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´╗┐Title: The Armies of Labor: A Chronicle of the Organized Wage-Earners
Author: Orth, Samuel Peter, 1873-1922
Language: English
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University, and Alev Akman



By Samuel P. Orth











Three momentous things symbolize the era that begins its cycle with
the memorable year of 1776: the Declaration of Independence, the steam
engine, and Adam Smith's book, "The Wealth of Nations." The Declaration
gave birth to a new nation, whose millions of acres of free land were to
shift the economic equilibrium of the world; the engine multiplied man's
productivity a thousandfold and uprooted in a generation the customs of
centuries; the book gave to statesmen a new view of economic affairs and
profoundly influenced the course of international trade relations.

The American people, as they faced the approaching age with the
experiences of the race behind them, fashioned many of their
institutions and laws on British models. This is true to such an extent
that the subject of this book, the rise of labor in America, cannot be
understood without a preliminary survey of the British industrial system
nor even without some reference to the feudal system, of which English
society for many centuries bore the marks and to which many relics
of tenure and of class and governmental responsibility may be traced.
Feudalism was a society in which the status of an individual was fixed:
he was underman or overman in a rigid social scale according as he
considered his relation to his superiors or to his inferiors. Whatever
movement there was took place horizontally, in the same class or on the
same social level. The movement was not vertical, as it so frequently is
today, and men did not ordinarily rise above the social level of their
birth, never by design, and only perhaps by rare accident or genius. It
was a little world of lords and serfs; of knights who graced court and
castle, jousted at tournaments, or fought upon the field of battle;
and of serfs who toiled in the fields, served in the castle, or, as the
retainers of the knight, formed the crude soldiery of medieval days.
For their labor and allegiance they were clothed and housed and fed.
Yet though there were feast days gay with the color of pageantry and
procession, the worker was always in a servile state, an underman
dependent upon his master, and sometimes looking upon his condition as
little better than slavery.

With the break-up of this rigid system came in England the emancipation
of the serf, the rise of the artisan class, and the beginnings of
peasant agriculture. That personal gravitation which always draws
together men of similar ambitions and tasks now began to work
significant changes in the economic order. The peasantry, more or less
scattered in the country, found it difficult to unite their powers for
redressing their grievances, although there were some peasant revolts
of no mean proportions. But the artisans of the towns were soon grouped
into powerful organizations, called guilds, so carefully managed and so
well disciplined that they dominated every craft and controlled
every detail in every trade. The relation of master to journeyman and
apprentice, the wages, hours, quantity, and quality of the output, were
all minutely regulated. Merchant guilds, similarly constituted, also
prospered. The magnificent guild halls that remain in our day are
monuments of the power and splendor of these organizations that made
the towns of the later Middle Ages flourishing centers of trade, of
handicrafts, and of art. As towns developed, they dealt the final blow
to an agricultural system based on feudalism; they became cities of
refuge for the runaway serfs, and their charters, insuring political and
economic freedom, gave them superior advantages for trading.

The guild system of manufacture was gradually replaced by the domestic
system. The workman's cottage, standing in its garden, housed the loom
and the spinning wheel, and the entire family was engaged in labor at
home. But the workman, thus apparently independent, was not the owner
of either the raw material or the finished product. A middleman or agent
brought him the wool, carried away the cloth, and paid him his hire.
Daniel Defoe, who made a tour of Britain in 1794-6, left a picture of
rural England in this period, often called the golden age of labor. The
land, he says, "was divided into small inclosures from two acres to six
or seven each, seldom more; every three or four pieces of land had an
house belonging to them,...hardly an house standing out of a speaking
distance from another.... We could see at every house a tenter, and on
almost every tenter a piece of cloth or kersie or shalloon.... At every
considerable house was a manufactory.... Every clothier keeps one
horse, at least, to carry his manufactures to the market and every one
generally keeps a cow or two or more for his family. By this means the
small pieces of inclosed land about each house are occupied, for they
scarce sow corn enough to feed their poultry .... The houses are full of
lusty fellows, some at the dye vat, some at the looms, others dressing
the clothes; the women or children carding or spinning, being all
employed, from the youngest to the oldest."

But more significant than these changes was the rise of the so-called
mercantile system, in which the state took under its care industrial
details that were formerly regulated by the town or guild. This system,
beginning in the sixteenth century and lasting through the eighteenth,
had for its prime object the upbuilding of national trade. The state,
in order to insure the homogeneous development of trade and industry,
dictated the prices of commodities. It prescribed the laws of
apprenticeship and the rules of master and servant. It provided
inspectors for passing on the quality of goods offered for sale. It
weighed the loaves, measured the cloth, and tested the silverware. It
prescribed wages, rural and urban, and bade the local justice act as a
sort of guardian over the laborers in his district. To relieve poverty
poor laws were passed; to prevent the decline of productivity corn laws
were passed fixing arbitrary prices for grain. For a time monopolies
creating artificial prosperity were granted to individuals and to
corporations for the manufacture, sale, or exploitation of certain
articles, such as matches, gunpowder, and playing-cards.

This highly artificial and paternalistic state was not content with
regulating all these internal matters but spread its protection over
foreign commerce. Navigation acts attempted to monopolize the trade
of the colonies and especially the trade in the products needed by
the mother country. England encouraged shipping and during this period
achieved that dominance of the sea which has been the mainstay of her
vast empire. She fostered plantations and colonies not for their own
sake but that they might be tributaries to the wealth of the nation. An
absurd importance was attached to the possession of gold and silver, and
the ingenuity of statesmen was exhausted in designing lures to entice
these metals to London. Banking and insurance began to assume prime
importance. By 1750 England had sent ships into every sea and had
planted colonies around the globe.

But while the mechanism of trade and of government made surprising
progress during the mercantile period, the mechanism of production
remained in the slow handicraft stage. This was now to change. In 1738
Kay invented the flying shuttle, multiplying the capacity of the loom.
In 1767 Hargreaves completed the spinning-jenny, and in 1771 Arkwright
perfected his roller spinning machine. A few years later Crompton
combined the roller and the jenny, and after the application of steam to
spinning in 1785 the power loom replaced the hand loom. The manufacture
of woolen cloth being the principal industry of England, it was natural
that machinery should first be invented for the spinning and weaving
of wool. New processes in the manufacture of iron and steel and the
development of steam transportation soon followed.

Within the course of a few decades the whole economic order was changed.
Whereas many centuries had been required for the slow development of
the medieval system of feudalism, the guild system, and the handicrafts,
now, like a series of earthquake shocks, came changes so sudden and
profound that even today society has not yet learned to adjust itself
to the myriads of needs and possibilities which the union of man's mind
with nature's forces has produced. The industrial revolution took the
workman from the land and crowded him into the towns. It took the loom
from his cottage and placed it in the factory. It took the tool from his
hand and harnessed it to a shaft. It robbed him of his personal skill
and joined his arm of flesh to an arm of iron. It reduced him from a
craftsman to a specialist, from a maker of shoes to a mere stitcher
of soles. It took from him, at a single blow, his interest in the
workmanship of his task, his ownership of the tools, his garden, his
wholesome environment, and even his family. All were swallowed by the
black maw of the ugly new mill town. The hardships of the old days were
soon forgotten in the horrors of the new. For the transition was rapid
enough to make the contrast striking. Indeed it was so rapid that the
new class of employers, the capitalists, found little time to think of
anything but increasing their profits, and the new class of employees,
now merely wage-earners, found that their long hours of monotonous toil
gave them little leisure and no interest.

The transition from the age of handicrafts to the era of machines
presents a picture of greed that tempts one to bitter invective. Its
details are dispassionately catalogued by the Royal Commissions that
finally towards the middle of the nineteenth century inquired into
industrial conditions. From these reports Karl Marx drew inspiration
for his social philosophy, and in them his friend Engles found the
facts that he retold so vividly, for the purpose of arousing his
fellow workmen. And Carlyle and Ruskin, reading this official record
of selfishness, and knowing its truth, drew their powerful indictments
against a society which would permit its eight-year-old daughters, its
mothers, and its grandmothers, to be locked up for fourteen hours a day
in dirty, ill-smelling factories, to release them at night only to find
more misery in the hovels they pitifully called home.

The introduction of machinery into manufacturing wrought vast changes
also in the organization of business. The unit of industry greatly
increased in size. The economies of organized wholesale production were
soon made apparent; and the tendency to increase the size of the factory
and to amalgamate the various branches of industry under corporate
control has continued to the present. The complexity of business
operations also increased with the development of transportation and the
expansion of the empire of trade. A world market took the place of the
old town market, and the world market necessitated credit on a new and
infinitely larger scale.

No less important than the revolution in industry was the revolution in
economic theory which accompanied it. Unlimited competition replaced the
state paternalism of the mercantilists. Adam Smith in 1776 espoused the
cause of economic liberty, believing that if business and industry were
unhampered by artificial restrictions they would work out their own
salvation. His pronouncement was scarcely uttered before it became the
shibboleth of statesmen and business men. The revolt of the American
colonies hastened the general acceptance of this doctrine, and England
soon found herself committed to the practice of every man looking after
his own interests. Freedom of contract, freedom of trade, and freedom
of thought were vigorous and inspiring but often misleading phrases.
The processes of specialization and centralization that were at work
portended the growing power of those who possessed the means to build
factories and ships and railways but not necessarily the freedom of the
many. The doctrine of laissez faire assumed that power would bring with
it a sense of responsibility. For centuries, the old-country gentry and
governing class of England had shown an appreciation of their duties,
as a class, to those dependent upon them. But now another class with no
benevolent traditions of responsibility came into power--the capitalist,
a parvenu whose ambition was profit, not equity, and whose dealings with
other men were not tempered by the amenities of the gentleman but were
sharpened by the necessities of gain. It was upon such a class, new in
the economic world and endowed with astounding power, that Adam Smith's
new formularies of freedom were let loose.

During all these changes in the economic order, the interest of the
laborer centered in one question: What return would he receive for his
toil? With the increasing complexity of society, many other problems
presented themselves to the worker, but for the most part they were
subsidiary to the main question of wages. As long as man's place
was fixed by law or custom, a customary wage left small margin for
controversy. But when fixed status gave way to voluntary contract, when
payment was made in money, when workmen were free to journey from town
to town, labor became both free and fluid, bargaining took the place of
custom, and the wage controversy began to assume definite proportions.
As early as 1348 the great plague became a landmark in the field of wage
disputes. So scarce had laborers become through the ravages of the
Black Death, that wages rose rapidly, to the alarm of the employers,
who prevailed upon King Edward III to issue the historic proclamation of
1349, directing that no laborer should demand and no employer should pay
greater wages than those customary before the plague. This early attempt
to outmaneuver an economic law by a legal device was only the prelude to
a long series of labor laws which may be said to have culminated in
the great Statute of Laborers of 1562, regulating the relations of
wage-earner and employer and empowering justices of the peace to fix
the wages in their districts. Wages steadily decreased during the two
hundred years in which this statute remained in force, and poor laws
were passed to bring the succor which artificial wages made necessary.
Thus two rules of arbitrary government were meant to neutralize each
other. It is the usual verdict of historians that the estate of labor
in England declined from a flourishing condition in the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries to one of great distress by the time of the
Industrial Revolution. This unhappy decline was probably due to several
causes, among which the most important were the arbitrary and artificial
attempts of the Government to keep down wages, the heavy taxation caused
by wars of expansion, and the want of coercive power on the part of

From the decline of the guild system, which had placed labor and its
products so completely in the hands of the master craftsman, the workman
had assumed no controlling part in the labor bargain. Such guilds and
such journeyman's fraternities as may have survived were practically
helpless against parliamentary rigor and state benevolence. In the
domestic stage of production, cohesion among workers was not so
necessary. But when the factory system was substituted for the
handicraft system and workers with common interests were thrown together
in the towns, they had every impulsion towards organization. They not
only felt the need of sociability after long hours spent in spiritless
toil but they were impelled by a new consciousness--the realization that
an inevitable and profound change had come over their condition.
They had ceased to be journeymen controlling in some measure their
activities; they were now merely wage-earners. As the realization of
this adverse change came over them, they began to resent the unsanitary
and burdensome conditions under which they were compelled to live and to
work. So actual grievances were added to fear of what might happen,
and in their common cause experience soon taught them unity of action.
Parliament was petitioned, agitations were organized, sick-benefits were
inaugurated, and when these methods failed, machinery was destroyed,
factories were burned, and the strike became a common weapon of

Though a few labor organizations can be traced as far back as 1700,
their growth during the eighteenth century was slow and irregular. There
was no unity in their methods, and they were known by many names,
such as associations, unions, union societies, trade clubs, and trade
societies. These societies had no legal status and their meetings
were usually held in secret. And the Webbs in their "History of Trade
Unionism" allude to the traditions of "the midnight meeting of patriots
in the corner of the field, the buried box of records, the secret oath,
the long terms of imprisonment of the leading officials." Some of
these tales were unquestionably apocryphal, others were exaggerated
by feverish repetition. But they indicate the aversion with which the
authorities looked upon these combinations.

There were two legal doctrines long invoked by the English courts
against combined action--doctrines that became a heritage of the United
States and have had a profound effect upon the labor movements in
America. The first of these was the doctrine of conspiracy, a doctrine
so ancient that its sources are obscure. It was the natural product of
a government and of a time that looked askance at all combined action,
fearing sedition, intrigue, and revolution. As far back as 1305 there
was enacted a statute defining conspiracy and outlining the offense. It
did not aim at any definite social class but embraced all persons
who combined for a "malicious enterprise." Such an enterprise was the
breaking of a law. So when Parliament passed acts regulating wages,
conditions of employment, or prices of commodities, those who combined
secretly or openly to circumvent the act, to raise wages or lower them,
or to raise prices and curtail markets, at once fell under the ban of
conspiracy. The law operated alike on conspiring employers and conniving

The new class of employers during the early years of the machine age
eagerly embraced the doctrine of conspiracy. They readily brought
under the legal definition the secret connivings of the wage-earners.
Political conditions now also worked against the laboring class. The
unrest in the colonies that culminated in the independence of America
and the fury of the French Revolution combined to make kings and
aristocracies wary of all organizations and associations of plain folk.
And when we add to this the favor which the new employing class, the
industrial masters, were able to extort from the governing class,
because of their power over foreign trade and domestic finance, we
can understand the compulsory laws at length declaring against all
combinations of working men.

The second legal doctrine which Americans have inherited from England
and which has played a leading role in labor controversies is the
doctrine that declares unlawful all combinations in restraint of trade.
Like its twin doctrine of conspiracy, it is of remote historical
origin. One of the earliest uses, perhaps the first use, of the term
by Parliament was in the statute of 1436 forbidding guilds and trading
companies from adopting by-laws "in restraint of trade," and forbidding
practices in price manipulations "for their own profit and to the common
hurt of the people." This doctrine thus early invoked, and repeatedly
reasserted against combinations of traders and masters, was incorporated
in the general statute of 1800 which declared all combinations of
journeymen illegal. But in spite of legal doctrines, of innumerable laws
and court decisions, strikes and combinations multiplied, and devices
were found for evading statutory wages.

In 1824 an act of Parliament removed the general prohibition
of combinations and accorded to workingmen the right to bargain
collectively. Three men were responsible for this noteworthy reform,
each one a new type in British politics. The first was Francis Place, a
tailor who had taken active part in various strikes. He was secretary of
the London Corresponding Society, a powerful labor union, which in 1795
had twenty branches in London. Most of the officers of this organization
were at one time or another arrested, and some were kept in prison three
years without a trial. Place, schooled in such experience, became a
radical politician of great influence, a friend of Bentham, Owen, and
the elder Mill. The second type of new reformer was represented by
Joseph Hume, a physician who had accumulated wealth in the India
Service, who had returned home to enter public life, and who was
converted from Toryism to Radicalism by a careful study of financial,
political, and industrial problems. A great number of reform laws can
be traced directly to his incredible activity during his thirty years
in Parliament. The third leader was John R. McCulloch, an orthodox
economist, a disciple of Adam Smith, for some years editor of The
Scotsman, which was then a violently radical journal cooperating with
the newly established Edinburgh Review in advocating sociological and
political reforms.

Thus Great Britain, the mother country from which Americans have
inherited so many institutions, laws, and traditions, passed in turn
through the periods of extreme paternalism, glorified competition, and
governmental antagonism to labor combinations, into what may be called
the age of conciliation. And today the Labour Party in the House of
Commons has shown itself strong enough to impose its programme upon the
Liberals and, through this radical coalition, has achieved a power for
the working man greater than even Francis Place or Thomas Carlyle ever
hoped for.


America did not become a cisatlantic Britain, as some of the colonial
adventurers had hoped. A wider destiny awaited her. Here were economic
conditions which upset all notions of the fixity of class distinctions.
Here was a continent of free land, luring the disaffected or
disappointed artisan and enabling him to achieve economic independence.
Hither streamed ceaselessly hordes of immigrants from Europe, constantly
shifting the social equilibrium. Here the demand for labor was constant,
except during the rare intervals of financial stagnation, and here the
door of opportunity swung wide to the energetic and able artisan. The
records of American industry are replete with names of prominent leaders
who began at the apprentice's bench.

The old class distinctions brought from the home country, however, had
survived for many years in the primeval forests of Virginia and Maryland
and even among the hills of New England. Indeed, until the Revolution
and for some time thereafter, a man's clothes were the badge of his
calling. The gentleman wore powdered queue and ruffled shirt; the
workman, coarse buckskin breeches, ponderous shoes with brass buckles,
and usually a leather apron, well greased to keep it pliable. Just
before the Revolution the lot of the common laborer was not an enviable
one. His house was rude and barren of comforts; his fare was coarse and
without variety. His wage was two shillings a day, and prison--usually
an indescribably filthy hole awaited him the moment he ran into debt.
The artisan fared somewhat better. He had spent, as a rule, seven years
learning his trade, and his skill and energy demanded and generally
received a reasonable return. The account books that have come down to
us from colonial days show that his handiwork earned him a fair living.
This, however, was before machinery had made inroads upon the product
of cabinetmaker, tailor, shoemaker, locksmith, and silversmith, and when
the main street of every village was picturesque with the signs of the
crafts that maintained the decent independence of the community.

Such labor organizations as existed before the Revolution were limited
to the skilled trades. In 1648 the coopers and the shoemakers of Boston
were granted permission to organize guilds, which embraced both master
and journeyman, and there were a few similar organizations in New York,
Philadelphia, and Baltimore. But these were not unions like those of
today. "There are," says Richard T. Ely, "no traces of anything like a
modern trades' union in the colonial period of American history, and
it is evident on reflection that there was little need, if any, of
organization on the part of labor, at that time." *

     * "The Labor Movement in America," by Richard T. Ely (1905),
     p. 86.

A new epoch for labor came in with the Revolution. Within a decade
wages rose fifty per cent, and John Jay in 1784 writes of the "wages
of mechanics and laborers" as "very extravagant." Though the industries
were small and depended on a local market within a circumscribed area of
communication, they grew rapidly. The period following the Revolution
is marked by considerable industrial restiveness and by the formation
of many labor organizations, which were, however, benevolent or friendly
societies rather than unions and were often incorporated by an act of
the legislature. In New York, between 1800 and 1810, twenty-four
such societies were incorporated. Only in the larger cities were they
composed of artisans of one trade, such as the New York Masons Society
(1807) or the New York Society of Journeymen Shipwrights (1807).
Elsewhere they included artisans of many trades, such as the Albany
Mechanical Society (1801). In Philadelphia the cordwainers, printers,
and hatters had societies. In Baltimore the tailors were the first
to organize, and they conducted in 1795 one of the first strikes in
America. Ten years later they struck again, and succeeded in raising
their pay from seven shillings sixpence the job to eight shillings
ninepence and "extras." At the same time the pay of unskilled labor
was rising rapidly, for workers were scarce owing to the call of the
merchant marine in those years of the rising splendor of the American
sailing ship, and the lure of western lands. The wages of common
laborers rose to a dollar and more a day.

There occurred in 1805 an important strike of the Philadelphia
cordwainers. Theirs was one of the oldest labor organizations in
the country, and it had conducted several successful strikes. This
particular occasion, however, is significant, because the strikers were
tried for conspiracy in the mayor's court, with the result that they
were found guilty and fined eight dollars each, with costs. As the court
permitted both sides to tell their story in detail, a full report of the
proceedings survives to give us, as it were, a photograph of the
labor conditions of that time. The trial kindled a great deal of local
animosity. A newspaper called the Aurora contained inflammatory accounts
of the proceedings, and a pamphlet giving the records of the court was
widely circulated. This pamphlet bore the significant legend, "It is
better that the law be known and certain, than that it be right," and
was dedicated to the Governor and General Assembly "with the hope
of attracting their particular attention, at the next meeting of the

Another early instance of a strike occurred in New York City in 1809,
when the cordwainers struck for higher wages and were hauled before the
mayor's court on the charge of conspiracy. The trial was postponed by
Mayor DeWitt Clinton until after the pending municipal elections to
avoid the risk of offending either side. When at length the strikers
were brought to trial, the court-house was crowded with spectators,
showing how keen was the public interest in the case. The jury's verdict
of "guilty," and the imposition of a fine of one dollar each and costs
upon the defendants served but as a stimulus to the friends of the
strikers to gather in a great mass meeting and protest against the
verdict and the law that made it possible.

In 1821 the New York Typographical Society, which had been organized
four years earlier by Peter Force, a labor leader of unusual energy, set
a precedent for the vigorous and fearless career of its modern successor
by calling a strike in the printing office of Thurlow Weed, the powerful
politician, himself a member of the society, because he employed a
"rat," as a nonunion worker was called. It should be noted, however,
that the organizations of this early period were of a loose structure
and scarcely comparable to the labor unions of today.

Sidney Smith, the brilliant contributor to the "Edinburgh Review,"
propounded in 1820 certain questions which sum up the general
conditions of American industry and art after nearly a half century of
independence: "In the four quarters of the globe," he asked, "who reads
an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American
picture or statue? What does the world yet owe to American physicians
or surgeons? What new substances have their chemists discovered? or
what old ones have they analyzed? What new constellations have been
discovered by the telescopes of Americans? What have they done in
mathematics? Who drinks out of American glasses? or eats from American
plates? or wears American coats or gowns? or sleeps in American

These questions, which were quite pertinent, though conceived in an
impertinent spirit, were being answered in America even while the witty
Englishman was framing them. The water power of New England was being
harnessed to cotton mills, woolen mills, and tanneries. Massachusetts
in 1820 reported one hundred and sixty-one factories. New York had
begun that marvelous growth which made the city, in the course of a few
decades, the financial capital of a hemisphere. So rapidly were people
flocking to New York, that houses had tenants long before they had
windows and doors, and streets were lined with buildings before they
had sewers, sidewalks, or pavements. New Jersey had well under way those
manufactories of glassware, porcelains, carpets, and textiles which
have since brought her great prosperity. Philadelphia was the country's
greatest weaving center, boasting four thousand craftsmen engaged in
that industry. Even on the frontier, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were
emerging from "settlements" into manufacturing towns of importance.
McMaster concludes his graphic summary of these years as follows: "In
1820 it was estimated that 200,000 persons and a capital of $75,000,000
were employed in manufacturing. In 1825 the capital used had been
expanded to $160,000,000 and the number of workers to 2,000,000." *

     * History of the People of the United States (1901), vol. V,
     p. 230.

The Industrial Revolution had set in. These new millions who hastened to
answer the call of industry in the new land were largely composed of the
poor of other lands. Thousands of them were paupers when they landed in
America, their passage having been paid by those at home who wanted to
get rid of them. Vast numbers settled down in the cities, in spite
of the lure of the land. It was at this period that universal manhood
suffrage was written into the constitutions of the older States, and
a new electorate assumed the reins of power. Now the first labor
representatives were sent to the legislatures and to Congress, and the
older parties began eagerly bidding for the votes of the humble. The
decision of great questions fell to this new electorate. With the rise
of industry came the demand for a protective tariff and for better
transportation. State governments vied with each other, in thoughtless
haste, in lending their credit to new turnpike and canal construction.
And above all political issues loomed the Bank, the monopoly that became
the laborer's bugaboo and Andrew Jackson's opportunity to rally to his
side the newly enfranchised mechanics.

So the old days of semi-colonial composure were succeeded by the
thrilling experiences that a new industrial prosperity thrusts upon
a really democratic electorate. Little wonder that the labor union
movement took the political by-path, seeking salvation in the promise of
the politician and in the panacea of fatuous laws. Now there were to be
discerned the beginnings of class solidarity among the working people.
But the individual's chances to improve his situation were still very
great and opportunity was still a golden word.

The harsh facts of the hour, however, soon began to call for united
action. The cities were expanding with such eager haste that proper
housing conditions were overlooked. Workingmen were obliged to live in
wretched structures. Moreover, human beings were still levied on for
debt and imprisoned for default of payment. Children of less than
sixteen years of age were working twelve or more hours a day, and if
they received any education at all, it was usually in schools charitably
called "ragged schools" or "poor schools," or "pauper schools." There
was no adequate redress for the mechanic if his wages were in default,
for lien laws had not yet found their way into the statute books.
Militia service was oppressive, permitting only the rich to buy
exemption. It was still considered an unlawful conspiracy to act in
unison for an increase in pay or a lessening of working hours. By 1840
the pay of unskilled labor had dropped to about seventy-five cents a day
in the overcrowded cities, and in the winter, in either city or country,
many unskilled workers were glad to work for merely their board. The
lot of women workers was especially pitiful. A seamstress by hard toil,
working fifteen hours a day might stitch enough shirts to earn from
seventy-two cents to a dollar and twelve cents a week. Skilled labor,
while faring better in wages, shared with the unskilled in the universal
working day which lasted from sun to sun. Such in brief were the
conditions that brought home to the laboring masses that homogeneous
consciousness which alone makes a group powerful in a democracy.

The movement can most clearly be discerned in the cities. Philadelphia
claims precedence as the home of the first Trades' Union. The master
cordwainers had organized a society in 1792, and their journeymen had
followed suit two years later. The experiences and vicissitudes of these
shoemakers furnished a useful lesson to other tradesmen, many of whom
were organized into unions. But they were isolated organizations, each
one fighting its own battles. In 1897 the Mechanics' Union of Trade
Associations was formed. Of its significance John R. Commons says:

England is considered the home of trade-unionism, but the distinction
belongs to Philadelphia.... The first trades' union in England was that
of Manchester, organized in 1829, although there seems to have been an
attempt to organize one in 1824. But the first one in America was the
"Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations," organized in Philadelphia in
1827, two years earlier. The name came from Manchester, but the thing
from Philadelphia. Neither union lasted long. The Manchester union lived
two years, and the Philadelphia union one year. But the Manchester union
died and the Philadelphia union metamorphosed into politics. Here again
Philadelphia was the pioneer, for it called into being the first labor
party. Not only this, but through the Mechanics' Union Philadelphia
started probably the first wage-earners' paper ever published--the
'Mechanics Free Press'--antedating, in January, 1828, the first similar
journal in England by two years.*

* "Labor Organization and Labor Politics," 1827-37; in the "Quarterly
Journal of Economics," February, 1907.

The union had its inception in the first general building strike called
in America. In the summer of 1827 the carpenters struck for a ten-hour
day. They were soon joined by the bricklayers, painters, and glaziers,
and members of other trades. But the strike failed of its immediate
object. A second effort to combine the various trades into one
organization was made in 1833, when the Trades' Union of the City
and County of Philadelphia, was formed. Three years later this union
embraced some fifty societies with over ten thousand members. In June,
1835, this organization undertook what was probably the first successful
general strike in America. It began among the cordwainers, spread to
the workers in the building trades, and was presently joined in by
cigarmakers, carters, saddlers and harness makers, smiths, plumbers,
bakers, printers, and even by the unskilled workers on the docks. The
strikers' demand for a ten-hour day received a great deal of support
from the influential men in the community. After a mass meeting of
citizens had adopted resolutions endorsing the demands of the union, the
city council agreed to a ten-hour day for all municipal employees.

In 1833 the carpenters of New York City struck for an increase in wages.
They were receiving a dollar thirty-seven and a half cents a day;
they asked for a dollar and a half. They obtained the support of other
workers, notably the tailors, printers, brushmakers, tobacconists,
and masons, and succeeded in winning their strike in one month. The
printers, who have always been alert and active in New York City, elated
by the success of this coordinate effort, sent out a circular calling
for a general convention of all the trades societies of the city. After
a preliminary meeting in July, a mass meeting was held in December,
at which there were present about four thousand persons representing
twenty-one societies. The outcome of the meeting was the organization of
the General Trades' Union of New York City.

It happened in the following year that Ely Moore of the Typographical
Association and the first president of the new union, a powerful orator
and a sagacious organizer, was elected to Congress on the Jackson
ticket. He was backed by Tammany Hall, always on the alert for winners,
and was supported by the mechanics, artisans, and workingmen. He was the
first man to take his seat in Washington as the avowed representative of

The movement for a ten-hour day was now in full swing, and the years
1834-7 were full of strikes. The most spectacular of these struggles was
the strike of the tailors of New York in 1836, in the course of which
twenty strikers were arrested for conspiracy. After a spirited trial
attended by throngs of spectators, the men were found guilty by a jury
which took only thirty minutes for deliberation. The strikers were fined
$50 each, except the president of the society, who was fined $150. After
the trial there was held a mass meeting which was attended, according to
the "Evening Post," by twenty-seven thousand persons. Resolutions were
passed declaring that "to all acts of tyranny and injustice, resistance
is just and therefore necessary," and "that the construction given to
the law in the case of the journeymen tailors is not only ridiculous and
weak in practice but unjust in principle and subversive of the rights
and liberties of American citizens." The town was placarded with
"coffin" handbills, a practice not uncommon in those days.

Enclosed in a device representing a coffin were these words:


"Twenty of your brethren have been found guilty for presuming to resist
a reduction in their wages!.... Judge Edwards has charged...the Rich are
the only judges of the wants of the poor. On Monday, June 6, 1836, the
Freemen are to receive their sentence, to gratify the hellish appetites
of aristocracy!.... Go! Go! Go! Every Freeman, every Workingman, and
hear the melancholy sound of the earth on the Coffin of Equality. Let
the Court Room, the City-hall--yea, the whole Park, be filled with
mourners! But remember, offer no violence to Judge Edwards! Bend meekly
and receive the chains wherewith you are to be bound! Keep the peace!
Above all things, keep the peace!"

The "Evening Post" concludes a long account of the affair by calling
attention to the fact that the Trades' Union was not composed of "only
foreigners." "It is a low calculation when we estimate that two-thirds
of the workingmen of the city, numbering several thousand persons,
belong to it," and that "it is controlled and supported by the great
majority of our native born."

The Boston Trades' Union was organized in 1834 and started out with a
great labor parade on the Fourth of July, followed by a dinner served to
a thousand persons in Faneuil Hall. This union was formed primarily to
fight for the ten-hour day, and the leading crusaders were the house
carpenters, the ship carpenters, and the masons. Similar unions
presently sprang up in other cities, including Baltimore, Albany, Troy,
Washington, Newark, Schenectady, New Brunswick, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati,
and St. Louis. By 1835 all the larger centers of industry were familiar
with the idea, and most of them with the practice, of the trades
organizations of a community uniting for action.

The local unions were not unmindful of the need for wider action, either
through a national union of all the organizations of a single trade,
or through a union of all the different trades' unions. Both courses
of action were attempted. In 1834 the National Trades' Union came into
being and from that date held annual national conventions of all the
trades until the panic of 1837 obliterated the movement. When the first
convention was called, it was estimated that there were some 26,250
members of trades' unions then in the United States. Of these 11,500
were in New York and its vicinity, 6000 in Philadelphia, 4000 in Boston,
and 3500 in Baltimore. Meanwhile a movement was under way to federate
the unions of a single trade. In 1835 the cordwainers attending the
National Trades Union' formed a preliminary organization and called a
national cordwainers' convention. This met in New York in March, 1836,
and included forty-five delegates from New York, New Jersey, Delaware,
and Connecticut. In the fall of 1836 the comb-makers, the carpenters,
the hand-loom weavers, and the printers likewise organized separate
national unions or alliances, and several other trades made tentative
efforts by correspondence to organize themselves in the same manner.

Before the dire year of 1837, there are, then, to be found
the beginnings of most of the elements of modern labor
organizations--benevolent societies and militant orders; political
activities and trades activities; amalgamations of local societies of
the same trades and of all trades; attempts at national organization on
the part of both the local trades' unions and of the local trade unions;
a labor press to keep alive the interest of the workman; mass meetings,
circulars, conventions, and appeals to arouse the interest of the public
in the issues of the hour. The persistent demand of the workingmen was
for a ten-hour day. Harriet Martineau, who traveled extensively through
the United States, remarked that all the strikes she heard of were on
the question of hours, not wages. But there were nevertheless abundant
strikes either to raise wages or to maintain them. There were, also,
other fundamental questions in controversy which could not be settled by
strikes, such as imprisonment for debt, lien and exemption and homestead
laws, convict labor and slave labor, and universal education. Most of
these issues have since that time been decided in favor of labor, and
a new series of demands takes their place today. Yet as one reads the
records of the early conspiracy cases or thumbs through the files of old
periodicals, he learns that there is indeed nothing new under the sun
and that, while perhaps the particular issues have changed, the general
methods and the spirit of the contest remain the same.

The laborer believed then, as he does now, that his organization must
be all-embracing. In those days also there were "scabs," often called
"rats" or "dung." Places under ban were systematically picketed,
and warnings like the following were sent out: "We would caution all
strangers and others who profess the art of horseshoeing, that if they
go to work for any employer under the above prices, they must abide by
the consequences." Usually the consequences were a fine imposed by the
union, but sometimes they were more severe. Coercion by the union did
not cease with the strike. Journeymen who were not members were pursued
with assiduity and energy as soon as they entered a town and found
work. The boycott was a method early used against prison labor. New
York stonecutters agreed that they would not "either collectively or
individually purchase any goods manufactured" by convicts and that they
would not "countenance" any merchants who dealt in them; and employers
who incurred the displeasure of organized labor were "nullified."

The use of the militia during strikes presented the same difficulties
then as now. During the general strike in Philadelphia in 1835 there was
considerable rowdyism, and Michel Chevalier, a keen observer of American
life, wrote that "the militia looks on; the sheriff stands with folded
hands." Nor was there any difference in the attitude of the laboring man
towards unfavorable court decisions. In the tailors' strike in New York
in 1836, for instance, twenty-seven thousand sympathizers assembled
with bands and banners to protest against the jury's verdict, and after
sentence had been imposed upon the defendants, the lusty throng burned
the judge in effigy.

Sabotage is a new word, but the practice itself is old. In 1835 the
striking cabinet-makers in New York smashed thousands of dollars' worth
of chairs, tables, and sofas that had been imported from France, and the
newspapers observed the significant fact that the destroyers boasted in
a foreign language that only American-made furniture should be sold
in America. Houses were burned in Philadelphia because the contractors
erecting them refused to grant the wages that were demanded. Vengeance
was sometimes sought against new machinery that displaced hand labor. In
June, 1835, a New York paper remarked that "it is well known that many
of the most obstinate turn-outs among workingmen and many of the most
violent and lawless proceedings have been excited for the purpose of
destroying newly invented machinery." Such acts of wantonness, however,
were few, even in those first tumultuous days of the thirties. Striking
became in those days a sort of mania, and not a town that had a mill or
shop was exempt. Men struck for "grog or death," for "Liberty, Equality,
and the Rights of Man," and even for the right to smoke their pipes at

Strike benefits, too, were known in this early period. Strikers in New
York received assistance from Philadelphia, and Boston strikers were
similarly aided by both New York and Philadelphia. When the high cost of
living threatened to deprive the wage-earner of half his income, bread
riots occurred in the cities, and handbills circulated in New York bore
the legend:



With the panic of 1837 the mills were closed, thousands of unemployed
workers were thrown upon private charity, and, in the long years of
depression which followed, trade unionism suffered a temporary eclipse.
It was a period of social unrest in which all sorts of philanthropic
reforms were suggested and tried out. Measured by later events, it was a
period of transition, of social awakening, of aspiration tempered by the
bitter experience of failure.

In the previous decade Robert Owen, the distinguished English social
reformer and philanthropist, had visited America, and had begun in
1826 his famous colony at New Harmony, Indiana. His experiments at New
Lanark, in England, had already made him known to working people the
world over. Whatever may be said of his quaint attempts to reduce
society to a common denominator, it is certain that his arrival in
America, at a time when people's minds were open to all sorts of
economic suggestions, had a stimulating effect upon labor reforms and
led, in the course of time, to the founding of some forty communistic
colonies, most of them in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. "We are all
a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform," wrote
Emerson to Thomas Carlyle; "not a reading man but has the draft of a
new community in his waistcoat pocket." One of these experiments, at Red
Bank, New Jersey, lasted for thirteen years, and another, in Wisconsin,
for six years. But most of them after a year or two gave up the

Of these failures, the best known is Brook Farm, an intellectual
community founded in 1841 by George Ripley at West Roxbury,
Massachusetts. Six years later the project was abandoned and is now
remembered as an example of the futility of trying to leaven a world
of realism by means of an atom of transcendental idealism. In a sense,
however, Brook Farm typifies this period of transition. It was a time of
vagaries and longings. People seemed to be conscious of the fact that
a new social solidarity was dawning. It is not strange, therefore,
that--while the railroads were feeling their way from town to town and
across the prairies, while water-power and steam-power were multiplying
man's productivity, indicating that the old days were gone forever--many
curious dreams of a new order of things should be dreamed, nor that
among them some should be ridiculous, some fantastic, and some unworthy,
nor that, as the futility of a universal social reform forced itself
upon the dreamers, they merged the greater in the lesser, the general in
the particular, and sought an outlet in espousing some specific cause or
attacking some particular evil.

Those movements which had their inspiration in a genuine humanitarianism
achieved great good. Now for the first time the blind, the deaf, the
dumb, and the insane were made the object of social solicitude and
communal care. The criminal, too, and the jail in which he was confined
remained no longer utterly neglected. Men of the debtor class were freed
from that medieval barbarism which gave the creditor the right to levy
on the person of his debtor. Even the public schools were dragged out
of their lethargy. When Horace Mann was appointed secretary of the newly
created Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837, a new day dawned for
American public schools.

While these and other substantial improvements were under way, the
charlatan and the faddist were not without their opportunities or their
votaries. Spirit rappings beguiled or awed the villagers; thousands
of religious zealots in 1844 abandoned their vocations and, drawing on
white robes, awaited expectantly the second coming of Christ; every cult
from free love to celibate austerity found zealous followers; the "new
woman" declared her independence in short hair and bloomers;
people sought social salvation in new health codes, in vegetarian
boarding-houses, and in physical culture clubs; and some pursued the way
to perfection through sensual religious exercises.

In this seething milieu, this medley of practical humanitarianism and
social fantasies, the labor movement was revived. In the forties, Thomas
Mooney, an observant Irish traveler who had spent several years in the
United States wrote as follows *:

"The average value of a common uneducated labourer is eighty cents a
day. Of educated or mechanical labour, one hundred twenty-five and two
hundred cents a day; of female labour forty cents a day. Against meat,
flour, vegetables, and groceries at one-third less than they rate in
Great Britain and Ireland; against clothing, house rent and fuel at
about equal; against public taxes at about three-fourths less; and a
certainty of employment, and a facility of acquiring homes and lands,
and education for children, a hundred to one greater. The further you
penetrate into the country, Patrick, the higher in general will you
find the value of labour, and the cheaper the price of all kinds of
living.... The food of the American farmer, mechanic or labourer is the
best I believe enjoyed by any similar classes in the whole world. At
every meal there is meat or fish or both; indeed I think the women,
children, and sedentary classes eat too much meat for their own good

     * "Nine Years in America" (1850). p. 22.

This highly optimistic picture, written by a sanguine observer from
the land of greatest agrarian oppression, must be shaded by contrasting
details. The truck system of payment, prevalent in mining regions and
many factory towns, reduced the actual wage by almost one-half. In the
cities, unskilled immigrants had so overcrowded the common labor market
that competition had reduced them to a pitiable state. Hours of labor
were generally long in the factories. As a rule only the skilled artisan
had achieved the ten-hour day, and then only in isolated instances.
Woman's labor was the poorest paid, and her condition was the most
neglected. A visitor to Lowell in 1846 thus describes the conditions in
an average factory of that town:

"In Lowell live between seven and eight thousand young women, who are
generally daughters of farmers of the different States of New England.
Some of them are members of families that were rich the generation
before.... The operatives work thirteen hours a day in the summer
time, and from daylight to dark in the winter. At half-past four in
the morning the factory bell rings and at five the girls must be in the
mills. A clerk, placed as a watch, observes those who are a few
minutes behind the time, and effectual means are taken to stimulate
punctuality.... At seven the girls are allowed thirty minutes for
breakfast, and at noon thirty minutes more for dinner, except during
the first quarter of the year, when the time is extended to forty-five
minutes. But within this time they must hurry to their boarding-houses
and return to the factory.... At seven o'clock in the evening the
factory bell sounds the close of the day's work."

It was under these conditions that the cooperative movement had its
brief day of experiment. As early as 1828 the workmen of Philadelphia
and Cincinnati had begun cooperative stores. The Philadelphia group were
"fully persuaded," according to their constitution, "that nothing short
of an entire change in the present regulation of trade and commerce will
ever be permanently beneficial to the productive part of the community."
But their little shop survived competition for only a few months. The
Cincinnati "Cooperative Magazine" was a sort of combination of store and
shop, where various trades were taught, but it also soon disappeared.

In 1845 the New England Workingmen's Association organized a protective
union for the purpose of obtaining for its members "steady and
profitable employment" and of saving the retailer's profit for the
purchaser. This movement had a high moral flavor. "The dollar was to
us of minor importance; humanitary and not mercenary were our motives,"
reported their committee on organization of industry. "We must proceed
from combined stores to combined shops, from combined shops to combined
homes, to joint ownership in God's earth, the foundation that our
edifice must stand upon." In this ambitious spirit "they commenced
business with a box of soap and half a chest of tea." In 1852 they
had 167 branches, a capital of $241,7191.66, and a business of nearly
$91,000,000 a year.

In the meantime similar cooperative movements began elsewhere. The
tailors of Boston struck for higher wages in 1850 and, after fourteen
weeks of futile struggle, decided that their salvation lay in
cooperation rather than in trade unionism, which at best afforded only
temporary relief. About seventy of them raised $700 as a cooperative
nest egg and netted a profit of $510.60 the first year. In the same
year the Philadelphia printers, disappointed at their failure to force a
higher wage, organized a cooperative printing press.

The movement spread to New York, where a strike of the tailors was in
progress. The strikers were addressed at a great mass meeting by Albert
Brisbane, an ardent disciple of Fourier, the French social economist,
and were told that they must do away with servitude to capital. "What we
want to know," said Brisbane, "is how to change, peacefully, the system
of today. The first great principle is combination." Another meeting
was addressed by a German, a follower of Karl Marx, who uttered in his
native tongue these words that sound like a modern I.W.W. prophet: "Many
of us have fought for liberty in the fatherland. We came here because we
were opposed, and what have we gained? Nothing but misery, hunger, and
treading down. But we are in a free country and it is our fault if we
do not get our rights.... Let those who strike eat; the rest starve.
Butchers and bakers must withhold supplies. Yes, they must all strike,
and then the aristocrat will starve. We must have a revolution. We
cannot submit any longer." The cry of "Revolution! Revolution!" was
taken up by the throng.

In the midst of this agitation a New York branch of the New England
Protective Union was organized as an attempt at peaceful revolution by
cooperation. The New York Protective Union went a step farther than the
New England Union. Its members established their own shops and so became
their own employers. And in many other cities striking workmen and eager
reformers joined hands in modest endeavors to change the face of things.
The revolutionary movements of Europe at this period were having a
seismic effect upon American labor. But all these attempts of the
workingmen to tourney a rough world with a needle were foredoomed to
failure. Lacking the essential business experience and the ability to
cooperate, they were soon undone, and after a few years little more was
heard of cooperation.

In the meantime another economic movement gained momentum under the
leadership of George Henry Evans, who was a land reformer and may be
called a precursor of Henry George. Evans inaugurated a campaign for
free farms to entice to the land the unprosperous toilers of the city.
In spite of the vast areas of the public domain still unoccupied, the
cities were growing denser and larger and filthier by reason of the
multitudes from Ireland and other countries who preferred to cast
themselves into the eager maw of factory towns rather than go out as
agrarian pioneers. To such Evans and other agrarian reformers made their
appeal. For example, a handbill distributed everywhere in 1846 asked:

"Are you an American citizen? Then you are a joint owner of the public
lands. Why not take enough of your property to provide yourself a home?
Why not vote yourself a farm?

"Are you a party follower? Then you have long enough employed your vote
to benefit scheming office seekers. Use it for once to benefit yourself;
Vote yourself a farm.

"Are you tired of slavery--of drudging for others--of poverty and its
attendant miseries? Then, vote yourself a farm.

"Would you free your country and the sons of toil everywhere from the
heartless, irresponsible mastery of the aristocracy of avarice?.... Then
join with your neighbors to form a true American party...whose chief
measures will be first to limit the quantity of land that any one may
henceforth monopolize or inherit; and second to make the public
lands free to actual settlers only, each having the right to sell his
improvements to any man not possessed of other lands."

"Vote yourself a farm" became a popular shibboleth and a part of the
standard programme of organized labor. The donation of public lands to
heads of families, on condition of occupancy and cultivation for a term
of years, was proposed in bills repeatedly introduced in Congress. But
the cry of opposition went up from the older States that they would be
bled for the sake of the newer, that giving land to the landless was
encouraging idleness and wantonness and spreading demoralization, and
that Congress had no more power to give away land than it had to give
away money. These arguments had their effect at the Capitol, and it
was not until the new Republican party came into power pledged to "a
complete and satisfactory homestead measure" that the Homestead Act of
1862 was placed on the statute books.

A characteristic manifestation of the humanitarian impulse of the
forties was the support given to labor in its renewed demand for a
ten-hour day. It has already been indicated how this movement started
in the thirties, how its object was achieved by a few highly organized
trades, and how it was interrupted in its progress by the panic of 1837.
The agitation, however, to make the ten-hour day customary throughout
the country was not long in coming back to life. In March, 1840, an
executive order of President Van Buren declaring ten hours to be the
working day for laborers and mechanics in government employ forced the
issue upon private employers. The earliest concerted action, it
would seem, arose in New England, where the New England Workingmen's
Association, later called the Labor Reform League, carried on the
crusade. In 1845 a committee appointed by the Massachusetts Legislature
to investigate labor conditions affords the first instance on record of
an American legislature concerning itself with the affairs of the labor
world to the extent of ordering an official investigation. The committee
examined a number of factory operatives, both men and women, visited a
few of the mills, gathered some statistics, and made certain neutral and
specious suggestions. They believed the remedy for such evils as they
discovered lay not in legislation but "in the progressive improvement
in art and science, in a higher appreciation of man's destiny, in a
less love for money, and a more ardent love for social happiness and
intellectual superiority."

The first ten-hour law was passed in 1847 by the New Hampshire
Legislature. It provided that "ten hours of actual labor shall be taken
to be a day's work, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties," and that
no minor under fifteen years of age should be employed more than ten
hours a day without the consent of parent or guardian. This was the
unassuming beginning of a movement to have the hours of toil fixed by
society rather than by contract. This law of New Hampshire, which was
destined to have a widespread influence, was hailed by the workmen
everywhere with delight; mass meetings and processions proclaimed it as
a great victory; and only the conservatives prophesied the worthlessness
of such legislation. Horace Greeley sympathetically dissected the
bill. He had little faith, it is true, in legislative interference with
private contracts. "But," he asks, "who can seriously doubt that it is
the duty of the Commonwealth to see that the tender frames of its youth
are not shattered by excessively protracted toil?.... Will any one
pretend that ten hours per day, especially at confining and monotonous
avocations which tax at once the brain and the sinews are not quite
enough for any child to labor statedly and steadily?" The consent of
guardian or parent he thought a fraud against the child that could be
averted only by the positive command of the State specifically limiting
the hours of child labor.

In the following year Pennsylvania enacted a law declaring ten hours
a legal day in certain industries and forbidding children under twelve
from working in cotton, woolen, silk, or flax mills. Children over
fourteen, however, could, by special arrangement with parents or
guardians, be compelled to work more than ten hours a day. "This act
is very much of a humbug," commented Greeley, "but it will serve a
good end. Those whom it was intended to put asleep will come back again
before long, and, like Oliver Twist, 'want some more.'"

The ten-hour movement had thus achieved social recognition. It had the
staunch support of such men as Wendell Phillips, Edward Everett, Horace
Greeley, and other distinguished publicists and philanthropists. Public
opinion was becoming so strong that both the Whigs and Democrats in
their party platforms declared themselves in favor of the ten-hour day.
When, in the summer of 1847, the British Parliament passed a ten-hour
law, American unions sent congratulatory messages to the British
workmen. Gradually the various States followed the example of New
Hampshire and Pennsylvania--New Jersey in 1851, Ohio in 1852, and Rhode
Island in 1853--and the "ten-hour system" was legally established.

But it was one thing to write a statute and another to enforce it.
American laws were, after all, based upon the ancient Anglo-Saxon
principle of private contract. A man could agree to work for as many
hours as he chose, and each employer could drive his own bargain. The
cotton mill owners of Allegheny City, for example, declared that they
would be compelled to run their mills twelve hours a day. They would
not, of course, employ children under twelve, although they felt deeply
concerned for the widows who would thereby lose the wages of their
children. But they must run on a twelve-hour schedule to meet
competition from other States. So they attempted to make special
contracts with each employee. The workmen objected to this and struck.
Finally they compromised on a ten-hour day and a sixteen per cent
reduction in wages. Such an arrangement became a common occurrence in
the industrial world of the middle of the century.

In the meantime the factory system was rapidly recruiting women workers,
especially in the New England textile mills. Indeed, as early as
1825 "tailoresses" of New York and other cities had formed protective
societies. In 1829 the mill girls of Dover, New Hampshire, caused a
sensation by striking. Several hundred of them paraded the streets and,
according to accounts, "fired off a lot of gunpowder." In 1836 the
women workers in the Lowell factories struck for higher wages and later
organized a Factory Girls' Association which included more than 2,500
members. It was aimed against the strict regimen of the boarding houses,
which were owned and managed by the mills. "As our fathers resisted unto
blood the lordly avarice of the British Ministry," cried the strikers,
"so we, their daughters, never will wear the yoke which has been
prepared for us."

In this vibrant atmosphere was born the powerful woman's labor union,
the Female Labor Reform Association, later called the Lowell Female
Industrial Reform and Mutual Aid Society. Lowell became the center of
a far-reaching propaganda characterized by energy and a definite
conception of what was wanted. The women joined in strikes, carried
banners, sent delegates to the labor conventions, and were zealous in
propaganda. It was the women workers of Massachusetts who first forced
the legislature to investigate labor conditions and who aroused public
sentiment to a pitch that finally compelled the enactment of laws for
the bettering of their conditions. When the mill owners in Massachusetts
demanded in 1846 that their weavers tend four looms instead of three,
the women promptly resolved that "we will not tend a fourth loom unless
we receive the same pay per piece as on three.... This we most solemnly
pledge ourselves to obtain."

In New York, in 1845, the Female Industry Association was organized at
a large meeting held in the court house. It included "tailoresses, plain
and coarse sewing, shirt makers, book-folders and stickers, capmakers,
straw-workers, dressmakers, crimpers, fringe and lacemakers," and other
trades open to women "who were like oppressed." The New York Herald
reported "about 700 females generally of the most interesting age and
appearance" in attendance. The president of the meeting unfolded a
pitiable condition of affairs. She mentioned several employers by name
who paid only from ten to eighteen cents a day, and she stated that,
after acquiring skill in some of the trades and by working twelve to
fourteen hours a day, a woman might earn twenty-five cents a day! "How
is it possible," she exclaimed, "that at such an income we can support
ourselves decently and honestly?"

So we come to the fifties, when the rapid rise in the cost of living due
to the influx of gold from the newly discovered California mines created
new economic conditions. By 1853, the cost of living had risen so high
that the length of the working day was quite forgotten because of the
utter inadequacy of the wage to meet the new altitude of prices. Hotels
issued statements that they were compelled to raise their rates for
board from a dollar and a half to two dollars a day. Newspapers raised
their advertising rates. Drinks went up from six cents to ten and
twelve and a half cents. In Baltimore, the men in the Baltimore and
Ohio Railway shops struck. They were followed by all the conductors,
brakemen, and locomotive engineers. Machinists employed in other shops
soon joined them, and the city's industries were virtually paralyzed. In
New York nearly every industry was stopped by strikes. In Philadelphia,
Boston, Pittsburgh, in cities large and small, the striking workmen made
their demands known.

By this time thoughtful laborers had learned the futility of programmes
that attempted to reform society. They had watched the birth and death
of many experiments. They had participated in short-lived cooperative
stores and shops; they had listened to Owen's alluring words and had
seen his World Convention meet and adjourn; had witnessed national
reform associations, leagues, and industrial congresses issue their
high-pitched resolutions; and had united on legislative candidates. And
yet the old world wagged on in the old way. Wages and hours and working
conditions could be changed, they had learned, only by coercion. This
coercion could be applied, in general reforms, only by society, by
stress of public opinion. But in concrete cases, in their own personal
environment, the coercion had to be first applied by themselves. They
had learned the lesson of letting the world in general go its way while
they attended to their own business.

In the early fifties, then, a new species of union appears. It discards
lofty phraseology and the attempt at world-reform and it becomes simply
a trade union. It restricts its house-cleaning to its own shop, limits
its demands to its trade, asks for a minimum wage and minimum hours, and
lays out with considerable detail the conditions under which its members
will work. The weapons in its arsenal are not new--the strike and the
boycott. Now that he has learned to distinguish essentials, the new
trade unionist can bargain with his employer, and as a result trade
agreements stipulating hours, wages, and conditions, take the place of
the desultory and ineffective settlements which had hitherto issued from
labor disputes. But it was not without foreboding that this development
was witnessed by the adherents of the status quo. According to a
magazine writer of 1853:

"After prescribing the rate of remuneration many of the Trades' Unions
go to enact laws for the government of the respective departments, to
all of which the employer must assent.... The result even thus far is
that there is found no limit to this species of encroachment. If
workmen may dictate the hours and mode of service, and the number and
description of hands to be employed, they may also regulate other items
of the business with which their labor is connected. Thus we find that
within a few days, in the city of New York, the longshoremen have taken
by force from their several stations the horses and labor-saving gear
used for delivering cargoes, it being part of their regulations not to
allow of such competition."

The gravitation towards common action was felt over a wide area during
this period. Some trades met in national convention to lay down rules
for their craft. One of the earliest national meetings was that of the
carpet-weavers (1846) in New York City, when thirty-four delegates,
representing over a thousand operatives, adopted rules and took steps
to prevent a reduction in wages. The National Convention of Journeymen
Printers met in 1850, and out of this emerged two years later an
organization called the National Typographical Union, which ten years
later still, on the admission of some Canadian unions, became the
International Typographical Union of North America; and as such it
flourishes today. In 1855 the Journeymen Stone Cutters' Association of
North America was organized and in the following year the National Trade
Association of Hat Finishers, the forerunner of the United Hatters of
North America. In 1859 the Iron Molders' Union of North America began
its aggressive career.

The conception of a national trade unity was now well formed; compactly
organized national and local trade unions with very definite
industrial aims were soon to take the place of ephemeral, loose-jointed
associations with vast and vague ambitions. Early in this period a new
impetus was given to organized labor by the historic decision of
Chief Justice Shaw of Massachusetts in a case * brought against
seven bootmakers charged with conspiracy. Their offense consisted in
attempting to induce all the workmen of a given shop to join the union
and compel the master to employ only union men. The trial court found
them guilty; but the Chief Justice decided that he did not "perceive
that it is criminal for men to agree together to exercise their own
acknowledged rights in such a manner as best to subserve their own
interests." In order to show criminal conspiracy, therefore, on the part
of a labor union, it was necessary to prove that either the intent or
the method was criminal, for it was not a criminal offense to combine
for the purpose of raising wages or bettering conditions or seeking to
have all laborers join the union. The liberalizing influence of this
decision upon labor law can hardly be over-estimated.

     * Commonwealth vs. Hunt.

The period closed amidst general disturbances and forebodings, political
and economic. In 1857 occurred a panic which thrust the problem of
unemployment, on a vast scale, before the American consciousness.
Instead of demanding higher wages, multitudes now cried for work. The
marching masses, in New York, carried banners asking for bread, while
soldiers from Governor's Island and marines from the Navy Yard guarded
the Custom House and the Sub-Treasury. From Philadelphia to New Orleans,
from Boston to Chicago, came the same story of banks failing, railroads
in bankruptcy, factories closing, idle and hungry throngs moving
restlessly through the streets. In New York 40,000, in Lawrence 3500,
in Philadelphia 20,000, were estimated to be out of work. Labor learned
anew that its prosperity was inalienably identified with the well-being
of industry and commerce; and society learned that hunger and idleness
are the golden opportunity of the demagogue and agitator. The word
"socialism" now appears more and more frequently in the daily press and
always a synonym of destruction or of something to be feared. No sooner
had business revived than the great shadow of internal strife was cast
over the land, and for the duration of the Civil War the peril of the
nation absorbed all the energies of the people.


After Appomattox, every one seemed bent on finding a short cut to
opulence. To foreign observers, the United States was then simply a
scrambling mass of selfish units, for there seemed to be among the
American people no disinterested group to balance accounts between
the competing elements--no leisure class, living on secured incomes,
mellowed by generations of travel, education, and reflection; no
bureaucracy arbitrarily guiding the details of governmental routine;
no aristocracy, born umpires of the doings of their underlings. All
the manifold currents of life seemed swallowed up in the commercial
maelstrom. By the standards of what happened in this season of
exuberance and intense materialism, the American people were hastily
judged by critics who failed to see that the period was but the prelude
to a maturer national life.

It was a period of a remarkable industrial expansion. Then "plant"
became a new word in the phraseology of the market place, denoting
the enlarged factory or mill and suggesting the hardy perennial, each
succeeding year putting forth new shoots from its side. The products of
this seedtime are seen in the colossal industrial growths of today. Then
it was that short railway lines began to be welded into "systems," that
the railway builders began to strike out into the prairies and mountains
of the West, and that partnerships began to be merged into corporations
and corporations into trusts, ever reaching out for the greater markets.
Meanwhile the inventive genius of America was responding to the call of
the time. In 1877 Bell telephoned from Boston to Salem; two years later,
Brush lighted by electricity the streets of San Francisco. In 1882
Edison was making incandescent electric lights for New York and
operating his first electric car in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

All these developments created a new demand for capital. Where formerly
a manufacturer had made products to order or for a small number of known
customers, now he made on speculation, for a great number of unknown
customers, taking his risks in distant markets. Where formerly the
banker had lent money on local security, now he gave credit to vast
enterprises far away. New inventions or industrial processes brought
on new speculations. This new demand for capital made necessary a new
system of credits, which was erected at first, as the recurring panics
disclosed, on sand, but gradually, through costly experience, on a more
stable foundation.

The economic and industrial development of the time demanded not only
new money and credit but new men. A new type of executive was wanted,
and he soon appeared to satisfy the need. Neither a capitalist nor a
merchant, he combined in some degree the functions of both, added to
them the greater function of industrial manager, and received from great
business concerns a high premium for his talent and foresight. This
Captain of Industry, as he has been called, is the foremost figure of
the period, the hero of the industrial drama.

But much of what is admirable in that generation of nation builders is
obscured by the industrial anarchy which prevailed. Everybody was for
himself--and the devil was busy harvesting the hindmost. There were
"rate-wars," "cut-rate sales," secret intrigues, and rebates; and there
were subterranean passages--some, indeed, scarcely under the surface--to
council chambers, executive mansions, and Congress. There were extreme
fluctuations of industry; prosperity was either at a very high level or
depression at a very low one. Prosperity would bring on an expansion of
credits, a rise in prices, higher cost of living, strikes and boycotts
for higher wages; then depression would follow with the shutdown and
that most distressing of social diseases, unemployment. During the panic
of 1873-74 many thousands of men marched the streets crying earnestly
for work.

Between the panics, strikes became a part of the economic routine of
the country. They were expected, just as pay days and legal holidays
are expected. Now for the first time came strikes that can only
be characterized as stupendous. They were not mere slight economic
disturbances; they were veritable industrial earthquakes. In 1873
the coal miners of Pennsylvania, resenting the truck system and the
miserable housing which the mine owners forced upon them, struck by the
tens of thousands. In Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Maryland, Ohio, and
New York strikes occurred in all sorts of industries. There were the
usual parades and banners, some appealing, some insulting, and all
the while the militia guarded property. In July, 1877, the men of the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad refused to submit to a fourth reduction in
wages in seven years and struck. From Baltimore the resentment spread to
Pennsylvania and culminated with riots in Pittsburgh. All the anthracite
coal miners struck, followed by most of the bituminous miners of Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois. The militia were impotent to subdue the mobs;
Federal troops had to be sent by President Hayes into many of the
States; and a proclamation by the President commanded all citizens to
keep the peace. Thus was Federal authority introduced to bolster up the
administrative weakness of the States, and the first step was taken on
the road to industrial nationalization.

The turmoil had hardly subsided when, in 1880, new strikes broke out.
In the long catalogue of the strikers of that year are found the ribbon
weavers of Philadelphia, Paterson, and New York, the stablemen of New
York, New Jersey, and San Francisco, the cotton yard workers of New
Orleans, the cotton weavers of New England and New York, the stockyard
employees of Chicago and Omaha, the potters of Green Point, Long Island,
the puddlers of Johnstown and Columbia, Pennsylvania, the machinists
of Buffalo, the tailors of New York, and the shoemakers of Indiana. The
year 1881 was scarcely less restive. But 1886 is marked in labor annals
as "the year of the great uprising," when twice as many strikes as in
any previous year were reported by the United States Commissioner of
Labor, and when these strikes reached a tragic climax in the Chicago
Haymarket riots.

It was during this feverish epoch that organized labor first entered the
arena of national politics. When the policy as to the national currency
became an issue, the lure of cheap money drew labor into an alliance in
1880 with the Greenbackers, whose mad cry added to the general unrest.
In this, as in other fatuous pursuits, labor was only responding to the
forces and the spirit of the hour. These have been called the years
of amalgamation, but they were also the years of tumult, for, while
amalgamation was achieved, discipline was not. Authority imposed from
within was not sufficient to overcome the decentralizing forces, and
just as big business had yet to learn by self-imposed discipline how
to overcome the extremely individualistic tendencies which resulted in
trade anarchy, so labor had yet to learn through discipline the
lessons of self-restraint. Moreover, in the sudden expansion and
great enterprises of these days, labor even more than capital lost in
stability. One great steadying influence, the old personal relation
between master and servant, which prevailed during the days of
handicraft and even of the small factory, had disappeared almost
completely. Now labor was put up on the market--a heartless term
descriptive of a condition from which human beings might be expected to
react violently--and they did, for human nature refused to be an inert,
marketable thing.

The labor market must expand with the trader's market. In 1860 there
were about one and a third million wage-earners in the United States;
in 1870 well over two million; in 1880 nearly two and three-quarters
million; and in 1890 over four and a quarter million. The city sucked
them in from the country; but by far the larger augmentation came
from Europe; and the immigrant, normally optimistic, often untaught,
sometimes sullen and filled with a destructive resentment, and always
accustomed to low standards of living, added to the armies of labor his
vast and complex bulk.

There were two paramount issues--wages and the hours of labor--to
which all other issues were and always have been secondary. Wages tend
constantly to become inadequate when the standard of living is steadily
rising, and they consequently require periodical readjustment. Hours
of labor, of course, are not subject in the same degree to external
conditions. But the tendency has always been toward a shorter day. In a
previous chapter, the inception of the ten-hour movement was outlined.
Presently there began the eight-hour movement. As early as 1842
the carpenters and caulkers of the Charleston Navy Yard achieved an
eight-hour day; but 1863 may more properly be taken as the beginning of
the movement. In this year societies were organized in Boston and its
vicinity for the precise purpose of winning the eight-hour day, and
soon afterwards a national Eight-Hour League was established with local
leagues extending from New England to San Francisco and New Orleans.

This movement received an intelligible philosophy, and so a new
vitality, from Ira Steward, a member of the Boston Machinists' and
Blacksmiths' Union. Writing as a workingman for workingmen, Steward
found in the standard of living the true reason for a shorter workday.
With beautiful simplicity he pointed out to the laboring man that the
shorter period of labor would not mean smaller pay, and to the employer
that it would not mean a diminished output. On the contrary, it would be
mutually beneficial, for the unwearied workman could produce as much in
the shorter day as the wearied workman in the longer. "As long," Steward
wrote, "as tired human hands do most of the world's hard work, the
sentimental pretense of honoring and respecting the horny-handed toiler
is as false and absurd as the idea that a solid foundation for a house
can be made out of soap bubbles."

In 1865 Steward's pamphlet, "A Reduction of Hours and Increase of
Wages," was widely circulated by the Boston Labor Reform Association.
It emphasized the value of leisure and its beneficial reflex effect
upon both production and consumption. Gradually these well reasoned
and conservatively expressed doctrines found champions such as Wendell
Phillips, Henry Ward Beecher, and Horace Greeley to give them wider
publicity and to impress them upon the public consciousness. In 1867
Illinois, Missouri, and New York passed eight-hour laws and Wisconsin
declared eight hours a day's work for women and children. In 1868
Congress established an eight-hour day for public work. These were
promising signs, though the battle was still far from being won. The
eight-hour day has at last received "the sanction of society"--to use
the words of President Wilson in his message to Congress in 1916, when
he called for action to avert a great railway strike. But to win that
sanction required over half a century of popular agitation, discussion,
and economic and political evolution.

Such, in brief, were the general business conditions of the country
and the issues which engaged the energies of labor reformers during the
period following the Civil War. Meanwhile great changes were made
in labor organizations. Many of the old unions were reorganized, and
numerous local amalgamations took place. Most of the organizations now
took the form of secret societies whose initiations were marked with
naive formalism and whose routines were directed by a group of officers
with royal titles and fortified by signs, passwords, and ritual. Some
of these orders decorated the faithful with high-sounding degrees. The
societies adopted fantastic names such as "The Supreme Mechanical Order
of the Sun," "The Knights of St. Crispin," and "The Noble Order of the
Knights of Labor," of which more presently.

Meanwhile, too, there was a growing desire to unify the workers of the
country by some sort of national organization. The outcome was a notable
Labor Congress held at Baltimore in August, 1866, which included all
kinds of labor organizations and was attended by seventy-seven delegates
from thirteen States. In the light of subsequent events its resolutions
now seem conservative and constructive. This Congress believed that "all
reforms in the labor movement can only be effected by an intelligent,
systematic effort of the industrial classes... through the trades
organizations." Of strikes it declared that "they have been injudicious
and ill-advised, the result of impulse rather than principle,...and we
would therefore discountenance them except as a dernier ressort,
and when all means for an amicable and honorable adjustment has been
abandoned." It issued a cautious and carefully phrased Address to the
Workmen throughout the Country, urging them to organize and assuring
them that "the first thing to be accomplished before we can hope for
any great results is the thorough organization of all the departments of

The National Labor Union which resulted from this convention held seven
Annual Congresses, and its proceedings show a statesmanlike conservatism
and avoid extreme radicalism. This organization, which at its high
tide represented a membership of 640,000, in its brief existence was
influential in three important matters: first, it pointed the way to
national amalgamation and was thus a forerunner of more lasting
efforts in this direction; secondly, it had a powerful influence in
the eight-hour movement; and, thirdly, it was largely instrumental
in establishing labor bureaus and in gathering statistics for the
scientific study of labor questions. But the National Labor Union
unfortunately went into politics; and politics proved its undoing. Upon
affiliating with the Labor Reform party it dwindled rapidly, and after
1871 it disappeared entirely.

One of the typical organizations of the time was the Order of the
Knights of St. Crispin, so named after the patron saint of the
shoemakers, and accessible only to members of that craft. It was
first conceived in 1864 by Newell Daniels, a shoemaker in Milford,
Massachusetts, but no organization was effected until 1867, when the
founder had moved to Milwaukee. The ritual and constitution he had
prepared was accepted then by a group of seven shoemakers, and in four
years this insignificant mustard seed had grown into a great tree. The
story is told by Frank K. Foster, * who says, speaking of the order in
1868: "It made and unmade politicians; it established a monthly journal;
it started cooperative stores; it fought, often successfully, against
threatened reductions of wages...; it became the undoubted foremost
trade organization of the world." But within five years the order
was rent by factionalism and in 1878 was acknowledged to be dead. It
perished from various causes--partly because it failed to assimilate or
imbue with its doctrines the thousands of workmen who subscribed to its
rules and ritual, partly because of the jealousy and treachery which is
the fruitage of sudden prosperity, partly because of failure to fulfill
the fervent hopes of thousands who joined it as a prelude to the
industrial millennium; but especially it failed to endure because it
was founded on an economic principle which could not be imposed upon
society. The rule which embraced this principle reads as follows: "No
member of this Order shall teach, or aid in teaching, any fact or facts
of boot or shoemaking, unless the lodge shall give permission by
a three-fourths vote...provided that this article shall not be so
construed as to prevent a father from teaching his own son. Provided
also, that this article shall not be so construed as to hinder any
member of this organization from learning any or all parts of the
trade." The medieval craft guild could not so easily be revived in these
days of rapid changes, when a new stitching machine replaced in a day
a hundred workmen. And so the Knights of St. Crispin fell a victim to
their own greed.

     * "The Labor Movement, the Problem of Today," edited by
     George E. McNeill, Chapter VIII.

The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, another of those societies of
workingmen, was organized in November, 1869, by Uriah S. Stephens,
a Philadelphia garment cutter, with the assistance of six fellow
craftsmen. It has been said of Stephens that he was "a man of great
force of character, a skilled mechanic, with the love of books which
enabled him to pursue his studies during his apprenticeship, and feeling
withal a strong affection for secret organizations, having been for many
years connected with the Masonic Order." He was to have been educated
for the ministry but, owing to financial reverses in his family, was
obliged instead to learn a trade. Later he taught school for a few
years, traveled extensively in the West Indies, South America, and
California, and became an accomplished public speaker and a diligent
observer of social conditions.

Stephens and his six associates had witnessed the dissolution of the
local garment cutters' union. They resolved that the new society should
not be limited by the lines of their own trade but should embrace "all
branches of honorable toil." Subsequently a rule was adopted stipulating
that at least three-fourths of the membership of lodges must be
wage-earners eighteen years of age. Moreover, "no one who either sells
or makes a living, or any part of it, by the sale of intoxicating drinks
either as manufacturer, dealer, or agent, or through any member of his
family, can be admitted to membership in this order; and no lawyer,
banker, professional gambler, or stock broker can be admitted." They
chose their motto from Solon, the wisest of lawgivers: "That is the most
perfect government in which an injury to one is the concern of all";
and they took their preamble from Burke, the most philosophical of
statesmen: "When bad men combine, the good must associate, else
they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible

The order was a secret society and for years kept its name from the
public. It was generally known as the "Five Stars," because of the
five asterisks that represented its name in all public notices. While
mysterious initials and secret ceremonies gratified the members,
they aroused a corresponding antagonism, even fear, among the public,
especially as the order grew to giant size. What were the potencies of
a secret organization that had only to post a few mysterious words
and symbols to gather hundreds of workingmen in their halls? And what
plottings went on behind those locked and guarded doors? To allay
public hostility secrecy was gradually removed and in 1881 was entirely
abolished--not, however, without serious opposition from the older

The atmosphere of high idealism in which the order had been conceived
continued to be fostered by Stephens, its founder and its first Grand
Master Workman. He extolled justice, discountenanced violence, and
pleaded for "the mutual development and moral elevation of mankind."
His exhortations were free from that narrow class antagonism which
frequently characterizes the utterances of labor. One of his associates,
too, invoked the spirit of chivalry, of true knighthood, when he said
that the old trade union had failed because "it had failed to recognize
the rights of man and looked only to the rights of tradesmen," that the
labor movement needed "something that will develop more of charity, less
of selfishness, more of generosity, less of stinginess and nearness,
than the average society has yet disclosed to its members." Nor were
these ideas and principles betrayed by Stephens's successor, Terence V.
Powderly, who became Grand Master in 1879 and served during the years
when the order attained its greatest power. Powderly, also, was a
conservative idealist. His career may be regarded as a good example of
the rise of many an American labor leader. He had been a poor boy.
At thirteen he began work as a switch-tender; at seventeen he was
apprenticed as machinist; at nineteen he was active in a machinists' and
blacksmiths' union. After working at his trade in various places, he
at length settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and became one of the
organizers of the Greenback Labor party. He was twice elected mayor
of Scranton, and might have been elected for a third term had he not
declined to serve, preferring to devote all his time to the society of
which he was Grand Master. The obligations laid upon every member of the
Knights of Labor were impressive: Labor is noble and holy. To defend
it from degradation; to divest it of the evils to body, mind and estate
which ignorance and greed have imposed; to rescue the toiler from the
grasp of the selfish--is a work worthy of the noblest and best of
our race. In all the multifarious branches of trade capital has its
combinations; and, whether intended or not, it crushes the manly hopes
of labor and tramples poor humanity in the dust. We mean no conflict
with legitimate enterprise, no antagonism to necessary capital; but
men in their haste and greed, blinded by self-interests, overlook the
interests of others and sometimes violate the rights of those they deem
helpless. We mean to uphold the dignity of labor, to affirm the nobility
of all who earn their bread by the sweat of their brows. We mean to
create a healthy public opinion on the subject of labor (the only
creator of values or capital) and the justice of its receiving a full,
just share of the values or capital it has created. We shall, with all
our strength, support laws made to harmonize the interests of labor and
capital, for labor alone gives life and value to capital, and also those
laws which tend to lighten the exhaustiveness of toil. To pause in his
toil, to devote himself to his own interests, to gather a knowledge of
the world's commerce, to unite, combine and cooperate in the great army
of peace and industry, to nourish and cherish, build and develop the
temple he lives in is the highest and noblest duty of man to himself, to
his fellow men and to his Creator.

The phenomenal growth and collapse of the Knights of Labor is one of the
outstanding events in American economic history. The membership in 1869
consisted of eleven tailors. This small beginning grew into the famous
Assembly No. 1. Soon the ship carpenters wanted to join, and Assembly
No. 2 was organized. The shawl-weavers formed another assembly, the
carpet-weavers another, and so on, until over twenty assemblies,
covering almost every trade, had been organized in Philadelphia alone.
By 1875 there were eighty assemblies in the city and its vicinity. As
the number of lodges multiplied, it became necessary to establish a
common agency or authority, and a Committee on the Good of the Order
was constituted to represent all the local units, but this committee was
soon superseded by a delegate body known as the District Assembly. As
the movement spread from city to city and from State to State, a General
Assembly was created in 1878 to hold annual conventions and to be the
supreme authority of the order. In 1883 the membership of the order was
591,000; within three years, it had mounted to over 700,000; and at the
climax of its career the society boasted over 1,000,000 workmen in the
United States and Canada who had vowed fealty to its knighthood. It
is not to be imagined that every member of this vast horde so suddenly
brought together understood the obligations of the workman's chivalry.
The selfish and the lawless rushed in with the prudent and sincere.
But a resolution of the executive board to stop the initiation of new
members came too late. The undesirable and radical element in many
communities gained control of local assemblies, and the conservatism
and intelligence of the national leaders became merely a shield for
the rowdy and the ignorant who brought the entire order into popular

The crisis came in 1886. In the early months of this turbulent year
there were nearly five hundred labor disputes, most of them involving an
advance in wages. An epidemic of strikes then spread over the country,
many of them actually conducted by the Knights of Labor and all of them
associated in the public mind with that order. One of the most important
of these occurred on the Southwestern Railroad. In the preceding year,
the Knights had increased their lodges in St. Louis from five to thirty,
and these were under the domination of a coarse and ruthless district
leader. When in February, 1886, a mechanic, working in the shops of the
Texas and Pacific Railroad at Marshall, Texas, was discharged for cause
and the road refused to reinstate him, a strike ensued which spread over
the entire six thousand miles of the Gould system; and St. Louis became
the center of the tumult. After nearly two months of violence, the
outbreak ended in the complete collapse of the strikers. This result was
doubly damaging to the Knights of Labor, for they had officially taken
charge of the strike and were censured on the one hand for their
conduct of the struggle and on the other for the defeat which they had

In the same year, against the earnest advice of the national leaders of
the Knights of Labor, the employees of the Third Avenue Railway in New
York began a strike which lasted many months and which was characterized
by such violence that policemen were detailed to guard every car leaving
the barns. In Chicago the freight handlers struck, and some 60,000
workmen stopped work in sympathy. On the 3d of May, at the McCormick
Harvester Works, several strikers were wounded in a tussle with the
police. On the following day a mass meeting held in Haymarket Square,
Chicago, was harangued by a number of anarchists. When the police
attempted to disperse the mob, guns were fired at the officers of the
law and a bomb was hurled into their throng, killing seven and wounding
sixty. For this crime seven anarchists were indicted, found guilty, and
sentenced to be hanged. The Knights of Labor passed resolutions asking
clemency for these murderers and thereby grossly offended public
opinion, and that at a time when public opinion was frightened by these
outrages, angered by the disclosures of brazen plotting, and upset by
the sudden consciousness that the immunity of the United States from the
red terror of Europe was at an end.

Powderly and the more conservative national officers who were opposed to
these radical machinations were strong enough in the Grand Lodge in
the following year to suppress a vote of sympathy for the condemned
anarchists. The radicals thereupon seceded from the organization. This
outcome, however, did not restore the order to the confidence of the
public, and its strength now rapidly declined. A loss of 300,000
members for the year 1888 was reported. Early in the nineties, financial
troubles compelled the sale of the Philadelphia headquarters of the
Knights of Labor and the removal to more modest quarters in Washington.
A remnant of members still retain an organization, but it is barely a
shadow of the vast army of Knights who at one time so hopefully carried
on a crusade in every center of industry. It was not merely the excesses
of the lawless but the multiplicity of strikes which alienated
public sympathy. Powderly's repeated warnings that strikes, in and of
themselves, were destructive of the stable position of labor were shown
to be prophetic.

These excesses, however, were forcing upon the public the idea that it
too had not only an interest but a right and a duty in labor disputes.
Methods of arbitration and conciliation were now discussed in every
legislature. In 1883 the House of Representatives established a standing
committee on labor. In 1884 a national Bureau of Labor was created to
gather statistical information. In 1886 President Cleveland sent to
Congress a message which has become historic as the first presidential
message devoted to labor. In this he proposed the creation of a board
of labor commissioners who should act as official arbiters in labor
disputes, but Congress was unwilling at that time to take so advanced a
step. In 1888, however, it enacted a law providing for the settlement of
railway labor disputes by arbitration, upon agreement of both parties.

Arbitration signifies a judicial attitude of mind, a judgment based on
facts. These facts are derived from specific conditions and do not grow
out of broad generalizations. Arbitral tribunals are created to decide
points in dispute, not philosophies of human action. The businesslike
organization of the new trade union could as readily adapt itself to
arbitration as it had already adapted itself, in isolated instances,
to collective bargaining. A new stage had therefore been reached in the
labor movement.


Experience and events had now paved the way for that vast centralization
of industry which characterizes the business world of the present era.
The terms sugar, coffee, steel, tobacco, oil, acquire on the stock
exchange a new and precise meaning. Seventy-five per cent of steel,
eighty-three per cent of petroleum, ninety per cent of sugar production
are brought under the control of industrial combinations. Nearly
one-fourth of the wage-earners of America are employed by great
corporations. But while financiers are talking only in terms of
millions, while super-organization is reaching its eager fingers into
every industry, and while the units of business are becoming national in
scope, the workingman himself is being taught at last to rely more
and more upon group action in his endeavor to obtain better wages
and working conditions. He is taught also to widen the area of his
organization and to intensify its efforts. So, while the public reads in
the daily and periodical press about the oil trust and the coffee
trust, it is also being admonished against a labor trust and against two
personages, both symbols of colossal economic unrest--the promoter, or
the stalking horse of financial enterprise, and the walking delegate, or
the labor union representative and only too frequently the advance agent
of bitterness and revenge.

In response to the call of the hour there appeared the American
Federation of Labor, frequently called in these later days the labor
trust. The Federation was first suggested at Terre Haute, Indiana, on
August 2, 1881, at a convention called by the Knights of Industry and
the Amalgamated Labor Union, two secret societies patterned after the
model common at that period. The Amalgamated Union was composed
largely of disaffected Knights of Labor, and the avowed purpose of the
Convention was to organize a new secret society to supplant the Knights.
But the trades union element predominated and held up the British Trades
Union and its powerful annual congress as a model. At this meeting
the needs of intensive local organization, of trades autonomy, and of
comprehensive team work were foreseen, and from the discussion there
grew a plan for a second convention. With this meeting, which was held
at Pittsburgh in November, 1881, the actual work of the new association
began under the name, "The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor
Unions of the United States of America and Canada."

When this Federation learned that a convention representing independent
trade unions was called to meet in Columbus, Ohio, in December, 1886, it
promptly altered its arrangements for its own annual session so that it,
too, met at the same time and place. Thereupon the Federation effected
a union with this independent body, which represented twenty-five
organizations. The new organization was called the American Federation
of Labor. Until 1889, this was considered as the first annual meeting of
the new organization, but in that year the Federation resolved that its
"continuity...be recognized and dated from the year 1881."

For some years the membership increased slowly; but in 1889 over 70,000
new members were reported, in 1900 over 200,000, and from that time
the Federation has given evidence of such growth and prosperity that it
easily is the most powerful labor organization America has known, and it
takes its place by the side of the British Trades Union Congress as "the
sovereign organization in the trade union world." In 1917 its membership
reached 91,371,434, with 110 affiliated national unions, representing
virtually every element of American industry excepting the railway
brotherhoods and a dissenting group of electrical workers.

The foundation of this vast organization was the interest of particular
trades rather than the interests of labor in general. Its membership is
made up "of such Trade and Labor Unions as shall conform to its rules
and regulations." The preamble of the Constitution states: "We therefore
declare ourselves in favor of the formation of a thorough federation,
embracing every trade and labor organization in America under the Trade
Union System of organization." The Knights of Labor had endeavored to
subordinate the parts to the whole; the American Federation is willing
to bend the whole to the needs of the unit. It zealously sends out its
organizers to form local unions and has made provision that "any seven
wage workers of good character following any trade or calling" can
establish a local union with federal affiliations.

This vast and potent organization is based upon the principle of trade
homogeneity--namely, that each trade is primarily interested in its own
particular affairs but that all trades are interested in those general
matters which affect all laboring men as a class. To combine effectually
these dual interests, the Federation espouses the principle of home
rule in purely local matters and of federal supervision in all general
matters. It combines, with a great singleness of purpose, so diverse
a variety of details that it touches the minutiae of every trade
and places at the disposal of the humblest craftsman or laborer the
tremendous powers of its national influence. While highly centralized
in organization, it is nevertheless democratic in operation, depending
generally upon the referendum for its sanctions. It is flexible in its
parts and can mobilize both its heavy artillery and its cavalry with
equal readiness. It has from the first been managed with skill, energy,
and great adroitness.

The supreme authority of the American Federation is its Annual
Convention composed of delegates chosen from national and international
unions, from state, central, and local trade unions, and from fraternal
organizations. Experience has evolved a few simple rules by which the
convention is safeguarded against political and factional debate and
against the interruptions of "soreheads." Besides attending to the
necessary routine, the Convention elects the eleven national officers
who form the executive council which guides the administrative details
of the organization. The funds of the Federation are derived from a
per capita tax on the membership. The official organ is the American
Federationist. It is interesting to note in passing that over two
hundred and forty labor periodicals together with a continual stream of
circulars and pamphlets issue from the trades union press.

The Federation is divided into five departments, representing the
most important groups of labor: the Building Trades, the Metal Trades,
Mining, Railroad Employees, and the Union Label Trades. * Each of these
departments has its own autonomous sphere of action, its own set
of officers, its own financial arrangements, its own administrative
details. Each holds an annual convention, in the same place and week, as
the Federation. Each is made up of affiliated unions only and confines
itself solely to the interest of its own trades. This suborganization
serves as an admirable clearing house and shock-absorber and succeeds
in eliminating much of the friction which occurs between the several

     * There is in the Federation, however, a group of unions not
     affiliated with any of these departments.

There are also forty-three state branches of the Federation, each with
its own separate organization. There are annual state conventions whose
membership, however, is not always restricted to unions affiliated with
the American Federation. Some of these state organizations antedate the

There remain the local unions, into personal touch with which each
member comes. There were in 1916 as many as 647 "city centrals," the
term used to designate the affiliation of the unions of a city. The city
centrals are smaller replicas of the state federations and are made
up of delegates elected by the individual unions. They meet at stated
intervals and freely discuss questions relating to the welfare of
organized labor in general as well as to local labor conditions in
every trade. Indeed, vigilance seems to be the watchword of the Central.
Organization, wages, trade agreements, and the attitude of public
officials and city councils which even remotely might affect labor
rarely escape their scrutiny. This oldest of all the groups of labor
organizations remains the most vital part of the Federation. The success
of the American Federation of Labor is due in large measure to the
crafty generalship of its President, Samuel Gompers, one of the most
astute labor leaders developed by American economic conditions. He
helped organize the Federation, carefully nursed it through its tender
years, and boldly and unhesitatingly used its great power in the days of
its maturity. In fact, in a very real sense the Federation is Gompers,
and Gompers is the Federation. Born in London of Dutch-Jewish lineage,
on January 27, 1850, the son of a cigarmaker, Samuel Gompers was early
apprenticed to that craft. At the age of thirteen he went to New York
City, where in the following year he joined the first cigar-makers'
union organized in that city. He enlisted all his boyish ardor in the
cause of the trade union and, after he arrived at maturity, was elected
successively secretary and president of his union. The local unions
were, at that time, gingerly feeling their way towards state and
national organization, and in these early attempts young Gompers was
active. In 1887, he was one of the delegates to a national meeting which
constituted the nucleus of what is now the Cigar-makers' International

The local cigar-makers' union in which Gompers received his necessary
preliminary training was one of the most enlightened and compactly
organized groups of American labor. It was one of the first American
Unions to adopt in an efficient manner the British system of benefits
in the case of sickness, death, or unemployment. It is one of the few
American unions that persistently encourages skill in its craft and
intelligence in its membership. It has been a pioneer in collective
bargaining and in arbitration. It has been conservatively and yet
enthusiastically led and has generally succeeded in enlisting
the respect and cooperation of employers. This union has been the
kindergarten and preparatory school of Samuel Gompers, who, during all
the years of his wide activities as the head of the Federation of Labor,
has retained his membership in his old local and has acted as first
vice-president of the Cigar-makers' International. These early
experiences, precedents, and enthusiasms Gompers carried with him into
the Federation of Labor. He was one of the original group of trade union
representatives who organized the Federation in 1881. In the following
year he was its President. Since 1885 he has, with the exception of a
single year, been annually chosen as President. During the first
years the Federation was very weak, and it was even doubtful if the
organization could survive the bitter hostility of the powerful Knights
of Labor. It could pay its President no salary and could barely meet
his expense account. * Gompers played a large part in the complete
reorganization of the Federation in 1886. He subsequently received a
yearly salary of $1000 so that he could devote all of his time to the
cause. From this year forward the growth of the Federation was steady
and healthy. In the last decade it has been phenomenal. The earlier
policy of caution has, however, not been discarded--for caution is the
word that most aptly describes the methods of Gompers. From the first,
he tested every step carefully, like a wary mountaineer, before he urged
his organization to follow. From the beginning Gompers has followed
three general lines of policy. First, he has built the imposing
structure of his Federation upon the autonomy of the constituent unions.
This is the secret of the united enthusiasm of the Federation. It is the
Anglo-Saxon instinct for home rule applied to trade union politics. In
the tentative years of its early struggles, the Federation could hope
for survival only upon the suffrance of the trade union, and today, when
the Federation has become powerful, its potencies rest upon the same

     * In one of the early years this was $13.

Secondly, Gompers has always advocated frugality in money matters. His
Federation is powerful but not rich. Its demands upon the resources of
the trade unions have always been moderate, and the salaries paid
have been modest. * When the Federation erected a new building for
its headquarters in Washington a few years ago, it symbolized in its
architecture and equipment this modest yet adequate and substantial
financial policy. American labor unions have not yet achieved the
opulence, ambitions, and splendors of the guilds of the Middle Ages and
do not yet direct their activities from splendid guild halls.

     * Before 1899 the annual income of the Federation was less
     than $25,000; in 1901 it reached the $100,000 mark; and
     since 1905 it has exceeded $200,000.

In the third place, Gompers has always insisted upon the democratic
methods of debate and referendum in reaching important decisions.
However arbitrary and intolerant his impulses may have been, and however
dogmatic and narrow his conclusions in regard to the relation of labor
to society and towards the employer (and his Dutch inheritance gives him
great obstinacy), he has astutely refrained from too obviously bossing
his own organization.

With this sagacity of leadership Gompers has combined a fearlessness
that sometimes verges on brazenness. He has never hesitated to enter a
contest when it seemed prudent to him to do so. He crossed swords with
Theodore Roosevelt on more than one occasion and with President Eliot
of Harvard in a historic newspaper controversy over trade union
exclusiveness. He has not been daunted by conventions, commissions,
courts, congresses, or public opinion. During the long term of his
Federation presidency, which is unparalleled in labor history and alone
is conclusive evidence of his executive skill, scarcely a year has
passed without some dramatic incident to cast the searchlight of
publicity upon him--a court decision, a congressional inquiry, a grand
jury inquisition, a great strike, a nation-wide boycott, a debate
with noted public men, a political maneuver, or a foreign pilgrimage.
Whenever a constituent union in the Federation has been the object of
attack, he has jumped into the fray and has rarely emerged humiliated
from the encounter. This is the more surprising when one recalls that
he possesses the limitations of the zealot and the dogmatism of the

One of the most important functions of Gompers has been that of national
lobbyist for the Federation. He was one of the earliest champions of
the eight-hour day and the Saturday half-holiday. He has energetically
espoused Federal child labor legislation, the restriction of
immigration, alien contract labor laws, and employers' liability laws.
He advocated the creation of a Federal Department of Labor which has
recently developed into a cabinet secretariat. His legal bete noire,
however, was the Sherman Anti-Trust Law as applied to labor unions.
For many years he fought vehemently for an amending act exempting
the laboring class from the rigors of that famous statute. President
Roosevelt with characteristic candor told a delegation of Federation
officials who called on him to enlist his sympathy in their attempt,
that he would enforce the law impartially against lawbreakers, rich
and poor alike. Roosevelt recommended to Congress the passage of an
amendment exempting "combinations existing for and engaged in the
promotion of innocent and proper purposes." An exempting bill was passed
by Congress but was vetoed by President Taft on the ground that it was
class legislation. Finally, during President Wilson's administration,
the Federation accomplished its purpose, first indirectly by a rider
on an appropriation bill, then directly by the Clayton Act, which
specifically declared labor combinations, instituted for the "purpose of
mutual help and...not conducted for profit," not to be in restraint of
trade. Both measures were signed by the President. Encouraged by their
success, the Federation leaders have moved with a renewed energy against
the other legal citadel of their antagonists, the use of the injunction
in strike cases.

Gompers has thus been the political watchman of the labor interests.
Nothing pertaining, even remotely, to labor conditions escapes
the vigilance of his Washington office. During President Wilson's
administration, Gompers's influence achieved a power second to none in
the political field, owing partly to the political power of the labor
vote which he ingeniously marshalled, partly to the natural inclination
of the dominant political party, and partly to the strategic position of
labor in the war industries.

The Great War put an unprecedented strain upon the American Federation
of Labor. In every center of industry laborers of foreign birth early
showed their racial sympathies, and under the stimuli of the intriguing
German and Austrian ambassadors sinister plots for crippling munitions
plants and the shipping industries were hatched everywhere. Moreover,
workingmen became restive under the burden of increasing prices, and
strikes for higher wages occurred almost daily.

At the beginning of the War, the officers of the Federation maintained
a calm and neutral attitude which increased in vigilance as the strain
upon American patience and credulity increased. As soon as the United
States declared war, the whole energies of the officials of the
Federation were cast into the national cause. In 1917, under the
leadership of Gompers, and as a practical antidote to the I.W.W. and the
foreign labor and pacifist organization known as The People's Council,
there was organized The American Alliance for Labor and Democracy in
order "to Americanize the labor movement." Its campaign at once became
nation wide. Enthusiastic meetings were held in the great manufacturing
centers, stimulated to enthusiasm by the incisive eloquence of Gompers.
At the annual convention of the Federation held in Buffalo in November,
1917, full endorsement was given to the Alliance by a vote of 21,602 to
401. In its formal statement the Alliance declared: "It is our purpose
to try, by educational methods, to bring about a more American spirit in
the labor movement, so that what is now the clear expression of the vast
majority may become the conviction of all. Where we find ignorance, we
shall educate. Where we find something worse, we shall have to deal as
the situation demands. But we are going to leave no stone unturned
to put a stop to anti-American activities among workers." And in this
patriotic effort the Alliance was successful.

This was the first great step taken by Gompers and the Federation.
The second was equally important. With characteristic energy the
organization put forward a programme for the readjustment of labor to
war conditions. "This is labor's war" declared the manifesto issued
by the Federation. "It must be won by labor, and every stage in the
fighting and the final victory must be made to count for humanity."
These aims were embodied in constructive suggestions adopted by
the Council of National Defense appointed by President Wilson. This
programme was in a large measure the work of Gompers, who was a member
of the Council. The following outline shows the comprehensive nature
of the view which the laborer took of the relation between task and the
War. The plan embraced:

1. Means for furnishing an adequate supply of labor to war industries.

This included: (a) A system of labor exchanges. (b) The training of
workers. (c) Agencies for determining priorities in labor demands. (d)
Agencies for the dilution of skilled labor.

2. Machinery for adjusting disputes between capital and labor, without
stoppage of work.

3. Machinery for safeguarding conditions of labor, including industrial
hygiene, safety appliances, etc.

4. Machinery for safeguarding conditions of living, including housing,

5. Machinery for gathering data necessary for effective executive

6. Machinery for developing sound public sentiment and an exchange of
information between the various departments of labor administration,
the numerous industrial plants, and the public, so as to facilitate the
carrying out of a national labor programme.

Having thus first laid the foundations of a national labor policy
and having, in the second place, developed an effective means of
Americanizing, as far as possible, the various labor groups, the
Federation took another step. As a third essential element in
uniting labor to help to win the war, it turned its attention to the
inter-allied solidarity of workingmen. In the late summer and autumn
of 1917, Gompers headed an American labor mission to Europe and visited
England, Belgium, France, and Italy. His frequent public utterances in
numerous cities received particular attention in the leading European
newspapers and were eagerly read in the allied countries. The pacifist
group of the British Labour Party did not relish his outspokenness on
the necessity of completely defeating the Teutons before peace overtures
could be made. On the other hand, some of the ultraconservative papers
misconstrued his sentiments on the terms which should be exacted from
the enemy when victory was assured. This misunderstanding led to an
acrid international newspaper controversy, to which Gompers finally
replied: "I uttered no sentence or word which by the wildest imagination
could be interpreted as advocating the formula 'no annexations, and
no indemnities.' On the contrary, I have declared, both in the United
States and in conferences and public meetings while abroad, that the
German forces must be driven back from the invaded territory before even
peace terms could be discussed, that Alsace-Lorraine should be returned
to France, that the 'Irredente' should be returned to Italy, and
that the imperialistic militarist machine which has so outraged the
conscience of the world must be made to feel the indignation and
righteous wrath of all liberty and peace loving peoples." This mission
had a deep effect in uniting the labor populations of the allied
countries and especially in cheering the over-wrought workers of Britain
and France, and it succeeded in laying the foundation for a more lasting
international labor solidarity.

This considerable achievement was recognized when the Peace Conference
at Paris formed a Commission on International Labor Legislation. Gompers
was selected as one of the American representatives and was chosen
chairman. While the Commission was busy with its tasks, an international
labor conference was held at Berne. Gompers and his colleagues, however,
refused to attend this conference. They gave as their reasons for this
aloofness the facts that delegates from the Central powers, with whom
the United States was still at war, were in attendance; that the
meeting was held "for the purpose of arranging socialist procedure of
an international character"; and that the convention was irregularly
called, for it had been announced as an interallied conference but had
been surreptitiously converted into an international pacifist gathering,
conniving with German and Austrian socialists.

Probably the most far-reaching achievement of Gompers is the by no means
inconsiderable contribution he has made to that portion of the treaty of
peace with Germany relating to the international organization of labor.
This is an entirely new departure in the history of labor, for it
attempts to provide international machinery for stabilizing conditions
of labor in the various signatory countries. On the ground that "the
well-being, physical and moral, of the industrial wage-earners is
of supreme international importance," the treaty lays down guiding
principles to be followed by the various countries, subject to such
changes as variations in climate, customs, and economic conditions
dictate. These principles are as follows: labor shall not be regarded
merely as a commodity or an article of commerce; employers and employees
shall have the right of forming associations; a wage adequate to
maintain a reasonable standard of living shall be paid; an eight-hour
day shall be adopted; a weekly day of rest shall be allowed; child labor
shall be abolished and provision shall be made for the education of
youth; men and women shall receive equal pay for equal work; equitable
treatment shall be accorded to all workers, including aliens resident in
foreign lands; and an adequate system of inspection shall be provided in
which women should take part.

While these international adjustments were taking place, the American
Federation began to anticipate the problems of the inevitable national
labor readjustment after the war. Through a committee appointed for that
purpose, it prepared an ample programme of reconstruction in which the
basic features are the greater participation of labor in shaping its
environment, both in the factory and in the community, the development
of cooperative enterprise, public ownership or regulation of public
utilities, strict supervision of corporations, restriction of
immigration, and the development of public education. The programme
ends by declaring that "the trade union movement is unalterably and
emphatically opposed...to a large standing army."

During the entire period of the war, both at home and abroad, Gompers
fought the pacifist and the socialist elements in the labor movement.
At the same time he was ever vigilant in pushing forward the claims of
trade unionism and was always beforehand in constructive suggestions.
His life has spanned the period of great industrial expansion in
America. He has had the satisfaction of seeing his Federation grow under
his leadership at first into a national and then into an international
force. Gompers is an orthodox trade unionist of the British School.
Bolshevism is to him a synonym for social ruin. He believes that capital
and labor should cooperate but that capital should cease to be the
predominant factor in the equation. In order to secure this balance
he believes labor must unite and fight, and to this end he has devoted
himself to the federation of American trade unions and to their battle.
He has steadfastly refused political preferment and has declined
many alluring offers to enter private business. In action he is an
opportunist--a shrewd, calculating captain, whose knowledge of human
frailties stands him in good stead, and whose personal acquaintance with
hundreds of leaders of labor, of finance, and of politics, all over the
country, has given him an unusual opportunity to use his influence for
the advancement of the cause of labor in the turbulent field of economic

The American Federation of Labor has been forced by the increasing
complexity of modern industrial life to recede somewhat from its early
trade union isolation. This broadening point of view is shown first in
the recognition of the man of no trade, the unskilled worker. For years
the skilled trades monopolized the Federation and would not condescend
to interest themselves in their humble brethren. The whole mechanism of
the Federation in the earlier period revolved around the organization of
the skilled laborers. In England the great dockers' strike of 1889 and
in America the lurid flare of the I.W.W. activities forced the labor
aristocrat to abandon his pharisaic attitude and to take an interest in
the welfare of the unskilled. The future will test the stability of the
Federation, for it is among the unskilled that radical and revolutionary
movements find their first recruits.

A further change in the internal policy of the Federation is indicated
by the present tendency towards amalgamating the various allied trades
into one union. For instance, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and
the Amalgamated Wood Workers' Association, composed largely of furniture
makers and machine wood workers, combined a few years ago and then
proceeded to absorb the Wooden Box Makers, and the Wood Workers in the
shipbuilding industry. The general secretary of the new amalgamation
said that the organization looked "forward with pleasurable
anticipations to the day when it can truly be said that all men of
the wood-working craft on this continent hold allegiance to the United
Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America." A similar unification
has taken place in the lumbering industry. When the shingle weavers
formed an international union some fifteen years ago, they limited the
membership "to the men employed in skilled departments of the shingle
trade." In 1912 the American Federation of Labor sanctioned a plan for
including in one organization all the workers in the lumber industry,
both skilled and unskilled. This is a far cry from the minute trade
autocracy taught by the orthodox unionist thirty years ago.

Today the Federation of Labor is one of the most imposing organizations
in the social system of America. It reaches the workers in every trade.
Every contributor to the physical necessities of our materialistic
civilization has felt the far-reaching influence of confederated
power. A sense of its strength pervades the Federation. Like a healthy,
self-conscious giant, it stalks apace among our national organizations.
Through its cautious yet pronounced policy, through its seeking after
definite results and excluding all economic vagaries, it bids fair to
overcome the disputes that disturb it from within and the onslaughts of
Socialism and of Bolshevism that threaten it from without.


The trade union * forms the foundation upon which the whole edifice of
the American Federation of Labor is built. Like the Federation, each
particular trade union has a tripartite structure: there is first the
national body called the Union, the International, the General Union,
or the Grand Lodge; there is secondly the district division or council,
which is merely a convenient general union in miniature; and finally
there is the local individual union, usually called "the local." Some
unions, such as the United Mine Workers, have a fourth division or
subdistrict, but this is not the general practice.

     * The term "trade union" is used here in its popular sense,
     embracing labor, trade, and industrial unions, unless
     otherwise specified.

The sovereign authority of a trade union is its general convention, a
delegate body meeting at stated times. Some unions meet annually, some
biennially, some triennially, and a few determine by referendum when the
convention is to meet. Sometimes a long interval elapses: the granite
cutters, for instance, held no convention between 1880 and 1912, and
the cigar-makers, after a convention in 1896, did not meet for sixteen
years. The initiative and referendum are, in some of the more compact
unions, taking the place of the general convention, while the small
executive council insures promptness of administrative action.

The convention elects the general officers. Of these the president is
the most conspicuous, for he is the field marshal of the forces and
fills a large place in the public eye when a great strike is called. It
was in this capacity that John Mitchell rose to sudden eminence during
the historic anthracite strike in 1902, and George W. Perkins of the
cigar-makers' union achieved his remarkable hold upon the laboring
people. As the duties of the president of a union have increased, it has
become the custom to elect numerous vice-presidents to relieve him. Each
of these has certain specific functions to perform, but all remain the
president's aides. One, for instance, may be the financier, another the
strike agent, another the organizer, another the agitator. With such a
group of virtual specialists around a chieftain, a union has the immense
advantage of centralized command and of highly organized leadership. The
tendency, especially among the more conservative unions, is to reelect
these officers year after year. The president of the Carpenters' Union
held his office for twenty years, and John Mitchell served the miners as
president ten years. Under the immediate supervision of the president,
an executive board composed of all the officers guides the destinies of
the union. When this board is not occupied with the relations of the
men to their employers, it gives its judicial consideration to the more
delicate and more difficult questions of inter-union comity and of local

The local union is the oldest labor organization, and a few existing
locals can trace their origin as far back as the decade preceding the
Civil War. Many more antedate the organization of the Federation. Not
a few of these almost historic local unions have refused to surrender
their complete independence by affiliating with those of recent origin,
but they have remained merely isolated independent locals with very
little general influence. The vast majority of local unions are members
of the national trades union and of the Federation.

The local union is the place where the laborer comes into direct
personal contact with this powerful entity that has become such a factor
in his daily life. Here he can satisfy that longing for the recognition
of his point of view denied him in the great factory and here he can
meet men of similar condition, on terms of equality, to discuss freely
and without fear the topics that interest him most. There is an
immense psychic potency in this intimate association of fellow workers,
especially in some of the older unions which have accumulated a

It is in the local union that the real life of the labor organization
must be nourished, and the statesmanship of the national leaders is
directed to maintaining the greatest degree of local autonomy consistent
with the interests of national homogeneity. The individual laborer
thus finds himself a member of a group of his fellows with whom he is
personally acquainted, who elect their own officers, to a large measure
fix their own dues, transact their own routine business, discipline
their own members, and whenever possible make their own terms of
employment with their employers. The local unions are obliged to pay
their tithe into the greater treasury, to make stated reports, to
appoint a certain roster of committees, and in certain small matters
to conform to the requirements of the national union. On the whole,
however, they are independent little democracies confederated, with
others of their kind, by means of district and national organizations.

The unions representing the different trades vary in structure and
spirit. There is an immense difference between the temper of the
tumultuous structural iron workers and the contemplative cigar-makers,
who often hire one of their number to read to them while engaged in
their work, the favorite authors being in many instances Ruskin and
Carlyle. Some unions are more successful than others in collective
bargaining. Martin Fox, the able leader of the iron moulders, signed one
of the first trade agreements in America and fixed the tradition for
his union; and the shoemakers, as well as most of the older unions
are fairly well accustomed to collective bargaining. In matters of
discipline, too, the unions vary. Printers and certain of the more
skilled trades find it easier to enforce their regulations than do the
longshoremen and unions composed of casual foreign laborers. In size
also the unions of the different trades vary. In 1910 three had a
membership of over 100,000 each. Of these the United Mine Workers
reached a total of 370,800, probably the largest trades union in the
world. The majority of the unions have a membership between 1000 and
10,000, the average for the entire number being 5000; but the membership
fluctuates from year to year, according to the conditions of labor, and
is usually larger in seasons of contest. Fluctuation in membership
is most evident in the newer unions and in the unskilled trades. The
various unions differ also in resources. In some, especially those
composed largely of foreigners, the treasury is chronically empty; yet
at the other extreme the mine workers distributed $1,890,000 in strike
benefits in 1902 and had $750,000 left when the board of arbitration
sent the workers back into the mines.

The efforts of the unions to adjust themselves to the quickly changing
conditions of modern industries are not always successful. Old trade
lines are instantly shifting, creating the most perplexing problem of
inter-union amity. Over two score jurisdictional controversies appear
for settlement at each annual convention of the American Federation. The
Association of Longshoremen and the Seamen's Union, for example, both
claim jurisdiction over employees in marine warehouses. The cigar-makers
and the stogie-makers have also long been at swords' points. Who shall
have control over the coopers who work in breweries--the Brewery Workers
or the Coopers' Union? Who shall adjust the machinery in elevators--the
Machinists or Elevator Constructors? Is the operator of a linotype
machine a typesetter? So plasterers and carpenters, blacksmiths and
structural iron workers, printing pressmen and plate engravers, hod
carriers and cement workers, are at loggerheads; the electrification
of a railway creates a jurisdictional problem between the electrical
railway employees and the locomotive engineers; and the marble workers
and the plasterers quarrel as to the setting of imitation marble. These
quarrels regarding the claims of rival unions reveal the weakness of
the Federation as an arbitral body. There is no centralized authority
to impose a standard or principle which could lead to the settlement
of such disputes. Trade jealousy has overcome the suggestions of the
peacemakers that either the nature of the tools used, or the nature of
the operation, or the character of the establishment be taken as the
basis of settlement.

When the Federation itself fails as a peacemaker, it cannot be expected
that locals will escape these controversies. There are many examples,
often ludicrous, of petty jealousies and trade rivalries. The man who
tried to build a brick house, employing union bricklayers to lay the
brick and union painters to paint the brick walls, found to his loss
that such painting was considered a bricklayer's job by the bricklayers'
union, who charged a higher wage than the painters would have done. It
would have relieved him to have the two unions amalgamate. And this in
general has become a real way out of the difficulty. For instance, a
dispute between the Steam and Hot Water Fitters and the Plumbers was
settled by an amalgamation called the United Association of Journeymen
Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters, and Steam Fitters' Helpers, which
is now affiliated with the Federation. But the International Association
of Steam, Hot Water, and Power Pipe Fitters and Helpers is not
affiliated, and interunion war results. The older unions, however, have
a stabilizing influence upon the newer, and a genuine conservatism such
as characterizes the British unions is becoming more apparent as age
solidifies custom and lends respect to by-laws and constitutions. But
even time cannot obviate the seismic effects of new inventions, and
shifts in jurisdictional matters are always imminent. The dominant
policy of the trade union is to keep its feet on the earth, no matter
where its head may be; to take one step at a time, and not to trouble
about the future of society. This purpose, which has from the first been
the prompter of union activity, was clearly enunciated in the testimony
of Adolph Strasser, a converted socialist, one of the leading trade
unionists, and president of the Cigar-makers' Union, before a Senate
Committee in 1883:

Chairman: You are seeking to improve home matters first?

Witness: Yes sir, I look first to the trade I represent: I look first
to cigars, to the interests of men, who employ me to represent their

Chairman: I was only asking you in regard to your ultimate ends.

Witness: We have no ultimate ends. We are going on from day to day. We
are fighting only for immediate objects, objects that can be realized in
a few years.

Chairman: You want something better to eat and to wear, and better
houses to live in?

Witness: Yes, we want to dress better and to live better, and become
better citizens generally.

Chairman: I see that you are a little sensitive lest it should be
thought that you are a mere theorizer. I do not look upon you in that
light at all.

Witness: Well, we say in our constitution that we are opposed to
theorists, and I have to represent the organization here. We are all
practical men.

This remains substantially the trade union platform today. Trade
unionists all aim to be "practical men."

The trade union has been the training school for the labor leader, that
comparatively new and increasingly important personage who is a product
of modern industrial society. Possessed of natural aptitudes, he
usually passes by a process of logical evolution, through the important
committees and offices of his local into the wider sphere of the
national union, where as president or secretary, he assumes the
leadership of his group. Circumstances and conditions impose a heavy
burden upon him, and his tasks call for a variety of gifts. Because
some particular leader lacked tact or a sense of justice or some similar
quality, many a labor maneuver has failed, and many a labor organization
has suffered in the public esteem. No other class relies so much upon
wise leadership as does the laboring class. The average wage-earner
is without experience in confronting a new situation or trained and
superior minds. From his tasks he has learned only the routine of his
craft. When he is faced with the necessity of prompt action, he is
therefore obliged to depend upon his chosen captains for results.

In America these leaders have risen from the rank and file of labor.
Their education is limited. The great majority have only a primary
schooling. Many have supplemented this meager stock of learning by
rather wide but desultory reading and by keen observation. A few have
read law, and some have attended night schools. But all have graduated
from the University of Life. Many of them have passed through the
bitterest poverty, and all have been raised among toilers and from
infancy have learned to sympathize with the toiler's point of view. *
They are therefore by training and origin distinctly leaders of a class,
with the outlook upon life, the prejudices, the limitations, and the
fervent hopes of that class.

     * A well-known labor leader once said to the writer: "No
     matter how much you go around among laboring people, you
     will never really understand us unless you were brought up
     among us. There is a real gulf between your way of looking
     on life and ours. You can be only an investigator or an
     intellectual sympathizer with my people. But you cannot
     really understand our viewpoint." Whatever of misconception
     there may be in this attitude, it nevertheless marks the
     actual temper of the average wage-earner, in spite of the
     fact that in America many employers have risen from the
     ranks of labor.

In a very real sense the American labor leader is the counterpart of the
American business man intensively trained, averse to vagaries, knowing
thoroughly one thing and only one thing, and caring very little for
anything else.

This comparative restriction of outlook marks a sharp distinction
between American and British labor leaders. In Britain such leadership
is a distinct career for which a young man prepares himself. He is
usually fairly well educated, for not infrequently he started out to
study for the law or the ministry and was sidetracked by hard necessity.
A few have come into the field from journalism. As a result, the
British labor leader has a certain veneer of learning and puts on a more
impressive front than the American. For example, Britain has produced
Ramsey MacDonald, who writes books and makes speeches with a rare grace;
John Burns, who quotes Shakespeare or recites history with wonderful
fluency; Keir Hardie, a miner from the ranks, who was possessed of
a charming poetic fancy; Philip Snowden, who displays the spiritual
qualities of a seer; and John Henderson, who combines philosophical
power with skill in dialectics. On the other hand, the rank and file of
American labor is more intelligent and alert than that of British labor,
and the American labor leader possesses a greater capacity for intensive
growth and is perhaps a better specialist at rough and tumble fighting
and bargaining than his British colleague. *

     * The writer recalls spending a day in one of the Midland
     manufacturing towns with the secretary of a local
     cooperative society, a man who was steeped in Bergson's
     philosophy and talked on local botany and geology as
     fluently as on local labor conditions. It would be difficult
     to duplicate this experience in America.

In a very real sense every trade union is typified by some aggressive
personality. The Granite Cutters' National Union was brought into active
being in 1877 largely through the instrumentality of James Duncan, a
rugged fighter who, having federated the locals, set out to establish an
eight-hour day through collective bargaining and to settle disputes by
arbitration. He succeeded in forming a well-disciplined force out of the
members of his craft, and even the employers did not escape the touch of
his rod.

The Glassblowers' Union was saved from disruption by Dennis Hayes, who,
as president of the national union, reorganized the entire force in the
years 1896-99, unionized a dozen of the largest glass producing plants
in the United States and succeeded in raising the wages fifteen per
cent. He introduced methods of arbitration and collective agreements and
established a successful system of insurance.

James O'Connell, the president of the International Association of
Machinists, led his organization safely through the panic of 1893,
reorganized it upon a broader basis, and introduced sick benefits. In
1901 after a long and wearisome dickering with the National Metal Trades
Association, a shorter day was agreed upon, but, as the employers would
not agree to a ten-hour wage for a nine-hour day, O'Connell led his men
out on a general strike and won.

Thomas Kidd, secretary of the Wood-Workers' International Union, was
largely responsible for the agreement made with the manufacturers in
1897 for the establishment of a minimum wage of fifteen cents an hour
for a ten-hour day, a considerable advance over the average wage paid
up to that time. Kidd was the object of severe attacks in various
localities, and in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where labor riots took place for
the enforcement of the Union demands, he was arrested for conspiracy but
acquitted by the trial jury.

When the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers lost their
strike at Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1892, the union was thought to be
dead. It was quietly regalvanized into activity, however, by Theodore
Schaffer, who has displayed adroitness in managing its affairs in the
face of tremendous opposition from the great steel manufacturers who
refuse to permit their shops to be unionized.

The International Typographical Union, composed of an unusually
intelligent body of men, owes its singular success in collective
contracting largely to James M. Lynch, its national president. The great
newspapers did not give in to the demands of the union without a series
of struggles in which Lynch manipulated his forces with skill and tact.
Today this is one of the most powerful unions in the country.

Entirely different was the material out of which D.J. Keefe formed his
Union of Longshoremen, Marine and Transport Workers. His was a mass of
unskilled workers, composed of many nationalities accustomed to
rough conditions, and not easily led. Keefe, as president of their
International Union, has had more difficulty in restraining his men and
in teaching them the obligations of a contract than any other leader.
At least on one occasion he employed non-union men to carry out the
agreement which his recalcitrant following had made and broken.

The evolution of an American labor leader is shown at its best in the
career of John Mitchell, easily the most influential trade unionist of
this generation. He was born on February 4, 1870, on an Illinois farm,
but at two years of age he lost his mother and at four his father. With
other lads of his neighborhood he shared the meager privileges of the
school terms that did not interfere with farm work. At thirteen he was
in the coal mines in Braidwood, Illinois, and at sixteen he was the
outer doorkeeper in the local lodge of the Knights of Labor. Eager to
see the world, he now began a period of wandering, working his way from
State to State. So he traversed the Far West and the Southwest, alert
in observing social conditions and coming in contact with many types of
men. These wanderings stood him in lieu of an academic course, and when
he returned to the coal fields of Illinois he was ready to settle down.
From his Irish parentage he inherited a genial personality and a gift
of speech. These traits, combined with his continual reading on economic
and sociological subjects, soon lifted him into local leadership. He
became president of the village school board and of the local lodge of
the Knights of Labor. He joined the United Mine Workers of America upon
its organization in 1890. He rose rapidly in its ranks, was a delegate
to the district and sub-district conventions, secretary-treasurer of
the Illinois district, chairman of the Illinois legislative committee,
member of the executive board, and national organizer. In January, 1898,
he was elected national vice-president, and in the following autumn,
upon the resignation of the president, he became acting president. The
national convention in 1899 chose him as president, a position which he
held for ten years. He has served as one of the vice-presidents of the
American Federation of Labor since 1898, was for some years chairman of
the Trade Agreement Department of the National Civic Federation and
has held the position of Chairman of the New York State Industrial

When he rose to the leadership of the United Mine Workers, this union
had only 48,000 members, confined almost exclusively to the bituminous
regions of the West. * Within the decade of his presidency he brought
virtually all the miners of the United States under his leadership.
Wherever his union went, there followed sooner or later the eight-hour
day, raises in wages of from thirteen to twenty-five per cent,
periodical joint conventions with the operators for settling wage scales
and other points in dispute, and a spirit of prosperity that theretofore
was unknown among the miners.

     * Less than 10,000 out of 140,000 anthracite miners were
     members of the union.

In unionizing the anthracite miners, Mitchell had his historic fight
with the group of powerful corporations that owned the mines and the
railways which fed them. This great strike, one of the most significant
in our history, attracted universal attention because of the issues
involved, because a coal shortage threatened many Eastern cities, and
because of the direct intervention of President Roosevelt. The central
figure of this gigantic struggle was the miners' young leader, barely
thirty years old, with the features of a scholar and the demeanor of
an ascetic, marshaling his forces with the strategic skill of a veteran

At the beginning of the strike Mitchell, as president of the Union,
announced that the miners were eager to submit all their grievances
to an impartial arbitral tribunal and to abide by its decisions. The
ruthless and prompt refusal of the mine owners to consider this proposal
reacted powerfully in the strikers' favor among the public. As the
long weeks of the struggle wore on, increasing daily in bitterness,
multiplying the apprehension of the strikers and the restiveness of the
coal consumers, Mitchell bore the increasing strain with his customary
calmness and self-control.

After the parties had been deadlocked for many weeks, President
Roosevelt called the mine owners and the union leaders to a conference
in the White House. Of Mitchell's bearing, the President afterwards
remarked: "There was only one man in the room who behaved like a
gentleman, and that man was not I."

The Board of Arbitration eventually laid the blame on both sides but
gave the miners the bulk of their demands. The public regarded the
victory as a Mitchell victory, and the unions adored the leader who
had won their first strike in a quarter of a century, and who had won
universal confidence by his ability and demeanor in the midst of the
most harassing tensions of a class war. *

 * Mitchell was cross-examined for three days when he was testifying
before the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission. Every weapon which craft,
prejudice, and skill could marshal against him failed to rule his temper
or to lead him into damaging admissions or contradictions.

John Mitchell's powerful hold upon public opinion today is not alone due
to his superior intelligence, his self possession, his business skill,
nor his Irish gift of human accommodation, but to the greater facts that
he was always aware of the grave responsibilities of leadership, that he
realized the stern obligation of a business contract, and that he
always followed the trade union policy of asking only for that which was
attainable. Soon after the Anthracite strike he wrote:

"I am opposed to strikes as I am opposed to war. As yet, however, the
world with all its progress has not made war impossible; neither, I
fear, considering the nature of men and their institutions, will the
strike entirely disappear for years to come....

"This strike has taught both capital and labor that they owe certain
obligations to society and that their obligations must be discharged
in good faith. If both are fair and conciliatory, if both recognize the
moral restraint of the state of society by which they are surrounded,
there need be few strikes. They can, and it is better that they should,
settle their differences between themselves....

"Since labor organizations are here, and here to stay, the managers of
employing corporations must choose what they are to do with them.
They may have the union as a present, active, and unrecognized
force, possessing influence for good or evil, but without direct
responsibility; or they may deal with it, give it responsibility as
well as power, define and regulate that power, and make the union an
auxiliary in the promotion of stability and discipline and the amicable
adjustment of all local disputes."


The solidarity and statesmanship of the trade unions reached perfection
in the railway "Brotherhoods." Of these the Brotherhood of Locomotive
Engineers * is the oldest and most powerful. It grew out of the union
of several early associations; one of these was the National Protective
Association formed after the great Baltimore and Ohio strike in 1854;
another was the Brotherhood of the Footboard, organized in Detroit after
the bitter strike on the Michigan Central in 1862. Though born thus
of industrial strife, this railroad union has nevertheless developed
a poise and a conservatism which have been its greatest assets in the
numerous controversies engaging its energies. No other union has had
a more continuous and hardheaded leadership, and no other has won more
universal respect both from the public and from the employer.

 * Up to this time the Brotherhoods have not affiliated with the Knights
of Labor nor with the American Federation of Labor. After the passage
of the eight-hour law by Congress in 1916, definite steps were taken
towards affiliating the Railway Brotherhoods with the Federation, and
at its annual convention in 1919 the Federation voted to grant them a

This high position is largely due, no doubt, to the fact that the
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is composed of a very select
and intelligent class of men. Every engineer must first serve an
apprenticeship as a fireman, which usually lasts from four to twelve
years. Very few are advanced to the rank of engineer in less than four
years. The firemen themselves are selected men who must pass several
physical examinations and then submit to the test of as arduous an
apprenticeship as modern industrialism affords. In the course of
an eight- to twelve-hour run firemen must shovel from fifteen to
twenty-five tons of coal into the blazing fire box of a locomotive. In
winter they are constantly subjected to hot blasts from the furnace and
freezing drafts from the wind. Records show that out of every hundred
who begin as firemen only seventeen become engineers and of these only
six ever become passenger engineers. The mere strain on the eyes
caused by looking into the coal blaze eliminates 17 per cent. Those
who eventually become engineers are therefore a select group as far as
physique is concerned.

The constant dangers accompanying their daily work require railroad
engineers to be no less dependable from the moral point of view. The
history of railroading is as replete with heroism as is the story of
any war. A coward cannot long survive at the throttle. The process of
natural selection which the daily labor of an engineer involves the
Brotherhood has supplemented by most rigid moral tests. The character
of every applicant for membership is thoroughly scrutinized and must be
vouched for by three members. He must demonstrate his skill and prove
his character by a year's probation before his application is finally
voted upon. Once within the fold, the rules governing his conduct are
inexorable. If he shuns his financial obligations or is guilty of a
moral lapse, he is summarily expelled. In 1909, thirty-six members were
expelled for "unbecoming conduct." Drunkards are particularly dangerous
in railroading.

When the order was only five years old and still struggling for its
life, it nevertheless expelled 172 members for drunkenness. In proven
cases of this sort the railway authorities are notified, the offending
engineer is dismissed from the service, and the shame of these culprits
is published to the world in the Locomotive Engineers' Journal, which
reaches every member of the order. There is probably no other club or
professional organization so exacting in its demands that its members be
self-respecting, faithful, law-abiding, and capable; and surely no other
is so summary and far-reaching in its punishments.

Today ninety per cent of all the locomotive engineers in the United
States and Canada belong to this union. But the Brotherhood early
learned the lesson of exclusion. In 1864 after very annoying experiences
with firemen and other railway employees on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne
and Chicago Railroad, it amended its constitution and excluded firemen
and machinists from the order. This exclusive policy, however, is
based upon the stern requirements of professional excellence and is
not displayed towards engineers who are not members of the Brotherhood.
Towards them there is displayed the greatest toleration and none of the
narrow spirit of the "closed shop." The nonunion engineer is not only
tolerated but is even on occasion made the beneficiary of the activities
of the union. He shares, for example, in the rise of wages and
readjustment of runs. There are even cases on record where the railroad
unions have taken up a specific grievance between a nonunion man and his
employer and have attempted a readjustment.

From the inception of the Brotherhood, the policy of the order towards
the employing railroad company has been one of business and not of
sentiment. The Brotherhood has held that the relation between the
employer and employee concerning wages, hours, conditions of labor, and
settlement of difficulties should be on the basis of a written contract;
that the engineer as an individual was at a manifest disadvantage in
making such a contract with a railway company; that he therefore had
a right to join with his fellow engineers in pressing his demands and
therefore had the right to a collective contract. Though for over a
decade the railways fought stubbornly against this policy, in the end
every important railroad of this country and Canada gave way. It is
doubtful, indeed, if any of them would today be willing to go back
to the old method of individual bargaining, for the brotherhood has
insisted upon the inviolability of a contract once entered into. It has
consistently held that "a bargain is a bargain, even if it is a poor
gain." Members who violate an agreement are expelled, and any local
lodge which is guilty of such an offense has its charter revoked. *

 * In 1905 in New York City 893 members were expelled and their charter
was revoked for violation of their contract of employment by taking part
in a sympathetic strike of the subway and elevated roads.

Once the practice of collective contract was fixed, it naturally
followed that some mechanism for adjusting differences would be devised.
The Brotherhood and the various roads now maintain a general board
of adjustment for each railway system. The Brotherhood is strict in
insisting that the action of this board is binding on all its members.
This method of bargaining and of settling disputes has been so
successful that since 1888 the Brotherhood has not engaged in an
important strike. There have been minor disturbances, it is true, and
several nation-wide threats, but no serious strikes inaugurated by the
engineers. This great achievement of the Brotherhood could not have been
possible without keen ability in the leaders and splendid solidarity
among the men.

The individual is carefully looked after by the Brotherhood. The
Locomotive Engineers' Mutual Life and Accident Insurance Association
is an integral part of the Brotherhood, though it maintains a separate
legal existence in order to comply with the statutory requirements
of many States. * Every member must carry an insurance policy in this
Association for not less than $1500, though he cannot take more than
$4500. The policy is carried by the order if the engineer becomes sick
or is otherwise disabled, but if he fails to pay assessments when he is
in full health, he gives grounds for expulsion. There is a pension roll
of three hundred disabled engineers, each of whom receives $25 a month;
and the four railroad brotherhoods together maintain a Home for Disabled
Railroad Men at Highland Park, Illinois.

 * The following figures show the status of the Insurance Association in
1918. The total amount of life insurance in force was $161,805,500.00.
The total amount of claims paid from 1868 to 1918 was $41,085,183.04.
The claims paid in 1918 amounted to $3,014,540.22. The total amount
of indemnity insurance in force in 1918 was $12,486,397.50. The total
claims paid up to 1918 were $1,624,537.61; and during 1918, $241,780.08.

The technical side of engine driving is emphasized by the "Locomotive
Engineers' Journal" which goes to every member, and in discussions
in the stated meetings of the Brotherhood. Intellectual and social
interests are maintained also by lecture courses, study clubs, and
women's auxiliaries. Attendance upon the lodge meetings has been made
compulsory with the intention of insuring the order from falling prey
to a designing minority--a condition which has proved the cause of the
downfall of more than one labor union.

The Brotherhood of Engineers is virtually a large and prosperous
business concern: Its management has been enterprising and provident;
its treasury is full; its insurance policies aggregate many millions;
it owns a modern skyscraper in Cleveland which cost $1,250,000 and which
yields a substantial revenue besides housing the Brotherhood offices.

The engineers have, indeed, succeeded in forming a real Brotherhood--a
"feudal" brotherhood an opposing lawyer once called them--reestablishing
the medieval guild-paternalism so that each member is responsible for
every other and all are responsible for each. They therefore merge
themselves through self-discipline into a powerful unity for enforcing
their demands and fulfilling their obligations.

The supreme authority of the Brotherhood is the Convention, which
is composed of delegates from the local subdivisions. In the interim
between conventions, the authorized leader of the organization is the
Grand Chief Engineer, whose decrees are final unless reversed by the
Convention. This authority places a heavy responsibility upon him, but
the Brotherhood has been singularly fortunate in its choice of chiefs.
Since 1873 there have been only two. The first of these was P. M.
Arthur, a sturdy Scot, born in 1831 and brought to America in boyhood.
He learned the blacksmith and machinist trades but soon took to
railroading, in which he rose rapidly from the humblest place to the
position of engineer on the New York Central lines. He became one of the
charter members of the Brotherhood in 1863 and was active in its affairs
from the first. In 1873 the union became involved in a bitter dispute
with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Arthur, whose prompt and energetic
action had already designated him as the natural leader of the
Brotherhood, was elected to the chieftainship. For thirty years he
maintained his prestige and became a national figure in the labor world.
He died suddenly at Winnipeg in 1903 while speaking at the dinner which
closed the general convention of the Brotherhood.

When P.M. Arthur joined the engineers' union, the condition of
locomotive engineers was unsatisfactory. Wages were unstable; working
conditions were hard and, in the freight service, intolerable. For the
first decade of the existence of the Brotherhood, strike after strike
took place in the effort to establish the right of organizing and the
principle of the collective contract. Arthur became head of the order at
the beginning of the period of great financial depression which followed
the first Civil War boom and which for six years threatened wages in
all trades. But Arthur succeeded, by shrewd and careful bargaining, in
keeping the pay of engineers from slipping down and in some instances he
even advanced them. Gradually strikes became more and more infrequent;
and the railways learned to rely upon his integrity, and the engineers
to respect his skill as a negotiator. He proved to the first that he was
not a labor agitator and to the others that he was not a visionary.

Year by year, Arthur accumulated prestige and power for his union by
practical methods and by being content with a step at a time. This
success, however, cost him the enmity of virtually all the other trades
unionists. To them the men of his order were aristocrats, and he
was lord over the aristocrats. He is said to have "had rare skill in
formulating reasonable demands, and by consistently putting moderate
demands strongly instead of immoderate demands weakly he kept the good
will of railroad managers, while steadily obtaining better terms for his
men." In this practice, he could not succeed without the solid good will
of the members of the Brotherhood; and this good will was possible only
in an order which insisted upon that high standard of personal skill
and integrity essential to a first-class engineer. Arthur possessed a
genial, fatherly personality. His Scotch shrewdness was seen in his own
real estate investments, which formed the foundation of an independent
fortune. He lived in an imposing stone mansion in Cleveland; he was a
director in a leading bank; and he identified himself with the public
affairs of the city.

When Chief Arthur died, the Assistant Grand Chief Engineer, A.B.
Youngson, who would otherwise have assumed the leadership for the
unexpired term, was mortally ill and recommended the advisory board to
telegraph Warren S. Stone an offer of the chieftainship. Thus events
brought to the fore a man of marked executive talent who had hitherto
been unknown but who was to play a tremendous role in later labor
politics. Stone was little known east of the Mississippi. He had spent
most of his life on the Rock Island system, had visited the East only
once, and had attended but one meeting of the General Convention. In
the West, however, he had a wide reputation for sound sense, and, as
chairman of the general committee of adjustment of the Rock Island
system, he had made a deep impression on his union and his employers.
Born in Ainsworth, Iowa, in 1860, Stone had received a high school
education and had begun his railroading career as fireman on the Rock
Island when he was nineteen years old. At twenty-four he became an
engineer. In this capacity he spent the following nineteen years on the
Rock Island road and then accepted the chieftainship of the Brotherhood.

Stone followed the general policy of his predecessor, and brought to his
tasks the energy of youth and the optimism of the West. When he assumed
the leadership, the cost of living was rising rapidly and he addressed
himself to the adjustment of wages. He divided the country into three
sections in which conditions were similar. He began in the Western
section, as he was most familiar with that field, and asked all the
general managers of that section to meet the Brotherhood for a wage
conference. The roads did not accept his invitation until it was
reenforced by the threat of a Western strike. The conference was
a memorable one. For nearly three weeks the grand officers of the
Brotherhood wrangled and wrought with the managers of the Western roads,
who yielded ground slowly, a few pennies' increase at a time, until a
satisfactory wage scale was reached. Similarly the Southern section
was conquered by the inexorable hard sense and perseverance of this new

The dispute with the fifty-two leading roads in the so-called Eastern
District, east of the Mississippi and north of the Norfolk and Western
Railroad, came to a head in 1912. The engineers demanded that their
wages should be "standardized" on a basis that one hundred miles or
less, or ten hours or less, constitute a day's work; that is, the
inequalities among the different roads should be leveled and similar
service on the various roads be similarly rewarded. They also asked
that their wages be made equal to the wages on the Western roads and
presented several minor demands. All the roads concerned flatly refused
to grant the demand for a standardized and increased wage, on the ground
that it would involve an increased expenditure of $7,000,000 a year.
This amount could be made up only by increased rates, which the
Interstate Commerce Commission must sanction, or by decreased dividends,
which would bring a real hardship to thousands of stockholders.

The unions were fully prepared for a strike which would paralyze the
essential traffic supplying approximately 38,000,000 people. Through the
agency of Judge Knapp of the United States Commerce Court and Dr. Neill
of the United States Department of Labor, and under the authority of the
Erdman Act, there was appointed a board of arbitration composed of men
whose distinction commanded national attention. P.H. Morrissey, a
former chief of the Conductors' and Trainmen's Union, was named by the
engineers. President Daniel Willard of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,
known for his fair treatment of his employees, was chosen by the roads.
The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Commissioner
of Labor, and the presiding judge of the United States Commerce Court
designated the following members of the tribunal: Oscar S. Straus,
former Secretary of Commerce and Labor, chairman; Albert Shaw, editor of
the Review of Reviews; Otto M. Eidlitz, former president of the Building
Trades Association; Charles R. Van Hise, president of the University of
Wisconsin; and Frederick N. Judson, of the St. Louis bar.

After five months of hearing testimony and deliberation, this
distinguished board brought in a report that marked, it was hoped, a
new epoch in railway labor disputes, for it recognized the rights of the
public, the great third party to such disputes.

It granted the principle of standardization and minimum wage asked for
by the engineers, but it allowed an increase in pay which was less by
one-half than that demanded. In order to prevent similar discord in the
future, the board recommended the establishment of Federal and state
wage commissions with functions pertaining to wage disputes analogous
to those of the public service commissions in regard to rates and
capitalization. The report stated that, "while the railway employees
feel that they cannot surrender their right to strike, if there were a
wage commission which would secure them just wages the necessity would
no longer exist for the exercise of their power. It is believed that, in
the last analysis, the only solution--unless we are to rely solely upon
the restraining power of public opinion--is to qualify the principle of
free contract in the railroad service."  *

      * The board recognized the great obstacles in the way of
     such a solution but went on to say: "The suggestion,
     however, grows out of a profound conviction that the food
     and clothing of our people, the industries and the general
     welfare of our nation, cannot be permitted to depend upon
     the policies and dictates of any particular group of men,
     whether employers or employees." And this conviction has
     grown apace with the years until it stands today as the most
     potent check to aggression by either trade unions or

While yielding to the wage findings of the board, P.H. Morrissey
vigorously dissented from the principle of the supremacy of public
interest in these matters. He made clear his position in an
able minority report: "I wish to emphasize my dissent from that
recommendation of the board which in its effect virtually means
compulsory arbitration for the railroads and their employees. Regardless
of any probable constitutional prohibition which might operate against
its being adopted, it is wholly impracticable. The progress towards the
settlement of disputes between the railways and their employees without
recourse to industrial warfare has been marked. There is nothing under
present conditions to prevent its continuance. We will never be perfect,
but even so, it will be immeasurably better than it will be under
conditions such as the board proposes."

The significance of these words was brought out four years later when
the united railway brotherhoods made their famous coup in Congress.
For the time being, however, the public with its usual self-assurance
thought the railway employee question was solved, though the findings
were for one year only.  *

      * The award dated back to May 1, 1912, and was valid only
     one year from that date.

Daniel Willard speaking for the railroads, said: "My acceptance of the
award as a whole does not signify my approval of all the findings in
detail. It is intended, however, to indicate clearly that, although the
award is not such as the railroads had hoped for, nor is it such as they
felt would be justified by a full consideration of all the facts, yet
having decided to submit this case to arbitration and having been given
ample opportunity to present the facts and arguments in support of their
position, they now accept without question the conclusion which was
reached by the board appointed to pass upon the matter at issue."

A comparison of these statements shows how the balance of power had
shifted, since the days when railway policies reigned supreme, from the
corporation to the union. The change was amply demonstrated by the next
grand entrance of the railway brotherhoods upon the public stage. After
his victory in the Western territory, Chief Stone remarked: "Most labor
troubles are the result of one of two things, misrepresentation or
misunderstanding. Unfortunately, negotiations are sometimes entrusted
to men who were never intended by nature for this mission, since they
cannot discuss a question without losing their temper.... It may be laid
down as a fundamental principle without which no labor organization can
hope to exist, that it must carry out its contracts. No employer can be
expected to live up to a contract that is not regarded binding by the

The other railway brotherhoods to a considerable degree follow the model
set by the engineers. The Order of Railway Conductors developed rapidly
from the Conductors' Union which was organized by the conductors of the
Illinois Central Railroad at Amboy, Illinois, in the spring of 1868. In
the following July this union was extended to include all the lines in
the State. In November of the same year a call to conductors on all the
roads in the United States and the British Provinces was issued to meet
at Columbus, Ohio, in December, to organize a general brotherhood.
Ten years later the union adopted its present name. It has an ample
insurance fund * based upon the principle that policies are not matured
but members arriving at the age of seventy years are relieved from
further payments. About thirty members are thus annually retired. At
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the national headquarters, the order publishes The
Railway Conductor, a journal which aims not only at the solidarity of
the membership but at increasing their practical efficiency.

 * In 1919 the total amount of outstanding insurance was somewhat over

The conductors are a conservative and carefully selected group of men.
Each must pass through a long term of apprenticeship and must possess
ability and personality. The order has been carefully and skillfully led
and in recent years has had but few differences with the railways which
have not been amicably settled. Edgar E. Clark was chosen president in
1890 and served until 1906, when he became a member of the Interstate
Commerce Commission. He was born in 1856, received a public school
education, and studied for some time in an academy at Lima, New York.
At the age of seventeen, he began railroading and served as conductor
on the Northern Pacific and other Western lines. He held numerous
subordinate positions in the Brotherhood and in 1889 became its
vice-president. He was appointed by President Roosevelt as a member
of the Anthracite Coal Strike Commission in 1902 and is generally
recognized as one of the most judicial heads in the labor world. He was
succeeded as president of the order by Austin B. Garretson, who was born
in Winterset, Iowa, in 1856. He began his railroad career at nineteen
years of age, became a conductor on the Burlington system, and had
a varied experience on several Western lines, including the Mexican
National and Mexican Central railways. His rise in the order was rapid
and in 1889 he became vice-president. One of his intimate friends wrote
that "in his capacity as Vice-President and President of the Order
he has written more schedules and successfully negotiated more wage
settlements, including the eight-hour day settlement in 1916, under
the method of collective bargaining than any other labor leader on the
American continent."

Garretson has long served as a member of the executive committee of the
National Civic Federation and in 1919 was appointed by President Wilson
a member of the Federal Commission on Industrial Relations. A man of
great energy and force of character, he has recently assumed a leading
place in labor union activities.

In addition to the locomotive engineers and the conductors, the firemen
also have their union. Eleven firemen of the Erie Railroad organized a
brotherhood at Port Jervis, New York, in December, 1873, but it was
a fraternal order rather than a trade union. In 1877, the year of the
great railway strike, it was joined by the International Firemen's
Union, an organization without any fraternal or insurance features. In
spite of this amalgamation, however, the growth of the Brotherhood was
very slow. Indeed, so unsatisfactory was the condition of affairs that
in 1879 the order took an unusual step. "So bitter was the continued
opposition of railroad officials at this time," relates the chronicler
of the Brotherhood (in some sections of the country it resulted in the
disbandment of the lodges and the depletion of membership) "that it was
decided, in order to remove the cause of such opposition, to eliminate
the protective feature of the organization. With a view to this end
a resolution was adopted ignoring strikes." This is one of the few
recorded retreats of militant trade unionism. The treasury of the
Brotherhood was so depleted that it was obliged to call upon local
lodges for donations. By 1885, however, the order had sufficiently
recovered to assume again the functions of a labor union in addition
to its fraternal and beneficiary obligations. The days of its greatest
hardships were over, although the historic strike on the Burlington
lines that lasted virtually throughout the year 1888 and the Pullman
strike in 1894 wrought a severe strain upon its staying powers. In 1906
the enginemen were incorporated into the order, and thenceforth the
membership grew rapidly. In 1913 a joint agreement was effected with the
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers whereby the two organizations could
work together "on a labor union basis." Today men operating electric
engines or motor or gas cars on lines using electricity are eligible for
membership, if they are otherwise qualified. This arrangement does not
interfere with unions already established on interurban lines.

The leadership of this order of firemen has been less continuous, though
scarcely less conspicuous, than that of the other brotherhoods. Before
1886 the Grand Secretary and Treasurer was invested with greater
authority than the grand master, and in this position Eugene V. Debs,
who served from 1881 to 1899, and Frank W. Arnold, who served from 1893
to 1903, were potent in shaping the policies of the Union. There
have been seven grand masters and one president (the name now used
to designate the chief officer) since 1874. Of these leaders Frank P.
Sargent served from 1886 until 1892, when he was appointed Commissioner
General of Immigration by President Roosevelt. Since 1909, William S.
Carter has been president of the Brotherhood. Born in Texas in 1859,
he began railroading at nineteen years of age and served in turn as
fireman, baggageman, and engineer. Before his election to the editorship
of the Firemen's Magazine, he held various minor offices in local
lodges. Since 1894 he has served the order successively as editor, grand
secretary and treasurer, and president. To his position he has brought
an intimate knowledge of the affairs of the Union as well as a varied
experience in practical railroading. Upon the entrance of America into
the Great War, President Wilson appointed him Director of the Division
of Labor of the United States Railway Administration.

Of the government and policy of the firemen's union President Carter

"This Brotherhood may be compared to a state in a republic of railway
unions, maintaining almost complete autonomy in its own affairs yet
uniting with other railway brotherhoods in matters of mutual concern and
in common defense. It is true that these railway brotherhoods carry the
principle of home rule to great lengths and have acknowledged no
common head, and by this have invited the criticism from those who
believe... that only in one 'big' union can railway employees hope for
improved working condition.... That in union there is strength, no one
will deny, but in any confederation of forces there must be an exchange
of individual rights for this collective power. There is a point in the
combining of working people in labor unions where the loss of individual
rights is not compensated by the increased power of the masses of

In the cautious working out of this principle, the firemen have
prospered after the manner of their colleagues in the other
brotherhoods. Their membership embraces the large majority of their
craft. From the date of the establishment of their beneficiary fund to
1918 a total of $21,860,103.00 has been paid in death and disability
claims and in 1918 the amount so paid was $1,538,207.00. The Firemen's
Magazine, established in 1876 and now published from headquarters in
Cleveland, is indicative of the ambitions of the membership, for its
avowed aim is to "make a specialty of educational matter for locomotive
enginemen and other railroad employees." An attempt was even made in
1908 to conduct a correspondence school, under the supervision of the
editor and manager of the magazine, but after three years this project
was discontinued because it could not be made self-supporting.

The youngest of the railway labor organizations is the Brotherhood of
Trainmen, organized in September, 1883, at Oneonta, New York. Its early
years were lean and filled with bickerings and doubts, and it was not
until S. E. Wilkinson was elected grand master in 1885 that it assumed
an important role in labor organizations. Wilkinson was one of those
big, rough and ready men, with a natural aptitude for leadership, who
occasionally emerge from the mass. He preferred railroading to
schooling and spent more time in the train sheds of his native town of
Monroeville, Ohio, than he did at school. At twelve years of age he ran
away to join the Union Army, in which he served as an orderly until the
end of the war. He then followed his natural bent, became a switchman
and later a brakeman, was a charter member of the Brotherhood, and,
when its outlook was least encouraging, became its Grand Master. At once
under his leadership the organization became aggressive.

The conditions under which trainmen worked were far from satisfactory.
At that time, in the Eastern field, the pay of a brakeman was between
$1.50 and $2 a day in the freight service, $45 a month in the passenger
service, and $50 a month for yard service. In the Southern territory,
the wages were very much lower and in the Western about $5 per month
higher. The runs in the different sections of the country were not
equalized; there was no limit to the number of hours called a day's
work; overtime and preparatory time were not counted in; and there were
many complaints of arbitrary treatment of trainmen by their superiors.
Wilkinson set to work to remedy the wage situation first. Almost at once
he brought about the adoption of the principle of collective bargaining
for trainmen and yardmen. By 1895, when he relinquished his office, the
majority of the railways in the United States and Canada had working
agreements with their train and yard service men. Wages had been raised,
twelve hours or less and one hundred miles or less became recognized as
a daily measure of service, and overtime was paid extra.

The panic of 1893 hit the railway service very hard. There followed many
strikes engineered by the American Railway Union, a radical organization
which carried its ideas of violence so far that it wrecked not only
itself but brought the newer and conservative Brotherhoods to the
verge of ruin. It was during this period of strain that, in 1895, P.
H. Morrissey was chosen Grand Master of the Trainmen. With a varied
training in railroading, in insurance, and in labor organization work,
Morrissey was in many ways the antithesis of his predecessors who had,
in a powerful and brusque way, prepared the ground for his analytical
and judicial leadership. He was unusually well informed on all
matters pertaining to railroad operations, earnings, and conditions of
employment, and on general economic conditions. This knowledge, together
with his forcefulness, tact, parliamentary ability, and rare good
judgment, soon made him the spokesman of all the railway Brotherhoods in
their joint conferences and their leader before the public. He was not
afraid to take the unpopular side of a cause, cared nothing for mere
temporary advantages, and had the gift of inspiring confidence.

When Morrissey assumed the leadership of the Trainmen, their order had
lost 10,000 members in two years and was about $200,000 in debt. The
panic had produced unemployment and distrust, and the violent reprisals
of the American Railway Union had reaped a harvest of bitterness and
disloyalty. During his fifteen years of service until he retired in
1909, Morrissey saw his order rejuvenated and virtually reconstructed,
the work of the men standardized in the greater part of the country,
slight increases of pay given to the freight and passenger men, and very
substantial increases granted to the yard men. But his greatest service
to his order was in thoroughly establishing it in the public confidence.

He was succeeded by William G. Lee, who had served in many subordinate
offices in local lodges before he had been chosen First Vice-Grand
Master in 1895. For fifteen years he was a faithful understudy to
Morrissey whose policy he has continued in a characteristically fearless
and thoroughgoing manner. When he assumed the presidency of the order,
he obtained a ten-hour day in the Eastern territory for all train and
yard men, together with a slight increase in pay for all classes fixed
on the ten-hour basis. The ten-hour day was now adopted in Western
territory where it had not already been put into effect. The Southern
territory, however, held out until 1912, when a general advance on
all Southern railroads, with one exception, brought the freight and
passenger men to a somewhat higher level of wages than existed in other
parts of the country. In the following year the East and the West raised
their wages so that finally a fairly level rate prevailed throughout the
United States. In the movement for the eight-hour day which culminated
in the passage of the Adamson Law by Congress, Lee and his order took
a prominent part. In 1919 the Trainmen had $253,000,000 insurance in
force, and up to that year had paid out $42,500,000 in claims. Of this
latter amount $3,604,000 was paid out in 1918, one-half of which was
attributed to the influenza epidemic.

Much of the success and power of the railroad Brotherhoods is due to the
character of their members as well as to able leadership. The editor of
a leading newspaper has recently written: "The impelling power behind
every one of these organizations is the membership. I say this without
detracting from the executive or administrative abilities of the men who
have been at the head of these organizations, for their influence
has been most potent in carrying out the will of their several
organizations. But whatever is done is first decided upon by the men
and it is then put up to their chief executive officers for their

With a membership of 375,000 uniformly clean and competent, so well
captained and so well fortified financially by insurance, benefit, and
other funds, it is little wonder that the Brotherhoods have reached a
permanent place in the railroad industry. Their progressive power can
be discerned in Federal legislation pertaining to arbitration and labor
conditions in interstate carriers. In 1888 an act was passed providing
that, in cases of railway labor disputes, the President might appoint
two investigators who, with the United States Commission of Labor,
should form a board to investigate the controversy and recommend "the
best means for adjusting it." But as they were empowered to produce only
findings and not to render decisions, the law remained a dead letter,
without having a single case brought up under it. It was superseded in
1898 by the Erdman Act, which provided that certain Federal officials
should act as mediators and that, in case they failed, a Board of
Arbitrators was to be appointed whose word should be binding for a
certain period of time and from whose decisions appeal could be taken
to the Federal courts. Of the hundreds of disputes which occurred during
the first eight years of the existence of this statute, only one was
brought under the mechanism of the law. Federal arbitration was
not popular. In 1905, however, a rather sudden change came over the
situation. Over sixty cases were brought under the Erdman Act in
about eight years. In 1913 the Newlands Law was passed providing for
a permanent Board of Mediation and Conciliation, by which over sixty
controversies have been adjusted.

The increase of brotherhood influence which such legislation represents
was accompanied by a consolidation in power. At first the Brotherhoods
operated by railway systems or as individual orders. Later on they
united into districts, all the Brotherhoods of a given district
cooperating in their demands. Finally the cooperation of all the
Brotherhoods in the United States on all the railway systems was
effected. This larger organization came clearly to light in 1912, when
the Brotherhoods submitted their disputes to the board of arbitration.
This step was hailed by the public as going a long way towards the
settlement of labor disputes by arbitral boards.

The latest victory of the Brotherhoods, however, has shaken public
confidence and has ushered in a new era of brotherhood influence and
Federal interference in railroad matters. In 1916, the four Brotherhoods
threatened to strike. The mode of reckoning pay--whether upon an
eight-hour or a longer day--was the subject of contention. The
Department of Labor, through the Federal Conciliation Board, tried in
vain to bring the opponents together. Even President Wilson's efforts
to bring about an agreement proved futile. The roads agreed to arbitrate
all the points, allowing the President to name the arbitrators; but the
Brotherhoods, probably realizing their temporary strategic advantage,
refused point-blank to arbitrate. When the President tried to persuade
the roads to yield the eight-hour day, they replied that it was a proper
subject for arbitration.

Instead of standing firmly on the principle of arbitration, the
President chose to go before Congress, on the afternoon of the 29th of
August, and ask, first, for a reorganization of the Interstate Commerce
Commission; second, for legal recognition of the eight-hour day for
interstate carriers; third, for power to appoint a commission to observe
the operation of the eight-hour day for a stated time; fourth, for
reopening the question of an increase in freight rates to meet the
enlarged cost of operation; fifth, for a law declaring railway strikes
and lockouts unlawful until a public investigation could be made; sixth,
for authorization to operate the roads in case of military necessity.

The strike was planned to fall on the expectant populace, scurrying home
from their vacations, on the 4th of September. On the 1st of September
an eight-hour bill, providing also for the appointment of a board of
observation, was rushed through the House; on the following day it was
hastened through the staid Senate; and on the third it received the
President's signature. * The other recommendations of the President were
made to await the pleasure of Congress and the unions. To the suggestion
that railway strikes be made unlawful until their causes are disclosed
the Brotherhoods were absolutely opposed.

 * This was on Sunday. In order to obviate any objection as to the
legality of the signature the President signed the bill again on the
following Tuesday, the intervening Monday being Labor Day.

Many readjustments were involved in launching the eight-hour law, and in
March, 1917, the Brotherhoods again threatened to strike. The President
sent a committee, including the Secretary of the Interior and the
Secretary of Labor, to urge the parties to come to an agreement. On the
19th of March, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the law, and the
trouble subsided. But in the following November, after the declaration
of war, clouds reappeared on the horizon, and again the unions refused
the Government's suggestion of arbitration. Under war pressure, however,
the Brotherhoods finally consented to hold their grievance in abeyance.

The haste with which the eight-hour law was enacted, and the omission of
the vital balance suggested by the President appeared to many citizens
to be a holdup of Congress, and the nearness of the presidential
election suggested that a political motive was not absent. The fact
that in the ensuing presidential election, Ohio, the home of the
Brotherhoods, swung from the Republican to the Democratic column, did
not dispel this suspicion from the public mind. Throughout this maneuver
it was apparent that the unions were very confident, but whether because
of a prearranged pact, or because of a full treasury, or because of a
feeling that the public was with them, or because of the opposite belief
that the public feared them, must be left to individual conjecture.
None the less, the public realized that the principle of arbitration had
given way to the principle of coercion.

Soon after the United States had entered the Great War, the Government,
under authority of an act of Congress, took over the management of
all the interstate railroads, and the nation was launched upon a vast
experiment destined to test the capacities of all the parties concerned.
The dispute over wages that had been temporarily quieted by the Adamson
Law broke out afresh until settled by the famous Order No. 27, issued
by William G. McAdoo, the Director General of Railroads, and providing
a substantial readjustment of wages and hours. In the spring of 1919
another large wage increase was granted to the men by Director General
Hines, who succeeded McAdoo. Meanwhile the Brotherhoods, through
their counsel, laid before the congressional committee a plan for the
government ownership and joint operation of the roads, known as the
Plumb plan, and the American people are now face to face with an issue
which will bring to a head the paramount question of the relation of
employees on government works to the Government and to the general


There has been an enormous expansion in the demands of the unions
since the early days of the Philadelphia cordwainers; yet these demands
involve the same fundamental issues regarding hours, wages, and
the closed shop. Most unions, when all persiflage is set aside, are
primarily organized for business--the business of looking after their
own interests. Their treasury is a war chest rather than an insurance
fund. As a benevolent organization, the American union is far behind the
British union with its highly developed Friendly Societies.

The establishment of a standard rate of wages is perhaps, as the United
States Industrial Commission reported in 1901, "the primary object of
trade union policy." The most promising method of adjusting the wage
contract is by the collective trade agreement. The mechanism of the
union has made possible collective bargaining, and in numerous trades
wages and other conditions are now adjusted by this method. One of the
earliest of these agreements was effected by the Iron Molders' Union
in 1891 and has been annually renewed. The coal operatives, too, for a
number of years have signed a wage agreement with their miners, and
the many local difficulties and differences have been ingeniously and
successfully met. The great railroads have, likewise, for many
years made periodical contracts with the railway Brotherhoods. The
glove-makers, cigar-makers, and, in many localities, workers in the
building trades and on street-railway systems have the advantage of
similar collective agreements. In 1900 the American Newspaper Publishers
Association and the International Typographical Union, after many
years of stubborn fighting merged their numerous differences in a
trade contract to be in effect for one year. This experiment proved so
successful that the agreement has since then been renewed for five year
periods. In 1915 a bitter strike of the garment makers in New York City
was ended by a "protocol." The principle of collective agreement has
become so prevalent that the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor believes
that it "is being accepted with increasing favor by both employers and
employees," and John Mitchell, speaking from wide experience and an
intimate knowledge of conditions, says that "the hope of future peace in
the industrial world lies in the trade agreement." These agreements
are growing in complexity, and today they embrace not only questions of
wages and hours but also methods for adjusting all the differences which
may arise between the parties to the bargain.

The very success of collective bargaining hinges upon the solidarity
and integrity of the union which makes the bargain. A union capable of
enforcing an agreement is a necessary antecedent condition to such a
contract. With this fact in mind, one can believe that John Mitchell was
not unduly sanguine in stating that "the tendency is toward the growth
of compulsory membership ... and the time will doubtless come when this
compulsion will be as general and will be considered as little of a
grievance as the compulsory attendance of children at school." There
are certain industries so well centralized, however, that their coercive
power is greater than that of the labor union, and these have maintained
a consistent hostility to the closed shop. The question of the closed
shop is, indeed, the most stubborn issue confronting the union. The
principle involves the employment of only union men in a shop; it means
a monopoly of jobs by members of the union. The issue is as old as the
unions themselves and as perplexing as human nature. As early as 1806
it was contended for by the Philadelphia cordwainers and by 1860 it had
become an established union policy. While wages and hours are now, in
the greater industrial fields, the subject of a collective contract,
this question of union monopoly is still open, though there has been
some progress towards an adjustment. Wherever the trade agreement
provides for a closed shop, the union, through its proper committees and
officers, assumes at least part of the responsibility of the discipline.
The agreement also includes methods for arbitrating differences.
The acid test of the union is its capacity to live up to this trade

For the purpose of forcing its policies upon its employers and society
the unions have resorted to the strike and picketing, the boycott, and
the union label. When violence occurs, it usually is the concomitant of
a strike; but violence unaccompanied by a strike is sometimes used as a
union weapon.

The strike is the oldest and most spectacular weapon in the hands of
labor. For many years it was thought a necessary concomitant of machine
industry. The strike, however, antedates machinery and was a practical
method of protest long before there were unions. Men in a shop simply
agreed not to work further and walked out. The earliest strike in the
United States, as disclosed by the United States Department of Labor
occurred in 1741 among the journeymen bakers in New York City. In
1792 the cordwainers of Philadelphia struck. By 1834 strikes were so
prevalent that the New York Daily Advertiser declared them to be "all
the fashion." These demonstrations were all small affairs compared with
the strikes that disorganized industry after the Civil War or those
that swept the country in successive waves in the late seventies,
the eighties, and the nineties. The United States Bureau of Labor has
tabulated the strike statistics for the twenty-five year period from
1881 to 1905. This list discloses the fact that 38,303 strikes and
lockouts occurred, involving 199,954 establishments and 7,444,279
employees. About 2,000,000 other employees were thrown out of work as an
indirect result. In 1894, the year of the great Pullman strike, 610,425
men were out of work at one time; and 659,792 in 1902. How much time and
money these ten million wage-earners lost, and their employers lost,
and society lost, can never be computed, nor how much nervous energy was
wasted, good will thrown to the winds, and mutual suspicion created.

The increase of union influence is apparent, for recognition of the
union has become more frequently a cause for strikes. * Moreover, while
the unions were responsible for about 47 per cent of the strikes in
1881, they had originated, directly or indirectly, 75 per cent in 1905.
More significant, indeed, is the fact that striking is a growing habit.
In 1903, for instance, there were 3494 strikes, an average of about ten
a day.

      * The cause of the strikes tabulated by the Bureau of Labor is
     shown in the following table of percentages:

                                1881   1891   1901   1905
     For increase of wages:      61     27      29    32
     Against reduction of wages: 10     11      4      5
     For reduction in hours:      3      5      7      5
     Recognition of Union:        6     14      28    31

Preparedness is the watchword of the Unions in this warfare. They have
generals and captains, a war chest and relief committees, as well as
publicity agents and sympathy scouts whose duty it is to enlist
the interest of the public. Usually the leaders of the unions are
conservative and deprecate violence. But a strike by its very nature
offers an opportunity to the lawless. The destruction of property and
the coercion of workmen have been so prevalent in the past that, in the
public mind, violence has become universally associated with strikes.
Judge Jenkins, of the United States Circuit Court, declared, in
a leading case, that "a strike without violence would equal the
representation of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet omitted." Justice
Brewer of the United States Supreme Court said that "the common rule as
to strikes" is not only for the workers to quit but to "forcibly prevent
others from taking their place." Historic examples involving violence
of this sort are the great railway strikes of 1877, when Pittsburgh,
Reading, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Buffalo were mob-ridden; the strike
of the steel-workers at Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1892; the Pullman
strike of 1894, when President Cleveland sent Federal troops to Chicago;
the great anthracite strike of 1902, which the Federal Commission
characterized as "stained with a record of riot and bloodshed"; the
civil war in the Colorado and Idaho mining regions, where the Western
Federation of Miners battled with the militia and Federal troops;
the dynamite outrages, perpetrated by the structural iron workers,
stretching across the entire country, and reaching a dastardly climax in
the dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times building on October 1, 1910, in
which some twenty men were killed. The recoil from this outrage was the
severest blow which organized labor has received in America. John J.
McNamara, Secretary of the Structural Iron Workers' Association, and his
brother James were indicted for murder. After the trial was staged and
the eyes of the nation were upon it, the public was shocked and the
hopes of labor unionists were shattered by the confessions of the
principals. In March, 1912, a Federal Grand Jury at Indianapolis
returned fifty-four indictments against officers and members of the same
union for participation in dynamite outrages that had occurred during
the six years in many parts of the country, with a toll of over one
hundred lives and the destruction of property valued at many millions
of dollars. Among those indicted was the president of the International
Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers. Most of the
defendants were sentenced to various terms in the penitentiary.

The records of this industrial warfare are replete with lesser battles
where thuggery joined hands with desperation in the struggle for wages.
Evidence is not wanting that local leaders have frequently incited their
men to commit acts of violence in order to impress the public with their
earnestness. It is not an inviting picture, this matching of the sullen
violence of the mob against the sullen vigilance of the corporation. Yet
such methods have not always been used, for the union has done much to
systematize this guerrilla warfare. It has matched the ingenuity and the
resolution of the employer, backed by his detectives and professional
strike-breakers; it has perfected its organization so that the blow of
a whistle or the mere uplifting of a hand can silence a great mill. Some
of the notable strikes have been managed with rare skill and diplomacy.
Some careful observers, indeed, are inclined to the opinion that the
amount of violence that takes place in the average strike has been
grossly exaggerated. They maintain that, considering the great number
of strikes, the earnestness with which they are fought, the opportunity
they offer to the lawless, and the vast range of territory they cover,
the amount of damage to property and person is unusually small and that
the public, through sensational newspaper reports of one or two acts of
violence, is led to an exaggerated opinion of its prevalence.

It must be admitted, however, that the wisdom and conservatism of the
national labor leaders is neutralized by their lack of authority in
their particular organization. A large price is paid for the autonomy
that permits the local unions to declare strikes without the sanction of
the general officers. There are only a few unions, perhaps half a dozen,
in which a local can be expelled for striking contrary to the wish of
the national officers. In the United Mine Workers' Union, for example,
the local must secure the consent of the district officers and national
president, or, if these disagree, of the executive board, before it can
declare a strike. The tendency to strike on the spur of the moment is
much more marked among the newer unions than among the older ones, which
have perfected their strike machinery through much experience and have
learned the cost of hasty and unjustified action.

A less conspicuous but none the less effective weapon in the hands
of labor is the boycott, * which is carried by some of the unions to a
terrible perfection. It reached its greatest power in the decade between
1881 and 1891. Though it was aimed at a great variety of industries, it
seemed to be peculiarly effective in the theater, hotel, restaurant,
and publishing business, and in the clothing and cigar trades. For
sheer arbitrary coerciveness, nothing in the armory of the union is so
effective as the boycott. A flourishing business finds its trade gone
overnight. Leading customers withdraw their patronage at the union's
threat. The alert picket is the harbinger of ruin, and the union black
list is as fraught with threat as the black hand.

 * In 1880, Lord Erne, an absentee Irish landlord, sent Captain Boycott
to Connemara to subdue his irate tenants. The people of the region
refused to have any intercourse whatever with the agent or his family.
And social and business ostracism has since been known as the boycott.

The New York Bureau of Statistics of Labor has shown that during the
period of eight years between 1885 and 1892 there were 1352 boycotts in
New York State alone. A sort of terrorism spread among the tradespeople
of the cities. But the unions went too far. Instances of gross
unfairness aroused public sympathy against the boycotters. In New York
City, for instance, a Mrs. Grey operated a small bakery with nonunion
help. Upon her refusal to unionize her shop at the command of the
walking delegate, her customers were sent the usual boycott notice,
and pickets were posted. Her delivery wagons were followed, and her
customers were threatened. Grocers selling her bread were systematically
boycotted. All this persecution merely aroused public sympathy for Mrs.
Grey, and she found her bread becoming immensely popular. The boycotters
then demanded $2500 for paying their boycott expenses. When news of
this attempt at extortion was made public, it heightened the tide of
sympathy, the courts took up the matter, and the boycott failed. The New
York Boycotter, a journal devoted to this form of coercion, declared:
"In boycotting we believe it to be legitimate to strike a man
financially, socially, or politically. We believe in hitting him where
it will hurt the most; we believe in remorselessly crowding him to the
wall; but when he is down, instead of striking him, we would lift him up
and stand him once more on his feet." When the boycott thus enlisted
the aid of blackmail, it was doomed in the public esteem. Boycott
indictments multiplied, and in one year in New York City alone, over
one hundred leaders of such attempts at coercion were sentenced to

The boycott, however, was not laid aside as a necessary weapon of
organized labor because it had been abused by corrupt or overzealous
unionists, nor because it had been declared illegal by the courts.
All the resources of the more conservative unions and of the American
Federation of Labor have been enlisted to make it effective in extreme
instances where the strike has failed. This application of the method
can best be illustrated by the two most important cases of boycott in
our history, the Buck's Stove and Range case and the Danbury Hatters'
case. Both were fought through the Federal courts, with the defendants
backed by the American Federation and opposed by the Anti-Boycott
Association, a federation of employers.

The Buck's Stove and Range Company of St. Louis incurred the displeasure
of the Metal Polishers' Union by insisting upon a ten-hour day. On
August 27, 1906, at five o'clock in the afternoon, on a prearranged
signal, the employees walked out. They returned to work the next morning
and all were permitted to take their accustomed places except those
who had given the signal. They were discharged. At five o'clock that
afternoon the men put aside their work, and the following morning
reappeared. Again the men who had given the signal were discharged, and
the rest went to work. The union then sent notice to the foreman that
the discharged men must be reinstated or that all would quit. A strike
ensued which soon led to a boycott of national proportions. It spread
from the local to the St. Louis Central Trades and Labor Union and
to the Metal Polishers' Union. In 1907 the executive council of the
American Federation of Labor officially placed the Buck's Stove
and Range Company on the unfair list and gave this action wide and
conspicuous circulation in The Federationist. This boycott received
further impetus from the action of the Mine Workers, who in their Annual
Convention resolved that the Buck's Stove and Range Company be put
on the unfair list and that "any member of the United Mine Workers of
America purchasing a stove of above make be fined $5.00 and failing to
pay the same be expelled from the organization."

Espionage became so efficient and letters from old customers withdrawing
patronage became so numerous and came from so wide a range of territory
that the company found itself rapidly nearing ruin. An injunction
was secured, enjoining the American Federation from blacklisting the
company. The labor journals circumvented this mandate by publishing
in display type the statement that "It is unlawful for the American
Federation of Labor to boycott Buck's Stoves and Ranges," and then in
small type adroitly recited the news of the court's decision in such
a way that the reader would see at a glance that the company was under
union ban. These evasions of the court's order were interpreted
as contempt, and in punishment the officers of the Federation were
sentenced to imprisonment: Frank Morrison for six months, John Mitchell
for nine months, Samuel Gompers for twelve months. But a technicality
intervened between the leaders and the cells awaiting them. The public
throughout the country had followed the course of this case with mingled
feelings of sympathy and disfavor, and though the boycott had never met
with popular approval, on the whole the public was relieved to learn
that the jail-sentences were not to be served.

The Danbury Hatters' boycott was brought on in 1903 by the attempt of
the Hatters' Union to make a closed shop of a manufacturing concern in
Danbury, Connecticut. The unions moved upon Danbury, flushed with two
recent victories--one in Philadelphia, where an important hat factory
had agreed to the closed shop after spending some $40,000 in fighting,
and another at Orange, New Jersey, where a manufacturer had spent
$25,000. But as the Danbury concern was determined to fight the union,
in 1902 a nationwide boycott was declared. The company then brought
suit against members of the union in the United States District Court.
Injunction proceedings reached the Supreme Court of the United States on
a demurrer, and in February, 1908, the court declared that the Sherman
Anti-Trust Law forbade interstate boycotts. The case then returned to
the original court for trial. Testimony was taken in many States, and
after a trial lasting twelve weeks the jury assessed the damages to the
plaintiff at $74,000. On account of error, the case was remanded for
re-trial in 1911. At the second trial the jury gave the plaintiff a
verdict for $80,000, the full amount asked. According to the law, this
amount was trebled, leaving the judgment, with costs added, at $252,000.
The Supreme Court having sustained the verdict, the puzzling question
of how to collect it arose. As such funds as the union had were
invulnerable to process, the savings bank accounts of the individual
defendants were attached. The union insisted that the defendants were
not taxable for accrued interest, and the United States Supreme Court,
now appealed to for a third time, sustained the plaintiff's contention.
In this manner $60,000 were obtained. Foreclosure proceedings were then
begun against one hundred and forty homes belonging to union men in the
towns of Danbury, Norwalk, and Bethel. The union boasted that this sale
would prove only an incubus to the purchasers, for no one would dare
occupy the houses sold under such circumstances. In the meantime the
American Federation, which had financed the litigation, undertook to
raise the needed sum by voluntary collection and made Gompers's birthday
the occasion for a gift to the Danbury local. The Federation insisted
that the houses be sold on foreclosure and that the collected money be
used not as a prior settlement but as an indemnity to the individuals
thus deprived of their homes. Rancor gave way to reason, however,
and just before the day fixed for the foreclosure sale the matter
was settled. In all, $235,000 was paid in damages by the union to the
company. In the fourteen years during which this contest was waged,
about forty defendants, one of the plaintiffs, and eight judges who had
passed on the controversy, died. The outcome served as a spur to the
Federation in hastening through Congress the Clayton bill of 1914,
designed to place labor unions beyond the reach of the anti-trust laws.

The union label has in more recent years achieved importance as a
weapon in union warfare. This is a mark or device denoting a union-made
article. It might be termed a sort of labor union trademark. Union
men are admonished to favor the goods so marked, but it was not until
national organizations were highly perfected that the label could become
of much practical value. It is a device of American invention and was
first used by the cigar makers in 1874. In 1880 their national
body adopted the now familiar blue label and, with great skill and
perseverance and at a considerable outlay of money, has pushed
its union-made ware, in the face of sweat-shop competition, of the
introduction of cigar making machinery, and of fraudulent imitation.
Gradually other unions making products of common consumption adopted
labels. Conspicuous among these were the garment makers, the hat makers,
the shoe makers, and the brewery workers. As the value of the label
manifestly depends upon the trade it entices, the unions are careful
to emphasize the sanitary conditions and good workmanship which a label

The application of the label is being rapidly extended. Building
materials are now in many large cities under label domination. In
Chicago the bricklayers have for over fifteen years been able to force
the builders to use only union-label brick, and the carpenters have
forced the contractors to use only material from union mills. There is
practically no limit to this form of mandatory boycott. The barbers,
retail clerks, hotel employees, and butcher workmen hang union cards in
their places of employment or wear badges as insignia of union loyalty.
As these labels do not come under the protection of the United States
trademark laws, the unions have not infrequently been forced to bring
suits against counterfeiters.

Finally, in their efforts to fortify themselves against undue increase
in the rate of production or "speeding up," against the inrush of new
machinery, and against the debilitating alternation of rush work and
no work, the unions have attempted to restrict the output. The United
States Industrial Commission reported in 1901 that "there has always
been a strong tendency among labor organizations to discourage exertion
beyond a certain limit. The tendency does not express itself in formal
rules. On the contrary, it appears chiefly in the silent, or at least
informal pressure of working class opinion." Some unions have rules,
others a distinct understanding, on the subject of a normal day's work,
and some discourage piecework. But it is difficult to determine how far
this policy has been carried in application. Carroll D. Wright, in a
special report as United States Commissioner of Labor in 1904, said that
"unions in some cases fix a limit to the amount of work a workman may
perform a day. Usually it is a secret understanding, but sometimes,
when the union is strong, no concealment is made." His report mentioned
several trades, including the building trades, in which this curtailment
is prevalent.

The course of this industrial warfare between the unions and the
employers has been replete with sordid details of selfishness,
corruption, hatred, suspicion, and malice. In every community the strike
or the boycott has been an ominous visitant, leaving in its trail a
social bitterness which even time finds it difficult to efface. In the
great cities and the factory towns, the constant repetition of labor
struggles has created centers of perennial discontent which are sources
of never-ending reprisals. In spite of individual injustice, however,
one can discern in the larger movements a current setting towards a
collective justice and a communal ideal which society in self-defense is
imposing upon the combatants.


It was not to be expected that the field of organized labor would be
left undisputed to the moderation of the trade union after its triumph
over the extreme methods of the Knights of Labor. The public, however,
did not anticipate the revolutionary ideal which again sought to inflame
industrial unionism. After the decadence of the older type of the
industrial union several conditions manifested themselves which now,
in retrospect, appear to have encouraged the violent militants who call
themselves the Industrial Workers of the World.

First of all, there took place in Europe the rise of syndicalism with
its adoption of sympathetic strikes as one of its methods. Syndicalism
flourished especially in France, where from its inception the alert
French mind had shaped for it a philosophy of violence, whose subtlest
exponent was Georges Sorel. "The Socialist Future of Trade Unions,"
which he published in 1897, was an early exposition of his views,
but his "Reflections upon Violence" in 1908 is the best known of his
contributions to this newer doctrine. With true Gallic fervor, the
French workingman had sought to translate his philosophy into action,
and in 1906 undertook, with the aid of a revolutionary organization
known as the "Confederation General du Travail," a series of strikes
which culminated in the railroad and post office strike of 1909. All
these uprisings--for they were in reality more than strikes--were
characterized by extreme language, by violent action, and by impressive
public demonstrations. In Italy, Spain, Norway, and Belgium, the
syndicalists were also active. Their partiality to violent methods
attracted general attention in Europe and appealed to that small group
of American labor leaders whose experience in the Western Federation of
Miners had taught them the value of dynamite as a press agent.

In the meantime material was being gathered for a new outbreak in the
United States. The casual laborers had greatly increased in numbers,
especially in the West. These migratory workingmen--the "hobo
miners," the "hobo lumberjacks," the "blanket stiffs," of colloquial
speech--wander about the country in search of work. They rarely have
ties of family and seldom ties of locality. About one-half of these
wanderers are American born. They are to be described with precision as
"floaters." Their range of operations includes the wheat regions west of
the Mississippi, the iron mines of Michigan and Minnesota, the mines
and forests of Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, and the
fields of California and Arizona. They prefer to winter in the cities,
but, as their only refuge is the bunk lodging house, they increase the
social problem in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and other centers of
the unemployed. Many of these migrants never were skilled workers; but a
considerable portion of them have been forced down into the ranks of the
unskilled by the inevitable tragedies of prolonged unemployment. Such
men lend a willing ear to the labor agitator. The exact number in this
wandering class is not known. The railroad companies have estimated that
at a given time there have been 500,000 hobos trying to beat their way
from place to place. Unquestionably a large percentage of the 23,964
trespassers killed and of the 25,236 injured on railway rights of way
from 1901 to 1904 belonged to this class.

It is not alone these drifters, however, who because of their
irresponsibility and their hostility toward society became easy victims
to the industrial organizer. The great mass of unskilled workers in
the factory towns proved quite as tempting to the propagandist. Among
laborers of this class, wages are the lowest and living conditions the
most uninviting. Moreover, this group forms the industrial reservoir
which receives the settlings of the most recent European and Asiatic
immigration. These people have a standard of living and conceptions of
political and individual freedom which are at variance with American
traditions. Though their employment is steadier than that of the
migratory laborer, and though they often have ties of family and other
stabilizing responsibilities, their lives are subject to periods
of unemployment, and these fluctuations serve to feed their innate
restlessness. They are, in quite the literal sense of the word, American
proletarians. They are more volatile than any European proletarian,
for they have learned the lesson of migration, and they retain the
socialistic and anarchistic philosophy of their European fellow-workers.

There were several attempts to organize casual labor after the decline
of the Knights of Labor. But it is difficult to arouse any sustained
interest in industrial organizations among workingmen of this class.
They lack the motive of members of a trade union, and the migratory
character of such workers deprives their organization of stability. One
industrial organization, however, has been of the greatest encouragement
to the I.W.W. The Western Federation of Miners, which was organized at
Butte, Montana, on May 15, 1893, has enjoyed a more turbulent history
than any other American labor union. It was conceived in that spirit of
rough resistance which local unions of miners, for some years before
the amalgamation of the unions, had opposed to the ruthless and firm
determination of the mine owners. In 1897, the president of the miners,
after quoting the words of the Constitution of the United States giving
citizens the right to bear arms, said: "This you should comply with
immediately. Every union should have a rifle club. I strongly advise
you to provide every member with the latest improved rifle which can
be obtained from the factory at a nominal price. I entreat you to take
action on this important question, so that in two years we can hear the
inspiring music of the martial tread of 25,000 armed men in the ranks of

This militant vision was fortunately never quite fulfilled. But armed
strikers there were, by the thousands, and the gruesome details of their
fight with mine owners in Colorado are set forth in a special report
of the United States Commissioner of Labor in 1905. The use of dynamite
became early associated with this warfare in Colorado. In 1903 a fatal
explosion occurred in the Vindicator mine, and Telluride, the county
seat, was proclaimed to be in a state of insurrection and rebellion. In
1904 a cage lifting miners from the shaft in the Independence mine at
Victor was dropped and fifteen men were killed. There were many minor
outrages, isolated murders, "white cap" raids, infernal machines,
deportations, black lists, and so on. In Montana and Idaho similar
scenes were enacted and reached a climax in the murder of Governor
Steunenberg of Idaho. Yet the union officers indicted for this murder
were released by the trial jury.

Such was the preparatory school of the new unionism, which had its
inception in several informal conferences held in Chicago. The first,
attended by only six radical leaders, met in the autumn of 1904. The
second, held in January, 1905, issued a manifesto attacking the trade
unions, calling for a "new departure" in the labor movement, and
inviting those who desired to join in organizing such a movement to
"meet in convention in Chicago the 27th day of June, 1905." About two
hundred persons responded to this appeal and organized the Industrial
Workers of the World, almost unnoticed by the press of the day and
scorned by the American Federation of Labor, whose official organ had
called those in attendance at the second conference "engaged in the
delectable work of trying to divert, pervert, and disrupt the labor
movement of the country."

An overwhelming influence in this convention was wielded by the Western
Federation of Miners and the Socialistic American Labor Union, two
radical labor bodies which looked upon the trade unions as "union
snobbery" and the "aristocracy of labor," and upon the American
Federation as "the consummate flower of craft unionism" and "a
combination of job trusts." They believed trade unionism wrong in
principle. They discarded the principle of trade autonomy for the
principle of laboring class solidarity, for, as one of their spokesmen
said, "The industrial union, in contradistinction to the craft union, is
that organization through which all its members in one industry, or in
all industries if necessary, can act as a unit." While this convention
was united in denouncing the trade unions, it was not so unanimous in
other matters, for the leaders were all veterans in those factional
quarrels which characterize Socialists the world over. Eugene V. Debs,
for example, was the hero of the Knights of Labor and had achieved wide
notoriety during the Pullman strike by being imprisoned for contempt
of court. William D. Haywood, popularly known as "Big Bill," received
a rigorous training in the Western Federation of Miners. Daniel DeLeon,
whose right name, the American Federationist alleged, was Daniel Loeb,
was a university graduate and a vehement revolutionary, the leader of
the Socialistic Labor party, and the editor of the Daily People. A. M.
Simons, the leader of the Socialist party and the editor of the Coming
Nation, was at swords' points with DeLeon. William E. Trautmann was the
fluent spokesman of the anti-political faction. These men dominated the

After some twelve days of discussion, they agreed upon a constitution
which established six departments,  * provided for a general executive
board with centralized powers, and at the same time left to the local
and department organizations complete industrial autonomy. The I.W.W. in
"the first constitution, crude and provisional as it was, made room for
all the world's workers."  * * This was, indeed, the great object of the

      * 1. Agriculture, Land, Fisheries, and Water Products. 2.
     Mining. 3. Transportation and Communication. 4.
     Manufacturing and General Production. 5. Construction. 6.
     Public Service.

      * * J. G. Brissenden, "The Launching of the Industrial
     Workers of the World," page 41.

Whatever visions of world conquest the militants may at first
have fostered were soon shattered by internal strife. There were
unreconcilable elements in the body: those who regarded the political
aspect as paramount and industrial unions as allies of socialism;
those who regarded the forming of unions as paramount and politics as
secondary; and those who regarded all forms of political activity as
mere waste of energy. The first two groups were tucked under the wings
of the Socialist party and the Socialist Labor party. The third
group was frankly anarchistic and revolutionary. In the fourth annual
convention the Socialist factions withdrew, established headquarters
at Detroit, organized what is called the Detroit branch, and left the
Chicago field to the revolutionists. So socialism "pure and simple," and
what amounts to anarchism "pure and simple," fell out, after they had
both agreed to disdain trade unionism "pure and simple."

This shift proved the great opportunity for Haywood and his disciples.
Feeling himself now free of all political encumbrances, he gathered
around him a small group of enthusiastic leaders, some of whom had a
gift of diabolical intrigue, and with indomitable perseverance and
zeal he set himself to seeking out the neglected, unskilled, and casual
laborer. Within a few years he so dominated the movement that, in the
public mind, the I.W.W. is associated with the Chicago branch and the
Detroit faction is well-nigh forgotten.

As a preliminary to a survey of some of the battles that made the I.W.W.
a symbol of terror in many communities it will be well to glance for a
moment at the underlying doctrines of the organization. In a preamble
now notorious it declared that "the working class and the employing
class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger
and want are found among millions of working people, and the few who
make up the employing class have all the good things of life. Between
these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world
as a class take possession of the earth and the machinery of production
and abolish the wage system."

This thesis is a declaration of war as well as a declaration of
principles. The I.W.W. aims at nothing less than the complete overthrow
of modern capitalism and the political structure which accompanies it.
Emma Goldman, who prides herself on having received her knowledge
of syndicalism "from actual contact" and not from books, says that
"syndicalism repudiates and condemns the present industrial arrangement
as unjust and criminal." Edward Hamond calls the labor contract "the
sacred cow" of industrial idolatry and says that the aim of the I.W.W.
is "the abolition of the wage system." And W. E. Trautmann affirms that
"the industrial unionist holds that there can be no agreement with
the employers of labor which the workers have to consider sacred and
inviolable." In place of what they consider an unjust and universal
capitalistic order they would establish a new society in which "the
unions of the workers will own and manage all industries, regulate
consumption, and administer the general social interests."

How is this contemplated revolution to be achieved? By the working
classes themselves and not through political activity, for "one of the
first principles of the I.W.W. is that political power rests on economic
power.... It must gain control of the shops, ships, railways, mines,
mills." And how is it to gain this all-embracing control? By persuading
every worker to join the union, the "one great organization" which,
according to Haywood, is to be "big enough to take in the black man, the
white man; big enough to take in all nationalities-an organization that
will be strong enough to obliterate state boundaries; to obliterate
national boundaries.... We, the I.W.W., stand on our two feet, the
class struggle and industrial unionism, and coolly say we want the whole
earth." When the great union has become universal, it will simply take
possession of its own, will "lock the employers out for good as owners
and parasites, and give them a chance to become useful toilers." The
resistance that will assuredly be made to this process of absorption is
to be met by direct action, the general strike, and sabotage--a trinity
of phrases imported from Europe, each one of special significance.

"The general strike means a stoppage of work," says Emma Goldman with
naive brevity. It was thought of long before the I.W.W. existed, but it
has become the most valuable weapon in their arsenal. Their pamphlets
contain many allusions to the great strikes in Belgium, Russia,
Italy, France, Scandinavia, and other European countries, that were so
widespread as to merit being called general. If all the workers can be
induced to stop work, even for a very brief interval, such action would
be regarded as the greatest possible manifestation of the "collective
power of the producers."

Direct action, a term translated directly from the French, is more
difficult to define. This method sets itself in opposition to the
methods of the capitalist in retaining control of industry, which is
spoken of as indirect action. Laws, machinery, credits, courts,
and constabulary are indirect methods whereby the capitalist keeps
possession of his property. The industrialist matches this with a direct
method. For example, he engages in a passive strike, obeying rules
so literally as to destroy both their utility and his work; or in an
opportune strike, ceasing work suddenly when he knows his employer
has orders that must be immediately filled; or in a temporary strike,
quitting work one day and coming back the next. His weapon is organized
opportunism, wielding an unexpected blow, and keeping the employer in a
frenzy of fearful anticipation.

Finally, sabotage is a word that expresses the whole philosophy and
practice of revolutionary labor. John Spargo, in his "Syndicalism,
Industrial Unionism and Socialism," traces the origin of the word to the
dockers' union in London. Attempt after attempt had proved futile to win
by strikes the demands of these unskilled workers. The men were quite
at the end of their resources, when finally they hit upon the plan of
"lying down on the job" or "soldiering." As a catchword they adopted the
Scotch phrase ca'canny, to go slow or be careful not to do too much.
As an example they pointed to the Chinese coolies who met a refusal of
increased wages by cutting off a few inches from their shovels on the
principle of "small pay, small work." He then goes on to say that "the
idea was very easily extended. From the slowing up of the human
worker to the slowing up of the iron worker, the machine, was an
easy transition. Judiciously planned "accidents" might easily create
confusion for which no one could be blamed. A few "mistakes" in handling
cargoes might easily cost the employers far more than a small increase
in wages would. Some French syndicalists, visiting London, were greatly
impressed with this new cunning. But as they had no ready translation
for the Scottish ca'canny, they ingeniously abstracted the same idea
from the old French saying "Travailler a coups de sabots"--to work as if
one had on wooden shoes--and sabotage thus became a new and expressive
phrase in the labor war.

Armed with these weapons, Haywood and his henchmen moved forward. Not
long after the first convention in 1905, they made their presence known
at Goldfield, Nevada. Then they struck simultaneously at Youngstown,
Ohio, and Portland, Oregon. The first battle, however, to attract
general notice was at McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, in 1909. In this
warfare between the recently organized unskilled workers and the
efficient state constabulary, the I.W.W. sent notice "that for every
striker killed or injured by the cossacks, the life of a cossack will be
exacted in return." And they collected their gruesome toll.

In 1912 occurred the historic strike in the mill town of Lawrence,
Massachusetts. This affair was so adroitly managed by the organizers
of the Workers that within a few weeks every newspaper of importance in
America was publishing long descriptions of the new anarchism. Magazine
writers, self-appointed reformers, delegations representing various
organizations, three committees of the state legislature, the Governor's
personal emissary, the United States Attorney, the United States
Commissioner of Labor, and a congressional committee devoted their time
to numerous investigations, thereby giving immense satisfaction to those
obscure agitators who were lifted suddenly into the glare of universal
notoriety, to the disgust of the town thus dragged into unenviable
publicity, and to the discomfiture of the employers.

The legislature of Massachusetts had reduced the hours of work of women
and children from fifty-six to fifty-four hours a week. Without making
adequate announcement, the employers withheld two hours' pay from
the weekly stipend. A large portion of the workers were foreigners,
representing eighteen different nationalities, most of them with a
wholly inadequate knowledge of English, and all of an inflammable
temperament. When they found their pay short, a group marched through
the mills, inciting others to join them, and the strike was on. The
American Federation of Labor had paid little attention to these workers.
There were some trade unions in the mills, but most of the workers were
unorganized except for the fact that the I.W.W. had, about eight months
before, gathered several hundred into an industrial union. Yet it
does not appear that this union started the strike. It was a case of
spontaneous combustion. No sooner had it begun, however, than Joseph J.
Ettor, an I.W.W. organizer, hastened to take charge, and succeeded so
well that within a few weeks he claimed 7000 members in his union.
Ettor proved a crafty, resourceful general, quick in action, magnetic in
personality, a linguist who could command his polyglot mob. He was also
a successful press agent who exploited fully the unpalatable drinking
water provided by the companies, the inadequate sewerage, the unpaved
streets, and the practical destitution of many of the workers. The
strikers made an attempt to send children to other towns so that they
might be better cared for. After several groups had thus been taken
away, the city of Lawrence interfered, claiming that many children had
been sent without their parents' consent. On the 24th of February, when
a group of forty children and their mothers gathered at the railway
station to take a train for Philadelphia, the police after due warning
refused to let them depart. It was then that the Federal Government was
called upon to take action. The strike committee telegraphed Congress:
"Twenty-five thousand striking textile workers and citizens of Lawrence
protest against the hideous brutality with which the police handled the
women and children of Lawrence this morning. Carrying out the illegal
and original orders of the city marshal to prevent free citizens from
sending their children out of the city, striking men were knocked down,
women and mothers who were trying to protect their children from the
onslaught of the police were attacked and clubbed." So widespread was
the opinion that unnecessary brutality had taken place that petitions
for an investigation poured in upon Congress from many States and
numerous organizations.

The whole country was watching the situation. The hearings held by a
congressional committee emphasized the stupidity of the employers in
arbitrarily curtailing the wage, the inadequacy of the town government
in handling the situation, and the cupidity of the I.W.W. leaders in
taking advantage of the fears, the ignorance, the inflammability of the
workers, and in creating a "terrorism which impregnated the whole city
for days." Lawrence became a symbol. It stood for the American factory
town; for municipal indifference and social neglect, for heterogeneity
in population, for the tinder pile awaiting the incendiary match.

At Little Falls, New York, a strike occurred in the textile mills in
October, 1912, as a result of a reduction of wages due to a fifty-four
hour law. No organization was responsible for the strike, but no sooner
had the operatives walked out than here also the I.W.W. appeared. The
leaders ordered every striker to do something which would involve arrest
in order to choke the local jail and the courts. The state authorities
investigating the situation reported that "all of those on strike
were foreigners and few, if any, could speak or understand the English
language, complete control of the strike being in the hands of the

In February, 1913, about 15,000 employees in the rubber works at Akron,
Ohio, struck. The introduction of machinery into the manufacture of
automobile tires caused a reduction in the piecework rate in certain
shops. One of the companies posted a notice on the 10th of February
that this reduction would take effect immediately. No time was given for
conference, and it was this sudden arbitrary act which precipitated
all the discontent lurking for a long time in the background; and the
employees walked out. The legislative investigating committee reported
"there was practically no organization existing among the rubber
employees when the strike began. A small local of the Industrial Workers
of the World comprised of between fifteen and fifty members had been
formed.... Simultaneously with the beginning of the strike, organizers
of the I.W.W. appeared on the ground inviting and urging the striking
employees to unite with their organization." Many of these testified
before the public authorities that they had not joined because they
believed in the preachings of the organization but because "they hoped
through collective action to increase their wages and improve their
conditions of employment." The tactics of the strike leaders soon
alienated the public, which had at first been inclined towards the
strikers, and acts of violence led to the organization of a vigilance
committee of one thousand citizens which warned the leaders to leave

In February, 1913, some 25,000 workers in the silk mills of Paterson,
New Jersey, struck, and here again the I.W.W. repeated its maneuvers.
Sympathetic meetings took place in New York and other cities. Daily
"experience meetings" were held in Paterson and all sorts of devices
were invented to maintain the fervor of the strikers. The leaders
threatened to make Paterson a "howling wilderness," an "industrial
graveyard," and "to wipe it off the map." This threat naturally arrayed
the citizens against the strikers, over one thousand of whom were
lodged in jail before the outbreak was over. Among the five ringleaders
arrested and held for the grand jury were Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and
Patrick Quinlan, whose trials attracted wide attention. Elizabeth Flynn,
an appealing young widow scarcely over twenty-one, testified that she
had begun her work as an organizer at the age of sixteen, that she had
not incited strikers to violence but had only advised them to picket and
to keep their hands in their pockets, "so that detectives could not put
stones in them as they had done in other strikes." The jury disagreed
and she was discharged. Quinlan, an unusually attractive young man, also
a professional I.W.W. agitator, was found guilty of inciting to violence
and was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. After serving nine
months he was freed because of a monster petition signed by some
20,000 sympathetic persons all over the United States. Clergymen,
philanthropists, and prominent public men, were among the signers,
as well as the jurors who convicted and the sheriff who locked up the

These cases served to fix further public attention upon the nature of
the new movement and the sort of revivalists its evangel of violence
was producing. Employers steadfastly refused to deal with the I.W.W.,
although they repeatedly asserted they were willing to negotiate with
their employees themselves. After three months of strike and turmoil the
mayor of Paterson had said: "The fight which Paterson is making is the
fight of the nation. Their agitation has no other object in view but
to establish a reign of terror throughout the United States." A large
number of thoughtful people all over the land were beginning to share
this view.

In New York City a new sort of agitation was devised in the winter of
1913-14 under the captaincy of a young man who quite suddenly found
himself widely advertised. Frank Tannenbaum organized an "army of the
unemployed," commandeered Rutgers Square as a rendezvous, Fifth
Avenue as a parade ground, and churches and parish houses as forts and
commissaries. Several of the churches were voluntarily opened to them,
but other churches they attempted to enter by storm. In March, 1914,
Tannenbaum led several score into the church of St. Alphonsus while mass
was being celebrated. Many arrests followed this bold attempt to emulate
the French Revolutionists. Though sympathizers raised $7500 bail for the
ringleader, Tannenbaum loyally refused to accept it as long as any of
his "army" remained in jail. Squads of his men entered restaurants, ate
their fill, refused to pay, and then found their way to the workhouse.
So for several months a handful of unemployed, some of them professional
unemployed, held the headlines of the metropolitan papers, rallied to
their defense sentimental social sympathizers, and succeeded in calling
the attention of the public to a serious industrial condition.

At Granite City, Illinois, another instance of unrest occurred when
several thousand laborers in the steel mills, mostly Roumanians and
Bulgarians, demanded an increase in wages. When the whistle blew on the
appointed morning, they gathered at the gates, refused to enter, and
continued to shout "Two dollars a day!" Though the manager feared
violence and posted guards, no violence was offered. Suddenly at the
end of two hours the men quietly resumed their work, and the management
believed the trouble was over. But for several successive mornings this
maneuver was repeated. Strike breakers were then sent for. For a week,
however, the work went forward as usual. The order for strike breakers
was countermanded. Then came a continued repetition of the early morning
strikes until the company gave way.

Nor were the subtler methods of sabotage forgotten in these
demonstrations. From many places came reports of emery dust in the
gearings of expensive machines. Men boasted of powdered soap emptied
into water tanks that fed boilers, of kerosene applied to belting,
of railroad switches that had been tampered with. With these and many
similar examples before them, the public became convinced that the
mere arresting of a few leaders was futile. A mass meeting at Ipswich,
Massachusetts, in 1913, declared, as its principle of action, "We have
got to meet force with force," and then threatened to run the entire
local I.W.W. group out of town. In many towns vigilance committees acted
as eyes, ears, and hands for the community. When the community refused
to remain neutral, the contest assumed a different aspect and easily
became a feud between a small group of militants and the general public.
In the West this contest assumed its most aggressive form. At Spokane,
in 1910, the jail was soon filled, and sixty prisoners went on a hunger
strike which cost several lives. In the lumber mills of Aberdeen,
South Dakota, explosions and riots occurred. In Hoquiam, Washington, a
twelve-foot stockade surmounted by barbed wire entanglements failed
to protect the mills from the assaults of strikers. At Gray's Harbor,
Washington, a citizens' committee cut the electric light wires to darken
the meeting place of the I.W.W. and then used axe handles and wagon
spokes to drive the members out of town. At Everett, Washington, a
strike in the shingle mills led to the expulsion of the I.W.W. The
leaders then called for volunteers to invade Everett, and several
hundred members sailed from Seattle. They were met at the dock, however,
by a large committee of citizens and were informed by the sheriff that
they would not be allowed to land. After some parley, the invaders
opened fire, and in the course of the shooting that followed the sheriff
was seriously wounded, five persons were killed, and many were injured.
The boat and its small invading army then returned to Seattle without
making a landing at Everett.

The I.W.W. found an excuse for their riotous action in the refusal of
communities to permit them to speak in the streets and public places.
This, they claimed, was an invasion of their constitutional right of
free speech. The experience of San Diego serves as an example of their
"free speech" campaigns. In 1910, I.W.W. agitators began to hold public
meetings in the streets, in the course of which their language increased
in ferocity until the indignation of the community was aroused. An
ordinance was then passed by the city council prohibiting street
speaking within the congested portions of the city, but allowing
street meetings in other parts of the city if a permit from the police
department were first obtained. There was, however, no law requiring
the issue of such a permit, and none was granted to the agitators. This
restriction of their liberties greatly incensed the agitators, who
at once raised the cry of "free speech" and began to hold meetings in
defiance of the ordinance. The jail was soon glutted with these apostles
of riotous speaking. In order to delay the dispatch of the court's
overcrowded calendar, every one demanded a jury trial. The mayor of
the town then received a telegram from the general secretary of
the organization which disclosed their tactics: "This fight will be
continued until free speech is established in San Diego if it takes
twenty thousand members and twenty years to do so." The national
membership of the I.W.W. had been drafted as an invading army, to be
a constant irritation to the city until it surrendered. The police
asserted that "there are bodies of men leaving all parts of the country
for San Diego" for the purpose of defying the city authorities and
overwhelming its municipal machinery. A committee of vigilantes armed
with "revolvers, knives, night-sticks, black jacks, and black snakes,"
supported by the local press and commercial bodies, undertook to run the
unwelcome guests out of town. That this was not done gently is clearly
disclosed by subsequent official evidence. Culprits were loaded into
auto trucks at night, taken to the county line, made to kiss the flag,
sing the national anthem, run the gauntlet between rows of vigilantes
provided with cudgels and, after thus proving their patriotism under
duress, were told never to return.

"There is an unwritten law," one of the local papers at this time
remarked, "that permits a citizen to avenge his outraged honor. There is
an unwritten law that permits a community to defend itself by any means
in its power, lawful or unlawful, against any evil which the operation
of the written law is inadequate to oppose or must oppose by slow,
tedious, and unnecessarily expensive proceeding." So this municipal
homeopathy of curing lawlessness with lawlessness received public

With the declaration of war against Germany in April, 1917, hostility
to the I.W.W. on the part of the American public was intensified. The
members of the organization opposed war. Their leaflet "War and the
Workers," bore this legend:

         "WAR IS HELL"


Soon rumors abounded that German money was being used to aid the I.W.W.
in their plots. In Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Kansas, and other States,
members of the organization were arrested for failure to comply with
the draft law. The governors of Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and
Nevada met to plan laws for suppressing the I.W.W. Similar legislation
was urged upon Congress. Senator Thomas, in a report to the Senate,
accused the I.W.W. of cooperating with German agents in the copper mines
and harvest fields of the West by inciting the laborers to strikes and
to the destruction of food and material. Popular opinion in the West
inclined to the view of Senator Poindexter of Washington when he said
that "most of the I.W.W. leaders are outlaws or ought to be made outlaws
because of their official utterances, inflammatory literature and acts
of violence." Indeed, scores of communities in 1917 took matters into
their own hands. Over a thousand I.W.W. strikers in the copper mines
of Bisbee, Arizona, were loaded into freight cars and shipped over the
state line. In Billings, Montana, one leader was horsewhipped, and two
others were hanged until they were unconscious. In Tulsa, Oklahoma,
a group of seventeen members were taken from policemen, thoroughly
flogged, tarred, feathered, and driven out of town by vigilantes.

The Federal Government, after an extended inquiry through the secret
service, raided the Detroit headquarters of the I.W.W., where a plot to
tie up lake traffic was brewing. The Chicago offices were raided some
time later; over one hundred and sixty leaders of the organization from
all parts of the country were indicted as a result of the examination
of the wagon-load of papers and documents seized. As a result, 166
indictments were returned. Of these 99 defendants were found guilty
by the trial jury, 16 were dismissed during the trial, and 51 were
dismissed before the trial. In Cleveland, Buffalo, and other lake ports
similar disclosures were made, and everywhere the organization fell
under popular and official suspicion.

In many other portions of the country members of the I.W.W. were tried
for conspiracy under the Federal espionage act. In January, 1919, a
trial jury in Sacramento found 46 defendants guilty. The offense in the
majority of these cases consisted in opposing military service rather
than in overt acts against the Government. But in May and June, 1919,
the country was startled by a series of bomb outrages aimed at the
United States Attorney-General, certain Federal district judges, and
other leading public personages, which were evidently the result of
centralized planning and were executed by members of the I.W.W., aided
very considerably by foreign Bolshevists.

In spite of its spectacular warfare and its monopoly of newspaper
headlines, the I.W.W. has never been numerically strong. The first
convention claimed a membership of 60,000. All told, the organization
has issued over 200,000 cards since its inception, but this total never
constituted its membership at any given time, for no more fluctuating
group ever existed. When the I.W.W. fosters a strike of considerable
proportions, the membership rapidly swells, only to shrink again when
the strike is over. This temporary membership consists mostly of foreign
workmen who are recent immigrants. What may be termed the permanent
membership is difficult to estimate. In 1913 there were about 14,000
members. In 1917 the membership was estimated at 75,000. Though this is
probably a maximum rather than an average, nevertheless the members are
mostly young men whose revolutionary ardor counterbalances their want in
numbers. It is, moreover, an organization that has a wide penumbra. It
readily attracts the discontented, the unemployed, the man without a
horizon. In an instant it can lay a fire and put an entire police force
on the qui vive.

The organization has always been in financial straits. The source of its
power is to be sought elsewhere. Financially bankrupt and numerically
unstable, the I.W.W. relies upon the brazen cupidity of its stratagems
and the habitual timorousness of society for its power. It is this
self-seeking disregard of constituted authority that has given a handful
of bold and crafty leaders such prominence in the recent literature of
fear. And the members of this industrial Ku Klux Klan, these American
Bolsheviki, assume to be the "conscious minority" which is to lead the
ranks of labor into the Canaan of industrial bliss.


In a democracy it is possible for organized labor to extend its
influence far beyond the confines of a mere trade policy. It can move
the political mechanism directly in proportion to its capacity to enlist
public opinion. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that labor
is eager to take part in politics or that labor parties were early
organized. They were, however, doomed to failure, for no workingman's
party can succeed, except in isolated localities, without the
cooperation of other social and political forces. Standing alone as a
political entity, labor has met only rebuff and defeat at the hands of
the American voter.

The earlier attempts at direct political action were local. In
Philadelphia a workingman's party was organized in 1828 as a result of
the disappointment of the Mechanics' Union at its failure to achieve
its ambitions by strikes. At a public meeting it was resolved to support
only such candidates for the legislature and city council as would
pledge themselves to the interests of "the working classes." The city
was organized, and a delegate convention was called which nominated a
ticket of thirty candidates for city and county offices. But nineteen
of these nominees were also on the Jackson ticket, and ten on the
Adams ticket; and both of these parties used the legend "Working Man's
Ticket," professing to favor a shorter working day. The isolated labor
candidates received only from 229 to 539 votes, while the Jackson party
vote ranged from 3800 to 7000 and the Adams party vote from 2500
to 3800. So that labor's first excursion into politics revealed the
eagerness of the older parties to win the labor vote, and the futility
of relying on a separate organization, except for propaganda purposes.

Preparatory to their next campaign, the workingmen organized political
clubs in all the wards of Philadelphia. In 1829 they nominated
thirty-two candidates for local offices, of whom nine received the
endorsement of the Federalists and three that of the Democrats. The
workingmen fared better in this election, polling nearly 2000 votes in
the county and electing sixteen candidates. So encouraged were they by
this success that they attempted to nominate a state ticket, but the
dominant parties were too strong. In 1831 the workingmen's candidates,
who were not endorsed by the older parties, received less than 400 votes
in Philadelphia. After this year the party vanished.

New York also early had an illuminating experience in labor politics. In
1829 the workingmen of the city launched a political venture under the
immediate leadership of an agitator by the name of Thomas Skidmore.
Skidmore set forth his social panacea in a book whose elongated title
betrays his secret: "The Rights of Man to Property! Being a Proposition
to Make it Equal among the Adults of the Present Generation; and
to Provide for its Equal Transmission to Every Individual of Each
Succeeding Generation, on Arriving at the Age of Maturity." The party
manifesto began with the startling declaration that "all human society,
our own as well as every other, is constructed radically wrong." The new
party proposed to right this defect by an equal distribution of the land
and by an elaborate system of public education. Associated with Skidmore
were Robert Dale Owen and Frances Wright of the "Free Enquirer," a paper
advocating all sorts of extreme social and economic doctrines. It was
not strange, therefore, that the new party was at once connected, in the
public mind, with all the erratic vagaries of these Apostles of Change.
It was called the "Fanny Wright ticket" and the "Infidel Ticket." Every
one forgot that it aimed to be the workingman's ticket. The movement,
however, was supported by "The Working Man's Advocate," a new journal
that soon reached a wide influence.

There now appeared an eccentric Quaker, Russell Comstock by name, to
center public attention still more upon the new party. As a candidate
for the legislature, he professed an alarmingly advanced position,
for he believed that the State ought to establish free schools where
handicrafts and morals, but not religion, should be taught; that husband
and wife should be equals before the law; that a mechanics' lien and
bankruptcy law should be passed; and that by wise graduations all laws
for the collection of debts should be repealed. At a meeting held at the
City Hall, for the further elucidation of his "pure Republicanism," he
was greeted by a great throng but was arrested for disturbing the peace.
He received less than one hundred and fifty votes, but his words went
far to excite, on the one hand, the interest of the laboring classes in
reform, and, on the other hand, the determination of the conservative
classes to defeat "a ticket got up openly and avowedly," as one
newspaper said, "in opposition to all banks, in opposition to social
order, in opposition to rights of property."

Elections at this time lasted three days. On the first day there was
genuine alarm at the large vote cast for "the Infidels." Thoughtful
citizens were importuned to go to the polls, and on the second and third
days they responded in sufficient numbers to compass the defeat of the
entire ticket, excepting only one candidate for the legislature.

The Workingman's party contained too many zealots to hold together.
After the election of 1829 a meeting was called to revise the party
platform. The more conservative element prevailed and omitted the
agrarian portions of the platform. Skidmore, who was present, attempted
to protest, but his voice was drowned by the clamor of the audience.
He then started a party of his own, which he called the Original
Workingman's party but which became known as the Agrarian party. The
majority endeavored to rectify their position in the community by an
address to the people. "We take this opportunity," they said, "to
aver, whatever may be said to the contrary by ignorant or designing
individuals or biased presses, that we have no desire or intention of
disturbing the rights of property in individuals or the public." In the
meantime Robert Dale Owen and Fanny Wright organized a party of their
own, endorsing an extreme form of state paternalism over children. This
State Guardianship Plan, as it was called, aimed to "regenerate America
in a generation" and to "make but one class out of the many that now
envy and despise each other."

There were, then, three workingmen's parties in New York, none of which,
however, succeeded in gaining an influential position in state politics.
After 1830 all these parties disappeared, but not without leaving a
legacy of valuable experience. "The Working Man's Advocate" discovered
political wisdom when it confessed that "whether these measures are
carried by the formation of a new party, by the reform of an old one, or
by the abolishment of party altogether, is of comparative unimportance."

In New England, the workingmen's political endeavors were joined with
those of the farmers under the agency of the New England Association of
Farmers, Mechanics, and Workingmen. This organization was initiated in
1830 by the workingmen of Woodstock, Vermont, and their journal, the
"Working Man's Gazette," became a medium of agitation which affected all
the New England manufacturing towns as well as many farming communities.
"Woodstock meetings," as they were called, were held everywhere and
aroused both workingmen and farmers to form a new political party. "The
Springfield Republican" summarized the demands of the new party thus:

"The avowed objects generally seem to be to abolish imprisonment for
debt, the abolishment of litigation, and in lieu thereof the settlement
of disputes by reference to neighbors; to establish some more equal
and universal system of public education; to diminish the salaries and
extravagance of public officers; to support no men for offices of public
trust, but farmers, mechanics, and what the party call "working men";
and to elevate the character of this class by mental instruction and
mental improvement.... Much is said against the wealth and aristocracy
of the land, their influence, and the undue influence of lawyers and
other professional men.... The most of these objects appear very well on
paper and we believe they are already sustained by the good sense of
the people.... What is most ridiculous about this party is, that in many
places where the greatest noise is made about it, the most indolent and
most worthless persons, men of no trade or useful occupation have taken
the lead. We cannot of course answer for the character for industry of
many places where this party is agitated: but we believe the great body
of our own community, embracing every class and profession, may justly
be called workingmen: nor do we believe enough can be found who are not
such, to make even a decent party of drones."

In the early thirties many towns and cities in Massachusetts, Vermont,
Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island elected workingmen's candidates to
local offices, usually with the help of small tradespeople. In 1833 and
1834 the workingmen of Massachusetts put a state ticket in the field
which polled about 2000 votes, and in Boston a workingman's party was
organized, but it did not gather much momentum and soon disappeared.

These local and desultory attempts at forming a separate labor party
failed as partisan movements. The labor leader proved an inefficient
amateur when matched against the shrewd and experienced party
manipulator; nor was there a sufficient class homogeneity to keep the
labor vote together; and, even if it had so been united, there were not
enough labor votes to make a majority. So the labor candidate had to
rely on the good will of other classes in order to win his election.
And this support was not forthcoming. Americans have, thus far, always
looked with suspicion upon a party that represented primarily the
interests of only one class. This tendency shows a healthy instinct
founded upon the fundamental conception of society as a great unity
whose life and progress depend upon the freedom of all its diverse

It is not necessary to assume, as some observers have done, that these
petty political excursions wrecked the labor movement of that day.
It was perfectly natural that the laborer, when he awoke to the
possibilities of organization and found himself possessed of unlimited
political rights, should seek a speedy salvation in the ballot box. He
took, by impulse, the partisan shortcut and soon found himself lost
in the slough of party intrigue. On the other hand, it should not be
concluded that these intermittent attempts to form labor parties were
without political significance. The politician is usually blind to every
need except the need of his party; and the one permanent need of his
party is votes. A demand backed by reason will usually find him inert;
a demand backed by votes galvanizes him into nervous attention. When,
therefore, it was apparent that there was a labor vote, even though a
small one, the demands of this vote were not to be ignored, especially
in States where the parties were well balanced and the scale was
tipped by a few hundred votes. Within a few decades after the political
movement began, many States had passed lien laws, had taken active
measures to establish efficient free schools, had abolished imprisonment
for debt, had legislative inquiry into factory conditions, and had
recognized the ten-hour day. These had been the leading demands
of organized labor, and they had been brought home to the public
conscience, in part at least, by the influence of the workingmen's

It was not until after the Civil War that labor achieved sufficient
national homogeneity to attempt seriously the formation of a national
party. In the light of later events it is interesting to sketch briefly
the development of the political power of the workingman. The National
Labor Union at its congress of 1866 resolved "that, so far as political
action is concerned, each locality should be governed by its own policy,
whether to run an independent ticket of workingmen, or to use political
parties already existing, but at all events to cast no vote except for
men pledged to the interests of labor." The issue then seemed clear
enough. But six years later the Labor Reform party struck out on an
independent course and held its first and only national convention.
Seventeen States were represented. * The Labor party, however, had yet
to learn how hardly won are independence and unity in any political
organization. Rumors of pernicious intermeddling by the Democratic
and Republican politicians were afloat, and it was charged that the
Pennsylvania delegates had come on passes issued by the president of the
Pennsylvania Railroad. Judge David Davis of Illinois, then a member
of the United States Supreme Court, was nominated for President and
Governor Joel Parker of New Jersey for Vice-President. Both declined,
however, and Charles O'Conor of New York, the candidate of "the
Straight-Out Democrats," was named for President, but no nomination was
made for Vice-President. Considering the subsequent phenomenal growth of
the labor vote, it is worth noting in passing that O'Conor received only
29,489 votes and that these embraced both the labor and the so-called
"straight" Democratic strength.

 * It is interesting to note that in this first National Labor Party
Convention a motion favoring government ownership and the referendum was
voted down.

For some years the political labor movement lost its independent
character and was absorbed by the Greenback party which offered a
meeting-ground for discontented farmers and restless workingmen. In
1876 the party nominated for President the venerable Peter Cooper, who
received about eighty thousand votes--most of them probably cast by
farmers. During this time the leaders of the labor movement were serving
a political apprenticeship and were learning the value of cooperation.
On February 22, 1878, a conference held at Toledo, Ohio, including
eight hundred delegates from twenty-eight States, perfected an
alliance between the Labor Reform and Greenback parties and invited all
"patriotic citizens to unite in an effort to secure financial reform
and industrial emancipation." Financial reform meant the adoption of
the well-known greenback free silver policy. Industrial emancipation
involved the enactment of an eight-hour law; the inspection of
workshops, factories, and mines; the regulation of interstate commerce;
a graduated federal income tax; the prohibition of the importation
of alien contract labor; the forfeiture of the unused portion of the
princely land grants to railroads; and the direct participation of the
people in government. These fundamental issues were included in the
demands of subsequent labor and populist parties, and some of them were
bequeathed to the Progressive party of a later date. The convention was
thus a forerunner of genuine reform, for its demands were based upon
industrial needs. For the moment it made a wide popular appeal. In the
state elections of 1878 about a million votes were polled by the party
candidates. The bulk of these were farmers' votes cast in the Middle
and Far West, though in the East, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York,
Maine, and New Jersey cast a considerable vote for the party.

With high expectations the new party entered the campaign of 1880. It
had over a dozen members in Congress, active organizations in nearly
every State, and ten thousand local clubs. General James B. Weaver,
the presidential nominee of the party, was the first candidate to make
extensive campaign journeys into distant sections of the country. His
energetic canvass netted him only 308,578 votes, most of which came
from the West. The party was distinctly a farmers' party. In 1884,
it nominated the lurid Ben Butler who had been, according to report,
"ejected from the Democratic party and booted out of the Republican."
His demagogic appeals, however, brought him not much more than half as
many votes as the party received at the preceding election, and helped
to end the political career of the Greenbackers.

With the power of the farmers on the wane, the balance began to shift.
There now followed a number of attempts to organize labor in the Union
Labor party, the United Labor party, the Progressive Labor party, the
American Reform party, and the Tax Reformers. There were still
numerous farmers' organizations such as the Farmers' Alliance, the
Anti-Monopolists, the Homesteaders, and others, but they were no longer
the dominant force. Under the stimulus of the labor unions, delegates
representing the Knights of Labor, the Grangers, the Anti-Monopolists,
and other farmers' organizations, met in Cincinnati on February 22,
1887, and organized the National Union Labor party. * The following May
the party held its only nominating convention. Alson J. Streeter
of Illinois was named for President and Samuel Evans of Texas for
Vice-President. The platform of the party was based upon the prevalent
economic and political discontent. Farmers were overmortgaged, laborers
were underpaid, and the poor were growing poorer, while the rich were
daily growing richer. "The paramount issues," the new party declared,
"are the abolition of usury, monopoly, and trusts, and we denounce the
Republican and Democratic parties for creating and perpetuating these
monstrous evils."

 * McKee, "National Conventions and Platforms," p. 251.

In the meantime Henry George, whose "Progress and Poverty" had made a
profound impression upon public thought, had become in 1886 a candidate
for mayor of New York City, and polled the phenomenal total of 68,110
votes, while Theodore Roosevelt, the Republican candidate, received
60,485, and Abram S. Hewitt, the successful Democratic candidate, polled
90,552. The evidence of popular support which attended Henry George's
brief political career was the prelude to a national effort which
culminated in the formation of the United Labor party. Its platform was
similar to that of the Union party, except that the single tax now made
its appearance. This method contemplated the "taxation of land according
to its value and not according to its area, to devote to common use
and benefit those values which arise, not from the exertion of the
individual, but from the growth of society," and the abolition of
all taxes on industry and its products. But it was apparent from the
similarity of their platforms and the geographical distribution of their
candidates that the two labor parties were competing for the same vote.
At a conference held in Chicago to effect a union, however, the Union
Labor party insisted on the complete effacement of the other ticket and
the single taxers refused to submit. In the election which followed, the
Union Labor party received about 147,000 votes, largely from the South
and West and evidently the old Greenback vote, while the United party
polled almost no votes outside of Illinois and New York. Neither party
survived the result of this election.

In December, 1889, committees representing the Knights of Labor and
the Farmers' Alliance met in St. Louis to come to some agreement on
political policies. Owing to the single tax predilection of the Knights,
the two organizations were unable to enter into a close union, but
they nevertheless did agree that "the legislative committees of both
organizations [would] act in concert before Congress for the purpose
of securing the enactment of laws in harmony with their demands."
This cooperation was a forerunner of the People's party or, as it was
commonly called, the Populist party, the largest third party that had
taken the field since the Civil War. Throughout the West and the South
political conditions now were feverish. Old party majorities were
overturned, and a new type of Congressman invaded Washington. When the
first national convention of the People's party met in Omaha on July 2,
1892, the outlook was bright. General Weaver was nominated for President
and James G. Field of Virginia for Vice-President. The platform
rehabilitated Greenbackism in cogent phrases, demanded government
control of railroads and telegraph and telephone systems, the
reclamation of land held by corporations, an income tax, the free
coinage of silver and gold "at the present legal ratio of sixteen to
one," and postal savings banks. In a series of resolutions which were
not a part of the platform but were nevertheless "expressive of the
sentiment of this convention," the party declared itself in sympathy
"with the efforts of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of
labor"; it condemned "the fallacy of protecting American labor under the
present system, which opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes
of the world and crowds out our wage-earners"; and it opposed the
Pinkerton system of capitalistic espionage as "a menace to our
liberties." The party formally declared itself to be a "union of the
labor forces of the United States," for "the interests of rural and city
labor are the same; their enemies identical."

These national movements prior to 1896 are not, however, an adequate
index of the political strength of labor in partisan endeavor. Organized
labor was more of a power in local and state elections, perhaps because
in these cases its pressure was more direct, perhaps because it was
unable to cope with the great national organization of the older
parties. During these years of effort to gain a footing in the Federal
Government, there are numerous examples of the success of the labor
party in state elections. As early as 1872 the labor reformers nominated
state tickets in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In 1875 they nominated
Wendell Phillips for Governor of Massachusetts. In 1878, in coalition
with the Greenbackers, they elected many state officers throughout the
West. Ten years later, when the Union Labor party was at its height,
labor candidates were successful in several municipalities. In 1888
labor tickets were nominated in many Western States, including Colorado,
Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and
Wisconsin. Of these Kansas cast the largest labor vote, with nearly
36,000, and Missouri came next with 15,400. In the East, however, the
showing of the party in state elections was far less impressive.

In California the political labor movement achieved a singular
prominence. In 1877 the labor situation in San Francisco became acute
because of the prevalence of unemployment. Grumblings of dissatisfaction
soon gave way to parades and informal meetings at which imported Chinese
labor and the rich "nobs," the supposed dual cause of all the trouble,
were denounced in lurid language. The agitation, however, was formless
until the necessary leader appeared in Dennis Kearney, a native of Cork
County, Ireland. For fourteen years he had been a sailor, had risen
rapidly to first officer of a clipper ship, and then had settled in San
Francisco as a drayman. He was temperate and industrious in his personal
life, and possessed a clear eye, a penetrating voice, the vocabulary of
one versed in the crude socialistic pamphlets of his day, and, in spite
of certain domineering habits bred in the sailor, the winning graces of
his nationality.

Kearney appeared at meetings on the vacant lots known as the "sand
lots," in front of the City Hall of San Francisco, and advised the
discontented ones to "wrest the government from the hands of the rich
and place it in those of the people." On September 12, 1877, he rallied
a group of unemployed around him and organized the Workingman's Trade
and Labor Union of San Francisco. On the 5th of October, at a great
public meeting, the Workingman's party of California was formed and
Kearney was elected president. The platform adopted by the party
proposed to place the government in the hands of the people, to get rid
of the Chinese, to destroy the money power, to "provide decently for the
poor and unfortunate, the weak and the helpless," and "to elect none but
competent workingmen and their friends to any office whatever.... When
we have 10,000 members we shall have the sympathy and support of 20,000
other workingmen. This party," concluded the pronouncement, "will
exhaust all peaceable means of attaining its ends, but it will not be
denied justice, when it has the power to enforce it. It will encourage
no riot or outrage, but it will not volunteer to repress or put down or
arrest or prosecute the hungry and impatient, who manifest their hatred
of the Chinamen by a crusade against 'John,' or those who employ
him. Let those who raise the storm by their selfishness, suppress it
themselves. If they dare raise the devil, let them meet him face to
face. We will not help them." In advocating these views, Kearney held
meeting after meeting each rhetorically more violent than the last,
until on the 3d of November he was arrested. This martyrdom in the cause
of labor increased his power, and when he was released he was drawn by
his followers in triumph through the streets on one of his own drays.
His language became more and more extreme. He bludgeoned the "thieving
politicians" and the "bloodsucking capitalists," and he advocated
"judicious hanging" and "discretionary shooting." The City Council
passed an ordinance intended to gag him; the legislature enacted an
extremely harsh riot act; a body of volunteers patrolled the streets
of the city; a committee of safety was organized. On January 5, 1878,
Kearney and a number of associates were indicted, arrested, and released
on bail. When the trial jury acquitted Kearney, what may be called the
terrorism of the movement attained its height, but it fortunately spent
itself in violent adjectives.

The Workingman's party, however, elected a workingman mayor of San
Francisco, joined forces with the Grangers, and elected a majority
of the members of the state constitutional convention which met in
Sacramento on September 28, 1878. This was a notable triumph for a third
party. The framing of a new constitution gave this coalition of farmers
and workingmen an unusual opportunity to assail the evils which they
declared infested the State. The instrument which they drafted bound the
state legislature with numerous restrictions and made lobbying a
felony; it reorganized the courts, placed innumerable limitations upon
corporations, forbade the loaning of the credit or property of the
State to corporations, and placed a state commission in charge of the
railroads, which had been perniciously active in state politics. Alas
for these visions of reform! A few years after the adoption of this new
constitution by California, Hubert H. Bancroft wrote:

"Those objects which it particularly aimed at, it failed to achieve. The
effect upon corporations disappointed its authors and supporters. Many
of them were strong enough still to defy state power and evade state
laws, in protecting their interests, and this they did without scruple.
The relation of capital and labor is even more strained than before
the constitution was adopted. Capital soon recovered from a temporary
intimidation... Labor still uneasy was still subject to the inexorable
law of supply and demand. Legislatures were still to be approached by
agents... Chinese were still employed in digging and grading. The state
board of railroad Commissioners was a useless expense,... being as wax in
the hands of the companies it was set to watch." *

      * "Works" (vol. XXIV): "History of California," vol. VII, p.

After the collapse of the Populist party, there is to be discerned in
labor politics a new departure, due primarily to the attitude of the
American Federation of Labor in partisan matters, and secondarily to the
rise of political socialism. A socialistic party deriving its support
almost wholly from foreign-born workmen had appeared in a few of the
large cities in 1877, but it was not until 1892 that a national party
was organized, and not until after the collapse of Populism that it
assumed some political importance.

In August, 1892, a Socialist-Labor convention which was held in New York
City nominated candidates for President and Vice-President and adopted
a platform that contained, besides the familiar economic demands
of socialism, the rather unusual suggestion that the Presidency,
Vice-Presidency, and Senate of the United States be abolished and that
an executive board be established "whose members are to be elected, and
may at any time be recalled, by the House of Representatives, as
the only legislative body, the States and municipalities to adopt
corresponding amendments to their constitutions and statutes." Under the
title of the Socialist-Labor party, this ticket polled 21,532 votes in
1892, and in 1896, 36,373 votes.

In 1897 the inevitable split occurred in the Socialist ranks. Eugene
V. Debs, the radical labor leader, who, as president of the American
Railway Union, had directed the Pullman strike and had become a martyr
to the radical cause through his imprisonment for violating the orders
of a Federal Court, organized the Social Democratic party. In 1900 Debs
was nominated for President, and Job Harriman, representing the
older wing, for Vice-President. The ticket polled 94,864 votes. The
Socialist-Labor party nominated a ticket of their own which received
only 33,432 votes. Eventually this party shrank to a mere remnant, while
the Social Democratic party became generally known as the Socialist
party. Debs became their candidate in three successive elections. In
1904 and 1908 his vote hovered around 400,000. In 1910 congressional and
local elections spurred the Socialists to hope for a million votes in
1912 but they fell somewhat short of this mark. Debs received 901,873
votes, the largest number which a Socialist candidate has ever yet
received. Benson, the presidential candidate in 1916, received 590,579
votes. *

 * The Socialist vote is stated differently by McKee, "National
Conventions and Platforms." The above figures, to 1912, are taken from
Stanwood's "History of the Presidency," and for 1912 and 1916 from the
"World Almanac."

In the meantime, the influence of the Socialist labor vote in particular
localities vastly increased. In 1910 Milwaukee elected a Socialist mayor
by a plurality of seven thousand, sent Victor Berger to Washington as
the first Socialist Congressman, and elected labor-union members as five
of the twelve Socialist councilmen, thus revealing the sympathy of the
working class for the cause. On January 1, 1912, over three hundred
towns and cities had one or more Socialist officers. The estimated
Socialist vote of these localities was 1,500,000. The 1039 Socialist
officers included 56 mayors, 205 aldermen and councilmen, and 148 school
officers. This was not a sectional vote but represented New England and
the far West, the oldest commonwealths and the newest, the North and the
South, and cities filled with foreign workingmen as well as staid towns
controlled by retired farmers and shopkeepers.

When the United States entered the Great War, the Socialist party became
a reservoir for all the unsavory disloyalties loosened by the shock
of the great conflict. Pacifists and pro-Germans found a common refuge
under its red banner. In the New York mayoralty elections in 1917 these
Socialists cast nearly one-fourth of the votes, and in the Wisconsin
senatorial election in 1918 Victor Bergen, their standard-bearer, swept
Milwaukee, carried seven counties, and polled over one hundred thousand
votes. On the other hand, a large number of American Socialists, under
the leadership of William English Walling and John Spargo, vigorously
espoused the national cause and subordinated their economic and
political theories to their loyalty.

The Socialists have repeatedly attempted to make official inroads upon
organized labor. They have the sympathy of the I.W.W., the remnant of
the Knights of Labor, and the more radical trades unions, but from the
American Federation of Labor-they have met only rebuff. A number
of state federations, especially in the Middle West, not a few city
centrals, and some sixteen national unions, have officially approved
of the Socialist programme, but the Federation has consistently refused
such an endorsement.

The political tactics assumed by the Federation discountenance a
distinct labor party movement, as long as the old parties are willing to
subserve the ends of the unions. This self-restraint does not mean that
the Federation is not "in politics." On the contrary, it is constantly
vigilant and aggressive and it engages every year in political maneuvers
without, however, having a partisan organization of its own. At its
annual conventions it has time and again urged local and state branches
to scrutinize the records of legislative candidates and to see that only
friends of union labor receive the union laborer's ballot. In 1897 it
"firmly and unequivocally" favored "the independent use of the ballot
by trade unionists and workmen united regardless of party, that we may
elect men from our own ranks to write new laws and administer them along
lines laid down in the legislative demands of the American Federation of
Labor and at the same time secure an impartial judiciary that will not
govern us by arbitrary injunctions of the courts, nor act as the pliant
tool of corporate wealth." And in 1906 it determined, first, to defeat
all candidates who are either hostile or indifferent to labor's demands;
second, if neither party names such candidates, then to make independent
labor nominations; third, in every instance to support "the men who have
shown themselves to be friendly to labor."

With great astuteness, perseverance, and alertness, the Federation has
pursued this method to its uttermost possibilities. In Washington it
has met with singular success, reaching a high-water mark in the first
Wilson Administration, with the passage of the Clayton bill and the
eight-hour railroad bill. After this action, a great New York daily
lamented that "Congress is a subordinate branch of the American
Federation of Labor... The unsleeping watchmen of organized labor know
how intrepid most Congressmen are when threatened with the 'labor vote.'
The American laborites don't have to send men to Congress as their
British brethren do to the House of Commons. From the galleries they
watch the proceedings. They are mighty in committee rooms. They reason
with the recalcitrant. They fight opponents in their Congress districts.
There are no abler or more potent politicians than the labor leaders out
of Congress. Why should rulers like Mr. Gompers and Mr. Furuseth * go to
Congress? They are a Super-Congress."

 * Andrew Furuseth, the president of the Seamen's Union and reputed
author of the Seaman's Act of 1915.

Many Congressmen have felt the retaliatory power of the Federation. Even
such powerful leaders as Congressman Littlefield of Maine and
Speaker Cannon were compelled to exert their utmost to overcome union
opposition. The Federation has been active in seating union men in
Congress. In 1908 there were six union members in the House; in 1910
there were ten; in 1912 there were seventeen. The Secretary of Labor
himself holds a union card. Nor has the Federation shrunk from active
participation in the presidential lists. It bitterly opposed President
Roosevelt when he espoused the open shop in the Government Printing
Office; and in 1908 it openly espoused the Democratic ticket.

In thus maintaining a sort of grand partisan neutrality, the Federation
not only holds in numerous instances the balance of power but it makes
party fealty its slave and avoids the costly luxury of maintaining a
separate national organization of its own. The all-seeing lobby which it
maintains at Washington is a prototype of what one may discern in most
state capitals when the legislature is in session. The legislative
programmes adopted by the various state labor bodies are metamorphosed
into demands, and well organized committees are present to cooperate
with the labor members who sit in the legislature. The unions, through
their steering committee, select with caution the members who are to
introduce the labor bills and watch paternally over every stage in the
progress of a measure.

Most of this legislative output has been strictly protective of union
interests. Labor, like all other interests that aim to use the power of
government, has not been wholly altruistic, in its motives, especially
since in recent years it has found itself matched against such powerful
organizations of employers as the Manufacturers' Association, the
National Erectors' Association, and the Metal Trades Association. In
fact, in nearly every important industry the employers have organized
for defensive and offensive purposes. These organizations match
committee with committee, lobby with lobby, add espionage to open
warfare, and issue effective literature in behalf of their open shop

The voluminous labor codes of such great manufacturing communities as
Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, reflect a new and
enlarged conception of the modern State. Labor has generally favored
measures that extend the inquisitional and regulative functions of
the State, excepting where this extension seemed to interfere with the
autonomy of labor itself. Workshops, mines, factories, and other places
of employment are now minutely inspected, and innumerable sanitary and
safety provisions are enforced. A workman's compensation law removes
from the employee's mind his anxiety for the fate of his family if he
should be disabled. The labor contract, long extolled as the aegis of
economic liberty, is no longer free from state vigilance. The time
and method of paying wages are ordered by the State, and in certain
industries the hours of labor are fixed by law. Women and children are
the special proteges of this new State, and great care is taken that
they shall be engaged only in employment suitable to their strength and
under an environment that will not ruin their health.

The growing social control of the individual is significant, for it is
not only the immediate conditions of labor that have come under public
surveillance. Where and how the workman lives is no longer a matter of
indifference to the public, nor what sort of schooling his children get,
what games they play, and what motion pictures they see. The city, in
cooperation with the State, now provides nurses, dentists, oculists, and
surgeons, as well as teachers for the children. This local paternalism
increases yearly in its solicitude and receives the eager sanction of
the labor members of city councils. The State has also set up elaborate
machinery for observing all phases of the labor situation and for
gathering statistics and other information that should be helpful in
framing labor laws, and has also established state employment agencies
and boards of conciliation and arbitration.

This machinery of mediation is significant not because of what it has
already accomplished but as evidence of the realization on the part
of the State that labor disputes are not merely the concern of the two
parties to the labor contract. Society has finally come to realize that,
in the complex of the modern State, it also is vitally concerned, and,
in despair at thousands of strikes every year, with their wastage and
their aftermath of bitterness, it has attempted to interpose its good
offices as mediator.

The modern labor laws cannot be credited, however, to labor activity
alone. The new social atmosphere has provided a congenial milieu
for this vast extension of state functions. The philanthropist, the
statistician, and the sociologist have become potent allies of the
labor legislator; and such non-labor organizations, as the American
Association for Labor Legislation, have added their momentum to the
movement. New ideals of social cooperation have been established, and
new conceptions of the responsibilities of private ownership have been

While labor organizations have succeeded rather readily in bending the
legislative power to their wishes, the military arm of the executive
and the judiciary which ultimately enforce the command of the State have
been beyond their reach. To bend these branches of the government to its
will, organized labor has fought a persistent and aggressive warfare.
Decisions of the courts which do not sustain union contentions are
received with great disfavor. The open shop decisions of the United
States Supreme Court are characterized as unfair and partisan and are
vigorously opposed in all the labor journals. It is not, however, until
the sanction of public opinion eventually backs the attitude of the
unions that the laws and their interpretation can conform entirely to
the desires of labor.

The chief grievance of organized labor against the courts is their
use of the injunction to prevent boycotts and strikes. "Government by
injunction" is the complaint of the unions and it is based upon the
common, even reckless, use of a writ which was in origin and intent a
high and rarely used prerogative of the Court of Chancery. What was in
early times a powerful weapon in the hands of the Crown against riotous
assemblies and threatened lawlessness was invoked in 1868 by an English
court as a remedy against industrial disturbances. * Since the Civil War
the American courts in rapidly increasing numbers have used this weapon,
and the Damascus blade of equity has been transformed into a bludgeon in
the hands even of magistrates of inferior courts.

 * Springfield Spinning Company vs. Riley, L.R.6 Eq. 551.

The prime objection which labor urges against this use of the injunction
is that it deprives the defendant of a jury trial when his liberty is
at stake. The unions have always insisted that the law should be so
modified that this right would accompany all injunctions growing out of
labor disputes. Such a denatured injunction, however, would defeat the
purpose of the writ; but the union leader maintains, on the other hand,
that he is placed unfairly at a disadvantage, when an employer can
command for his own aid in an industrial dispute the swift and sure
arm of a law originally intended for a very different purpose. The
imprisonment of Debs during the Pullman strike for disobeying a
Federal injunction brought the issue vividly before the public; and
the sentencing of Gompers, Mitchell, and Morrison to prison terms for
violating the Buck's Stove injunction produced new waves of popular
protest. Occasional dissenting opinions by judges and the gradual
conviction of lawyers and of society that some other tribunal than a
court of equity or even a court of law would be more suitable for the
settling of labor disputes is indicative of the change ultimately to be
wrought in practice.

The unions are also violently opposed to the use of military power by
the State during strikes. Not only can the militia be called out to
enforce the mandates of the State but whenever Federal interference is
justified the United States troops may be sent to the scene of turmoil.
After the period of great labor troubles culminating in the Pullman
strike, many States reorganized their militia into national guards. The
armories built for the accommodation of the guard were called by the
unions "plutocracy's bastiles," and the mounted State constabulary
organized in 1906 by Pennsylvania were at once dubbed "American
Cossacks." Several States following the example of Pennsylvania have
encountered the bitterest hostility on the part of the labor unions.
Already opposition to the militia has proceeded so far that some unions
have forbidden their members to perform militia service when called to
do strike duty, and the military readjustments involved in the Great War
have profoundly affected the relation of the State to organized labor.
Following the signing of the armistice, a movement for the organization
of an American Labor party patterned after the British Labour party
gained rapid momentum, especially in New York and Chicago. A platform of
fourteen points was formulated at a general conference of the leaders,
and provisional organizations were perfected in a number of cities.
What power this latest attempt to enlist labor in partisan politics
will assume is problematical. It is obviously inspired by European
experiences and promulgated by socialistic propaganda. It has not
succeeded in invading the American Federation of Labor, which did not
formally endorse the movement at its Annual Convention in 1919. Gompers,
in an intimate and moving speech, told a group of labor leaders gathered
in New York on December 9, 1918, that "the organization of a political
party would simply mean the dividing of the activities and allegiance of
the men and women of labor between two bodies, such as would often come
in conflict." Under present conditions, it would appear that no Labor
party could succeed in the United States without the cooperation of the
American Federation of Labor.

The relation between the American Federation of Labor and the
socialistic and political labor movements, as well as the monopolistic
eagerness of the socialists to absorb these activities, is clearly
indicated in Gompers's narrative of his experiences as an American
labor representative at the London Conference of 1918. The following
paragraphs are significant:

"When the Inter-Allied Labor Conference opened in London, on September
17th, early in the morning, there were sent over to my room at the hotel
cards which were intended to be the credential cards for our delegation
to sign and hand in as our credentials. The card read something like
this: 'The undersigned is a duly accredited delegate to the Inter-Allied
Socialist Conference to be held at London,' etc., and giving the dates.

"I refused to sign my name, or permit my name to be put upon any card of
that character. My associates were as indignant as I was and refused to
sign any such credential. We went to the hall where the conference was
to be held. There was a young lady at the door. When we made an effort
to enter she asked for our cards. We said we had no cards to present.
'Well,' the answer came, 'you cannot be admitted.' We replied, 'That may
be true--we cannot be admitted--but we will not sign any such card. We
have our credentials written out, signed, and sealed and will present
them to any committee of the conference for scrutiny and recommendation,
but we are not going to sign such a card.'

"Mr. Charles Bowerman, Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of the
British Trade Union Congress, at that moment emerged from the door. He
asked why we had not entered. I told him the situation, and he persuaded
the young lady to permit us to pass in. We entered the hall and
presented our credentials. Mr. James Sexton, officer and representative
of the Docker's Union of Liverpool, arose and called the attention
of the Conference to this situation, and declared that the American
Federation of Labor delegates refused to sign any such document. He said
it was not an Inter-Allied Socialist Conference, but an Inter-Allied
Socialist and Labor Conference.

"Mr. Arthur Henderson, of the Labor Party, made an explanation something
to this effect, if my memory serves me: 'It is really regrettable that
such an error should have been made. It was due to the fact that the old
card of credentials which has been used in former conferences was sent
to the printer, no one paying any attention to it, thinking it was all

"I want to call your attention to the significance of that explanation,
that is, that the trade union movement of Great Britain was represented
at these former conferences, but at this conference the importance
of Labor was regarded as so insignificant that everybody took it for
granted that it was perfectly all right to have the credential card read
'Inter-Allied Socialist Conference' and with the omission of this more
important term, 'Labor.'"  *

      * "American Federationist," January, 1919, pp. 40-41.

As one looks back upon the history of the workingman, one finds
something impressive, even majestic, in the rise of the fourth estate
from a humble place to one of power in this democratic nation. In this
rise of fortune the laborer's union has unquestionably been a moving
force, perhaps even the leading cause. At least this homogeneous mass of
workingmen, guided by self-developed leadership, has aroused society to
safeguard more carefully the individual needs of all its parts. Labor
has awakened the state to a sense of responsibility for its great sins
of neglect and has made it conscious of its social duties. Labor, like
other elements of society, has often been selfish, narrow, vindictive;
but it has also shown itself earnest and constructive. The conservative
trades union, at the hour of this writing, stands as a bulwark between
that amorphous, inefficient, irresponsible Socialism which has made
Russia a lurid warning and Prussia a word of scorn, and that rational
social ideal which is founded upon the conviction that society is
ultimately an organic spiritual unity, the blending of a thousand
diverse interests whose justly combined labors and harmonized talents
create civilization and develop culture.


While there is a vast amount of writing on the labor problem, there
are very few works on the history of labor organizations in the United
States. The main reliance for the earlier period, in the foregoing
pages, has been the "Documentary History of American Industrial
Society", edited by John R. Commons, 10 vols. (1910). The "History of
Labour in the United States," 2 vols. (1918), which he published with
associates, is the most convenient and complete compilation that has yet
appeared and contains a large mass of historical material on the labor

The following works are devoted to discussions of various phases of the
history of American labor and industry:

T. S. Adams and Helen L. Sumner, "Labor Problems" (1905). Contains
several refreshing chapters on labor organizations.

F. T. Carlton, "The History and Problem of Organized Labor" (1911). A
succinct discussion of union problems.

R. T. Ely, "The Labor Movement in America" (1886). Though one of the
earliest American works on the subject, it remains indispensable.

G. G. Groat, "An Introduction to the Study of Organized Labor in
America" (1916). A useful and up-to-date compendium. R. F. Hosie,
"Trade Unionism in the United States" (1917). A suggestive study of the
philosophy of unionism.

J. R. Commons (Ed.), "Trade Unionism and Labor Problems" (1905).

J. H. Hollander and G. E. Barnett (Eds.), "Studies in American Trade
Unionism" (1905). These two volumes are collections of contemporary
studies of many phases of organized labor by numerous scholars. They are
not historical.

The "Report of the Industrial Commission," vol. XVII (1901) provides
the most complete analysis of trade union policies and also contains
valuable historical summaries of many unions.

G. E. McNeill (Ed.), "The Labor Movement: the Problem of Today" (1899.).
This collection contains historical sketches of the organizations of the
greater labor groups and of the development of the more important
issues espoused by them. For many years it was the most comprehensive
historical work on American unionism, and it remains a necessary source
of information to the student of trades union history.

J. G. Brissenden, "The Launching of the Industrial Workers of the World"
(1913). An account of the origin of the I.W.W.

J. G. Brooks, "American Syndicalism: the I.W.W." (1913).

John Mitchell, "Organized Labor" (1903). A suggestive exposition of the
principles of Unionism by a distinguished labor leader. It contains only
a limited amount of historical matter.

T. V. Powderly, "Thirty Years of Labor" (1889.) A history of the Knights
of Labor from a personal viewpoint.

E. L. Bogart, "The Economic History of the United States" (rev. ed.,
1918). A concise and clear account of our economic development.

R. T. Ely, "Evolution of Industrial Society" (1903).

Carroll D. Wright, "The Industrial Evolution of the United States"

G. S. Callender, "Selections from the Economic History of the United
States" (1909). A collection of readings. The brief introductory
essays to each chapter give a succinct account of American industrial
development to 1860.

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