A monologue from the play by John Galsworthy
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Strife and Other Plays. John Galsworthy. Arlington: Black Box Press, 2008.
ANTHONY: We have been made the subject of an attack. [Looking round at WILDER and SCANTLEBURY with ironical contempt.] I take it on my shoulders.
I am seventy-six years old. I have been Chairman of this Company since its inception two-and-thirty years ago. I have seen it pass through good and evil report. My connection with it began in the year that this young man was born.
[EDGAR bows his head. ANTHONY, gripping his chair, goes on.]
I have had do to with “men” for fifty years; I’ve always stood up to them; I have never been beaten yet. I have fought the men of this Company four times, and four times I have beaten them. It has been said that I am not the man I was. [He looks at Wilder.]
However that may be, I am man enough to stand to my guns. [His voice grows stronger. The double-doors are opened. ENID slips in, followed by UNDERWOOD, who restrains her.] The men have been treated justly, they have had fair wages, we have always been ready to listen to complaints.
It has been said that times have changed; if they have, I have not changed with them. Neither will I. It has been said that masters and men are equal! Cant! There can only be one master in a house! Where two men meet the better man will rule.
It has been said that Capital and Labour have the same interests.
Their interests are as wide asunder as the poles. It has been said that the Board is only part of a machine. Cant! We are the machine; its brains and sinews; it is for us to lead and to determine what is to be done, and to do it without fear or favour.
Fear of the men! Fear of the shareholders! Fear of our own shadows! Before I am like that, I hope to die. [He pauses, and meeting his son’s eyes, goes on.] There is only one way of treating “men”—with the iron hand.
This half and half business, the half and half manners of this generation, has brought all this upon us. Sentiment and softness, and what this young man, no doubt, would call his social policy.
You can’t eat cake and have it! This middle-class sentiment, or socialism, or whatever it may be, is rotten. Masters are masters, men are men! Yield one demand, and they will make it six.
They are [he smiles grimly] like Oliver Twist, asking for more. If I were in their place I should be the same.
But I am not in their place. Mark my words: one fine morning, when you have given way here, and given way there—you will find you have parted with the ground beneath your feet, and are deep in the bog of bankruptcy; and with you, floundering in that bog, will be the very men you have given way to.
I have been accused of being a domineering tyrant, thinking only of my pride—I am thinking of the future of this country, threatened with the black waters of confusion, threatened with mob government, threatened with what I cannot see.
If by any conduct of mine I help to bring this on us, I shall be ashamed to look my fellows in the face.