A Great Idea Perverted.

A Great Idea Perverted.

[Liberty, June 19, 1886.]

The Knights of Labor Convention at Cleveland voted to petition Congress for the passage of an act which embodies in a very crude way the all-important principle that all property having due stability of value should be available as a basis of currency. The act provides for the establishment of loan offices in every county in the United States, which, under the administration of cashiers and tellers appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury, shall issue legal tender money, redeemable on demand in gold coin or its equivalent in lawful money of the United States, lending it at three per cent. a year to all who offer satisfactory security.(97 ¶ 1)

The Knights have got hold of a great idea here,—one which has in it more potency for the emancipation of labor than any other; but see now how they vitiate it and render it impracticable and worthless by their political and arbitrary methods of attempting its realization!(97 ¶ 2)

One section of the act, by forbidding all individuals or associations to issue money, makes a government monopoly of the banking business,—an outrageous denial of liberty!(97 ¶ 3)

Another section, instead of leaving the rate of discount to be governed by cost to which, were it not for the monopoly, competition would reduce it, arbitrarily fixes it at three per cent., thus recognizing labor’s worst foe, usury. As three per cent. represents the average annual increase in wealth,—that is, the difference between the annual production and the annual consumption,—this section means that what ought to be labor’s annual savings, and would be if usury did not abstract them from labor’s pockets, shall be turned into the government treasury to be squandered as Congress and corrupt officials may see fit.(97 ¶ 4)

Another section establishes a uniform usury law for the entire country, providing that any person who shall lend money at any other rate than three per cent. shall forfeit to the borrower both principal and interest. Legislators have heretofore been satisfied to limit the rate of interest in one direction; but this limits it in both, subjecting the lender at two per cent. to the same forfeit that the lender at four must suffer.(97 ¶ 5)

This piece of tyranny, however, as well as numerous others in the act, are thrown entirely into the shade by a section providing that any person convicted of offering for sale gold and silver coin of the United States shall forfeit as a fine his entire estate, goods, money, and property, or may be imprisoned at hard labor for fifty years, or suffer both fine and imprisonment, and in addition forever forfeit the right of citizenship in the United States. What an opportunity for Recorder Smythe, should this offence ever come within his jurisdiction! His insane lust for cruelty, which lamented its inability to hang John Most for making an incendiary speech, might find greater gratification under this statute. Imagine him addressing the prisoner at the bar:(97 ¶ 6)

John Jones, a jury of your peers has found you guilty of a most heinous crime. You have presumed to offer in the market-place and subject to sacrilege of barter our sacred cart-wheel, the emblem of civilization, the silver dollar of the United States. It is evident that you are a member of the dangerous classes. You are probably the greatest scoundrel that ever disgraced the face of the earth. It is a great pity that our too merciful law will not permit me to burn you at the stake. But as it will not, I must be contented, in the interest of law, order, and society, to go to the extreme verge of the latitude allowed me. Therefore, I impose upon you a fine equal to your entire estate, I sentence you to imprisonment at hard labor for fifty years, and I strip you forever of the right to vote me out of office.(97 ¶ 7)

A beautiful organization, these Knights of Labor, for an Anarchist to belong to!(97 ¶ 8)