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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/741

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1886.


 

THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH.
By CHARLES S. ASHLEY.

ON a railroad-train one afternoon my conversation with a fellow-traveler, a successful merchant, turned on the vast fortunes which have been accumulated and transmitted during the present generation. "Where is this thing going to end?" said he. "Cornelius Vanderbilt left his son William about $50,000,000; eight years later William dies, and leaves $300,000,000. In the lifetime of his sons this ought to increase to $600,000,000;[1] and in the lifetime of their sons who can tell how much the Vanderbilt fortune will amount to? Legislation ought to put a stop to this business." He spoke very earnestly, his face assuming a tense, stern expression, as if he were confronting some personal enemy. Other persons in the car overheard and testified their interest in the subject by joining us, some of whom showed equal or greater vehemence in what was called the cause of labor; and the general sympathy seemed to be with the remarks I have quoted.

These persons, if I mistake not, may be said to represent a very general sentiment existing in this country—a sentiment almost completely pervading the laboring masses[2] and certain other special classes, such as the clergy and the women, and prevailing less extensively among our professional and merchant classes and our scholars. Newspapers advocating progressively severe income-taxes, the compulsory division of property at the death of the owner in ways insuring diffusion, the assumption of state control of telegraph lines, and the regulation of other corporations in such a manner as to insure a mini-

  1. These figures, uttered in actual conversation, are of course inaccurate.
  2. "The Toilers throw Theory and Sophistry to the Dogs, and take the Settlement of the Question into their own Hands." (Heading in "Toledo News" (labor paper), March 13, 1886.)