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What we are told of the inhabitants of Brazil, that they never die but of old age, is attributed to the tranquility and serenity of their climate; I rather attribute it to the tranquility and serenity of their souls, which are free from all passion, thought, or any absorbing and unpleasant labors. Those people spend their lives in an admirable simplicity and ignorance, without letters, without law, without king, without any manner of religion.
We never thought, sitting in my office on those afternoons, discussing Voltaire and Ingersoll, that we would ever be brought to this, did we? You, the atheist whom the mere sight of a church spire on the sky could enrage; and I who have never been able to divorce myself from reason enough even to accept your pleasant and labor-saving theory of nihilism.
I have been in my bed for five weeks, oppressed with weakness and other infirmities from which my age, seventy four years, permits me not to hope release. Added to this (proh dolor! [O misery!]) the sight of my right eye — that eye whose labors (dare I say it) have had such glorious results — is for ever lost. That of the left, which was and is imperfect, is rendered null by continual weeping.
Finally, I believe in an America with a government of men devoted solely to the public interests - men of ability and dedication, free from conflict or corruption or other commitment - a responsible government that is efficient and economical, with a balanced budget over the years of the cycle, reducing its debt in prosperous times - a government willing to entrust the people with the facts that they have - not a businessman's government, with business in the saddle, as the late Secretary McKay described this administration of which he was a member - not a labor government, not a farmer's government, not a government of one section of the country or another, but a government of, for and by the people.
The people are weary of being oppressed, persecuted, exploited to the maximum. They are weary of the wretched selling of their labor-power day after day — faced with the fear of joining the enormous mass of unemployed — so that the greatest profit can be wrung from each human body, profit later squandered in the orgies of the masters of capital.
No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day's work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.
If a man has a genuine, sincere, hearty wish to get rid of his liberty, if he is really bent upon becoming a slave, nothing can stop him. And the temptation is to some natures a very great one. Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves that necessity for perpetual choice which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. In common life we shirk it by forming habits, which take the place of self-determination. In politics party-organization saves us the pains of much thinking before deciding how to cast our vote.
It was Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, who once said, They who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged. And for those of you who don't speak old-English let me translate. It means if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard, you should be able to support a family.
Think you to be a philosopher while acting as you do? think you to go on thus eating, thus drinking, giving way in like manner to [your own] wrath and to displeasure? Nay you must watch, you must labor; overcome certain desires; quit your familiar friends, submit to be despised by your slave, to be held in derision by them that meet you, to take the lower place in all things, in office, in positions of authority, in courts of law. Weight these things fully, and then, if you will, lay to your hand; if as the price of these things you would gain Freedom, Tranquility, and passionless Serenity.
I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen. There is virtue yet in the hoe and the spade, for learned as well as for unlearned hands. And labor is everywhere welcome; always we are invited to work; only be this limitation observed, that a man shall not for the sake of wider activity sacrifice any opinion to the popular judgments and modes of action.
Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labors, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it.