Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/656

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
638
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

conferred because of services to the crown, either promised or performed; while the joint-stock company of the present age is adopted as an institution, without any pretense of making returns to the state for favors received.

Every new era of material progress must be accompanied by its moral correlative, which is implied in trust, else treachery is sure to follow; and only as men enlarge their confidence can honest co-operation be extended. In the beginning of the present century, the age was ripe for co-operation in its industrial forms; and it would be the distinguishing feature of our present development, had not impatient legislation introduced the joint-stock company as a legal substitute. At the period of history to which we refer, the nobility still retained possession of the land, and deemed it vulgar to engage in trade; while the merchants had amassed large fortunes in the commerce which had sprung up from the daring explorations, enlightened navigation, and energetic colonization which followed the discovery of the mariner's compass. Small shops abounded; the master-workman, journeyman, and apprentice were friends and comrades, the apprentice becoming journeyman and then master-workman in turn. In the revolutionary struggles which marked the commercial age, a fair measure of free speech had been attained; and the scientist, being free to give to the world his discoveries, was quickly followed by the inventor, who applied these discoveries to the wants of man.

Is it not pertinent to inquire why, under such conditions, science, invention, and co-operation did not flourish and develop together; and why the scientist, the inventor, and the artisan, do not share the profits of their joint creations and endeavors, which profits are now largely absorbed by capital? How is it that, with enlarged mechanical possibilities, the small shop-owners have been driven from the field of proprietorship; and the master-workman and journeyman of a hundred years ago are to be found at the bench or lathe of the mammoth workshops of the day, not as independent workmen, but as mere automatons, to pull the levers which release the cranks, gears, and pulleys of the machinery which performs the former labor of their hands?

It is often urged, and with apparent seriousness, that in this republic every man has a chance to become the owner of one of these vast establishments! What monstrous folly to claim that every man can become the employer of a thousand men, when, by implication, for every proprietor there must remain a thousand men to be employed; so, with all the vain-glorious self-congratulation, it simply means that out of every struggling thousand one may reach the goal! Driven from so untenable a position, it is declared that the fittest will survive, which, being a half-truth, means nothing, for fitness has no existence apart from its environ-