God is not at fault. Nature is not to blame. Civilization, signifying increased human power, is not responsible. But human greed,—blind, insatiable human greed,—shallow cunning; the basest, stuff-grabbing, nut-gathering, selfish instincts, these have done this work! The rats know too much to gnaw through the sides of the ship that carries them; but these so-called wise men of the world have eaten away the walls of society in a thousand places, to the thinness of tissue-paper, and the great ocean is about to pour in at every aperture. And still they hoot and laugh their insolent laugh of safety and triumph above the roar of the greedy and boundless waters, just ready to overwhelm them forever.
Full of these thoughts, which will not permit me to sleep at night, and which haunt my waking hours, I have gone about, for some days, accompanied by Maximilian, and have attended meetings of the workingmen in all parts of the city. The ruling class long since denied them the privilege of free speech, under the pretense that the safety of society required it. In doing so they have screwed down the safety-valve, while the steam continues to generate. Hence the men meet to discuss their wrongs and their remedies in underground cellars, under old ruined breweries and warehouses; and there, in large, low-roofed apartments, lighted by tallow candles, flaring against the dark, damp, smoky walls, the swarming masses assemble, to inflame each other mutually against their oppressors, and to look forward, with many a secret hint and innuendo, to that great day of wrath and revenge which they know to be near at hand—
“And with pale
lips men say,
To-morrow, perchance to-day,
Enceladus may arise!”
But as any member is permitted to bring in a friend—for these are not meetings of the Brotherhood itself, but simply voluntary gatherings of workmen,—and as any man may prove a traitor, their utterances are guarded and enigmatical.
More than once I have spoken to them in these dim halls; and while full of sympathy for their sufferings, and indignant as they themselves can be against their oppressors, I have pleaded with them to stay their hands, to seek not to destroy, but to reform. I preach to them of the glories of civilization; I trace its history backward through a dozen eras and many nations; I show them how slowly it grew, and by what small and gradual accretions; I tell them how radiantly it has burst forth in these latter centuries, with such magnificent effulgence, until today man has all nature at his feet, shackled and gyved, his patient logman. I tell them that a ruffian, with one blow of his club, can destroy the life of a man; and that all the doctors and scientists and philosophers of the world, working together for ages, could not restore that which he has so rudely extinguished. And so, I say to them, the civilization which it has taken ten thousand years to create may be swept away in an hour; and there shall be no power in the wit or wisdom of man to reestablish it.