By CLARENCE S. DARROW
Originally posted by Clarence Darrow:
I feel very grateful to you for the warmth and earnestness of your reception. It makes me feel sure that I am amongst friends. If I had to be tried again, I would not mind taking a change of venue to Portland; although I think I can get along where I am without much difficulty.
The subject for tonight's talk was not chosen by me but was chosen for me. I don't know who chose it, nor just what they expected me to say but there is not much in a name and I suppose what I say tonight would be just about the same under any title that anybody saw fit to give.
I am told that I am going to talk about "Industrial Conspiracies."
I ought to know something about them. And I won't tell you all I know tonight, but I will tell you some things that I know tonight.
The conspiracy laws, you know, are very old. As one prominent labouring man said on the witness stand down in Los Angeles a few weeks ago when they asked him if he was not under indictment and what for.
He said he was under indictment for the charge they always made against working men when they hadn't done anything:
And that is the charge they always make. It is the one they have always made against everybody when they wanted them, and particularly against working men, because they want them oftener than they do anybody else.
When they want a working man for anything excepting work they want him for conspiracy.
And the greatest conspiracy that is possible for a working man to be guilty of is not to work —a conspiracy the other fellows are always guilty of.
The conspiracy laws are very old.
They were very much in favour in the Star Chamber days in England.
If any king or ruler wanted to get rid of someone, and that someone had not done anything, they indicted him for what he was thinking about; that is, for conspiracy; and under it they could prove anything that he ever said or did and anything that anybody else ever said or did to prove what he was thinking about; and therefore that he was guilty.
And, of course, if anybody was thinking, it was a conspiracy against the king; for you can't think without thinking against a king. The trouble is most people don't think. And therefore they are not guilty of conspiracy.
The conspiracy laws in England were especially used against working men and in the early days, not much more than a hundred years ago, for one working man to go to another and suggest that he ask for higher wages was a conspiracy, punishable by imprisonment.
For a few men to come together and form a labour organization in England was a conspiracy. It is not here. Even the employer is willing to let you form labour organizations, if you don't do anything but pass resolutions.
But the formation of unions in the early days in England was a conspiracy and so they used to meet in the forests and in the rocks and in the caves and waste places and hide their records in the earth where the informers and detectives and Burnes' men of those days could not get hold of them.
It used to be a crime for a working man to leave the county without the consent of the employer; and they never gave their consent. They were bought and sold with the land. Some of them are now.
It reached that pass in England after labour unions were formed, that anything they did was a conspiracy, and to belong to one was practically a criminal offence.
These laws were not made by Parliament; of course they were not made by the people. No law was ever made by the people; they are made for the people; and it does not matter whether the people have a right to vote or not, they never make the laws.
These laws, however, were made by judges, the same officials who make the laws in the United States today. We send men to the Legislature to make law but they don't make them.
I don't care who makes a law, if you will let me interpret it.
I would be willing to let the Steel Trust make a law if they would let me tell what it meant after they got it made. That has been the job of the judges, and that is the reason the powerful interests of the world always want the courts.
They let you have the members of the Legislature, and the Aldermen and the Constable, if they can have the judges.
Plenty more where that came from on Project Gutenberg.