First Day—Morning Session.
The delegates to the above Convention assembled yesterday morning in the City Hall, at 10 o’clock. At half past ten, Mr. Jeff. Long, of Macon, being called to the chair, proceeded to call the Convention to order, and read his call for a Convention as published in some of the papers of the State for some time past.
On motion of Rev. H. M. Turner, Mr. Jeff. Long was unanimously chosen temporary President of the Convention, and on motion the deliberation of the body were opened with prayer by Rev. T. G. Campbell, of McIntosh county, who made a very earnest and eloquent appeal to the Throne of Grace that the proceedings of the Convention might be conducted in harmony and love, and its action be of lasting benefit to the colored people of Georgia and redound to the glory of God.2
On motion, James H. Deveaux, of Jones county, was chosen Secretary pro. tem., and Wm. H. Artex, of Liberty, Assistant Secretary.
On motion, the President was then requested to ask all persons who were not present as delegates to retire from the room until a permanent organization could be effected, and the spectators all immediately retired.
On motion a committee of three were appointed to examine the credentials of delegates, and in a short while the committee reported present 232 daily authorized delegates, representing about 80 counties of the State.
On motion, a committee of nine was appointed on permanent organization, and were allowed 10 minutes to report. During the absence of the committee, the Convention was addressed by Mr. Penfield, of Richmond county, upon the duty of delegates and the importance of united and harmonious action on the labor question. He was followed in a few brief and pointed remarks by Mr. Smith, of Muscogee, but before he concluded, the committee on permanent organization returned, and through their Chairman, Rev. H. M. Turner, made the following report, which was unanimously adopted:
Hon. JEFFERSON F. LONG. of Bibb, President.
Hon. T. G. Campbell, of McIntosh—First Vice President.
Hon. Phillip Joiner, of Dougherty—Second Vice President.
Hon. Abraham Smith, of Muscogee—Third Vice President.
Hon. Moses Gardner, of Richmond—Fifth Vice President.
Hon. James A. Jackson, of Clarke—Sixth Vice President.
Hon. William Cokine, of Cobb—Seventh Vice President.
FOUR VICE PRESIDENTS FOR THE STATE AT LARGE.
A. H. Gaston, of Bibb.
On motion, the President appointed a Committee of five on each of the following subjects: Manufacturers, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Finance, General Labor, Masonry and Brick Work, Education, Professions, Outrages on Laboring men, and Commercial Interests.
On motion, the President then appointed a committee of ten to recommend the organization of labor associations throughout the State of Georgia.
On motion, it was resolved that the hours of session of the Convention be from nine A.M. to one, and from three to five P.M.
On motion the Convention then adjourned at three P.M.
The Convention was called to order at 3-1/2 o’clock and was opened with prayer by Rev. T. G. Stewart of Bibb county.
On motion of Rev. H. M. Turner, the Convention proceeded to select committees to report business for the action of the Convention. Carried.
The following parties were then appointed on Farming: P. B. Bolden, Richard Reese, S. Artney, C. J. Blackburn, G. H. Clower.
On mechanical Interests: Washington Harris, blacksmith; Isaac Reynolds, blacksmith; G. H. Washington, bricklayer; Chas. Gardner; Robert Fairfax, carpenter; Richard Bassett, carpenter; James C. Blackburn, wheelwright; Lewis Barron, wheel–wright; Isaac Keebber, shoemaker; Alfred Smith, shoemaker; Richard Smith, screwbuilder.
Committee on Finance: H. H. Gaston, J. P. Hutchins, Mr. Whitehead, Henry Porter, Thomas Crayton, Rev. Wm. Benefield.
Committee on Education: Henry Singleton, Floyd Snelson, S. A. Cobb, W. A. Golding, of Liberty; W. J. White to act as Chairman of the committee.
Committee on Professions: Dr. Badger, H. M. Turner, T. G. Campbell.
Committee on Outrages upon Labor: Charles Griffin, Robert Alexander, J. M. Singleton, Paul Armstrong, J. B. Frazer, George Austin, Joshua Sims, Wm. Armstrong, Henry Taylor, W. Bosswell.
Committee on Commercial Interest: A. Smith, Pat Christian, Peter Houston, Wm. H. Artson, J. B. Deveaux, T. G. Steward.
Committee on Associations through the State: C. B. Edwards, T. G. Campbell, Wm. Barefield, Chris Wilson, Phillip Joiner, George Wallace, J. A. Jackson, Peter Houston, J. P. Hutchins, William A. Goulding.
Committee on Savings Bank: Moses Gardner, T. G. Steward, Peter Houston, George Wallace, Dr. Badger.
On motion of W. A. Golding, a committee of two citizens was appointed to act as Sergeants–at–arms and that they receive two dollars per day for the services.
On motion of M. Gardner, a collection was then taken up to defray the expenses of this Convention and as the name of each delegate was called he approached the Secretary’s desk and contributed whatever amount he was able toward the object.
On motion the Convention then adjourned till this morning at 9 o’clock.
SECOND DAY—MORNING SESSION.
The Convention was called to order at 6 o’clock. Prayer by Rev. N. B. Beacham, of Sumter county.
The roll was called, and a number of delegates who had not arrived yesterday were enrolled.
The minutes of the preceding day were read, corrected and approved.
Rev. Louis Rose, a native African missionary, was invited to a seat on the floor of the Convention.
Dr. Badger, of Fulton county, moved that a committee of three be appointed to memorialize the Legislature in regard to the outrages that are committed upon colored people. Laid on the table for the present.
On motion of Wm. J. White, of Richmond county, this afternoon will be set apart to give the committee on Outrages an opportunity to hear the reports of the delegates from the different counties.
The report of the committee on Savings Banks, as follows, was received and adorned:
Your Committee on the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, having had the subject under consideration, beg leave to submit the following report:3
1st. Having unbounded confidence in the solvency of the Company ourselves, we desire to impress on our people generally the same impression, and to that end give publicity to the following facts:
It has on deposit now, $1,327,010.66.
This amount the bank owes to its depositors and constitutes its entire abilities.
To pay this indebtedness, the Company has on hand:
We do not suppose any one of this Convention will attempt to deny that Government bonds constitute the highest class of securities in this country, and the facts of their being exempt from taxation makes them a profitable investment as well. This bank by its charter can invest only in Government securities, and therefore has the advantages of offering both safety and reasonable profits to the patrons.
Having examined its charter and by laws and being highly satisfied with them, we most earnestly commend it to our people generally throughout the State.
MOSES A. GARDNER,
T. G. STEWART, COMMITTEE
The report of the committee on Mechanical Interests being defective, was recommitted.
J. D. Enos, of Lowndes county, was requested to act as Secretary, in place of J. B. Deveaux, who was unexpectedly called away from the city.
The President called the attention of the Convention to an article in the Journal and Messenger, of this city, which he caused to be read. The purport of the article was to ridicule the Convention and those connected with it. The President stated that the paper was owned by J. W. Burke and Co., who sell annually, thousands of dollars worth of Sunday School and other books, papers, etc., to the colored people of Georgia.
He advised them in the future to withdraw their patronage from all parties who use such expressions toward colored people, declaring the time had come for our people to assert their manhood.
The above was received with immense applause.
On motion, the Convention adjourned to 3 o’clock P.M.
The Convention was called by the President at 3-1/2 o’clock P.M.
Prayer by Wm. Lewis, of Macon county.
The President made a few remarks in relation to delegates leaving.
After some scattering debates the Convention proceeded, in accordance with a resolution passed this forenoon, to hear reports from the different counties. A large number of reports were received.
The Committee on Education made the following report, which was received an unanimously adopted:
The mind of man is that part which, more than any other, indicates the near relation that he sustains towards God, the great source of all knowledge. The past history of man has developed the fact that the mind is capable of a very high degree of cultivation. Indeed, the limit to which the human mind is confined has never, and, perhaps, never can be ascertained by man himself. Our Creator, in his own wise providence, has ordained that while man is primarily dependent on him for everything, even the breath he inhales, still there is much that he may do for himself which will, in a very large degree enhance his happiness or misery while he lives upon the earth. There is no duty required of man that yields such an abundant harvest of true happiness as the cultivation of the mind. This cultivating the mind is called education. No educated people can be enslaved; no educated people can be robbed of their labor; no educated people can be kept in a helpless condition, but will rise with a united voice and assert their manhood.
Your Committee beg leave to say that in their opinion many, if not all of the disadvantages under which the colored people of Georgia are to–day laboring, grows out of their great destitution in this respect. We know that many of them are doing everything in their power to acquire an education themselves, and to educate their children, still with the light before us we think much more might be done, and will, we believe, be done if our people can be made to understand the vast importance of this subject to themselves and their pasterity.
We have the honor, therefore to recommend to the members of this Convention and the people of Georgia that in the future more attention be given to this subject, and that in every neighborhood the heads of families and others interested in the education and elevation of the colored race, unite themselves together for the purpose of establishing schools for themselves and children. The well known maxim, “United we stand, divided we fall,” holds good with us in the work of education. We must work together so that the strong may help the weak and all prosper together. We recommend that such arrangement be made by this Convention as they may deem necessary to assist the people in securing teachers, and that a committee be appointed to memorialize the General Assembly of this State, at its next session to at once pass the necessary laws to carry into effect that part of the Constitution of Georgia which provides that there shall be a public school law. We would further recommend to our people to employ no one to teach their children unless they be of good moral character, believing as we do that it would greatly retard their elevation morally to do so.
WM. J. WHITE, Chairman.
S. A. COBB,
W. A. GOLDEN.
The report of the Committee on Workingmen’s Association was received and laid on the table for the present.
Col. J. R. Lewis, Superintendent of Education of Georgia, requested the delegates from the different counties to furnish the names of teachers, schools, etc., in their counties.
The Convention then adjourned to 7-1/2 o’clock P.M.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 22, 1869.
According to the American Union (Swayze’s paper,) the movement, fathered by Jeff Long, to get up a Labor Union among the negroes and pledge them to demand thirty dollars a month for field hands and fifteen dollars a month for women, is the work of J. E. Bryant, and Long is the catspaw in the business. If these worthies should succeed in bringing up the negroes to that line, they will make a case of them; for it is needless to say they will all necessarily forfeit wages.4
Nor it is possible to fix upon a safe minimum of wages for field hands, simply because that some of them would be dear for their food, while others, who are intelligent, able, faithful and honest would be comparatively cheap at twenty dollars a month and rations. Piece work cannot be applied to the plantation, and therefore the common dead level of the trades unions which is wholly unjust in respect to them, would be impossible in plantation labor.
Unquestionably the price of labor will rise this winter, but the demand of any such minimum by the negroes as thirty dollars a month will destroy the wages system altogether. Hands must then lie idle and relapse into vagrancy, or be content to labor on shares and take risks with the landowner.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 8, 1869.
Every reflecting Georgian must, of course, feel great interest in the welfare, contentment and prosperity of the colored people of this State. They are an important portion of our population. Their labor produces perhaps only a little short of two–thirds the total amount of our crop values, and is rated at one–third the total value of this product. We should estimate it to be worth to itself annually not far from fifteen millions of dollars, and will not undertake to pronounce upon its actual value to the whole industrial interest of the State. It produces about two hundred thousand bales of our cotton crop, and perhaps more, and we should say at least twelve millions of bushels of corn; and, therefore, in solving the question of the value of this labor to Georgia we must consider the possibility of substituting it by some other, supposing it were suddenly to be withdrawn from the field.
In this view of the matter we have no doubt that a good deal of interest will be felt among the whites in knowing the views, feelings, plans and purposes of this Colored Labor Convention, now in session in Macon; and we, therefore, invited the Convention to report their proceedings, in their own way, in the TELEGRAPH. Accordingly, we observe that the official record contains a characteristic flourish of titles, and is set forth in much pomp; but this is immaterial. The Convention itself, just so far as it indicates the existence of dissatisfaction among this laboring class, and a determination coupled with the ability to exact increased wages, is an interesting fact to every planter.
This movement, it seems, is not confined to Georgia. The “Charleston Daily Republican,” calls a similar one to meet at Columbia in that State, and proposes to change the Union League into Labor Unions, and put into force upon the plantations and in every household, all the iron handed despotism of the white labor unions, which, in point of fact destroys bargain in the employment of labor, and makes the employer the victim of compulsion not only in the wages to be paid, but in pretty much all the details of laboring. It is enough to say that the introduction of the Union labor system on the farm and in the households, if it were possible, would be attended with so great convenience and oppression that most people would prefer to dispense with the labor. It is enough to be bossed in the shop—it would be intolerable to be mastered at home.5
But we trust, with good management upon the part of the whites, the mischief done may be limited. It is our business as white men—owners of the soil and employers—to obtain and preserve a dominant influence over the negro, by showing him that we are not only his best friends, but actually and truly the only friends he has got on earth who can be of any service to him. Neither his Northern allies or their representatives on our soil, nor his own race in the South are in any condition to be serviceable to him. They cannot furnish him with regular supplies of food, clothing and money, while the Southern whites can do it and find their own advantage in doing it.
Almost the first point, then, with the good Southern planter who looks for a permanent and prosperous business, is to secure the entire confidence and attachment of his colored laborers. This cannot be done even by fair dealing if it is not a kind of dealing in which the negro is able to see for himself that he is justly and liberally dealt by. A planter may keep an honest account current, in which everything during the year has been honestly debited and credited, but ten to one the negro will go off from settlement discontented and suspicious.
The practice of some planters of dealing in supplies for their hands of shoes, clothing, tobacco, etc., is at best a dangerous one and likely to cost more than it came to. If convenience requires it, then deal in cash. Sell the wages into the hands of the negro carefully at the end of every month, and then let him buy if he chooses. It is peculiarly true of the negro that “short reckonings make long friends;” and if you are to have a long reckoning, compare your notes with his memory every few weeks—so that he can know exactly how the account is running. Be sure of this: that if by trafficking with your hands you have managed it so that they will have nothing left at Christmas, you have done a bad business for yourself, however honest may be the account. You will find it hard to keep him another year. The great secret of successful planting now is, a force of reliable, faithful and contented laborers. Therefore speculate upon anybody else rather than your field hands.6
Now, we are grateful to believe that the Georgia planters have shown, as a general thing, great justice and liberality to their field laborers and yet cases of this trafficking in tobacco, shoes, flour, whisky and calico do come to our knowledge, and we are sure whenever we hear of it, that the man in saving a dollar at the cost of twenty. The Charleston Republican, gives a doleful account of sharp dealing with the negroes of South Carolina—true or false we know not—but all sharpness with the negroes is a monstrous dullness on the main question of making money in planting.
The confidence of laborers in the justice of employers must constitute the main defence against all these schemes at combination by which Jeff Long or any other Jeff will sit in his barber’s shop and prescribe wages for the county or call a convention for the purpose. Planters and employers must be willing to pay liberal wages and make all their dealings transparent to the mind of the laborer. If this or any similar fuss should have the effect of raising the standard of wages unreasonably, then we must hire on shares, and we must do with fewer house servants—but we must keep faith with the negro and increase our influence over him day by day, in the only legitimate way of a liberal, considerate and just dealing.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 22, 1869.
We have again had the misfortune to disturb the sensitive nerves of our friend of the Savannah News by having published the outrage reports of the Colored Convention without contemporaneous editorial comments. The News had had some experience in printing daily journals, and it should perhaps have occurred to him that very extended reports of meetings prolonged into the night, and which do not get into the printers’ hands till after gas–light, and are not in type till after midnight, or seen by the editor until the next day, cannot well be accompanied with contemporaneous editorial comment. But, while a little surprised at the failure of the News to comprehend the difficulties of a performance which he exacts at our hands, we see he comes up manfully to supply our short comings and omissions, and comments with much bitterness if not justice.
The truth is, we view this Convention and their handiwork from a different standpoint from that which the News seems to take. We looked for it to be a very mischievous and violent body. All its predecessors in Macon had been of that character. But just in proportion as its influences might be had, just in that proportion it was important to the whites to know all about them. The negroes do not depend on the press for the dissemination of intelligence among themselves; but with the whites the press is the sole dependence.
Consequently, we determined to have the proceedings of the Convention fully reported, and, if possible, by parties in the interest of the Convention. This we succeeded in doing, and the great interest manifested by the people and press of Georgia in reading these accounts, vindicates the propriety of the proceeding. Indeed, there can be nothing more important to us in a material or political point of view, than knowing just what is going on among our colored population, so that we may be prepared to counteract falsehood, and evil pernicious influences, as soon and as far as possible.
With these views of what was to be the probable character of the Convention, we were agreeably surprised to find it not half so bad as we anticipated, and naturally felt a good deal more like praising it for unexpected moderation, than inveighing with any particular bitterness against such errors as it might have committed. The temper it displayed was generally conciliatory and the whites of Georgia should never suffer themselves to be outdone by the negroes. On the contrary, we should take the lead in contributions to harmony between the races, each in its appropriate sphere. We should display great allowance, toleration and forbearance, and encourage with the fullest reciprocity every manifestation of a friendly temper by the colored race. They are a valuable part of our population. Their interests are substantially ours, and never should we suffer the political power with which they have been armed to be used for the common injury if we can prevent it by fair and honorable means. That is so plainly the policy dictated by a common sense view of the situation that few men will call it in question.
When, therefore, we found that the delegates, from most of the countries in the State, in their mixed reports of good and ill, had reported a number of “murders” amounting in gross to only twenty–three, we thought, on the whole, they had done pretty well considering. Last year the Radicals, black and white, native and foreign, made out among them, if our memory serves us, some two or three hundred murders of blacks in Georgia. This, then, was a large improvement. We had no doubt that during the year more than twenty–three blacks, and probably more than twenty–three whites, had been killed, and that in the case of the blacks every instance of killing would be set down as murder. In Bibb county, for illustration, the delegates reported one negro killed, whereas, there have been two or three. The statement, therefore, was not surprising. There have been, as we suppose, more than twenty–three homicides of negroes in Georgia during the past year—but the mass of them were cases of killing in self–defence, or killing when the victim was in the act of robbery or resisting apprehension, or killing in the course of a broil. The number of murders of blacks by whites, if any, was exceedingly small, and not one of them, as we believe, had any origin in political causes.
There is not a newspaper in Georgia which has been more sedulous than the TELEGRAPH in its efforts to counteract and refute the slanders upon our political and social condition disseminated by the Radicals for political effect; and if the whole press will be as anxious to maintain the peace and fair fame of Georgia as we, and to avoid all the approaches to violence, by discouraging personal and political acrimony, there will be even less foundation for “reports of outrages.”
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 29, 1869.
It is needless for us to say to the readers of the TELEGRAPH, that we did not look for any good from the Colored Labor Convention, which has lately held its session in Macon at the call of certain master spirits of the race who are surely not examples in the way of labor. The least that we hoped was that it should do no great amount of harm, by unsettling the minds of our plantation laborers and stirring them up to the attempt to establish arbitrary wages of labor and refusing to work unless these rates were conceded.
But in this particular, as well as some others, the convention disappointed us by its good sense, moderation and good temper. It has been the first large gathering of the colored population in Macon, in which some attempt has not been manifested to stir up bad feeling between the races. There was nothing of the sort here; but, on the contrary, the feeling seemed to be kindly.
We are glad to see and to acknowledge this fact. We are glad to be able to compliment the body by saying that, in the main, it has shown sense and prudence and a good spirit, and we know we utter the heartfelt wishes of all the conscientious thoughtful and responsible citizens of Georgia, when we express the earnest hope that the future of Georgia may be marked by a growing kindness and sympathy between the two races. That our intercourse may be characterized, on both sides, by justice, liberality, good will and a sincere and hearty interest in each other’s welfare. That both races may prosper in the ways of well–doing—increase in virtue, intelligence, wealth and comfort, and together build up old Georgia on a solid basis of civil and social order and prosperity.
On the part of the great body of the whites, we are sure that we can say with truth, this is the unanimous desire. The colored people will find their strong defence against injustice in the scarcity of labor and the universal longing to increase the cotton product. This will bring them satisfactory wages and prompt and fair dealing. In a country like ours, where the character of every employer, in relation to liberal and honorable dealing, can be easily ascertained, it seems to us no laborer need suffer. He can always find a just and honorable employer, if he himself is disposed to do right.
We feel great confidence in an improving good understanding between the whites and blacks of Georgia. It is so clearly for the interest of the planter to secure the good opinion of the laborers, and for the laborers to settle down quietly and permanently upon the plantation and surround themselves with the conveniences and comforts they desire, that we feel morally certain this will be the steady tendency in the future.
We do not propose to review the somewhat extended proceedings which have been published. The outrage report we might except to; but unfortunately there has been perhaps more than twenty–three blacks and perhaps more then twenty–three whites killed in Georgia the past year. All good men deplore violence and bloodshed; but the bulk of it is not murder; and we believe the life of a peaceable black is as safe in Georgia as that of a white; and we think justice is impartially administered to both races. Some of the county reports say the contrary—but allowance must be made for prejudice. We don’t believe there are a hundred white men in Georgia who would not join hands with the blacks in a hearty desire and determination that their rights shall be maintained with even–handed justice.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 29, 1869.
The Griffin Star, of Tuesday, says:
The Macon Convention, while it did not do as much harm as we anticipated—for it did not discuss politics—yet it failed in our opinion to do much that will redound to the benefit of the colored race, and it did some very unwise things. For instance, it recommended the colored people to withdraw their female labor from the field as soon as possible. This thing is one of the worst results of emancipation. Thousands of stout, healthy negro women, have already quit the fields and become a burden instead of a help to their husbands and fathers. They seem to think that because white women don’t generally work out doors, it must be degrading to the blacks. This is a mistake.
Another committee “report” upon the great importance of having negro preachers, negro lawyers, negro doctors, philosophers, and editors. This is another mistake. The professions are already crowded. What is needed in this line is—not more professional men but better ones, while the attempt to crowd the colored race into these professions will only result in discord and strife.
Some of their reports however, betoken some good sense and discretion.
We must also economize labor. Already the South is making rapid strides in this direction, and yet has made scarcely a beginning. Improved agricultural implements must be found everywhere. The cooking stove, washing machine, sewing machine, etc., must be found in every dwelling. The old kitchens must be torn down and neat little cook rooms attached to the house so that madame, when compelled to, can go to her cooking establishment without getting either head or foot wet. Then every home should have its wood house always full of dry wood, cut and ready for use, and close to the kitchen; also, a washroom and store room and several convenient closets. Even the poor man can have these conveniences after an humble style, at slight expense, while the rich can make them as gorgeous as they please.
We look forward to the accomplishment of all these things with a degree of joy almost inexpressible. It is our politics and almost our religion, and it is of more importance than the fifteenth amendment, or any other demagogue hue and cry.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 29, 1869.
Which assembled in Macon last week, took an “inventory” of the State and here is what they say of the condition of things in
WASHINGTON COUNTY.—Getting along very well; good wages this year. Two schools. Average ten dollars per month. No murders. Seventy scholars in schools. Daily wages fifty cents. Prejudice gradually dying out.
Very much obliged to them for so much, but it seems they cannot quite go “the whole hog” “Prejudice gradually dying out.” What do they mean by that? Is it that prejudice on the part of the blacks against the whites is dying out, or vice versa? Would like to understand the matter fully, but presume that the committee meant to say that the prejudice business was all on the part of the white people, and that they are giving in at last gradually. Well, let the truth be told though the heavens fall. There never would have been any trouble, “Prejudice” or anything of the kind between whites and blacks in this county, further than the distinction between the two races.—for which heaven, not earth, is responsible—had there been no strolling vagabonds visiting here and sending out their pernicious documents to poison and prejudice the minds of the colored against the whites.
We are truly gratified to know, however, that our county stands first in the approval of even these fault finders who have constituted themselves the judges in these matters. No charge is laid against Washington at all, while the majority are severely censured. Many of the grave charges alleged against counties of high standing, we are fully persuaded, are without foundation; but we leave the accused to speak for themselves.
As expressed in the Convention, the colored people desire to have their children educated. This is praiseworthy in them, and they should be encouraged in it. Some of them want to become lawyers and doctors right away, and seem to think that their youths and maidens are ready at once to “enter college” and be graduated without further delay. They will learn after time, that primary schools are much more in keeping with their wants than higher institute of learning.
The “Labor Association” has done about all it will do, except to get them into trouble.
The Convention, at the instance of “Hon. George Wallace, passed a resolution extending “the right of fellowship to John Chinaman or any other man,” no matter from what “clime, country or previous condition,” and bidding him a hearty welcome.7
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 29, 1869.
So far as we have heard, Jeff Long’s colored Convention has passed off without producing an earthquake, and Jeff is as well as can be expected. Some people were afraid the colored people would demand wages which they could not afford to give, and thus paralyze the planting interests of Georgia for the following year. We rejoice to learn that these fears were unfounded. On the whole, the colored Convention passed off very much like the Leville Convention, without doing much harm or good.
Our colored friends are naturally imitative in their disposition, and Jeff Long, no doubt hearing that the white folks were about having a big convention, immediately determined that the colored folks must have a convention too. And when the convention met, the same difficulty pervaded the colored convention which seemed to affect the Louisville convention. No one seemed to know why they had come together or what to do now they had got there. So after mature deliberation, they passed resolutions, made speeches, and adjourned. We believe that most of those who attended the colored convention were convinced that Jeff Long called the convention merely for the sake of making a big man of himself and don’t believe that they were paid for their trouble. From valuable points in Georgia we learn that the most perfect good feeling exists between the two races. Both parties have found out that it is their interest to be on good terms, and to mutually help and assist each other, and this feeling will soon become universal if not prevented by political incendiaries and carpet–baggers from the North. One thing we believe has been too much neglected by both races: It is the interest of both white and colored to make permanent arrangements for a number of years wherever it has be done. This will enable the colored people to improve their houses, and surround themselves with many comforts which they can never do whilst the custom of changing their home every year continues.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, October 29, 1869.
We referred last week to the need of organization and cooperation among the colored people. Politically, where they are allowed to vote, they find their places, for the most part, with one of the two general, established party divisions—the Republican. The national guarantee of their right to vote in any or all of the States and Territories of the Union, we trust, will soon be an accomplished fact by the completion of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Then organization, especially for the promotion of their industrial and educational interests, will be particularly serviceable. This need is already anticipated, and especially in Georgia, the action taken in view of the forthcoming National Convention to be held next month in Washington is timely and important. It is, we infer, the beginning in earnest of a new industrial era at the South, with the healthful free labor stimulus for the basis. The Washington correspondent of the Tribune, of November 2d, gives the following synopsis of the proceedings of the recent State Convention held in Georgia, which indicates the present importance, and foreshadows the future good results of the movement:8
“The Georgia State Colored Convention, which met at Macon last week, adjourned on Saturday. It numbered 236 delegates, representing 56 counties, resulted in the formation of an organization to be called the ‘State Mechanics’ and Laborers’ Association,’ and provided for local workingmen’s Unions. They also recommended the formation of auxiliary Workingwomen’s Associations. In the resolutions adopted they declared that capital could only be safe when the laborer is protected, and labor is paid its just reward; they also declared that capital could have no advantage over united labor, and that there was no antagonism between the two when justice was done; they recommended the organization of Cooperative Supply Clubs and associations for the purchase of lands, urged the withdrawal of women from field labor whenever possible, and recommended the formation of clubs among those employed on plantations for material defense. An excellent report on education was presented, and the establishment of a paper to support the movement was determined upon, of which the Hon. H. M. Turner is to be editor. A series of strong resolutions favoring emigration, declaring that there is no antagonism between them and any foreign labor, and offering a welcome to the Chinese here, passed unanimously. Reports were made from the several counties represented, showing that in four–fifths of them a frightful state of disorder prevails. Thirty murders, five of them women, were reported as having occurred during the last six months. Most of the assassins were known, and are yet at large. In only two instances have arrests been made. Only one man has been convicted, and he was only sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. In thirty–six counties schools were reported, the highest number in any one being eleven, with 1,500 scholars. In thirteen counties there were but two schools, and in ten others but one each. The day wages reported ranged from twenty–five to seventy–five cents, and monthly wages from $5 to $10. Yearly wages averaged $50. In nearly every county great complaint is made of employers failing to fulfill their contracts, and that the laborers have been cheated out of their share of the crops. Only five counties were reported wherein the blacks obtain justice from the civil courts. As this is the first Convention of the kind which has been held in the South, its proceedings are of more than ordinary interest. Before the adjournment, delegates were appointed to the National Convention to be held here in December. Similar conventions will soon be held in nearly all the Southern States.”
In this city the colored working people are also awakening. They have already held several meetings which have resulted in bringing together representatives of the different trades and branches of business, with a view of more thorough organization and general cooperation. A very large and enthusiastic meeting was held in Zion’s Church (Rev. Mr. Butler’s) a few evenings since. It was of a representative character and included clergymen, physicians, bricklayers, engineers, coachmen, carpenters, longshoremen, printers, calciminers, painters, laundresses, dress–makers, moulders, (tobacco) twisters, refiners, etc., etc. It is proposed to have each branch of business represented in the National Convention. Women are eligible as delegates as well as men. Other meetings are to be held for the selection of delegates, and to complete local organizations. The following were among the resolutions adopted:9
Resolved, That this organization be called the New York City Labor Council. That it shall be the duty of each member of it to exercise vigilance and perseverance in securing employment and business to each member, in whatever department of labor he or she may be engaged, and to advocate the cause of the equal right to labor with all other classes of our fellow–citizens.
Resolved, That delegates be appointed to represent the views of the colored citizens of New York at the National Labor Convention to be held in the City of Washington in the month of December next.
Resolved, That such delegates be and are hereby requested to urge upon that convention the necessity of recommending to the colored men and women of this country the vast importance of immediately acquiring the possession of lands and homesteads of their own, and for accomplishing that end to make every necessary personal sacrifice, to exercise the greatest diligence in business, and practice rigid economy in their social and domestic arrangements.
Resolved, That our delegates be further requested to ask the convention to recommend the encouragement of mechanical branches amongst the people—first, by the establishment of workshops by those who have trades, and the thorough instruction of apprentices in every department of skilled labor now known amongst us; second, by the employment of colored artizans; and third, by a more general patronage of colored mechanics and workshops than has hitherto prevailed.
Resolved, That the exclusion of colored persons in this city from the right to labor in almost every department of industry is a strong evidence of the power which the spirit of slavery and caste still holds over the minds of our white fellow citizens, and is alike disgraceful to them as American citizens and deeply injurious to us, who have fought during the several wars for the independence or the dignity of the country, and have sacrificed or perilled our lives with them for the maintenance of the government and the unity of the States.
Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting are due and are hereby tendered to Lewis H. Douglass, Esq., for the manly position which he occupies in defence of the right to work at the trade taught him in his father’s office, by maintaining his place at the government printing bureau, showing that he is a well cut type of a standard font.10
Resolved, That we regard the labor of the country as the common property of the people; that no portion of the people should be excluded therefrom by the mere accident of the division of the globe in which they or their forefathers were born, or stature of color; that every man or woman should receive employment according to the ability each may possess to perform the labor required, without any other test.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, November 6, 1869.
The Labor Convention From the (Augusta) Georgia Republican.
We publish this week the proceedings of the Macon Labor Convention. Our readers, whether employers or employed, cannot fail to be interested in reading these proceedings, for the Convention represented the opinions of the most intelligent colored laboring men in Georgia, who represent nearly all of the colored laboring men of the State. The importance of such a movement must be apparent to every intelligent man.
The Convention was composed of abler men than have attended any previous Convention of colored men that has assembled in this State. Several of the ablest colored men who have attended former Conventions were there, a few were absent, but their places were filled by new men of equal ability, while the rank and file was composed of abler colored men than have heretofore attended conventions in this State. Nearly all were well dressed. In that respect there was great improvement over former Conventions, thus proving that the condition of the colored people is improving. Col. Avery of the Atlanta Constitution, who “stepped into” the Convention, says:
“We found a goodly attendance of all colors. The proceedings were very well conducted. The order was excellent, the members kept their seats, the presiding officer seemed to know parliamentry law very well, and was impartial. The truth is, we have seen deliberative bodies of white men conducted worse.
“Jeff Long, a straw–colored, sharp looking, well dressed negro, seemed the ruling spirit.”
It was a working Convention, rather than a talking Convention, and in that respect was a great improvement over former Conventions. The leaders seemed to realize the importance of the work that they had undertaken, and like sensible men they worked more than they talked. It was in fact, a Convention of colored men. Everything was done by colored men. It is true that there was one white delegate present, by the name of Fitzpatrick, but he was an uneducated man of little ability, and he evidently exerted little influence in the Convention. We believe that he was not appointed on any committee, so that colored men are entitled to the credit of managing the Convention, and writing the reports, resolutions, etc. This whole movement originated with colored men, and has been conducted by them; thus proving their ability to manage their own affairs.
The principal reason given by the enemies of this labor movement for opposing it was that the leaders intended to regulate the price of labor in the State, and that by attempting to do so they would do much harm. We have never believed that it was the intention of Mr. Long and his friends to attempt to control prices, but rather to improve the condition of laboring men and let prices be regulated by the demand for laborers and the supply. We were correct, as the proceedings of the Convention prove. An attempt was made by some delegates to fix a price for the labor of plantation hands, but it was opposed by Mr. Long, Mr. Turner and other influential leaders, who were almost unanimously sustained by the Convention.
The great object which the leaders had in view, as developed by the proceedings, was to improve the condition of colored laboring men—in a word, to make them better citizens. How can any good citizen of Georgia oppose such a movement? Are colored men ignorant? It is proposed to educate them and make them intelligent. Are any vicious? It is proposed to make them good citizens, if possible, and thus promote the interests of Georgia. Such a movement must receive the sympathy, if not the active cooperation of every good citizen.
The report of the committee on education is an able document, and presents concisely, but clearly, the condition of the colored people, and the necessity of their being educated. It is the work of a colored man—Wm. J. White, of this city, who was a slave until the close of the war, but he is a man who understands the condition of his people, and has the ability and disposition to labor for their moral and intellectual elevation. He is the President of the Young Men’s Christian Association, of this city.
We call the attention of our readers especially to the report of the committee on outrages. What a record for a civilized country. These men make known to the people of Georgia their condition, and pray for justice. Will not the good men and women of this State listen? Will they not assist these poor people? Shall not the men who commit these crimes be brought to punishment? The worst of all, is that these criminals are not punished except in a few counties.
The most important work done by the Convention was the organization of the Mechanics’ and Laborers’ Association. If the Convention had adjourned without effecting a permanent organization, it would have greatly disappointed its friends. Associations are to be organized in every county in the State. Thus the most ignorant can be reached and assisted.
Delegates were elected to the National Laboring Men’s Convention, which meets in Washington, D. C., in December.
At last the colored laboring men in Georgia are united. Why do not the colored men of other Southern States unite? The battle for political equality has been fought, and the victory won. The great question is now: protection for life and property; food and clothing for wife and children; education for all.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, November 27, 1869.
Jeff Long’s negro labor convention is beginning to develop its pernicious fruits in those sections of the State that were brought under the influence. Several negroes struck for higher wages in Albany a few days ago, and the employers said, “strike away,” and forthwith supplied their places, leaving them to take the chances under Jeff Long’s teaching. We find other cases related to the Eatonton Press as follows:
From what we have seen here and can learn from other sections, we are inclined to think Jeff Long’s labor movement is going to cause some of his followers to suffer during the coming winter. They are valuing their labor so high employers can’t see the profit to be derived from giving them employment, hence they will be forced to idleness and live on short rations, or concede to the terms offered by those who may need their services. It is nonsense, and worse to think of giving the prices some of the negroes are asking, because their labor is not worth it. . . .
A man must stand upon the solid rock of justice, truth, and fair and generous dealing before he can indulge one rational hope of prosperity. When he stands there he feels like a man—he knows he is right—he is doing justice, and expects and demands justice in return. His laborers know the same and their own inward consciousness of justice and right are the voiceless advocates of the employer.
But let them detect him in the smallest disposition to take advantage of them and they will return it with interest, and with a comparatively clear conscience. It becomes mere retaliation. It takes the shape of equity.
When a planter, by sharp dealing or by inducing his hands to do what his good sense tells him is not for their real interest, succeeds in reducing very materially, at small cost, the balance of wages against himself at Christmas, he should not be so simple as to persuade himself he has really made that much money. In all probability he has lost, in various ways, ten times the amount of his apparent savings.
And he has made a bad loss for himself if, with all, he has lost the confidence of his laborers. That will lose him their labor, and a bad reputation for kindness, justice, liberality and promptitude is now as indispensable basis for prosperous farming in the South. . . .
The great point is to content the hands. A dissatisfied force is a worthless and unprofitable force if you can get it for $5 a month. Let our planters aim, first of all, at relations of entire confidence and friendliness with their hands. Let every one of these negroes feel that he has a “Boss” who not only would not cheat him, if he could, but one who takes a warm and friendly interest in his welfare, and is solicitous for his comfort and prosperity.
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, November 12, 1869.
Colored Labor Convention
The colored people of the South are taking steps to protect their labor interests. Our Augusta, Ga., correspondent has sent us the published proceedings of a large Colored Labor Convention recently held at Macon. The reports of the delegates from the different counties showed that there still exists a deep, bitter feeling against the colored people in the interior of the State. At some places there have been murders without any arrests; at others contracts with colored laborers have been ignored, and the laborer left unrewarded. These instances however, are exceptions; for in the majority of cases the reports are more favorable.
The State Labor Conventions now being held, are preparatory to the great National Labor Convention of colored men to be held in Union League hall at Washington, D.C., on the first Monday in December.
No movement is more important than this. If the objects of this convention be fully carried out, as it is very easy for the colored laborers of this country to do so, they will afford a necessary protection to the labor interests of the colored people that nothing else will.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, December 4, 1869.
November 23, 1869
Mr. Editor deare Sir
I have glad to recve your thanks. I shall due all in my power to get as menny Subscribers as i can and Send to you. I hope you Would helpt me by Sending Some of thouse papers that has the Besniess of the Convintion that Was in Macon, ga. So i can give them to my peoples.
They all as anchis to See What Was done and nex Saturday We Expect to have alarge gathring to come and joine the laboring a Sociathion. So Some of them papers Will due agrat good and i may get manney to Subscribers and any thing you Think Would helpt us i Would be glad to have fore my peoples is very [migrant] and poor at this time.
i hope you Will Exquse my lines. am yours truley dear Sir
Charles R. Edwards
J. E. Bryant Papers, Duke University.
Courtesy of Joseph Reidy, Freedmen’s Bureau Project.
December 29, 1869
Please allow me to inform the Public of Our Meeting We have hade in Cassville, Cass County, G.A. on the 27 Dec 1864 Was Meet at the time apointed the Meting Was open by Reading the 78 Chapter of Shlams and Singing O god our help in ages pass. Our help fore years to come by the Rev Charles R. Edwards and pray by Rev John Megee after witch Rev Charles R. Edwards stated the call of the Meting one Month ago for to unit the laboring Men in the county into associations after Witch Rev John Megee Was call and Elected Chairman and the Rev C. R. Edwards Secetray and Was move and Sent to a Joint committee to choose candidates to be Elected fore the offeces after witch they Repoted C. R. Edwards and J. Megee & Preston low for Vice P. for Secetray M. F. Churn & William Saxon fore treasurer John Frost Sectray William Saxson and after With Meting ajoined untell nex day the 2 day Meeting open at 10 ocl pray by Rev C. R. Edwards Roll Call and Menets Was read Receved and adopted. [The] commitee apointed on finance Was corlected $79.40 cents and all that Wheres to come ded not come on the account of bad Rainey Whather committee Was pointed to get all the amount of crop that Was Made by colored Mens—The Meeting ajoined to the nex day. . . . On the 29 dec 1869 the Meting Was Call to order by the charman J. Megee pray Made by the same. Was move by C. R. Edwards Secetray to take up the onfinshed besness. . . . Send you aletel monney to have these print. I dont know how much it Will take. You must let me know and it Was move by the president the Rev Charles R. Edwards that We Meet on amonth and pay 100 amonth tell We can manag. Some good amount to due Some good With. We Wants to paye land as Soon as We can to give homes to our poor peoples for many as be dout homes and land to Worke and Cheated out What many Workes fore. I have Some promise to take your paper. I Will due all i can to have this paper among my people. Due What you can for ous. We have the amount Joined up to date 87 Members and We think We Will have Soon many more.
I am yours truley dear sir
President of the Mechanics and laboring Mens Association of Cass Co. Ga.
Rev Charles R. Edwards
J. E. Bryant Papers, Duke University. Courtesy of Joseph Reidy.
National Labor Convention
The Union Congregational Church at Newport, R. I., was well filled on Monday evening by laboring men and their friends to consider the industrial questions of the day. The Providence Journal says that the meeting was called to order by Rev. M. Van Home, and was opened with prayer by Rev. J. P. Shreeves. The following gentlemen were chosen officers for the evening:
Rev. J. P. Shreeves, President; J. W. Palmer and T. G. Williams, Vice Presidents, and John Dosher, Secretary.
Rev. M. Van Horne, George T. Downing, L. D. Davis, Wm. Little and others were called out, and in response addressed the meeting.11
Messrs. George T. Downing, Mahlon Van Horne and M. S. Haynes were appointed a Committee on Resolutions, who reported the following, which were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That we do heartily recognize the call issued for a National Labor Convention to assemble in the city of Washington, D. C., on the first Monday in December.
Resolved, That the colored men of the nation, being to a great extent mechanics and laborers, we regard it our immediate interest, as well as our duty, to do all in our power to add to the dignity and elevation of labor; and as a union of the laboring men of the nation, without regard to race or color, linked by an intelligent, liberal and patriotic spirit, will greatly tend thereto, we should and will strive to effect the same, and shall hope for the sympathy and co–operation of capitalists, with whom labor should be in harmony and accord.
Resolved, That we refer with special satisfaction to the National Labor Convention, which was composed of white men, which assembled in the city of Philadelphia on the 16th of last August, because it adopted a platform in keeping with the above enunciation, as to the importance, duty and interest of union and accord between the laborers of the nation, without regard to race or color.
Resolved, That we are glad to know that the contemplated Convention to assemble in Washington is to convene under these favorable auspices, with a policy in keeping, as its guiding sentiment, that its doors are open to the Irishman, the German, the Englishman, the Frenchman, to all, without regard to race or color.
Resolved, That we will send a delegate to such a Convention, and ask the co–operation to that end of mechanics and the laboring men generally of the State.
Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to invite such co–operation.
Resolved, That G. T. Downing, M. Van Horne and T. G. Williams be that committee.
Resolved, That Messrs. Shreeves, Van Horne, Palmer, Mary Nichols, Adeline Jones and Miss Bowen be a committee with power to raise funds in aid of this movement.
After some further discussion of the matter at issue the meeting adjourned.
The Christian Recorder, October 9, 1869.
At the meeting held in the Union Church Monday evening the following appeal was read. It will fully explain itself:
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: Having attended the meeting called to meet in the Union Congregational church for purpose of taking into consideration the condition of the colored people of Newport in their mechanical and industrial relations, I was much disappointed in that in all your deliberations, speeches and resolutions, which were excellent so far as the men are concerned, the poor woman’s interests were not mentioned, or referred to. Now right here are the wives, the mothers, the daughters and the sisters, all suffering under the same law, and in many respects, they are made to feel more keenly than yourselves the degrading, soul–withering, and demoralizing influence of prejudice.
Now in your praiseworthy attempt to secure equality in your business pursuits are we to be left out? we who have suffered all the evils of which you so justly complain? Are our daughters to be denied the privilege of honestly earning a livelihood, by being excluded from the milliner, dressmaker, tailor, or dry good store, in fact every calling, that an intelligent, respectable, industrious female may strive to obtain, and this merely because her skin is dusky? These privileges are all denied colored females of Newport. However well they may be fitted for other positions, they are compelled to accept the meanest drudgeries or starve, or leave their childhood homes, and break away from every cherished association of parent, of birthplace, of kindred, of friend, and become an exile, aye worse than an exile, for prejudice grinds its victim in the dust and has no mercy, and simply because our white fellow townsmen and women will not see through our dark skins the image of their and our God; nevertheless it is stamped there as clear as the meridian sun. I say in charity they cannot see. I will throw this as a mantle of charity over their injustice, even while smarting under its stinging effects.
Are they not aware that we have committed no crime in being blacks, and hence we ought not to be punished; we had nothing to do with our complexion. The Almighty alone is responsible for that, he who has declared himself to be no respecter of persons. The being to whom we all look and say with equal authority “Our Father.” Therefore the colored women of Newport would ask your meeting and the Convention that is to assemble next Monday to remember us in your deliberations so that when you mount the chariot of equality, in industrial and mechanical pursuits, we may at least be permitted to cling to the wheels of your chariot. A COLORED WOMAN OF NEWPORT.
Mr. D. Nathans and Messrs. M. S. Haynes, G. T. Downing and Wm. Little, were appointed a committee to nominate a lady to represent the city of Newport in the coming State Convention. The Committee nominated Miss Jennie D. Harris who was unanimously chosen as a delegate and who will attend the meeting as such.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, November 30, 1869.
A large and enthusiastic meeting of the colored mechanics, laborers and farmers of Frederick county, Virginia, was held in the city of Winchester on Friday evening last, Rev. Robert Armsted was called to the chair, and Mr. Reuben Bundy was elected Secretary. Randolph Martin, Esq., offered the following resolution which was unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That we unequivocally endorse the call for a National Labor Convention of the colored men of the nation to meet in the city of Washington on the first Monday in December, 1869.
Resolved, That in our judgment, the condition of the colored laboring men of the whole country, demands that we should meet in National Council, to adopt such measures as will effectually organize the colored labor of the whole country.
Resolved, That we heartily endorse the action of the Philadelphia Convention in admitting colored delegates, and also their liberal platform, in making no distinction in the employment of labor, on account of race or color.
Resolved, That Professor Randolph Martin represent the city of Winchester, and that William A. Evans represent the county at large, in the National Labor Convention that meets in the city of Washington on the first Monday in December next.
A subscription of one hundred dollars was raised to defray the expenses of the delegates.
Mr. Martin has called meetings in other counties. The greatest enthusiasm prevails in Western Virginia.
The colored Coopers of Baltimore have formed an Association, and gone to work in shops with white men, at same rate of wages. The good work moves on. Colored men organize!
The Christian Recorder, October 9, 1869.
The Colored National Labor Convention—The Board of Directors of the Chesapeake Marine Railway Company, at their regular monthly meeting, November 1st, 1869, took the following action in reference to the National Convention of Workingmen:12
Resolved, That the call for a National Convention of Colored Workingmen, to meet in Washington, December 6th, 1869, receives our unqualified endorsement, and it is looked forward to as being the beginning of the thorough organization and elevation of colored labor throughout the United States.
Resolved, That the relationship of capital to labor in the Southern States has been so changed by the results of the late civil war that the immunities of every workingman should be equal.
Resolved, That we appeal to the National Convention, when assembled in December next, so to legislate upon the question of labor as will ultimately result in the complete organization and consolidation of all branches of labor without regard to color into one common brotherhood.
The above resolutions were unanimously adopted, and Mr. George Meyers, the Secretary of the company, was elected a delegate to represent the company in the coming Convention. He will represent a constituency of over four hundred, with a capital stock of $40,000, and an enterprise without an equal among colored men in the United States.
National Labor Convention—At the Convention of the Colored Mechanics and Laboring Men of the city of Baltimore, held at the Douglas Institute last evening, the following delegates were elected to represent the different branches of workingmen in the National Labor Convention that meets in the city of Washington on the first Monday in December next: Isaac Myers, State at large; A. Ward Handy, city at large; Daniel Davis, W. W. Hare, Robert B. Sorrell, Daniel Finley, Wm. Gant, Wm. Griffin, Joseph Thomas, Wesley Howard, J. H. C. Pinder, Goerge Dennis, J. H. Tabbs, Augustus Roberts, Henry Jones, James Hammond. Mr. John H. Butler, of Baltimore, has been elected by the Butler Industrial Association of St. Mary’s county. Addresses were delivered by Messrs. W. U. Saunders, Isaac Myers, John H. Butler, R. B. Sorrell, and others.13
The Christian Recorder, November 20, 1869.
From the Charleston (S.C.) Missionary Record
EVERY day intensifies the interest in this great gathering, which will take place in Washington, D.C., the first Monday in Dec. From every section of the country great interest is felt in this movement. The colored men in Georgia and other States are moving. We call upon the mechanics, and tradesmen of every kind in this State to interest themselves in the great living idea of the age now taking deep root in the nation, labor which is the foundation stone of every fabric of national prosperity, and civilization, is now being laid deeper and more solid than ever before. The honest yeomanry, the mechanic, artisan, the farmer and the operatives are being recognized as an integral part of the nation, the proper estimate; is being placed on their productions as never before. In the South, we have all the materials, which make these characters, and give prosperity to the country. Let South Carolina be fully represented in this Convention, let a delegate be sent from every county, if need be, in this State; chose your most intelligent men of every calling; call county conventions, discuss the various questions of interest to the whole people, let no subject be undiscussed which relates to the prosperity of the laboring classes.
Every dispatch brings us news of efforts of the struggling millions of the Old World to obtain a proper recognition, by capital, and wealth, which owe their existence to the industry of the laboring classes. There are, doubtless, twenty thousand mechanics and tradesmen in this State, who ought to be represented there; then there are thousands of inexperienced farmers, who ought to be represented; what is needed in this country is a general diffusion of knowledge among the masses. Let us hope that this convention is the beginning of better days for the working men of this country. We hail this as the precursor of a brighter era for our race.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, October 30, 1869.
The relations between laborers and employers have formed a prominent topic of discussion during the past year, as being closely allied with the industrial reconstruction of the State. A large proportion of the laborers, being freedmen employed upon farms and plantations, have had occasion to complain of the unjust conditions imposed upon them by planters in contracts for labor, and of the insufficiency of the wages, and the uncertainty of their prompt collection. Another alleged cause of complaint has been the obstacles encountered by thrifty laborers in their efforts to purchase land in parcels commensurate with their limited means.
In consequence of these grievances, a State Labor Convention, composed chiefly of colored delegates, was held in the latter part of November at Columbia, the object of which was to obtain from the General Assembly then in session the legislation necessary to protect the laborer from the alleged rapacity and dishonesty of his employer. In a memorial presented to the Legislature, the position and the wants of the agricultural laboring–class of the State were defined, and a redress of their grievances asked in the following terms:
We pray that your honorable body will provide by statute:
1. That the claim of the agricultural laborer for wages due shall operate as a preferred lien upon the land that he works, and that the planter or owner of said land shall not sell or alienate the same, until such claim is satisfied.
2. That the Governor shall appoint a discreet and proper person in each county who shall be designated as “commissioner of contracts.” Such persons shall be charged with the duty of examining and attesting all contracts between the planter and laborer, and shall act as advisory counsel of the laborer upon all questions that may arise under his contract. He shall make a quarterly report to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, setting forth the number of laborers in his county, how employed, and the rate of wages paid, and the names of planters and laborers who may have violated their contracts, all of which shall be laid before the General Assembly, at the commencement of each session thereof, and shall be published for general information.
3. That the suits of all classes of laborers and employes for wages due them shall have precedence on the calendars of the courts, over all other civil suits, and shall be heard at the first term of the court after the declaration of the plaintiff in the same shall have been filed.
4. That the Governor shall be authorized to appoint, in each county, an officer whose duty it shall be to make up the list of jurors, and superintend the drawing of the same, in order that the laboring–classes may have a fair representation on the juries, a privilege which is practically denied them in the rural districts, under the operation of the present system.
5. That, when lands are sold under execution, the sheriff shall divide them, as nearly as practicable, into tracts not exceeding fifty acres each, in order that the small capitalists may be enabled to purchase.
We believe that this measure will greatly facilitate the acquisition of land by the landless, and that it can be rendered legally practicable by providing that the decree of sale, in each case, shall declare that only so much of the debtor’s land, or the subdivisions thereof, shall be sold as may be necessary to satisfy the judgment.
6. That all due–bills given by planters to laborers shall specify in terms the special consideration for which the same shall have been given, and shall be transferable, at the option of the holder, and shall operate as a lien upon the crop and land whenever such due–bill is given, in lieu of payment for agricultural labor.
7. That nine hours shall be a lawful day’s work for all mechanics and laborers engaged in manufactures or in any business requiring skilled labor.
8. Abolish all taxes on sales of cotton and rice, by either State or municipal authorities.
Your memorialists are satisfied that the enactment of the laws herein prayed for will be of vast benefit to the agricultural laborers, and will greatly tend to advance the industrial reconstruction of the entire South.
This action on the part of the laboring–class was not without its effect; for a bill was promptly introduced into the House, with fair prospects of becoming a law, embodying the main points of the memorial.
Appletons’ Annual Cyclopedia, 1869, pp. 635–36.
Columbia, S. C., Nov. 25.
Janney’s Hall was crowded with an intelligent and earnest audience.
The Convention was called to order at four o’clock.
Prayer was made by the Rev. Mr. Perrin.
B. F. Jackson, chairman of the committee which called the Convention, succinctly stated the reason for calling the Convention. He said that the time seemed ripe for consultation and concerted action for the elevation and prosperity of the laboring masses. In obedience to this felt want, the call was made. That it was a deeply felt want is shown by the response of so many delegates from all parts of the State. We have met together, not as politicians or partisans, but as working men, to deliberate, not how to injure or invade the rights of capital, but how the laboring men, of wealth of the State, those on whom the whole people must depend for their prosperity, may be secured in their rights and advanced in their social and material interests.
R. B. Elliot was elected temporary chairman.14
A printed circular was distributed, containing the following questions to members:
1. What monthly wages is paid in your county and what [do] planters pay?
2. What share of the crop is given where laborers find their own provisions; what share where planters find provisions? What share should be given? Is it better for the laborer to find his own provisions or for the planter to furnish?
3. How do the planters in your county treat the laborers? Do they pay wages as they agree? Do they divide the crops fairly. If not, in what way do they defraud the laborers? What can and ought to be done to prevent these wrongs? Do the magistrates protect the laborers in their rights?
4. What do the planters in your county say about this Convention? Will they agree to a fair system, if proposed by this Convention? What do the laborers say of it? What do they expect us to do? Would the people come to an officer appointed for the purpose of drawing contracts as they should be? Would they adopt a general printed form of contract, if recommended by this Convention and the Legislature?
A committee of five was appointed on credentials.
Pending the report, various speakers were called.
Rev. Mr. Stamford declared that all races and classes should live together, and act kindly and justly toward each other. That this is the desire and purpose of the laborers. He humorously illustrated the situation of the laborer and his aspirations for rising in life.
Hon. F. J. Moses, Jr., was called for. He said we have been steadily denounced as always tearing down, and never building up; but we come to–day to give the lie to this idea—to show that the interests of labor and capital are identical. To close up the chasm between capitalists and laborers we must care for the interests of both. You, laborers, have waited for years for planters and capitalists to do justice. You have waited in vain. You now ask only justice long delayed. You ask not vengeance nor reparation for past wrongs—only for right dealing in the future. Do not allow political ideas to interfere with duty at this time. Some men may think to turn this to a political convention for personal ends. If you see such men, put them aside, and give the control of the Convention into other hands. Let your action be so temperate and judicious that it shall be for the good of all your friends and all the people.15
Hon. J. J. Wright, of Beaufort, said we must make this Convention to subserve good purpose, to secure an advance of wages. We cannot divide and distribute land to all, but many men in Beaufort are now ready to sell land. The Agricultural Fair was political. This Convention is for no class or party. If men will pay good wages laborers will do honest and good work. Mr. Wright made several good points and was often cheered.16
The Committee on Credentials reported nearly 300 delegates, representing nearly every county of the State. From several counties the people thought best not to incur the expense, and requested their Representatives in the Legislature to attend the Convention.
A committee of one from each county was appointed a permanent organization.
Hon. F. L. Cardoza was invited to speak, and said that the adjustment of the interests of capital and the claims of labor is a question of profound importance and great difficulty. Happy will be that people which can settle and harmonize upon it. Aristocracy is broken down in South Carolina, but it is as much as ever determined to get labor without giving proper return. It is the time to rise and demand just recompense. No class will give justice to another till compelled to do so. The laborers must be united and determined.17
Negroes are called lazy. It is libel. Who produced two and a half millions of bales of cotton in the South this year? Give to the laborer such wages that he can live comfortably and lay by something for his old age, and he will work vigorously and faithfully.
A. J. Ransier was called for. He urged that the Convention be kept free from politics. Labor is now honorable. But laborers are ill–paid. To secure increased wages there must be organization and united action. We meet to ask what is good for all classes in society. Wherever the best wages are paid there will be found the most education, thrift, virtue, and the greatest general prosperity. An improvement in the condition of the laboring classes is sure to benefit all classes.18
The Committee on Permanent Organization reported officers, nearly all of whom were prominent Republicans. These gentlemen, none of them, craved these positions, but the delegates from the various labor Unions were not acquainted with each other, not as a rule known to the committee, and it was natural to select men well known. When the report was presented there was manifest dissatisfaction, not with any particular gentleman nominated, but because the Labor Unions were not reprsented among the officers. The gentlemen nominated at once agreed to withdraw, as their names came up, and substituted names of men now actually engaged in farming or in some mechanical occupation. A motion to elect separately was made with this view, but a motion to recommit was interposed, and opened discussion.
Mr. Elliot made an address of great power, stating the motives which had actuated him and those with him, and declined to serve as permanent president. Other gentlemen nominated declined to serve.
Short addresses, personalities, motions, and points of order, too numerous for record, followed, amid confusion and clamor.
The report was finally disposed of, an assistant secretary only being elected.
Hon. J. L. Neagle made a judicious and excellent address, closing by nominating R. B. Elliot as permanent president, assuring him that he would gratify all if he would accept. He was elected by a vote so hearty and flattering that he accepted. Hon. J. J. Wright, who had presided with marked ability during the stormy scene of the last hour, surrendered the chair to him, and thus permanent organization was effected.
R. C. De Large, Esq., nominated T. F. Clark, Esq., as Vice President. T. J. Mackey, in seconding the nomination, stated that under the [leadership] of Mr. Clark the longshoremen of Charleston had organized themselves and secured a large advance of wages. The longshoremen are the pioneers in this great labor movement, and well deserve the honor of making their President the first Vice–President of the Convention. Mr. Clark was elected by loud acclamation, and greeted with applause as he took his seat on the platform.19
The Convention then adjourned, with good feeling restored.
THURSDAY, Nov. 26.
The Convention met at half–past nine. A committee of one from each county was appointed to prepare and report business to the Convention.
A communication was received from the white laborers of Edgefield county, signed by twenty–eight persons, expressing sympathy with the objects of the Convention and the hope that it would devise such measures as would benefit all classes of laborers. A communication of similar import, from Hon. Simeon Corley, was read, and received with evident approval.
Hon. H. E. Hayne moved that one person be selected from each county to present the views and wants of the working men of the State, and, further, to limit the speeches to ten minutes. This he supported in an admirable speech, and it was carried. It was afterward modified so as to admit one from each delegation and trade.
The business committee reported, by its chairman, B. F. Jackson, for discussion and action of the Convention, a resolution for the appointment of a commissioner in each county to supervise contracts—one on the questions whether the planter should furnish provisions to the hands working on shares of the crop, and one fixing the rate of wages which ought to be paid per month, the rate being left blank, the blank to be filled by the Convention.
After a great waste of time in discussing whether to adjourn while the Legislature was in session, the proposition was voted down, and the Convention proceeded to consider the report.
Counties were called, and to Abberville, H. J. Lomax, Esq., responded. He said that farm laborers received about $6 per month. He thought that the planters ought to pay $12. Laborers on shares received one–third, of the crop. They should receive one–half, the planter furnishing material and mules, and feeding the mules, the men “finding” themselves.
Mr. Ball, of Barnwell, was opposed totally to the system now in practice. He thought that mechanics in winter should get $2.00 per day for eight hours work, and in summer $2.50 for ten hours work. With no less could they pay taxes, rents, board, or doctors’ bills. Farm laborers working on shares received one–third, and furnished all things. If they will give one–half the men will agree honestly to work, and honestly to pay rents, doctors’ bills, taxes, and all dues. He thought that farm laborers ought to receive $20 a month.
Speaking for Beaufort, Hon. Mr. Whipper said that wages were generally from $10 to $12 a month. The men could live if they could get the pay. Certainty of getting pay according to agreement is the great object. All that we can do here is to form a general plan, and leave laborers in each county to combine and carry it out. Labor cannot go into company with capital. Laborers should agree upon a stipulated sum, and combine to enforce pay.20
Mr. Gillings, of Charleston county, said wages are $5 per month and one peck of corn a week for men, women $2 to $3 and one peck of corn a week. Laborers on shares on the Cooper river get one–third of the crop. Our people cannot buy decent clothing, nor buy medicine, nor send children to school. The planter says, when the crop is gathered, “Now, I get two–thirds—you get one–third. You owe me so much, and so much, and this comes out of your third.” And then the man has left but two or three dollars. The magistrates do not do justice. The white men swindle and swindle, and the magistrates say the white man is right every time. We cannot get justice.
For the Longshoremen’s Protective Union, Mr. Taylor spoke. He earnestly advised the laborers everywhere to form Unions and insist on an advance of wages. The longshoremen ask chartered rights and laws to protect labor Unions.
A delegate from Chester said, except laborers get some relief it seems impossible to live. We ask only enough to live—only what is just and right. Employers say it took a third to keep hands when they held slaves and paid no wages. This is all they give now.
The employer, on a good crop makes from $100 to $140 on each man. The men almost starve. We want some plan and some law to give us fair wages. We ought to get one–half the crop.
We want a just rule for a man to keep his contract. We want a person to help us make such a contract. We are cheated in every way. What can we do? We pray for help. We thought the law would help us long ago. But we have waited and waited in vain. Will our Legislature try to help us?
At the close of this address, the Convention adjourned to meet at half–past four o’clock.
(Special Dispatch to The Daily Republican)
COLUMBIA, November 26—1 P.M.—Reports from counties continued.
J. H. Rainey, T. J. Mackey, W. B. Nash, and B. G. Yocum, appointed to draft memorial to the General Assembly.21
Scores of resolutions presented and referred to committees on business and memorial.
The following gentlemen were appointed delegates to the National Labor Convention:
First Congressional District,
Second Congressional District, J. H. Rainey.
Third Congressional District, Simeon Corley.
Fourth Congressional District, L. Wimbush.
At large—T. J. Mackey, W. B. Nash.
The following are the committee of nine appointed to prepare an address to the people: B. F. Jackson, Lawrence Cain, J. W. Hogan, Porter Smith, W. W. Tucker, J. H. Rainey, T. J. Mackey, W. B. Nash, and B. G. Yocum.
The Convention adjourned at 1 o’clock.
Charleston Daily Republican, November 26, 1869.
The Labor Question
Shippensburg, Cumberland Co., Pa.,
Nov. 3d, 1869.
Pursuant to notice our citizens met on Wednesday evening, Nov. 3d, 1869, in the A.M.E. Zion church, to consider the question of colored labor, and to elect a delegate to the National Labor Convention. The church was nearly filled. The meeting was called to order by Mr. David Baker. On motion Mr. Richard Baker, Sr., was elected President, and Mr. Elias M. Stanton, Secretary. After singing, and prayer by the Rev. J. D. Brooks, the Secretary read the call, and other documents, concerning the meeting.
The President made some appropriate remarks, and was followed by other gentlemen. They were listened to with interest.
Mr. Elias M. Stanton submitted the following preamble and resolutions, prefaced with a few appropriate remarks.
Whereas, The present status of Colored Labor in the United States, and its affinity to American industry, has had but little or no attention paid thereto by the dominant race of this country, consequently many of us have been compelled, to suffer wrongs, and oppression equal to slavery; and
Whereas, There are certain journalists, individuals and cliques, striving to bring contract Chinese or Coolie labor into popular favor in many parts of the country, thus forcing American laborers to work for Coolie wages or starve, and crowding us out on all sides, and reducing the workingmen of this country to a State worse than slavery; and
Whereas, We are crowded out and shoved aside under all circumstances, and a greater portion of the colored laborers of this place, and in fact, throughout the whole country, are deprived of the proper wages, mechanics excluded from the public work–shops and buildings; journeymen and apprentices denied admittance; tradesmen denied the right of trade; artizans deprived of their right to work with other men and receive the same salary; in fact, all sorts of laborers, yea, even professionals are denied their God–given rights, and debarred from places of competitive industry; therefore
Resolved, That we do hereby cordially indorse the call for a National Labor Convention of the colored men of the United States of America, which convenes in Washington City, D. C., on the first Monday in December, 1869.
Resolved, That we heartily appreciate the forcible appeal that was made upon this subject by the Executive Committee of the National Convention of Colored Americans, which convened in Washington City, on the 13th of December, 1868.
Mr. Henry Gallaway was elected delegate. On motion meeting adjourned.
The Christian Recorder, November 20, 1869.
Avery College, Allegheny City, Pa., Nov. 8, 1869.
ISAAC MYERS, ESQ: MY DEAR BROTHER: According to your appeal which was sent to me, I secured the co–operation of our leading and influential men in the call of a public meeting.
The meeting, assembled in the lecture room of the college, and Mr. B. F. Pulpress was appointed chairman, and the Rev. Mr. Asbury secretary, October 26th. The meeting adjourned to the 2nd inst. to Brown chapel, when the following delegates were duly elected, representing the following departments of labor:
B. F. Pulpress, Commerce; Robt. Waye, Carpenter; Nelson Williams, Moulder; Noah Marry, Shoemaker; Armstead Morrison, Stone–mason; David Morrison, Plasterer; John Jackson, Blacksmith; Thos. Roach, Calker; Washington Hobbs, Laborer; Jas. Barnes, Bricklayer; B. K. Sampson, Education; A. Cole, the Ministry; H. H. Garnet, Avery College.
May God give the good cause great success and bestow faith and strength.
The Christian Recorder, November 27, 1869.
Last evening a meeting was held in Bethel church, Sullivan street, under the auspices of the Colored Men and Women’s Labor Reform Union. A host of attractive orators was announced to speak, but the only one who put in an appearance was the well known colored Senator A. A. Bradley, of Georgia. There was a large attendance of both sexes.23
Rev. Mr. JONES opened the proceedings with prayer, in the course of which he sued for human liberty, in order that the social and moral condition of man might be improved.
Mr. TROUP was the first speaker. He called attention to the proceedings of the Labor Congress at Philadelphia, and alluded to the great sincerity of that body in allowing colored people to participate in the good results of its deliberation. He was aware of the prejudice existing against colored people, but that prejudice must be lived down. The time was come when labor must rise above capital. There had been a difference of opinion in this country about the introduction of colored men into the white men’s unions—there had been a difference of opinion among the colored men themselves—but there could be no difference of opinion between white men and colored workingmen that they should go hand and hand in the great struggle for their liberty. He was there to encourage the organizations of colored workingmen in this city. If there were any white workingmen who objected to that he would say they were blind to their own interests. They could not see that it was their interest to organize with the colored men and work harmoniously together. In regard to the coming convention at Washington, he was informed by the President of the National Labor Congress of the United States that he would be present at that convention in order to give his aid and countenance to the movement. The speaker said he would do his utmost to forward the interests of the colored workingmen’s organization. (Applause).24
Senator BRADLEY then came forward and was warmly received. He said the subjects under consideration were religious labor and political reform. The religious point of the subject had been so ably treated previously that he deemed it superfluous and entirely unnecessary to refer to it. With regard to the other portion of the discourse he would say that in the first periods of the world’s history necessity compelled that generals should govern, because men, grouped together in herds, commenced fighting each other and their leaders, chiefs and generals, were obliged to manage them. Among others William the Conqueror, of England, in his time owned everything. People were sold and their masters took care of them. It was then that capital triumphed over labor. It was pretty much the same now in Russia. But at a later period, when people became more enlightened in England, they commenced to own themselves and own land, but they would remember that that was not brought about until the Magna Charta was extorted from King John. Then commenced the history of freedom and independence of the workingmen. The Magna Charta was the foundation of American independence. The speaker then proceeded to dilate at considerable length upon the wars of the country, showing the prominent part colored people had taken in them. It was a colored man who gave the first blow in the great revolution. A colored man named Christopher Attick and two white men were shot down in Boston, the alarm bells were rung and the mighty struggle was commenced. He alluded to the compliments paid the colored troops and finally referred to the action of the negro forces in the late war. The speaker was quite profuse in his eulogies of his brethren, and the announcement of their heroic deeds elicited frequent and loud tokens of approbation. He characterized the rebellion as a great struggle of capital against labor. The speaker reviewed the history of the country since the war, introducing many incidents to show that the acts of reconstruction had not been put into force in the fair and impartial manner intended. At times Senator Bradley was quite humorous; particularly so when narrating his experiences in the Georgia Legislature. Nor did he spare the Massachusetts Legislature in the course of his lengthy address. No less than four hundred and sixty–three special acts had been passed during the last session, a large number being for railroads, while the poor mechanic, the poor St. Crispin, could not get a single act passed. He was particularly severe regarding the street improvements of Boston, and drew comparisons between the municipal legislation of that city and New York, both of which came in for a good round of abuse. And while the Senator wandered away considerably from the subject for which the meeting had assembled he did not fail to draw attention to the important fact that he himself could not live on air—a fact, by the way, all present seemed ready to admit. During the collection the quick ears of the Senator were suddenly startled by the chink of coin, when with much dignity he intimated that paper currency was the order of the evening. The announcement might scarcely have been thoroughly appreciated had it not been that the wily legislator addressed himself to the softer sex and strenuously insisted they had a right to vote; whereupon the stamps fell like rain. The Senator earnestly advocated this point, and read voluminous documents and statutes to substantiate his argument. As the hour was somewhat advanced when Senator Bradley closed his oration, the consideration of the labor question was adjourned and the meeting was brought to a close.25
New York Herald, November 17, 1869.
Galveston, Texas, Nov. 5th.
COLORED LABOR CONVENTION.—The Convention met on Friday afternoon at Anderson Hall, and was called to order by Richard Nelson. On motion of John De Bruhl, G. T. Ruby was elected President. On motion of Richard Nelson, John De Bruhl was elected Secretary. Circulars were read from Mr. Isaac Myers, the Chairman of the State Labor Convention at Baltimore. After which a resolution offered by Richard Nelson was adopted, and the Convention took a recess until 9 P.M. The Convention met at the appointed hour, with G. T. Ruby in the chair. The labor question was discussed, and delegates were balloted for and the following persons elected: Rev. Johnson Reed, John De Bruhl and Richard Nelson, and Gen. W. T. Clark was afterwards added to the list. After which the Convention adjourned to meet on Tuesday evening at the A.M.E. church on Broadway.
On motion of Mr. De Bruhl, Mr. Nelson was called to the chair to act as President, until that officer came. Mr. Nelson then called the meeting to order. A resolution offered by Richard Nelson was read and adopted, heartily endorsing the action of the State Labor Convention at Baltimore, and heartily inviting the workingmen of the State to co–operate with the Convention in this movement.
The President proper then took the chair as President of the meeting. On motion of Rev. Mr. Reed the action of the Convention held at Mechanics’ Hall, on Friday last, was approved. Mr. Powell then moved that Mr. Reed be appointed one of the delegates to the National Labor Convention, to be held in Washington city in December. Mr. Reed asked that the motion to allow the President to express his views be withdrawn, which was done. After hearing the statement of the President, the motion was renewed and Mr. Reed elected.
Mr. Debbles then stated that Harris county had commissioned him to state to the Convention that that county was willing to send one delegate; and thought it was imposing on Galveston county to ask her to send all the delegates. He thought one delegate was enough to send from Galveston, San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Waco.
Mr. Douglas stated that he thought such was the instruction of the committee.
Major Plumly made a few remarks, which were heartily received.
The thanks of the Convention were tendered Mr. Richard Nelson for his efforts in starting and organizing the first Labor Convention ever held in Galveston.
On motion of Major Plumly a committee of five were appointed to collect funds for the purpose of defraying the expenses of delegates. The following committee was appointed: Maj. Plumly, Miss Maria Corody, Mrs. McIlvane, Miss Cuney, John De Bruhl, Henry Ballinger.
After a short discussion Mr. Reed moved that the Convention adjourn, which was carried.
State Labor Convention of Colored Men.—Third day.
On motion of Hon. H. M. Turner, a committee of seven were appointed to nominate delegates to the National Labor Convention which meets in the city of Washington, D.C., December, 1869. The call of said Convention was then read for the information of members.
The report of the committee for delegates to attend the National Convention at Washington, D.C., was announced by the Hon. H. M. Turner.
On motion, the report was received and adopted.
The Committee on Nominations beg leave to offer the following report:—1. Hon. Jas. Porter, of Chatham; 2. Hon. Philip Joiner, of Albany; 3. Hon. Abraham Smith, of Columbus; 4. Hon. J. F. Long, of Macon; 5. Hon. W. J. White, of Augusta; 6. Hon. James A. Jackson, of Athens; 7. Hon. Wm. Cookene, of Marietta.
The Christian Recorder, November 20, 1869.
At a Convention of the colored working men of Galveston, which met at the A.M.E. Church, on Tuesday, the 2nd day of October, 1869, the Hon. G. Y. Ruby being President, the following resolutions were read and approved.
WHEREAS, An invitation is extended by the Working Men of Baltimore for a National Labor Convention to be held at the city of Washington, in December, 1869, to consider the prospects and ameliorate the condition of the working men of America, and,
Resolved, That we hereby appoint the Rev. Johnson Reed, and Mr. Henry Powell to be and represent us as our State Delegates in said Labor Convention; and
Resolved, Further, that we hereby nominate and appoint the following named ladies and gentlemen as a committee to collect funds for the purpose of defraying the expenses of our said delegates, viz:
Major B. Rush Plumly, Miss Maria Dewdy, Mrs. McIlvaine, Miss Cuney, John De Bruhl and Henry Ballinger.
G. Y. RUBY, Pres.
JOHN DE BRUHL, Sec.
The Christian Recorder, November 27, 1869.
Not quite a year ago the first truly National Convention, representing the colored people of this country, was held at Washington. The important question then pending before Congress was the proposition for a Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution, guaranteeing equal political rights, irrespective of color. It was a chief purpose of that Convention to insure the adoption by Congress of that important fundamental measure. During the year it has been sent forth to the States for ratification, and has received the sanction of so large a proportion of the required number, that with the understood bias of the States yet to act, its success is now scarcely a matter of doubt. When it shall be proclaimed as a part of the fundamental law of the land, the colored people will have achieved legal equality with the whites as American citizens. It will be an important vantage ground gained. But it will be found that the ballot is but a tool, a weapon, and that upon its use will depend the measure of its real value. It will be in no sense a substitute for work in gaining bread, in acquiring knowledge. It will afford added means of protection, and of securing better conditions for earnest, compensated labor.
Hitherto, except in churches, and those largely under the indirect control of the whites of kindred denominations, the colored people have gained little strength from organization. Of course there could be no political organizations of importance because until recently they have, as a class, had no political existence. Even yet it is but partial. Of industrial organizations they have had few or none, because prior to the war the major portion of colored laborers, men and women, were held as property, subject to the will of others. Personal, political freedom, at least so far as the letter of the law is concerned, we trust is well nigh assured. We are very glad therefore to see among the colored people of the South, and throughout the country, movements already in progress for organization to promote especially their industrial and educational interests. This is as it should be, and promises well for the future. Labor, and other organizations among the whites, independent of party politics, have done much to advance the interests and to secure better conditions for the working classes. Their real value, however, has as yet been but slightly appreciated and realized among either the whites or the colored people. The existence of slavery in the country was, only in a less aggravated form, a curse to the white laborers as well as the blacks.
We have already published the Call of a large and influential committee for a “National Labor Convention of the colored men of the United States,” to meet at Washington on the first Monday in December next. It is proposed that the Convention shall consider:
1st. The Present Status of Colored Labor in the United States and its Relationship to American Industry.
2d. Adopt such rules and devise such means as will systematically and effectually organize all the departments of said labor, and make it the more productive in its new Political relationship to Capital, and consolidate the Colored Workingmen of the several States to act in cooperation with their White Fellow–Workingmen in every State and Territory in the Union, who are opposed to distinction in the Apprenticeship Laws on account of Color, and to do act cooperatively until the necessity for separate organization shall be deemed unnecessary.
3d. Consider the question of the importation of Contract Coolie Labor and its effects upon American Labor, and to petition Congress for the adoption, of such Laws as will prevent its being a system of Slavery.
4th. And adopt such other means as will best advance the interest of the colored Mechanics and Workingmen of the whole country.
Delegates will be admitted without regard to race or color. Women, we presume, will be admitted to the Convention upon the same terms as men. It will be seen, in another column, that a woman delegate has already been appointed from Newport, R. I., and it is expected, we understand, that others will be, from this city. Colored men, as was shown by the National Convention in Washington last winter, are quite as liberal as the whites in this respect. We are very glad to learn from several of our Southern exchanges that the forthcoming Convention at Washington awakens much interest among the colored people of the South, and that there is good prospect of a large and intelligent representation from that quarter. Organization is probably in a more advanced stage at present in Georgia than elsewhere in the South. The colored people of this and other cities in the North are, we learn, to be well represented. The Convention is likely to mark the beginning of a new and important era for laborers of all classes under the regime of freedom. There is yet a vast deal of unreasonable prejudice against color to conquer among white workingmen. The Printers in their persistent efforts to oust Mr. Douglass from the Government printing office, and the Bricklayers, and others, in their opposition to colored apprentices and mechanics have given abundant and shameful proof of this. But there are other, and more manly white men, mechanics and others, who are superior to such petty prejudice and selfishness, and who are disposed to extend a fraternal recognition to colored workers. With such there can, and doubtless will be, advantageous cooperation.26
At the South cooperation among the colored people themselves, and with friendly whites, is a necessity of the situation. Arrayed against them in bitter enmity are the rebel land monopolists. They were formerly slave owners, and are still, in the absence of confiscation, improperly the wealthy, and therefore controlling class. Cooperative associations must be formed among the colored people and friendly whites to gain homesteads and carry on business, farming and manufacturing, independently of the old ruling white class. Landless voters must see to it that their ballots are turned to good account by sending to the Southern Legislatures such representatives as will make the inimical land proprietors give largely, if grudgingly, by taxation for the support of free public education, for State charities and internal improvements. Though not directly a political movement, as it is undoubtedly best that at present it should not be, we hail the beginning of thorough organization among colored laborers, as being auspicious not only for their material welfare but as having for the near future an important political significance.
National Anti–Slavery Standard, October 30, 1869.
A Word of Advice
On the 6th of December, 1869, the First National Labor Convention of the colored laboring men of the United States, under the auspices of the National Labor Union, will be held in the city of Washington, D. C. We earnestly trust that its deliberations will be controlled by prudence, candor, and common sense, and that it will frown down any attempt to transform it into a politico–partizan assemblage. The colored people, have too much at stake at the present juncture to allow any of the political charlatans, who are so profuse with their sympathy and advice, and who are ever ready to ride upon any hobby upon which a little capital may be made, to guide their councils. They must act and think for themselves—independent of party dictation—if they desire or expect the support of their white fellow toilers. The action of the National Labor Union is in earnest that its professions of sympathy, are no lip service; that its members are prepared to take them by the hand, and aid, by every means within their power, the dissemination among them of those principles, which have proved so advantageous to the white mechanics of the North. Let them, therefore, eschew all schemes of a chimerical character, all action calculated to arouse a sectional feeling, all advice tending to excite the prejudices of race or color; and act on the principle that their true friends alone can be found in the ranks of labor and their safest counsellors in those whose interests are identified with their own; and the results will redound to their lasting welfare, and justify the wisdom which governed their action.
Workingman’s Advocate, November 6, 1869.
From every indication the Labor Convention which is to meet in Washington city, the first Monday in December, promises to be numerously attended. While, indeed, the labor question should be canvassed by all the people, while every city and considerable town should be represented, yet there is danger of having the Convention too large. Too many of the people cannot be interested, but too many of them, by one half, may repair to Washington. Work is needed, and must be done; but overflowing conventions are never celebrated for their work. We tremble lest this one, surpassing in practical importance any ever held by us, will be so crowded, that, by the time each one of the delegates makes a speech—and they must do that, you know, all will be ready and willing to go home; for we whisper something, and not to be witty, either, that board is tremendously high at Washington. We trust the people have sent to represent them, not a crowd, drilled only in talk,—the most pestiferous class in creation, but a company of prudent, hard working men, men who will speak advisedly with their lips.
Towering high above every other interest is that of labor. The politician, the would–be statesman, and we are already troubled with not a few of them, may cry out, Give us our political rights, but the men who live by the sweat of their brow, know that their chief want is to have labor properly adjusted. The bawling of politicians never put us in the army, whereby we struck off our own chains, neither will their bawling ratify the XVth Amendment. Mankind generally only act from necessity. It was the necessity of the North that put us into the army; the same necessity will ratify the XVth Amendment. If it be not necessary it will not be done for more than a generation, all the talk of our would–be political leaders to the contrary.
In the meantime the people want their labor properly adjusted. Let the convention, which is to meet so soon, inaugurate such measures as will secure to us our position in the South, and restore it to us in the North. Let organizations and unions be established. Let care be taken to foster all manner of mechanism; as we must therein principally operate in the future. The Negro has too much of the American in him to be a laborer. He must eventually become a mechanic. The ranks of labor are to be filled by emigrants, of all races; the ranks of mechanism by Americans, white and black. We appeal especially to the members who will come from the South; the majority of whom will doubtless be mechanics. Foster your trades, take no step backward, prepare the minds of the people, to rise to the lofty ranks of the American mechanic.
The Christian Recorder, November 27, 1869.