Friday, 9 September 2016

JOSEPH FELS

A MILLIONAIRE "ROBBER."

ROMANTIC CAREER.

The death is announced at Philadelphia, U.S.A., at the age of 59 years of Mr Joseph Fels, millionaire who for many years was deeply interested in the single-tax propaganda, and gave large amounts to philanthropic subjects.

"Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, and other captains of industry are robbers, and their millions are ill-gotten gains. We cannot get rich fast enough nowadays without robbing the public. I admit that I, too, have robbed the public and l am still doing it, but I propose to spend the accursed money in wiping out the system by which I made it. "

This was, how Mr. Joseph Fels the millionaire soap manufacture of Philadelphia, referred to the wealth which he had accumulated and has been spending at a rapid rate during recent years.
Joseph Fels started business with his father in a small way as a soap manufacturer in a small American town, and subsequently, moved to Philadelphia, where he built up an immense business, and rapidly amassed a great fortune, becoming one of the multi-millionaires of the United States. He always treated his employees with the utmost liberality, making ample provision for them in case of sickness, accident, and other contingencies. A former employee, now resident in Sydney, referred to him some time ago, as "one of the best 'bosses' in America. If any of his workmen fall sick they are sent to his own private hospital, and nursed until well, their wives and children being cared for as well."
Whilst Mr. Fels has been identified with many public and philanthropic movements, the work for which he will be most remembered is his participation in the campaign in all parts of the world with regard to the taxation: of land values. He became interested in the movement as a result of meeting Mr. Keir Hardie, the well known Socialist member of the House of Commons, on a journey across the Atlantic. He was impressed by the fact that Mr. Hardie had little or no thought for himself, and he became seized with a desire to become an altruist also. He did not become, however, a Socialist like Mr. Hardie, but after reading Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" he developed into an ardent supporter of George's principles. Throwing himself into the movement with rare energy and enthusiasm, he became its chief financial backer. He adopted the principle in assisting the various societies all over the world, of giving support in proportion to funds raised locally. Thus, during the past five years he has contributed £1 for every £1 raised by Australian leagues, and in the four years, 1909-1913, the Sydney league has received over £1000 in this way. The New Zealand, Victorian, and South Australian leagues have been similarly favored. Mr. Fels must, have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds since he entered the movement five years ago on propaganda work.
Mr Fels, generous as he was, did not believe in indiscriminate giving "I do not believe in charities," he said, "They are agents of pauperisation. Neither, am I a philanthropist. I have in mind no plan to aid institutions of mercy, however worthy they may be generally esteemed. I do not mean that Rockefeller and Morgan and Carnegie and I have been personally dishonest in the accumulation of our fortunes.  John D. Rockefeller is a mild, harmless man, with a mistaken idea, but personally honest. None the less, he is a robber. Rockefeller and other millionaires have accumulated their wealth through unjust laws, especially under the tariff's protection, and because of these laws I, too, have robbed the public, and am still robbing it. I am not responsible for these laws, but am doing, and intend to do, what I can to change them." As one means of getting rid of his robber wealth, he intended, he stated, to use his money "to force into use land that is being held for the increment. I do not believe in speculating in land values. It is an enormous swindle. As a business man and land-owner, I have taken advantage of monopolies, which private ownership of land gives me, lands which rightly belong to the many instead of the few. The tariff is a further pauperisation of the toiler for the benefit of the monopolist. Perhaps l would have made a fortune despite these laws, but I want to bring into operation conditions of equal manhood, conditions under which all will have an equal chance."



Western Star and Roma Advertiser (Toowoomba, Qld. : 1875 - 1948), Saturday 14 March 1914, page 8

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