Fifty Years on the Firing Line
James W. Witham, born in 1856, was a journalist and advocate for the rights and concerns of farmers. In Fifty Years on the Firing Line, Witham traces his childhood in Ohio and his political coming of age in the Midwest during the mid-nineteenth century. While working as a farm laborer in Nebraska and Iowa, Witham started canvassing for farmer's rights in a farmer's paper, The Western Rural, a practice he continued for many years. In the fall of 1878, he met the populist leader, Gen. James B. Weaver, the first of many influential political leaders who became the subjects of his writing. He wrote about the origins of the Farmer's Alliance organization while playing a role in its formation. By 1882, he was attending state legislative sessions in Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota as a reporter and advocate. In this book, he discusses some of the legislative struggles that pitted farmers against big business and offers reasons why farmers should be allowed to form organizations to advocate their cause. Witham also criticizes the practice of railroad companies providing free riding privileges to journalists and elected public officials, contending that this practice biased these professions in favor of the railroads. He became well-known for his advice columns in the St. Paul Daily News, signed as "The Cornfield Philosopher." The bulk of Witham's experiences discussed here reflect his long residency in Iowa. There is, however, a wealth of information about Minnesota politics of the 1910s and early 1920s.
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Page 132 - It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded...
Page 132 - It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions ; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor, in the structure of government.
Page 133 - Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights.
Page 133 - ... unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it Is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to It without their consent.
Page 133 - A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class — neither work for others, nor have others working for them.
Page 133 - Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer.
Page 91 - And while the lamp holds out to burn The vilest sinner may return.
Page 206 - I move that the Secretary be instructed to cast the unanimous vote of this convention for Philip Murray for President of the United Steelworkers of America.
Page 213 - Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgment of the House?