[At the end of the article General Sternberg reproduces the general orders issued to the army in Cuba with directions for the precautions to be taken against the disease.]
THE WORKMAN’S COMPENSATION ACT
This is a good example of the high quality of argumentative writing which is being turned out by daily and weekly journals in great quantities throughout the year. This article, being from a weekly journal, is longer and more searching than the editorial in a daily paper, and to some extent partakes of the nature of an essay. It is notable for the thoroughness of the analysis of the question, for the careful review of the history of the case, and for the precise statement of the points at issue. There is little space for the presentation of evidence, though the specific statement of facts and the quotations from authorities, so far as they go, serve as evidence.
We purpose in this article to give to our readers an interpretation of the recent decision of the New York Court of Appeals declaring that the Workman’s Compensation Act is unconstitutional. We regard this decision as of very great importance, because, if the Court has correctly interpreted the Constitution of the United States, that document prevents America from adopting an industrial reform which has been adopted as just and necessary by practically the entire civilized world. We do not believe that the interpretation of the Court is correct. It is, in our opinion, in conflict alike with the progress of civilization, the spirit of democracy, the principles of social justice, and the analogies and tendencies of law. And we believe that this unconscious attempt to fasten upon the workingman an unjust and intolerable burden from which all other civilized nations, with one exception, have relieved him, will ultimately prove as futile as was the conscious and deliberate attempt of the United States Supreme Court, under the lead of Chief Justice Taney, to halt the movement for the emancipation of the slaves.
In the earlier stages of industrial development, when industry was unorganized, machinery hardly existed, and labor was an individual handicraft, the courts naturally assumed that accidents occurring to a workman were probably due to his own negligence.
If he were mowing in a field and cut himself with his scythe, if he were digging a ditch and sprained his ankle, if he were cutting down a tree and it fell upon him and broke his leg, he could recover from his employer only on proof that his employer was at fault. Nor could he recover if the accident were due to the carelessness of a fellow workman. There was always a natural presumption that he could better guard against such carelessness than could the probably absent employer. If he were turning a grindstone and his awkward fellow workman so held the scythe as to cut him, if he were in the forest and his fellow workman gave no notice of the falling tree, it was natural to presume that the carelessness was shared between the two, and the law would neither attribute blame to the employer nor levy the damage upon him when he was not blameworthy.