Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dec 24, 1902: Col J.S. Felter on the Power of the Ballot

Dec 24, 1902; Okolona, Mississippi, Messenger

Written for the Messenger by Col. J. S. Felter, Springfield, Ill

 We do not take possession of our ideas,  but are possessed by them. They master us and force us into the arena, where, like gladiators, we must fight for them."

Troth is the most radical thing in the world when possessed by men of honor. Cowardice is the abject slave of a vacillating weak brain. Daring the sweep of centuries past the world has suffered for the want of an open arena where truth might have an open combat with falsehood. The warfare has always been between right and wrong, and troth has found a cross at the hands of the brutal and ignorant. Truth is the arc light of civilization, while a lie is the child of fear; truth stands erect, a lie crawls and whines. After all there can be no progress born of a lie. I have often thought about the noble and grand, heroic men and women who have stood like giant oaks towering above their surroundings, along the ages past. I have thought of them standing like giant peaks that fathom the heaven's starry depths waiting the wreck of worlds. Standing on faith, looking forward in hope for the truth on ages beaming, and I have said had it not been for the truth in the hearts of a few honest men and women we would all be barbarians now. What the world has always needed and still needs is a bold presentation of the truth, for truth is the only common wealth in which all men have equal rights and are free. An honest man is obedient to the demands of truth, for truth means "Purity from falsehood honor and virtue."

 Spasmodic virtue is where the truth hits a cheap market with a cheap auctioneer, too cheap to last long; it is like a hot poker thrust into, a slack tub, makes a noise, but soon cooled off. If we all could appreciate the fact that most all our troubles grow out of our efforts to govern each other and to regulate and prescribe rules of conduct, we might understand that all governments at best are defective because they run counter to the natural order of things, and that our civilization is one which attempts to leave man free as possible consistent with the public good, but in no case can law eradicate from the human mind that thing called selfishness; but law simply attempts to restrain its encroachment on the rights of another After all law is but 'a rule of action."

In our republic to get a rule of action, (law), we must first vote, to elect a legislature; second, the legislature makes the law. It should be evident to every one that if we want a law friendly to our interest we must vote for a legislatureman who is in favor of the law, otherwise the law will be in favor of the other fellow and we are left; and in this connection let me lust say,  as long as the laboring men vote to  make a law for the other fellow, the injunction will be followed by the militia. For the sake of illustration let me recite the fact that if you as a candidate for the legislature, oppose the liquor trade, will the liquor man vote for you?. No. If you oppose the banking law would the banker vote for ine? No. If you fight the railroad, would the managers vote for you? No. If you oppose the laboring man's interest will he vote for you? Yes, they do it. Now it strikes me not until the laboring man shows as much political sense as the brewer, banker and railroad kings, can they hope for relief.

The laborer must make every candidate they vote for pledge to support their measures. In case they ' refuse, do as the brewer and banker: vote no. The laboring element have it In their own hands  to make the law, and if they won't do it then the fault is their own and the selfishness of the money aristocrats will dominate to enslave. Eighty percent of the population of the nation must live by labor, either by hand or brain, and if eighty per cent, propose to lay down and let the other twenty per cent, rule them "by law," they have no kick coming. Yes, it is very radical when it assumes the shape of law in a few hands who use 'it to enrich themselves." Radical did we say? Let the "injunction" fortified by bayonets stand up and answer the charge. If the laborer wishes to buy the necessaries of life in a monopolized market and sell his labor in a competitive market he has no kick coming. especially when he votes to continue the law rather than vote to change It. The truth shall make you free, and the truth is, that it the laboring class ever score a victory It will be at the ballot box.

Duty and  power is at the ballot box. then, and till then, will the truth with its staying faith come to bless; then, and not till then will the smoke from chimneys tall swing corners with the moon beams and laugh with the sunrise; then, and not till then will the shoots of emancipated childhood mingle with pleasure at high noon, and peace and plenty crown and scepter the home of the sons of toil.