Minding everyone’s business

“Gradually public opinion concerning the scope and purpose of government in its relation to the general welfare underwent a transformation. The view which had long been dominant was that national prosperity depended upon the prosperity of the manufacturing and commercial classes of the country; when they flourished the labourer would enjoy a ‘full dinner pail,’ the shopkeeper a good trade, the farmers high markets, and the professional classes would collect their fees; consequently it was only right that such important matters as the tariff and monetary standards should be determined according to the ideals of the great business interests of the country. The new view was that the object of legislation should be to aid all citizens with no special privilege or regard to any one class. Its birth was in the Granger movement. It was more widely disseminated by Populism, but its ablest presentation was by William Jennings Bryan, notably in his speech before the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1896:  ‘You have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. A man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a business man as a merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day—who begins in the spring and toils all summer—and who, by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country, creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding place the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade, are as much business men as the few financial magnates, who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak for this broader class of business men.’” — The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XXI, Sec. 36

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