Brandeis: A Free Man's Life

By Alpheus Thomas Mason | Go to book overview

what wage-earners' insurance should be and should cost. But when Brandeis rated this service as his "greatest achievement," he had something in mind other than the economic betterment resulting, great as this is. He saw in the system moral advantages of greater significance than the workers' cash savings. "What we want," he had told Judge Reed early in the struggle, "is to have the workingman free; not to have him the beneficiary of a benevolent employer [or a benevolent state], and freedom demands a development in employees of that self-control which results in thrift and in adequate provision for the future."

Savings-bank insurance fortified that kind of freedom and gave Brandeis's favorite "little fellows" the opportunity to participate in, to share responsibility for, matters involving their own well-being. Thus the addition of the insurance function to local savings banks not only served as a safeguard against money-power "bigness," but also created in "small men" that vital sense of contributing to the success of something that transcends the bounds of self.

Brandeis felt deeply that "what America needs is not that we do anything for these our fellow-citizens, but that we keep open the path of opportunity to enable them to do for themselves."40

Savings-bank life insurance is a concrete symbol of his creed.


CHAPTER TWELVE
The New Haven Railway Building an Empire, 1905-1909

SO FAR Brandeis, both as lawyer and as citizen, had dealt with great financial empires: the huge traction interests, their cousins in the local utility field -- the gas-electric groups -- and finally the insurance interests whose assets ran into billions. Indeed, Brandeis had engaged these opponents almost simultaneously. But there were still bigger foes ahead, and biggest of all was J. P. Morgan, Sr., although Brandeis never really tangled with

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