1. Fragment from "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" by George W. Plunkitt (1905)
"Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.
There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”
Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin' to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.
I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.
Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or supposin‘ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.
Wouldn’t you? It’s just like lookin‘ ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It’s honest graft, and I’m lookin’ for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I’ve got a good lot of it, too."
2. Fragment from Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
"The statute of Louisiana, acts of 1890, c. 111, requiring railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in that State, to provide equal, but separate, accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing two or more passenger coaches for each passenger train, or by dividing the passenger coaches by a partition so as to secure separate accommodations; and providing that no person shall be permitted to occupy seats in coaches other than the ones assigned to them, on account [p538] of the race they belong to; and requiring the officer of the passenger train to assign each passenger to the coach or compartment assigned for the race to which he or she belong; and imposing fines or imprisonment upon passengers insisting on going into a coach or compartment other than the one set aide for the race to which he or she belongs; and conferring upon officers of the train power to refuse to carry on the train passengers refusing to occupy the coach or compartment assigned to them, and exempting the railway company from liability for such refusal, are not in conflict with the provisions either of the Thirteenth Amendment or of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
This was a petition for writs of prohibition and certiorari, originally filed in the Supreme Court of the State by Plessy, the plaintiff in error, against the Hon. John H. Ferguson, judge of the criminal District Court for the parish of Orleans, and setting forth in substance the following facts:
That petitioner was a citizen of the United States and a resident of the State of Louisiana, of mixed descent, in the proportion of seven eighths Caucasian and one eighth African blood; that the mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him, and that he was entitled to every recognition, right, privilege and immunity secured to the citizens of the United States of the white race by its Constitution and laws; that, on June 7, 1892, he engaged and paid for a first class passage on the East Louisiana Railway from New Orleans to Covington, in the same State, and thereupon entered a passenger train, and took possession of a vacant seat in a coach where passengers of the white race were accommodated; that such railroad company was incorporated by the laws of Louisiana as a common carrier, and was not authorized to distinguish between citizens according to their race. But, notwithstanding this, petitioner was required by the conductor, under penalty of ejection from said train and imprisonment, to vacate said coach and occupy another seat in a coach assigned by said company for persons not of the white race, and for no other reason than that petitioner was of the colored race; that, upon petitioner's refusal to comply with such order, he was, with the aid of a police officer, forcibly ejected from said coach and hurried off to and imprisoned in the parish jail of [p539] New Orleans, and there held to answer a charge made by such officer to the effect that he was guilty of having criminally violated an act of the General Assembly of the State, approved July 10, 1890, in such case made and provided.
3. Fragment from "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair (1906)
" Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing a truck in the pickle rooms, and he might have a sore that would put him out of the world; all the joints in his fingers would be eaten by the acid one by one. Of the butchers and floorsmen, the beef boners and trimmers, and all those who used knives, you could scarcely find a person who had the use of his thumb; time and time again the base of it had been slashed, till it was a mere lump of flesh against which the man pressed the knife to hold it. The hands of these men would be crisscrossed with cuts, until you could no longer pretend to count them or trace them. They would have no nails,—they had worn them off pulling hides; their knuckles were swollen so that their fingers spread out like a fan. There were men who had worked in the cooking rooms, in the midst of steam and sickening odors, by artificial light; in these rooms the germs of tuberculosis might live for two years, but the supply was renewed every hour. There were the beef luggers, who carried two-hundred-pound quarters into the refrigerator cars, a fearful kind of work, that began at four o'clock in the morning, and that wore out the most powerful men in two years. There were those who worked in the chilling rooms, and whose special disease was rheumatism, the time limit that a man could work in the chilling rooms was said to be five years. There were the wool pluckers, whose hands went to pieces even sooner than the hands of the pickle men; for the pelts of sheep had to be painted with acid to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off. There were those who made tile tins for the canned meat, and their hands, too, were a maze of cuts, and each cut represented a chance for blood poisoning. Some worked at the stamping machines, and it was very seldom that one could work long there at the pace that was set, and not give out and forget himself, and have a part of his hand chopped off. There were the "hoisters," as they were called, whose task it was to press the level which lifted the dead cattle off the floor. They ran along upon a rafter, peering down through the damp and the steam, and as old Dunham's architects had not built the killing room for the convenience of the hoisters, at every few feet they would have to stop under a beam, say four feet above the one they ran on, which got them into the habit of stooping, so that in a few years they were walking like chimpanzees. Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer men, and those who served in the cooking rooms. These men could not be shown to the visitor—for the odor of a fertilizer man would scare any ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who worked in the tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Dunham's Pure Beef Lard!"
4. Fragment from the Introduction of "The Economic Basis of Protection" by Simon Patten (1890)
"I do not advocate protection in the case of our own nation, for example, because we are a backward
country needing a special means to bring us up to the level of more progressive nations. In this respect I
differ from the older economists who advocated a protective policy. They seem to imply that it is good for
the American people to approximate European conditions. On the other hand, I would differentiate as much
as possible our industrial conditioas from those of Europe. We should not accept the ideal of European
civilization as that best fitted to American conditions. We need most of all a new ideal which will conform
to the industrial phenomena which have become prominent in America. It is especially important that we
should keep in mind that an ideal growing out of present American conditions must harmonize with the
dynamic state of American society. In this respect our ideal must stand in sharp contrast with the static ideal
advocated by most free-traders. The older theories of economics have always pushed to the front the conception
of a static society in which all the various elements would harmonize, and thus form the highest state of
civilization. The ideal that I wish to emphasize, on the contrary, is based on the changing dynamic conditions
which are necessary for any people to pass through in its progress towards the highest possible social
A dynamic theory of social progress is quite distinct from a static theory of a passive industrial state. I
shall sharply oppose the ideal of the one theory to that of the other, and in this way make prominent those
conditions which force nations to become more progressive, and to overcome the obstacles which tend to
bring them prematurely into a static state.
Contrary as it may seem to popular opinion, the theory of a subject must always be developed previous
to any intelligent study of the facts. The truth of this point of view has been verified by past experience, and
will find additional proof in the future. Just as the cosmopolitan theory, advocated by Adam Smith, upon
which free-trade is based, was a theory for a long time before it was carried into practice by the English
people; so at the present time believers in protection need first of all a consistent theory of the causes of
national progress, so that all the facts with which we are familiar may be brought in harmony with this theory
and thus form its verification in experience. A leading purpose, therefore, in this essay, will be to present an
ideal of a society in a dynamic condition as counterpart to the ideal of a static state. I shall feel satisfied if I
succeed in showing that such an ideal corresponds to the leading features of American industrial conditions
and is in complete harmony with the best development of our industrial resources. Whether we shall have a
static or dynamic society is really the centre of the discussion about the tariff. All other issues are secondary
to this, and can be decided only when the main issue is out of the way."
5. Fragment from President Calvin Coolidge's address to the American Aasociation of Newspaper Editors (1925)
"There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life. The opposite view was oracularly and poetically set forth in those lines of Goldsmith which everybody repeats, but few really believe:
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
Excellent poetry, but not a good working philosophy. Goldsmith would have been right, if, in fact, the accumulation of wealth meant the decay of men. It is rare indeed that the men who are accumulating wealth decay. It is only when they cease production, when accumulation stops, that an irreparable decay begins. Wealth is the product of industry, ambition, character and untiring effort. In all experience, the accumulation of wealth means the multiplication of schools, the increase of knowledge, the dissemination of intelligence, the encouragement of science, the broadening of outlook, the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture. Of course, the accumulation of wealth can not be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it. And there never was a time when wealth was so generally regarded as a means, or so little regarded as an end, as today. Just a little time ago we read in your newspapers that two leaders of American business, whose efforts at accumulation had been most astonishingly successful, had given fifty or sixty million dollars as endowments to educational works. That was real news. It was characteristic of our American experience with men of large resources. They use their power to serve, not themselves and their own families, but the public. I feel sure that the coming generations, which will benefit by those endowments, will not be easily convinced that they have suffered greatly because of these particular accumulations of wealth."
6. Fragment from the Preface of "Married Love" by Marie Stopes (1918)
"This little book is less a record of a research than an attempt to present in easily understandable form the clarified and crystallized results of long and patient investigations. Its simple statements are based on a very large number of first hand observations, on confidences from men and women of all classes and types, and on facts gleaned from wide reading.
My original contributions to the age-long problems of marriage will be found principally in Chapter IV; also in Chapters V, and VIII. The other chapters fill in what I hope is an undistorted and unexaggerated picture of the potential beauties and realities of marriage.
The whole is written simply, and for the ordinary untrained reader, though it embodies some observations which will be new even to those who have made scientific researches on the subjects of sex and human physiology.
I do not touch upon the many human variations and abnormalities which bulk so largely in most books on sex, nor do I deal with the many problems raised by incurably unhappy marriages.
In the following pages I speak to those – and in spite of all our neurotic literature and plays, they are in the great majority – who are normal, and who are married or about to be married, and hope, but do not know how, to make their marriages happy and successful.
To the reticent, as to the conventional, it may seem a presumption or a superfluity to speak of the details of the most complex of all human functions. They ask: Is not instinct enough? The answer is: No, instinct is not enough. In every other human activity it has been realized that training is essential to creatures of intellectual capacity like ourselves. As Saleeby once wisely pointed out: A cat knows how to manage her new-born kittens, how to bring them up and teach them; a human mother does not know how to manage her baby unless she is trained, either directly or by her own quick observation. A cat performs her simple duties by instinct; a human mother has to be trained to fulfill her very complex ones.
And the same is true, and even to a greater extent, in the subtle complexities of sex. In civilized countries, in modern times, the old traditions, the profound primitive knowledge of the needs of both sexes have been lost – and nothing but a muffled confusion of individual gossip disturbs a silence, shame-faced or foul. Here and there, in a family of fine tradition, a youth or maiden may learn some of the mysteries of marriage, but the great majority of people in the English speaking countries have no glimmering of knowledge of the supreme human art, the Art of Love. And even in books on advanced Physiology and Medicine the gaps, the omissions and even the misstatements, are amazing."
7. Fragment from "Memoirs" by Herbert Hoover (1953), where he talks about the events leading up to the Great Depression
"The break in the stock market in late October, 1929, was followed by succeeding slumps until, by the end of November, industrial stocks had fallen to 60 per cent of their high point. Even so, the business world refused, for some time after the crash, to believe that the danger was any more than that of run-of-the-mill, temporary slumps such as had occurred at three-to seven-year intervals in the past.
However, we in the administration took a more serious view of the immediate future, partly because of our knowledge of the fearful inflation of stock-market credit, and, in the longer view, because of our fear of the situation of European economy. I perhaps knew the weaknesses of the latter better than most people from my experience in Europe during 1919 and my knowledge of the economic consequences of the Versailles Treaty.
Two schools of thought quickly developed within our administration discussions.
First was the ‘leave it alone liquidationists’ headed by Secretary of the Treasury Mellon, who felt that government must keep its hands off and let the slump liquidate itself. Mr. Mellon had only one formula:
‘Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.’ He insisted that, when the people get an inflation brainstorm, the only way to get it out of their blood is to let it collapse. He held that even a panic was not altogether a bad thing. He said: ‘It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.’ He often used the expression, ‘There is a mighty lot of real estate lying around the United States which does not know who owns it,’ referring to excessive mortgages. "
8. Fragment from "Women on the Breadlines" by Meridel Lesueur (1932)
"I am sitting in the city free employment bureau. It's the woman's section. We have been sitting here now for four hours. We sit here every day, waiting for a job. There are no jobs. Most of us have had no breakfast. Some have had scant rations for over a year. Hunger makes a human being lapse into a state of lethargy, especially city hunger. Is there any place else in the world where a human being is supposed to go hungry amidst plenty without an outcry, without protest, where only the boldest steal or kill for bread, and the timid crawl the streets, hunger like the beak of a terrible bird at the vitals? We sit looking at the floor. No one dares think of the coming winter. There are only a few more days of summer. Everyone is anxious to get work to lay up something for that long siege of bitter cold. But there is no work. Sitting in the room we all know it. That is why we don't talk much. We look at the floor dreading to see that knowledge in each other's eyes. There is a kind of humiliation in it. We look away from each other. We look at the floor. It's too terrible to see this animal terror in each other's eyes.
So we sit hour after hour, day after day, waiting for a job to come in. There are many women for a single job. A thin sharp woman sits inside the wire cage looking at a book. For four hours we have watched her looking at that book. She has a hard little eye. In the small bare room there are half a dozen women sitting on the benches waiting. Many come and go. Our faces are all familiar to each other, for we wait here everyday.
This is a domestic employment bureau. Most of the women who come here are middle-aged, some have families, some have raised their families and are now alone, some have men who are out of work. Hard times and the man leaves to hunt for work. He doesn't find it. He drifts on. The woman probably doesn't hear from him for a long time. She expects it. She isn't surprised. She struggles alone to feed the many mouths. Sometimes she gets help from the charities. If she's clever she can get herself a good living from the charities, if she's naturally a lick-spittle, naturally a little docile and cunning. If she's proud then she starves silently, leaving her children to find work, coming home after a day's searching to wrestle with her house, her children.
Some such story is written on the faces of all these women. There are young girls too, fresh from the country. Some are made brazen too soon by the city. There is a great exodus of girls from the farms into the city now. Thousands of farms have been vacated completely in Minnesota. The girls are trying to get work. The prettier ones can get jobs in the stores when there are any, or waiting on table, but these jobs are only for the attractive and the adroit, the others, the real peasants, have a more difficult time."