(Senator Huey P. Long’s letter)
THE SHARE OUR WEALTH PRINCIPLES — ROOSEVELT PROMISED TO FULFILL THEM — HOOVER DECLARED THEM HIS CONCEPTION OF AMERICA — BUT ONLY ORGANIZED SOCIETIES CAN FORCE THE KEEPING OF SUCH PLEDGES — THE LAW OF THE BIBLE — THE COMPACT OF THE PILGRIMS IN 1620 — THE GUARANTY OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE — THE BASIS FOR OUR CONSTITUTION — AMERICA’S ONLY SALVATION — “HE WHO FALLS IN THIS FIGHT FALLS IN THE RADIANCE OF THE FUTURE!”
(The Share Our Wealth Society proposes to enforce the traditions on which this country was founded, rather than to have them harmed; we aim to carry out the guaranties of our immortal Declaration of Independence and our Constitution of the United States, as interpreted by our forefathers who wrote them and who gave them to us; we will make the works and compacts of the Pilgrim fathers, taken from the Laws of God, from which we were warned never to depart, breathe into our Government again that spirit of liberty, justice, and mercy which they inspired in our founders in the days when they gave life and hope to our country. God has beckoned fullness and peace to our land; our forefathers have set the guide stakes so that none need fail to share in this abundance. Will we now have our generation, and the generations which are to come, cheated of such heritage because of the greed and control of wealth and opportunity by 600 families?)
To members and well-wishers of the Share Our Wealth Society:
For 20 years I have been in the battle to provide that, so long as American has, or can produce, an abundance of the things which make life comfortable and happy, that none should own such much of the things which he does not need and cannot use as to deprive the balance of the people of a reasonable proportion of the necessities and conveniences of life. The whole line of any political thought has always been that America must face the time when the whole country would shoulder the obligation which it owes to every child born on earth — that is, a fair chance to life, liberty, and happiness.
I had been in the United States Senate only a few days when I began my effort to make the battle for a distribution of wealth among all the people a national issue for the coming elections. On July 2, 1932, pursuant to a promise made, I heard Franklin Delano Roosevelt, accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party at the Chicago convention for President of the United States, use the following words:
“Throughout the Nation, men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government for the last years, look to us here for guidance and for a more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of the national wealth.”
It therefore seemed that all we had to do was to elect our candidate and that then my object in public life would be accomplished.
But a few nights before the Presidential election I listened to Mr. Herbert Hoover deliver his speech in Madison Square Garden, and he used these words:
“My conception of America is a land where men and women may walk in ordered liberty, where they may enjoy the advantages of wealth, not concentrated in the hands of a few, but diffused through the lives of all.”
So it seems that so popular had become the demand for a redistribution of wealth in America that Mr. Hoover had been compelled to somewhat yield to that for which Mr. Roosevelt had previously declared without reservation.
It is not out of place for me to say that the support which I brought to Mr. Roosevelt to secure his nomination and election as President — and without which it was hardly probably he would ever have been nominated — was on the assurances which I had that he would take the proper stand for the redistribution of wealth in the campaign. He did that much in the campaign; but after his election, what then? I need not tell you the story. We have not time to cry over our disappointments, over promises which others did not keep, and over pledges which were broken....
We have not a moment to lose.
It was after my disappointment over the Roosevelt policy, after he became President, that I saw the light. I soon began to understand that, regardless of what we had been promised, our only chance of securing the fulfillment of such pledges was to organize the men and the women of the United States so that they were a force capable of action, and capable of requiring such a policy from the lawmakers and from the President after they took office. That was the beginning of the Share Our Wealth Society movement.
Let me say to the members and well-wishers that in this movement, the principles of which have received the endorsement of every leader of this time, and of other times, I am not concerned over my personal position or political fortune; I am only interested in the success of the cause; and on any day or at any time when, by our going for any person or for any party, we can better, or more surely or more quickly secure home, comfort, education, and happiness for our people, that there is no ambition of mine which will stand in the way. But there can be no minimum of success until every child in this land is fed, clothed, and housed comfortably and made happy with opportunity for education and a chance in life.
Even after the present President of the United States had thrown down the pledge which he had made time after time, and rather indicated the desire, instead, to have all the common people of America fed from a half-starvation dole, while the plutocrats of the United States were allowed to wax richer and richer, even after that, I made the public proposition that if he would return to his promise and carry out the pledge given to the people and to me that, regardless of all that had passed, I would again support his administration to the limit of my ability.
Of course, however, I was not blind; I had long since come to the understanding that he was chained to other purposes and to other interests which made impossible his keeping the words which he uttered to the people.
I delayed using this form of call to the members and well-wishers of the Share Our Wealth Society until we had progressed so far as to convince me that we could succeed either before or in the next national election of November 1936. Until I became certain that the spirit of the people could be aroused throughout the United States, and that, without any money — because I have none, except such little as I am given — the people could be persuaded to perfect organizations throughout the counties and communities of the country, I did not want to give false hopes to any of those engaged with me in this noble work. But I have seen and checked back enough, based upon the experiences which I have had in my public career, to know that we can, with much more ease, win the present fight, either between now and the next national campaign, or else in the next national campaign — I say with much more ease than many other battles which I have won in the past but which did not mean near so much.
We now have enough societies and enough members, to say nothing of the well-wishers, who — if they will put their shoulders to the wheel and give us one-half of the time which they do not need for anything else — can force the principles of the Share Our Wealth Society to the forefront, to where no person participating in national affairs can ignore them further.
Now, here is what I ask the officers and members and well-wishers of all the Share Our Wealth Societies to do — two things, to wit:
- First. If you have a Share Our Wealth Society in your neighborhood — or, if you have not one, organize one — meet regularly, and let all members, men and women, go to work as quickly and as hard as they can to get every person in the neighborhood to become a member and to go out with them to get more members for the society. If members do not want to go into the society already organized in their community, let them organize another society. We must have them as members in the movement, so that, by having their cooperation, on short notice we can all act as one person for the one object and purpose of providing that in the land of plenty there shall be comfort for all. The organized 600 families who control the wealth of America have been able to keep the 125,000,000 people in bondage because they have never once known how to effectually strike for their fair demands.
- Second. Get a number of members of the Share Our Wealth Society to immediately go into all other neighborhoods of your county and into the neighborhoods of the adjoining counties, so as to get the people in the other communities and in the other counties to organize more Share Our Wealth Societies there; that will mean we can soon get about the work of perfecting a complete, unified organization that will not only hear promises but will compel the fulfillment of pledges made to the people.
It is impossible for the United States to preserve itself as a republic or as a democracy when 600 families own more of this Nation's wealth — in fact, twice as much — as all the balance of the people put together. Ninety-six percent of our people live below the poverty line, while 4 percent own 87 percent of the wealth. America can have enough for all to live in comfort and still permit millionaires to own more than they can ever spend and to have more money than they can ever use; but America cannot allow the multimillionaires and the billionaires, a mere handful of them, to own everything unless we are willing to inflict starvation upon 125,000,000 people.
We looked upon the year 1929 as the year when too much was produced for the people to consume. We were told, and we believed, that the farmers raised too much cotton and wool for the people to wear and too much food for the people to eat. Therefore, much of it went to waste, some rotted, and much of its was burned or thrown into the river or into the ocean. But, when we picked up the bulletin of the Department of Agriculture for that year 1929, we found that, according to the diet which they said everyone should eat in order to be healthy, multiplying it by 120,000,000, the number of people we had in 1929, had all of our people had the things which the Government said that should eat in order to live well, we did not have enough even in 1929 to feed the people. In fact, these statistics show that in some instances we had from one-third to one-half less than the people needed, particularly of milk, eggs, butter, and dried fruits.
But why in the year 1929 did it appear we had too much? Because the people could not buy the things they wanted to eat, and needed to eat. That showed the need for and duty of the Government then and there, to have forced a sharing of our wealth, and a redistribution, and Roosevelt was elected on the pledge to do that very thing.
But what was done? Cotton was plowed under the ground. Hogs and cattle were burned by the millions. The same was done to wheat and corn, and farmers were paid starvation money not to raise and not to plant because of the fact that we did not want so much because of people having no money with which to buy. Less and less was produced, when already there was less produced than the people needed if they ate what the Government said they needed to sustain life. God forgive those rulers who burned hogs, threw milk in the river, and plowed under cotton while little children cried for meat and milk and something to put on their naked backs!
But the good God who placed this race on earth did not leave us without an understanding of how to meet such problems; nor did the Pilgrim fathers who landed at Plymouth in 1620 fail to set an example as to how a country and a nation of people should act under such circumstances, and our great statesman like Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ralph Waldo Emerson did not fail to explain the need and necessity for following the precedents and purposes, which are necessary, even in a land of abundance, if all the people are to share the fruits produced therein. God's law commanded that the wealth of the country should be redistributed ever so often, so that none should become too rich and none should become too poor; it commanded that debts should be canceled and released ever so often, so that the human race would not be loaded with a burden which it could never pay. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they established their law by compact, signed by everyone who was on board the Mayflower, and it provided that at the end of every 7 years the finances of their newly formed country would be readjusted and that all debts would be released and property redistributed, so that none should starve in the land of plenty, and none should have an abundance of more than he needed. These principles were preserved in the Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, and in our Constitution. Our great statesmen, such men as James Madison, who wrote the Constitution of the United States, and Daniel Webster, its greatest exponent, admonished the generations of America to come that they must never forget to require the redistribution of wealth if they desire that their Republic should live.
And, now, what of America? Will we allow the political sports, the high heelers, the wiseacres, and those who ridicule us in our misery and poverty to keep us from organizing these societies in every hamlet so that they may bring back to life this law and custom of God and of this country? Is there a man or woman with a child born on the earth, or who expects ever to have a child born on earth, who is willing to have it raised under the present-day practices of piracy, where it comes into life burdened with debt, condemned to a system of slavery by which the sweat of its brow throughout its existence must go to satisfy the vanity and the luxury of a leisurely few, who can never be made to see that they are destroying the root and branch of the greatest country ever to have risen? Our country is calling; the laws of the Lord are calling; the graces of our forefathers would open today if their occupants could see the bloom and flower of their creation withering and dying because the greed of the financial masters of this country has starved and withheld from mankind those things produced by his own labor. To hell with the ridicule of the wise street-corner politician. Pay no attention to any newspaper or magazine that has sold its columns to perpetuate this crime against the people of America. Save this country. Save mankind. Who can be wrong in such a work, and who cares what consequences may come following the mandates of the Lord, of the Pilgrims, of Jefferson, Webster, and Lincoln? He who falls in this fight falls in the radiance of the future. Better to make this fight and lose than to be a party to a system that strangles humanity.
It took the genius of labor and the lives of all Americans to produce the wealth of this land. If any man, or 100 men, wind up with all that has been produced by 120,000,000 people, that does not mean that those 100 men produced the wealth of the country; it means that those 100 men stole, directly or indirectly, what 125,000,000 people produced. Let no one tell you that the money masters made this country. They did not such thing. Very few of them ever hewed the forest; very few ever hacked a crosstie; very few ever nailed a board; fewer of them ever laid a brick. Their fortunes came from manipulated finance, control of government, rigging of markets, the spider webs that have grabbed all businesses; they grab the fruits of the land, the conveniences and the luxuries that are intended for 125,000,000 people, and run their heelers to our meetings to set up the cry. “We earned it honestly.” The Lord says they did no such thing. The voices of our forefathers say they did no such thing. In this land of abundance, they have no right to impose starvation, misery, and pestilence for the purpose of vaunting their own pride and greed.
Whenever any newspaper or person, whether he be a private individual or an officer of the Government, says that our effort to limit the size of fortunes is contrary to the principles of our Government, he is too ignorant to deserve attention. Either he knows that what he says is untrue or else he is too ignorant to know what the truth is.
We can go further than that: Whenever any person says that he is following any Christian religion; or, if he be a Jew, if he says he is following the religion of the Jews; or even if he be a Chinaman, if he is following the teachings of Confucius, he cannot say that he thinks his own religion is sound unless he is willing to follow the principles to share the wealth of the land. Such is taught and required in the lines of the Bible, both in the New Testament and in the Old Testament, and the divine warning of those pages, repeated time and again, is that unless there is a comfortable living guaranteed to the man at the bottom, and unless the size of the big man’s fortune is so limited as to allow the common run of people a fair share of the earth’s fruits and blessings, that a race of people cannot survive.
If a man declare himself to be an American, and a believer in the American principles, then from the day that this country was founded until the present time, whether it be by the French or by the English, he must profess the share-our-wealth principles, or else he is not following the American doctrine. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, here was a part of their compact and law:
- “5. That at ye end of ye 7 years, ye capital & profits, viz., the houses, lands, goods, and chatles, be equally devided betwixte ye adventurers, and planters; wch done, every man shall be free from other of them of any debt or detrimente concerning this adventure.”
When the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, here was a part of that immortal document:
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights (of life, liberty, and happiness), governments are instituted among them, deriving their power from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (of life, liberty, and happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it; and to institute mew government, laying its foundation on such principles and org: its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
When James Madison, the father of the Constitution of this country, looked over the situation, here is what he said:
“We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the Nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the changed conditions.”
When the greatest exponent of our Constitution and of our Union, Daniel Webster, spoke of this principle, he said this:
“The freest government, if it could exist, would not be long acceptable if the tendencies of the law were to create a rapid accumulation of property in few hands and to render the great mass of the population dependent. Universal suffrage, for example, could not long exist in a community where there was a great inequality of property. In the nature of things, those who have not property and see their neighbors much more than they think them to need cannot be favorable to laws made for the protection of property.”
And so, even if this principle born of the Creator when he placed the first man on earth, reaffirmed by Christ and the Apostles, and which was made a part of this country from the day that the Pilgrims first landed, is now to be cast aside, if it is to be misrepresented by some of the newspapers and magazines and by bought-out politicians and hired perverters of the truth, none the less the common run of mankind cannot escape the calamity unless the wealth of our land is distributed. To see men, politicians, and journals engaged in a business to betray mankind, to spread untruths and ridicule so that men and women may be lowered into the turmoil of distress, misery, and death; to see people with talent willing to sell their genius and to use their efforts to curse and destroy their fellow beings, is almost inconceivable in the sight of God and man. Nevertheless, the greatest institution of America today is that concerted group of multi-millionaire and billionaire families, whose organization has written “liar” across the heart of men of ability, of whom they make use to thwart justice, equity, and mercy among mankind.
We are calling upon people whose souls cannot be cankered by the lure of wealth and corruption. We are calling upon people who have at heart, above their own nefarious possessions, the welfare of this country and of its humanity. We are calling upon them, we are calling upon you, we are calling upon the people of America, upon the men and women who love this country, and who would save their children and their neighbors from calamity and distress, to call in the people whom they know, to acquaint them with the purposes of this society and secure organization and cooperation among everyone willing to lend his hand to this worthy work. Fear of ridicule? Fear of reprisal? Fear of being taken off of the starvation dole? It is too late for our people to have such fears. I have undergone them all. There is nothing under the canopy of heaven which has not been sent to ridicule and embarrass my efforts in this work. And yet, despite such ridicule, face to face in any argument I have yet to see the one of them who dares to gainsay the principle to share our wealth. On the contrary, when their feet are put to the fire, each and every one of them declare that they are in favor of sharing the wealth, and the redistribution of wealth. But then some get suddenly ignorant and say they do not know how to do it. Oh, ye of little faith! God told them how. Apparently they are too lazy in mind or body to want to learn, so long as their ignorance is for the benefit of the 600 ruling families of America who have forged chains of slavery around the wrists and ankles of 125,000,000 free-born citizens. Lincoln freed the black man, but today the white and the black are shackled far worse than any colored person in 1860.
The debt structure alone has condemned the American people to bondage worse than the Egyptians ever forged upon the Israelites. Right now America’s debts, public and private, are $262,000,000,000, and nearly all of it has been laid on the shoulders of those who have nothing. It is a debt of more than $2,000 to every man, woman, or child. They can never pay it. They never have paid such debts. No one expects them to pay it. But such is the new form of slavery imposed upon the civilization of America; and the street-corner sports and hired political tricksters, with the newspapers whom they have perverted, undertake to laugh to scorn the efforts of the people to throw off this yoke and bondage; but we were told to do so by the Lord, we were told to do so by the Pilgrim Fathers, we were guaranteed such should be done by our Declaration of Independence and by the Constitution of the United States.
Here is the whole sum and substance of the share-our-wealth movement:
- Every family to be furnished by the Government a homestead allowance, free of debt, of not less than one-third the average family wealth of the country, which means, at the lowest, that every family shall have the reasonable comforts of life up to a value of from $5,000 to $6,000. No person to have a fortune of more than 100 to 300 times the average family fortune, which means that the limit to fortunes is between $1,500,000 and $5,000,000, with annual capital levy taxes imposed on all above $1,000,000.
- The yearly income of every family shall be not less than one-third of the average family income, which means that, according to the estimates of the statisticians of the United States Government and Wall Street, no family's annual income would be less than from $2,000 to $2,5000. No yearly income shall be allowed to any person larger than from 100 to 300 times the size of the average family income, which means that no person would be allowed to earn in any year more than from $600,000 to $1,800,000, all to be subject to present income-tax laws.
- To limit or regulate the hours of work to such an extent as to prevent overproduction; the most modern and efficient machinery would be encouraged, so that as much would be produced as possible so as to satisfy all demands of the people, but to also allow the maximum time to the workers for recreation, convenience, education, and luxuries of life.
- An old-age pension to the persons over 60.
- To balance agricultural production with what can be consumed according to the laws of God, which includes the preserving and storage of surplus commodities to be paid for and held by the Government for the emergencies when such are needed. Please bear in mind, however, that when the people of America have had money to buy things they needed, we have never had a surplus of any commodity. This plan of God does not call for destroying any of the things raised to eat or wear, nor does it countenance wholesale destruction of hogs, cattle, or milk.
- To pay the veterans of our wars what we owe them and to care for their disabled.
- Education and training for all children to be equal in opportunity in all schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions for training in the professions and vocations of life; to be regulated on the capacity of children to learn, and no on the ability of parents to pay the costs. Training for life's work to be as much universal and thorough for all walks in life as has been the training in the arts of killing.
- The raising of revenue and taxes for the support of this program to come from the reduction of swollen fortunes from the top, as well as for the support of public works to give employment whenever there may be any slackening necessary in private enterprise.
I now ask those who read this circular to help us at once in this work of giving life and happiness to our people — not a starvation dole upon which someone may live in misery from week to week. Before this miserable system of wreckage has destroyed the life germ of respect and culture in our American people let us save what was here, merely by having none too poor and none too rich. The theory of the Share Our Wealth Society is to have enough for all, but not to have one with so much that less than enough remains for the balance of the people.
Please, therefore, let me ask you who read this document — please help this work before it is too late for us to be of help to our people. We ask you now,
- help to get your neighbor into the work of this society and
- help get other Share Our Wealth societies started in your county and in adjoining counties and get them to go out to organize other societies.
To print and mail out this circular costs about 60 cents per hundred, or $6 per thousand. Anyone who reads this wants more circulars of this kind to use in the work, can get them for that price by sending the money to me, and I will pay the printer for him. Better still, if you can have this circular reprinted in your own town or city.
Let everyone who feels he wishes to help in our work start right out and go ahead. One man or woman is as important as any other. Take up the fight! Do not wait for someone else to tell you what to do. There are no high lights in this effort. We have no State managers and no city managers. Everyone can take up the work, and as many societies can be organized as there are people to organize them. One is the same as another. The reward and compensation is the salvation of humanity. Fear no opposition. "He who fails in this fight falls in the radiance of the future!"
Huey P. Long,
United States Senator, Washington, D.C.
Text prepared by:
- Bruce R. Magee
Long, Huey P. “Senator Huey P. Long’s Letter.” Congressional Record, 74th Congress, 1st session. Vol. 79, 8040-8043. https:// archive.org/ details/ sim_ congressional-record-proceedings-and-debates_ may-06-23-1935_79/.