This appeal is made particularly to railway employees, among whom I began my career as a wage-worker, with whom I spent twenty-seven consecutive years--the complete span of my young manhood--as co-employee, labor organizer and union official, and for whom I shall have an affectionate regard of peculiar tenderness that will end only with my days.
The very relation I bear them inspires me with the liveliest sense of obligation to that great body of brave and brawny men whose bands, as hard as their hearts are soft, first grasped my own in welcome as a recruit to the army of toil; whose honest faces, beaming with approval, first warmed my heart and stirred my blood, and whose applause, the first I ever knew, fired my boyhood years with high resolves. In every dark and trying hour these comrades of my early years stood staunch and true and pushed me on and raised me up that others might see my face and know my name, while they remained unnoticed, unapplauded, the soldiers of obscurity, the rank and file, the lower class, the common herd, who made and move this world and who should be, and yet will be, its ruling aristocracy.
I believe it can be said with truth, as I am sure it can without vanity, that I personally know, and am personally known to, more railroad employees than any other man in the country; and with equal truth, I believe, that the great majority who know me-- better than this, the whole body of them, with but few exceptions --feel kindly toward me, and may be claimed my personal friends.
In all my travels--and I have been moving almost continually these twelve years past, over all the railways of the continent, especially since the railway corporations forcibly divorced me from their employees--in all my travels I have never made a trip, nor ever expect to, without feeling many times the touch of kindness, oft in stealth, of my old comrades of railroad days.
It is not, therefore, because of any lessening of our mutual regard that I am no longer in active touch with them, but because of the stern decree of fate which commanded me to go where they might not yet follow for a while, but where they will be found in good time, united with their class, and battling manfully for freedom.
I could yet be the "grand" officer of a railway brotherhood, have a comfortable office, a large salary, plenty of friends, including railway and public officials, and read my praises as an "ideal labor____________________