In a report of the committee of the Labor Reform party, given in the second number of the new Labor paper, the N. Y. Workman, we find this statement of Mr. Browning the editor of that periodical:
“Mr. Browning’s district being called, he stated that although his district was chartered, he would bring his associates at the next session, and go through the required formalities in presence of the committee. He had postponed this for the reason that a colored gentleman of influence among his brethren in the district might be added to the list, and he desired information on that point.”
Mr. D. S. Griffin moved that the admission of the colored gentleman be disposed of, and Mr. Browning complete his charter. Mr. Taylor seconded the motion, and hoped that the question of color would be postponed until the organization of the General Committee. Mr. Walsh said he belonged to a race of people who had been disfranchised for a long time, and he recognized no nationalities or colors; to him they were equally eligible, but he deemed it unwise to introduce the question of color at present. This was all that was said at the meeting upon the subject. In our opinion it was a meritorious action in Mr. Browning to endeavor to obtain an answer to the question. In the present state of the Labor Movement it is important to the public to know whether our workingmen in power are likely to prove more select than the present Senators and Ambassadors of the United States, and more aristocratic than the titled dignitaries of any court in Europe.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, April 9, 1870.
GEORGE E. McNEIL, of Boston, in forwarding a club of subscribers for the new series of THE STANDARD, writes:
“Now that the black man has come out of the bondage of chattel slavery, as his white brother, centuries ago came out of villenage, it is well that you, who have so earnestly and faithfully worked for his enfranchisement, should unite him to us his fellow workers in unity of purpose and harmony of action. For through our joint agitation of the “great question of labor”—an agitation made possible by the old STANDARD and its old standard bearer—shall come a fellowship that shall know no caste. Then labor, emancipated from the thraldom of wage service, shall make Land monopoly and Ballot monopoly disappear before the rising sun of cooperation, made practicable through the enlarged culture, increased product, and equitable distribution, that comes by less hours of toil. Gladly shall I hail the day when THE STANDARD, crowned with the laurels of achieved victory, shall wave above the hosts of labor, marching forward toward an enemy more firmly entrenched than any that have yet retreated before its hero legions.”
National Anti–Slavery Standard, April 9, 1870.
We are sick of having to daily encounter the blanket sheets full of meaningless twaddle, which greet our vision upon taking up our exchanges for perusal. The entire trashy mass if reduced in the crucible of common sense to its legitimate proportions, would be found to be nothing more nor less than the words that we have selected to caption this chapter. We are full to satiety, of the vicious stuff. That which emanates from radical quill–driver’s empty pates, containing less knowledge of good Saxon, than of filthy billingsgate, and less ordinary common sense than either, is a rascally swindle, a contemptible cheat, designed as a cover for the most outrageous of official malversation, a screen behind which a privileged few may toy with the rights of a sacrificed people. What we find in Democratic vehicles of mental garbage, for it is a scandalous libel upon the language to call them newspapers, is little or no better. Sometimes in terms of sufficient filthiness, to befoul the mouth of a Manchester fishwoman, or a Massachusetts congressman, never in intelligible parlance, we find them continually catering to vicious prejudice, the only outgrowth of which is unfit for decent entertainment. A negro, for he is not a “nigger,” is as good as a white man in his proper place, and his proper place is as high up the social ladder as he can get, without trespassing upon the rights of others.
We have no scruples in ventilating this belief, though it may be, and no doubt is out of accord with views entertained by some who read the ADVOCATE. The manacles recently taken from the black man, he who is blindly fighting to keep the former as deep in the mire of ignorance, as ever he was in the palmiest days of slavery, is laboring with all his main to assume, and he deserves no better reward for this infamy. The proper sphere of the black man is by the side of his white citizen brethren, in a duel to the death with the odious money tyranny, which entertains for each an equal love.
Tammany Hall and Beaumont, or Union Leagues and Claflin, are no more the friends of the white, than of the black workingman. The perpetuation of their soulless regime, depends upon their ability to enforce a continuance of this blind battle of prejudices, purposely generated by the political excesses of each. Loyalty, which should be a sacred word to every Republican citizen, has become nauseating in the ears of common sense. Not that we would have any disloyal; we would have a loyalty of the greatest comprehensiveness conceivable. We would have a man loyal, first to his God, then to his family, and then to his country. If a man be loyal in the legitimate sense of the word, to the two former, he must be so to the latter. But loyalty does not mean simply an ever-present readiness to resist those who would take up arms against a wicked regime, into which it may have fallen. It means the duty of the citizen to be, a careful, honest and logical inquirer into the causes of the alleged grievances for which some would rebel, and if it be found that these so-called grievances are really such, then the part of loyalty is to apply the political remedies, always accessible, and always efficacious. A loyal people is a people of peace. A disloyal people, one which goes to war with unholy prejudices. Let us have no more of this wicked as well as silly cant about loyalty. Let our ears be no longer daily saluted with the disloyal outcries of unholy prejudices against “the nigger,” whose greatest crime is the accident of his birth, which made him black. Let us rather turn to political pursuits, more befitting the loyalty, due God and our families, and the early future will bring with it a millenium, such as even in the imagination of the most sanguine has never been pictured. A millenium of honesty and fair dealing, in and out of politics, of rewarded labor, and of comfortable homes for tired toil. “How like you the picture?” Is it not worth the trying for?72
Workingman’s Advocate, April 9, 1870.
The action of the National Labor Congress at Philadelphia, in admitting colored delegates from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, on terms of perfect equality with the white representatives, must convince the most skeptical that we are sincere in our declarations, while from present indications, nearly every Southern State will be represented at the Annual Convention to be held in Cincinnati in August next, and in that body you are cordially invited to be represented.
Friends, it is now for you to act. The issue has been made up. Our programme—lands for the landless; the substitution of a national currency, receivable for all debts, public and private, bearing a just rate of interest, in place of the present swindling National Banking system, by which labor is robbed, the shortening of the hours of labor, the establishment of co-operative enterprises, by which the services of the middleman can be dispensed with; the enforcement of the law prohibiting the importation of Coolie labor, and the abolition of class legislation, is one which we believe, must, and will command your judgment. It is more than probable at the next election, a ticket representing the interests of the working classes, will be placed in the field, when we trust, it will receive from our colored citizens a hearty and undivided support.
A. C. CAMERON,
Workingman’s Advocate, April 30, 1870.
A few days ago, under the signature of U. S. Grant and Hamilton Fish, there appeared a document scarcely second in importance—and the influence it is destined to bear on our national character—to the Declaration of Independence—an official promulgation of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, by which the privileges of American citizenship were conferred upon the colored race in every State of the Union. The fiat has gone forth, and right or wrong, the American people have set the seal of approbation to the work of their legislators. Henceforth the colored voters will exercise as much influence in sections where their numbers preponderate, as those of fairer skins have done in our Northern States, and in many localities where the partisan vote is nearly balanced, there is no doubt, their united efforts will, for the time being at least, virtually constitute them the law-making power.
Under these circumstances, we have no patience with that class of labor reformers, who, instead of accepting the situation, and turning it to the best account, continue to deplore the degeneracy of the times, and drive into the ranks of the enemy the very men whose assistance is essential to secure success. If they will but take a lesson from either the Republican or Democratic faction, they will find that a fierce struggle is now being waged alike in the Southern and Northern States, to secure a controlling influence in their ranks; and is it, we ask, either politic or right that the party of all parties most deeply interested in securing their influence, should stand listless and indifferent at this important juncture?
Granting all that our dissatisfied friends claim—that a lust for party power was the controlling motive in the enfranchisement; and that the bitterest enemies of the white laborer, was the most loud-mouth advocates in their behalf, how does this admission change the result? Will it deprive the colored citizen of his vote? Will it change the complexion of affairs, or undo an act which has been sealed by the American people? Will it make them any less a power for good or for evil? All such speculation is useless. Is it the part of wisdom to fight dead issues, when living ones meet us at every point? We believe not, and we trust the leaders of the movement will realize the fact, before it is too late.
We may perhaps, be alone in our opinion, but we firmly and honestly believe that the success of the labor movement for years to come, depends on the co–operation and support of the colored race, and further, that it will be only through the grossest culpability and mismanagement that they can be driven into the ranks of their oppressors. Their interests are our interests; our interests are theirs; and they have studied the antecedents of either the Republican or Democratic parties to little purpose, who believe that the leaders of either will have more respect for the welfare of the black, than they have for the white mechanic. It stands to reason, however, that an attempt will be made to prove an antagonism of interest, hoping thereby to secure a new lease of power, while the victims of both shades will be ground to powder between the upper and nether millstones.
We certainly have no desire to see our leaders act the demagogue, and there is no need that they should. The action of the Philadelphia Convention in the admission of the colored delegates, speaks louder than words, and if followed up consistently, will do more to convince our Southern friends of the sincerity of our motives and intentions, than the speeches of a dozen blatherskites of either party. What we do want to see, is some steps taken to counteract the poison being instilled, insidiously, it is true, but nevertheless, persistently, into their minds by the veriest class of demagogues, who ever misrepresented a constituency. An appeal from President Trevellick, containing a review of the situation, their future prospects, and the aims of the National Labor Union, would, we believe, be fraught with the happiest results. From it, there is everything to gain and nothing to loose. As there are several journals in the Southern States who are devoting more or less attention to the labor problem, there would be no difficulty in securing its general circulation. Certain it is, some such effort must be made, and we know of no one so well qualified to put it forth, as the President of the National Labor Union.
Workingman’s Advocate, May 7, 1870.
The principles of the ADVOCATE are in advance of the age. The masses are not prepared to receive them, and will not.
THE ADVOCATE has advanced ideas on the negro and the Caucasian, and the relation of both to labor, which are far in advance of other journals and parties, but which were objectionable to our Baltimore workpeople, and gained for it the reputation of an “abolition organ.” The effect of such a reputation was just what the oppressors of labor desired, and the workingman cannot play at a better game to suit the employing, than to be indifferent as to the success of so valuable a labor organ. What will be the course of those men who have denounced THE ADVOCATE as an abolition paper, simply because it contended for the right of the black man to be protected in his labor, and that the white man should take steps to organize him into labor associations, now that the Democratic party of this state has elevated him to the high position of a citizen, by conferring upon him the right of suffrage, and providing for his registration the coming fall. Will it not be amusing to see men who denounced THE ADVOCATE for its “damned niggerism” playing toady to that self same niggerism in the next election campaign. Verily the world moves, and strange things move with it. But now that the negro is a voter, that the great Democratic party of this state is willing and eager to take him into its fold—that the Republican party has made him “brother” of high degree, and now that the abolition question is a dead cock in the pit, cannot something be done to advance the circulation of THE ADVOCATE.
Workingman’s Advocate, May 21, 1870.
The National Union was called to order by the president, Mr. M. Moore, and the roll was called. A majority of the delegates answered to their names and the usual routine of business was pursued, until the reports of committees were called for. None being ready to report, the union went into a session for the “general good of the order.”
The subject of the admission of negroes to the rights and privileges of the union was introduced, and provoked a lively discussion, in which many members engaged.
Among others, Mr. A. Martin, of No. 2, Kentucky, gave a history of affairs in his vicinity. He said that in Lexington, Cynthiana, and Paris, the negroes were standing up for regular prices, and he was in favor of organizing colored unions.
Josiah Bradley, of No. 1, Kentucky, followed, and said that his union would never admit a nigger into their fellowship. As an instance showing the feeling of bricklayers toward colored men, he told a story in regard to the erection of the Galt house in Louisville. A large number of men were engaged on the job, and one negro was put to work, but, as soon as he put in an appearance, all hands quit, and would not go to work until the negro was discharged.
Thos. Newton, of No. 6, New York, obtained the floor and made a long speech against receiving negroes into the union, either local or national. “Although, I am willing to admit that we have got to consider this subject of colored bricklayers, yet still I am not willing to have them on an equality with me, and I know the Union I represent will endorse my position. The idea has been broached that we organize them into unions by themselves, but that will not do gentlemen; they are a sensitive race, as sensitive as we are, and will not accept any such proposition. Either they will demand an equality on this floor, a right to hold office, and all the privileges of the order, or they will have nothing to do with us. I, for one, am not ready to grant them these privileges, and consider that the time has not yet arrived when negroes are better than white men.
T. C. Tinker, No. 1, Wisconsin, said, “although he represented a state so far north as Mason and Dixon’s line, yet, still once in a while we see the color of the negro’s face; indeed one of our unions has a member who has some negro blood in his veins, and yet can handle a trowel as well as any other bricklayer I ever saw, and is the corresponding secretary of the union. I want to ask for information whether if we give him a travelling card, it would be regarded by other local unions? For my part, I believe in elevating the negro, not for his sake, but for our own, as if he goes forth and cannot get into a local union, he will go to work for any one, and at any price.”
Josiah Bradley, No. 1, Kentucky, in reply, remarked, “that he would never recognize the travelling card borne by a negro, and if the national union saw fit to be displeased thereat, union No. 1 of Kentucky, would withdraw.”
T. C. Tinker replied that he was no ultra-republican, but that he could not refrain from asking, “Is it not an accomplished fact that the negro has become a voter by the law of the land? Are we not butting our head against a fact?
W. S. King, of No. 1, Maryland, arose very much excited, and had the constitution of his local union in his hand, from which he read a clause which inflicted a penalty of fifty dollars on any member who worked with a negro. That put aside all chance for discussion on his part, and he would only say, “the fifteenth amendment made a nigger a white man, and in Baltimore we had to allow him to vote because we could not get around it, but we don’t allow him in our union. I wouldn’t let a nigger into our union, and if he came in I would get out. We will not recognize a nigger bricklayer in Baltimore.
Dr. Lewis [illegible], District of Columbia, mada a statement in regard to the condition of bricklayers of a sable hue in his vicinity; “We are flooded with negroes, who flock to the national capital and come under the protection of the government, to the injury of white men, although their work was inferior in quality and quantity.
John Van Kuren, No. 14, New York, said he had traveled all over the south, and worked in several states, but his experience was that a white man had to stand over negroes in order to get a day’s work out of them.
A large number of speeches were made, but “troubled waters” were stilled by Mr. Bradley, who offered the following resolution, which was adopted.
Resolved, By the national union, in convention assembled, that the question of admitting the negro bricklayers into the jurisdiction of the national union bereferred to the local unions for their final action, and the delegates for 1872 be empowered to act.
Workingman’s Advocate, January 28, 1871.
We regret that the “negro” question was not disposed of in a manner which would forever remove it from future deliberations as a “bone of contention.” Shirking will do no good. The issue can’t be dodged—it must be met sooner or later—and the sooner the better. The reactionary element may delay, but it cannot prevent the ultimate recognition of his claims. It is just such action that gives demagogues an opportunity to poison the minds of the colored race and penny a shine partisans their stock in trade. As matters stand at present, it is the privilege of the Baltimore union to refuse admission to a colored Bricklayer, who brings a card from a Philadelphia or Milwaukee union—a state of affairs which must eventually be settled by the action of the national body. It may take a year or two to bring every local union in the traces, though we have no fear of the result. Discussion, will follow, however, and discussion is what is wanted and all that is wanted to bring about the correct solution.
Workingman’s Advocate, January 28, 1871.
The laborers’ strike at Washington ended Saturday. There was a conference with the contractors, some of whom agreed to pay $2 at once, and the others will pay that sum on the new contract. The different districts are to form a labor union.
Workingman’s Advocate, July 17, 1871.
Mr. Johnson offered the following resolutions, which were, on his motion, referred to the committee on organization:
WHEREAS, We deem it essential to the highest interests of the Workingmen of the country that there should be both a National Trades Assembly or Industrial Congress, to be composed exclusively of delegates from protective and co–operative labor associations, to meet annually or oftener, to discuss and decide upon purely industrial questions, and a National Labor Union to give expression to the political ills of our country’s workmen, and to propose and force upon the government, by the power of the ballot, the method of their removal, a national organization, with auxilaries in every State, to give character and support to the Labor Reform party, and prevent its getting into the hands of political tricksters; and73
WHEREAS, The necessity of keeping them separate and distinct is mainly due to the presence in the constitution of nearly every trades union or purely industrial association, of a clause or clauses wisely prohibiting any interference by their members, as Trades Unionists, with matters of an exclusively political character; therefore,
RESOLVED, That we hereby openly proclaim and declare this National Labor Union to have for its paramount if not its only object, the advocacy and support, politically as well as morally of the eminently equitable principles that are now, or may hereafter, become a part of our platform; and
RESOLVED, That we call upon the workingmen of every color, nationality or creed, and in every section, to organize Labor unions, take out charters from this body (until there are a sufficient number of local organizations in any State to form in accordance with our constitution a State organization) to pledge themselves to support our principles with word and pen and at the ballot box, and redeem their pledges as becomes honest men engaged in an ennobling cause; and
RESOLVED, That we urge upon the Presidents of the several National and International Trades and Co-operative Associations the propriety of calling at an early day a National Trades Assembly, to be composed as herein—before advised, exclusively of delegates from purely industrial organizations, and
RESOLVED, That this National Labor Union promise its undivided support to any recommendations of such assembly or congress that do not conflict with our published principles or are not subversive of the common rights of all; and
RESOLVED, That a committee of three be appointed to modify the constitution of this body in accordance with the declaration herein contained.
Workingman’s Advocate, August 19, 1871.
The Largest Display Ever Made By the Workingmen in America
The workingmen of New York may well feel pround of their demonstration last Wednesday. There were not less than 25,000 men in the procession, and had it not been for the rain in the forenoon, which made the walking very disagreeable, as well as the threatening of more rain in the afternoon, it is fair to presume that from ten to fifteen thousand more men would have been in line. All along the route cheer after cheer rent the air from these who stood on the sidewalks and housetops, and from the windows the daughters of toil saluted them by the waving of handkerchiefs and the clapping of hands. Never was there a more well behaved, peaceable and orderly procession in the metropolis, and looking at the men as they filed by, one could not help but notice the earnest, determined look in their faces. The centers of attraction appeared to be section 2 of the Internationals, carrying the red flag, and the colored men, both of whom were enthusiastically cheered by the citizens at every point. The Internationals numbered about two hundred men. They carried a large banner with the old watchwords inscribed—“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”74
Workingman’s Advocate, September 23, 1871.
New Rochelle, 10th mo. 27th, 1871.
To the Editor of the National Standard:
The opening and grading of a new road in the quiet little, unpretending town of Scarsdale, that cannot even boast of a grogshop within its limits, was made the occasion of the following disgraceful scene:
The farmers adjoining volunterred their services to open and grade the road, taking with them their hired laborers, composed of colored men and Irish, about equal in numbers. The dinner was got up on the picnic plan, each farmer furnishing his share of provisions. The table was set in an adjacent barn, at which some of the farmer’s wives presided. The cooking was done near at hand. All things being ready, and the dinner smoking on the table, the employees and the Irish laborers were invited, and all seated at the same board, while the colored laborers were left to toil on until the rest had finished, and then they had the privilege of partaking of the remnant of a cold dinner.
What makes this flagrant breach of common courtesy and good breeding appear so very ridiculous, is the fact that all the managers (with one exception) vote the Republican ticket. Such conduct as the foregoing was the legitimate cause of the July riots, and assuredly will, if continued, produce a repetition of them. It is virtually putting the Irishman’s feet on the colored man’s neck. O! how I have longed for the pen of a Lydia Maria Child, or the tongue of a Wendell Phillips, that I might be enabled to do justice to the subject that I have attempted to discuss, and the despised and downtrodden class that I have alluded to.
It is indeed a sad condition in the social structure of civilized society to have in our midst a class of human beings, differing from us only in color, that the public sentiment of the community in which we live actually forbids us to treat respectfully.
National Standard, October 23, 1871.
General Nathan B. Forrest arrived here yesterday, from Memphis. We understand that he comes with a view to contracting for the labor of convicts to be worked upon his Selma and Memphis Road. President Wicks, of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, is also here for the same purpose. It is believed that no action will be taken in regard to the matter by the Penitentiary Commissioners until some determination is reached by the Legislature as to the manner in which convicts shall be hereafter employed.75
Nashville Republican Banner, October 29, 1871.
A correspondent, writing from Nashville, Tennessee, under date of October 29th, says:
Yesterday we had a splendid turn-out of workingmen. There were nearly two-thousand in the procession, and of that number but five were white men. We marched through the principal streets, had several banners, and two bands of music. William Cobb, a white man, was our chief Marshall. On tomorrow night there will be a meeting in the city, and on Thursday night there will be two meetings in the 13th district, one for our white and one for our colored citizens: the whites to reorganize Nashville Labor Union, No. 1, the other for the purpose of organizing a new union. Strange as it may seem, our colored citizens are more active in the cause than the whites, and exhibit far more independence of capital and party influence.
There is a considerable feeling here upon the subject of employing convicts as common laborers, and we are taking all advantage of the agitation we can. We are leaving no stone unturned to get our workingmen to act together in the premises.
Workingman’s Advocate, November 4, 1871.
The Philadelphia Morning Post, in reply to one of its recent excellent editorials urging, in view of the coming winter, charity to the needy without regard to color, race or creed, has received a communication from “A Colored Woman,” which feelingly speaks of the yet prevailing caste spirit in our midst, depriving deserving, respectable colored people in all our large cities from obtaining employment. Upon this head she touchingly speaks:
“When respectable women of color answer an advertisement for a dressmaker, either in families or with a dressmaker, they are invariably refused, or offered a place to cook or scrub, or to do housework; and when application is made at manufactories immediately after having seen an advertisement for operators or finishers, they meet with the same reply, sometimes modified by bidding you “call again,” “just suited,” “will want more hands in the course of a few weeks,” etc. There are many respectable workmen of color competent to fill any of the above named positions, and who eke out a scanty livelihood sewing at home, who would gladly take permanent situations, to sew, operate or finish; and some have advertised to that effect, making their color known, and received no answers.”
National Standard, November 11, 1871.
Parade in Honor of the Martyrs of the Commune—The Red Flag in Fifth Avenue—Quiet and Orderly Procession of the Internationals—The Streets Filled With Spectators.
The parade of the Internationals in honor of General Rossel yesterday afternoon, was just what its projectors intended it to be—a quiet, orderly procession, wholly of the nature of a funeral and not all of a political demonstration. As far as the procession itself is concerned, it needed the assistance of the police as little as the officers could have desired. Everywhere it met with the respect which everybody seemed to feel due to a body of men earnestly and sincerely doing honor to a martyr to a great idea. . . . It was an exhibition of the universal feeling of condemnation for the policy which put Rossel to death. It was a proof of how widespread are the ideas it endeavored to set forth. It showed that the Internationals, with all their fire and rashness, possess a sincere earnestness of purpose and quiet determination—qualities with which they have not been generally accredited. It combined all shades of opinion, and had representatives of every nationality whose people claim to be struggling against oppression and despotism. There were men from Poland, from Cuba, from Germany, France, and England. There were women from everywhere, too, and the International idea could not have been better embodied—there could not have been a more characteristic representation of the best phase of the Commune. . . .
The Military were drawn up on the north side of Eighth street, and were composed of one company of Skidmore Light Guards (colored) under Captain Brown. They presented a fine sight, too. Scarcely one of them under six feet, with their burnished muskets and tasteful trappings, blue uniforms, light blue facings, and regulation chapeaux, they furnished a far from unimposing advance guard. On Seventh street was a delegation from the Cuban League of New York, about 180 strong. . . . Quite a number were not of the Caucasian race however, but nevertheless placed in the ranks without the least distinction as to race or color, the Cuban mulatto and black being found in many files side by side with his fellow–countrymen of the fairer race, all in perfect concordance no doubt with the Internationals’ demand for “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” particularly the two last. . . .
New York World, December 18, 1871.
Editor of the National Republican:
SIR: I notice in your journal of Monday, a communication from “Bookbinder,” in which reference is made to my action on the apprentice question, with an effort to justify the determination of the Bookbinders Society that there shall be no increase of apprentices in the bookbindery of the Government Printing Office. I should not feel called upon to make any response to that effort if I did not know that “Bookbinder” reflects the feeling, sentiment, and purposes of a somewhat formidable organization, which has evidently placed itself in the way of the young men of the country who may desire to be educated in the art of binding books, and is interfering materially with the business interests of the country by imposing unjust and oppressive restrictions upon this branch of industry.
The issue between the bookbinders and myself is a plain one. They attempt to restrict the education of young men in their trade to such numbers, here and elsewhere, as may suit their peculiar views and purposes, and thus hold, as far as possible a monopoly of the art they possess. It is to this that I object, and on this point I take issue with the society in its interference with this branch of the Government service.
I have no quarrel with the bookbinders as such. In his sphere, unless his character is reproachable the journeyman bookbinder is entitled to full respect and consideration; but when he steps outside his legitimate sphere and attempts to interfere with the rights and interests of others he forfeits that respect and exposes himself to prejudice. Having devoted a portion of his life in acquiring a knowledge of his business, at his majority his trade is for capital. He has a right to invest his skill and abilities in business on his own account or to lease them to others who are prosecuting the trade. If the latter course is pursued; in engagement for a fixed salary or rate of compensation to serve another, rests in that employer, for the term of the engagement, or unreserved rental and use of the knowledge, skill, and industry of the journeyman during the proper hours of labor. This service entitles him to a full and just compensation therefore. The terms and purposes of the relation end at this point, and good faith on both sides entitles both parties to mutual respect.
This issue, however, originates at a point beyond that named above. The employers and the young men of the country are aggrieved for the reason that the journeymen combine resolve, and determine that the service of no more apprentices shall be engaged than their organization shall dictate. It is with this the fault is found, for the journeymen transcended the bounds of their legitimate power and rights when they array themselves against the young men who seek to make themselves useful in that department of trade. In taking such position they interfere with the prerogatives of the employer, and, what is more, they assail the rights and interests of business, and call upon themselves a feeling of prejudice, if not of open hostility, which they should avoid.
Reference having been made by “Bookbinder” to the negotiations heretofore held on the subject of apprentices between myself, and the bookbinders’ and printers’ associations in this city, I will state that when I entered upon my duties as Congressional printer I was surprised to find organizations outside of Congress passing laws for the government of this office in regard to who or what number of persons the Congressional printer should and should not employ. Having respect for the men thus combined, though regarding them as stepping entirely outside the pale of their jurisdiction, I did consult with them and induce on their part a more liberal line of action, though they clung to the idea that they could and should dictate the number of apprentices to be employed. Finding myself embarrassed and annoyed by the restriction imposed, I some months since suggested to the bookbinders’ and printers’ societies that they remove it altogether, and leave that question to the judgment of the officer at the head of this bureau of the Government, where it belongs. The printers’ union have had the question under advisement without taking definite action, while the bookbinders’ society has informed me, through its president and secretary, that they decline to accede to the proposition.
In this I did all I could, consistently with my sense of duty to the Government and its people, to bring the question to a proper and amicable settlement, and having failed in that, I have no alternative but to yield the partial government of the national printing office to these societies, or take the stand I did in the letter which has led to this discussion.
Regarding the position taken by these societies on the apprentice question as unjust, oppressive, and untenable, I shall not hereafter recognize any power over the management and policy of the Government printing office, except that which is to be found in the laws of Congress, under which it has been organized.
In defence of his position and that of his associates, “Bookbinder” says “As to the abstract right of our side of the question of restriction, we would simply say that, although the employer is the part who selects the boy and the work that he is to do, the journeymen are the parties to instruct him, and we do think that we have as good a right to place a limit upon the number we instruct, as the employer has to compel us to instruct any.”
This is poor logic, and goes farther to betray the hostility of journeymen to the education of young men than to establish any right on their part to impose restrictions. The above quotation from the communication of “Bookbinder” reveals very clearly that the purpose of imposing this restriction is to circumscribe the numbers engaged in their calling, and thus force the services of that class of mechanics upon the business interests of the country at greater expense.
To avoid this, and secure trades to hundreds of lads in this country who should be saved from lives of idleness and shame, I, for one, so long as I remain at the head of the Government printing office, propose to do all in my power to secure an increase of mechanics in this line, and thus advance the interests of mankind.
A. M. CLAPP
New National Era, January 18, 1872.
Reader, were you ever a colored boy? Have you ever gone to school with your heart thumping tramp, tramp the boys are marching, and been obliged to walk round a crowd of white boys, because they chose to put themselves right into your path, and had it leap into your throat by a—“cuff that nigger” yelled into your ears, and after doing all that one pair of fists could do against half a dozen other pairs, were you unmercifully beaten (two or three policemen passing meanwhile) while some old woman with a bundle of tracts and a marvelously large bonnet came along and rescued you? Did you trudge on at her side, your boyish heart swelling with gratitude and revenge, the former greatly in the ascendant, and have her ask you what you did to those boys to make them mad? and you replied “nothing!” and did she walk you a square or two out of your way, and compel you to listen to the story of the boy who could not tell a lie; while visions of doing without recess, sitting with the girls, or wearing the dunce cap, singly and unitedly, flitted before your blurred organs of sight, until you wished in your tortured mind that that virtuous youth had never been born, or that a kind hand had strangled him at his birth? To be sure you might have run away and left the old lady to ponder upon the ingratitude of the human race in general, and the negro portion of it in particular, but wouldn’t do that, no you would have borne anything, even to the loss of that bright little pin-cushion which you bought at the Anti-Slavery Fair to give Jennie Brown; and which took the larger portion of your little hoard, earned, by holding horses, shoveling snow, and the like, and which you smile through your tears to know is safely pinned up in the breast-pocket of that waistcoat mother bade you “wear to school and never mind.” O, If she only knew!
Released at length, have you made your appearance just in time to “hold out your hand, sir,” for the reception of six or eight stinging blows from a heavy rattan in the hands of a white teacher, whose one article of faith was “spare the rod and spoil the child?”
Have you ever studied Smith’s Geography with a carefully cut card held over that very worst type of the negro, presented in painful contrast to the most perfect of the Caucasian on the opposite page? Have the words “superior to all others,” referring to the latter, ever stuck in your throat while flashes of heat shot out all over your body, and defiant pride made you “go down,” while some other boy, no more ambitious but less sensitive, “went up?”
Have you ever tasted the sweet revenge of sticking pins into the eyes of that soul driver in the picture of a cotton field at the head of the lesson on Georgia? No! then you don’t know what a jolly experience belong to nine-tenths of the free-born colored men in this land of liberty; then you can’t see the necessity for all this commotion among them about the Supplement to the Civil Rights Bill. You who do not know what it is to have been kicked in byways, hooted on highways, dragged off railways, driven to the decks of steamboats, hurled from the communion table in your Father’s House, till in your agony and humiliation, your wretchedness and despair, you cursed God and—lived.76
New National Era, January 25, 1872.
19. INTERNATIONAL WORKINGMEN’S MEETING, I77
A workingmen’s meeting, for the purpose of forming an International Union, was held last night at the Hall of the Mechanics’ Fire Engine Company. Present, about twenty-five persons. Mr. Berry, the Chairman of the Painters’ Union, stated that the object of the meeting was for formation of a Workingmen’s Association.
Mr. McMakin, of the Painters’ Union, being called on, addressed the workingmen—asserting that the rights of workingmen were ignored, and that the slavery they endured was worse than that which was endured by the negroes, or worse than that suffered by brutes. He contended that there never was a time when workingmen were shaking governments and aristocrats as now. Bismarck dare not touch them. France was prostrate at their feet, and that England was trembling. Here in the United States there is no need of fighting. By the ballot, he said, they could equalize the “wealth gathered at our expense,” and that monopolies could be sent broadcast over the land.
The speaker then drew a picture of workingmen’s wants. When we lift, said he, our voice to tell of our wrongs, we are called infidels, socialists, everything that stinks in the nostrils of these would-be Christians. If this is Christianity then let us retrograde back to the time when a man was man everywhere.
Mr. O’Brien of the Carpenter’s Union was then called for. He said that the Carpenter’s Union was a failure, but he heard that it was embodied in the International. He thought there should be a combination society including all trades, and it should be made a branch of the International.
The Chairman stated that he could not understand the International and its objects. He then explained the workings of the amalgamated engineers which seemed to be an ordinary trades union.
Mr. McMakin spoke in praise of the International Workingmen’s Association, and read the entire constitution and plan of operation, and claimed that it was only the amalgamation of the different Trade Unions. “Although,” said he, “this movement has been characterized by many a bloody day, it was but a lake beside the ocean of blood spilled by the aristocrats.” Thereupon it was unanimously resolved to turn the meeting into an International Section, which was done, by Mr. McMakin taking the chair, in doing which, he again eulogized the Society, and contended that the crimes of barbarism were not equal to those of civilization. The International does not aim to distribute property, but it does claim that the men who produce wealth shall possess it.
The meeting then proceeded with the details of organization, Mr. Gallagher being made Secretary. Mr. Burgoyne was made the Treasurer.
Galveston Daily News, February 20, 1872.
Citizen James E. Gallagher, Secretary, called the meeting to order. He explained that an imposition appeared to prevail that no one was allowed to join the society or . . . the meeting unless they were actual laborers—men who had some trade. He stated that this was an erroneous idea; as any one who desired to join could do so, but no one who did not sympathize with the principles of the organization should think of associating themselves with them; that they proposed to make war not, strictly speaking, upon capital, but upon that combination of capital that had proved so oppressive to the workingman. He claimed that they were aggressive only to the extent of putting down monopolies, and that they would gladly welcome anybody into the organization who would openly and sincerely join hands with them in their efforts to strangle this hydra-headed monster. Citizen Gallagher showed a conciliatory spirit, and if his policy prevails the organization can, by no means, be regarded so dangerous to the well-being of society.
After the explanatory remarks of citizen Gallagher citizen J. H. Kennedy was, upon motion, chosen chairman.
The reports of the committees of the various trades were then heard, all of which were more or less favorable to the organization.
A motion was then made to appoint a committee to wait upon the colored working men to ascertain if they would co-operate with the society. Upon this motion Mr. Bernard Lochery arose and spoke in substance as follows:
Gentlemen, I came here to-night to join, if agreeable, your society. I have co-operated with every society wherever I have lived that had for its object the amelioration of the condition of the working man. But if I understand by the resolution that the colored man is to be taken into full fellowship in this society, socially and politically, I must decline to become a member.
Mr. McMakin thereupon arose and spoke at some length, with much genuine eloquence, in explanation of the objects and principles of the society, favoring, however, the motion to invite the co-operation of the colored men, and indulging in some personalities against his opponents.
The motion was put and carried, and a committee appointed to wait upon the colored people to invite their co-operation in the society.
Some other matters of minor importance were passed and the society adjourned.
It is perhaps not our province to speculate upon this matter, but we fear that the negro question will prove a subject of discord in the society.
Galveston Daily News, March 3, 1872.
The attendance at Trube’s Hall last night, to hear the speech of that remarkable young Irish orator, John McMackin, was unexpectedly large. He is, by trade, we believe, a painter, and is in full sympathy with the movement, of which he has become such a popular champion in Galveston.
Suffice it to say that Mr. McMackin is as much a natural born orator as was the gifted young Emmett, and in his crude, unpolished way, excels any one in natural eloquence we have heard in the city.
After the speech of Mr. McMakin, the Secretary, Mr. Gallagher, read the platform of principles of the Association, which we hope at an early day to find space to print in full.
After the platform of principles had been read, a number of persons subscribed their names as members of the association, and the meeting adjourned.
Galveston Daily News, March 21, 1872.
CITIZENS—Since our last meeting I have received from the Corresponding Secretary some copies of a circular containing a new programme collated from the decisions of the several general Congresses.
Section 5 of this programme reads: “Complete political and social equality to all, without regard to nationality, sex or condition.”
Section 8 reads: “No interference with, or preference for, religious opinions. No religious differences or creeds to be recognized.”
Now, as those two sections are not in unison with the ideas put forward in the platform of the Association, so adopted by this section, I don’t propose to be bound by them. No human effort can make all socially equal, as I believe; and as to women’s rights, personally I have no sympathy whatever with that movement.
This question of social equality has been debated again and again at our meetings, and it is clear to me that no such meaning could be drawn from the programme under which this section was organized. However, as I do not wish to control the opinions of others in any way, I should be happy to meet any of the members wishing to discuss these matters, at my room, No. 226 Tremont street, this afternoon.
Gentlemen, with respect,
I am your obedient servant,
J. E. GALLAGHER,
Galveston Daily News, April 14, 1872.
In reply to the several communications addressed to us in relation to giving support to the Labor Reform party, we take the occasion to say that it is well understood by you that the Colored National Labor Union is not a political organization. The object for which it is organized, is to develop the intellectual and improve the material condition of its members. No political test is applied as a qualification to membership, yet we feel morally bound to give our support to that party whose principles and legislation conform to the interest of American labor.
The Labor Reform party has no connections whatever with our organization. It is not a national organization, nor indeed, can it be. If, by the organization of our Government, or the customs of society, there were established a permanent laboring class, then there would be a reasonable pretext; but no such condition of society exists. . . .
Never before in the history of the country have the working people received so large a remuneration for their labor, and been so prosperous and happy, for which we are especially indebted to the legislation of a Republican Congress in its policy of protection to American industry. By this policy there has been a steady and unprecedented development of the resources of the country, an increased demand for all kinds of labor, native and foreign, and better wages than is paid in any other part of the inhabited globe.
Nothing could be more disastrous, especially to the workingmen of the United States, than the financial and tariff dogma of the Democratic party. Whilst professing great friendship for the laboring classes, its legislation, when in power, has invariably been in the interest of a privileged few, against the development of home productions, but in aid of foreign manufacturers and workshops.
Under the policy of the National Administration of the Government, three-fourths of the workshops in the United States must be closed and their millions of honest, skillful workmen seek less remunerative employment or be forced back to the overcrowded workshops of Europe. The prices of all labor, which would be thus placed in an unequal competition with foreign labor, would be reduced fifty percent, while there could be no visible reduction in the prices of the necessaries of life, house, rents, etc. Therefore your duty is plain. Cast our fortunes with the party whose record and aim is to make labor abundant and remunerative, education universal and cheap, and to secure equal and exact justice and equal rights to all the citizens of the United States without distinction of race or color. That party is the Union Republican party. . . .
New National Era, April 11, 1872.
The foundry, the factory, the workshops of every kind, are closed against us, whether they are public or private. Our whole female population form no part of the many thousands of workwomen that crowd our thoroughfares at the close of every day’s labor. We propose to aid in the creation of a public sentiment, by commencing at the fountain head, that will modify, and that early, if it does not remove, this terrible grinding ostracism. I have no anxiety about danger to the Republican party from these criticisms. I would have fear rather for its principles if these criticsms dare not be made. I am sure that nothing but an abandonment of its principles will ever change the settled convictions of the intelligent voters (of whatever color) of State and Nation; that the vigorous, patriotic, progressive Republican party is the proper custodian of the people’s liberties and the nation’s honor; and this being true, I shall hew to the line of political and civil righteousness, no matter how the chips fly in my face.
The Christian Recorder, May 1, 1873.
An oration, subject: “Trade Unions,” was next given by W. Alexander Merrill. The orator spoke distinctly, and pronounced well. He compared the condition of the employer and employed to-day with their state during the Middle Ages. He maintained that combinations are not in themselves unlawful if not made for an unlawful purpose. The violence of strikes is not attributable to trades unions, since in countries where these do not exist, strikes are more violent in their character than where they do exist. This being the case he argued that “they should receive the sanction of every philanthropic heart.”
New National Era, June 12, 1873.
C.C. Collinberry, Labor Union, Peoria, Illinois.
John Schley, Trades Assembly, Indianapolis.
Solluna Keefe, cooper, Philadelphia.
John Magly, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Cincinnati.
Warwick J. Reed, (colored) Tobacco Union, Richmond, Va.
P. Van Allen, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Meadville.
J. R. Bradborn, Coopers’ Union, Madison, Indiana.
John O. Edwards, Henry Clay Forge, Kentucky.
Wm. S. Erwold, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Reading, Pa.
M. Humphrey, Iron City Forge, Pittsburgh.
Thomas Carr, Trades Assembly, Quincy, Illinois.
Wm. Bailey, (colored) Coopers’ Union, Richmond, Va.
E. D. Barthe, Labor Reform Union, Plymouth, Pa.
Thomas Mears, Coopers’ Union, Martin’s Ferry.
Robert Reed, Miners’ and Laborers’ Benevolent Association, Mahoning Valley.
Robert O. Sullivan, Coopers’ Union, Ohio.
James Greener, Trades Assembly, Water Valley, Mississippi.
John P. Davis, Cataract Forge, Newburgh, Ohio.
Edward Sniggs, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Buffalo.
T. C. Skinner, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Newburgh.
Joseph Magley, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Cincinnati.
N. F. Dubois, Typographical Union, Cleveland.
C. Muth, Iron Molders’ Union, Evansville.
John Stuart, Coopers’ Union, Cleveland.
H. G. M. S. Smith, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Cleveland.
W. T. Blatterman, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, St. Louis.
Jeremiah Lillie, Iron and Steel Heaters’ Union, Chicago.
John Siney, Miners’ and Laborers’ Association, Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
T. A. Armstrong, Workingmen’s Protective League, Pittsburgh.
P. McManus, Machinists’ and Blacksmith’s Union, Milwaukee.
L. S. Stanton, Cigar Makers’ Union, Cleveland.
George Jones, Iron Rollers’ Union, Chicago.
T. A. Myer, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Hamilton.
Charles Cox, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Cleveland.
David Ellis, Iron Molders’ Union, Dunkirk.
James O. Hallern, Miners’ and Laborers’ Benevolent Association, Plymouth, Pa.
George O. McDonnell, Trades Assembly, Cleveland.
George Flack, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Hanover, Pennsylvania.
Harvey Salisbury, Machinists’ and Blacksmiths’ Union, Norwalk.
J. W. Wheeler, Memphis, Tennessee.
Workingman’s Advocate, July 9, 1873.
MONTGOMERY, November 13, 1873.
Editors Advertiser:—With permission, I would like to say a few words concerning the doings of the Radical party, and also my firm conviction as to what is in store, in the future, for the working class (that is the laborers and mechanics) of this section of the country. I will simply say to both white and black people that this is our country and in it, not only we, but our future generations to come after us, will have to abide, and it is with us whether we have a good Government, or not, or be taxed to death or live comfortably. We have tried the present Radical Government of this country, and we see the result. Thousands of our craftsmen are out of employment, their families are in a starving condition, with a cold and dreary winter before them while the Radical politicians, with their cliques and rings, sit around their comfortable fires and discuss the propriety of starving them out or making them work for barely enough to sustain life, and burdening the country with a debt we cannot pay and perchance, if they should resist, force a war upon Spain and have them butchered like dogs, and Grant declared an Emperor. The way to break up this state of affairs is to put down Radicalism everywhere in the neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties and States and let us begin right here at home. My fellow mechanics and laborers, the above is what I firmly believe, and unless we put our shoulders to the wheel and roll the old conservative party into power we are lost beyond redemption.
Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser and Mail, November 14, 1873.
The condition of the negro as a slave, and the moral and economical effects of slavery, has been discussed by the press, from the public rostrum, and, the halls of congress for sessions, with energy and zeal; what shall or ought to be his status as a freeman is at present a matter or no less national anxiety. But aside from this, his interest as a workingman, and especially the part he is to take in advancing the cause of labor have as yet received from those most deeply interested but little consideration. It is in this last respect exclusively that the question has a vital interest for the friends of labor reform; an interest of such importance that, delicate as the question may be, and not withstanding the impossibility of expressing an opinion in reference to it, which would meet with the universal approval of workingmen in general, the principle involved and its growing importance demand that the truth should be fearlessly expressed no matter at what cost.
The primary object to be accomplished before we can hope for any great results is the thorough organization of all the departments of labor. This work, though its beginning is of comparatively recent date, has progressed with amazing rapidity. Leagues, labor unions, granges, and trades associations exist in all our large towns and cities, and in thousands of villages and county districts. There are central organizations in many of the States, and a National Industrial Congress, the result of whose deliberations on the future welfare of the county can scarcely be overestimated. In this connection we cannot overlook the important position now assigned to the colored race in this contest. Unpalatable as the truth may be to many, it is needless to disguise the fact that they are destined to occupy a different position in the future to what they have in the past; that they must necessarily become, aye, have become in their new relationship an element of strength or an element of weakness, and it is for the workingmen of America to decide whether that position shall be that of an enemy or that of an ally.
The systematic organization and consolidation of labor must hereafter be the watchword of the true reformer. To accomplish this the co-operation of the African race in America must be secured. If those most deeply interested fail to perform their duties, others will avail themselves of it to their injury. What is wanted, then, is for every union to inculcate the grand, ennobling idea that the interests of labor are one; that there should be no distinction of race or nationality; no classification of Jew or Gentile, Christian or Infidel; that there is but one dividing line—that which separates mankind into two great classes, the class that labors and the class that live by others’ labor. This, in our opinion, is the true course for workingmen to pursue. The interests of all on one side of the line is the same, and should they be so far misled by prejudice or passion as to refuse to aid the spread of union principles among any of their fellow toilers, they must prove untrue to themselves and the great cause which they profess to have at heart.
But aside from all this the workingmen of the United States have a special interest in seeking their co-operation. This race is being rapidly educated, and has already been admitted to all the privileges and franchises of citizenship. That it will neither die out nor be exterminated, is now recognized as a settled fact. They are here to live amongst us, and the question to be decided is, shall they make them their friends or shall capital be allowed to turn them as an engine against them? They number four million strong, and a greater proportion of them labor with their hands than can be counted from among the same number of any other people on earth. Their moral influences and their strength at the ballot box would be of incalculable value to the cause of labor. Can they afford to reject their proposed co-operation and make them enemies? By committing such an act of folly they would inflict greater injury upon the cause of Labor Reform than the combined efforts of labor could accomplish. Their cherished idea of an antagonism between capital and labor would be realized, and as Austrian despotism makes use of the hostility between the different races, which compose the empire, to maintain her existence and balance, so capitalists, North and South, would foment discord between the white and colored race, and hurl the one against the other, as interest or occasion may require, to maintain their ascendency, and continue the reign of oppression. Lamentable spectacle! Labor waring against labor, and capital smiling and reaping the fruits of the mad contest.
Taking this view of the question we are of the opinion that the interests of labor demand that all workingmen should be included within its ranks, without regard to race or nationality; and that the interests of the workingmen of America especially requires that the formation of trades unions and other labor organizations should be encouraged among the colored race; that they be instructed in the true principles of Labor Reform, and that they be invited to co-operate with their white co-laborers in the general labor undertaking. The time when such co-operation should take effect has already arrived, and we believe a recognition of this fact by our representative organizations will redound to the best and most lasting interests of all concerned.
Workingman’s Advocate, February 7, 1874.
Special Dispatch to the New York Times
NELSONVILLE, Ohio, June 12.—Both the old and new miners were astir early this morning to take a look at the situation of affairs and lay their plans for the remainder of the day. Both parties—unionists and non-unionists—had their lines strongly picketed with armed men throughout the night. The silence of the night was occasionally broken by sharp firing along the picket lines. No one after dark was permitted to enter or leave the lines of either party, except the corps of newspaper correspondents, and even these were frequently brought to a standstill, by the word of command from unionists in ambush, accompanied by the sharp “click” of their rifles and revolvers—not the most pleasant sound at the dead of night. They permitted us, however, to pass unmolested to the telegraph office.
Early this forenoon the strikers congregated on the outskirts of Longstreth’s mine, and tried to induce the negroes to come over to them, where they would be received with open arms and kindly treated. Flattering inducements were held out to cause them to lay down their arms and desert. A large number of women, supposed to be relatives of the strikers, were out in force, and occupied the line of the railroad. They carried baskets, containing bottles of whisky, which was freely offered to the negroes. This plan worked like a charm, and in a short time no less than twenty-five or thirty negroes deserted to the enemy amid loud cheers. This only lasted for a short time, however, for they returned to their former quarters again. A report soon reached camp that 800 miners had arrived from Straitsville, and were forming to make an attack on Longstreth’s mines. The Private Secretary of the Governor and the Sheriff of the county immediately intercepted them, and forbade them to make any demonstration of any kind, or go near the mine, and informed them that if they persisted in doing so troops would be telegraphed for immediately. This menace had the desired effect, and they dispersed.
At 10 o’clock this morning about sixty-five of the negroes were put to work in the mines, and by tomorrow a similar force will commence operations. It is surmised that when the Sheriff and the Governor’s Private Secretary feel satisfied that sufficient order has been restored to enable them to leave town the rioters will resume their aggressive tone. There is a good deal of regret expressed because Gov. Allen does not consider this matter of sufficient importance to call out the militia to restore peace and order, and protect the property of the operators. The miners this afternoon were scattered around the village in knots of a dozen or two, discussing whether they should exterminate the blacks or not. A strong force will be out tonight to do guard duty, and to prevent a midnight attack.
New York Times, June 13, 1874.
Shortly after the close of the war of the rebellion, a prominent Southern General in speaking of the freedom of the negroes, said: “You Northern people don’t know what you have done. You will yet see these blacks you have freed go North and come into competition with free white labor.”
In Illinois, Indiana and Ohio there have been strikes of Miners within the past three years and in such strikes negroes have been imported to take the place of the white men. Only recently have three or four hundred negroes been imported to the Hocking Valley to supplant the white labor now refused employment for adherence to the principles of Trades’ Unionism.
Let us consider this Hocking Valley outrage. The Miners in this Valley saw fit last fall and winter to establish amongst themselves branches of the Miners’ National Association. This action was partly due to the utterly inadequate compensation which the chicanery and artifice of the proprietors forced upon them. They have been obliged to work generally at 2-1/2 cents per bushel when Miners in other localities were earning four cents per bushel and even then they were compelled to remain idle most of each winter consuming the savings of the preceding summer. Their earnings ran from thirty to forty-five dollars per month, in busy seasons, while Miners elsewhere were earning from seventy to one hundred dollars per month.78
Under the management it was impossible for these men to have a dollar left them at the end of a year’s work, besides this, they were compelled for fear of dismissal to deal at company stores and pay enormous profits. Under these exactions coal mining in the Hocking Valley became like white slavery. To obtain grip upon the men the proprietors associated with them a so-called Benevolent Association, a number of men devoid of principle, who, for the sake of their employers favor, acted as spies and informers on the rest, and repressed all efforts at organization to break up the unfair system which existed. The “pets” made good wages and had the best “places.”
When the National Association was organized, the Hocking Valley flew to it for protection, and the proprietors’ so-called “Benevolent Association,” which never spent a dollar in benevolence, fell to the ground. They saw their power over the Miners to maintain a low rate of wages was at an end. To regain their power they resolved to precipitate a strike.
Under cover of the panic, they declared a reduction in the price of mining to 62-1/2 cents per ton, which is less than two cents per bushel, and demanded the unconditional breaking up and surrender of the Union.79
The gauntlet of war thus thrown down was picked up by the long oppressed boss-ridden Miners. Fifteen hundred of them stood up as one man and declared they would accept starvation rather than surrender their manhood and independence.
There was no other alternative. If they worked, it was but a mere pittance their labor brought them. For six months, almost, have they stood together in their resistance to the surrender of their Unions. Their employers, vexed at their determination and angered at their obstinate adherence to their Unions, resolved to seek a pretext to calling in military force, and under cover of this, compel the men to accept their terms. Toughs and cut-throats were secretly employed to go among the Miners creating quarrels. On the occasion of a demonstration the employers employed about forty men and armed each with two or three flasks of cheap whiskey and picketed them so as to interrupt the Miners as they congregated for the demonstration, with orders to distribute the whiskey freely. The purpose came to the ears of the Union leaders and they placed an outer line of pickets with the instructions to warn all comers to not touch the gratuitous whiskey, or take it home to their chagrined masters, and the demonstration took place without a militia of the peace.
The governor was next appealed to. A [illegible] of threatened riot were poured into his ear, and assistance to save from fire that threatened property of the proprietors was prayed for. Finally troops were dispatched to the scene of threatened riot, only to find all quiet. The agents of the associated press were on the ground, and did their duty manfully by keeping the public mind on tiptoe of excitement on the threatened outbreak. The newspapers did their duty manfully by keeping the flaming headline, in black letters, “The Coal Miners’ Riot, standing, when no riot was thought of.
All these artifices failed, and the troops were compelled to return home without glory.
But the proprietors were not thus to be beaten. A riot they must have. They at once dispatched agents to Louisville, Richmond, Memphis and Little Rock, and gathered together five hundred negroes from those cities, vagrants who lived about the city wharves and eked out a precarious existence by picking up stray jobs only as starvation stung them to it.
This crowd, composed mostly of ignorant, dissolute villains from the dregs of those cities were hurried from their miserable, filthy dens, into the beautiful Hocking Valley Ohio, where a few hundred honest, hardworking Miners have for years past been struggling to build themselves and their children little homes, where they can enjoy in an humble way, some of the comforts of life.
This Valley is their home; some of them have homes paid for out of the labor of their strong arms in the bowels of the earth; others have lots and houses on them partly paid for; others are trying to save enough out of their hard earnings to buy themselves homes. They have helped to build the churches and school–houses, which they took upon with pride, and where their children receive instructions. These men are citizens. Many of them have carried the banners of Grant and Sherman over the battle–fields of the slave-holders’ rebellion. Their labor aids wealth in the nation. They are the support of its institutions, they obey the laws of society, its taxation.
National Labor Tribune, June 27, 1874.
COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 8.—A force of sixty-five colored men and twenty white guards left for Straitsville Mines to-day. The train was met at Straitsville by a turbulent crowd of about 150 striking miners with their wives and children. Private Secretary Putnam made a speech to the crowd, requesting them to obey the laws and disperse, as they were on private property. The crowd refused to disperse until assured that a box of arms on the train were not there by State authority and should not be unloaded. The crowd then slowly dispersed into no good humor, but contented themselves with telling the colored men they had been deceived and begging them not to go to work. Mothers held up their children in their arms, pointing out the negroes to them as those who came to rob them of bread. A special force has been sworn in by the authorities at Straitsville to preserve order. Dispatches received here to-night state that this afternoon some of the strikers got drunk and were firing pistols in the vicinity of the colored men’s quarters.
New York Times, July 9, 1874.
Earlington, Oct. 27, 1874.
To the Editor of the WORKINGMAN’S ADVOCATE.
I have seen a letter in the columns of your valuable paper of Oct. 17, from this place, in which the writer of said letter says that there is a great change in the minds of the men in this place. True enough for my friend, “Determined Struggler.” There has been a change in their minds, but allow me to inform you and the readers of the ADVOCATE that it is a change for the worse that has come over them.
The strike here is a thing of the past. It ended in a most inglorious manner for all engaged in it. It came to an end on the 14th of the present month.
It was the poorest excuse for a strike that ever I saw in all my travels. Never have I seen men so completely cowed down as the men are in this place at present. They have degraded themselves in the most abject manner possible for men to degrade themselves. Never were men on a strike better encouraged than they were by all disinterested parties.
There was only a few families here that were really in need during the first few days of the strike, and as soon as their circumstances became known their wants were supplied immediately. But allow me to state these were not the men who went to work first; but it was the men that stood the least in need of anything, the men that caused the strike to end in such a disgraceful manner; and the very men that were mostly in favor of a strike were the first to cave in, as is generally the case in most strikes.
But allow me to inform your readers that some of these very men are now reaping the reward that they richly deserve. The St. Bernard Co. brought a lot of niggers here to work in the white men’s places; so when the strike was over those men whose places were taken up by the negroes had their choice either to break rooms away for nothing or leave the place, as a good many did. But others, of less independence, are turning rooms away for nothing. Others, who had entries, had to vacate their places to make way for some of the bosses’ pets, so I leave the readers of the ADVOCATE to judge for themselves what trash of men there is in this part of the country. Men who are always ready to do anything the tyrannical bosses bids them to do, are not worthy of the respect or sympathy of any honest working man; and I would advise my fellow workmen to keep away from this place and give it a wide berth, for the St. Bernard Coal Co. have no use for white men any more. They are employing almost every nigger that comes along this way. They have turned several families out of their houses to let those wooly-headed gents have room, and it makes these worthies feel big to think that they are superceding the white man.
There were a few white men who went in to blackleg here with the niggers. Their names are John Grey, James Grey, George Grey, father and two sons, Joe Edgar, Henry Phillips, W. Shrelkil and Tandy James and Will James, two brothers. They were working for the company before the strike at two dollars per day, so I am informed; but when the strike came on they quit to go in and blackleg. They will fill a good man’s place, and keep him out of a job. I am sorry that my friend, “Determined Struggler,” should be deceived so much in the men of this place as to cause him to speak of them in such glowing terms, and to misrepresent them to the readers of the ADVOCATE and the country at large.
There are a good many men, no doubt, who would like to know who are the bosses under the St. B. Co. They are three brothers: Ben Robinson, Tom Robinson, and George Robinson. They are the tools of the tyrannical St. B. Co., and they are at subjects for anything that is mean in men. They stop at nothing, if it is to the advantage of the company. Let it be ever so mean or low they are always ready to go ahead with it, which some of the men in this place know to their sorrow. They not only rule the mines, but they rule the whole town, but I hope the day is not far distant when the citizens of this vicinity will look better to their interests and deprive them of the power which they presently pursue.
Hoping that you will insert this in your valuable paper, I remain, Very respectfully,
H. J. E.
Workingman’s Advocate, November 7, 1874.
. . . They have no capital, and I may say, they just merely live, I have asked many why they did not remain in the country and till the land. Some say, “We come to the city in order that our children may enjoy the advantages of the schools;” others, “because we have no church,” and still another large number remarked, “that they cannot receive pay for their labor.”
Several said to me recently, that “we worked all of last year, and at its close were in debt to the planters.” They work on shares but find that it will not pay. Many of these men have large families. Still they wander about, from town to town, city to city, year after year, looking for work, leaving their wives and children at home in distress, and unaccustomed to city life, fall into all kinds of vice. I think that there is not a single parallel in history where a whole race, comprising so large a number as this does, has always been turned out upon the charity of the world, without homes, money or friends. All the land is in the hands of those who held them in bondage two hundred and forty years and more. There is no State in the South suffering so much as Virginia is for the want of some regular system of labor. Thousands of acres of land all over the State are growing up in bushes and weeds, and in many parts of the State you can purchase land from one dollar to five dollars per acre, and thereon, timber of all kinds can be obtained and readily shipped away, as the lower part of the State is in direct communication with the cities of the North by means of water. The only hope they have for the South is Northern emigration. What the colored people and poor whites of this State want, is some means of getting land. If the situation of the rich men of the North could be turned in this direction, a great change would surely be visible in the condition of the laboring classes of the South. I hope that your plea may not want for sympathy among good people, and that it may be accompanied with success, as I believe it is the really true method of elevating those who have been kept down by slavery and the poor generally. Not a single day should be lost in the prosecution of this work. Humanity is groaning under a great burden, which should be lightened by willing hearts and hands.
J. W. Dunjee
New National Era, September 18, 1874.
Editor, Labor Standard.
The condition of our colored fellow workmen in the Southern States is very deplorable. They have been taken from one kind of serfdom into another. But yet they are not willing slaves. There is a wonderful amount of intelligence amongst them and it only needs the introduction of the labor movement to rouse them from their prostrate state. Having recently been in different parts of this State—Beaufort, Morehead and other places—I have had an opportunity of conversing with our colored brothers and I assure you that I found them deep in their hatred of oppresion and ready to embrace any means by which they can emancipate themselves. Many of them are in a more wretched condition than they were in during the worst days of chattel slavery. The latest attempt being made to humbug them is the colonization scheme of Liberia. The planters and capitalists generally favor this scheme in the hope that they will be able to get rid of a rebellious element (for the colored men are really less slavish than the whites) and also in order that they may substitute them by white and submissive slaves from the North. The colored population should beware of this vile trick and the white working people should be no party to it. The interests of white and black workmen are alike and they must stand by each other.
I am glad to say that copies of the LABOR STANDARD have been distributed in Beaufort and other Southern towns and you may look out for a large support from these places. I hope steps will be taken to bring our colored fellow workmen into the proposed Labor Union.
A White Slave.
Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 7th.
Labor Standard, November 25, 1877.
The Chicago Times remarks: “It is the opinion of southern papers, almost without exception, that the negroes in the south are dying at the rate of four to one as compared with the whites. The causes are uncleanliness, lack of proper food, clothing, shelter, and cooking, sensual excesses of all kinds, drunkenness, neglect of the sick, the preference of ‘conjurors’ to physicians, and absence of proper precautions against contagious diseases.” Do not the same reflections apply with equal truthfulness to the white negroes or wage-slaves of the North? Can our fellow-workmen of the North fail to see in the above mirror an exact reflection of their own condition? Starvation wages and long hours of labor produce the same effect upon all wage workers whether white or black, either men or women. Then we all have a common interest in organizing against the robbing capitalists who steal our labor and work us to death.
Labor Standard, December 16, 1877.
Georgia has no State prison. Over 1000 convicts have hired out at whatever they bring, the present price being $11 a year, the party hiring out being bound to clothe, feed and guard them. The greater part are employed on farms, railroads and mines. In this manner the slave owners of the south are beginning to get back their old slaves. North and south the voice of labor should be raised against contract convict labor and the causes which give birth to a criminal class.
Labor Standard, April 14, 1878.
37. ADOLPH DOUAI’S SUGGESTION TO THE INTERNATIONAL LABOR UNION80
The Negro population of the South deserves our kindest and most careful attention. They are almost the only laboring people there. Few of them are anything but wage slaves. Without their gathering into our fold, one half of this country must remain adverse or indifferent to our movement. Beginning with their enlightenment in our purposes in such places as Baltimore, Washington, Louisville, St. Louis, and wherever our Labor Unions are spreading, we might achieve what otherwise cannot be done. We might loosen the hold of their white employers on them.
Labor Standard, May 5, 1878.
Virginia—It is boasted that the colored people of this State are “ignorant, docile and peaceable” and that, they will join no labor or communistic organization. The papers say that they do not grumble at the hard times, and that they are a good set of people. It is claimed that the only available material for the labor movement are the white mechanics and laborers employed in the foundries and on railroads, whose wages have been so often reduced and who are generally paid in scrip. Even these, says the N. Y. Herald are too conservative to—well we may as well add what the Herald means—to organize for the protection of their health, their labor and the happiness of their homes. The press of the bosses is wrong. The white and colored workingmen are conservatives, but their conservatism is of the right kind. They want to conserve their health and labor, and to prevent any further depredations of legal highwaymen, known as capitalists and bosses.
Labor Standard, May 26, 1878.
Philadelphia, June 16th, 1878.
Editor, Labor Standard.
Allow me to make a brief description of the situation of the Southern States, that is, Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
In social relations the population of these States, so far as I know, divided in three classes.
1st. Whites who had possession before the war—patricians;
2nd. Whites who had no possession before the war—crackers, plebians;
3rd. Negroes who do all the labor and are considered only when needed—outcasts.
Politically these States have two classes—Democrats comprising Nos. 1 and 2; Republicans No. 8.
During election times the negroes are flattered and deceived by both parties. These men should be rescued from the vile parties which trade in their flesh and blood. White workingmen in the Southern States should do their utmost to create splits in the political parties, and to bring our colored brothers into the labor ranks. I have done this in Florida and hope on my return to be able to continue the good work. Let others do likewise.
P. E. Collie,
Member of the C.C.I.L.U. of America.
Labor Standard, June 23, 1878.
JEREMIAH E. THOMAS, a colored man, next appeared before the committee, and was questioned as follows:
By the CHAIRMAN:
Question. Where do you live?—Answer. 252 West Twenty–sixth street.
Q. Are you a delegate?—A. No, sir.
Q. What is your business?—A. Waiter and porter.
Q. Have you been studying the causes of the present distress?—A. Since I have been out of employment I have had occasion to study it.
Q. What is the difficulty in your branch of business?—A. The difficulty in my branch of business has been for the last three or four years that the cities have been promising good wages, and a great many of my people have come to the city, and now we have got down, and we have not got money to get out; and I want you to relieve the poor colored people and help them to do something; and it is this, give the men in the city of New York, or any other city, who are out of employment, money, and let them go South or West, and provide for them for eight or twelve months. If you do that, I guarantee you will do a very great many of my race, our people, and myself, good; and I will go any day that any man give me the opportunity to do so. That is what I ask, and no more.
Q. You want the government to give more money to all people who are out of employment to go somewhere else?—A. No, sir.
Q. Do they want waiters down South?—A. Yes, sir. I am not particular about waiters’ work. I would rather have anything else that I could get.
Q. Was there a demand when you went away?—A. Well, they were paying $4 or $5 a month, while here they were paying $15 or $16; but now they have no work. I thought I could have a farm, and live with a full stomach, and be as free as anybody else, but I can’t do it now.
House Miscellaneous Document, No. 29, “Investigation By a Select Committee of the House of Representatives Relative to the Causes of the General Depression in Labor & Business, Etc.,” 45th Congress, 3rd Session, Washington, D.C., 1879, p. 145.