Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

will be looking to see how they can help someone else, and nobody will have a grievance that may not be listened to. In such a society we would not bar foreigners, nor Negroes, nor Jews, nor Roman Catholics, nor any other element from participating in the best our communities offered. There are these repressed elements in the United States of America, and they feel the repression. Isn't it our duty to do what we can to relieve them of the sense of repression and to help them to come up to the full measure of American citizenship, to the full promise of American life? And let me tell you, that promise of American life seems greater to many of those people than it does to us. I have been abroad several times, and I know that people in other lands look to our flag as a flag of hope; and when they come here, they find it sometimes a flag of disappointment. Let us see that it is not that any more in the future. Let us show everyone in our national household the hospitality that belongs to them as members of our national household. Intolerance will destroy every value for which this nation has stood. We all know that the values of life, the most precious things of life, are in the good will that other men have toward us and in our good will toward other men, and intolerance destroys these.

What is the remedy? I have said the scientific attitude, but I think something more is needed. I would call it true liberal-mindedness. That is what the social workers of this country need in order to assure social advance. What is a synonym for true liberal-mindedness? Two words: the open mind and the outreaching heart. You have got to teach your communities this remedy. You cannot keep quiet upon this most vital issue and be true to your ideals, to all that our nation has stood for and should stand for in the future. We are pursuing a course which is inviting shipwreck. We must stop it. We must tell our friends and neighbors to stop it. We must begin at home, with ourselves. Let us all deeply resolve that we will do all we can, without sacrificing truth and right, to unite, rather than to tear apart, humanity; that we ourselves will rise above all prejudice of class or creed or race, because we recognize all men as our brothers to whom we owe love and good will as unto ourselves; that in particular we will not allow any prejudice of race or color to injure our just and kindly and happy relations with our fellow-men, regardless of race or color; that we will not permit any differences of religion to separate ourselves from other good people, no matter what their religious beliefs may be; that we will not be religious bigots; that we will respect the honest beliefs of our fellows, whatever they may be; that we will finally try to seek out and to conserve the good in all men; that we will value men not because they belong to this group or that, but will value them as men, for what they are, and what they can do; and that therefore we will treat them all, regardless of class or creed or race, as ends in themselves, even as we consider ourselves ends; and that we will treat no one merely as a means to an end. Let us all so resolve with the help of God.

RESOLVED THAT THE PROPOSED TWENTIETH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES SHOULD BE RATIFIED

(DEBATE: AFFIRMATIVE SIDE)

Owen R. Lovejoy, Secretary, National Child Labor Committee, New York

We may somewhat simplify the discussion by attempting first to discover points of agreement. I assume my distinguished opponent will agree that there is no imminent danger of the ratification of the pending amendment. The hectic and worried discussion of this amendment during the Massachusetts campaign and during the entire winter legislative season, the abuse of the proponents, the appeal to American fear that our government is to become subject to Soviet Russia-all such irrelevant matters can now safely be laid aside. Only four states have thus far voted to ratify the amendment, twenty-two states have either refused to ratify or have rejected, and in addition, seven states have so acted in one house. Therefore, for the next two or four or six years, it will be possible for the people of the country to consider this question on its merits, and I venture to assume this will be the desire of Senator Thomas on the present occasion.

While we are naturally disappointed that this proposition has been so generally disapproved for the time being, we are sure of ultimate victory and we have no desire to quarrel with the American people. Laws should reflect public intelligence and the public will. So long as the people were made to believe that this amendment would nationalize all our children, that it would supersede all parental responsibility and control, that it would control wages, leisure, education, and that, if ratified, no girl under eighteen would be permitted to wash dishes and no boy under eighteen could crank up the family Ford, there was no point in trying to bring legislature to a sane discussion of it. So long as men of prominence think that if this amendment had been in existence in their boyhood they could never have attained their present position in life, it is impossible to get them even to give fair consideration to it. All this type of objection, even though it has swept multitudes into its wake, is too puerile to merit your time or mine tonight.

There are real points of difference which I assume will require our thought on this occasion. On this assumption I wish to support the principle that this amendment should be ratified by the states on two grounds: first, that a sovereign government should have the power to protect its own children. Second, that the pending amendment is properly drawn for the purpose of conferring upon the government such power.

There may be differences of opinion on the first proposition, but to my mind this is fundamental. From the standpoint of every consideration that could be discussed during this Conference of Social Work, from the standpoint of the protection of our country from dangers abroad and from disruption or

disintegration at home, from the standpoint of the development of education, health, and other agencies of social service, from the standpoint of the development of our national resources, and from the entire range of our economic and industrial interests it seems obvious that a government theoretically based on the integrity and intelligence of its citizenship should have the power to protect that citizenship in the development of those qualities.

This is precisely the kind of power the American government does not today possess. This is why the opponents of child labor have asked for an amendment to the federal Constitution. So far as protection of working children in America is concerned (unless they live in the District of Columbia or one of our territorial possessions), our government is as helpless to protect them as though they lived in Abyssinia or Madagascar.

After many years experimentation in the effort to secure adequate laws in the various states, after patient efforts to secure uniformity in state standards, the friends of working children believe themselves driven to invoke federal cooperation in combatting the evils of child labor. The history of those efforts is well known. Two federal child labor acts were passed-one under the power of the government to control interstate commerce, and the other under the power of the government to tax. Each in turn was declared invalid by the United States Supreme Court on the ground that Congress had transcended its power under the present limitations of our Constitution. We have accepted this verdict of the Supreme Court and have seen no alternative other than to follow the suggestion so pointedly made by the late President Wilson, the late President Harding, and President Coolidge: that if the working children of this country are now beyond the pale of protection, the constitutional limitations should be pushed out far enough to bring the children inside of it, instead of leaving them on the outside. The Supreme Court in its second decision, written by Mr. Chief Justice Taft, indeed seems to leave us no alternative.

In taking this position we claim the highest type of appreciation of the Constitution of the United States. Quotations from Jefferson, Hamilton, John Marshall, and other of the early patriots in attempts to show that the Constitution in its original form had uttered the last word in governmental legal philosophy leave us cold. Whenever time permits we are able to produce, in opposition to these quotations, others from the same sources and from multitudes of the early fathers, proving that they never believed they had spoken the last word. We refuse to regard the Constitution of the United States in the light in which the Fundamentalist is accused of regarding the scripture. We deny that those who wrote the Constitution intended that it should be worshiped as a beautiful crystal or a valuable piece of antique furniture to be kept in a glass case and never touched by American citizens.

As a matter of fact, we look on the Constitution as a living organism written and compiled by the wisest political philosophers of their day (or perhaps of any day in human history), but intended by them to be as applicable to the

needs and requirements of the people of 1925 as to the people of 1783. In fact, we so thoroughly believe in the inspired nature of this document so worshiped by those who resent any suggestion of change in it that we believe in the Fifth Article of the Constitution-the Fifth Article, by the way, being the one that provides that from time to time the Constitution may be amended, and further provides the precise machinery by which it may be amended and at the same time preserve the democratic initiative of the American people. And this amendment is an attempt to apply that principle.

The three principal grounds advanced for conferring upon the federal government any power to protect working children are: first, that there is great need for a national child labor law because many children are involved. Second, that, admitting this need, the movement against child labor has not sufficient vitality in the state to go on regardless of the possible defeat of the amendment. Third, that state school-attendance laws almost utterly fail to act as the equivalent of child labor law.

These are all questions of fact. Either there are a large number of children involved, or there are not. Either state laws are enough, or they are not. Either school attendance laws act as the equivalent of child labor laws, or they do not.

I want to give you some figures from the 1920 census regarding children in gainful occupations. They do not include children who work for their parents at home merely at general household work, on chores, or at odd times at other work, and they do not include children in agriculture.

In the two national child labor laws which Congress passed in 1916 and 1919 there was no mention of children on farms, and there is no expectation that when Congress gets the power it will reverse its position regarding agriculture. The need for a national child labor law is generally recognized to rest on the demands for cheap labor which commerce and industry have made, and are still making, upon childhood. According to the 1920 census there were a total of 1,648,286 in non-agricultural occupations. There are probably more children in need of protection today than these figures indicate. They were collected five years ago. A national child labor law was then in force. There is none today. They were collected as of January 1, 1920, a time of general industrial depression.

Therefore, when people say, there are only a few children involved, the answer is, There are over 1,600,000 children in need of some protection, including children from ten to fifteen years old, who are gainfully employed in nonagricultural occupations, and those sixteen and seventeen years old gainfully employed in mining, manufacturing, and mechanical establishments.

As to the vitality of state laws if the amendment is defeated, there are four considerations:

1. Since the last national child labor law was declared unconstitutional, no states have brought their child labor laws up to the federal standards of

1917 and 1922. Although there have been some improvements, the majority of these took place while the national child labor laws were in force. The stimulating effects of federal cooperation were obvious to everyone and were especially appreciated by state factory inspectors and labor commissioners, as testified in the resolution unanimously passed at the Chicago convention of their national association. The real effectiveness of the movement seems, however, to depend largely upon the possibility of congressional control in the offing.

2. With the continuation of the customary industrial expansion of the country and of the present immigration restrictions, there is likelihood of a labor shortage. This is made more sure because, in addition to the new fact of immigration restriction, many states are just beginning to become industrial, and are calling on their people for more factory and mill labor. What is more natural than an attempt to replace the cheap foreign labor in hazardous occupations with children, to lengthen their hours, to seek production at a disregard of safety of human life?

3. The tendency of American industry toward standardization is making the wide employment of children seem more and more possible. The machine is being made to do more and more what the draftsman used to do. In the factories the job is being broken up into simple bits to obtain mass production. This not only results in relatively easy shifting of adult labor from one job to another; it offers manufacturers increasing opportunities to replace adults with children. If the manufacturers in one state are allowed to do so without restriction, the manufacturers in the same line of business in other states will either suffer from the competition or attempt to lower their own state laws to be able to follow that example.

4. Those states where the manufacturing interests are in control, and which are interested in blocking a national child labor law, are not likely to raise their standards very considerably if this amendment is defeated. They will take it as a vindication of the view that the children of the nation are only the concern of the state in which they happen to be born. Therefore, when people say, "There is nothing to worry about; the states will all improve conditions sufficiently without a national standard," the answer is, In so far as they have done so, it was largely under the stimulus of a national standard. The changing industrial situation makes it more and more unlikely that they will all continue to do so.

As to our third ground for urging this power: do state school-attendance laws act as the equivalent of child labor laws? If they did, there would no longer be any need for worry about the children under fourteen, for all states nominally insist in their school laws upon attendance up to that age. But school laws do not protect all children under fourteen in any occupation, nor do they protect children over fourteen engaged in hazardous or dangerous occupations. All school laws have exemptions, largely on grounds of poverty, many of them seriously crippling the effect of the compulsory provision. So far short do school

« AnteriorContinuar »