The Harvard debating team was last evening defeated by Yale in Woolsey Hall, New Haven, before the largest audience which ever witnessed a debate at Yale.
The question for debate was as follows:
"Resolved, That the history of trade unionism for the past twenty years shows a general tendency detrimental to the best interests of the country." Yale supported the affirmative and Harvard the negative.
The judges were President W. H. P. Faunce, D.D., of Brown University, Mr. J. G. Milburn, of Buffalo, and General F. V. Greene. President A. T. Hadley of Yale was the presiding officer.
The members of both teams showed great power in adapting themselves to the trend of the argument, and in suiting their own argument closely to that of their opponents. Yale's essential proposition was that though organization of labor has been necessary, and has as a matter of fact resulted in some good, yet on the whole it has tended to put its own interests paramount to those of the employer, the non-union man, and the public at large. Harvard answered this by arguing that the good which trade-unionism has aimed at could not have been accomplished without some encroachment on the liberty of the employer. The betterment of the laboring man's condition which has been to a large degree attained, could not have been attained without trade-unionism. Still more beneficial has been the establishment of greater harmony between capital and labor, a superlative good in the industrial world.
Harvard failed to meet at once the fundamental argument of the affirmative, though by the close of the debate they met it as fully as it could be met. On the other hand, Yale put forward its essential contention at once and held consistently to it throughout the debate.
The judges were out about fifteen minutes. In rendering the decision, General F. V. Greene said that the judges were unanimous in the belief that Yale excelled both in the matter of form and in having argued more effectively and consistently.
THE MAIN SPEECHES.
M. L. Burton opened the debate. It is necessary, first of all, he said, to define clearly the word "tendency." The affirmative advances this definition: a tendency is that which tends to cause, whether it does or does not proceed to an effect. Hence, it is unnecessary to prove that trade unionism would necessarily lead to more evil than good in the future. The probable tendency to evil is all that need be established.
The best interests of our country are peculiarly dependent on the people. We make and enforce our laws. Hence we must be law-abiding. When a body of men loses its respect for law, it endangers the stability of society. Disregard for law, however, is but one of the many manifestations of the underlying spirit of trade unionism--a spirit which seeks to create caste, to create clique interests, to assert the superior importance of trade unions, and to set their interests above the interests of all other parties.
This spirit has also manifested itself by a constant disregard of the fundamental legal rights of freedom of contracts and of personal security. Any supposed good accomplished by trade unionism cannot for a moment outweigh the evils resulting from the subversion of these basal rights.
The affirmative case rests, the speaker said, on an attempt to prove that trade unionism has invaded the rights (1) of the employer, (2) of the non-union men, (3) of the general public. These three points the three speakers would endeavor to prove.
The rights of the employer were then considered in detail. It was claimed that his right to employ whom he chooses had been denied by the trade unions. In proof of this, statistics for the last twenty years were given, and reference made to the thousands of cases where employers have been compelled to surrender to employees.
It was argued further that the right of the employer to buy his material where he might please has been disregarded by the unions, as has also his right to possess his property in safety and to use it in a legitimate way. Reference was made to the Homestead strike, and to the Pullman strike as evidence of the violation of this right.
In conclusion it was shown that the chief significance of this argument is not so much the evidence of disregard for the interests of individuals as the evidence of the existence within our country of an organization which manifests a spirit which seeks to make its rights paramount to the rights of all other parties. Any organization manifesting such a spirit cannot show a tendency other than detrimental to the best interests of our country.
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