1. CLARK ADDRESSES THE WORKINGMEN’S PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES69
Address to Working Men
Mr. Peter H. Clark lectured before the Workingmen’s Society, in one of the committee rooms of Arbeiter Hall, yesterday afternoon, his subject being “Wages, Slavery, and the Remedy.” The room was packed during the speaking by a crowd of very respectable and intelligent looking workingmen, who listened attentively, and occasionally applauded the speaker’s remarks. Mr. Clark addressed himself to the present relations of capital and labor, and showed how the inordinate concentration of the former operated against the interests of the latter, bringing about the evils of unemployed capital on the one hand, and unemployed labor on the other. The speaker’s remedy for these would be gradual, and he would bring about a reformation of the laws of society and of the Government. He would show that the selfish gaining and holding of large fortunes was contrary to the welfare of society and to the interests of capital itself. Furthermore, as the Government placed signals on the coast as a warning against the wrecking of ships and loss of commerce, he would have devised some means to restrain reckless speculation, large business failures and commercial panics.70
On the other hand, he would have the law recognize the rights as well as the duties of labor, by offering facilities of information through which there might be a better distribution throughout the branches of industry. For labor he advised thorough, intelligent, honest and faithful organization, the collection and study of statistics, &c., in order that each man might judge for himself the best and most profitable occupation to engage in; and he further counseled the affording to children of the best educational advantages that they might, when they in turn assumed the responsibilities of life, the better look after their interests.
In short, he would have capital give up some of its assumed selfish rights and give labor its share, still bearing in view the principle that all should not be bound down to a common level, but the genius and skill, and perseverance and industry should have full scope and enjoy its full reward.
Mr. Clark was followed by several other speakers. Another lecture will be delivered at the same place next Sunday afternoon by some person who will be selected during the week.
Cincinnati Commercial, December 11, 1876.
The call for a mass meeting of the Workingmen’s party filled the lower part and gallery of Robinson’s Opera—house with an attentive and well–behaved assembly. . . .
Tuesday Evening, March 27, 1877
Peter H. Clark was the next speaker, who stated first, that lest he should be misunderstood and regarded as inconsistent, he had to say that long before there was a Republican Party he was a socialist. He did not know that what he had to say would have a bearing directly upon the questions immediately at issue with the workingman’s party, but he certainly sympathized with the Socialist Democracy. He reviewed the history of the country to show that the men who produced its wealth were slaves, white and black, and never received the benefits of their labor. He denied that labor and capital were the fast friends that some would have us believe, and showed that the conflict between them drenched the streets of Paris with blood, accounted for the barrings out and strikes in England, the evictions of the small tenants in Ireland, and the denial to the freemen of the South of the right to purchase the land they till. He also instanced the fact that men are now living in prison under sentence of death for crimes committed in the contest between labor and capital.
He depicted the hopeless drudgery of the poor seamstresses of the city. He classed society under three heads: Millionaires, wage slaves, and paupers. Some time ago there were few of the first class, but now they jostle each other in the streets, while the men—who toiled and moiled to make the city what it is, have passed away in poverty and obscurity.
He did not agree with the words of Christ, “The poor ye have always with you.” It was necessarily so. He thought society could be organized, so that at least the number of the poor could be reduced to a minimum. He deplored the words of Governor Young that “produce is high and labor is low.”
He hoped that the cry for relief would reach the ears of our legislators, and they would do something to lift the burden from the shoulders of labor. He made no threats, but the French Revolution taught a lesson that cannot be forgotten. The cause did not lie with the people.
Capital must not rule, but be ruled and regulated. Capital must be taught that man, and not money, is supreme, and that legislation must be had for man. The mass of men North and South as voters were pretty much alike—they were both obliged to vote for the interest that secured them bread.
He had no plan to present: perhaps they would obtain their desires for a better condition one by one. He alluded to the railroad monopolies, and instanced how the poor operatives were kept out of their wages while the money went to pay dividends and keep up the credit of the corporations in Wall Street.
Government is good; it is not an evil; and he believed that aside from securing life and liberty, it owed to society the duty of organizing labor.
He related from his own personal experience the incident of suffering in this city for months for want of employment to earn bread for his wife and babe, and how, not finding it, he felt like throwing himself in the river, and thus end all his misery. It was then he understood the genus tramp, and learned to sympathize with men out of employment and unable to obtain it. He felt that it was the duty of Government to so organize society that honest labor should not feel such oppression as to drive it to desperation.
Mr. Clark’s remarks were heartily applauded. . . .
Cincinnati Commercial, March 27, 1877.
Speech delivered by Peter H. Clark, Cincinnati, July 22, 1877.
GENTLEMEN: If I had the choosing of a motto for this meeting, I should select the words of the patriotic and humane Abraham Lincoln, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right God gives us to see the right.” These words so full of that charity which we should exercise toward each other, are especially suited to this day and time, when wrongs long condemned have at last been resisted and men are bleeding and dying in the busy centers of our population, and all over the land other men, with heated passions, are assemblying to denounce the needless slaughter of of innocent men who, driven by want, have appealed to force for that justice which was otherwise refused to them. . . .
I sympathize in this struggle with the strikers, and I feel sure that in this I have the cooperation of nine–tenths of my fellow citizens. The poor man’s lot is at best a hard one. His hand–to–hand struggle with the wolf of poverty leaves him no leisure for any of the amenities of life, his utmost rewards are a scanty supply of food, scanty clothing, scanty shelter, and if perchance he escapes a pauper’s grave [he] is fortunate. Such a man deserves the aid and sympathy of all good people, especially when, in the struggle for life, he is pitted against a powerful organization such as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad or Pennsylvania Central. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was taken possession of by the government during the war, and was rebuilt in a manner, from end to end. Such a firm roadway, such tunnels and bridges, are rarely seen as are possessed by that road, and at the end the road was turned over to its owners in a better condition than it had ever been, so that much of the outlay which other roads are compelled to make was saved to this. They were paid for the use of the road many millions of dollars and the managers have lately declared a dividend of ten percent, and if their stock was watered, as I have no doubt it is, this ten percent is equivalent to fifteen or twenty percent upon the capital actually invested in it. Yet this road, so built, so subsidized, so prosperous, if we may judge from its dividend, declares itself compelled to put the wages of its employees down to starvation rates. Either they were not honestly able to declare that dividend or they are able to pay living wages to the men whom they employ. The blood of those men murdered at Baltimore cries from the ground against these men who by their greed have forced their men to the desperate measure of a strike, and then invoked the strong arm of the government to slaughter them in their misery.
The too–ready consent of the state and national governments to lend themselves to the demand of these wealthy corporations cannot be too severly condemned. Has it come to this, that the President of a private corporation can, by the click of a telegraphic instrument, bring state and national troops into the field to shoot down American citizens guilty of no act of violence? For you observe that neither at Grafton, Baltimore or Pittsburgh was there violence offered to persons or property until the troops were deployed upon the scene. At Grafton it is noticeable that women, wives and mothers, were the chief forces employed by the strikers to keep others from taking their places.
The sight of the soldiery fired the hot blood of the wronged men, and they met force with force. Whether they are put down or not, we are thankful that the American citizen, as represented by these men, was not slave enough to surrender without resistance the right to appeal for a redress of grievances. When that day comes that a mere display of force is sufficient to awe a throng of Americans into submission, the people will have sunk too low to be entrusted with self–government.
Those men will be avenged—nobly avenged. Capital has been challenged to the contest; and in the arena of debate, to which in a few days the question will be remanded, the American people will sit as judges, and just as surely as we stand here, their decision will be against monopolists and in favor of the workingmen. In twenty years from today there will not be a railroad in the land belonging to a private corporation; all will be owned by the government and worked in the interests of the people. Machinery and land, will, in time, take the same course, and cooperation instead of competition will be the law of society. The miserable condition into which society has fallen has but one remedy, and that is to be found in Socialism.
Observe how all civilized communities pass from a condition of what is called prosperity to one of depression and distress. Observe how continually these fluctuations occur; how the intervals between them grow shorter; how each one is more violent than the last, the distress produced more widespread. Observe, too, that after each the number of capitalists decrease, while those who remain grow more wealthy and more powerful, while those who have failed join the great army of workers who hang forever on the ragged edge of pauperism.
The so–called periods of prosperity are more properly periods of unrestrained speculation. Money accumulates in the hands of the capitalists, [through (?)] some governmental device as a tariff or the issue of greenbacks. This abundance tempts men to embark in business enterprises which seem to promise rich returns. For a time all goes well, shops are crowded with busy men, and all [are] ready to say, “Behold how prosperous we are!” But there comes a check to all this. The manufacturers begin to talk about a glutted market. There has been overproduction. There comes the period of sharp competition. Prices are reduced, goods are sold at cost—below cost—then comes the crash, bosses fail, shops are closed, men are idle, and the miserable workmen stand forth, underbidding each other in the labor market. If the competition be too sharp, they resort to strikes as in the present instance. Then comes violence, lawlessness, bloodshed and death.
People who talk of the anarchy of socialism surely cannot have considered these facts. If they had, they would have discovered not a little of anarchy on their side of the question.
It is folly to say that a condition of poverty is a favorable one, and to point to men who have risen to affluence from that condition. For one man who is strong through the hindrances of poverty, there are ten thousand who fail. If you take ten thousand men and weigh them with lead and cast them into the midst of Lake Erie, a few may swim out but the majority will be drowned.
This condition of poverty is not a favorable one either for the individual or for the nation. Especially is it an unfavorable condition for a nation whose government lies in the hands of all its citizens. A monarchy or an aristocracy can afford to have the mass of its citizens steeped in poverty and ignorance. Not so in a republic. Here every man should be the owner of wealth enough to render him independent of the threats or bribes of the demagogue. He should be the owner of wealth enough to give leisure for that study which will qualify him to study and understand the deep questions of public policy which are continually demanding solution. The more men there are who have this independence, this leisure, the safer we are as a nation; reduce the number, and the fewer there are, the more dangerous the situation. So alarming has been the spread of ignorance and poverty in the past generation, that whole cities in our land—whole states, indeed—are at the mercy of an ignorant rabble who have no political principle except to vote for the men who pay the most on election days and who promise to make the biggest dividend of public stealing. This is sadly true, nor is the Negro, scarcely ten years from slavery, the chief sinner in this respect.
That this evil of poverty is partially curable, at least, I am justified in thinking, because I find each of the great political parties offering remedies for the hard times and the consequent poverty. Many wise men, learned in political economy, assure us that their doctrines, faithfully followed, will result in a greater production of wealth and a more equal division of the same. But as I have said before, there is but one efficacious remedy proposed, and that is found in Socialism.
The present industrial organization of society has been faithfully tried and has proven a failure. We get rid of the king, we get rid of the aristocracy, but the capitalist comes in their place, and in the industrial organization and guidance of society his little finger is heavier than their loins. Whatever Socialism may bring about, it can present nothing more anarchical than is found in Grafton, Baltimore and Pittsburgh today. . . .
To increase the volume of the currency, which is the remedy proposed by some, means simply that money shall be made so abundant that the capitalist, in despair of any legitimate returns in the way of interest, shall embark in any and all enterprises which promise returns for the idle cash in his coffers. It means a stimulation of production in a community already suffering from excess of production; it means speculation, competition, finally a reduction of values, bankruptcy, ruin. The American people have traveled that path so frequently in the past fifty years that it requires no prophetic powers to map out the certain course which will be pursued. Already our capitalists rush to invest their money at four and a half percent in markets which a short time since gave readily two percent a month. Increase your volume—let it be either greenbacks or silver—and we enter on the career I have described with a certainty that the gulf at the end is deeper and more hopeless than the one in which we now wallow.
Trades–unions, Grangers, Sovereigns of Industry, cooperative stores and factories are alike futile. They are simply a combination of laborers who seek to assume toward their more unfortunate fellows who are not members the attitude that the capitalist assumes toward them. They incorporate into their constitutions all the evil principles which afflict society. Competition, overproduction mark their stores and factories as much as do those of individual enterprises, and when the periodic crash comes, they succumb as readily as any.
All these plans merely poultice the ulcer in the body politic which needs Constitutional treatment. The momentary improvement they produce is always succeeded by a corresponding depression. The old fable of Sisyphus is realized, and the heavy stone rolled to the top of the mountain with infinite labor rolls back again.
The government must control capital with a strong hand. It is merely the accumulated results of industry, and there would be no justice should a few score bees in the hive take possession of the store of honey and dole it out to the workers in return for services which added to their superabundant store. Yet such is the custom of society.
Future accumulations of capital should be held sacredly for the benefit of the whole community. Past accumulations may be permitted to remain in private hands until, from their very uselessness, they will become a burden which their owners will gladly surrender.
Machinery too, which ought to be a blessing but is proving to be a curse to the people should be taken in hand by the government and its advantages distributed to all. Captain Cutter wrote in his song of steam:
Soon I intend ye may go and play,
While I manage this world myself.
Had he written, ye may go and starve, it would have been nearer the truth. Machinery controlled in the interests of labor would afford that leisure for thought, for self–culture, for giving and receiving refining influences, which are so essential to the full development of character. “The ministry of wealth” would not be confined to a few, but would be a benefit to all.
Every railroad in the land should be owned or controlled by the government. The title of private owners should be extinguished, and the ownership vested in the people. All a road will need to meet will be a running expense and enough to replace waste. The people can then enjoy the benefit of travel, and where one man travels now, a thousand will travel then. There will be no strikes, for the men who operate the road will be the recipient of its profits.
Finally, we want governmental organization of labor so that ruinous competition and ruinous overproduction shall equally be avoided, and these commercial panics which sweep over and engulf the world will be forever prevented.
It will be objected that this is making our government a machine for doing for the citizen everything which can be more conveniently done by combined than by individual effort. Society has already made strides in the direction of Socialism. Every drop of water we draw from hydrants, the gas that illumines our streets at night, the paved streets upon which we walk, our parks, our schools, our libraries, are all outgrowths of the Socialistic principle. In that direction lies safety.
Choose ye this day which course ye shall pursue.
Let us, finally, not forget that we are American citizens, that the right of free speech and of a free press is enjoyed by us. We are exercising today the right to assemble and complain of our grievances. The courts of the land are open to us, and we hold in our hands the all–compelling ballot.
There is no need for violent counsels or violent deeds. If we are patient and wise, the future is ours.
Cincinnati Commercial, July 23, 1877.
Mr. Peter H. Clark can not understand why it is that the military are always against the strikers. It ought not to be a great mystery to a man of his analytic powers. A notifies B that after a given date he can not pay him but eighty cents a day, and B knocks off work because A will not pay a dollar. B, not satisfied to quit A’s employment, takes possession of his property, and undertakes to dictate to A what he shall or shall not do. A appeals to the civil authorities to protect his property. If the Sheriff and his posse find they can not do it, an appeal is made to the Governor of the State, and if the emergency is such as to warrant it, he calls out the militia. And that is where the military comes in. It is probable nine-tenths of the militia who are thus called upon to sustain the laws, and assist the State in (what it is bound to do) protecting the property of its citizens, sympathize with B. But B has put himself in a false position. He had done an unlawful thing. He has taken possession of property not his own. He has put himself outside the law, defied the civil authority, and has made himself penally liable. It seems to us if Mr. Clark would give his mind to the subject for a few hours he would be able to discover why it is that the military are in such crises as the present on the side of law and order.
Cincinnati Commercial, July 24, 1877.
To the Editor of the Commercial:
I have no idea of when or where I confessed to the state of ignorance attributed to me in the Commercial of this date. Certainly I have never had any difficulty in understanding why the military are always against the strikers. In the words of the writer of “Ecclesiastes,” “I beheld the tears of such as were oppressed and they had no comforter: and on the side of their oppressors there was power: but they had no comforter.” With this fact imprinted on my memory by many years’ sympathy with and service in unpopular causes, I do not marvel when I see the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice.”
Perhaps your informant was endeavoring to report a contrast which I perceive between the course of the General Government. Now, when military aid is demanded to protect property against labor, and then, when military was demanded to protect the laborers against the aggressions of the powerful. That a vast deal of cabinet meeting and consultation with Attorney Generals and other magnates was needed, before the requisitions of the Governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania are answered is wonderful, if not admirable.
I am, sir, in every fiber and nerve a law–abiding citizen. When the will of a majority of my fellow citizens is enacted into a law, I implicitly obey the law, as long as my right of free speech and of free press is reserved to me. I deprecate violent words and violent deeds as much as any one can. I am, sir, emphatically a law–and–order man.
But all the violent deeds and violent words are not on the part of the strikers and their friends. The law–and–order party are responsible for their full share of this violence. A score of times during these disturbed days I have been told of mysterious armings of men, who were to “wipe out” the strikers and their sympathizers. Thumbs have been drawn significantly across the throats, and law–and–order men have pulled at imaginary ropes to give me an inkling of the throat–cuttings and hangings in reserve. Now this was harmless enough expended on me, but there are fiery spirits in the strike who might accept the challenge. Is it not best that all parties observe the caution to be prudent in word and deed. The press of the country is nearly or quite unanimous in its inculcation of respect for law and property, but this same press is actually more responsible for a lack of respect to law and property than all the influence combined.
The man who at the Sunday meeting exclaimed, “To hell wid the Government,” had learned from the press of the country that every man concerned in public affairs was a scoundrel or a fool. I am a reader of newspapers of all shades of politics, and the abuse so uniformly and copiously heaped upon men in public affairs justifies the opinion that there is not a single wise or honest man in public life in America. As for railroad corporations, we need only to call Mr. Thos. Scott, who I think, enjoys the distinction of being the most universally abused man in America, for while your ordinary political sheet will defend the reputation of the public man who represents its ideas, all unite in the abuse of railroad corporations. Tirades about their “mismanagement,” their “greed,” their “ill–gotten gains,” can be found daily in the newspapers of the land. Now, when the able editor calls his political opponent a villain, or expatiates on the scoundrelism of railroad managers, he may mean it in a Pickwickian sense. He may be ready to drink the champagne of the one or accept the pass of the other. But the people take him to mean what he says, and the consequence is a widespread belief in the wickedness and incompetency of public men, and a belief that railroad men are public plunderers. The man there who cried “To hell with the Government,” and the misguided men who attempted to burn the Ohio and Mississippi bridge last night, are the product of newspapers, not of communistic teachings.
If more care had been taken in the past to state only facts and to criticise in a fair spirit, the necessity for this volume of good advice which they are now giving might have been avoided.
I do not doubt for a moment that the railroads are losing money. There are too many of them, and sharp competition has caused them to reduce their rates below a remunerative price. The facts of the case could and should have been communicated to the men, who are not fools nor soulless. But when they see high railroad officials receiving the salaries of princes, when they hear of dividends on stock and interest on bonds, they cannot understand why there is no money for the man whose labors earn these vast sums. They naturally regard themselves as wronged, for the sentiment, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” finds a sanction in human nature, as well as in Scripture. When they complain, they are told that they are at liberty to quit and take their services elsewhere. This is equivalent to telling them that they are at liberty to go and starve. Let them look where they will and they find the close–ranked array of employes shutting them out of hope of bread should they let go their present positions. Hence they make the effort to obtain an increase of wages and to retain their places at the same time. Understanding their motive, and the dire necessity by which they are driven, I pity, but I can not condemn them. Mr. John H. B. Latrobe once said in this city, “Before the end of this century there will be twenty hands stretched for a single loaf of bread.” The century is not yet closed, and what I deemed a mere rhetorical flourish seems almost an accomplished fact.
Then too, the door of justice seemed shut in their faces.
They have no representation on the Board of Directors. Every State has laws punishing conspiracy, punishing riot and unlawful assemblages, but no State has laws providing for the examination and redress of the grievances of which these men complain. The whole force of the State and National Governments may be invoked by the railroad managers, but the laborer has nothing.
In this respect we are worse than monarchial England, where the laws provide for juries of arbitration, to whom disputes between laborers and their employers may be referred.
The right to resist wrong resides in every man, and no laws can take this right from him. There may be questions of expediency, which he must settle, but the right remains. Hedged in and despairing, the railroad men have exercised this right, with consequences which we all deplore.
These strikers are our fellow–citizens, for the justness of those motives and moderation of whose conduct, I refer to the columns of your own paper, where proof may be found that the strikers themselves, are neither destructives nor men of blood.
The exercise of a small degree of patience at Pittsburgh would have prevented the horrible scene of arson and death which that doomed city presents.
The “wiping out” policy is not the true one. Much bitter invective is heaped upon the Workingmen’s party because of this outbreak. I venture to say that there is not a section of that party in any one of the centers of disturbance. Had there been there would have been less tendency to disturbance. When workingmen understand that there are peaceful influences at work to relieve them of the thraldom of wages slavery, they will be more patient.
The railroad managers would do well to plant a section of the Workingmen’s party at every station. They would guard their property more effectually than the whole United States army can do it.
Hoping for the speedy prevalence of that peace which arises from the practice of justice, I remain,
PETER H. CLARK
July 24, 1877.
Cincinnati Commercial, July 26, 1877.