Caesar's Column eBook

Ignatius Donnelly
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 287 pages of information about Caesar's Column.

I fell asleep and dreamed that Estella and I were flying into space on the back of a dragon, that looked very much like Prince Cabano.

CHAPTER XX.

THE WORKINGMEN’S MEETING

I have told you, my dear Heinrich, that I have latterly attended, and even spoken at, a number of meetings of the workingmen of this city.  I have just returned from one of the largest I have seen.  It was held in a great underground chamber, or series of cellars, connected with each other, under an ancient warehouse.  Before I retire to my couch I will give you some description of the meeting, not only because it will enable you to form some idea of the state of feeling among the mechanics and workmen, but because this one, unfortunately, had a tragical ending.

There were guards stationed at the door to give warning of the coming of the police.  There were several thousand persons present.  It was Saturday night.  When we arrived the hall was black with people—­a gloomy, silent assemblage.  There were no women present; no bright colors—­all dark and sad-hued.  The men were nearly all workingmen, many of them marked by the grime of their toil.  Maximilian whispered to me that the attendance was larger than usual, and he thought it indicated that, by a kind of instinct, the men knew the great day of deliverance was near at hand.

The president of a labor organization had taken the chair before we came in.  As I walked up the hall I was greeted with cheers, and invited to the platform.  Maximilian accompanied me.

A man in a blouse was speaking.  He was discussing the doctrines of Karl Marx and the German socialists of the last century.  He was attentively listened to, but his remarks aroused no enthusiasm; they all seemed familiar with the subjects of his discourse.

He was followed by another workman, who spoke upon the advantages of co-operation between the employers and the employed.  His remarks were moderate and sensible.  He was, however, answered by another workman, who read statistics to show that, after a hundred years of trial, the co-operative system had not extended beyond a narrow circle.  “There were too many greedy employers and too many helpless workmen.  Competition narrowed the margin of profit and hardened the heart of the master, while it increased the number of the wretchedly poor, who must work at any price that would maintain life.” [Applause.] “The cure must be more radical than that.” [Great applause.]

He was followed by a school teacher, who thought that the true remedy for the evils of society was universal education.  “If all men were educated they could better defend their rights.  Education meant intelligence, and intelligence meant prosperity.  It was the ignorant hordes from Europe who were crowding out the American workingmen and reducing them to pauperism.” [Applause.  I

Here a rough-looking man, who, I inferred, was an English miner, said he begged leave to differ from the gentleman who had last spoken. (I noticed that these workingmen, unless very angry, used in their discussions the courteous forms of speech common in all parliamentary bodies.)

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Caesar's Column from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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