The Ethical Aspect of Socialism, No Date

Unfortunately, this essay, clearly written for a particular audience (“I assume that you have not come here to be entertained,…”) has no definite date in the manuscript, or identification of the event where it was presented. There is ample textual evidence that it was written during the time Earl Davis was the Minister of the Unity Church in Pittsfield (1905-1919).

During this time Davis published a short pamphlet, “Socialism: A Reply to The Common Assertion that the Socialist Movement is Atheistic, Irreligious, and a Menace to the Family” (1910). The present manuscript, “The Ethical Aspect of Socialism,” clearly derives from a common concern to explicate and support the Socialist movement in the United States.

Davis references Supreme Court decisions in this essay. These could be Lochner v. New York (1905) when the court held that a New York law limiting the workweek of bakery employees to no more than 60 hours was unconstitutional. It could also reference Schenck v. US (1919) when the court upheld the conviction of the Socialist Party’s general secretary in Philadelphia for distributing leaflets urging young men to resist the draft during World War I.

Davis also references “the Pres. of the United States.” This could be Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1906 said, among other things, “The very reason why we object to state ownership, that it puts a stop to individual initiative and to the healthy development of personal responsibility, is the reason why we object to an unsupervised, unchecked monopolistic control in private hands. We urge control and supervision by the nation as an antidote to the movement for state socialism. Those who advocate total lack of regulation, those who advocate lawlessness in the business world, themselves give the strongest impulse to what I believe would be the deadening movement toward unadulterated state socialism.” The essay here by Davis could be read as a response to this stance by Roosevelt.