conservative, native and foreign, alien and citizen, all coming to focus during the war, where 12,400 of my neighbours, of twenty different nationalities, were registered for military service,

Mr. Graham Taylor is Professor of Social Economics in the Theological Seminary at the University of Chicago. He is the founder and warden of the City Settlement known as Chicago Commons and a resident in it. He is admittedly one of the best informed men in America on social problems and has recently made a study of social conditions in the Orient. I was placed on the Draft Board for the district, and if I had never before seen a cross-section of life I saw it then. I thought I knew my district and my neighbours among whom I had lived, but this cleavage came to express the social foundation. I would not have you think that it was only from what you might call the under side, the majority side of the work, because it has been my privilege as a member of the Association of Commerce and other Clubs to come in contact with the employing classes. Pardon this personal reference, because I have great reluctance to lend further currency to that dreadful deterioration of the finest kind of word whereby the term "academic" has become a word of discredit, and the man who talks academically is supposed to talk about what he does not know--(laughter) for the academic circle is the place where you learn and where you are supposed to know; but such is the trick of language.

Once I met a stranger, a workman, and asked him his occupation, and he made a reply that I shall never forget. In broken English he said, "By occupation I am a cobbler; but my calling is an anarchist propagandist." That is the first man I ever heard say anything to connect his higher calling with his usual occupation and I opened my soul to that man, and I said, "You as an anarchist say, I suppose, that the only motive that moves men is self interest?" He replied, "Sure, nothing else." I said, "There is a house on fire over there, and a woman with a baby is in the top floor; what would you do, and why would you do it?" He said, "What would you think I would do?" I said, "You are a great bighearted Dutchman; you would go right up in spite of the smoke and flame and get those people out at the risk of your life." He replied, "Well, of course I would." I asked him, "But what would make you do it?" He said, "Under those peculiar circumstances I would rather do that than anything else"--and then, with a voice of seven thunders he said to me, "Where do you live in this neighbourhood? I know damn well you don't; what do you think I would do?" I said, "Very well, because I wanted to see how far your self interest would go."

I came across another man of the same persuasion; he was editor of an anarchist paper, a great big Russian, very dignified, very courteous, very peaceable-both of those men were like lambs-and I asked him the same question. He replied in the same way. I said, "Mr. Abraham Isaacs, supposing you saw a little girl over there being beaten up by a big ruffian, what would you do?" He replied, "Well, I am so sensitively constituted that an injury inflicted upon that child would give me such pain that in self-defence and in self-interest I should have to make that ruffian suffer." I gave it up; I 'said, "Here, those fellows have a better idea of sympathy than I have; it lets the other fellow in." After all, in thinking it over, they came pretty near what the Son of Man said when he remarked that he came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and that he that would save his life would lose it in the act of trying to keep it to himself, and he that would let go of himself would find himself. It was just the anarchistic way of putting it, that is all; but somehow or other there is a great human common ground when you get close to your fellow-men.

I have just returned from China, Japan and the Philippine Islands, where I scarcely heard a child cry, but I found wonderful human community of interest all over the world, and especially in China, the most human of all places on the face of the globe.

The common good of everybody concerned has been promoted by business men using the advantage of their strategic position through influence, through command of resources, through ability, through experience; and on the other hand the public have suffered for the lack of that very thing-of seeing the other's interest in their own interest.

Some years ago I went to London, England, with a letter of introduction to Mr. Charles Booth, who was at the head of a great freight shipping line running to South America, and elsewhere. I found him in a crowded office, sitting among his clerks, a grave, dignified man, with a profile like Mazzini, the great Italian democrat and patriot, which added to my reverence for him. I said I had come to see the process by which he had made the first great social survey of any city-for he had just published in seventeen volumes a survey of the life and labour of the people of London, a perfectly colossal undertaking. He was provoked to make that tremendous adventure of faith and investment of time and money by a little pamphlet that came from some despairing missionaries in the east of London entitled "The Bitter Cry of Outcast London," which was like the explosion of a bomb, arousing the west end to the intolerable and dangerous conditions existing in the east end; to a poverty below the living line, where the people could not live unless they drank, though by drinking they did worse than die. At that time you had just to walk through Whitechapel to see the sordid, terrible, worst poverty in the world. Italian poverty has merit, for they can still sing when they are poor in Italy, but you do not hear any songs in east London, I tell you, except the song of a ribald and drunken mother holding her little babe, crowding the gin places. But, thank God, they are not as they were. Things have changed. I do not know but that the war was the greatest blessing that ever came to the east of London, because it took so many men from their occupations and by the two years' exile gave them more than a chance job of snatching a bone out of the garbage vessel. They got a steady job for once in their lives, poor things. Unemployment was the awful thing in east London, not vice, because people drink because they are poor, as well as being poor because they drink.

Mr. Booth started an investigation of the poverty and the degree of it, to see whether this outcry was based on any facts, and what the real facts were. He went at the investigation like a business man, and put some of his best clerks at work, and he showed me the stack of manuscripts; first the questions, then the answer of his investigators, then the challenge to their answers, then the writing out, then the revision, and finally the completed manuscripts in the copper-plate handwriting of that great merchant prince. I wonder what merchant prince of America could have been weaned from his business long enough to do that? I don't know him. Well, Booth did it, and it took him nearly twenty years and cost him $250,000 to put his books on the market, and he did it in white vellum binding so that the aristocrats would put in on their library tables, and the seventeen volumes landed there all right. After he got through with his five volumes he began to awaken to something he had never dreamed of before: that there were poverty-producing trades, parasitic trades, trades that didn't pay their people enough to carry them through the year, and after wringing the life out of them, threw them on the scrap heap for other trades, or the poor fund, to support. He then published four volumes on the poverty-producing trades; then some more volumes on the deteriorating influences-vice, drink, prostitution, gambling, and then the elevating agencies and movements and energies in the schools, the churches, the fraternities and charities and everything else.

That work laid the foundation for a new social economy in England, and the men that made it became the chief witnesses in that remarkable campaign of Chamberlain's on the tariff on food stuffs, when they came mighty near having in England another corn-law agitation. Charles Booth was summoned from his shipping office to give his testimony as to the poverty conditions that would be made worse by that tariff on food stuffs in Great Britain. That was the value of that thing. Of course some of the statistics were out of date before the ink was dried; yet, you see he laid the ground-plan for the scientific understanding of the facts and conditions, and, moreover, not a little was to be gleaned from that work as to the attitude that divided classes of people by trades from each other--the employer from the employee, and vice versa, the unemployable from law and order, and that sort of thing. In other words, it laid the basis of understanding.

I cannot speak of Canadian conditions, but in the United States there is absolutely nothing so lacking, or so dangerous in being lacking, and more absolutely essential to the peace and progress of that great country, than a mutual understanding that can be obtained only in some such scientific first-hand way as that of Charles Booth.

A ministry of understanding is most of all needed between capital and labour, between native and foreign, between nation and nation, and it cannot be gotten cheaply, it cannot be gotten out of your inner consciousness or your class prejudice. But if I wished to give an extreme specimen of class-consciousness and be almost ready for conflict, I think I would have to pass up some of the social sections among some of my radical friends and pick out those class-conscious people from some of the more exclusive clubs to which I belong in Chicago, for they are just about as class-conscious as any rabid socialist I ever saw-much to their discredit, because many of those people in the University Club, at least, have supposedly been educated in the University, but the University seems to have stopped at the outer rim of their own little horizontal class. In Heaven's name let us form our friendships and our acquaintanceships on the perpendicular instead of the horizontal. Let us scrape acquaintance with the other man and see what his attitude might be, and if we cannot do it ourselves don't let us discredit but rather credit and utilize and back up and encourage the real first-hand observer and investigator, the despised social workers, charity workers, who go in and out of the homes of the poor, those emissaries who go to the aliens in the midst of a native population, and that have something to say that a business man cannot learn for himself unless he would take the time other people are giving to it.

But what is the use of having our observations unless there is somebody to put them across the line into action? We cannot do it-we academicians, we teachers, we ministers, we social workers. We can only be the eyes and ears, we can stay closer to the ground than many of you business men can, even to get next to the heart-beats of your own employees.

The labour question is very largely a psychological question-a psychological impasse where one side neither knows nor cares to know just how the other side feels; and it is quite as disastrous on the labour side as on the employing side. What is needed is observation and the ministry of understanding.

The Russell Sage Foundation in New York City has a Department of Service for helping any people in a community to make a thorough scientific study of their situation, so that in thinking of remedies or of alleviating movements they need not fumble in the dark, but can go about it as an engineer does after having his charts, as a builder does in having the architect's plans. We must somehow or other get that scientific precedent and that business-like way of doing that you men have in your business, if we are ever going to build communities or social fabrics.

We found in Pittsburgh the highest death rate from typhoid fever in twenty years reached by any city of the same size in the United States, because the city water was poisoned largely by emptying dyes and acids and everything else from factories into the streams which people drank, and they died like sheep. The richer people bought spring water, and lived, while the poorer people died at a terrible rate. When they filtrated the water, instead of having fifty-eight deaths in the few months previous, they had only eight. We tried to show who killed those fifty people. We went to the United States Steel Corporation and asked about their accidents, and they replied it was their business and nobody else's. We replied that we did not wish to do them any injustice but if they did not tell us we would find out, and we went around to the humble homes and everywhere else, and we had no trouble in counting up five hundred names of deaths or fatal accidents. We took those names back to the Steel Corporation, but they would have nothing to do with it, and so we published the facts, and we finally had the Carnegie Institute thrown open to us for our exhibit, and around the walls we put a fringe about three feet deep of white paper, and wrote on them huge figures in black showing the men, women and children who had died from preventable deaths in Pittsburgh during the period investigated. That procession of the dead was one of the most impressive things that Pittsburgh ever saw. Mr. Carnegie was so impressed that he said he would give a quarter of all the cost of rehabilitating Pittsburgh, and Heaven knows it needed to be rehabilitated, yet there were more orthodox churches than in any town I had ever been in. What is the use of saying they love the souls of their fellow men if they didn't care whether they lived or died? What do I care if a man comes and says he loves my soul but does not love me? What is my soul but myself? And if he doesn't care for myself or my wife and children, away with him and his love of my soul; he is a hypocrite. (Hear, hear) The soul is the self, nothing more, nothing less-the potential life, to be sure.

Now, here were two examples, and which was the better? I think Charles Booth went Pittsburgh many more than one better.

After that last strike when they struck again because of the twelve-hour day, the seven-day week, and the twenty-four-hour shift and the day-light shift was increased in the week rather than diminished, as they promised it would be, then came the Gary strike; then came the inter-church report on the steel strike. Again the steel company said they would give no facts; the labour people opened all their books. The report was not judicial, it could not be; it was more of an advocate's report than a judicial report, which would calm not only the church but the steel corporation. But what happened? Well, after a good deal of pause Judge Gary began to say that while of course the twelve-hour day was a war emergency-which it was not, for it obtained before and after the war-they are lessening the twelve-hour day and the seven-day week by the perfectly simple expedient of putting an eighth man on a seven-man crew. It was not the church that made them do that, but John D. Rockefeller, Junior, who ordered those very things long before the church suggested that they should be done, in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, with an eight-hour day, but with three shifts instead of two, and no twenty-four-hour long shift in that dangerous occupation. That one example means more than all our talk. That man did a great service to his country as well as his industry, for you never will and never ought to have any peace as long as you make men work twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and a twenty-four-hour shift. (Hear, hear, and applause) Of course they were not working continuously, and I know some young fellows who wanted to work all those hours and make all the time they could and then go back to "blow in" the money in this country or to buy a little strip of land and go over home; but the family men did not want that, for they could not have any family life. It is a good deal better now to join forces between those business elements and those investigators, rather than try to brow-beat each other. I want to say for the United States Steel Corporation that the finest welfare work I ever saw, except in one case in Japan, is done in their works in Birmingham.

The hub of the labour unrest is not wages and hours first, last and always, but after being thirty or forty years on the inside, I say that the average working man wants to have the status of a man given him in the industry in which he is spending much of his life. In order that he shall have at least something to say about the conditions of his work; and this is quite a human thing and a self-respecting thing.

Now I wish to cite the example of the International Harvester Company of Chicago and all the world. During the war they proposed to their workmen a secret ballot on an industrial council in which the union principle was recognized in organizing other men in the shop into one shop union, and an executive committee made up halt of work people and half of the management. That executive committee has the fixing of wages, hours, hiring, firing, the settlement of disputes--the greatest advance in democratic management of industry that any great corporation ever attempted. Mr. Young, who was put in charge of that part of the corporation, and is one of their high officials, says that plan has worked exceptionally well, and that the choice of the men to the executive was as good as the company could have made-some older employees, some younger, some longest in service, very few radicals, most of them conservatives. On the first issue that came up, the company had to give in. It was a case of a straw boss, who almost always makes most trouble, unjustly firing some employees, and the company had to fire the straw boss because the men had the goods and delivered them; and that did a lot to ingratiate the scheme into the confidence of the men.

All the plants adopted it except the McCormick plant in Chicago, and this is what happened there. One noon, more in fun than earnest, they began a kind of a walk-around, and when the whistle blew they kept on walking around. They went over to the twine mills, and when the girls there say the men walking around they thought they would walk around, so they started of. Then they headed to the dairy people who were organized in an industrial council, and when these heard that they were coming, they went to the manager and asked him to shut down the factory before the men arrived. It was done, and that was the end of it. Now, the company could not have done any better than that by any kind of management or mis-management; and when they pulled together they pulled, and they didn't pull apart.

There was a wonderful extension of that idea in the wholesale clothing industry, especially in Hart, Schaffner Marx's. Ten years ago there was a tremendous strike there, when 10,000 employees went out and nearly starved to death. Then a Russian Jew, representing the employees, a various heterogeneous population, suggested to the firm that every shop be organized into a shop crew with a shop committee and a shop chairman. The shop chairman would settle every dispute with the boss or the company if he could, and if not it went to the shop committee, which put it up to the trade board, which was constituted on a representative system; and they went outside of their membership and got Professor Howard, of the Northwestern University, to represent all the men, and they took the amalgamated union men against whom there was no prohibition, and they took one student who could neither be bull-dozed nor bossed. He has settled ninety-five percent of the differences in a highly complicated trade where there is all kinds of room for differences, where there are 12,000 employees, and he holds court every day. (Applause) His salary is paid half by the workers and half by the firm. Then the case goes up to the Arbitration Board, with a lawyer retained on each side, and in between sits Professor Tufts, Professor of Ethics for the University of Chicago, as the Chief Justice of the final Supreme Court. He hands down the decision, and that is the end of it, and it has been the end of all differences for ten years, and has led to peace and prosperity. So prosperous was the plan that when some of the amalgamated men had all kinds of trouble down east, the clothing trade representatives from Baltimore, Rochester, New York and everywhere came to Chicago and came into line with this plan, and the whole clothing industry of the United States is on what Sidney Hume calls a constitutional basis. I think that was a wonderful triumph. A Canadian clergyman who was in Chicago went down with me to the meeting, and he was so impressed with the personification of social justice and the constitutional law in industry that he exclaimed, "This is the most religious occasion I have ever attended." Well, it was religion in action.

There is a tremendous need of public service in politics and civic administration. Do you know that at the last presidential election in the United States scarcely more than forty-eight percent of the entire electorate took part? In Chicago as infamous a gang as ever scuttled a ship, a combination of knaves and fools, organized the election, and not more than one-third of the electorate took part in the primary. They only got a little more than one-sixth to represent five-sixths of the decent people, who got what was coming to them for staying away from the polls. You cannot get business men in Chicago to quit their business to take care of the greatest corporation in Chicago, namely, the corporation of Chicago itself. If it was not for professional politicians there would not be men enough continuously on the job to run the government so I take off my hat to some of those fellows, even if I don't like them very much.

The Commercial Club of Chicago set one great example. They thought they could make Chicago more beautiful, and a happier and pleasanter place to live in, and they worked up a magnificent plan for the city. People said they were twenty-five years ahead of the game in making the Chicago waterfront the greatest in the world and making some arteries that prevent congestion on the streets, and in every way making a better place to work and live in. That is because the business men took hold of a great civic enterprise, far greater than any business in Chicago, and subordinated their business interest and employed their business experience and influence to do that great work, through all the vicissitudes of the gang rule of the city. Of course the gang exploit us for two or three million dollars once in a while, but it is better to have a plan, even at that price, than not to have it at all.

The example that the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary, the Canadian, the Empire and some other Clubs are setting to make service the supreme thing in business is one of the finest patriotic movements this generation has seen. Conspicuous by their absence, I am ashamed to say, are the University Clubs. In the City of New York, in the municipal campaign, 5,000 University graduates were listed who were never known to take any part whatever in the government of their city. What a collapse that is of University ideals, standards and training! If we want a country we will have to pay attention to it. With the present tremendous trend for more democracy, which sooner or later will win out, we ought to have better safeguards than we have if we are going to hold the helm even. We are in troublous waters, and the man who is abdicating his citizenship or not supporting his private and business interests today comes mighty near being a modern traitor. I tell you, Gentlemen, your business will not suffer, for after all you would have mighty little business if you did not have a good deal of a community, and the officials of community interests can never succeed without the assistance of the voluntary agencies and the citizenship outside of the official rank. Moreover, it is quite as true that neither can private firms or public utility corporations or churches themselves succeed if the community fails.

Do you remember the French Revolution? Do you remember the tragedy in Russia? And why were those tragedies? They were brought about by the separation of the classes; the failure to understand the class interest against the public interest. That will come about anywhere, and Heaven knows if it may not be worse where there is an educated proletariat unless there is some way of getting together. Then in Heaven's name, let you business men, your corporations with your experience and with your influence, back up the churches, even when they make mistakes. (Hear, hear) This Council of social agencies that are gathering together here include the Jew, the Catholic and the Protestant. These social workers, who sometimes draw contemptuous reference-they are your eyes and ears, they are close to the ground. After living in a community for twenty or thirty years where I have had a kind of ostracism, since the war I noticed that the business men want to know how the trade winds are blowing over in my apartment--and I have a great deal more entree to the business men now than I have to the working men, not because they are jealous of me, but they don't want to hear me so much. It is a queer situation, but, after all, we are wonderful people, and we have got somehow to live and work together; and the only way to do it is under the ever-urging of the under-girding conscience of a real Christ-like humanity. (Loud applause)

HON. W. E. RANEY, Attorney-General for Ontario, thanked Prof. Taylor for his fine address, and expressed the appreciation of the Club.

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Public Opportunity and Obligations of Business Men


Social progress both in the civic and industrial spheres, which depends upon the public service of the people who are in the ordinary occupation of life. "The common good of everybody concerned has been promoted by business men using the advantage of their strategic position through influence, through command of resources, through ability, through experience; and on the other hand the public have suffered for the lack of that very thing—of seeing the other's interest in their own interest." A detailed discussion of this point follows, with several illustrative anecdotes. The story of Mr. Charles Booth, who wrote about the poverty in England. Changes brought about in employment due to the war. Booth's work, which laid the foundation for a new social economy in England. Conditions in the United States. The need for a scientific study, using methods similar to Booth's, to provide an understanding of conditions. The need for a ministry of understanding between capital and labour, between native and foreign, between nation and nation. Social problems caused by class-consciousness. The difficulty of getting one's observations across, once they have been made, especially for academics, ministers, social workers. The labour question as a psychological question, a psychological impasse where one side neither knows nor cares to know just how the other side feels. The work of the Russell Sage Foundation in New York City; their Department of Service which helps any people in a community to make a thorough scientific study of their situation. The story of the deaths in Pittsburgh due to typhoid fever caused by the poisoned water from the emptying of dyes and acids from factories into the streams, and how the academics brought this information to the public. Support from the Carnegie Institute for cleaning up the problem. John D. Rockefeller, Junior's role in getting the 12-hour work day and seven-day work week reduced. The lack of influence from the church. Welfare work done by the United States Steel Corporation. The hub of the labour unrest not just wages and hours, but the need for the worker to have some say about the conditions in which he works. The example of the International Harvester Company of Chicago in their organization of an executive committee, made up of half work people and half management, and how that worked. Extensions of that idea. The tremendous need of public service in politics and civic administration. The lack of participation in voting in the last presidential election. The example set by the Commercial Club of Chicago in their plan to make Chicago a more beautiful, and a happier and pleasanter place in which to live. The example being set by the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary, the Canadian, the Empire, and other Clubs to make service the supreme thing in business as one of the finest patriotic movements this generation has seen. University Clubs conspicuous by their absence. How business will benefit from civic service. Remembering the French and Russian revolutions, brought about by the separation of the classes; the failure to understand the class interest against the public interest.