Let us all labor, however humble our lot, for the overthrow of all momopolies, and thus keep on the work, and by the inauguration of such laws as will no longer leave open the door which excites men to avarice.
The ways are already inaugurated in the platform of the Grangers and Labor Reformers for systems of equal justice to all regardless of sex or color. Let us, then, unite and strive to give them the force of law in our nation, that other nations will be compelled to inaugurate and practice the same.66
The Labor Reformers are, and have been for many years to this end, and first—most important step now—is for the three sixty-five convertible bonds system in finance, looking to the time when eight hours, or even less, shall be all any toiler need require for a day’s work. We the laboring men, not the rich bankers and speculators, pledged our labor and laid down our lives with and for you in the death struggle, in which your friend Sumner sounded the trumpet, and won the orator’s plaudit. We now ask the colored race, whose liberty we laid down our lives and pledged our labor to secure, to help us in restoring our liberty, and to break the financial chains, which in this contest were fastened not only upon us, but you as well.
So far as the NEW NATIONAL ERA is concerned, under its present management, we know we shall not ask in vain, but would impress upon you and upon all that until this measure of even justice is the law of the land, there can be no peace or substantial beginning of the work which shall answer Sumner’s prayer for “the substitution of arbitration for war.”
Horace H. Day
New National Era, April 16, 1874.
There is, there has been, and there can be, but one real workingman’s party in this country. That is the party of equal rights and progress, known as the Republican party. It is the only party which has ever done anything for the workingman, and this it has done in the true spirit of justice, by seeking to secure to every individual the full enjoyment of his natural rights, and an equal voice in moulding the affairs of local, State, and national government. It puts the destiny of the individual in his own hands, by giving all, without distinction of race, color, or previous condition, an equal chance in the race of life. Any party which seeks or pretends to do more or less for the workingman is an injury both to him and to the country at large; for, let it perpetually be borne in mind, that the true interests of the individual and of the nation are identical and never antagonistic, and that what really promotes the one promotes the other. In all cases where their interests seem to clash, either the individual or the Government, if not both, are at fault.
The Republican party, therefore, seeks to improve the condition of the workingman by administering the affairs of the Government in accordance with the principles of equal and exact justice to every individual, class, and race. To this end it has always worked and is steadily working. In the language of the Iowa Republican State Convention, “It has given to the poor man a homestead; it has abolished slavery and established manhood suffrage, crushed treason, given us the Pacific Railroad, settled the right of self-expatriation, and maintained the honor, integrity, and credit of our nation. It has vindicated the Monroe doctrine by preventing foreign powers from interfering with the governments on this continent. To perpetuate it in power is the only safe guaranty for peace and prosperity in the future.
Nearly all these advantages have been secured in the face of persistent and often violent Democratic opposition. The Democratic party unanimously opposed the homestead law; it originated and sympathized with the rebellion; it bitterly resisted emancipation, and even now denounces manhood suffrage; it has steadily abused the government for its aid in the building of the Pacific railroad; it advocated the dishonest and pernicious doctrine of repudiation; it fraternized with the invader of Mexico, and now warmly sympathizes with him in his war upon Germany unity. Everywhere, the Democratic party shows itself to be the enemy of progress and good government, and in favor of those abominable race and class distinctions which degrade the workingman to the level of the brute, and must ever continue to so degrade him as long as they are tolerated.
There is no justice or safety in any organization which seeks to specially promote the interests of any one class of citizens at the expense of others. A capitalists’ party, a producers and manufacturer’s party, or a workingman’s party within the circumscribed meaning of these terms, would be at once a menace to all other class interests, and would not only provoke the organization of political parties or factions for the special protection of each distinctive class, but create such divisions that anarchy and violence would sooner or later become inevitable. Hence, we must not for a moment tolerate the idea of arraying the employer against the employee, the capitalist against the business man, the manufacturer and producer against the laborer, the rich against the poor, the strong against the weak, nor encourage any of the antagonisms, so freely prated about and advocated by the shallow if not vicious demagogue. We must seek rather, by just laws and efficient administration, to harmonize all these superficially antagonistic interests, justice, universal justice, and not special privileges and advantages, is what we should perpetually aim at. Equal justice will wrong no man, and give no good cause for complaint even to the most selfish.
All who are in favor of a just Government, and of not only doing to others as they would be done by, but of asking nothing for themvelves that they are not willing to accord to their neighbors, must elect to go with the Republican party, which is earnestly laboring to promote the general welfare, to make the individual free, and to give him equal opportunities everywhere. This is not the work of a day, but of all time, and demands the earnest attention and co–operation of every lover of justice and humanity. It cannot be accomplished by throwing power into the hands of a non–progressive, sectional hate breeding and race and class distinction party, like the democratic; nor by getting up political organizations based on special manufacturing capital, trade, or labor interests. Any party, to be successful and do good, must be organized on principles as universal as those lying at the foundation of our institutions and based on the natural order of things. It must not only comprehend every individual and class. Such an organization is the Republican party, and such are its aims, as is abundantly testified by its record. It is the working man’s and every other man’s party, and deserves the support of all.
New National Era, September 15, 1870.
Under the system of slavery Capital owned Labor, and the politicians of our Southern States affirmed this to be the normal relation of the two forces. It is a long step from slavery to the wage system—a grand stride, which the toilers of even Christian Europe were centuries in making. Slavery was the prevailing system in Rome when their much vaunted civilization was at its height. It disappeared but yesterday from the United States and Russia, and is just going in Brazil. It stills lingers like a blighting shadow in a few dark corners of the globe where the light of the nineteenth century has not yet fully penetrated.
But it is also a long step from the wage system to the complete emancipation of the working people. The relation of laborer to employer is servitude for a consideration—a modified slavery entered voluntarily by the laborer himself, and terminable at his pleasure, subject to forfeiture of pay if terminated before the expiration of a specific contract.
It may be asked, What better system can be adopted to carry on the vast industrial operations of the world? How are the hired laborers to be entirely emancipated from their condition of modified servitude without utterly disorganizing business of every kind? How are they to live without the wages which capitalists pay them, and how are capitalists to dispense with the hired muscle and brain which now render their money valuable to themselves and society? We answer that co–operation—co–operation both in production and distribution—is that better system which is eventually to supplant the present one and join capital and labor in a grand harmonious beneficent union.
Most of the leaders of the workingmen’s association make war on capital and denounce it as the chief cause of the poverty of the laboring classes; many of them are more or less adherents of communism. The disproportionate distribution of wealth certainly is one of those evils which puzzle the greatest national economists; but those who merely denounce capital and want to abolish it, are rather fighting a symptom, a consequence, than a cause. We think that real pauperism, wherever it is found, can always be traced back to faulty political institutions; first of all, to monarchism with all the veils and wrongs attending it. A glance on Europe reveals the fact that there is not one country but what is more or less cursed with monarchism, feudalism, serfdom, priest rule, privileged classes, and inequalities of every description. The soil was owned from times almost immemorable by the few, who often exercised an almost unrestrained arbitrary power over the welfare and even the lives of the many. All high offices, all positions of honor being in the hands of the privileged classes, it was only a necessary consequence that the masses of the people, deprived of representation, debarred from owning the soil they were compelled to till for others, shut out from instruction and enlightenment, and consequently without the shadow of a hope to work their way up, should be reduced to abject degradation and poverty. It is true that many of these abuses have disappeared in the course of time, though their remnants are left here and there in the shape of deficient representation, prerogatives of certain classes, and the like. And even where there is perfect equality before the law now–a–days, it cannot undo the consequences of the accumulated wrongs perpetrated through many centuries. The soil, wealth, and political power of a country, to a large extent, remain in the same hands, and with them the means for indirect oppression; and liberty will always be the safest though at best a very slow, remedy.
The aspect is vastly different when we look at our own country, and serves to confirm our opinion about this subject. It is true there is pauperism enough in some of our large cities; but almost invariably it is imported misery, caused by the pernicious influences which continue to work in Europe. The oppressed, the poorest, the most degraded and ignorant from the countries of great and petty despots flee to our hospitable shores; and it is rather a glorious sign of the enormous resources of our country, that so many work their way up in spite of former drawbacks, than to be wondered when others are, like birds, brought up in a cage, who, by long captivity, have lost the use of their wings. Real pauperism among us is indigenous only in those States where liberty and equality have been mere mockeries until lately; where the black man was debarred by law from acquiring knowledge and wealth, and the white man who owned no slaves was the obedient tool and servant of the master of the whip. The American laborer in the Northern States, grown up under free institutions, with the proud consciousness of his equality to any one in the country, is never a helpless pauper. Often by his industry and intelligence he will become a capitalist himself, or, at least, achieve a comfortable and honorable independence. For the others, they have our hearty sympathies, as well as all who have suffered from injustice and oppression; yet we hold that he who devotes his gifts and energy to the cause of liberty and equality generally and everywhere, serves his interests better than all those who attempt to stir up hostility to wealth and encourage outrage and violence.
New National Era, April 20, 1871.
Our caption has all the vagueness great issues, yet nebulous and dim, assume to the conservative mind. Logicians may justly complain of the indefiniteness, if they see no further than the surface. Whatever there is embodied in the movement thus rudely designated—and there is much of good and some of evil in it—must be frankly met and considered. Changes from one amelioration or modification of conditions to some other, whose form is only indistinctly perceived, brings with its processes no unmixed benefit. Evil, or what seems to be such to our finite and limited vision is as necessary a part of progress as the reverse. It is the law of existence and accompanies all movement. The labor question—of which in the country the abolition of slavery, of property in man, was the first grand step—is not free from the evils of ignorance, passion, ambition, selfishness, and demagogism. It is to be feared that too many of those who have undertaken to lead in the portentous discussion it inaugurates, have no higher motive than that of obtaining a “new deal” for themselves and theirs. Very little of the spirit which seeks to reach the fundamental conditions of life is found in their mental make–up. At the best it is but amelioration they seek. The real object must necessarily be to arrive at the principles that affect society in its relations to production, and especially to comprehend those laws which govern the distribution of labor’s results, and which, it must be apparent to the most superficial thinker, now operate so unequally. The profound truth conveyed at the apparently paradoxical utterance of Jesus, when he said, “That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him,” receives daily and little illustration in all the operations of our industrial civilization. The new producers now receive the larger share of what those who labor produce. The result is natural. Discontent culminates in exactly the same men that intelligence sustains aspiration. The laborer of to-day cannot by any possibility remain satisfied with the same surroundings and the same personal results that were sufficient to his father. The Chinese laborer, who, at home, thinks himself a rich man, with earnings averaging two dollars per month, will not in this country long be satisfied with twenty. The Irishman, eating his potatoes and porridge under his cabin thatched roof at home, must by the very force of example when he migrates into other surroundings, demand better food and clothing, and, as a natural consequence, ideas follow and larger mental considerations brood in his vision and stir his brain to unwonted vigor. The freedman, once content as a slave with his weekly peck of corn meal, piece of rusty bacon, and one or two tow suits per year, now requires food, lodgings, and clothing, and, thank God! a higher class of mental conditions and attractions.
Good people, who are appalled with the startling evidences of wide-spread discontent at conditions which are everywhere visible in this as well as other countries among the laboring people—or, as they may be for the argument’s sake termed, the wages class—fail to see that their own improved circumstances have not extended in any like equal proportions to those who are materially considered a grade or two below. The aspiration for the results of this improved condition is equally as marked among them, though it may not be as intelligently expressed, are in general, as wisely directed. One fact must be apparent, that in all older communities, governed by the high–pressure principle of competition—the idea which is most tersely expressed in the common saying of “each for himself and the devil take the hindmost”—pauperism is on the increase, penury has become a fixed institution, and the “poverty of the masses the rule, not the exception.” The question, whether civilization is designed primarily for Man or for Property, can have but one direct answer, whatever may be the methods each may think desirable by which to attain that end. The happiness of man must be the primal condition in which any form of society alone can found a title to existence. The civilization, then, looked at in its material aspect alone, which on the one hand constantly increases its wealth–creating capacities and on the other as steadily leaves out of the direct benefits thereof at least seven–tenths of all who live within its influence, cannot have realized the fundamental condition of its continuance. That society is a failure in which the large majority of its members, without any direct fault of their own, would, if any accidental circumstances deprived them for a month of the opportunity of earning regular wages, be dependent upon private or public charity for daily bread. Yet such is the actual condition of even favored American labor. It is an appreciation of this dependence that gives such formidable impulse to the discontent of labor. It is the general ignorance of equitable remedies which makes that discontent so dangerous. The movement is fundamental. It grows with great rapidity. It will compel a hearing by the very force of numbers if nothing else. It is the duty of those who have been lifted up by this general movement, this attrition of classes, of which the coming struggle of the “proletariat” (to use a word common in European discussions though hardly yet generally applicable to our condition) is the final and natural consequence. We say it is the duty of those first benefited to examine closely and consider fairly the grounds for this prevailing discontent, with a view to finding just remedies, conserving by their operation what is good and destroying what is wrong in present social and economical conditions. No movement which involves vast numbers as this does can be safely denounced or ignored. It must be met, treated fairly, and examined into, or the whole fabric will be wrenched by violent convulsions. There is always justice in the general demand. Ignorance may want prejudice contract, but the guiding impulse is one that seeks to right some wrong.
Inquiry into the condition of labor is the first step. Let the good people know how much truth there is in the reiterated charges that are made, “that the rich grow richer, the poor poorer”; that in all our manufacturing and industrial centres the gulf between classes is steadily widening, and that all the conditions under which the United States have hitherto been the paradise of labor are rapidly changing and steadily deviating; that, in fact, we are taking on the degrading conditions in European society. Somewhat of this is true. Enough, we believe, to warrant full examination into its causes and investigation into the remedies if there be any.
Believing, then, such inquiry to be necessary, we urge upon the attention of the country, of all bodies interested in the questions embraced in the agitation, and of Congress, the important bill presented by the Hon. George F. Hoar, representing the 9th Congressional District of Massachusetts, to the 42d Congress, and which will be included in the bill:
Be it enacted, &c., “That there shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a commission of three persons, who shall hold office for the period of two years from the date of their appointments unless their duties shall have been sooner accomplished, who shall investigate the subject of the wages and hours of labor, and of the division of the good profits of labor and capital between the laborer and the capitalist and the same educational, and sanitary condition of the laboring classes of the United States and how the same are affected by existing laws regulating commerce, finance, and currency.
“Section 2. Said commissioners shall receive a salary of five thousand dollars each, shall be authorized to employ a clerk, and shall report the result of the investigation to the President, to be by him transmitted to Congress.”
This measure, with amendments, authorizing the Commission to make in their report such recommendations as they may deem essential a practical legislation, and also allowing their necessary traveling expenses to be paid out of the Treasury, from moneys not otherwise appropriated, should be at an early date “funded into a statute.”
We urge this measure upon the consideration of the two important National Colored Conventions about to assemble at Columbia, S.C. The National Labor Union will undoubtedly indorse this proposition. We have no doubt the other body will also do so. The Republican party falls naturally into the consideration of such issues. Having begun the fight, by freeing the slave, it will not weary of well doing. It is not the party of race or color, but of man and his advancement. If there be reasons for criticising its actions in this particular, it will be found that, in the main, the conditions have been misapprehended, and the results have been other than expected.67
The inquiry called for by Mr. Hoar’s bill will be of especial advantage to colored labor. The country generally does not understand the degrading conditions in which it too largely remains, and therefore fails to see the means which might legitimately be enacted and set a motion to effect the changes so imperatively demanded.
The New National Era, October 12, 1871.
If ever the time shall come when these organizations of workingmen shall change their character from a contest against all workers not within its charmed circle into a society for elevating labor, for helping the poor and deserving—in short, for raising all men up rather than for putting nine-tenths of them down, and as willing “to let live” as determined “to live”, they will find . . . all good men and women, cordinally sympathising and co–operating with them. But till then they can only encounter their opposition.
New National Era, November 9, 1871.
No such radical change can be effected immediately, and any attempt to force its consummation more rapidly than the growth of the working class in intelligence and organizing power warranted, would certainly produce more or less disturbance and distress. The step, however, we have already said, is a long one, and it cannot be taken all at once. The power of united action they are already beginning to learn, and the habit of combining for various other purposes having been established, the working people will perceive in time that the same principle may be more profitably employed than in furthering such clumsy expedients as strikes and other violent and reprehensible methods of extorting higher wages.
In this country co–operative societies have, with a few notable exceptions, not succeeded well in attempting to carry on productive industries. Co–operative stores have yielded better results, but, except in New England, very few attempts have been made to establish such institutions. Co–opertive banks are practically unknown here, though our analogous building and loan associations which admirably exemplify the principle of co–operation practically applied have flourished for many years, especially in Pennsylvania, and have furnished the ladder by which not a few poor men have climbed to competence. The skilled workmen of America are gaining rapidly in knowledge, self–reliance, and facility for association, and will soon be in a position to start co–operative banks and stores in every manufacturing town, by which they may save and accumulate sufficient capital and gain sufficient administrative experience to embark in co–operative manufacturing and mining enterprises.
Meanwhile, large employers, both individuals and corporations, may take a hint from the information contained in Hon. D. J. Morrell’s letter on “Industrial Partnerships,” which was published in the Press of November 14. By distributing a certain share of their profits among their workmen, numerous manufacturing firms, both in this country and Europe, have gained a complete immunity from strikes, and aroused greater zeal, faithfulness, and efficiency in the men employed, without diminishing the amount realized from their business exchanges.
New National Era, December 28, 1871.
Mr. Wendell Phillips’ idea seems to be that as soon as a man ceases to work for day wages and begins to hire other men, he is no longer entitled to the fruits of his enterprise, the profits he makes upon the labor of others, and hardly to the protection of the laws. If a man takes a contract to dig a ditch and hires another man to help him, though he labors as hard as his “hired man,” he has ceased to be a “workingman,” and has become a capitalist and a monopolist. The daily laborer is all right and the employer is all wrong. Anyone who becomes rich by his industry and shrewdness is at once transposed into a tyrant and opposer of the poor. In one of his recent speeches, arraigning the capitalist for the crime of getting rich, he sharply criticises Sir Robert Peel, the great English cotton spinner, because he bought a secret of one of his workingmen, which contributed greatly to his wealth, without giving him a just consideration. The secret was a discovery by the workman of a plan that prevented spinning machines from clogging, a trouble that caused delay and curtailed the daily earnings of operatives. By the discovery of this spinner he was able to earn from two to three times as much as the others. Peel secured his secret for a quart of beer a day and a small sum in cash. By “chalking his bobbins,” which was the man’s device, Peel accumulated a large fortune; and Mr. Phillips denounces him in good set terms for overreaching or taking advantage of the ignorance of the discoverer, instead of giving him a tenth of his fortune.
Perhaps Peel was wrong; at any rate, we are ready to admit that he was not very generous. But there is another side to the one Mr. Phillips presents, which is presented by an exchange, which comments upon the prejudiced views he expresses, in constantly harping upon the greed of the employer and the wrongs and unselfishness of the employed. It says, correctly, that he quite overlooks the selfishness of the workman who refused to deal generously with his fellows, but kept it to himself and made all he could out of it, while the others were living on smaller wages. Instead of sharing his secret with them, he finally sold it for a pot of beer. The critic thinks that Mr. Phillips has overlooked the “real root of the difficulty in the labor question, which is the mean spirit of one workman toward another. It is this spirit which animates trade unions and the limitation of apprentices, and which has prevented successful co–operation heretofore. Let Mr. Phillips apply to the workman as well as to the capitalist the words: “Thou shalt do unto another as thou wouldst have another do unto thee.”
The Golden Rule is a capital rule for the capitalist to measure his duty by, but the workingman needs to carry it around with him, too, and gauge his own conduct by it. If both employer and employed were to realize it as the highest standard of noble living, and live up to its requirements, there would be less complaint on every hand. Work would be better and more faithfully done. Workingmen would be more prosperous and happy. Idle boys, complaining that the apprenticeship system as at present established, instead of keeping them out of the street and the jail, as formerly, thrusts them into them, would have work and opportunities for developing the skill and talent now often employed in picking pockets, forging, breaking into houses, and the various swindles constantly perpetrated. Mr. Phillips needs to revise his speech and tell the whole story.
New National Era, December 14, 1871.
Trades for our Boys:
To the Editor of the New National Era:
I wish to call your attention to the importance of some movement whereby trades, &c., may be secured to our boys. There are hundreds of boys in this city alone who, after having exhausted every effort to secure employment, from the fact that paper–peddling, boot–blacking, driving, waiting, and choosing, have more than their quota of employees, resort, to petty crimes; thence, through successive stages, to bolder schemes against the peace and security of society, and thus swell the number of criminals and vagrants, and prey upon the community, because an unrighteous public sentiment excludes them from the workshops, and religion, philanthropy, patriotism, have not a word to say in condemnation of the anti–American policy.
To the son of the German, the Irishman, the Canadian, Scotchman, the far off Pagan Japanese, the doors of your manufactories open wide, the next day after arrival even before one word of the language has been uttered, while against the native–born youth, with the same aspirations as a white American, to appropriate and apply mechanical knowledge, and to improve upon it, by application and invention, the doors are not only closed by individual bosses, but society combines to supplement the injustice by voting exclusion.
We have in this city, colored mechanics whose work upon inspection equals the very best done by the fairest American or foreigner; these men take colored boys to be taught, but the hand of God is upon them in that He gave them a color which suited Him, so that the large number are so poorly patronized that but a limited number are now instructed.
The condition of colored youth in this city and District is true of them throughout the country. But the opposition by Americans is not the only cause of this sorry state of things, though mainly so; indifference on the part of leading colored men, and the death–like silence of colored women, contribute to it. A people whose leaders seek to learn the tortuous ways of speculation, and whose women are awed into silence upon vital questions, must for the time take back seats among the people. The white men of this and other countries deal vigorously now with every issue for the good of their youth, and white women are to the front with them in the work as having a common mission; they even unite in our exclusion and mutual congratulations, the result, are neither few nor whispered. Our women must speak out; the boys must have trades. What the crowned heads of Europe, and the poorest of white Americans do for their sons, we cannot afford to neglect.
I have a boy who must and shall have a trade, (D.V.) and yet where may he learn it, or where exercised it when learned?
To begin at headquarters, not under Government patronage surely, for there, should a colored lad upon examination distance competitors, let but a persistent Southern rebel, a clamorous foreigner, or a Canadian rebel, seek the position also, and even after given, the well–known out–cry, “reduction of force” is made, which, by interpretation, means change of base, and down comes the headsman’s axe upon apprentice, mechanic, clerk, and into his place goes the anti–Government aspirant.
Where then exercise? The people exclude him. Clannish they worship their kind. As much as may be said about race ostracism by whites, and how much may not be, too much cannot be said against indifference among ourselves. I want our poor tongue–tied, hoppled, and “scart” colored women—“black ladies” as Faith Lichen had the bravery to call them in her Mary–Clemmer-Ames-i–ades—to let the nation know how they stand. White women are getting to be a power in the land, and colored women cannot any longer afford to be neutrals. Never fear the ward–meetings; get the boys started properly in life, and the ward-meetings will come right.
I want to see the colored preacher canonized, who looking after the great interests of the Master’s flock, will, Beecher–like, cry out on Sunday against this sin of keeping our boys from trades, to the fostering of iniquity and the ruin of our souls.
Your millions of “laborers” in the midst of thirty millions of active, energetic people with arts, science, and commerce in their hands, and the love of domination a cardinal point in their creed—four millions that chain to this dank and hoary “labor” carcass—are as certain of subjugation, ultimately, as were the Helots; and this should arouse to action the entire force among the people. I know we have resolutions of conference and of conventions, and have had for a generation; and that each convention is the greatest ever held; but the people know comparatively little about them or their resolutions. We want then, an arousing of the people, and the pulpit must help in the work.
We have no theatres, beer-gardens, opera, nor grand lecture amphitheatres, wherein such questions may be discussed, reshapen, dramatized, made vital issues; the church—the pulpit stands to us in this stead; our preachers, as they should be, are politicians, and do use their churches often as places in which blessed white christians help them to adjust, arrange, and work party laws. No greater party work than this for our boys can they do.
I have not forgotten that we have a few live members of Congress, though I believe no one has as yet got around to trades; and although we must have Civil Rights, I look upon trades exclusion as meanly and wickedly beyond even the reach of that. In parenthesis, another of the many weak places in “your armor,” so be it.
I know that we have members of State Legislatures and from whom more may be expected than from even Congress; also, attaches of the learned professions, and aspirants in the field of letters, all of which is enjoyably rose–tinted and gilded as compared with the past, but we, no more than others, can afford to build at the top of the house only. Ill–timed and unseemly as it may appear, the craftsman, the architect, the civil engineer, the manufacturer, the thoroughly equipped citizen, must all come, though silently, surely through the door opened to us by the mechanic. So agitate for the boys!
MARY A. SHADD CARY
New National Era, March 21, 1872.
On more than one occasion we have attempted to convince workingmen of the absolute injury to their interests of the labor unions of the country, and also their oppressions and tyrannical course toward fellow workmen, as well as to their employers. The history of these organizations—generally managed, not by industrious workmen themselves, but by unprincipled demagogues who control them for their own benefit—furnishes abundant proof almost every day of their mischievous influence upon every industrial interest of the country. But we have seen no more sriking illustrations of the ruinous consequences to themselves and the country than in an account given by a correspondent of the New York Times of the operations of this organization at Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
At this place the Cambria Iron Works are situated. They are the most extensive and the finest iron works in the whole country, employing on an average seven thousand hands yearly. Mr. Morrell, formerly a member of Congress from Pennsylvania, is the manager of these works, and has ever pursued a most liberal policy towards his employees, after retaining them at a positive loss. That has been especially true since the panic last fall. But that did not satisfy the miserable demagogues who live from the earnings of the unions and control their movements. It has been the rule of the company for twenty years not to employ union men, though twice, in that time, members of Pittsburg unions have got hold of the men and induced them to strike. But in each case the men abandoned the unions and returned to their work at the old rates. Last winter the union men from Pittsburg again visited Johnstown, and again persuaded the men to join as on previous occasions. Trouble has quickly followed, and the works are closed. The men were satisfied with the hours of work and their wages. They were what they pledged themselves to abide by when they commenced work with the company. And there was no need of them belonging to a union to prate about their rights, for there is a co–operative plan in operation at the works which is more advantage to them than any arguments the union could confer.
In order to avoid trouble among the men in regard to wages, Mr. Morrell years ago, offered to agree on a basis and let wages rise or fall from that basis according to the selling price of rails as quoted in the market reports. A large number of the employees, after due discussion and deliberation, came to the conclusion that the proposed arrangement was a very fair one for all parties and accepted it. Those who preferred to go on in the old way, taking their chances of good and bad wages, were allowed to do so without the slightest pressure being brought to bear upon them to accept the sliding scale. Among those who accepted the sliding scale were the miners—the very men who originated the present trouble. The plan has worked admirably, more especially to the advantage of the employees; for, during the last few years iron has been steadily rising in price, the men’s wages rising in like proportion.
The consequence is that the thrifty ones have become very prosperous, are owners of houses, and have money in the banks. But when the panic of last fall came and iron fell rapidly and heavily, the men were not so well pleased with the arrangement, though, of course, they had to keep to it. Mr. Morrell has kept his large works running steadily all through the winter solely for the benefit of his vast body of work people. Every one knows that orders for rails on any scale are few and far between, and that the company must have been working at a loss all the while. Their yards are stacked all over with immense piles of iron and steel rails, ingots of steel and pig–iron—millions of dollars worth. And yet to–day there is little or no market for rails. On the 1st of March last, Mr. Morrell fancied he saw an improvement, which after all, turned out to be only a momentary spurt, and he, unsolicited by the men, raised their wages. To his surprise and astonishment, the coal–miners informed him that he had not raised theirs sufficiently, and they demanded five cents more per ton mined. This he refused, quietly pointing out to the men their error—an error which they have since acknowledged.
The result was a strike, and Mr. Morrell shut down, and hundreds and thousands of men found themselves out of employment through the folly of listening to and being controlled by a set of union demagogues from Pittsburgh. They were receiving good wages, though they were employed at a great loss to the company. Numbers of them were really opposed to any strike or trouble, understanding that they had been kept at work for their own benefit rather than that of the company. But the union bullied them into it and out of bread for their families. No human being is benefited but the men who are paid by the union to do just such work as that at Johnstown.
New National Era, May 7, 1874.
WETUMPKA, ALA., May 16, 1872.
To the Editor of the New National Era:
I notice in your paper of the 7th instant an article headed “The Folly, Tyranny, and Wickedness of Labor Unions,” to which, as State Agent of the Alabama Labor Union, I beg space in the columns of your excellent “chronicler of passing events,” to submit a line or two in reply.
In the first place I think that the assertion is rather broad when you speak so disparagingly of all Labor Unions without any exception whatever. I condemn, Mr. Editor, as much as you possibly can, the evil practices of “demagogues,” as in the instance cited by you of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, organization; but, to class the entire Labor Unions of the country in the same category, I think unjust, to say the least.
In this State the laboring men are almost entirely colored, and, in consequence of the cruel interdictory laws of ante–bellum times as to education, they are, as a class, in a deplorable state of ignorance. But, ignorant as they are, they have organized themselves, into a Labor Union for their mutual protection against the machination of those that would take advantage of their ignorance.
The institution in this State is intended to do that for the laboring masses that they are not, as individuals, capable of doing for themselves—that is, they have men in whom they confide to investigate and supervise their contracts, and to see that their interests are not compromised on account of the great lack of the necessary experience on their part. The Labor Union of this State is supplying a want that has long been felt by our people; and in justice to the workings of the institution, so far as Alabama is concerned. I have been prompted to submit the foregoing, with a respectful request that you publish the same.
WM. V. TURNER,
State Agent Alabama Labor Union
New National Era, May 28, 1874.
Such labor unions as described by our correspondent in Alabama, W. V. Turner, cannot be objectionable. We welcome any and every organization that will be the means of instructing the colored people of the South. We sincerely hope that the unions of which Mr. Turner speaks, will continue in their good work, and forever steer clear of political, as well other, demagogues. The tendency to entrap every powerful colored organization into political nets, must be checked. Our people must see to it that none but their best men shall be chosen as leaders. Not a few colored men have become proficient in the arts of the demagogue and are capable of doing incalculable mischief. It is gratifying, however, to know that we have progressed, much more rapidly in the direction of earnestness in the work of accomplishing the greatest good for the race.
New National Era, May 28, 1874.