|Speech to Young Democrats by THOMAS S. HOGAN
With deep regret I must admit that my invitation to speak to you is predicated on the fact that I am no longer young. That is their idea, not mine, as I refuse to accept the computation of passing years as the true measure of the youthfulness and virility of the mind.
The Law of Evidence requires counsel to qualify the witness before he is permitted to give testimony, so I must waste a few of the brief moments at my disposal with a skeleton sketch of my experience. My experience in the public service bagan in 1896 as Secretary of State of Montana; later served as a member of the Senate for four years; served in the initial organization of the Federal Farm Loan Bank System; was Assistant Solicitor in the Department of the Interior; and from 1933 to 1935 was Chairman of the National Coal Labor Board.
As a private citizen, I taught school when 16 and 17 years old; left the farm shortly thereafter and worked on railroad construction on the pacific Coast and in Montana; worked 3 1/2 years in the copper smelters of Anaconda on a strictly 12-hour day and seven-day week basis; practiced law for 16 years; at various times in the last 44 years operated mines in Montana, Idaho, and Old Mexico; been active in the oil business for more than 55 years including well-drilling or other explorations in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma and Old Mexico and during this made a rather extensive study of the oil reserves of the world; owned and operated a fairly large farm and cattle ranch in Montana. When 22 years old I was elected head of what was then the largest labor organization in Montana and many years later was president of the Beet Growers Association of the United States. Many other activities need not be mentioned here. I respectfully submit to this Court of Public Opinion that the evidence submitted should qualify me as one who knows America and its people and on their behalf I wish to speak.
Old timers may thrill you with stories of the "good old days" and sometimes the younger generation is induced to turn back to a wholly mythical past. We are prone to look back and attribute to the then existing laws and customs the joys of existence that were really due to our abounding youth and limitless optimism which painted the distant horizons of the future with all the glorious colors of a western sunrise. Except to the fortunate few, they were not always the "good old days" but the "bad old days".
Poverty, degradation and illiteracy was the permanent status of a considerable percentage of the people. Every step upward in the social and economic status of a great majority of the people has been won through the efforts of the limited few who devoted their time and efforts to the progressive cause. Through all these years these men and women have been victims of the bitter and disparaging attacks of practically all those in high places in industry, finance, banking, and generally even in the government itself.
Just forty years ago we succeeded in enacting into the laws of Montana the eight-hour day for miners and smeltermen. It took years of work, effort and sacrifice on the part of the progressive few to put that law on the statute books and we were denounced as dangerous radicals seeking to destroy the prosperity of the whole nation. Even after all these years I can still name over a hundred of Dewey's principal supporters and scores of the leading newspapers who charged that this nefarious eight-hour day law would wreck the whole business structure of the United States. And these people and these newspapers still presume to speak with authority on politics and government.
We had no collective bargaining in those days and thousands of workers were summarily fired for even being suspected of favoring the eight-hour day. These men and newspapers could prove -- to their own satisfaction -- that anything less than a twelve-hour day and seven-day week in the smelters meant national ruin. Among them and typical of these opponents of progress was a certain great engineer -- in fact, "The Great Engineer" -- who never recommended a mining or other property to his employers and investors unless he could finish his report with the stereotyped commendation, "This property is located in an area where there is a great abundance of cheap, docile and unorganized labor." In their philosophy, that is the acme of all perfect conditions.
Let me hasten to say that such an attitude no longer reflects the opinion of intelligent industrial employers. Gradually and definitely they have learned that their prosperity is dependent on the purchasing power of well-paid labor working reasonable hours which permits them to purchase and enjoy the production of our great industrial machine. In simple justice it should not be forgotten that years ago the biggest of them all established a minimum $5 per day pay and eight-hour day at a time when the head of the United States Steel Company was vehemently defending a $2.50 pay and a 12-hour day as the only hope for a prosperous America. In a nation disposed to idolatry of wealth and power, it took the great prestige of this liberal employer to convince the American people of the soundness of the philosophy of good wages and a short work day. We can well afford to forgive him for his subsequent aberrations in matters of national and international affairs.
But wages and hours are by themselves only part of the picture and cannot alone supply the fundamental basis of prosperity and human well-being. My time limit forbids even passing reference to the great battles of the past for social, economic and legislative progress in establishing and protecting the rights of the submerged masses. From personal experience I can tell you that the battles have been long and bitter and that when we finally won any appreciable progress our enemies were the first to claim it as their accomplishment. Of this we have a glaring example in this political campaign.
It is the grave responsibility of the youth of today to meet simultaneously two tremendous problems; one is to readjust our great industrial machine and agricultural system in a manner that will make abundance a blessing rather than a curse to all the people; the other is to establish sound and friendly relations with the rest of the world in a manner that will make future wars not only improbable but also impossible. These jobs can be done and you are the people who must do them. In this election you will perform the first and foremost task by the election of Roosevelt and a Congress favorable to his policies.
As one who has witnessed as an observing and interested spectator the passing parade of our way of life and government, I can certify that the present national Administration, with all of its minor faults, has crystallized into law and established accomplishments more of the progressive programs and aspirations of the common people than all of its predecessors. What matter if occasionally it gets credit for the work and sacrifices of previous and unknown workers in the vineyard?
Surely you will not turn your back on progress and support the ossified and reactionary forces of the opposition.
(This speech was given in the 1940s during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's last term for office. T. S. Hogan worked for many years with Labor leader John L. Lewis and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn on